If you found yourself here, chances are you already know what tool you need. You also know that you want an electric one rather than a hand one. At the same time, you are undecided about whether you should choose a cordless one or a corded one.
They both have their advantages and disadvantages – and are suitable for different uses. As such, the answer to the “cordless vs. corded” question will depend on your exact situation. Below, I will look at both of the electric power tool variants in detail to help you make the best possible decision.
Corded Power Tools
Let’s start with looking at why you might want to – and why not – get the older and, as you’ll learn in a second, more powerful version of the two types of power tools.
Advantages of Corded Power Tools
First of all, corded power tools are more powerful than their cordless counterparts. What that means in practice is that they can drill or cut through harder materials and through thicker workpieces. It also means that they can accommodate larger attachments – i.e. they can drill holes with larger diameters and so on.
Besides that, there is the obvious advantage – the ability to operate anytime as long as there is a power source and without any time limitation. You can take a corded power tool, plug it into the outlet, hit the switch and start using it right away. You face no risk of running out of battery.
Finally, corded tools deliver consistent power. Just as an example, the maximum RPM (rotation per minute) of a corded drill will remain constant over time. With a battery-powered one, the maximum RPM – as well as its consistency – will decrease together with the charge decreasing.
Disadvantages of Corded Power Tools
All of the disadvantages of corded power tools are, understandably, related to the cord. The two main of those are the most obvious ones.
Corded power tools need power – that means being in proximity of (or having an extension cord coming all the way from) a power outlet. The fact that they need to remain plugged in throughout a job also means that they limit your movement around a worksite. You not only have to make sure not to pull the cord out of the plug but also not to tangle yourself in the cord.
When using corded power tools – especially saws and grinders – you have to absolutely be sure not to cut through the cable.
Besides that, corded power tools are more difficult to store than their cordless counterparts as the cord can easily get tangled around other things. Wrapping the cable around the tool also makes the tool bulkier, taking up more storage.
Cordless Power Tools
To an extent, taking the above and flipping it the other way around will give you the advantages and disadvantages of cordless power tools. Let’s take a closer look at the issue though, as there is more to it than just that.
Advantages of Cordless Power Tools
With no cords, cordless tools are much more convenient to use. You can move around with your tool completely free without having to worry about tripping or unplugging your tool. You also have no risk of cutting through your tool’s cord making cordless tools, in a way, safer.
Not having a cable coming out of your tool also means it’s a bit more compact and can, therefore, be used in tighter spaces.
Storing a battery-operated tool is also much easier since there are no cables to tie or wrap around the tool. As such, even though the tool can be bulkier because of the battery, it is much less of a hassle to stow it away in a toolbox or the back of your car.
Last but not least, if you stick to a single brand (like Makita) and a single voltage, cordless tools’ batteries are generally interchangeable. What that means is that you might be able to bring your tool costs down significantly since batteries can get quite pricey. That doesn’t work, of course, if you need to use multiple tools simultaneously.
Disadvantages of Cordless Power Tools
With an outlet being able to provide much more power than a battery, cordless tools are not as powerful as corded tools. That said, while that might be an issue in some specific applications (like drilling through a thick and hard piece of metal), in more general applications, the modern cordless tools are still powerful enough to be useful for the majority of tasks.
Cordless power tools also depend on their batteries being charged. That means you will need to make sure not to leave your batteries drained of power. Otherwise, your work plans might be interrupted by having to wait for the batteries to get charged. Keep in mind that batteries can lose charge over time even if not used.
Finally, while the interchangeability of batteries is welcome, the matter of the fact is that batteries are consumables. That means over their lifespan, they will hold less and less charge – up to the point where you will have to buy new ones.
As mentioned earlier, the batteries can be pricey. Make sure to account for that when deciding whether a corded or a cordless tool will work better for you.
Corded vs. Cordless Power Tools: Which Are Better?
So you know the advantages and disadvantages of using corded and cordless power tools but are still unsure which to get? If so, continue reading as I’ll go through some commonly encountered cases.
First of all, if you are a hobbyist that rarely does heavy-duty work, you should be better of getting cordless tools almost every time. That also applies if you are a woodworker not working with workpieces that are unusually thick or not having to drill unusually large holes.
In the above case, I would only consider getting corded tools if you are looking at thinks like reciprocating saws and hammer drills. That’s because using power-hungry tools like these can shorten the lifetime of your batteries considerably, driving the costs up.
On the other hand, if you are a professional, the first thing you should consider is whether you work in your workshop most of the time or whether you work at job sites that not always have access to power.
If the former is the case, then it will really depend on your preference – you can’t go wrong with either. In the latter case, you might be better off with cordless tools as they’ll save you the hassle of having to deal with extension cords and power outlets.
That said, you should still lean towards corded tools for heavy-duty work.
To sum it up, both corded and cordless power tools have their advantages and disadvantages. Corded tools can deliver more power more consistently and you don’t have to worry about running out of battery when using them. On the other hand, cordless tools still deliver sufficient power and are much more convenient to use. When using them, though, you have to be careful about always keeping your batteries charged.
All in all, if you are an amateur, cordless tools will almost always be sufficient enough and much more convenient to use. If you are a professional doing a lot of heavy-duty work, corded tools might be the way to go. Then, of course, there is the option of getting both.
I also wrote in more detail about these two options when it comes to drills and circular saws, so if you are looking to get either tool, read those articles too.