Makita is one of the largest, most prolific manufacturers of 18v
cordless power tools in the entire world. Their Makita 18v line refers
specifically to the 18 volt lithium ion or nickel cadmium batteries
that are inter-changeable between any one of their tools that is
designed to take them. Actually, this battery is extremely popular in
the tool world. It lasts much longer than comparable batteries, charges
faster, and has a more usable charging cycle (specifically, you rarely
have to drain the battery if it starts to last for only a few hours
instead of all day, as these batteries are supposed to).
Makita offers more than thirty tools in their 18v line, including the Makita radio, but we are going to look specifically at the drills. There are a number of different drills in this line, most of which very high quality but are differentiated in their features to cover different price points. Additionally, in buying a Makita 18v drill, a choice has to be made whether to buy the stand alone drill or the drill kit.
Makita 18v stand alone drills come with the drill, a battery, and a charger. If you already have a lot of drill bits and fittings that will fit on a Makita drill then it is recommended you go with the stand alone drill. However, if you are lacking some of the accessories, or you need a lot of different fittings for your drill, then one of Makita's kits will fit you quite well.
Since there are so many different Makita 18v drills, the first thing we really need to do is figure out just which drill that is necessary. After all, a professional handyman probably would prefer to stay away from Makita's offerings that are less than $100, while a casual do-it-yourselfer probably does not need one of Makita's professional level $800 offerings. Let's have a look at what differentiates these Makita 18v drills.
Batteries: The Makita battery line is known across the line to be generally superior to other brands. The Makita 18v batteries are no different. However, there are still some very big differences that you want to pay attention to. The first thing to look out for is available Watt Hours (AH * V). This is fairly straight forward, it is simply a measure of the time that you can operate the drill before the batteries are drained. At first, your battery will likely outperform its watt hour rating, and as time passes your battery will start to underperform its watt hour rating. What this means is that you need to look at the types of jobs you will be performing. If you only do work that requires a power drill on the weekends at your own home, then the watt hour rating will barely matter at all. However, if you pull eight hour days and regularly have to travel to construction sites, then the watt hour rating is one of the most important parameters in your choice. This will simply come down to your own preference and needs. Most Makita 18v drills clock in somewhere between 30 and 60 watt hours.
Additionally, there is lithium ion versus nickel cadmium. Most higher end drills have been moving to lithium ion these days, though there are certainly a lot of high quality nickel cadmium batteries still floating around. Makita offers both types of batteries in an 18v flavor. Lithium ion batteries generally tend to last longer, have more usable recharge cycles, and will outperform nickel cadmium batteries. If it is at all possible, you should opt for lithium ion batteries.
Charger: Makita 18v drills tend to all come with a similar charger these days. However, there are still some floating around with the older style of charger that does not have a fan. Whatever you do, try to make sure that your battery charger comes with a fan. The fan is there to make sure that the temperature level in the battery stays down while charging. This will significantly extend the life of your battery, and it will also create a more even charge of your battery's cells, making for a longer-lasting charge. There really is no reason to use an older style of charger anymore.
Weight: This largely goes unsaid when people are looking for a drill to buy, but the actual weight of the drill makes a huge difference in its usability. A heavy drill makes longer and more difficult jobs a lot more difficult than they need to be. Makita has been releasing a number of lighter and more compact 18v drills. I really can't stress how much of a difference that a light drill makes in completing a job. Most of you reading this are probably used to using a heavy drill. By the time you finish certain jobs, it feels like your arm is about to fall off. If you can get your hands on one of Makita's 18v drills that are much lighter (the BDF452HW is one model that I have tried), then you should give it a shot. Once you use a lighter drill, you will not go back to a bulky, heavy model. Guaranteed!
Transmission: Most drills come with variable transmissions, which can affect the torque rating of the drills. Makita 18v drills are really no different. It is possible to get 1, 2, and 3 speed transmissions, with torque ratings between 300 and more than 600. While you generally want to aim for a higher torque rating, the reality is that even most professionals don't notice any difference between a drill with a medium torque rating and one with a high torque rating. If a 450 torque rating is not enough to do the job, then a power drill probably isn't the tool that you should be using.
Accessories: This category is actually one of the most important when choosing a drill. For example, Makita 18v drills that are designed for high end contractors come with a belt hook and side handle. Many contractors would not buy a drill that does not come with these two things, while a casual user would never know to look for those things.
The best way to figure out which small accessories you need is to judge based on your past experience. Take note of some of the smaller aspects of your old cordless drill. What came with it that was absolutely essential to its regular use? Was there anything missing from it that regularly annoyed you? With these things in mind, make sure that the Makita 18v drill you buy has these small details. Since Makita has so many different models, one thing you can do if you are unsure of the accessories you require is to just buy a model that is slightly higher-end than the one you think you need. You may pay a little more, but later on find out that you would not have been able to live without some of your new drill's accessories.
Should you buy the full kit or just the drill?
I mentioned this earlier. This is mainly a question of cost versus utility. A Makita 18v drill will generally run you between $300 and $500, while the kit, which will come with a lot of fittings, drill bits, straps, and other accessories, will cost about another $100. Here's the metric you should use when deciding on the kit: If you're buying a new Makita 18v to replace your old cordless drill, and you have all of the fittings and straps that you need, then go ahead and just buy the stand alone drill. On the other hand, if you're buying a cordless drill for the first time, or you are missing certain types of drill accessories, then you will probably need the kit.