DEWALT 20V MAX Cordless Tools, the New Way to Say 18V

Well its official DEWALT has announced its new line of 20V Max Tools. Although unlike the name might suggest there is no more voltage available to these tools than their current 18V line or any competitors 18V for that matter. These will be the first tools DEWALT has ever made in the 18V category that will not be compatible with all the previous tools dating back to 1996. That selling point has been a big one for the yellow team and could be hard to overcome. Currently there are roughly 63 million Ni-Cd or Lithium DEWALT batteries in use worldwide on this 18V platform. So why is DEWALT moving toward this new 18V 2.0 platform?

The Tools Themselves

The new line of DEWALT 18V (20V Max) consist of a core group of 10 products: compact drill/driver – DCD780C2 ($219, Amazon), compact hammer drill – DCD785C2 ($239, Amazon), premium drill/driver – DCD980L2 ($279, Amazon), premium hammer drill – DCD985L2 ($299, Amazon), impact drivers – DCF885C2 ($219, Amazon – 1.5Ah batteries) & DCF885L2 ($269, Amazon – 3.0Ah batteries), reciprocating saw – DCS380L1, circular saw – DCS391L1, SDS rotary hammer – DCH213L2 ($469, Amazon), right angle drill/driver – DCD740C1 ($199, Amazon) and LED pivoting head worklight – DCL040 ($49, Amazon). Most of these tools are based off their old 18V counterparts with modest speed & power improvements.  All of the tools did get improved ergonomics because the 20V slide batteries allow for a more comfortable handle now that the battery stem is not in the handle of the tool. The new 20V tools also move the electronics to the tool (lithium XRP 18V are in batteries) which will cut down on the problems & costs of the lithium battery. Currently the 20V Max 3.0Ah are targeted at $99, 1.5Ah at $69-79. The new 20V batteries will also share the same charger as the DEWALT 12V Max making for 1 less charger on the jobsite.

The New 20V Battery

The simple fact is that all tool batteries are made up of lithium ion cells that when fully charge “Max” out at 4 volts, however on first trigger pull voltage drops to 3.6 usable volts. At that point they produce a fairly consistent power output until the battery is near drained. These new “20 volt” batteries contain the same number of cells (5) as do all other 18 volt tools. These new DEWALT cells do have a higher Amp Hour rating than their current 18V XRP batteries with ratings of 1.5Ah & 3.0Ah (most commonly others rated at 1.3Ah or 2.6Ah). This high Amp hour is not necessarily unique to DEWALT as Milwaukee also switch to a high Amp hour cell with their new Red Lithium batteries as well as Bosch’s current European batteries, coming to US soon.    

The Marketing Juice

Just like any car company, tool companies launch new versions of their products every few years. This gives them opportunity to make improvements but also to get some new customer interest and press coverage… like you are reading right now. DEWALT creating a new line of 18V tools that is not compatible with their 15 year tradition of 100% compatibility is big news but it goes beyond that! Recently we watch a great movie called Beer Wars (IMDB, watch full movie online) where beer manufacturing juggernaut Budweiser actually worked to deliberately create many more varieties of beer to fill up the premium spots on grocery store shelves with more of their own products. Since they have the largest market share, they also have the most product reps who actually stock store shelves for the stores making it easy for them to place their products prominently at eye level.

Perhaps the folks at DEWALT watched the same movie we did and might not think it such a bad idea to have a full line of 18V & a full line of 20V tools on the shelves at say Home Depot for the next several years. DEWALT certainly has the most reps setting up their own displays in the stores perhaps they wouldn’t exactly view that as a bad thing pushing the red, blue and green tools to the side. The good news is we really do believe them when they say, there will be no rush to push customers to convert to the new 20V tools on their side.

But How Does this Help DEWALT Faithful?


The DEWALT faithful with their 63 million batteries floating around out there may not take this departure of compatibility as good news. In using the new 20V tools along with the old 18V and several other competitors in each case the differences were certainly not earth shattering, maybe a few ounces lighter or milliseconds faster but nothing game changing in terms of speed or performance. No question the 3.0Ah will add more runtime to each charge but this seems to be the trend right now for several main tool companies, we will have to wait to see which of these new 3.0Ah batteries really lasts the longest. 


No matter how long DEWALT claims they will continue to support the 18V line the inevitability of the situation is at some point all the new yellow tools will be developed exclusively on the 20V Max line and users who want the most up-to-date tools will need to switch. While DEWALT dealers will probably carry the 18V Ni-Cd batteries for another decade or so, we can promise you none of them are going to be too thrilled to stock twice as many yellow tool SKUs for very long. DEWALT even has the transition charger (see above) for that period where you still have old tools but want to move into some of the new ones. Eventually dealers and users will all switch over and at that point we can see the master plan unfold. It will be very convenient to have cross over between the 12V & 20V “MAX systems”. Currently the shared MAX platform is just on the charger but there is no reason that might not apply to radios, lights and other accessories
as well.

Only time will tell if the DEWALT fans embrace the change or revolt in the streets.



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  1. Mike says:

    Yea, the grand plan could backfire, when the legacy 18V line isn’t sufficiently supported (batteries) by DeWalt and the 3rd party battery manufs., users being forced to abandon their DW tools may opt for another brand instead. Need to jump anyway, why not to a better system?

  2. Jay A says:

    Other manufacturers have obviously also taken note and we have seen programs like $100 trade-in pop up, aimed specifically to convert that business. It’s pretty tough when you have half the market share to hold on to it with such a big platform switch and so much other great competition. That being said we do think the new DeWalt tools are better than their previous ones.

  3. Doc Linehan says:

    What I can’t get over is that now I am finding that the 20V batteries are so much better! And that DeWalt is not rolling out the rest of the line of tools in the 20 Volt arena very fast… And I need a 20V cut off tool NOW!!! Oor at least sometime very soon! Due to of all the weird things that I have had happen to me and my tools… Someone broke into my truck and stole all of my 18 Volt batteries… Yep, 10 of them!!!… Now with no 18V batteries (and I am not buying anymore)… I was getting rid of my 18V as fast as I could find the new tools in 20V… Now there are several 18V tools that I have that are not even produced in 20 V as yet… But they did make the angle drill in 20V!!! WTH??? Who uses this tool? It is not in my tool inventory and I seriously doubt that it is in many others either!!! So where is the DC550B “cut-out” tool? An amazing tool!!! And one that unfortunately is not on the shelf at any major retail facility either.. Just rambling but.. I need a Cut Out tool in 20 V!!! So hurry up dewalt! Get on it!

  4. Tommy Applegate says:

    The only thing I don’t like about my DeWALT 18V is the grinder it is a battery drainer. I like my drill/drive hammer drill & impact have lights on them. I am satisfied w/ my circular saw jigsaw & sawzall.

  5. CLdlk-Tim says:

    Smoke and mirrors Lith-ion has been a Standard for quite something time…Dewalt Executives…..KISS Keep it Simple Silly……You want to sell 20v only….Stop selling 18 volt chargers &^)

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