Power Tool Voltages Still Confusing Pros; is 20V Max more Powerful than 18V?

18v vs 20v batteries

NOPE! The above picture was taken recently by our friends at Tools in Action (watch full video below) and shows that both a Dewalt 20V Max and Milwaukee M18 battery charge at 20.4V fresh off the charger. We’ve explained it before but they say a picture is worth a thousand words. On first pull of the trigger both drop to 18V and you get the nominal rating. This is because batteries are made up of smaller 3.6V (4V max) lithium cells which are regulated for exact outputs and used in a wide range of different electronics. This means all 10.8V=12V Max, all 18V = 20V Max, 36V = 40V Max. Our friends at Tools in Action are finding the same thing we are however many people still are confused or think 20V Max is higher than 18V.

20v vs 18v batteries

In certain parts of Europe it is illegal to pull these types of marketing tricks that might confuse customers, understandably so, these products should all be rated/named with some uniformity. It is surprising to us but every day we talk to folks in professional trades who don’t understand 18V and 20V Max are identical. People are still convinced these batteries hold just a little more juice than other brands 18V tools. We certainly can’t fault Dewalt or any other brand for using the 20V Max name if they can get away with it. Bosch, Milwaukee, Makita and others have little room to say much because in the “12V category” everyone use “12” in their naming, 10.8V don’t even exist anymore.

For Dewalt it does make it clear to customers with their older 18V ni-cd and lithium batteries they won’t work in the newer tools. Also because the newer tools do outperform their previous versions it perpetuates the idea 20V Max tools are more powerful than 18V. This potential misunderstanding only benefits their overall sales/marketing efforts so we wouldn’t expect them to work very hard to explain it much further.

Looks like the confusion will continue and unfortunately if you are taking the time to watch Youtube videos and/or read blog posts about the topic this is probably old news to you. If you do find yourself helping a buddy pick his next tool, perhaps you can let him know 18V and 20V are literally: 6 of one, half a dozen of the other.

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