Buying a Used Drill Press: How to get a great deal

If you follow a few simple steps when buying a used drill press, you can get a great deal and stretch your workshop budget. There are a lot of things to purchase when setting up shop and looking at used equipment can make your budget go a lot further than new equipment.  It may even allow you to purchase better equipment than buying new.

Why buy a used drill press?

If you determine that your home workshop could benefit from a drill press, buying a used drill press could save you some serious cash. Many drill presses from the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s were of good quality and reasonably affordable. That is good news because that means there are a lot of high quality options available on the used market.  Drill press technology hasn’t changed much over the years, so buying a used drill press won’t result in a lack of features.

Here are some brands to look for:

  • Craftsman
  • Delta
  • Rockwell
  • Jet

Older drill presses were built with quality components, are easy to service, and were generally constructed with sturdier and heavier materials. Use caution when looking at used newer drill presses, especially from brands the big box stores carry. Replacement parts may be harder to find or unavailable. Many times these parts will come from overseas if they are available, resulting in long shipping times.

Expect to pay $50-150 for a used bench top drill press, and $125-300 for a floor standing model.

Determine Your Requirements

There are many styles of drill presses available.

Would you like a freestanding floor press, or is a smaller bench top model sufficient?  In a lot of cases, the drill press head is the same and only the length of the post and the style of the base change.  Bench top presses are cheaper but have to sit on something to be at working height.  Floor standing models are already at working height, but take up floor space.  It can be a good idea to purchase a bench top model and build a base with storage for it to sit on.  It won’t take up space on your workbench, and the space underneath it will still be usable.

Drill presses are measured in inches.  A 10 inch drill press can reach the center of a 10 inch diameter piece.  In other words, it has 5 inches of space between the post and the center of the chuck.  A 15 inch drill press would have 7.5 inches of space between the post and chuck.  This holds true whether it is a bench top model or a floor model.

Will you be using it on metal, wood, or both?  Drilling metal will require slower speeds than wood.  Most drill presses are variable either directly though the motor in a direct drive, or by moving the drive belt to different pulleys in a belt driven system. Just be sure that the drill press is capable of the speeds you need for your projects.

Buying a Used Drill Press

What to look for when buying a used drill press

The most important things to check when buying a used drill press are the spindle, or quill, and chuck.  

The Chuck

The chuck is the piece that holds the drill bit in the press.  It needs to hold the drill bit securely, and all of the jaws need to move and adjust to the shank of the drill bit. Make sure the chuck key can tighten and loosen the chuck without too much effort. Insert a drill bit and tighten the jaws around it, making sure the drill bit is held securely.

Drill press close up

The Quill

Also closely inspect the quill.  The quill holds the chuck, and extends up into the top of the drill press. At the top of the quill there are several pulleys that the belt from the motor turns. The quill runs through several bearings.  Make sure there isn’t any play in the bearings.  If there is any play, the drill press probably needs its bearings replaced.  Worn bearings can cause run-out (wobble) in the chuck; not good when accuracy is important. The best way to check for run out is with a gauge.  

Don’t have a run out gauge? No problem. Extend the drill press all the way with a drill bit in it and look for any wobble. If possible, bring a piece of scrap wood and make a couple test holes. It should be pretty obvious if the drill press has any quill issues.

Other areas of concern

Other important things to examine when buying a used drill press are: the feed handle, the motor, and the table and clamping mechanism.

A drill press is powered by an electric motor.  Ensure the motor turns on and runs quietly.  There should be no wobble or vibration when it is running, Check the power rating of the motor and see if it matches the drill press;  While not a deal breaker if it works, it can give some insight into whether the motor has been replaced.  Be aware that it is possible a cheaper and less powerful motor could be installed in the drill press.

The feed handle is the handle on the side that lowers the chuck and drill bit to your work piece.  It should operate smoothly down and up. It should also return to its resting position with very little effort.

Finally, if you are buying a used drill press make sure to take a look at the table and its adjusting mechanism.  A rack and pinion style adjustment is preferable for ease of use.  Make sure the table adjusts up, down, and side to side easily. Also make sure it locks securely in place.  Having a secure platform for your work is vital to your safety and accuracy.

Where to look when buying a used drill press

Next we will explore where places to buy a used drill press.  This list is by no means all inclusive, its just a starting point.  Don’t forgot to ask friends and family if they are selling any equipment or know anyone who is.  A lot of basements and garages are full of unused equipment.

Facebook Marketplace:

Marketplace is a great place to find a deal.  You will be able to ask questions and view photos of the drill press before you buy it.  Setting your search to local results will only show you what is available in a comfortable driving distance.  This is probably the best place to look.


Craigslist seems to have taken a back seat to other online marketplaces.  You can search for used shop equipment, but be prepared for lots of spam ads and wading through a lot of junk posts. Your area might differ, so its still worth a quick look


Shopping eBay for used equipment is another option.  Be sure to watch out for high shipping costs, drill presses are heavy.  Of course, you can always set your search to local pickup only, though that will limit your results.

Garage Sales/Estate Sales:

If you have time and don’t mind a little adventure, you can find some great deals at garage and estate sales. Check Facebook for garage sale listings and inspect the photos for tools,  you can save wasted trips if you are only interested in buying a used drill press and there isn’t one in the photos. Otherwise, get out there and make some stops.  You never know what other great deals you will find.

Other Helpful tips

  1. If you are buying a used drill press, check a website like for parts manuals.  Look through the manual and see what parts are available, and what they cost.  Not every repair is a deal breaker if the parts are available and the price is right.
  2. Ask the seller if they have any accessories they would like to sell. If they are getting rid of their drill press they may have bits, extra drive belts, or a drill press vice they will throw in for free or at a low cost
  3. Bring a test piece of wood or metal and see if the seller will let you test it.  A lot can be learned by using the drill press for a couple minutes.
  4. When buying a used drill press, make sure you set aside part of your budget for accessories.  Things like a vise, drill bits, chuck keys, work lights, and perhaps a combination square, can make using your drill press safer and more user friendly.
Drill Bits

Now that you know what to look for when buying a used drill press, the search can begin!  Don’t be afraid to look at other used equipment when building your workshop.  Great deals can also be had on lathes, milling machines, table saws, and all sorts of other equipment.  Don’t be in a rush, and make sure you inspect the working parts of any used equipment you are considering.

If you buy a drill press and are in need of a hole saw kit, check out our review of the Spyder Hole Saw kit.  The Rapid Core Eject is a lifesaver on a drill press.

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