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9 Types of Drills You Need to Know

Different types of drills in image collage

We asked our resident contractor, Alan Roberts, what are the main types of drills. Here’s the list he gave us… based on being the only drills he’s ever used while being a professional contractor for over 20 years.

Table of Contents Show

A. Quicklist: Different Drill Types

  1. Cordless compact power drill (aka drill driver)
  2. Corded compact drill (aka drill driver)
  3. Hammer drill
  4. Impact driver
  5. Drill press
  6. Air drill
  7. Auger
  8. Power cordless screwdriver (straight and right-angle)
  9. Hand/manual drill

What type of is searched for most often?

Chart for drill types and popularity

Let’s kick off with true story about how having the right type of drills can save you a ton of work, pain and frustration.

A dad I know, who will remain anonymous, went to his daughter’s new condo to help her move in. As many young homeowners do, she bought most of her furniture from IKEA. I’m talking bedroom, dining room and living room furniture.

This dad showed up ready to assemble… without a drill. It was his first go at IKEA assembly. The worst part is her daughter was out of town and he had to leave the next day.

24 hours later, after an all-nighter, the furniture was assembled. When my wife heard the story from him, she asked “why didn’t you just pay for IKEA assembly?

His jaw dropped. He had no idea such a service existed. Facepalm moment.

Nevertheless, a drill would have helped tremendously but even for such big jobs, paying for assembly is worth every penny.

Here’s our epic drill buying guide setting out the 16 different types of drills.

B. Different Types of Drills (Detailed List)

The amount of drills available is rather mind-blowing. All of these different drills can be categorized into just three primary types: traditional drills, impact drivers, and hammer drills.

Please note that our list of the different kinds of drills does not include the different types of drill bits.  You can check out all the different types of drill bits here.

1. Cordless compact power drill (drill driver)

Parts of a cordless drill (diagram)

Parts of a cordless drill (diagram)

Photo examples of cordless drills:

2 examples of compact hand-held cordless power drills
Top Cordless Drill Pick
DEWALT 20V Max Cordless Drill Combo Kit, 2-Tool (DCK240C2),Yellow/Black Drill Driver/Impact Combo Kit

DEWALT 20V Max Cordless Drill Combo Kit

You won’t go wrong with the DEWALT 20V Max Cordless Drill.


Within the traditional power drill category you can choose between cordless and cord.  Cordless is the way to go.  That’s what pretty much everyone buys.

Types of cordless power drills

Cordless power drill can refer to two things. One approach is the different features, options and brands for the regular compact hand-held drill (drill driver). The other refers to the different drill options that come with a cordless option (i.e. compact drill driver, impact driver, hammer drill and power screwdriver).

The cordless all-purpose drill should be your first drill purchase.  Every home should have one if you do any repairs or improvements around your place.  These drills or well-suited for drilling holes, installing small fasteners in wood or drywall, and other basic home projects.

Most are battery-powered these days.  Batteries last a long time per charge. You have full freedom with where to use it.  There really is no need to buy a cord drill anymore. I certainly wouldn’t.

For basic projects, a traditional drill might be all that you need. If you’ll be doing more heavy-duty drilling, a standard drill could fall short, and you might consider an impact drill.

2. Corded hand-held power drill (also a drill driver)

Corded power drill

The corded power drill is the cordless predecessor.  While most folks buy cordless, the corded variety is not useless and not without advantages.  Corded drill advantages (over cordless) include:

  • Faster rotations
  • More power
  • More consistency
  • Won’t run out of power

Still, if you’re buying your first drill, get a cordless but if you have a corded drill kicking around, you might as well keep it.

3. Hammer Drill

Examples of hammer drills



Hammer drills are so heavy-duty that they drill quickly and effortlessly into concrete. They also are tough enough for demolition, removing stubborn things like tile from various surfaces during a remodel, and more.

Hammer drills work with a rapid hammering motion. While both hammer drills and impact drills use concussion motions, the mechanism, and the results, are different. A hammer drill is much too powerful to make a porch railing, for example, but it necessary to fasten the railing post to concrete.

The hammer drill is designed for heavy-duty yet everyday-type jobs. It’s a drill with a hefty hammer function.

A specific type of hammer drill, the rotary hammer drill or the SDS (Special Direct System/Slotted Drive System) drill, is more industrial than a standard hammer drill. While it does use rotary motion like a drill, its primary function is its hammer ability. The rotary hammer drill is a bigger, more powerful version of the hammer drill.

Types of hammer drills (variations):

a. Rotary Hammer Drill

Photos of a rotary hammer drill

b. D-handle

Key-less rotary hammer with speed-control and chisel rotation adjustment.

Source: Lowe’s

The D-handle drill is a rotary hammer drill that has a uniquely shaped handle. Heavy-duty drilling with a D-handle tool can increase your control and decrease fatigue.

Each of these types of drills has a role to play in carpentry, construction, and a wide variety of home projects. Think beyond remodeling when you think of the types of drills you might need. Perhaps you want to do projects in and around your home to increase safety, or maybe you’re building shelving systems. Whatever you want to do, there are drills to help.

4. Impact Driver

Impact driver photos


Photos of different impact drivers

An impact driver is designed for heavier work than a traditional drill. The driver does rotate like a regular drill, but when they meet resistance, they drive fasteners into the surface with a series of rapid pounding movements.

This type of drill is handy for bigger projects such as building fences, decks, and more.

Drill vs Impact Drill vs Hammer Drill

5. Drill Press

Drill press
Pictures drill presses july 7

When you get super serious about your projects, you can level up and buy a drill press. 

A drill press is a stationary drill with a lever that pulls the drill bit down into your wood, metal or whatever you’re drilling into.  It’s powerful. It’s precise. It’s more expensive.

In addition to the three primary drill types, there are a variety of other drills. Some, like the brace, are highly specialized. Others, like the reversible drill, fall into one of three main categories of drills but have a feature (such as reversibility) that make them stand out.

6. Air Drill

Air drill photos


The only reason to buy an air-powered drill is power.  Air tools deliver more power; that’s why they exist and people buy them. However, electric-powered drills are catching up.

7. Auger

Pictures of augers

The auger isn’t often considered when thinking about drills, but a drill it is.  It drills holes into the ground (dirt, ice, snow, etc.).  Landscapers and many homeowners have an auger.

There are two main types of augers.  One is an auger bit that you attach to a regular drill.  The bit is smaller and is great for smaller holes.  The other is a full auger tool designed for creating larger holes.  It’s also far more powerful.  You can also buy a hand-held auger.

8. Power cordless screwdriver

DEWALT 8V MAX Cordless Screwdriver Kit, Gyroscopic, 1 Battery, Electric (DCF682N1), Black

This is a nifty tool because it’s compact, inexpensive and great for screwing in screws.  No cord. No fuss.  Easy to use.

You can buy a variation of this with the right-angle cordless screwdriver. Here’s an example:

Milwaukee 2415-21 M12 12V 3/8" Cordless Right Angle Drill/Driver Kit

9. Manual-powered drills

a. Basic manual drill

This handheld drill is perfect for drilling in small or tight spaces where regular drills can’t maneuver. It’s lightweight and simple for basic tasks.

Heavy-duty 5/16-inch rotary hand drill with a 5/16 in. bit capacity and all-steel design.

Source: Sears

Hand drills are fast and efficient, designed to perform quick jobs when you don’t want to set up a larger drill. They can bore holes and drive screws into wood, plastics, and soft metals.

b. Breast Drill

Schroeder 2-speed breast drill with a contoured steel top plate for added force and enclosed box housing covers to protect fingers.

Source: Highland Woodworking

Breast drills are similar to hand drills. A breast drill is equipped with a plate on the end that is placed against the chest. Your torso helps hold and applies pressure to the hand-powered drill while you operate it. Although a bit outdated, breast drills are still sold and used.

3. Brace drill

Woodworking hand drill with durable, flexible to operate, seldom to stuck and perfect for drilling wood.

Source: Amazon

The brace is a hand drill designed primarily for woodworking. It gives you control over the speed and pressure, and it produces clean, smooth holes.

Watch the brace in action to appreciate its finesse and accuracy.

How to Drill a Square and True Hole with a Brace and Bit (video)

d. Push Drill

Hand powered push drill that allows you to make a quick, precision hole and has smooth operating system for precision work.


Source: Sears

A hand-powered push drill is a precision tool used in woodworking. When a drill, impact drill, or hammer drill is too bulky or too powerful for fine work, a push drill delivers excellent results.

C. Drill Brands and Companies

There’s a good variety of companies that make and sell drills.  Here’s chart setting the drill brand popularity.  

Chart setting out the most popular power drill brands and companies

D. Power Sources for Drills

50-foot three-way power blocks with 3-conductor, 10-gauge wire, 15-amp rating and tri-source 3-way receptacle.

Source: Amazon

All drills, regardless of the type, have a power source. There are four main sources of power for drills.

1. Electricity (Corded Drills)

Pistol-grip drill with heavy duty, variable speed and 8.0 amp motor.

Source: Amazon

A corded drill provides endless power to your drill so you can use it until you are done with it rather than using it only until the battery is depleted. Generally, a corded drill has more power/force than a cordless drill.

While it’s convenient to be able to continue to drill without stopping to recharge or replace the battery, it can be inconvenient to deal with long extension cords or having to find an electric outlet.

Learn corded power drill basics, including uses, specs, and operating tips and techniques, from The Home Depot. This helpful information will help you choose the right corded drill for your needs.

2. Battery (Cordless Drills)

18-volt 1/2-in cordless drill with two-speed gear setting.

Source: Lowe’s

Battery-powered drills allow you to move about freely while drilling. You don’t have to struggle to find a power source to plug into, nor do you have to wrestle with long cords that can hinder your work. Drawbacks include less power than a corded drill and limited battery life that might cut your project short.

Different drills use different types of batteries. Drills are engineered to run on power generated by one of five battery types: alkaline, lithium-ion (Li-Ion), Li-iron disulfide, nickel-cadmium (Ni-Cad), and nickel-metal hydride (NIMH).

As you weigh your options and consider the types of drills available, use this helpful guide from Lowe’s for information on using cordless drills.

3. Air (Pneumatic Drills)

Extra heavy duty reversible air drill with variable speed throttle and exhaust that directs air away from work.

Source: Sears

A pneumatic drill is powered by compressed air. Power from an air compressor is forceful and steady. While the power is excellent, pneumatic drills aren’t as common as electric and battery-powered drills because outside of commercial and industrial sites, air compressors aren’t typically used.

Just for fun:

Dental drills and jackhammers are both pneumatic drills.

4. Manual

Manual drill


Manual drills are powered by muscle—your muscle. Hand drills are manual-powered. Some use a pushing motion, others use a crank motion, while others still use a twisting motion (like the hand drill pictured directly above).

Manual-powered drills are designed for use in small spaces or for woodworking projects needing control and finesse.

E. Types of Drill Motors

Drill driver motor assembly with 5-inch long, 10-inch wide, and 3-inch high specs.

Source: Amazon

The motor, supplied by electricity, battery, or air, powers your drill. All power drills have one of two motor types: brushed and brushless. There of course are technical, and mechanical differences between the two. Here, we’ll take a look at the practical differences so you can determine whether performance or cost is more important to you.

1. Brushed Motor

3/8-in cordless drill with 15 clutch settings and LED light.

Source: Lowe’s

The brushed motor is the original drill motor. Its primary advantage over the newer brushless motor is cost. Drills with brushed motors are less expensive than those with brushless motors.

2. Brushless Motor

Brushless 3-speed hammer drill with 250 BPM for fast drilling in masonry materials and 3-mode LED light.

Source: Amazon

Perhaps you observed that the brushed-motor drill looks quite similar to the brushless-motor drill. We did this intentionally to highlight the fact that you can’t tell by looking at a drill what kind of motor it has. It does become more obvious when you use the drills.

Brushless motors boast higher efficiency and more power generation. They run cooler, are lighter in weight, and have a smaller size than brushed motors. This means that a drill with a brushless motor is easier to hold and works faster than one with a brushed motor.

F. Additional Details to Consider When Picking Out a Drill

Not only are there many different types of drills, but different drills also have different features. Once you’ve narrowed down the type of drill you need, the power source you prefer, and other key components, you can turn your attention to the little details—features and extras—to narrow your preferences so you can ultimately select the drill best suited for you.

1. Drill Features

We’ve listed the main features you will find on power drills. No drill has all of the features, so start by looking for those elements you think you’ll use the most.

a. LED Light

20v drill LED light.

Source: Tools in Action

Some drills are equipped with a built-in LED light to help you see in spaces with insufficient lighting.

b. Adjustable Side Handle

Adjustable side drill handle.

Source: Lowe’s

Drills with an adjustable side handle allow you to personalize the position to maximize comfort.

c. Lock-On Switch

Lock-on switch drill.

Source: Amazon

Some drills possess a lock-on feature. With lock-on, the drill will only start when it’s engaged, saving battery power and reducing extraneous noise.

d. Depth Gauge

Reversible hammer drill with chuck key, side control handle and depth gauge.

Source: Amazon

A drill with a built-in depth gauge guides you as you bore into the surface of the wood, plastic, metal, or concrete that you’re working with. You can be confident that you are drilling far enough down without going too far.

e. Electric Brake

Electric drill with adjustable trigger dial and variable speed.

Source: Sears

A drill that has an electric brake stops rotating immediately when you release the trigger rather than gradually slowing and coming to a stop.

f. Mobile App Integrated

Smartphones meet smart drills. Some drills are high-tech and sync wirelessly to your smartphone. With the connection, you can customize your drill’s performance. You can enter multiple programs and then select the one you need for each job. With this technology, your drill is instantly ready when you need it and how you need it.

g. Reversible

3/8-inch reversible air drill with forward/reverse switch for one-handed direction changes and exhaust.

Source: Amazon

Reversible drills can switch the direction of their rotation, typically with a single push or slide of a button. This is handy when you need to remove screws or other fasteners. The drill’s overall functioning is less precise in a reversible drill than a non-reversible model.

2. Drill Speeds

Hand Drill vs. Power Drill—Speed Race

All types of drills can be pretty fast, even those that are powered manually. When we’re concerned the speed of a drill, we’re most often referring exclusively to power drills. When you’re shopping for the right power drill, you have options regarding the speed. The speed you need is determined by the job you’re doing.

a. One speed/single Speed

Some drills, like this one, have only one operating speed.

b. 2- or-3 Speed Drills

Speed cordless drill with 1 lithium ion batteries and stand.

Source: Amazon

When using this speed type, you can manually select your speed. Some of these drills can operate in low or high modes, while others have an additional medium setting.

In the above picture, the two-speed control slide is on the top of the drill.

c. Variable Speed Drills

Cordless variable speed impact driver with 955 in-lbs of turning torque and LED light.

Source: Lowe’s

This type of drill reacts to the job and adjusts its speed as you work. It has a range of speeds that engage automatically to provide proper torque in the moment.

d. The Chuck

Heavy duty plain bearing keyed chuck equipped with locking collar and outstanding wear resistance.

Source: Sears

The drill chuck is the piece at the front of the drill that holds the bit or other attachments and rotates when you operate your drill. When a drill is described as ¼”, ½’’ , or any other size, it is the chuck that is being referenced. The number represents the diameter of the opening and the bit size it holds.

A drill can have multiple chucks of different sizes. Some drills come with one chuck. Others, however, don’t include a chuck. Chucks are sold separately from most stores, online and brick-and-mortar, that sell drills.

For the majority of power drills, chucks come in three styles: keyed, single-sleeve keyless, and double-sleeve keyless. There is a fourth type, called the hammer chuck, that is used exclusively with SDS hammer drills.

Simply put, a key holds a chuck securely in place. A keyless chuck is much easier to use but isn’t quite as secure as a keyed chuck.

Source: The Home Depot

In the above image, the black component is the key that fits into the holes in the chuck.

Capacity industrial grade key-less chuck with no. 6 taper mount and self-tightening mechanism.

Source: Sears

3. Drill accessories

In addition to built-in feature options, most drills have the capacity to add various accessories to enhance their function.

a. Positive Stops

Drill stop set with allen wrench and durable performance feature.

Source: Amazon

These little gems help ensure that you drill to exactly the right depth. These stop your drill when you reach the depth you’ve selected, thus preventing you from over-drilling.

b. Miscellaneous Multi-Purpose Attachments

Bathroom cleaning scrub brush with four different sizes and shapes of brushes.

Source: Amazon

Do more with your drill than boreholes and insert or remove screws and other fasteners. Add both fun and oomph to your cleaning tasks. Cleaning brush attachments let you lighten up on the elbow grease while cleaning more deeply and efficiently. Plus who wouldn’t want to clean with a power drill?

Drill buffing pads with 80mm car buffer compound drill attachment kit and sponge polishing pads.

Source: Amazon

You can even buff your car with your drill. Imagine a clean, shiny car without exhausting yourself in the process of making it that way.

Are you having so much fun with your drill that you’re looking for creative ways to use it? Why not mix some paint? Yes, you can even use a power drill to thoroughly mix paint.

To truly be inspired, watch How to Stir Paint with a Drill

G. Best Types of Drills and Their Uses for Various Jobs, Materials and Projects

Almost every DIY project requires a drill at some point, but not all drills are right for every job.

Depending on your project, you might need a new drill or a new bit to get the results you want.

In this article, we’ll look at the best types of drills for some common materials you might need to work with.

Best Type of Drill for Screws?

Screwdrivers take a long time and a lot of energy to operate, compared to a drill.

The best drills for driving screws are cordless drills with adjustable speed control. An impact drill is even better for long screws since a hammering action and increased torque makes it easier. 

Best Option for Concrete?

Drilling into concrete is a common requirement for DIY projects, but concrete is much harder than wood or drywall. To penetrate the concrete and create a hole, you should use a hammer drill or a rotary hammer. 

Many multi-purpose cordless drills have a hammer function that you can use to drill into concrete. A hammer drill uses vibrations in coordination with the twisting action of the drill to break up masonry and concrete. 

A rotary hammer is a heavier-duty version of a hammer drill that is used exclusively for masonry and concrete applications. With a rotary hammer, you can drill larger, cleaner holes into concrete.

Excellent Drill Type for Stainless Steel?

You can use a standard multi-purpose drill for stainless steel, but you will need to swap out the bit.

Stainless steel is incredibly hard and will blunt and resist normal steel drill bits. Instead, you need a harder bit that will bite into stainless steel.

According to Grainger KnowHow, the best bit for stainless steel is Cobalt (HSCO). A bit with 5-8% cobalt blended into the steel is hard enough to drill into stainless steel effectively.

Best Type of Drill Choice for Brick?

A hammer drill has the vibration necessary to drill into masonry.

When drilling into brick, use a hammer drill or a rotary hammer if you need larger holes.

Great Drill for Metal?

Standard multi-purpose drills can be used with metal, but regular drill bits aren’t hard enough to penetrate metal. If you want to drill into metal, you need a different drill bit.

The most common and effective drill bits for metal are titanium and cobalt.

“Metal” can refer to everything from copper to stainless steel, so there is some variance in what you might need. 

For softer metals, like copper or iron, a steel bit coated in titanium will do the trick. For hardened metals like stainless steel or tempered steel, it’s better to go with cobalt, which is blended into the steel as an alloy, giving it a greater hardness and resistance. 

For Plywood?

Plywood is a relatively soft material that is easy to drill into, but you can benefit from using a bit that is easy to position and won’t tear up the surrounding wood.

A wood-twist drill bit is designed to cleanly drill holes into plywood and chipboard.

What is the Best Type of Drill for Tile?

Tiles are not only very hard, but they are also prone to cracking and fragmenting, which makes drilling into them a tricky task.

To drill into tile or similar materials like porcelain you need a very hard bit. 

According to Bosch DIY, diamond-ground Carbide-tipped drill bits are perfect for most soft to medium density tiles. 

It’s important to apply pressure carefully while drilling to avoid cracking the tiles.

For harder, high-density tiles and drilling into porcelain, you will need a diamond-tipped drill bit. These are more expensive than carbide-tipped bits but are harder and more effective.

If You Can Choose Only One Drill for Your Home, What Type Should You Get (All-Purpose)?

A standard cordless multi-purpose drill is perfect for most home applications. 

When you run into a job your drill can’t handle, consider renting or buying a specialized drill:

  • hammer drills
  • impact drivers
  • screw-guns
  • right-angle drills
  • rotary hammer drills

What is the Best Type of Drill for Aluminum?

Aluminum is a relatively soft metal, so you can use a titanium-coated drill bit. However, according to TTPdrills, due to the low melting point of aluminum, a cobalt bit will work better. 

H. Decision-Making Considerations

Now that you’re familiar with the main drill types, other available drills, and the details like features and accessories, you’re ready to proceed to the next step: making a buying decision. Taking specific things into consideration will help you with that decision. First, though, here is a very brief recap of power drills combined with their purpose.

How to Choose a Power Drill

1. Know Your Purpose

“Nobody who bought a drill actually wanted a drill. They wanted a hole.” — Perry Marshall

That statement makes a great point. Think of why you want a drill, and the decision will become less overwhelming.

  • Why do you need a drill?
  • Will you use it for limited types of projects, or will you be doing a variety?

Are you building things such as a fence and gate, will you be fastening items into concrete or brick, or will you be woodworking? Or perhaps you’ll be doing all three plus something different altogether. Your purpose will tell you what type of drill you need.

Just for fun:

Drills can be used for unconventional purposes, too. Did you ever think of fishing with your drill?

Fishing with a Power Drill

2. Drill Cost Chart

Drill cost chart

Drills vary in price. The more heavy-duty the drill the more expensive it is. However, a heavy-duty industrial SDS hammer drill might look relatively inexpensive. A closer look might reveal that you are only buying the drill. Nothing else is included, including the batter, chuck, and bits. You’ll incur more expenses purchasing these necessities.

Each type of drill has a general price range.

a. Cordless hand-held drill

Cordless drills cost between $40 and $300.  I’m sure there are some that cost more but $200 to $300 will get you a very good cordless drill.

b. Hammer drill cost

  • Hammer drills range from around $60 to $3,000
  • Rotary Hammer Drills (SDS Drills) cost between $50 and $1,700.

b. Impact driver cost

The approximate range of impact drivers is $60 to $1,000

c. Drill press cost

The approximate cost range is $60 to $1,200.

Tool Tip Basics: Power Drills

Related: How to put a screw into brick

Where to buy drills

The best online stores to buy drills are:


Frequently Asked Questions

Can you drill a hole in a ceramic pot?

Yes, you can drill a hole in a ceramic pot with a typical drill bit. It is easier to drill a hole in unglazed ceramic than in glazed ceramic. Glazed ceramic is what you will find in most stores. It is hard for the bit to grab the pot to start the hole. 

Can you drill a hole in glass?

You can drill a hole into glass with a drill bit that is between 1/8-inch to 3/32-inch. You want to be careful with the amount of pressure you apply, or you may crack the glass. 

Can you drill into brick?

Yes, you can drill into brick, but you must use a mortar or masonry drill bit. These steel bits were constructed to drill through these particular types of materials. 

Can you drill into concrete?

Yes, you can drill into concrete with a rotary drill and masonry bit. However, it would be best if you were careful not to burn out the drill motor. You also want to pay attention, so you do not destroy the bit. 

Can you drill through metal?

Yes, you can drill through metal, but you must use a drill bit specifically intended for metal, such as a small twisted drill bit. Also, it would be best if you drilled at a slow speed. 

Can you drill cast iron?

Yes, you can drill through cast iron, but you must use a drill bit intended for metal. Cast iron is easy to drill through because it is more brittle than other metals. 

Can you drill through tile?

Yes, you can drill through tile, but you need a specialist drill bit. A regular and masonry drill bit is not strong enough to drill through the hard surface of the tile. It would be best if you used a diamond-tipped or carbide-tipped drill bit. 

How do hammer drills work?

A hammer drill is a popular power tool that combines pulsating hammering with a rotary motion. The pulsating hammering motion helps the drill cut through the material. 

Can you take drill batteries on a plane?

Yes, you can take drill batteries on a plane, but you must carry them in your carry-on luggage. It also must be in a special battery bag. The battery must be turned off. 

Can drill bits be sharpened?

Yes, drill bits can be sharpened. However, you must be careful and slow when sharpening your drill bit. 

Do drill sharpeners work?

Yes, a drill sharpener does a fairly good job putting a sharp edge on your drill bits. As long as you do not need to drill precise holes, they can help you get a sharp edge.