Typically the difference between the wired and wireless tool should be the wire or lack there off. However the the corded and cordless drills are both quite different from each other in typical design and extra features.

Typical Cordless drill

Common traits

  1. Keyless chuck
  2. Clutch for screw driving
  3. Light
  4. Spirit level
  5. 2 speeds
  6. Spirit level
  7. Screw/Bit holder

Typical Corded Drill

Common traits -

  1. Keyed chuck is more common (Newest models are often keyless though)
  2. The hook on top for hanging on belt
  3. Usually 1 speed Gear box
  4. Usually has a dial on the trigger to adjust speed
  5. Button next to trigger to lock trigger
  6. Sidehandle and depth stop

Why do these 2 tools look so different? My guess would be that when they were designed corded was for industrial use, and cordless started as hobbyist.. and the design has not evolved as fast as the userbase has..

  • 2
    In short they are different brands, I can find every option on a corded or battery drill I want or need, I have both battery and corded drills up to 1/2” all of mine have multiple speeds , and keyless chucks even hammer functions, but they can be purchased with keyed chucks. As far as a hook to hold the drill it depends on the brand, I don’t use them I have holsters on my nail pouch that hold either type much better than the cheesy molded plastic ones. So it comes down to price and brand.
    – Ed Beal
    Jun 13, 2019 at 9:42
  • 1
    @EdBeal, granted, I'm not an avid tool shopper, but I've never seen a corded drill with a clutch or one that had good variability in speed. Low RPM torque is something else that seems to be lacking. Its more than brands
    – JPhi1618
    Jun 13, 2019 at 13:54
  • Jphil1618 check out a hole hog if you want low speed high torque with variable speed (+high low gears) , I broke 2 fingers when I hooked a nail and the drill lifted me off the ladder, took a few seconds to pull the cord out of the wall but by then 2 broken fingers. I also have multi speed 1/2” drills that have a hammer function, plug in screw guns they are out there, but battery tools are getting so good that I rarely use corded drills anymore unless large diameter or a lot of holes in metal.
    – Ed Beal
    Jun 13, 2019 at 19:42
  • I have an old "Masonry master" drill that will rip out of your hands just by the bit binding slightly... and it's at least 35 years old, corded and magic for big holes in masonry. The body is about 5" diameter so gives an idea of the motor inside which has brushes...
    – Solar Mike
    Jun 13, 2019 at 20:59

4 Answers 4


All of the "cordless" features debuted or were available on corded drills. The biggest factor now is that cordless drills have fallen so far in price that the market for corded is comprised entirely of people who have opted out of cordless. The superior holding power of keyed chucks, depth stops, secondary handles to counter torque, along with the more powerful tool make the corded drill excel at drilling multiple or difficult holes.

Other features which have remained on the corded drill are because of its superiority in continuous usage. The trigger lock can be handy if you're using the drill as a grinder, buffer, whatever. If you need to use the drill inverted for whatever reason it's easier than holding the trigger with a pinky. Setting the speed via a dial rather than trigger pressure is also preferable there, because you can lock in the slower speed.

The keyless chuck and clutch common on cordless drills are more user friendly when it comes to rapid bit changes and driving fasteners. The addition of the clutch necessitates reverse, because "only drives screws" is an awful selling point. Driving screws with a corded drill is easy, but breaking out the key every time you need to drill a pilot hole and getting out a screw driver if you need to back out a screw gets old really quickly.


While I don't know for certain I think there are a fair few factors.

  1. Corded drills are often older designs, while cordless tools are where the manufacturers are developing new products. As I understand it some countries have placed restrictions on trigger locks which has led them to be generally phased out on most new tool designs.
  2. Cordless drills are generally less powerful than a comparable cost/weight corded drill and this was especially true in the early days of cordless drills. I believe this is why cordless drills got screwdriver features, much easier to sell a combo of a crappy underpowered drill with an electric screwdriver than a crappy drill on it's own. On the flip side in the UK at least it's rare to see a corded drill without hammer functionality while you have to go a fair way upmarket to get a cordless hammer drill.
  3. Corded drills normally run the power-train at mains voltage while cordless drills use much lower voltages, that makes implementing fancy controls or extra small electrical features like lights easier on a cordless drill.
  4. Cordless drills have a rather heavy battery and this inevitably changes the weight and balance. The normal arrangement is to put the battery on the opposite side of the handle from the drill body. I suspect this makes the belt clip impractical (though personally I have never seen a drill with a belt clip, maybe that's an American thing).
  • I believe i spotted a few cordless models with a belt clip at the battery level, so that particular one isnt as big a difference.
    – Karthik T
    Jun 14, 2019 at 1:11

Your list of common traits include several that were not particularly popular or can still be found on various brands.

  • Speed dial (found more often on heavy-duty models; less useful as variable-speed triggers evolved)
  • Belt clip (not as useful on a cordless drill as on a screw gun--see below)
  • Keyed chuck (modern keyless chucks and hex-shanked bits make them mostly obsolete except on heavy-duty models)
  • Trigger lock (detrimental to battery life, so not included with cordless models)
  • Speed gearing (not as important when you're dealing with endless 120v power; more so when using finite battery power of lower voltage)

Modern drills often have features that are either successful sales gimmicks (spirit levels) or weren't technically feasible until recent years (LED lighting).

Also, screw guns (not regular drills, which the cool kids call screw guns to sound cool), are dedicated tools that incorporate some of these features:

  • Trigger lock
  • Depth stop

The simple reason that they look so different is that the corded drill has one bulky item:

the motor/gearbox

while the cordless item has its motor/gearbox PLUS the battery pack.

  • You address the one difference I explicitly dont mention.
    – Karthik T
    Jun 13, 2019 at 10:26
  • @KarthikT It answers your specific question "Why do these 2 tools look so different? " so consider accepting the answer.
    – Solar Mike
    Jun 13, 2019 at 10:33

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