Brushless vs. Brushed Drill: What are the Differences?

Brushless vs. Brushed Drill

Buying a drill nowadays is often a hectic task even for the most experienced users as there are too many options to choose from. From the simple cordless models that run on batteries to the more powerful corded versions, you will have several models from different brands available.

But, another even more important decision that drill users have to make is whether to go for the traditional brushed drills or the more advanced brushless models.

Both types have enough fanatics out there that swear by them, but if you want to be sure of what you are buying, it is necessary to understand what sets them apart.

The choice between the brushless and brushed drills will require you to know the science behind how they work and how this makes them different. And here we explain all this in detail starting with an overview of both and their pros and cons.

Brushless Drill Overview

Brushless Drill

Brushless drills are the more recent type of the two, and they are designed to address some of the areas where the traditional brushed drills fall short from the power output to the frequency and cost of maintenance.

Unlike the brushed drills, they will run on motors that do not require any physical contact between the rotating and stationary parts. Hence, these motors will not include the carbon brushes you get on the brushed drills.

These drills will instead rely on rotor-mounted magnets to generate the required magnetic spin. And will generally be more efficient as they work without producing almost any heat and noise at all.

Also, the absence of brushes makes these drills relatively more long-lasting, and for those that are battery-powered also means they will have significantly longer battery life for extended use.

Many users will also love that the fact that the brushless drills have significantly fewer and much smaller components, they will be more lightweight and hence highly portable which makes them great for use in different work sites.

But, the efficiency and higher power output that you get on the brushless drills come at a cost as these are way more expensive than the regular brushed motor drills.

Pros:

  • Higher power output
  • Longer life expectancy
  • Lighter and more portable
  • Highly efficient overall performance
  • Longer battery life

Cons:

  • Relatively more expensive

Brushed Drill Overview                                      

Brushed Drill

Brushed drills have been around for much longer than the brushless types, and so they have been tried and tested enough. The fact that they are still quite widely available means they do a good enough job.

These drills will have a motor that relies on carbon brushes, rotor, commutator, axle, and a magnet to generate the spin. For these motors to work, a physical connection between these components will be required.

While in many instances you will have to replace the carbon brushes at least once in the lifetime of the brushed motor drills, this often fixes almost every problem the tool might have. Hence, these drills will be much easier to maintain than it might seem.

Given their simple design and the fact that they have been around longer, the brushed drills are way more affordable than the brushless models which makes them ideal for budget shoppers.

And since they will not have any complicated electronics, many people will find them easier to grasp and use even when trying them out for the first time. 

Although the brushless types have a slight edge over the brushed drills when it comes to performance, the latter is still reliable enough. But besides the extra maintenance required many users will also not like that brushed drills tend to have more overheating issues.

Pros:

  • Most issues are typically fixed by replacing the brushes
  • Cheaper to buy
  • Simple to use design
  • Reliable enough

Cons:

  • More frequent and costlier maintenance
  • Overheating is a common issue
  • Shorter battery life

Comparison Chart

‚Äč

Brushless Drill

Brushed Drill

How they Work

Using permanent magnets and copper windings

Using spring-loaded carbon brushes

Speed Output

Higher

Lower

Overall Performance

Excellent

Good enough

Design

More complex with electronic circuits

Simpler overall construction

Heat and Noise Output

Almost zero

Quite high

Battery Life

Relatively longer

Often just good enough

Weight and Size

Small and lightweight

Larger and heavier

Price

$70 to $150

$50 to $100

Brushless Drill vs. Brushed Drill

On the surface, there does not appear to be much difference between these two drills, and when using them for the quick and simple tasks, you might not notice any difference. But, for the regular users and those that use their drills for heavy-duty tasks they are quite different and here are some of the key areas where they differ.

1. How they Work

The biggest or the main difference between the brushless and brushed drills is how they work. And to simply state it, one will have the carbon brushes and the other will not.

Brushed Drills

Brushed drills have been in use since the 1800s and at some point, they were the standard drill in the market. These drills will consist of several other components besides the carbon brushes such as the commuter and axle which will work together to generate the drill's spin.

With these drills, the carbon brushes will charge the commutator which then causes the rotor to spin for the drill bit to start drilling. Depending on the polarity of the carbon brushes, the spin can either be clockwise or anticlockwise.

Brushless Drills

Unlike the brushed motors, the brushless ones will not have any carbon brushes or commutators. These drills will instead have at least 4 magnets that will be mounted on the rotor in a cross pattern and will not require a direct physical connection between the components.

The commutation on the brushless motor will not be mechanical. Instead, they will rely on electric power that is controlled by a circuit board. This results in a more efficient motor that is capable of generating more power.

2. Speed Output

When it comes to the speed, the more efficient design of the brushless motors makes them the clear winner here.

Its unique arrangement that includes permanent magnets attached on a mobile rotor allows the motor to generate high speeds. A good brushless drill can easily generate up to 100,000 RPM which besides ensuring faster drilling will allow the drill to tackle harder surfaces with ease.

Brushed drills will produce more than enough speed to tackle typical drilling jobs such as drilling wood. But even with the best models, you will not get speeds that are anything close to what the brushless versions deliver.

3. Overall Performance

The overall performance of a drill will depend on several things such as the project you are tackling, and sometimes it is more subjective given that different users expect different things.

However, given the higher power output and higher overall efficiency of the brushless drills, you can almost be certain of getting an excellent performance regardless of the task at hand.

Brushed drills might not perform on the same level given their many drawbacks, but given that they are still in use several centuries after their invention, it means they are still good enough.

4. Design

Brushless and brushed drills will also have significant differences when it comes to their overall design which is also worth noting given that they affect performance.

The brushless drills are a more modern version and will hence have a significantly more complex design that will include complex circuitry. This complex design can make drill care and maintenance a little hectic and in some instances, damage to circuitry can mean then end of the drill's service life.

Brushed drills will have a much simpler design because the components are physically connected, and so there is no need for any circuitry. Although the brushes will need replacement at some point, there will hardly be anything complicated you will ever need to do when maintaining or repairing these drills thanks to their simpler design.

5. Heat and Noise Output

Heat and noise are two of the most annoying things that you have to deal with when using many power tools including drills. Besides making the tool annoying, excessive heat can cause damages that reduce its lifespan.

With a brushless drill, you will never have to worry about either because its design ensures it can operate without producing any heat. And besides the noise that comes from the drill bit coming into contact with the workpiece, these drills hardly produce any other noise.

Brushed drills, on the other hand, can get super-hot as a result of the friction between the carbon brushes and commutator. This friction is also what makes these drills noisier when drilling.

6. Battery Life

Despite the availability of the corded drill types, many users seem to prefer the convenience of the cordless, battery-powered models. Hence, when trying to pick between these two types, you will also need to consider their battery lives.

Overall, the batteries on the brushless cordless drills tend to last significantly longer than the cordless brushed drills. And this is thanks to the more advanced electronic circuit that detects the load on the motor and in turn, varies the current accordingly.

For example, when driving in screws into softwood, the drill will not require a lot of torque, and so the electronic circuit is prompted to deliver less current which in turn saves battery. With the brushed drills, the same current is delivered even when not needed which causes wastage and faster battery drain.

7. Weight and Size

Given the extra components on the brushed drill, it is clear that it will typically weigh much more than the brushless drills.

Also, because there is a need to have more space in a brushed drill to allow for better movement between the different parts with minimal friction, these drills will come with larger housing. This in turn also makes them relatively larger and heavier.

Brushless drills will allow the components to be housed in a smaller housing as there is no friction to worry about which then translates to a smaller, lighter and relatively easier power drill to use.

8. Price

Because these drills are quite different and will also work significantly differently, you should also expect them to come in different price tags.

Overall, the more advanced brushless drills tend to be the more expensive of the two. Although there are still some cheaper models, you should be ready to part with at least $70 to get a good basic brushless drill. But, many top-quality models will retail for up to $150 or even more.

The more common traditional brushed drills can retail for as little as $50, but some top tier brands will sell their products for close to $100.

Also, the drill bits and other accessories included in the package and the size of the battery if you are buying a cordless model will affect the price of the drill. The more of these components that you get with the drill and the larger the battery capacity, the more you will pay.

Read More: 10 Drill Guide Attachments

Conclusion

A good drill can make your job easy whether you are drilling wood or drywall. But, besides going for something from a top brand, you will also need to make sure you chose the right type between the brushed and brushless drills.

Both can still do a good job, but they will differ in several aspects such as the power output, work mechanism and even the heat and noise that they produce when drilling. From our comparison above, these differences should be clear now.

When it comes to choosing between the two, the brushless drills will be the best overall as they are both powerful and more efficient. However, then brushed drills can still work for anyone looking for something more affordable for occasional use.


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