Skip Navigation

NiCad vs. Lithium Ion Cordless Drills

When searching for a cordless drill, one of the most important features you should consider is the type of battery. Lithium ion and nickel-cadmium, simply known as NiCad, are the two most common options available. Each type has distinct qualities worth considering before you decide which is best for your toolbox. Here is a detailed breakdown of each battery's pros and cons.


NiCad Battery Cordless Drills

Lithium Ion Battery Cordless Drills

Full Recharge Required


Memory Effect


Fade-Free Performance


Periodic Discharge

RequiredNot required

Cold Weather Performance




Disposal Centers

NiCad recycling centers only Battery recycling centers


More affordableLess affordable

NiCad Cordless Drills

Advantages of NiCad cordless drills

  • Inexpensive - Compared to their Lithium ion counterparts, cordless drills with NiCad batteries tend to be more affordable.
  • Long Shelf Life - NiCad battery drills can typically be set aside for long periods of time and still operate efficiently once they've been recharged.
  • Cold Weather Performance - NiCad batteries are constructed to work well in freezing temperatures, allowing you to use these types of cordless drills during wintertime projects.
NiCad Cordless Drill Benefits

Limitations of NiCad cordless drills

  • Requires Periodic Discharge - The NiCad batteries in these drills must be completely discharged periodically. A complete discharge occurs when the user allows a battery to die before fully recharging it. This process is used to help maintain optimal performance.
  • Memory Effect - This common phenomenon causes NiCad batteries to hold their charges less effectively over time.
  • Difficult Disposal - Since NiCad batteries contain nickel, cadmium and other metals deemed toxic by the Environmental Protection Agency, they can't be discarded in landfills or standard battery recycling centers. Drills containing these batteries must be carefully disposed of at special hazardous waste sites.
  • Fade over Charge - NiCad battery drills aren't constructed to be fade-free. This causes performance to slowly decrease as the charge begins to dwindle.


NiCad drill battery

Lithium Iion Cordless Drills

Advantages of lithium ion cordless drills

  • Fast-charging - Lithium ion battery drills can be charged at almost any time and power up quickly so you can get back to projects in no time.
  • Fade-free Performance - These models run strongly for the duration of the battery's charge, rather than fading out toward the end.
  • No Required Discharge - The lithium ion batteries in these drills don't require regular discharges to ensure top performance.
  • Small and Compact - Lithium ion battery drills are typically smaller than NiCad models, which can make lithium ion drills much lighter and easier to control.
  • Long-lasting - These cordless drills tend to have long lives since their batteries can be recharged over and over again.


lithium ion cordless drill

Limitations of lithium ion cordless drills

  • High price - Lithium ion drills typically cost more than their NiCad counterparts.
  • Declining Performance - Lithium ion batteries tend to lose their charges quickly after many uses, meaning these cordless drills typically have reduced performance after two or three years of regular use. Storing them in a cool place can help impede this process.
  • Must be Recycled - These models can't be disposed in landfills and must be taken to a battery recycling center.
  • Poor Performance in Cold Weather - These models aren't ideal for outdoor projects in the wintertime. Lithium ion batteries perform best when in temperatures above 32 degrees Fahrenheit.


lithium ion cordless battery