Brushless vs Brushed Motor: Which is Best for Your Power Tools?


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Often, two power tools from the same manufacturer will have similar specifications. The only obvious difference may be that one has a brushed motor and the other has a brushless version. The latter is always more expensive, so the big question is whether brushless power tools guarantee the additional cost.

We have put together a concise explanation focusing on both types and the associated pros and cons of each. The following clarifies the debate of brushless vs. brushed motor to help you make the best choice in terms of performance and value.

The subject of brushed and brushless motor appears to cover two types at first glance. In reality, there are actually four types of motor. There are brushless AC motors, brushed AC motors, brushless DC motors, and brushed DC motors.

Alternating Current (AC) is what comes out of the wall outlet, so all corded power tools must have an AC motor. Most are brushed motors, a proven design that has been around for many generations. AC brushless motors do exist, but the main benefits of this type of motor are that they are more suitable for cordless tools. When they are used, brushless AC motors are likely to be found in heavy professional equipment.

Direct Streaming (DC) are supplied by batteries, and it is used in every cordless tool. As with AC motors, battery -powered tools can use either brushed or brushless DC motors (the latter also known as BLDC). Both types are widely available, so cordless tools are where most of the questions about brushless vs. brushed motor.

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How does a brushed motor work?

The main components of a brushed motor are housed in an outer shell containing permanent- or stator-magnets. Inside this shell is a series of wire coils called the armature. Running in the center of the armature is a drive shaft (or rotor) that delivers mechanical drive. A brushed motor also has a commutator at the end of the armature.

As electricity passes through the armature, the armature becomes magnetic. If the polarity of that magnetism is the same as that of the permanent magnet, it is repelled, making the armature turn. The central rotor turns along with it, providing drive to the chuck, saw blade, etc. However, when the armature turns in half, the polarities will be opposite. Because the opposite polarity attracts, the motor must stop.

To prevent this and keep the motor running, brushes are fitted to rub the commutator. One brush has a positive charge, the other a negative. They deliver a constant change of polarity to the armature so it continues to repel. As a result, the motor continues to rotate.

brushless vs brushed motor

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How does a brushless motor work?

So what is a brushless motor, and what does brushless mean? A brushless motor still contains the stator, armature, and rotor, but it does not have a physical commutator. As the name suggests, it also doesn’t contain any brushes.

These components are replaced by an electronic circuit called an inverter. It produces a single, continuously rotating magnetic field around the armature to create continuous motion. This type of motor therefore does not require physical contact of the brushes or of the associated commutator.

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Brushless motors are more energy efficient.

Motor brush brushes cause friction, i.e., some of the energy they provide is used to overcome that friction. Friction also causes a loss of voltage, which reduces the amount of energy driving the tool.

Brushless motors have no friction from brushes; therefore, they produce more of the electricity produced with available energy. This is particularly important for battery -powered tools, which have a limited amount of power available per charge. A brushless drill, for example, can run anywhere from 30 to 50 percent longer than the same cordless drill equipped with a brushed motor.

There are other advantages to brushless motors. The lack of drag or associated heat build means that brushless motors can reach the desired speed faster than their brushed counterparts, run faster for longer, and (usually) deliver less. lots of torque for equivalent power consumption.

Brush motors require more maintenance than brushless motors.

Brushes that adhere to brushed motor commutators cause them to eventually drain. Its obvious signals are a stuttering motor, or a power tool stopping and operating incorrectly. Replacing brushes is not technically complicated and parts are usually available, but power tool manufacturers do not always make it easy to access the motor of a particular tool. At least, it’s inconvenient.

Eventually, the commutators can also break down, and the construction of a motor may not make replacement possible. Although it is practical, the price of spare parts can make it cheaper to simply buy a new tool altogether. This is especially true on budget models, which are more likely to use brushed motors.

In contrast, brushless power tool motors have no replaceable parts and therefore no maintenance. They also tend to have a longer working life.

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brushless vs brushed motor

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Brushless motors are more compact and run quieter than brushed motors.

The lack of commutators in brushless motors can save a lot of space. Brushless drills in particular can be made very compact. It also means that when the physical size of the power tool is less of a concern, a larger and more powerful motor can be used. For example, common power -hungry tools such as rotary hammer drills can give higher performance while maintaining similar dimensions to equivalent motors.

The lack of friction and associated vibration makes the tools run more quietly without a brush. While it’s not particularly noticeable on drills/drivers, jigsaws, and sanders, it can make a big difference for tools like circular saws and planers. The reduced vibration also helps make tools like the rotary hammer drill more comfortable to use for longer periods of time.

Safety is also a factor to consider. Motor brushes can cause sparks, especially when the brushes wear out and become inconsistent. In some environments, this friction can pose a fire hazard or an explosion hazard. While other precautions may be needed, brushless motors do not produce sparks, making them a safer option.

Brush motors are cheaper than brushless motors.

At this point, everyone seems to point to brushless motors as the clear winner. However, a brushless motor may not always be the better option.

Brush motors have been around for many generations, so they are reliable and cheaper than brushless motors. When it comes to choosing between a brushless or brushed drill, the latter can offer very similar features and comparable performance for as little as half the price. The same can also be true for other types of power tools.

For the professional, the ability of brushless tools to run longer and fewer maintenance requirements can provide a huge advantage. However, those elements usually have less impact on the DIY user. It may not matter if work needs to be stopped to charge the battery. If a tool is not used very often, they may not exhaust a set of brushes. As a result, the retention factor becomes less significant. If a brushed tool is not used all day, every day, the fact that it is quite noisy may be less relevant.

For those who require high performance and durability in the workplace, a brushless motor has clear advantages. In the long run, this will likely be a better investment. However, if you’re looking for a bargain, a cordless power tool with a brushed motor is worth considering.

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