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Corded vs. Cordless Tools – Which is Better?

9/28/22

Whether you are looking to build up your tool kit or just starting out in the trade, you may be wondering whether corded or cordless tools are best. It’s a debate going on since cordless power tools first hit the scene. Corded and cordless tools both offer unique advantages depending on the task. Use our guide to explore the differences between corded and cordless tools to help you determine what’s right for your needs.

Shifting to a Cordless Jobsite

Although the first cordless electric drill was introduced in 1961, cordless tools have steadily grown in popularity over the past 20 to 30 years. The portability and maneuverability of cordless tools have always been clear advantages; however, battery life often limited their overall power and performance. Recent advancements are enabling cordless tools to match the power of corded for an ever-expanding variety of tools.

While many of the most powerful tools, like angle grinders and miter saws, are still primarily corded, the list of heavy-duty cordless tools is growing as battery technology continues to improve. As battery technology evolves, many manufacturers are now focused on making more cordless tools in areas that are more traditionally corded or even gas-powered.  Cordless tool technology can now offer the same or, in some cases, even more power than these alternate power sources.

Cordless Tools

Pros

Powerful Battery Technology

Almost every power tool on the market today comes with a lithium-ion battery. These batteries can hold a lot of power that doesn’t diminish over time if the battery is properly maintained. They are made to be lightweight, helping to reduce worker fatigue. Your battery should also be interchangeable with your other power tools— a convenience for when you might need it.

Portability

Since it has no cord and you don’t have to rely on a secondary power source, a cordless tool offers greater flexibility and portability. When working on several projects or in tight spaces, cordless tools allow you to maneuver and move about freely without the hazard of tripping or tangling a cord. This portability is a clear advantage for any mobile business or contractors who need to move about frequently on jobsites.

Storage

In addition to their portability, cordless power tools are typically easier to store than corded ones. They often come with individual storage containers to house the tool and its accompanying batteries. Cordless drills, saws and impact drivers can be placed in drawers or on shelves.

Cons

Battery Life

Even the best battery will run out of power at some point potentially costing valuable work time. Workers can forget to charge a battery after their shift or lose a battery altogether. Cordless power tool performance also starts to suffer as the power gets drained. That means your tools won't provide the same amount of power at the end of your shift (or day, or week, depending on how much you use it) as they did at the beginning.

Bulk and Heft

The convenience of an attached battery adds extra weight and bulk. While most lithium-ion batteries are lightweight, the weight does depend on the tool and the voltage to power larger devices. With more power comes more weight and holding cordless tools all day can cause strain and fatigue though they offer the mobility you need. 

Corded Tools

Pros

Dependable Power 

The best thing about corded power tools is that they are hooked up to a continuous power supply, so they never run out of power. Their performance will not suffer as a cordless tool will once the battery starts getting drained. Corded power tools will almost always be able to offer greater torque than a cordless tool performing the same function. This means that some tools that require a high amount of torque may not be available in a cordless option or will not be sufficient for the job.

Better Runtime 

The runtime for cordless power tools varies depending on the manufacturer, battery and power demands. A corded tool can operate for as long as needed with a continuous runtime. Some corded tools like table saws provide better performance, and it can be easier to operate a larger tool if it’s near an outlet than working without a battery. 

Cons

Limited Mobility

While the cord provides dependable power, it also restricts your mobility, keeping you tethered to the wall—even if you use an extension cord. Power cords also create a tripping hazard that you wouldn’t otherwise have. Additionally, with power saws and routers, cords can potentially be cut, rendering the tool useless.

Difficult to Store

Because of the cord, corded tools can be a challenge to store, and many contractors and managers must get creative in how they store and keep corded tools from being damaged. Wide shelves, fasteners and deep storage bins are all options to store corded power tools to ensure cords remain intact.

Cordless vs. Corded Tools 

Cordless Advantages Corded Advantages

Convenience

High power output

Portable

Dependable

Easy to use

Constant power

Quieter

Lighter

Easy storage

Long lifespan

No trip hazards

Whether a corded or cordless tool is best depends on the job and how often you will use the tool. While corded power tools offer the most in terms of reliability and sustained power, they are no match to cordless tools when it comes to maneuverability and convenience. The best cordless tools will last a long time before their power starts to fade. However, the debate will continue until they can provide the same power-every-time-no-matter-what reliability offered by a corded tool.

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The information contained in this article is intended for general information purposes only and is based on information available as of the initial date of publication. No representation is made that the information or references are complete or remain current. This article is not a substitute for review of current applicable government regulations, industry standards, or other standards specific to your business and/or activities and should not be construed as legal advice or opinion. Readers with specific questions should refer to the applicable standards or consult with an attorney.