Product review

The Best Cordless Drill Under $50 – Black And Decker GC1801 Review

Over the years I’ve put in a lot of hard work and I relied very heavily on my cordless drill. If you’re looking for the best cordless drill under $50 my review of the Black and Decker GC1801 will show you why it’s one of the best budget cordless drills you can find buy.

Mine lasted a long time and was was one of the best purchases I’ve ever made. It really helped me work more efficiently when I went into business on the side as a travelling installer too.

Short on time? Click here to see my review score and pros and cons section.

Getting to know the Black and Decker GC1801 18V cordless drill set

Quite a few variations of Black and Decker 18V cordless drills are sold at different retailers. Many bundles are available such as versions with additional tools (like a stud finder) and/or a 2nd battery, and so on.

There seems to be some confusion caused by Black and Decker’s model number system. I’m not sure why but I’ve noticed it can be a little bit hard to differentiate between different drills and their accessory sets sold. Also, I’ve noticed that the newer models still carry the same model number for the drill itself as older models, rather than a new model number. I find this confusing and that’s one minor complaint I have.

Essentially, the GC1801 is the drill-only version of the same drill sold in other bundles. Other packages like the GC1801-2 include an additional battery.

For those on a budget, getting the basic drill-only version (which includes a battery and charger) is a great choice.

For heavy jobs you might want to consider the The value is higher since you get a second battery you can use for only a bit more money.

Only a few competitors offer the additional battery option.

First impressions

The drill is solid and feels great in my hand, just like the previous model I used to own. It weighs a solid 3lbs & 1oz, so it’s not the lightest cordless drill you can buy.

I personally don’t mind the weight, but if your arms tire easily or you prefer a lighter model, I recommend getting a lithium-based battery model instead. However, keep in mind that these types of drills are more expensive.

The GC01801 is a good-looking, solid, and easy to hold variable speed drill. It stays well-planted wherever you place it – thanks to its intelligent design and battery weight.

The grip is great! There’s a rubber coating built onto the back of the unit which helps keep it from slipping from your hand. I’ve always liked how easy it is to hold the drill and to squeeze the drill trigger.

The chuck feels good as well! Turning the clutch is a tiny bit different from the older model GC1800. However, it maintains that solid feel the previous had when you turn it from one position to another. You should feel something similar to a “click” or a notch as you turn it.

The only real changes between previous models and the current GC1800 I have pictured here are:

  • No optional rubber screwdriver bit holder to fit on drill
  • Slight cosmetic changes
  • A 24-position clutch instead of a 12-position one
  • Improved battery charger

Overall it’s the same good design I’ve come to appreciate.

Black and Decker GC018-2 cordless drill on scale

The drill feels solid in the hand, partially due to its weight. It is just over 3 lbs with the battery attached.

What’s in the package?

Black and Decker GC018-2 cordless drill all items

The GC1801 cordless drill set includes:

  • GC1800 18V cordless variable speed drill
  • 1 HPB18 18V NiCd battery
  • Improved battery charger
  • Owner’s manual
  • Dual Phillips/flat head screwdriver bit (not shown)

Specifications & thoughts on performance

It’s a great drill and has sufficient power and speed for most jobs except for when you need to use larger hole cutters or other similar bits. In that case I’d have to recommend a corded drill, as cordless drills tend to get drained quickly when attempting to cut large holes using hole saw type attachments.

Basic specs you need to know:

  • Variable-speed with reverse switch
  • 0-750 rounds per minute (RPM) speed
  • Chuck type: keyless
  • Chuck size: fits 1/32-3/8″ bits
  • Clutch: 24-position including locked position for drill bits
  • Weight: 3 lbs 1 oz
  • Battery type: 18V NiCd multiple-cell with locking easy-release tab on drill
  • Drill torque: 115 in-lbs
  • Features a built-in bit snap-in holder near the base

If you’re not familiar with how a clutch works I’ll explain: a clutch is a great feature to prevent the drill from using excessive force past a certain point while in use.

For example, I normally set mine to position 1 (marked by a screw symbol) to ensure I don’t strip screws when I’m driving them into wood or other materials. For drilling holes I sometimes set it to the “locked” position (indicated by a drill bit symbol) to make sure the clutch can hold it without popping due to the large amount of force needed to drill holes.

Black and Decker GC018-2 cordless drill clutch and chuck

The keyless chuck works well and fits drill bits up to 3/8″. It’s easy to use. You tighten or release bits by hand by turning the black collar pictured in the middle while holding the silver chuck section.

The clutch works very well, although one thing I don’t like is how they’ve changed it from a 12-position clutch on older models to a 24-position one. It seems unnecessary. How much precision do you really need when drilling or driving screws? Also fewer positions would mean it’s easier to turn although that’s a pretty minor complaint.

Drill power and my thoughts on using it on real jobs

I’ve used the drill many times for all kinds of tasks – from car audio installation and woodworking to home and auto repairs. Probably the most beneficial use I enjoy the fact that I can use it as a high-speed screwdriver. I’ve added my own magnetic bit holder to allow me to change bits. A Phillips style is what I nearly always use.

For speeding up removing or installing screws, this thing is fantastic!

I absolutely love how fast it is! Car repair is WAY easier when I use a short 1/4″ socket driver adapter to drive a variety of bolt sizes. That’s one awesome way I like to use it

It’s not just great for car stereo installations but it also works well car maintenance, especially for removing miscellaneous small bolts and screws. I can save a large amount of time using it compared to doing it manually. You won’t find me outside working on my car without seeing my drill sitting nearby, ready to help me get the job done faster and with less effort. Work smarter, not harder as the saying goes.

The power is good. I have no complaints: I’ve drilled metal, plastic, and different types of wood using bits up to around 1/2″ diameter in size, although I’ve also used small hole-cutting bits occasionally.

750 RPM is a great speed and is suitable for nearly everything I’ve need to use it for. As it’s variable speed, you can adjust the speed in the middle of drilling or turning screws by releasing or pulling the trigger gradually with your finger. It works well and to me feels natural – sort of like an extension of the hand.

If you need to create circular holes of more than 1/2″ or using a circular hole bit (for example by using a hole saw attachment), then you should know: those types of bits drain a substantial amount of power from the battery. I can’t recommend the drill in that case.

That’s not really a fault of the Black and Decker design but more of one of the weaknesses of cordless drills in general, at least in this price range.

Black and Decker GC018-2 cordless drill base image

There’s a built-in bit holder just above the base which is convenient for holding the included double-head screwdriver bit. However, in practice when you’re working hard and the drill bumps into things the bit can easily get knocked out and fall down. It’s a nice feature to have but in my opinion, it doesn’t hold a bit securely enough in real-world use.

Reversing the drill – easy and convenient!

One feature you’re sure to love is how easy and fast it is to change directions.

By simply pressing the forward/reverse selector, at the top of the grip area, you easily change drill direction. On one side you can use your thumb and on the other you can simply use a finger. In both cases you don’t need to use your other hand or stop what you’re doing.

It allows me to work faster and it feels very natural – you’ll get the hang of it right away. It’s one more reason I love the drill considering what for what I paid for it!

Batteries & battery charger

The included battery seems to last well for most jobs. For average jobs (drilling with small bits, driving screws, and so on) you can expect several hours worth of work. For drilling through metal especially using larger bits 1-3 hours is  a good rough estimate.

Black and Decker GC018-2 cordless drill charger

Black and Decker GC018-2 cordless drill battery charging

The battery charge works well and is extremely simple to use.

Just slide it onto the top of the battery and plug it in. The design has been improved when compared to older models: this new one has an LED indicator that glows green as the battery is charging and turns off once fully charged. It’s barely noticeably warm, so you don’t have to worry about it getting too hot.

I find this feature extremely helpful since the previous model had just one red LED light that remained on even after being fully charged – I could never truly be sure if my battery was ready to go. I just had to give it lots of time to make sure. That’s not a problem any more.

Charging time usually takes around 3-6 hours. In my experience, a battery that’s almost or completely drained needs to be charged for nearly 6 hours.

Note: I don’t recommend you always keep the battery charged. Charge only before you need to use them. They’ll keep a charge for several weeks – sufficient for light and minor work.

If you want your batteries to last longer in the long term, you wouldn’t want to keep them constantly charging – that applies to all NiCd batteries for any other product as well.

Swapping out batteries

 

Black and Decker GC018-2 springs image

The base of the drill is spring-loaded to make battery replacement very fast and simple. Pushing down on the release tab on the battery top end causes it to pop out.

Simply pull down on the quick-release tab at the base/on top of the battery and it pops out due to the spring-loaded design. Then simply slide the replacement battery back in place and you’re done!

Owner’s manual review

To be honest, owner’s manual could be better.

If you’re not an experienced tool user like me you may not have a good understanding of best practices, proper drill usage, and a lot of other little things that matter.

Black and Decker GC018-2 owner's manual

The owner’s manual is applicable to several other models Black and Decker sells. In my opinion, it’s not a very good one. It doesn’t provide sufficient information for new drill owners, especially for those who aren’t sure of how to operate it the first time. Be aware of that when buying.

It’s only a few pages long and contains a lot of warnings and precautions, along with a few tips like how you should use lubricant when drilling through metal (which I don’t always do, it works well without it for small holes) and so forth.

That’s one thing I take issue with – the manual is a bit too short and while clear, it could have done a better job with explaining the clutch, keyless chuck, alternate screw bit use, suitable jobs it can be used for, and so on.

Fortunately, using the drill came easily for me – you’ll get the hang of it in no time.

A bit of helpful advice

I definitely recommend picking up some socket driver bits as they’re fairly inexpensive and extremely useful. The set shown here, for example, will allow you to drive bolts like a ratchet but much more quickly than you ever could do by hand. The bit holder is also excellent for a fast change of screwdriver bits mid-job.

image of socket driver adapter set for drill

To get the most out of the drill, pick up a set of socket adapters. Also it’s well worth your time to also get a magnetic bit holder adapter. They make jobs SO much easier and faster!

Final thoughts

The GC01801 drill is a great value and works well.

If you’re going to be using it for professional jobs or projects with heavy work, consider checking out the GC018-2 version which includes a 2nd battery and case for only a small amount more.

My complaints are pretty minor, and overall I’m truly very happy with how good the GC01801 is. At just under $50 (give and take depending on the retailer), it’s an excellent value and I love it!

It’s a great budget drill and worth heading over to see why so many people love it too.

8.8 Total Score
One of the best cordless drills for under $50. Good power, good quality, and very easy to use.

The Black and Decker GC01801 is a cordless drill that has the same quality, great feel, and features I've come to rely on for years now. I highly recommend it for anything: from car stereo installations to car/home repair - whatever kind of general purpose projects you may have. At 3+lbs weight, it's not as light as lithium battery models but it does keep costs down with a set of NiCd batteries that have good capacity and a user-friendly charger. It can't match the high torque of traditional corded drills, but it's a great price considering what it is – a value-priced cordless drill that's hard to beat!

Overall quality
9
Performance/Useability
9.2
Features
7.5
Value
9.3
PROS
  • Good quality
  • Bit-holder built in
  • Great value
  • 24-position clutch
  • 3/8" keyless chuck
  • Battery replacement is extremely easy and quick
  • Forward/reverse control is placed well
  • Good grip and feel in hand
  • Stands upright well
  • Good torque and battery life for most jobs
  • 2 year warranty
  • Fantastic when used with socket & bit adapters
  • Battery charger indicates when fully done
  • Includes phillips/flat screwdriver bit
  • NiCd batteries are rated at 500 charges
  • 2 year warranty
CONS
  • New style clutch w/ 24 positions seems excessive
  • Model numbers are confusing
  • Instruction manual is thin
  • Doesn't include socket drivers or magnetic bit holder
  • Bit holder on base tends to drop bit when drill gets bumped
  • It's a bit heavy - may be tiring for some
  • Replacement batteries are costly
  • No additional storage for more bits
  • Not suitable for large hole-cutting applications
Your comments are welcome!

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