Brushless vs Brushed Drill: Key Differences Explained + Which is Better?

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As someone who’s tackled plenty of DIY projects at home, I understand the importance of having the right tools, and drills are undoubtedly at the top of the list. But, what might not be immediately clear is the choice between brushless and brushed drills. 

In this article, let me walk you through the distinctions between these two drill types, helping you make the perfect choice for your drilling needs.

What are Brushes?

In order to understand the difference between a brushless and a brushed drill, it’s first important to understand what brushes are. Brushes are essentially small carbon blocks that make contact with the spinning part of the drill (known as the armature) in order to transfer electrical current.

This electrical current then creates a magnetic field, which interacts with the magnets in the brush or brushless motor. This interaction is what causes the armature to spin, and in turn, causes your drill bit to rotate.

drill carbon brushes

Brushes are a key component of all types of drills, but they’re especially important in brushed drills. That’s because, in a brushless drill, the brushes have been replaced by electronic sensors.

Starting with brushes could save you tons of time streamlining your options and work with a tool that delivers the best results.

How Does a Drill Motor Function?

In order to understand how a brushless drill is different from a brushed drill, it’s first important to understand how a drill motor works. 

As mentioned before, brushes are small carbon blocks that make contact with the spinning part of the drill (known as the armature) in order to transfer electrical current. This electrical current then creates a magnetic field, which interacts with the magnets in the drill’s motor. 

drill motor

This interaction is what causes the armature to spin, and in turn, causes the drill bit to rotate. 

The key difference between brushless and brushed drills is in how the electrical current is transferred to the armature. In a brushless drill, this transfer is done electronically, while in a brushed drill, it’s done via the brushes.

What is a Brushless Drill?

A brushless dc motor is a type of power drill that uses direct current (DC) instead of alternating current (AC). The biggest advantage of using a brushless technology is that it eliminates the need for brushes, which can wear out over time and cause the drill to lose power. 

Additionally, many DIYers add brushless motors as part of their power tools because of their performance and efficiency.

Advantages

orange brushless drill

1. It’s more energy efficient. 

With no brushes rubbing against anything, the brushless unit is more efficient and lasts longer than its counterparts with traditional motor systems. This means you can use your drill for hours on end before having to charge it up again. 

In my woodworking projects, I frequently rely on brushless drills, and they have consistently delivered exceptional results in terms of quality.

2. The torque is more constant.

Since there’s no need for brushes to make contact in order to create torque, the power output of all brushless tools is more consistent. This results in fewer “stalls” when using the drill and makes it easier to maintain a steady speed. 

brushless drill torque setting

3. It produces less heat. 

Since there’s no friction generated by brushes rubbing against a rotating shaft, brushless motors generate lesser heat. This not only makes them more durable  because they can run for longer periods of time without overheating. In addition, this also means that the drill will be cooler to the touch, making it more comfortable to use. 

4. It’s easier on your batteries. 

The efficiency of a brushless drill motor means that they put less strain on your drill’s batteries, meaning they’ll last longer. Additionally, since the motor doesn’t generate as much heat, the battery will stay cooler, further extending its lifespan. 

power testing a brushless drill

5. It’s more powerful. 

Brushless models’ lack of friction makes them more powerful than a brushed motor of the same size. This means that, for a given amount of battery power, a brushless drill will be able to do more work than a brushed drill. 

Disadvantages

1. Its parts wear off eventually  

The only disadvantage of a brushless motor is that, without brushes to wear down, there’s nothing to “refresh” the motor. This means that, over time, the performance of a brushless motor will slowly degrade as the bearings and other parts start to wear out. 

2. It’s more expensive. 

While I have a lot of good things to say about this drill type, the initial cost of a brushless motor is higher than a brushed motor. But the increased efficiency and durability come at an extra cost for the initial investment. 

3. Not all batteries are compatible. 

Some batteries (including NiCad [1] and NiMH) are not compatible with most of our brushless motors. This means that you’ll need to invest in a new battery if you want to upgrade to a brushless drill. 

man operating a brushless drill

4. It’s harder to find replacement parts. 

Since the use of brushless drills is relatively new, it’s hard to replace brushes because they are not widely available as brushed motors. When looking for replacement parts, you might need to outsource outside the state. 

This means that it can be difficult to find replacement parts if something goes wrong with the brushless drill. You can avoid delays by purchasing replacement parts in advance.

5. The torque is less constant. 

The lack of brushes means that the power output of a brushless motor is more consistent, but the torque is also less constant. This made it difficult for me to use the drill for tasks that require precise control, such as driving screws. 

What is a Brushed Drill?

A brushed drill is a type of power drill that relies on carbon brushes to generate the rotating motion necessary to operate the drill bit. These carbon brushes are responsible for transferring electrical current from the motor to the spinning drill bit.

green brushed drill

For many, a brushed motor drill is considered to be more durable and long-lasting than its brushless counterpart, as well as being less expensive. However, brushed drills also require more maintenance than brushless drills and may not be as powerful.

Advantages

1. It is a proven technology 

Brushed drills’ motors are already standard electronics. These are typically found in toys, small-medium appliances (hairdryers), electric drills and screwdrivers as well as heat guns for soldering stations or other applications where you need high power without size restrictions.

2. It lasts longer 

Brushed motors are sturdier and have a higher chance of lasting longer. If you accidentally drop your brushed drill, the chances of it still working are much higher than if you dropped a brushless model.

power testing a brushed drill on a cement block

3. It is cheaper 

The technology in brushed motors is cheaper to manufacture. This makes brushed drills less expensive overall. 

Disadvantages

1. It requires more maintenance

Brushed drills require more maintenance than brushless drills due to the need to replace the carbon brushes on a regular basis. 

2. Brushes are the main source of problems  

The carbon brushes in a traditional brushed motor are the main source of problems. Over time, the brushes will wear down and eventually need to be replaced. This can be a difficult and expensive process.

holding a drill carbon brush

3. It is not as powerful

Compared with brushless drills, brushed dc motor counterparts have a hard time working through tough applications. For the most part,  I only used it for small projects that won’t require heavy-duty performance. 

Comparing Brushed and Brushless Drills

Performance and Efficiency

Comparing brushed vs brushless drills in terms of power and use is a good start if you’re contemplating of adding this to your power tools. 

Permanent magnets are mounted on the armature of a Milwaukee’s brushless motor, with the wire coils surrounding them. This is the opposite of how a brushed motor is configured.

A small circuit board is used to coordinate the current flowing to the windings instead of brushes and a commutator. This allows for much more precise control over the motor’s operation. 

Brushless motors are much more efficient than brushed motors and can be found in many cordless power tools, like drills. They tend to be more expensive than brushed motors, but their longer life and higher efficiency make them worth the investment. If you’re looking for a durable and powerful drill, go for brushless motor design options. 

led light on a brushless drill

Since there are no brushes in a brushless motor, there is far less energy lost due to friction. In fact, brushless motors are about 30% more efficient than brushed motors. This means that a brushless motor will be able to run for a longer period of time on the same battery charge as a brushed motor.

Brushless drills have when it comes to performance output. Since there is no friction created, a brushless motor can produce more power than an equivalent-sized brushed motor. 

Lifespan

Brushless motors also have a longer lifespan than brushed motors. This is due to the fact that there are no brushes in brushless motors, which can wear out over time. In addition, brushless drills typically have fewer moving parts than brushed motors, further increasing their lifespan.

Ease of Use

Brushed models are typically simpler and cheaper to manufacture than Kobalt or Craftsman’s brushless motors. This means that using a brushed motor is usually less expensive than brushless drills. In addition, brushed drills are often easier to use and maintain than brushless drills.

operating a red brushed drill on a wooden board

Brushless motors, on the other hand, tend to be more complex and expensive to manufacture. However, this complexity results in a number of advantages for the user. For example, brushless motors are typically more powerful and efficient than brushed motors. 

Cordless brushless drills are new drill models of this type that is gaining popularity. It currently makes up 30 to 50 percent of the cordless drill market. For me, it’s all about ease of use while still achieving the performance of a brushless drill but only more mobile. 

Although a little more expensive than traditional brushless corded tools, the battery life of these variants is reliable for heavy-duty work.

Maintenance

In terms of maintenance, which is better: brushless vs brushed model? A drill is a tool you need to take care of any construction handiwork at home, in the office or woodcraft. And it’s best to go for tools that generate power for tough tasks. 

using a brushless drill on a block of wood

Brushed motors require periodic maintenance and regular replacement brushes when used more frequently. Brushless dc motors, on the other hand, require less maintenance and still get any drill motor work done efficiently. 

Moreover, brushless units lack brushes that require almost no maintenance to keep them running. Its power efficiency is one of the several advantages why  beginner DIYers invest in this type of power tool. 

Price

Brushed motors are typically less expensive than brushless motors. This is due to the fact that brushed motors are simpler and cheaper to manufacture than brushless motors. However, the increased efficiency and lifespan of brushless motors may make them a better value in the long run.

Which is Better, Brushless or Brushed Drills?

There is no clear answer as to whether a brushless or brushed motor is better. Each type of drill has its own advantages and disadvantages. 

In general, brushless motors are more powerful and efficient than brushed motors. However, brushed motors are typically less expensive and easier to use and maintain. 

green and red brushed drills

Ultimately, the best type of drill will depend on your specific needs and preferences.

Which Should You Purchase?

If you are looking for a powerful and efficient drill without manually use an awl tool, then brushless drill is the best option. However, if you are looking for a less expensive and easier-to-use drill, then go for a brushed drill.

In purchasing an appropriate drill, it’s important to identify first your requirements. You need to determine the specific job or projects that you will use it for. In this way, you can easily narrow down your choices and find the best one that will suit your needs.

FAQ

Is a brushless motor worth the extra money?

A brushless motor is worth the extra money if you’re looking at its long-term value. Though typically more expensive than brushed motors, you are assured that you’re getting quality results for your projects. In addition, brushless motors are more powerful and efficient with a longer lifespan.

How do I know if a drill is brushless?

The drill is brushless if it uses magnets to power it. The brushes in a regular drill will wear out quickly, and eventually, need to be replaced. A brushless motor will not have this issue, as there are no brushes to wear out.

How can you tell if a motor is brushless?

The motor is brushless if the drill contains three wires. These are seen in the armature, which is the rotating part of the motor. If there are two wires, then the drill is a brushed motor.

Conclusion

As a tool specialist and woodworker, I strongly advise you to carefully consider your upcoming projects before investing in a drill. If you’re in search of a robust and long-lasting drill, I highly recommend opting for one with a brushless motor, despite the slightly higher cost. 

With no brushes to wear out, you’ll enjoy enhanced power and efficiency, making it a worthwhile investment.

robert headshot

Robert Johnson is a passionate furniture maker & carpenter, sought after for his knowledge on the craft.
You’ve probably seen his down-to-earth wisdom in USA Today, Bobvila, Family Handyman, and The Spruce, where he has shared commentary and guidance on various woodworking topics.

Robert is the brain behind Sawinery, where he aims to share tips, tricks, and a passion for all things carpentry.

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