12-Volt vs 18-Volt Tools News & Opinion

12-Volt vs 18-Volt Tools: Do I Need Both?


Each year, we are dazzled with new tool innovations and battery technology. We want more run-time, more power, and more overall tool longevity. By and large, major tool manufacturers are delivering those things. Today’s 18-volt performance is pulling ahead of corded tools. Professionals are beginning to regard their 18-volt tools as their primary option instead just supplemental tools. Tool innovation continues to highlight the similar capabilities of 12-volt and 18-volt. It’s remarkable to see, and the tools are exciting to use. But more power isn’t our only consideration. There’s a point where we can experience diminishing returns—not because of the power, but because of factors accompanying the power. After all, there’s no need to kill a fly with a sledgehammer. Here are some of the biggest considerations when comparing 12-volt vs 18-volt tools.

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12-Volt vs 18-Volt Tools: Ergonomics and Power

Power

It’s obvious 18-volt tools are more powerful than their 12-volt brethren, but 12V vs 18V isn’t just about power. You simply may not need all that torque. A Pro carpenter or installer will likely find that 12 volts will do all the work needed. Thanks to lithium-ion technology, today’s 12-volt models perform a lot like yesterday’s 18-volt tools. Some even seem to fall somewhere in between the two categories.

However, if you are in production where you’re doing heavy-duty, high-stress tasks, then an 18-volt platform is better suited for the job. Otherwise, you’ll probably find that 12 volts will give you enough power for all the work you ask it to do.

Weight

12-volt tools certainly hold an advantage with lighter weight. If you often find yourself in crawlspaces, attics, working overhead, or with your arms extended, then 12-volt tools have the advantage…hands down. If the power level gives you what you need, you’ll want to consider the 12-volt platform.

12V vs 18V Tools - Ergonomics vs Power

When it comes to 12V vs 18V tools, 12V is far more than just the JV squad.

Size

Unless you drive a dump truck, space is probably limited. Your toolbox or truck bed toolbox is prime real estate. If your tools are smaller, you can carry a wider variety of tools for jobs you may encounter. You could carry a 12-volt impact driver, drill, one-handed recip saw, and circular saw (and probably more) in a reasonably sized toolbox or backpack and be ready for just about anything. An 18-volt set would be considerably larger and heavier.

With a 12-volt kit, you won’t find yourself crawling out from under a house or climbing down from the attic to make multiple trips to the truck since everything can fit in one bag.

12-Volt vs 18-Volt Tools – Other Considerations

Charge Time

We’ll have to be patient while we wait for the 1-minute charger. Until then, an advantage of 12-volt batteries is a faster charge time. Fast charging technology is closing the gap on some 18-volt platforms, though. With the focus of charging technology being on the 18-volt platform—particularly with multi-bay chargers—the big boys may dominate this area on all sides.

Run-Time

Grab a 25-pound box of drywall screws and some 2×4 lumber, and start driving them. You can likely work through lunch by the time your drill runs out of juice. Would you rather have the 12-volt drill or an 18-volt model? It depends. Given the same task, 18-volt batteries are going to run much longer than 12-volt. That’s especially true now that 6.0 amp hour and even 9.0 amp hour batteries are hitting the scene. Those tools, however, will be much heavier.

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Cost

For most of us, there’s no getting around investing in an 18-volt platform. The cost of entry isn’t nearly as high for the 12-volt platform, however. Finding a good 12V system—even as a supplement—may help you work smarter.

12-Volt vs 18-Volt Tools: The Bottom Line

We love the constant innovation and increased power coming out of the major tool manufacturers. We won’t stop wanting more because we simply expect more from our cordless tools. But there are some considerations to think about before heading right over and picking the box with the biggest numbers on it. A 12-volt platform is smaller, lighter, and cheaper. It comes with the ability get into tight spaces and help alleviate fatigue during long periods of use.

Here’s the deal, though: There are very few Pros that can do everything on just a 12-volt platform. Most of us use it as a supplement for our 18-volt tools when the situation allows us to opt for ergonomics over power.

I’m sure you have some opinions about 12V vs 18V tools. If you’re a Pro and you have other cordless tool tips, add them in the comments below or join the conversation on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter!

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David
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David

I am audio visual and communication engineer. My job can warry from hanging 98″ TVs, to building communication and computer racks. From drilling through concrete floors to puting together communication equipment. Also my job is 100% travel, so I am flying carrying 2 50lb toolbacks. Not long time ago I made a change from DeWalt 20V to Milwaukee M12 and could not be happier. Size weight and convinianc of heaving those tools amazing, and honestly I did not see much difference in power.

Paul Stregevsky
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I use Milwaukee M18. One reason I chose it over M12 was its added features.
Take Hackzalls. The M12’s lower power didn’t bother me. Its shorter stroke did.
Or take multi-tools. The M12’s lower power didn’t bother me. Its reliance on an Allen wrench for tool-changing did, And I think it lacked an LED illuminator.

Mark
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Mark

I brought my 12v rigid impact to work, to use in comparison to my ‘20v’ Dewalt brushless impact. I was installing stout brackets and caddy bars and two hole straps. The time to drive self tapping sheetmetal screws was different, but not by much. And not having my gun fall from being bottom heavy was a big plus. One thing I thought about often, was that the time to run the screws is so small in scope to the time of any overall task. Cutting, bending, sizing and placing are also part of the equation. Parts that the impact gun… Read more »

Chris
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Chris

What would be best to put together a pre-drilled swingset that requires hundres of lag screws? Would a 12 volt impact drill be sufficient?

david
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david

Love this article…im an hvac/r tech which basically means I do work that requires versatility… 25 years old i have a deal 30 volt impact…. this weekend be pick up a new kit which has been long overdue… I had a ridgid kid before this that all got stolen except the radio…before that I had the Milwaukee impact/ driver that was 199.99 … this was way before cordless tools became a way life…will be picking up the new makita set….let’s start to get to the point though… around Xmas time I boy chi t the makita 12 volt kit… I’m… Read more »