Family photograph of the Milwaukee M18 Tool Line

Milwaukee M18 vs. M18 FUEL Tools – Which Should You Choose?

You're not alone if you're curious about the differences between Milwaukee's M18 and M18 FUEL lines.

Since its debut in 2008, Milwaukee's M18 tools have been on a relentless journey of innovation, continuously raising the bar as new technologies emerge. This evolution has seen these tools acquire new features and more advanced motors.

In 2012 Milwaukee introduced a separate line of brushless tools called FUEL, setting it apart from its standard lineup.

At its core, the main distinction between Milwaukee M18 and M18 Fuel tools lies in their motors. Most M18 tools feature brushed motors, whereas ALL M18 Fuel tools have brushless motors.

Is opting for M18 FUEL tools a worthwhile investment?

This guide explores the fundamental differences between these motor types, offering insights to assess if the FUEL version suits your needs better.

Brushed vs. Brushless Motors: What's the difference?

Milwaukee brushless FUEL impact wrench used in a vehicle

The distinction between brushed and brushless motors is that brushed motors are driven mechanically, and brushless motors are driven electronically.

Check out this quick informational video to get a better idea of how they work:

Let's break it down further. "Brushed" and "brushless" refer to whether or not carbon brushes are used in a DC motor. Brushed motors rely on these brushes, but they wear down over time and require frequent replacement. In contrast, brushless motors do away with these brushes and are electronically controlled

M18 Brushed Motors

M18 Brushed Motor parts

Brushed motors have a long history of providing efficient performance for professionals. However, the key distinction between brushed and brushless motors lies in their underlying driving mechanisms.

Brushed motors rely on mechanical action, with the stator (the stationary part) housing permanent magnets and the rotor (the moving part) featuring electromagnets.

These carbon brushes maintain physical contact with the commutator in the rotor, transferring electrical voltage to it. This voltage generates an electromagnetic field in the rotor, and continuously switching the polarity of the magnetic pull through the commutator creates the spinning motion of the motor.

Advantages of Milwaukee M18 Tools with Brushed Motors

Brushed motors are your budget-friendly workhorses. They're produced in large quantities, which keeps the price down.

Here's why you might want to consider them:

  • Easy to Use
  • Reliable
  • Size Variety
  • Simple Controls
  • Budget Friendly


This design, while straightforward, has its drawbacks:

  • Can be less efficient in terms of work time
  • Generates more heat
  • Has a shorter lifespan
  • Demands regular maintenance more than a brushless motor
  • Less powerful than more premium brushless tools

M18 FUEL Brushless Motors

M18 FUEL Blower

On the flip side, brushless motors, the powerhouse behind M18 FUEL tools, represent a substantial upgrade in the world of power tools.

The real game-changer here is efficiency. Brushless motors are efficient, extending tool, power, and battery life. This efficiency reduces wear and tear on the motor, yielding a tool that can perform demanding tasks daily without breaking a sweat.

In this motor setup, the rotor contains the permanent magnets, while the stator creates the electromagnetic field.

Instead of brushes, an electronic controller orchestrates a three-phase variable current that sequentially powers the motor's coils. This generates a rotating magnetic field in the stator, energizing the rotor's magnets and propelling the spinning motion.

M18 FUEL Brushless motor part
Advantages of Milwaukee M18 Fuel Tools With Brushless Motors

The outcome of embracing brushless technology primarily revolves around five major advantages:

  • Precise speed control
  • Better suited to continuous or long-running duty cycles
  • Longer life span for the motor
  • Less regular maintenance
  • High efficiency for work time

But the perks don't stop there. With electronic controls in the mix, brushless motors open the door to more advanced features, such as:

  • Additional speed settings and assist modes
  • Advanced thermal protection



While brushless motors offer many advantages, it's important to acknowledge that they come with their own considerations:

  • They necessitate electronic controllers
  • Higher cost
  • Overkill for Some Users: For occasional DIYers or those with lighter tool usage, the enhanced power and performance of M18 FUEL tools may be unnecessary.
  • Noise Levels may be louder than their brush counterpart. 

Are M18 FUEL Tools Worth It?

Collection of the M18 Tool System

When considering the value of M18 FUEL tools, weighing the benefits they bring against the increased price compared to standard M18 tools is essential. The decision ultimately depends on your specific needs and usage patterns.

M18 FUEL tools are often a worthwhile investment for daily users and professional tradespeople. Here's why:

Man using M18 Vacuum
  • Enhanced Performance: M18 FUEL tools are equipped with brushless motors and advanced technology, resulting in superior power and efficiency. This translates to faster work, increased productivity, and the ability to tackle demanding tasks with ease.
  • Durability: The build quality and durability of M18 FUEL tools are typically top-notch. They are designed to withstand rigorous use in demanding work environments, ensuring longevity and reliability. This durability reduces the frequency of tool replacement, saving both time and money in the long run.
  • Advanced Features: M18 FUEL tools often have advanced features like electronic controls, multiple speed settings, and enhanced safety mechanisms. These features provide convenience and safety, contributing to a smoother and more efficient workflow.

Compatibility: M18 FUEL tools are compatible with Milwaukee's M18 RedLithium batteries, ensuring consistent and reliable power. If you already own M18 tools, the transition to M18 FUEL is seamless, as you can use your existing batteries.

For example, a professional contractor named Sarah was tasked with a deck construction project for a client. Sarah had come equipped with Milwaukee's M18 FUEL cordless drill. The M18 FUEL's brushless motor delivered impressive power and runtime, allowing her to work efficiently and meet tight deadlines.

The advanced technology in the M18 FUEL tool ensured precise speed control, which was crucial for the deck's professional finish. With few interruptions for battery changes, Sarah completed the project ahead of schedule, impressing her client with the speed and precision of her work.

Ultimately, the M18 FUEL tool proved invaluable for professionals like Sarah, who rely on top-tier performance and efficiency to excel in their field

However, the decision may not be as straightforward for weekend warriors and DIY enthusiasts. Here's why:

  • Cost: M18 FUEL tools are typically priced higher than their standard M18 counterparts. The additional cost may not be justified if you have occasional tool needs or engage in DIY projects infrequently.
  • Overkill: The enhanced power and performance of M18 FUEL tools may be overkill for jobs around the house or light-duty occasional tasks. Standard M18 tools can handle many DIY projects effectively without the need for the extra capabilities provided by FUEL models.

Let’s look at a similar example to our professional contractor, Sarah. On the other side of town, John, a passionate DIY enthusiast, decided to take on a similar backyard renovation project. He aimed to build a wooden deck to create an outdoor oasis for his family. Armed with his Milwaukee M18 cordless drill, he started drilling pilot holes for the deck screws and attaching the wooden boards.

The M18, with its brushed motor, provided sufficient power for his project. John appreciated the tool's reliability and ease of use. As he worked weekends and evenings, the M18's runtime on his RedLithium battery was more than enough for his DIY pace.

Despite occasional stops to recharge the battery, John completed his deck over several weeks, satisfied with his DIY achievement.

Overall, M18 FUEL tools are worth the investment for professionals and daily users who require top-tier performance, durability, and advanced features in their tools.

For weekend warriors and DIYers with lighter tool usage, standard M18 tools may provide sufficient functionality at a more budget-friendly price point. It's essential to assess your needs and budget constraints to make an informed decision aligning with your goals.

Milwaukee M18 Tool Comparison

Man using M18 Impact Wrench on large pipe

The Milwaukee M18 tool lineup encompasses various categories to cater to diverse user needs. With over 200 tools compatible with Milwaukee's M18 RedLithium batteries, you have options tailored to your specific requirements. 

Eric Rusch, Director of product marketing for Milwaukee Tool, said that “The next-generation M18 FUEL High Torque Impact Wrenches raise the bar from what is expected out of high torque impact wrenches” and that “Through research in the field, we saw how users required not only more power but a solution with more versatility and features to improve efficiency. Milwaukee is disrupting the impact wrench industry again as these new wrenches deliver the best combination of power, speed, length, and feature set — providing the best high torque impact wrench solutions for our users.” 

Let's dive into Milwaukee's tool categories, using the Milwaukee High Impact Torque Wrench, one of Milwaukee’s top 20 best-selling tools, as an example, available in three separate variations.

This model boasts a 1/2-inch anvil with a friction ring, offering easy socket changes. It's equipped with a brushed motor and delivers a maximum speed of 1,900 RPM and a peak torque of 450 ft.-lbs. This makes it a reliable choice for various construction applications, and its compact size and weight of 6.7 lbs ensure maneuverability and convenience on the job.

Moving up the power ladder, the 2864-20 features a brushless motor and ONE-KEY technology, allowing for customization and tool tracking. With a 3/4-inch anvil and a friction ring, it offers versatility in socket choices. This model achieves a maximum speed of 1,800 RPM and an impressive peak torque of 1,400 ft.-lbs, making it a heavyweight performer for demanding tasks. It weighs 7.5 lbs and measures 8.39 inches in length.

Similar to the 2864-20, this impact wrench is part of the M18 FUEL series and features a brushless motor for enhanced performance and durability. It offers a 1/2-inch anvil with a friction ring and delivers a maximum speed of 1,800 RPM. Its incredible peak torque of 1,400 ft.-lbs sets it apart, making it suitable for heavy-duty applications. Despite its power, it maintains a manageable weight of 6.3 lbs and a length of 8.6 inches.

Below, you'll find an quick comparison table featuring the following models:

  2663-20 2767-20 2864-20
Motor Brushed Brushless Brushless
Technology None Redlink Plus One-Key
Max Speed (RPM) 1900 1750 0-1,800
Torque (peak) 450 ft.-lbs 1400 ft/lbs 1,200ft/lbs
Power Source Cordless Cordless Cordless
Length 8.9 in 8.39 in 8.6 in
Weight 6.7 lbs 7.5lbs 6.3 lbs
IPM 0 - 2,200 0-2,100 0-2,400

What is Milwaukee One-Key?

Milwaukee One-Key is an advanced connectivity job site platform that's free and customizable. This platform is designed to work seamlessly with enabled tools, bringing a new efficiency level to job sites.

In summary, the Milwaukee 2663-20 is a reliable choice for general applications and DIYers with its balanced performance. The 2864-20 and 2767-20, both from the M18 FUEL series, are powerhouses with brushless motors and ONE-KEY technology, making them ideal for heavy-duty tasks and professionals on the job. The choice among these models depends on the level of power and customization you require for your specific job requirements.

Are Milwaukee M18 and M18 FUEL Tools Compatible with the Same Batteries?

Graphic of Milwaukee M18 Batteries

Milwaukee's M18 and M18 FUEL systems offer the convenience of universal compatibility with their RedLithium M18 batteries. Whether you're using Milwaukee's dependable brushed tools, compact options, or FUEL models, they all operate seamlessly with the RedLithium batteries.

While both brushed and brushless tools benefit from the additional cell density and overall capacity of advanced M18 High Output batteries, the brushless tools, particularly the M18 FUEL series, can tap into the full potential of these batteries, delivering significantly enhanced power and performance.

Making the Choice: Milwaukee M18 vs. M18 FUEL

Man holding a Milwaukee M18 Impact wrench and smart phone using One Key app

Understanding their key differences is essential when deciding between Milwaukee's M18 and M18 FUEL tools.

The primary distinction lies in the motors: most M18 tools use brushed motors, while brushless motors power ALL M18 FUEL tools. Brushless technology offers improved efficiency, longer tool and battery life, reduced motor wear, and enhanced durability, making M18 FUEL tools ideal for daily professional use.

For professionals and daily users requiring top-tier performance and durability, M18 FUEL tools are a worthwhile investment. They provide enhanced power, durability, and compatibility with Milwaukee's M18 RedLithium batteries. However, for weekend warriors and DIY enthusiasts with occasional tool needs, standard M18 tools offer cost-effective solutions, and the advanced capabilities of M18 FUEL models may be unnecessary.

Assessing your specific requirements and budget constraints is important when making a decision. M18 and M18 FUEL tools are compatible with Milwaukee's RedLithium M18 batteries, ensuring consistent and reliable power. While advanced M18 High Output batteries benefit both brushed and brushless tools, the brushless M18 FUEL tools can fully utilize the additional power and performance these batteries provide. 

Milwaukee M18 and M18 Fuel Frequently Asked Questions

What is the main difference between Milwaukee M18 and M18 Fuel tools?

  • The primary difference lies in the type of motor used. Milwaukee M18 tools typically feature brushed motors, while M18 Fuel tools have brushless motors.

 Do M18 Fuel tools require special maintenance compared to M18 brushed tools?

  • M18 Fuel tools generally require less maintenance than brushed tools due to the efficiency and durability of brushless motors. However, regular cleaning and occasional maintenance are recommended for optimal performance and longevity.

Are M18 Fuel tools heavier than M18 brushed tools?

  • M18 Fuel tools may generally be slightly heavier due to the added components for brushless motors and advanced features. However, the weight difference is often negligible and varies by specific tool models.

Are M18 Fuel tools suitable for heavy construction work?

  • Yes, M18 Fuel tools are well-suited for heavy construction work. Their robust performance and durability make them reliable tools for construction professionals.

Can I use M18 Fuel batteries in standard M18 tools?

  • Yes, M18 Fuel batteries are fully compatible with standard M18 tools. You can use M18 Fuel batteries interchangeably with M18 Fuel and standard M18 tools.

Which Milwaukee M18 battery offers the highest power output?

  • The M18 REDLITHIUM HIGH OUTPUT HD12.0 stands out as the ultimate cold weather powerhouse, delivering enhanced power even in extremely cold conditions (below 0F / -18C). It offers the highest work capacity per charge among all professional power tool batteries available, effectively replacing corded tools on the job site.