In doing a comparison we are speaking of the corded electric tool, not the cordless. It is in a class of its own. The electric tool is heavier, runs hotter and is normally more expensive than its air tool counter part. It is naturally heavier because of the electric motor and is also the reason it gets hotter. Running an electric tool, even in an air conditioned shop, can get uncomfortable on the hands after a period of time. After using one for several hours, the additional weight and heat can put a strain on the body. The tool itself is generally more expensive than the air tool and is something to consider if you have budgeted yourself.
Advantages of the electric tool are the fact that they are more portable. You can plug it in the shop, in the garage, outside on the lawn or yard. Where ever there is an accessible electric outlet you can use your electric tool. You can take it next door to help your neighbor on a job or to mom’s house for a repair. You are not limited to the fact that there isn’t a compressor available which would be the case with air tools.
Air tools or pneumatic tools are much lighter because they don’t have the electric motor and therefore are much cooler to operate. They also have whatever power you need at your fingertips. With the proper compressor the power of the air tool cannot be matched with an electric tool. There are repair kits available so that you can repair an air tool. Normally if an electric tool goes bad you just have to replace it.
The drawbacks of an air tool are first and foremost the fact that you have to have an air compressor. The initial output for a compressor can be quite expensive. They have to be used in one area where your air hose can reach or you have to lug your compressor from one place to another. This is not practical if you have a large stationary compressor in the garage or shop. Even the smaller pancake versions of compressors can weigh upwards from 50 to 100 pounds. Fittings and air hoses can leak causing the compressor to run more often. There has to be a special fitting to collect moisture from the air or drain the tank after each use. Air tools have to be oiled generally after each use to keep them operating properly and not freeze up.
Considering the advantages and disadvantages of both the air tool and the electric tool, it would be unfair to say which one is the best. If a homeowner only needs a drill to hang a picture on the wall or do a small repair around the house, then the electric drill would be the best for him to use. If he has a shop or a garage that he works out of and does a lot of repair on his car then the air tool would be his best choice. Before anyone can say which one is best you would have to take into consideration what is being done and where.