Milwaukee M18 vs M18 FUEL Tools – What’s the Difference?

Milwaukee M18 vs M18 Fuel tools whats difference

Milwaukee Tool makes one of the deepest lines of cordless tools available, and we’ve been using and testing their tools since 2008. When it comes to Milwaukee M18 vs M18 FUEL tools, we understand the differences. This article covers the technology and the reasons why you might choose one over the other depending on your needs. Hint: you might just save some money!

Milwaukee M18 vs M18 FUEL Tools Overview

At its most basic level, the difference between Milwaukee M18 and M18 Fuel tools is that most M18 products have a brushed motor and ALL M18 Fuel tools have a brushless motor. That’s not where the differences end, however.

Milwaukee M18 Fuel Impact Driver with One-Key

We’ve written much more about brushed vs brushless motors. Here’s the short version:

Brushed and brushless refer to the carbon brushes in a DC motor that a brushed motor uses. They wear over time and have to be replaced. Brushless motors don’t require them and are controlled electronically instead.

The result of brushless technology is primarily three things: longer runtime, higher performance, and longer motor life.

There are some additional benefits as well. Because those motors require electronic controls, there’s an opportunity to dial in more advanced controls, such as additional speeds, assist modes, advanced thermal protection, and more.

Milwaukee M18 FUEL tools take advantage of that brushless technology…but they don’t stop there.

Milwaukee M18 FUEL Brushless Tools Tech

Milwaukee M18 Types of Tools

The Milwaukee M18 line actually includes several “lines” of tools. All 200+ of them work with the company’s M18 RedLithium batteries, but you might want different tools depending on your intended use. Milwaukee offers the following:

  • M18 (brushed motor)
  • M18 Brushless (brushless motor)
  • M18 FUEL (brushless motor + RedLink technology)

In this way, you might find a brushed hammer drill like the M18 compact 2607. You could also step up to the M18 brushless 2902 hammer drill for more power and runtime. Finally, the M18 FUEL 2904 gives you smart features like AutoStop and the highest torque and speeds available.

Let’s look at these tools in a quick table:

Motor TechnologyBrushedBrushlessPOWERSTATE Brushless
ElectronicsNoneRedLinkRedLink Plus
Max Speed (RPM)1,8001,8002,100
Torque (peak)500 in-lbs725 in-lbs1,400 in-lbs
Length7.8 in.7.0 in.6.95 in.
Weight3.0 lbs.3.1 lbs.3.3 lbs.

Can I Use the Same Batteries in Milwaukee M18 vs M18 FUEL Tools?

One of the great things about Milwaukee’s M18 and M18 Fuel systems is that all the tools work on the same RedLithium M18 batteries. So, no matter if you use Milwaukee brushed tools, compact tools, or their flagship ONE-KEY models, all M18 tools and products run on the same 18V RedLithiuum batteries.

Using the Same Batteries | Milwaukee M18 Vs M18 Fuel

Have a 2.0Ah M18 RedLithium battery? It works in the Milwaukee M18 brushed drill driver and their M18 Fuel jigsaw.

Have one of the newer Milwaukee M18 High Output batteries? It also works in the same drill driver and jigsaw. We just wouldn’t recommend using the big 12Ah pack on Milwaukee’s compact tools!

The point is, if the tool has M18 in the name and the battery says M18 on the pack, they work together. Power tools, lighting, lawn care equipment, and more all work on the same battery.

Where you’ll notice a difference is when you use one of Milwaukee’s advanced M18 High Output batteries. The electronics in M18 Fuel tools are able to communicate with those batteries to call on significantly more power. The brushed models might see a minor bump in performance from the additional cell density and overall capacity, but not at the same level as the brushless tools.

What About Milwaukee M18 Compact Brushless Tools?

Earlier, we mentioned that most Milwaukee M18 tools have a brushed motor. A few years back, Milwaukee introduced a handful of M18 Compact Brushless Tools. Designed to fit between their standard performance brushed tools and high-performance brushless models, they offer the benefits of brushless at a more approachable price. See our chart above for an example using three different M18 drills.

Milwaukee M18 Compact Brushless Combo Kit | Milwaukee M18 Vs M18 Fuel

These tools have a Milwaukee brushless motor in them and RedLink intelligence. However, those aren’t the same as the step up to the premium PowerState motors and RedLink Plus controls. Like all M18 and M18 Fuel tools, they can use any M18 RedLithium battery.

There are other exceptions as well. Milwaukee’s M18 lighting products and radios don’t require a motor at all, but they still get the M18 designation because they work with M18 batteries.

What About Milwaukee M12 vs M12 Fuel Tools?

It’s the same story for Milwaukee M12 vs M12 FUEL. The M12 tools have brushed motors and the M12 FUEL tools have PowerState brushless motors and Redlink Plus intelligence. It’s a different battery system, but the concept is the same.

Final Thoughts on Milwaukee M18 vs M18 FUEL Tools

When you see an M18 FUEL product, you might notice the specific technology Milwaukee references. PowerState is the name they’ve given their premium brushless motors. RedLink Plus intelligence is what they call the premium electronics package that makes it work. RedLithium is the name of the battery technology that powers it all.

In the end, you want to buy the tools that help you get the job done. Not everyone needs the best M18 FUEL power tools. If you don’t intend to run your tools all day long, you may not need the high-end electronics offered by RedLink Plus. The same goes for whether or not you require the absolute highest performance. With so many options, we think most consumers—homeowner and Pro alike—can find something that fits their needs.

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