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Milwaukee M18 Fuel 1/2" Drill Driver Review

If you are looking for a top-tier drill to go with your existing Milwaukee batteries, this is your best bet
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Milwaukee M18 Fuel 1/2" Drill Driver Review (This cordless Milwaukee drill didn't really struggle at all with the spade bits.)
This cordless Milwaukee drill didn't really struggle at all with the spade bits.
Credit: Laura Casner
Price:  $189 List
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Manufacturer:   Milwaukee
By David Wise and Austin Palmer  ⋅  Mar 7, 2024
94
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#1 of 23
  • Drilling - 35% 9.6
  • Driving - 35% 10.0
  • Battery Life - 20% 9.8
  • Convenience - 10% 6.2

Our Verdict

The Milwaukee M18 Fuel 1/2" Drill Driver delivered one of the highest scores throughout our comprehensive testing. This exceptional cordless tool is great for heavy-duty tasks, such as drilling large holes or driving in monster fasteners. It's convenient and easy to use, with excellent battery performance when compared side-by-side with our other best drills. We tested the tool-only version of this product and we highly recommend this drill to anyone looking for a tool-only option to pair with their existing M18 batteries or who wants to purchase batteries and chargers separately rather than a combo kit. Committing to the Milwaukee M18 Fuel line of cordless products is an expensive affair, but the performance is top tier.
REASONS TO BUY
Great for driving fasteners
Heavy-duty
Efficient use of battery life
REASONS TO AVOID
Heavy
Takes some force to swap batteries
Editor's Note: This Milwaukee drill review now includes new sections to detail our view on the best drills in the group. These updates were made on March 7th, 2022.

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Bottom Line This tool delivered excellent results across the board and is a fantastic option to complement the M18 battery systemA drill driver set capable of a wide range of tasksA great budget drill for a homeowners or DIYer and has more than enough power for moderate to light-duty tasksOur favorite compact 12-volt drill when considering overall performance and priceThis drill isn't great, but can speed up driving screws through prefabricated furniture at a low price
Rating Categories Milwaukee M18 Fuel... Kobalt XTR 24-volt... Craftsman V20 1/2-I... Bosch 12V Max Drill... Black+Decker 20V Ma...
Drilling (35%)
9.6
9.4
6.6
5.8
4.1
Driving (35%)
10.0
9.4
6.2
4.5
3.2
Battery Life (20%)
9.8
8.4
4.4
3.2
2.6
Convenience (10%)
6.2
6.2
6.0
5.8
4.6
Specs Milwaukee M18 Fuel... Kobalt XTR 24-volt... Craftsman V20 1/2-I... Bosch 12V Max Drill... Black+Decker 20V Ma...
Measured Weight 4.06 lb 4.09 lb 3.44 lb 2.17 lb 2.68 lb
Measured Charge Time 25 min 85 min 58 min 85 min 210 min
Measured Length 7" 7" 8-1/4" 6-5/8" 7"
Measured Number of Settings 14 22 23 20 10
Included Battery Pack(s) Tested with 2.0 Ah 4 Ah
Tested with 2.0 Ah (not included with kit)
1.3 Ah 2.0 Ah 1.5 Ah
Max Chuck 1/2" 1/2" 1/2" 3/8" 3/8"
Battery Voltage 18V 24V 20V 12V 20V
Drill Model Tested 2803-20 KXDD 124B-03 CMCD700 PS31 LDX120C
Box Model (Kit) Tested Tested tool-only, no kit KXDD 1424A-03 CMCD700C1 PS31-2A LDX120C
Five Inch Hole Saw Test Timing 15 seconds 17 seconds 55 seconds 70 seconds 90 seconds
Lag Screw Test (What is Left to From Driving) 0.00 in 0.00 in 0.63 in 1.13 in 1.81 in
Manufacturer Stated RPM Low: 0 - 550
High: 0 - 2000
Low: 0 - 550
High: 0 - 2000
Low: 0 - 450
High: 0 - 1500
Low: 0 - 350
High: 0 -1300
0 - 650
Manufacturer Peak Torque 1,200 in-lbs 1,200 in-lbs 280 UWO 256 in-lbs Not Listed
Battery Indicator Location Battery Battery Battery Drill N/A
LED Location Above the battery Above the battery Above the trigger Above the trigger Above the trigger
Included Belt Clip Yes Yes No No No

Our Analysis and Test Results

Performance Comparison


milwaukee m18 fuel 1/2" drill driver - the m18 fuel is a top-tier drill with plenty of power.
The M18 FUEL is a top-tier drill with plenty of power.
Credit: Laura Casner

Drilling


We started by testing the power of each of these top-ranked drills head-to-head in a trio of tests. We compared performance at drilling a 5-inch hole through a solid door using a hole saw, drilling a 1-inch hole using a spade bit through double stacked 2x lumber, and using standard twist drills through a steel sheet. The M18 FUEL delivered some top-tier results, earning one of the best scores of the bunch.


This drill easily drilled the hole saw to its full depth in the solid door in around 15 seconds. It stalled and caught a few times when we tried this in the high gear but showed absolutely zero issues when in low gear and still made short work of the task.

The 5" hole saw can be a formidable opponent for any cordless drill.
The 5" hole saw can be a formidable opponent for any cordless drill.
The M18 FUEL handled this task with ease.
The M18 FUEL handled this task with ease.


This drill continued its stellar performance with the 1-inch spade bit. It showed no sign of a struggle at all until the battery was essentially completely dead. We like that this drill never really caught or stalled, even when breaking through to the other side of the 2x12s.

The M18 FUEL finished this metric with another solid performance with the twist drills and the steel sheet. We used both a ¼-inch and ½-inch drill to make holes in a 16-gauge steel sheet.

milwaukee m18 fuel 1/2" drill driver - the m18 fuel punched through the steel sheets like they weren't even...
The M18 FUEL punched through the steel sheets like they weren't even there.
Credit: Laura Casner

This drill took 1.1 seconds to make a ¼-inch hole and about 3-4 seconds to make a ½-inch hole — some of the fastest times of the group. This drill effortlessly cut through the steel without stalling or catching, even when cutting through the last burr.

milwaukee m18 fuel 1/2" drill driver - the side handle can be very handy when driving in large lag screws.
The side handle can be very handy when driving in large lag screws.
Credit: Laura Casner

Driving


Our next set of assessments for each tool focused on comparing their performance at driving in fasteners. For this metric, we focused on a large lag screw and standard wood screws — a 3-inch length — to compare performance. The M18 FUEL absolutely crushed the competition in this metric, tying for the top spot overall.


The M18 FUEL drove the 5" lag screw to the full depth without too much issue. We used the high gear to drive the screw past the threads, then swapped to the low gear to sink the screw completely.

milwaukee m18 fuel 1/2" drill driver - this drill easily sank the wood screws to their full depth and...
This drill easily sank the wood screws to their full depth and offered plenty of control to perfectly countersink the heads.
Credit: Laura Casner

The clutch on this drill has 14 different settings, giving you a wide range of adjustability if you want to limit the torque to prevent overdriving the screws. This drill also did very well with the standard wood screws. It easily drives the countersunk screws to the full depth and offers more than enough control to set the heads flush with the surface or just slightly under.

milwaukee m18 fuel 1/2" drill driver - we found this drill to make very efficient use of its battery life.
We found this drill to make very efficient use of its battery life.
Credit: Laura Casner

Battery Life


Our next round of tests compared and scored how these cordless tools did with common batteries. We used a 2 amp-hour battery with the M18 FUEL, comparing how efficiently it could use this battery and how long it took to recharge compared to other models. This drill did very well, meriting a top-tier score.


To test how efficiently each tool used its battery power, we alternated between drilling three holes with a 1" spade bit through a piece of 2x lumber and then sinking 16 wood screws to their full depth through a pair of stacked 2x12 boards. We started each drill with a full battery and then kept track of the number of cycles completed.

The M18 FUEL completed nine full cycles and a partial 10th cycle before completely dying. It drove all the screws in for the 10th cycle but only completed about half of one of the holes before the battery died. We did have to shift down to the lower gear setting partway through the 9th cycle to finish drilling the holes, as the battery was so depleted that it couldn't source enough power while in the higher gear setting.

We also liked how quickly this battery charged, only taking around 25 minutes to complete charge with the stock charger — much much faster than comparable batteries.

milwaukee m18 fuel 1/2" drill driver - this milwaukee drill is convenient and easy to use.
This Milwaukee drill is convenient and easy to use.
Credit: Laura Casner

Convenience


Our last metric for each of these cordless tools focused on how convenient and easy to use they are. We based our scores on the weight of each tool, max chuck size, LED lights, different operating speeds, battery indicator, and ease of swapping batteries. The M18 FUEL finished our tests with a decent performance, earning an above-average score.


This drill is a little heavier, tipping the scales at just over four pounds. It has the option for the belt clip to be attached near the batter. This model is fairly typical when it comes to swapping the batteries, though we do like the presence of a battery indicator on the batteries.

This drill has two different operating speeds, and the chuck can hold up to a ½" shank. The M18 FUEL has an integrated LED light above the battery. This light usually provides ample light and stays on for about 11 seconds, but we didn't like that you need to start the drill to have the light turn on.

Should You Buy the M18 FUEL?


If you are searching for a premium cordless drill and aren't looking for an introductory kit with batteries and charger included, then the M18 FUEL is a great option. It has tons of drilling and driving power and great battery performance. It's a heavy-duty tool for heavy-duty projects, earning one of the best scores of the entire group. While this drill is a top-tier product, it can be a bit on the expensive side if you are shopping on a budget, particularly if you don't need a particularly heavy-duty drill. If you are trying to build up a fleet of cordless tools, the M18 Fuel line is a great one with professional-grade performance. However, each tool in this line is generally at the upper end of the price range for any given tool category, which is important to consider before diving into this set of Milwaukee tools.

What Other Drill Should You Consider?


If you don't need professional-grade tools and want to save some money, the Craftsman V20 1/2-In. Drill/Driver Kit CMCD700C1 is a fairly affordable drill for those on a budget. While we think the Fuel is great, the Craftsman could be the solution you need depending on your goals.

David Wise and Austin Palmer