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Milwaukee vs. DeWalt Drills: What’s the Difference?

Milwaukee and DeWalt are two of the top power tool brands on the market.

Both make professional-grade tools that have the durability and power to handle heavy commercial use while being user-friendly and affordable enough to satisfy the needs of the average homeowner.

So what’s the difference between these brands and which one should you choose?

In this article, I provide a thorough comparison of Milwaukee vs. DeWalt and dive deep into the differences and similarities between their cordless drill/drivers and power tool combo kits.

By the end, you’ll have all the facts you need to determine which brand is right for you.

Let’s get right into it. Click the links below to jump straight to a section:

Milwaukee vs. DeWalt: Quick Summary

If you only have a minute, here’s a summary of the similarities and differences between Milwaukee and DeWalt.

Company Overviews

  • Milwaukee and DeWalt were founded in the United States in the 1920s. Since then, they’ve continuously innovated, expanded their product portfolios, and become leaders in the power tool industry.
  • Both brands design their products for professionals but keep the needs of homeowners in mind. Their products are heavy-duty and built to withstand frequent and intense use. Their products are more expensive compared to brands who design their products primarily for household use such as Ryobi and Ridgid.

18/20 Volt Drill/Driver

  • Milwaukee 18V and DeWalt’s 20V drills have the same power, but Milwaukee has a higher maximum speed of 1,800 RPM compared to DeWalt, which goes up to 1,500 RPM.
  • DeWalt’s 20V drill comes with two batteries that have 1.3 amp-hours of runtime. Milwaukee’s drill comes with only one battery, but it has 1.5 amp-hours of runtime and features a fuel gauge.
  • Milwaukee’s drill gives you slightly more torque control with its 16 position clutch compared to DeWalt’s 15 position clutch.
  • Milwaukee’s drill is 6.5 inches long and weighs 3.4 pounds. DeWalt’s is 7.5 inches long and weighs 6.75 pounds.
  • Milwaukee’s drill comes with unique features like Redlink Intelligence, an all-metal chuck and gear case, and an LED light.
  • Milwaukee’s drill is covered by a 5-year limited warranty, and their battery is covered for 2 years. DeWalt’s drill is covered by a 3-year limited warranty, one year of free service, and a 90-day money-back guarantee.
  • Both drills cost about the same. You can check their current prices on Amazon (Milwaukee, DeWalt) and on HomeDepot.com (Milwaukee, DeWalt).

Power Tool Combo Kits

  • Milwaukee and DeWalt both offer a wide range of power tool combo kits starting with 2 tools kits and going all the way up to 15 tools kits.
  • Their combo kits range in power and price from 12V (less power, less expensive) up to 20V (most power, most expensive).
  • Their combo kits include different types of tools, so look carefully when comparing options between Milwaukee and DeWalt.

Introducing Milwaukee

The Milwaukee Electric Tool Company was founded in 1924 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Since the beginning, they differentiated themselves through innovation and top quality. Their first product was the hand shooter, which was the first of its kind, one-handed capacity drill.

Over the past 90 plus years, Milwaukee has come out with dozens of new products, and today, they manufacture every power tool imaginable. Their product portfolio, including drills, saws, outdoor equipment, hand tools, construction instruments, and so much more.

In 2005, they became the first company to use Lithium-Ion batteries in power tools. Since then, they’ve built a reputation for their powerful and long-lasting batteries.

Milwaukee’s current slogan is “Nothing but HEAVY DUTY,” which speaks volumes about how they view their products and brand. Their target consumers are heavy-duty, professional users. Milwaukee is so dedicated to serving these consumers that they employ teams of people that spend their days on job sites talking to the actual users, watching them in action, and collecting feedback about how the tools could be better.

Although their primary focus is the professional user, homeowners looking for a high-quality drill or a saw that will last a long time often choose Milwaukee due to the strong reputation they’ve built over the years.

Introducing DeWalt

Dewalt was founded one year earlier than Milwaukee in 1923. DeWalt’s first product was the radial arm saw, but since then, they’ve expanded into all types of power tools, hand tools, and accessories. DeWalt’s product portfolio includes drills, saws, sanders, nailers, axes, hammers, and dozens of other tools and equipment.

In 1960 DeWalt was sold to Black & Decker, who, at the time, was known for their consumer tools and equipment. DeWalt’s focus on the professional consumer helped Black & Decker diversify its product portfolio and expand its target market. DeWalt remains under Black & Decker’s ownership today.

DeWalt, like Milwaukee, is known for being a top choice for professionals. Their current slogan is “GUARANTEED TOUGH,” which emphasizes one of the best qualities of their products, durability.

Although there are brands, like Ryobi, that make similar tools at a lower cost, DeWalt is a top choice for homeowners who are willing to pay a little more for superior quality, durability, and performance.

Milwaukee vs. DeWalt: How Do Their Drill/Drivers Compare?

Milwaukee and DeWalt both have over 60 types of drills with unique features, levels of power, and capabilities.

I chose to focus on Milwaukee’s M18 Compact Drill/Driver and DeWalt’s 20V Drill/Driver in this review because they are both cordless, powerful, durable, easy to use, and relatively affordable.

They are two of the most popular Milwaukee and DeWalt drills for homeowners because they pack the power to take on major jobs but are lightweight and compact enough for the minor ones too.

Milwaukee versus DeWalt Drills
Photo Credit: HomeDepot.com

In the following sections, learn how these drill/drivers compare in terms of speed, power, torque control, size, features, warranties, and price.

Which Drill Has More Speed?

The speed of a drill is measured in RPM or Rotations Per Minute. High RPM (high speeds) makes it easy to drill holes into dense materials, but lower RPM (lower speeds) make it easier to maintain control and avoid stripping screws when driving.

Milwaukee M18 Compact Drill Driver Speed Settings
Milwaukee M18 Compact Drill Driver Speed Settings

Most drills range between 300 and 1500 RPM and allow you to toggle between multiple speed settings.

Milwaukee’s drill has two different speed settings. Their low-speed setting goes from 0 to 400 RPM, and their high-speed setting goes from 0 to 1800 RPM.

DeWalt’s drill also has two different speed settings, but theirs has a slightly lower maximum speed compared to Milwaukee. Their low-speed setting goes from 0 to 450 RPM, and their high-speed setting goes from 0 to 1500 RPM.

Which Drill Has More Power and a Longer Lasting Battery?

The power of a cordless drill is measured by the voltage of its battery. In general, high voltage batteries are bigger, heavier, and more powerful than lower-voltage batteries.

Small drills and electric screwdrivers typically range from 4 to 8 volts, while heavy-duty commercial drills can go all the way up to 20 volts and beyond. For most household projects, anything higher than 12 volts is plenty.

Both drills run on rechargeable lithium-ion batteries, but the Milwaukee has an 18V (18-volt) battery, and the DeWalt drill has an 20V (20-volt) battery.

This makes the DeWalt drill more powerful, right? No.

In fact, they actually have the same voltage power.

How is this possible?

Because the difference between 20V and 18V is purely marketing.

Let me explain.

Batteries have a nominal and maximum voltage rating. The nominal rating is the voltage during discharge (lower), and the maximum rating is when the battery is fully charged.

Both of these drills have a nominal rating of 18V and a maximum rating of 20V. The difference is that Milwaukee uses the nominal rating for its branding, and DeWalt uses the maximum rating (hence the name DeWalt 20V Max).

Both brands’ batteries are compatible with many of their other power tools.

DeWalt’s drill comes with two 20-volt lithium-ion batteries and one charger, and Milwaukee’s drill comes with only one 18-volt lithium-ion battery.

As the first company to use lithium-ion batteries for power tools, Milwaukee takes its batteries seriously. They have several types of 18V batteries, but the one that comes with this drill is the M18 Redlithium compact battery.

Milwaukee’s compact battery is small and lightweight, which makes the entire tool easy to handle. Their compact battery charges in about 30 minutes and has 1.5 amp-hours of runtime.

If you’re not familiar, amp-hours refer to how long batteries can last. As a general rule of thumb, the more amp-hours, the longer a battery will last. For example, a battery with a 1 amp-hour runtime can supply a current of 1 amp for one hour or 2 amps for a half hour.

If you’re more concerned with capacity than maneuverability, you can buy Milwaukee’s M18 Redlithium Extended Capacity battery separately, which charges in about 60 minutes and has 3 amp-hours of runtime.

Milwaukee also offers High Demand and High Output batteries that have even more runtime and power but, in my opinion, are not necessary unless you are planning to use your drill every day for extended periods.

Milwaukee’s batteries feature a fuel gauge that displays how much charge is remaining so you can plan accordingly. It also features a control frame and a protective barrier that prevents water and extreme temperatures from causing damage.

Milwaukee RedLithium Fuel Gauge

DeWalt batteries don’t have a fuel gauge or temperature protection like Milwaukee does, but they are just as powerful and have very similar capacity.

DeWalt’s drill comes with two of their standard 20V lithium-ion batteries that charge in about an hour. Each battery has 1.3 amp-hours of runtime, which is on par but slightly less than Milwaukee’s, which has 1.5 amp-hours.

If you need higher capacity, you can buy DeWalt’s XRP (extended runtime) battery separately that has a whopping 4.5 amp-hours.

The bottom line; Milwaukee 18V and DeWalt 20V drills have the same power. Milwaukee’s batteries have some unique features like a fuel gauge and temperature protection, but DeWalt’s drill comes with two batteries, and Milwaukee’s only comes with one. If battery life becomes an issue, you can upgrade to each brand’s higher capacity options.

Which Drill Gives You More Torque Control?

The clutch is the part of the drill that controls torque. Torque is the force produced to turn an object; in other words, the twisting power.

DeWalt Drill Clutch
DeWalt Drill Clutch

Every clutch has a set of numbers on it that you can adjust to control torque. It’s important to adjust the clutch to the proper setting for each job.

In general, you need more torque when drilling into dense materials and less torque when driving into softer materials like wood. If your torque is too high, you could run into issues like overdriving screws or stripping screw heads.

Milwaukee gives you slightly more control over torque with a 16 position clutch compared to DeWalt’s 15 position clutch.

What Is the Size and Weight of Each Drill?

One of the things I like most about both of these compact drills is that they are small, light, and easy to use in tight spaces. This is especially important since most projects around the house require you to stand on a ladder or operate the drill with one hand.

Milwaukee versus DeWalt Drills Size and Weight
Photo credit: HomeDepot.com

Milwaukee’s drill is slightly smaller at 6.5 inches long and 3.4 pounds, including the battery, compared to DeWalt’s drill, which is 7.5 inches long and 6.75 pounds.

What Are the Key Features of Each Drill?

  • DeWalt’s drill comes with two 20V batteries, a battery charger, and a contractor bag.
  • Milwaukee’s comes with only one 18V battery, a battery charger, and a plastic carrying case.
  • DeWalt’s drill has a ratcheting chuck to tighten the grip on bits.
  • Milwaukee’s has an LED light located directly under the trigger so you can see what you’re doing. Although many of DeWalt’s drills have a built-in light, this model does not.
Milwaukee M18 Compact Drill LED Light
  • Milwaukee’s Redlink Intelligence technology enables communication between the drill, battery, and charger to control the tool’s temperature and protect against overload.
  • Both drills have an all-metal chuck and gear case for superior durability.

Are Milwaukee and DeWalt Drills Covered by Warranties?

Not only are Milwaukee and DeWalt drills, two of the most durable on the market, but they also come with generous warranties.

Milwaukee has separate warranty terms for their drills and batteries. The drill itself is covered under a 5-year limited warranty. Their batteries are covered for only 2 years. The conditions of the warranty are the same for both the drill and battery. Milwaukee will repair or replace any part of the drill or battery with defects in material or craftsmanship. Normal wear or issues resulting from misuse are not covered. For more details, check out their warranty page on Milwaukeetool.com.

DeWalt’s drill comes with a 3-year limited warranty that covers you for any defects in materials or craftsmanship. Like Milwaukee’s warranty, DeWalt’s warranty doesn’t cover normal wear or issues due to misuse.

In addition to DeWalt’s 3-year limited warranty, they also give you one year of free service in which they will repair or replace worn parts from regular use. On top of all that, you get a 90-day money-back guarantee that allows you to return it for a full refund within 90 days of the purchase date. To learn more, check out the full warranty details on DeWalt.com.

How Much Do They Cost?

Prices are always changing and depend on where you buy, but in general, Milwaukee and DeWalt drills cost about the same.

Below are links to Amazon where you can check the current price of each drill:

  • Milwaukee M18 Cordless Drill Driver Kit (Amazon, HomeDepot)
  • DeWalt 20V Cordless Drill Driver Kit (Amazon)

One thing to keep in mind is that Milwaukee’s drill only comes with one battery, and DeWalt’s includes two. DeWalt’s extra battery ensures you’ll never have to put a job on hold while one is charging. A spare Milwaukee compact battery costs between $35 and $50, but you can check the current price on Amazon.

What Are the Most Common Complaints?

Although the overwhelming majority of Milwaukee and DeWalt customers are pleased with their drills, it’s important to understand what some customers complain about the most.

The biggest complaint, which is common across both Milwaukee and DeWalt, is that the battery doesn’t last long enough. Milwaukee’s battery has a fuel gauge, so you can see it’s running low, but DeWalt’s battery gives you no warning.

DeWalt customers also complain that the battery dies after a year or two and won’t take a charge.

Despite recent innovations, battery life is not an issue unique to DeWalt or Milwaukee. If you do a quick search for almost any drill brand and read reviews, you will find that the most common complaint is about battery life. We recently put Ryobi and DeWalt’s 12V drills head-to-head and saw the same complaint about both of those drills too.

There’s a lot that impacts how long a battery will last, including the amount of use, type of use, temperature, etc. If you’re interested in learning how to get the most out of your battery, DeWalt has an entire page on its website outlining the best practices for extended battery life.

Another complaint about DeWalt’s drill is that despite its ratcheting chuck, the grip is not strong enough, and small bits tend to fall out during use.

Lastly, some customers are disappointed that DeWalt’s drill doesn’t have a built-in LED light.

Milwaukee vs. DeWalt: Power Tool Combo Kits

If you’re just getting started in your home and need more than one power tool, you can save money by getting a combo kit, which includes 2 or more tools.

DeWalt offers over 50 different power tools combo kits ranging from 2 tools to 10 tools. Milwaukee offers over 30 kits that include up to 15 tools.

Below is a comparison of both brands’ top kits.

2-Tool Combo Kits

If you only need a couple of specific tools, both Milwaukee and DeWalt offer a wide range of 2-tool combo kits. Milwaukee has a total of 31 different 2-tool kits, and DeWalt has 25. Each kit has a unique combination of tools with varying levels of power and features. 

Milwaukee M18 Drill/Driver and Reciprocating Saw Combo Kit vs. DeWalt 12V Max Drill/Driver and Reciprocating Saw Combo Kit

If you’re looking for a kit that includes a drill/driver and a reciprocating saw, Milwaukee’s M18 Drill/Driver and Reciprocating Saw Combo Kit and DeWalt’s 12V Max Drill/Driver and Reciprocating Saw Combo Kit are the best options from each brand.

To compare current prices, check out both of these kits on Amazon through the links below:

Milwaukee’s kit comes with their M18 High-Performance Hammer Drill/Driver, which is slightly different than a standard drill. In addition to spinning the drill bit, hammer drills punch back and forth a fraction of an inch as they go. This punching action allows them to penetrate dense materials like brick and concrete easily.

Milwaukee’s kit also comes with its popular M18 reciprocating saw. Milwaukee has built quite a reputation for their reciprocating saws, which they’ve branded Sawzall. Although Sawzall is Milwaukee’s trademark, it’s often used generically in reference to reciprocating saws, similar to how people say Kleenex instead of tissue.

What makes Milwaukee’s Sawzall so unique? It’s powerful (18-volt), it’s speedy (up to 3,000 strokes per minute), and it’s easy to use (it features a QUIK-LOK blade clamp to make switching blades fast and secure).

If you don’t need a hammer drill, DeWalt’s kit is a better option. It includes their 12-volt drill/driver, which features two speed settings and goes up to 1,500 RPM. It also has 15 clutch settings, a built-in LED light, and a belt hook. This drill is slightly less powerful than the 18-volt drill I covered earlier in this article, but 12 volts is more than enough for 90% of household jobs.

DeWalt’s kit also includes their 12V reciprocating saw, which features a 3 position pivoting handle, an anti-slip comfort grip, a built-in LED light, and goes up to 2,700 strokes per minute.

Although it’s less powerful and can’t produce as many strokes per minute as the Milwaukee Sawzall, it’s smaller and weighs only 3.1 pounds (vs. Milwaukee’s at 7.4 pounds) which makes it easier to handle.

5+ Tool Combo Kit Comparison

If you’re looking for more than just a couple of power tools, Milwaukee and DeWalt have a wide range of options. Milwaukee has 7 kits that include more than 5 tools, and DeWalt has 14.

Let’s take a closer look at some of their most popular large combo kits.

Milwaukee M18 Fuel 7-Tool Combo Kit vs. DeWalt 20V Max Compact 7-Tool Combo Kit

If you need even more tools, DeWalt’s 20V Max Compact 7-Tool Combo Kit and Milwaukee’s M18 Fuel 7-Tool Combo Kit are two great options. The most significant differences between these two kits are the power each tool packs and the types of tools that are included.

To compare current prices, check out both of these kits on Amazon through the links below:

Milwaukee’s kit is powered by their 18-volt M18 batteries, while the tools in DeWalt’s kit are powered by larger 20-volt batteries.

Both kits include impact drivers, circular saws, reciprocating saw, grinders, and flashlights.

Milwaukee’s kit also includes a hammer drill/driver and an impact wrench. DeWalt’s kit consists of a compact drill/driver and a job site Bluetooth speaker.

Milwaukee M18 9-Tool Combo Kit vs. DeWalt 20V MAX 9-Tool Combo Kit

If you’re really looking to load up on new power tools, Milwaukee’s M18 9-Tool Combo Kit and DeWalt’s 20V MAX 9-Tool Combo Kit come with a wide array of tools for all of your needs.

To compare current prices, check out both of these kits on Amazon through the links below:

The tools in both kits are all cordless and powered by 18-volt batteries.

Milwaukee’s kit includes:

  • Compact Hammer Drill/Driver
  • Cordless Right Angle Drill
  • Reciprocating Saw
  • Circular Saw
  • Jigsaw
  • Impact Driver
  • Impact Wrench
  • Grinder
  • Work Light

It also includes one Redlithium extended capacity battery and a multi-voltage charger.

Similar to Milwaukee’s kit, DeWalt’s kit includes a hammer drill/driver, circular saw, reciprocating saw, oscillating tool, grinder, right-angle drill, Bluetooth speaker, two 20V batteries. 

The Verdict: Which Power Tool Brand Should You Buy?

Milwaukee and DeWalt both started in the 1920s and since then have established themselves as leaders in the power tool industry. They both build incredibly durable, high-performing tools that last a long time. So how do you choose which brand to buy?

The truth is, you can’t go wrong with either.

Their durability, reputation, and price are virtually the same. To determine which brand to buy, prioritize the characteristics that are most important to you and look at the facts for each tool you are considering.

For example, if you only need an 18V/20V drill, you know that both brands have the same power, Milwaukee’s drill gives you more torque control with a 16 position clutch, Milwaukee’s drill is slightly smaller and more nimble, DeWalt’s comes with two batteries, and Milwaukee’s battery has a fuel gauge.

If you are considering a power tool combo kit, there are so many options that you first need to figure out exactly what type of tools you need. Then determine which brand has those tools packaged up in a single kit. If both do, go tool-by-tool and decide which features are most important to you.

By narrowing your options down to Milwaukee and DeWalt, you’ve already made a great decision. If you’re still on the fence between the two brands, keep in mind that DeWalt has a 90-day money-back guarantee. Buy one tool, and if you don’t love it, return it!

To read many more reviews and take a closer look at the drills and combo kits I reviewed in this article, check them out at the links below.

Thank You for Reading Our Comparison of Milwaukee vs. DeWalt!

We hope our review of these popular power tool brands helps you make the best decision for your needs. 

Have you had a different experience with Milwaukee or DeWalt? Do you agree or disagree with our review? Are there any other power tool brands that you think are better than these? Please let us know in the comments section or contact us directly; we would love to hear your feedback.

If you found this article helpful, you should also check out:

Andrew Palermo Founder of Prudent Reviews

Andrew Palermo - About the Author

Andrew is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Prudent Reviews. He began his career in marketing, managing campaigns for dozens of Fortune 500 brands. In 2018, Andrew founded Prudent Reviews and has since reviewed 600+ products. When he’s not testing the latest cookware, kitchen knives, and appliances, he’s spending time with his family, cooking, and doing house projects. Connect with Andrew via emailLinkedIn, or the Prudent Reviews YouTube channel.

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2 thoughts on “Milwaukee vs. DeWalt Drills: What’s the Difference?”

  1. Purchased the DeWalt Atomic series drill/driver combo from Home Depot and when I got home and opened the box I realized there is no battery gauge with these tools.

    A deal killer for me and I would imagine millions of other Americans.

    Such good tools… and such a deal breaker.

    • Some of their batteries have a fuel gauge, but many don’t. It’s such a simple feature that you’d think DeWalt would add to all batteries.


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