Upgrade Path from 18V Cordless Tools?

Troy has been using Dewalt 18V tools for years, but the tools and batteries are starting to go. He’s in the same situation as others, and wrote in looking for advice.

“Like I’m sure a lot of your readers, I bought one of the DeWalt 18V multi-tool packages several years back. I’ve now reached the point where some of the tools are dying (like the drill) and the AEG power tool batteries don’t keep a charge, or I like some of the newer specialty tools.

My question for you is: what is the best way to go about upgrading and replacing without buying EVERYTHING new? Can I just start replacing the broken tools with 20V Li-ion versions? Are the batteries and tools interchangeable? Is it a good idea?

I would appreciate any insight!

If you’re in the same situation as Troy, you’re not going to like this answer. Unfortunately, the only option is to buy everything new. Dewalt’s “20V Max” cordless power tool line is not at all compatible with their 18V line, except for their multi-port vacuum.

There currently are not any official battery or tool adapters, and there are unlikely to be any conversion adapters later on.

The bright side is that, since Dewalt 18V cordless tool users are faced with having to buy everything new, they could shop around and decide which brand’s battery platform to buy into. A lot of readers have made the switch from Dewalt to Milwaukee’s M18 lineup, but Dewalt’s 20V Max offerings have become reasonably competitive.

To spread the cost around you could always buy individual tools as they break, starting perhaps with a drill/driver kit. But if your batteries are starting to go as well, a kit might be a better option. Keep in mind that the basic kits have saws with reduced features. If that matters to you, you would have to look at the premium kits or individual kits and bare tools.

Dewalt’s 20V Max tool selection is not as vast as their 18V line, but they’re adding new tools every so often and coming out with exclusive offerings such as their brushless oscillating tool and brushless framing nailers.

Having to upgrade from Dewalt’s 18V platform to a completely new Li-ion system, rather than simply being able to upgrade to latest generation tools and power tool batteries for Black & Decker  as needed, is not the happiest situation to be in. The need to upgrade everything could be delayed with the purchase of new 18V batteries and replacement or upgraded tools as needed, but that’s just postponing the inevitable need for a complete upgrade. In my opinion, the money would be better spent on new Li-ion tools and batteries.

This is one of my biggest complaints about DeWalt. I don’t see them offering anything over any of the other companies in price, performance, selection, backward-compatability, or warranty. Given the choice, I’d switch from Makita to Milwaukee 18V, but I’m very happy with my Makita LXT tools. If I cared about price and selection, I’d go to Ryobi. DeWalt is basically an also-ran in my eyes.

Stuart–I think before anyone can say, “Go with Milwaukee” or “Stay with DeWalt”, they need to know to what uses the new tools will be put. If I had to guess, Troy is not a professional repairman or construction worker that needs THE best or most versatile tool package out there. If he’s a DIYer like most of us, he may not need the 20V package; perhaps he’d be better off with a 12-volt platform drill-driver, impact or or other tool. The size and weight difference can be enough to make you prefer one over the other. And the power available in the 12-volt line might be enough for his occasional use. I bought a 20 volt DeWalt impact/drill driver kit two years ago, and would have been happier with a 12 volt system.

He should evaluate what he needs it for, weight considerations going to a lighter model, how often it will be used (daily/professional or occasionally) and other relevant factors. Everyone’s different in their specific needs, so he should understand what will work for HIM. From there, he can ask questions about what’s the best package within that set of parameters.

I was in the same situation 18 months ago – dying Craftsman power tool battery & a drill with stripped gears. I knew a complete upgrade was on the horizon no matter how I addressed the issue in the near term. I concluded that the DeWalt’s 18V product line had limited life , and that resale value would rapidly decline as this became apparent to more people. So, I replaced all my essential tools with Milwaukee M18 models, and sold ALL my 18V DeWalt tools. Since I was only replacing essential tools, the sale of the old DeWalt tools covered about 50% off the new Milwaukee tools.

I know DeWalt did sell (and I think still does) lithium ion batteries compatible with their older 18V tools, but the stem-pack firm factor is obviously not compatible with their newer 20V Max line. I really think DeWalt sit itself in the foot by not giving users an upgrade path. As you said, being put in the position of having to upgrade your entire toll arsenal at once presents the perfect opportunity to evaluate our switch to a competing brand – something I did, and I think many others will do. Sure… Brand loyalty can play into this decision, but do does customer loyalty, and DeWalt has shown none of that here.

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