Buying Advice – Cordless Drills for Women

Posted by on February 20, 2006

At Seach Engine Strategies Chicago in 2004, we had someone stop Matt and myself as we were leaving the ballroom after lunch because she noticed the Makita logo on the sleeve of our shirts. It was Shari Thurow (pictured to the right), well known author, successful busnesswoman and speaker at those conferences. She just had to tell us how much she loved her Makita drill – not because of the power, not because of the longevity, not because of any of the reasons we normally hear. She loved it because of the weight and the fit. It seems Makita makes a drill that fits smaller hands better, and this got me thinking.

Addressing Ergonomics
Makita has long been a leader in addressing ergonomics in making tools. I knew I couldn’t pick out the best tools for women, but now that the number of employees here has grown substantially and we have quite a few female employees, I’ve been able to have them address what’s comfortable to them and what isn’t. In compiling this data, I now have enough information to put together a cordless drill buying guide specifically for women based upon the unique ergonomic needs of our female employees.

Our Panel of Judges
Our panel of judges consisted of our purchasing agent, our Human Resources director and our customer support team leader. Three ladies in very different jobs and age groups, so this seemed like a nice mixture of opinions to compile for this exercise. I didn’t feel it necessary to drag all of our female employees out for this, especially when the first 3 opinions were nearly identical.

Tools to Avoid
The general feeling was that 18V and higher tools, especially the Ni-Cad models, were too heavy. Most of these also didn’t fit smaller hands well, specifically the trigger. The handles were a bit too deep, making fully outstretched index fingers fall short of pulling the trigger easily. Weights range here, but some are as much as 6 lbs. in an 18V, making for a heavy drill.

Battery Removal
As a general rule, buttons on either side of the battery are tougher to use. Some brands. such as DeWALT and Panasonic, have the spacing far enough apart that our panel couldn’t easily remove the batteries. Others, like the Makita BDF451, have a single button to make it much easier to remove. The Porter Cable 9824 was a single button on the side, which made for fairly easy removal.

The Hitachi DS14DVF3 wasn’t overly tough like some of the drills tested were, but the 2 buttons were still more difficult than the Makita and Porter Cable. We also noticed that the higher Amp Hour rated Hitachi batteries were difficult to remove. In fact, when I went back to the call center they had just finished removing the battery from a Hitachi Impact, and it took two people. That’s not exactly practical.

Variable Speed
If you’re wanting something easier to start a screw / hole with, then the smoothness of the variable speed trigger is important. The Hitachi had a sudden jolt of power when it started up, as did the Milwaukee models we tried. Makita and Porter Cable seemed to have the smoothest triggers. It may not be a huge issue for you, but the less you are able to put your weight behind it the more important the slow startup speed becomes.

Decent Choices
There were two that were considered by our panel to be decent choices – mostly as a backup if one of the two ideal choices below weren’t available. The first was the Porter Cable 9824. The balance wasn’t too bad, but the weight was a little too much towards the top of the drill. The other decent choice was the Makita 6337DWDLE, which was 4.6 lbs. with battery. The weight seemed to be a bit more towards the front, making it top-front heavy. Again, the grip was a lot better fit than most of the drills we carry. With a little better balance, the 4.6 lbs. wouldn’t have been an issue at all.

Best Choices
Two drills emerged as the best choices for women looking for a cordless drill. The first is the Hitachi DS14DVF3, which is a 14.4V Ni-Cad model. This was the best overall feel, is 3/4″ shorter from the chuck to the back of the drill than the next model they liked, and has a reasonable amount of power for most jobs around the house. Best of all, it weighs in at just 4 lbs. with battery. The only real concern is that the battery is only 1.4 Ah, so runtime will be less than many of the heavier models.

The second is the Makita BDF451, which is an 18V Lithium-Ion drill. It weighs 4.6 lbs. like the 14.4V model mentioned above in the “Decent” section, but the balance is much better. It is ideal for jobs where power is essential. The Hitachi has 300 in. lbs. of torque, but this model has 560 in. lbs. without a lot more weight. With 3.0 Ah batteries that last twice that of Ni-Cad and Ni-MH models, the runtime will also be a consideration point – it should be nearly 4 times that of the Hitachi on the conservative side.

This model also includes some nice features in the dual LED lights just above the trigger, easy battery removal, very smooth trigger, 3 speed transmission and a removable side handle for added stability when putting your weight behind it. The belt clip was also a nice touch, even if it probably doesn’t get used all that often.

Price Considerations

Price is always a consideration when buying tools. Clearly the best value is the Hitachi, which is priced around $100 with 2 batteries, charger and a flashlight. The Makita is over 3 times as much, making it only an option when the power or runtime are essential. If you have need of more cordless tools to go along with this one, the Makita LXT400 kit has a more attractive price when considered on a cost per tool basis, and each has similar ergonomics and weight to the BDF451.

We’ll Take Requests
Got a specific tool that you’d like to get our judges to review? Leave a comment and I’ll have them take a look at it. If they warrant individual reviews (such as completely different tools), I’ll post them that way. If you’re asking about a specific drill, I’ll add that to this article. Either way, we will address any requests to assist you in selecting a power tool.

10 Responses to Buying Advice – Cordless Drills for Women

  1. Anonymous

    Have you looked at any of the Barbara K! products? She has a cordless drill that has a removable pack that clipss to your belt. It would be great if your panel could evaluate that….preferably in the same catagories as you did before. Thanks!

  2. Brian Mark


    I’m afraid I’ve never heard of those. I’ll present that to our puruchasing officer’s attention and we’ll see what we can do. Thanks for the tip.

  3. Anonymous

    Please check out the new Makita BDF452HW. It uses a smaller 1.5 ah battery, has two speeds, 450 in. lbs. of torque, and weighs ONLY 3.5 lbs. I suspect your ladies would like it even better than your top rated Makita BDF451. I’ve held one but not used one. It’s not clear in your article what useful tasks were done with the drills by your female testers.

  4. Brian Mark

    Yes, the BDF452HW is the new favorite around here, and not just for the female audience. This is the drill most of our customers seem to want right now. Plenty of power, very comfortable, and the price is right. We’re having trouble keeping them in stock, but more should be here shortly. We’re ordering these 100 at a pop now.

    The first test they did was just picking it up, then they drove self-tapping screws into wood, and finally drilled a few small holes. Nothing super heavy duty, just some normal around-the-house type activities.

  5. Anonymous

    Loved the info on the drills. Do you have any advice about saws? I need a basic one for some home improvement projects (cutting 2×4′s e.g.). Any help would be great. Thanks!

  6. Mark_Dublin

    Recently,I decided to buy a new cordless drill and before selecting the type of drill i did a lot of research and comparisons between makes and models via the Net. Finally, I made a decision and bought a Panasonic 14.4V EY7440. I have been amazed with the drills performance, balance and control. It is almost identical in colour and shape to some Makita models (grey and black). This tool is extremely light, very robust and strongly built, comfortable when in hand and runs on one of the new Lithium ion range batteries so it has no shortage of power. It is definitely worth having a look at before making a selection. I was most pleased with the fact that it was priced in store in Dublin at €448, and when purcahsed online from the UK i managed to have it delivered within 3 working days to Rep. of Ireland for just €336. Managed to save €112 which was great.

  7. kkfarmer

    This advice is very helpful. I need to spend some time digesting all the info, but here is one of my main concerns with a drill: I have difficulty tightening the chuck so that the drill bit doesn’t fall out; then I have difficulty loosening the chuck to remove the drill bit!! I might have some arthritis in my hands and I just don’t have the strength of a man!! Have you any advice for me??

  8. soren1352

    How about an angle grinder with a pad kit for fiber disks? It looks like a good solution to detail sanding problems with wood finishes. What do you think?

  9. Desirae

    I was wondering if anyone has tried the Ryobi HJP001 Drill. It is a 12v lithium ion battery and the weight is only 1.8 pounds. You can purchase the drill,2 lithium ion batteries, charger, and a tool bag for $80.00. It features 0-550 (no load speed), 3/8″ heavy duty keyless chuck and a 15 minute charger.I have only held it haven’t used it but felt great in my hands was very small.

  10. Kelly

    I'm on a production team that is helping design a celebrity endorsed home/garden tool line exclusively for women! Ladies: Take this short survey and help shape the innovation of these new products!