Whether you’re fighting with rust, an oil pan change or trying to refit the interior of a very compact campervan, you need a strong, slim tool with good lighting to improve your stamina on difficult jobs.
Cordless ratchets can kick your working speed into a higher gear and they’re way more maneuverable than an air impact wrench, where you can guarantee that the hose will appear wherever your body or feet need to be.
Which one to buy, though? There’s an embarrassment of riches in terms of choice, and the price range is broad, opening at around the $60 mark and reaching past $180 for the premium kits with gnarly torque and different accessories.
What we’ve done here is create a shortlist of the best five cordless ratchets which come with LED lighting, and which can be used manually if your juice runs out. Those two features seemed vital—we don’t want to recommend any product which is insufficiently robust to use as-is, or one which requires you to use a torch at the same time.
Following our review of our favorite five cordless ratchet sets, we’ve also provided a brief guide to helping you to narrow down your most ideal tools, depending upon how your workshop or garage is already set up, and what you’ll mostly be using the tool for.
Keen to get going? Let’s zip through the top options.
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OUR TOP PICK
OUR TOP PICK
This 12v lithium-ion cordless is a useful addition to the M12 range with respectable power for its size. It can produce 35ft-lb of torque and 250rpm. Both elements of motor performance are standard to cordless ratchets. So, what makes this tool stand out?
Firstly, it’s very user-friendly. The variable speed trigger is a nice feature for better control. It’s also one of the lighter tools in this selection (at 1.8lb) and features a rubberized body for good grip. It’s slim head features a slightly recessed switch for back and forth actuation so that you don’t accidentally switch directions if you knock it in an enclosed space.
The charger works fast and the battery life is impressive. The unusual feature is the Redlink intelligence system between the tool, battery and charger to stabilize battery use according to your needs and extend its life for each bout of usage as well as in the long term. The power gauge gives you a reliable indication of how much juice you have left to work with.
This set comes with the battery, charger, and carrying case. If you’re good for storage bags and M12 battery kits, then you can buy this tool bare for between $80-$85. Look up the M2457-20 deal.
This ratchet comes with Milwaukee’s 5/2 warranty package; 5 years’ coverage for the hardware and 2 for the battery.
One of the lighter ratchets—toolbelt friendly
Generous warranty deal
Intelligent battery operation
Slim head for those awkward angles
Though light and rubber-gripped, the ratchet body felt chunky to some
Could come with more accessories for the price
This is the budget option in this selection but nonetheless presents a very attractive package for the price. The battery generates a very respectable 45ft-lb of torque, but at a relatively sedate 170rpm, which makes this one of the slower workers in this list.
ACDelco aren’t aiming for sheer engine power with this cordless, however—don’t expect to use this as a power tool for stubborn nuts, for example. The motor is strong enough for you to use this for its primary purpose, which is to save time when handling multiple bolts, sockets, or long fasteners. detaching or installing a bunch of bolts and long fasteners. The ratchet is a very compact 10” in length, reinforced where the head meets the body. The design removes the long neck which sits between head and body on more tapered designs, which makes them more prone to breakage and which requires you to have more room for a 5° arc of swing.
There doesn’t appear to be a variable speed function on this ratchet, but there are a couple nice safety features. It has an electric brake, for example, and a safety lock switch so that it doesn’t ratchet away in your toolbox while you’re not looking. That’s got to be good for the battery life.
Speaking of which, the battery and charger are both included with this cordless ratchet. There is no case, but it seems greedy to expect one at this price point. The ACDelco ARW1209P comes with a 1-year limited warranty.
Great value for money
Nice handling and grip
Fast charger (30 minutes to full power)
Good safety features
The quoted 45ft-lb power rating may be a little optimistic (customers figure 35-40ft-lb), and it could run faster
The LED light isn’t as strong as on other models
Scratches easily: the physical design is more durable than the aesthetics
You get a lot for your money with this kit. Other than the cordless ratchet itself, the case comes with 2 batteries, a speed-charger (30 minutes to full green), 7 sockets, a ⅜ à ¼ drive adaptor, and a 2-year warranty. It is common for lesser known brands to break into the market through loading accessories generously into the product package, but how does this perform?
The ratchet itself has some nice features. Like the AOBEN (coming right up), it has a user-friendly battery gauge which runs on a traffic light color system so you can assess your remaining power at a glance. Red lights show that the power has sunk beneath 50% and Green shows you’re still within 80% of full power. The battery life does appear to divide reviewers. It does look as if there was a brief quality control issue which led to a small proportion of customers being upset that neither battery was standing up to the demands on the ratchet. Understandably, this can cause frustration. However, most reviewers appreciated the provision of a secondary battery as back-up and didn’t have any troubles with the enduring power. The engine design does help with battery longevity: it’s an all-copper motor, making it lighter to run and therefore able to stay cooler. There is also a lock switch to keep the ratchet off once switched off.
As with the ACDelco, the best way to enjoy this product is as an assistant to light duties, speeding along the boring work. This tool is a DIY’s helper and not a professional tool. Again, the promoted torque (40ft-lb for this KIMO) has been considered optimistic by some, though the 400rpm (variable) speed is much appreciated.
In terms of size, this cordless ratchet is an average 2.2lb, and a slender 11.4” long. If what you need is good illumination and comfortable grip while you tumble your nuts and bolts free, this generous package is a helpful addition to your auto-mechanical tool set.
Generous package with good accessories
Decent warranty length
Friendly and available customer service team
Sufficient power for light duties
Easy and safe to store
Not quite as much torque as advertized
The lock switch can be a little stiff to engage at first
Customers trying out an AOBEN product for the first time with this cordless ratchet have had a nice surprise. As with the KIMO, the AOBEN presents with a generous package. Let’s canter through what they have in common and then talk briefly about the points of distinction. So, the points of similarity are: a case, two batteries and charger are included, with 8 bolt accessories. Both ratchets operate on the traffic light power indication system right down to the power available at red, yellow and green levels. Both have variable power control and a safety lock switch.
With the AOBEN, you do come much closer to achieving the 40ft-lb power that’s expected and the 280rpm rate turns the retrieval of loosened fasteners into a breeze job. The few criticisms aimed at this kit concern the warranty length (1 year to KIMO’s 2) and the time it takes to charge the batteries. Taking the latter irritant into account, it does at least appear that the ratchet holds its power well once charged.
The AOBEN is a heavy tool. It’s difficult to pin down the details since the product specifications and summaries appear to contradict one another, but you’re looking at a minimum of 4.4lb. It’s a good job that the handle is nicely ergonomic because that weight is going to make itself known before very long.
The bulky gear case holds a lot of DIY goodness, though. The motor is reliable, the ventilation system is well-thought through. Temperature control is carefully monitored with bi-directional heat sensors and ‘sink’ technology to ensure that the battery and main hardware work in sync for optimum performance. It’s close to the Redlink feature on the Milwaukee, but the communications don’t quite extend to the charger as well.
If there’s one feature they could’ve designed a little more intuitively, it would be the actuation switch, which—like most cordless ratchets—is located on the back of the socket head. However, it is neither screwdriver-adjusted, recessed or protected, which means you could accidentally undo a couple of minutes’ hard work if you lose coordination and bang the head in a tight space with limited visibility. The LED lights do help limit the opportunities for this kind of accident, but a more fool-proof directional design would be welcome.
Generous package with good accessories
Nice safety features and motor ventilation
Holds battery charge well
Decent LED light strength
Popular with reviewers for a relatively unknown name
Provides the level of power it claims to
Heavy and bulky
Warranty term could be more generous
Actuation switch not well designed
We’re wrapping up with the dearest cordless ratchet option on this list. Makita tools are known and respected for their power and durability, and the RW01R1 is no exception. Though significantly more expensive even than the second dearest item here, the Milwaukee, this ratchet has versatility on its side.
Let’s look at the features that come with the carrying case, charger and battery. Two aspects of the Makita distinguish it from the others in this list.
Firstly, while the power generated from the 35ft-lb torque is modest, you actually get a little more than that out of the motor. Tool shop testers figure the true torque level to be closer to 40ft-lb. What’s remarkable is the sheer speed of the tool. With the Makita cordless, you’ll need to be proficient with the variable speed control because you could be nut-running at up to 800rpm. This is a performance element you’d associate with air impact tools.
The second key distinctive feature is the interchangeable ⅜ and ¼ interchangeable anvils for the square drive. Being able to handle the tinier fasteners, nuts and bolts does increase your range, and they’re easy to swap in and out.
The use of the CXT battery could divide opinion. On the upside, it slots in parallel to the handle of tool, which maintains the lovely ergonomic balance of the ratchet. The RW01R1 already has impressive reach in awkward areas and plenty of strength for hand-torqued power, but being able to hold a bulky tool in the middle rather than towards the back really does help hand-eye coordination in those dimly lit and tight spaces. It’s a tidy tool at a total 2.35lb with the battery engaged. The downside of the CXT battery is the exclusivity; you’re committed to replacing it from the Makita line. While this is easy enough to do, it does somewhat rob you of the opportunity of bulking out your kit with less prohibitively expensive accessories.
It’s a versatile and robust tool, as you would expect from this brand, and you do get your money’s worth out of each battery’s charge and the battery lifetime.
Robust and powerful design
Good safety features (lock switch included)
Versatile with the interchangeable anvils
Safe to store with a tough bag
No warranty information provided (though the standard is 3 years for Makita)
The fuel gauge sits under the handle--it would be good to have it in sight
Best Cordless Ratchets Buying Guide
These are a few questions you could ask yourself when deciding which tool best fits your needs.
- How heavy is this tool? Will a heftier motor cause problems to your hands or joints?
- How long is the tool? Can you imagine being able to use it comfortably in your planned work location? Note - shorter tools tend to be
- more durable for the initial hand-torquing you will need to do in order to break the air seal for mobility before you use the engine.
- Is there a rubberized handle? If you're working unsocial hours, this can come with cold working temperatures. Without soft-grip, it could become painful to use the tool very quickly
- Is there a variable speed trigger?
- How slender does the tool look at the head? Is there a decent reach?
- If the tool claims to be ergonomic, does the customer experience seem to match up with this?
- Would you prefer to pay more for a wide range of accessories or invest your money in a high-quality/good reputation tool which comes bare?
- Can you achieve the same value for money by buying those accessories separately? For example, flexible extensions for ⅜ anvils are not hard to come by.
- What kind of work will you be doing? Do you need a variety of socket sizes?
- Will I be taking this on the road a lot? Will I need two batteries?
- Can I get replacement batteries easily, or interchange them with non-branded versions?
- How much torque do I need? (30-50ft-lbs is standard for cordless: 20v ratchets are hard to come by)
- What power do you need in Nm (Newton Meters)? A lot of the European tool system rate their torque on this scale, so it’s handy to be able to translate the torque levels from one system to another. 1Nm = 0.738ft-lb.
- What kind of speed do you need? The average is between 250-300 for 12v cordless ratchets. If you’re doing a restoration project which is going to involve a horribly long time spend undoing and refastening nuts, then it’s worth investing in something faster. That said, if you’re able to put a safety net below the point at which you are using the ratchet, then this is a good idea if working at higher speeds
Branding and Public Perception
The issue about sticking with the big brands divides people. On the one hand, big names tend to come with high visibility, good customer service, and a solid warranty deal with no quibbles. You associate big names with reliability because they have earned that reputation.
On the other hand, every brand was new once and they can only acquire their good reputation through a leap of faith. It doesn’t have to be a total gamble. As seen with the AOBEN kit, those who have previously invested in bigger brands have been pleasantly surprised by the quality at the lower price. If you do venture into a purchase of a product from a line or manufacturer you’ve never tried before, then check three things: firstly, that the warranty isn’t too restrictive or punitive. Secondly, look for signs in the customer feedback (and on their own site) that the customer service team is visible and active. Finally, aim for a lower-middle budget tool which you would expect to take seriously.