Last Updated on September 11, 2020
Cordless ratchets are the next best thing if you don’t want to spring for an air-impact wrench, but still want to save time and effort in your day-to-day torquing tasks.
Of course, no product is quite like the next, and the differences between brands and models can make it very hard to shop online. If you’re looking to get a great deal on one of these tools, you’ve come to the right place.
In this article, we’ll break down every feature you should be looking for when buying a cordless ratchet. We’ve also included reviews so that you can find a model that you’ll love using at a great price.
|Top Pick||Milwaukee 2457-21||
|Ingersoll Rand R1120-K1||
|Best Value||Milwaukee 2457-20 M12||
|Ingersoll Rand R3130||
The Milwaukee 2457-21 should be your choice if you’re looking for a great cordless ratchet. This kit can handle most tasks and saves most people tons of time each time they have to loosen or tighten a nut. Most people love this model related to other ones because it is far more compact and can fit into a lot of areas where you could never fit an air impact wrench or even other cordless ratchets. It comes with a 3/8” to 1/4” adapter, which means you have flexibility between jobs, and will be able to use this model on most of them.
This kit includes a carrying case, which makes it an ever-better deal, and makes it easier to transport this tool without worrying about damage. It also comes with a 30-minute charger, which means you can get back to work quickly relative to other models. The one nitpick we have with this design is that the mechanism that changes this device between spinning clockwise and counterclockwise is hard to manipulate if you have large hands or are wearing gloves. However, this model is easily the right thing for most people.
The Ingersoll Rand R1120-K1 Kit is an excellent overall tool and a contender for first place on our list. It’s one of the most powerful cordless ratchets on our list, as it provides up to 30 foot-pounds of force, which means you’ll be able to pop some stubborn nuts loose without having to switch to manual mode. It also comes with a great all-metal train, so this tool should last longer than competing models that sub in rubber or plastic parts in this critical area. It also comes with a great 12-volt lithium-ion battery that lasts a long time and charges quickly.
However, this model isn’t without flaws. It’s wider than our first model, which means it doesn’t have the same great ability to get into small places. It also means that it’s not going to fit comfortably in everyone’s hands, especially if they’re small. This model is a bit expensive, running for more than the top model on our list. These are ultimately small flaws, but on a list this competitive, that’s enough to knock it down a spot. Most people will like using this tool, but there’s at least one better option available.
The Milwaukee 2457-20 M12 is our choice for best for the money. Not only can you get it for a great price, but it also comes with a ton of great features that make it a great overall tool. It comes with 35 foot-pounds of force, though some users have reported getting up to 40 out of this model, which means you get great torque out of this model. It also comes with a variable speed trigger, giving you control over each step of the loosening and tightening processes. Many people love the battery indicator on this device, so you can know at just a glance how much power you have left and won’t have to worry about running out in the middle of a job.
It also comes with LED lighting near the front of the device, which helps illuminate the area in which you’re working. However, this kit only includes the bare tool, which means the battery is not included. That’s good if you’re looking to use a battery other than the manufacturer’s with this device, though some people would prefer the increased price to get it included instead of the inconvenience of providing their own.
The ACDelco ARW1201 Cordless Ratchet-Tool Kit has the potential to be a great overall choice and bills itself as the heavyweight champion in this product category. It’s a variable-speed model, and the manufacturer claims that it comes with 57 foot-pounds of torque, which means you would have unparalleled removing and tightening capability if this tool always lived up to its claims. It also comes with an excellent hard case, which is rare in this product category and adds a ton of value to the kit.
However, this cordless ratchet doesn’t live up to the hype. For one, it comes with two batteries, which is a good thing because many customers report that about half fail right out of the box. That doesn’t say good things about ACDelco’s quality control, and it subtracts a lot of value from this purchase. The internal gears also frequently strip and depending on how much you use this device, you could be looking at a few months or a year of use before this model breaks down. Most people want a tool that will last for years, or forever, and if that’s what you’re looking for, you’re going to be disappointed by this model.
You must get good value for your money when you purchase tools, and unfortunately, the Ingersoll Rand R3130 is a poor choice in that regard. It provides 54 foot-pounds of torque, which is a strong point in its favor, and unlike other models on our list, it seems to mostly live up to those expectations. It also has a unique metal and composite construction, which gives it great durability. However, that durability comes at a cost, and this model is easily the most expensive on our list.
It’s also just a bare tool. That’s right, it’s the most expensive model on our list, and it doesn’t come with a battery, a charger, or a case. That means that if you buy this model, you’re spending more money and getting less stuff than other kits on our list, which is a horrible deal. It’s also very large, which limits its usefulness in tight spaces. If you know ahead of time that you’ll be able to use a large tool, you might be fine buying this model for its great torque. However, this model won’t be a good deal for most people, and you can better value for less.
We hope that our reviews already have you thinking about a particular model that you might like to buy. If you feel like you’re lost, though, don’t worry. We created this buyer’s guide with you in mind, and in it, we break down the various features that vary between models and help you think through the different variables that increase and decrease value. Of course, different people have different needs, so keep reading to figure out not only what makes for a great deal, but how to find the one that best suits your needs for the lowest price.
Before you buy a cordless ratchet, you need to make sure that you’ve set your expectations. Some people have overinflated ideas about what this tool can do, and that leads to disappointment when they use the final products.
If you imagine a tool like they would use during a pit stop at a race to take six lug nuts off a tire in as many seconds, you’re thinking about an air impact wrench. Air impact wrenches are far more powerful than cordless ratchets, but they require a steady source of pressurized air and a heavy cable running between the compressor and a tool. They also tend to be bulky, but they’re the best tool for loosing very tight bolts and tightening again to a very tight state.
You’ll first switch it to manual mode to get the nut loose, and then hold down the trigger to take the nut off the bolt. It saves you time by cutting down on the number of times you have to turn a ratchet or the amount of time you spend getting the nut off by spinning it manually.
This can still add up to significant time savings, but keep in mind that you’ll want to an air impact wrench if your job calls for difficult tightening or loosening jobs.
The best thing about cordless ratchets is that relative to air impact wrenches, they’re incredibly small and compact. This makes them better in situations where you’re working in a confined space, such as in an engine. They’re also better than standard ratchets in many situations, as other than initially getting the bolt loose, you can hold the handle still, and the head does all of the turning for you. That means less accidental rapping of the knuckles against sharp surfaces, and less time spent taking off your gloves so you can get the purchase you need to wind a nut off a bolt.
Keep in mind that some models are smaller than others. There are a lot of things that contribute to this, though it often varies by brand as well. Milwaukee-brand cordless ratchets tend to be smaller than the competition, and they often have their batteries mounted inline, which means they don’t have any jarring protrusions that make fitting them into tight spaces a tough task. Watch out for models that have funny battery configurations that result in a very long or very wide body, and watch out for models that use older models of batteries that are larger and heavier, as they’ll wear you out more quickly.
You’re the one providing the torque for the final tightening and the initial loosening, so power on a cordless ratchet isn’t necessarily the most important feature. However, there are some areas in which more power will make jobs faster and easier.
For instance, the larger the nut, the more power that’s required to turn it, so if you’re going to be working with larger, heavier nuts, then you’re going to want a cordless ratchet with more torque. However, if you’re satisfied with your tool operating a bit slower, you can go with a weaker model.
While that might sound like an unattractive deal, keep in mind that more powerful models almost exclusively rely on bigger, heavier batteries, and have thicker bodies, which can sometimes make them hard to hold. This is almost always true in this product category, so it doesn’t make a lot of sense to look for an extremely-small model that has above-average torque, as current designs are about as efficient as they can be without further technological breakthroughs.
As we’ve mentioned in previous sections, the battery’s size will vary based on how much torque it provides, and the more torque it provides, the larger the battery will be. If you’re looking for a more compact model, you’re going to have to be satisfied with a weaker overall cordless ratchet.
If you want the latest, greatest battery tech, make sure that you get a model that includes a lithium-ion battery. These batteries are typically what you’ll find in a modern smartphone, but they’re also the kind that are used to power many electric cars, and they’ve become nearly ubiquitous in cordless power tools.
The reason for their adoption is simple: they weigh less and store more power than batters made from other materials of the same size. They also recharge quickly, hold their charges for a relatively long time, and can take more recharges before wearing out.
So, don’t settle for an older model of cordless ratchet that comes with an inferior battery type. Lithium-ion batteries have become affordable, and since they have so many advantages, you’re cheating yourself if you don’t invest in a model that includes them.
It’s not always easy to tell what makes a cordless ratchet durable. Getting a good battery is a good start, but like all tools with moving parts, there are sections of each device that are particularly prone to breaking down.
The most important parts in a cordless ratchet are the gear drive, and more often than not, when one of these tools goes bad, it’s those gears that are to blame. Unfortunately, it’s an area in which manufacturers cut corners. You’d think that they’d use the best parts in this critical area, but that’s not always the case.
Some tools are made with some plastic or rubber gears, and unlike their metal counterparts, they are prone to breaking and cause the tool to wear out far sooner than you feel like it should. The best way to get around this problem is to buy a model that includes an all-metal gear drive. Even better are the models where that metal is identified, especially if that metal is steel.
The best thing you can do before buying any tool is to figure out what your needs are. You can get the best tool on the market, but if it doesn’t suit your needs, then you’re going to get terrible value.
If you want to get the right model for your needs, the first thing to figure out is what kind of torque you’ll need. Unless you’re working with very big nuts regularly, you’ll probably be fine getting a weaker cordless ratchet, which is a good thing because you can save a lot of money.
This is also good news because smaller, weaker cordless ratchets run longer on a single charge, which means you can work for longer without stopping while speeding up your process, and making the job overall easier. As long as you make sure that you understand your needs and get the cordless ratchet that best fits them, you’ll get good value, and come away with a tool that you’ll like using.
The Milwaukee 2457-21 is our favorite cordless ratchet due to its included 3/8” to 1/4” adapter, 30-minute charger, and included carrying case. The Ingersoll Rand R1120-K1 Kit comes in a close second, having a great battery, 30 foot-pounds of torque, and an all-metal gear drive, though its high price drops it out of first. The Milwaukee 2457-20 M12 is the best value on our list and comes with a great LED light, battery indicator, and 35 foot-pounds of torque. The ACDelco ARW1201 Kit comes with a case and 57 foot-pounds of torque, but it has bad batteries and gears that strip, dropping it to fourth on our list. The Ingersoll Rand R3130 comes with 54 foot-pounds of force, but the high price coupled with the lack of included batteries means it earns the last place on our list.
We hope that our reviews and buyer’s guide have helped you find the cordless ratchet that is right for you. You should now be able to use that information to buy with confidence and get a tool that you’ll love using for years to come.
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Hi there! My name is Adam and I write for HealthyHandyman. I have a great passion for writing about everything related to tools, home improvement, and DIY. In my spare time, I'm either fishing, playing the guitar, or spending quality time with my beloved wife. You'll also often find me in my workshop working on some new project!