The Difference Between an 18V and 20V Drill

The Difference Between an 18V and 20V Drill

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There are so many different terms that you need to know in the world of tooling. For example, you can look at two different drills and see different price tags and different V values. For the most part, this is a really big deal. The only exception is when you look at an 18V vs 20V drill.

In this piece, we’ll tell you what the “V” value means, why it’s important, and the surprising difference between an 18V and 20V drill.

What Does the “V” Mean?

When you’re looking at a cordless drill, you need to pay close attention to the “V” value. This is a unit called volts, or the voltage of your drill. Why does it matter? Since the drill is cordless, it relies on a battery pack to power the drill. Comparatively, a corded electric drill plugs right into the wall and gets its power that way.

The voltage refers to how much juice the battery pack of your cordless drill has. A higher number before the V means you have more volts available in the battery.

Typical Cordless Drill Voltages

If you’re curious, a standard cordless drill has some standard voltages. The following values are typical ones you’ll find on the shelf: 6, 7.2, 9.6, 12, 14.4, 18, 20.

More Volts, More Fun?

In general, the higher number you see before the V, the more powerful your drill will be. Although, it also comes down to how strong the motor in the drill is. You can have a great battery pack fueling a useless motor and you won’t get any usable power. This is why two drills with the same V value can be different prices.

A higher voltage can result in:

  • Higher speeds for the drill
  • Larger achievable torques
  • More driving force

The Difference Between an 18V and 20V Drill

So, now you’re standing in the middle of an aisle at Lowe’s looking at two drills. One from Makita offers 18V, and the other from DeWalt has a 20V MAX battery. Since 20 is bigger than 18, surely DeWalt offers more power – right?

Actually, no. This is the only place in the voltage lineup where bigger is not better. It’s a well-known misdirection within the tool manufacturing industry.

An 18V and 20V MAX drill are exactly the same. We promise. Before the rest of your world crashes down and you start questioning everything, let’s explain.

A Battery by Any Other Name

The battery name all comes down to how it’s put together. Time for a quick flashback to high school physics.

A battery pack is made up of cells. The more cells you put into a battery pack, the more juice it gets, and the higher V rating you’re left with. Kind of like putting batteries into a flashlight. A flashlight that takes four batteries will shine brighter than one that takes one battery.

Each of the cells in this battery pack are wired together in parallel. That’s the only way they can combine their power. It means that every cell works together to power the battery pack, boosting the total voltage you see.

Nominal vs Max Battery Rating

Don’t fall asleep yet, we’re getting to the fun part. Every one of these cells has a “nominal” and a “max” rating. That’s the manufacturer saying, “well, it CAN give this much power (max), but it TYPICALLY gives this much power (nominal)”.

These values matter a lot, and they only exist because batteries lose juice as they discharge. The associated max value only refers to a fully charged battery. When it discharges just a little bit through use, it drops down to the nominal value.

When the battery hits 99%, it isn’t running at its max value anymore.

If a lightbulb just went off in your head, you’re one step ahead of us. This concept is why 18V and 20V MAX are identical.

Either battery has 5 cells within the pack. These cells have a max value of 4.0V and a nominal value of 3.6V.

5 cells times 3.6V (nominal) =18

5 cells times 4.0V (max) = 20

You’ll notice that we have the same battery pack, but one uses the max value and the other uses the nominal value. There is no difference between an 18V vs 20V drill.

Why Isn’t It Illegal to Lie About the Battery Size?

There’s nothing illegal about this practice because it’s not technically a lie, it’s just clever marketing. They call it a 20V MAX battery because they’re using the max value.

It’s the same reason why a 12V battery isn’t called a 10.8V. It uses 3 battery cells and does the same math that the 20V MAX does. (3 cells times 4.0 V max = 12V).

The Matter of Location

The rated voltage is also just a matter of location. In the US, manufacturers tend to market with the larger number and a big “MAX” on the sticker. In fact – DeWalt sells the same cordless drill in America and Europe, and they use different names for both regions.

In America it’s their 20V MAX drill, in Europe it’s their 18V drill. It’s “six” of one, and “half a dozen” of another.

FAQ

You probably have some questions after we dropped that bomb on you. Let’s answer some common questions we get and see if it helps you.

Should You Choose an 18V or 20V Drill?

The rest of this article should clue you in to our answer here. There is absolutely no difference between these two drills, so it doesn’t matter which one you pick.

Can You Use a 20V Battery on an 18V Drill?

In theory, you absolutely can. In practice, you can’t. If you grab a DeWalt 20V MAX battery and try to throw it on your 18V drill, it won’t fit. Each drill has a certain tab configuration that only allows the properly-sized battery pack to be used.

With that said, DeWalt makes an adaptor. If you grab their adaptor, you can use a 20V MAX battery pack on a standard 18V tool. This is further proof that the 18V vs 20V drill conspiracy is all marketing.

Are Other 18V and 20V Tools the Same?

It’s worth mentioning that this idea is universal. It doesn’t matter which battery-operated tools you’re looking at – if one says 18V and the other says 20V, they have the same power.

Does This Mean 12V and 18V Drills are the Same?

No. The only overlap in drill power is between 18V and 20V, and 10.8V and 12V. Most 10.8V drills are marketed as a 12V nowadays.

18V drills are more powerful than 12V drills, or any other variant that has a smaller number on the label.

Is There a Quick Way to Know My Drill’s Voltage?

If you look on the side of your drill, it should have a printed indicator that tells you the voltage. Your battery pack will also have its voltage printed on it clearly. Tool manufacturers don’t want any confusion when it comes to the power of your tools and batteries.

Conclusion

Now you know more about the marketing gimmick of an 18V vs 20V drill. They use the same battery pack, but one advertises the max value of the battery, and the other uses the nominal value. Armed with this information, you can take the rated voltage out of the equation as you choose between two cordless drills. For more tooling information, be sure to explore our articles!

Top Selling 18V and 20V Drills on Amazon

DEWALT 20V MAX Cordless Drill/Driver Kit with Screwdriver/Drill Bit Set, 100-Piece (DCD771C2 & DWA2FTS100)
DEWALT 20V Max Cordless Drill / Driver Kit, Compact, 1/2-Inch (DCD771C2)
Makita XFD131 18V LXT Lithium-Ion Brushless Cordless 1/2 Inch Driver-Drill Kit (3.0Ah)
CRAFTSMAN V20 Cordless Drill/Driver Kit (CMCD700C1)
DEWALT 20V MAX Cordless Drill/Driver Kit with Screwdriver/Drill Bit Set, 100-Piece (DCD771C2 & DWA2FTS100)
DEWALT 20V Max Cordless Drill / Driver Kit, Compact, 1/2-Inch (DCD771C2)
Makita XFD131 18V LXT Lithium-Ion Brushless Cordless 1/2 Inch Driver-Drill Kit (3.0Ah)
CRAFTSMAN V20 Cordless Drill/Driver Kit (CMCD700C1)
DEWALT 20V MAX Cordless Drill/Driver Kit with Screwdriver/Drill Bit Set, 100-Piece (DCD771C2 & DWA2FTS100)
DEWALT 20V MAX Cordless Drill/Driver Kit with Screwdriver/Drill Bit Set, 100-Piece (DCD771C2 & DWA2FTS100)
DEWALT 20V Max Cordless Drill / Driver Kit, Compact, 1/2-Inch (DCD771C2)
DEWALT 20V Max Cordless Drill / Driver Kit, Compact, 1/2-Inch (DCD771C2)
Makita XFD131 18V LXT Lithium-Ion Brushless Cordless 1/2 Inch Driver-Drill Kit (3.0Ah)
Makita XFD131 18V LXT Lithium-Ion Brushless Cordless 1/2 Inch Driver-Drill Kit (3.0Ah)
CRAFTSMAN V20 Cordless Drill/Driver Kit (CMCD700C1)
CRAFTSMAN V20 Cordless Drill/Driver Kit (CMCD700C1)

 

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