Did you know there are 16 different types of drills? We set them all out here with photos and descriptions so that you can figure out exactly what type of drill you need for your projects.
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.
A. Drill Buying Guide
1. How to Choose a Cordless Drill
Welcome to the world of drills and drill-buying. Mr. Maxwell’s video gave you a sneak peek into the world of drills, and we’ll be expanding on that world in this guide.
Buying a drill can seem like a simple process—until you begin to shop for one. If you have begun your search for the right drill, you may have discovered that there are hundreds of different drills available. That’s a lot of choices, and the sheer number, with all of the types and features and extras, might leave you spinning like a drill bit.
You don’t have to spin. As you read this guide, you’ll amass information and equip yourself to buy the best drill presses for your needs. We’ll introduce you to categories, types, and details. We’ll also present some considerations to help you with your decision. Whether this is your first drill or a new addition, this drill guide will prepare you for a great purchase.
B. Types of Drills
Source: Tip Snips
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.
1. Traditional Drills
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. Impact Driver
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.
3. 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.
This video from ToolMetrix provides a helpful demonstration of the three main drill categories.
Drill vs Impact Drill vs Hammer Drill
C. Other Drills
Source: Pro Tool Reviews
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.
1. Straight Air 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.
2. Reversible Drill
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.
3. Hand Drill
4. Breast Drill
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.
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)
6. Push Drill
The 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.
7. D-Handle Drill
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 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.
D. Power Source
All drills, regardless of the type, have a power source. There are four main sources of power for drills.
1. Electricity (Corded Drills)
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)
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)
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.
Source: The Muslim Times
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. Motor Type
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, 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
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
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.
Not only are there many different types of drills, different drills 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.
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
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
Drills with an adjustable side handle allow you to personalize the position to maximize comfort.
c. Lock-On Switch
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
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
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
Smart phones meet smart drills. Some drills are high-tech and sync wirelessly to your smart phone. 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.
Hand Drill vs. Power Drill—Speed Race
All types of drills ca 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
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
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
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.
In addition to built-in feature options, most drills have the capacity to add various accessories to enhance their function.
a. Positive Stops
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
Do more with your drill than bore holes 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?
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. 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
Source: Self Assembly UK
Drills vary greatly 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. Traditional Drill
Corded drills run from approximately $30 to over $400.
Cordless drills cost between $35 and $600.
b. Impact Drills (Drivers)
The approximate range of impact drivers is $20 to $900
c. Hammer Drills
Hammer drills range from around $40 to $1650
Rotary Hammer Drills (SDS Drills) cost between $50 and $1700
Try to avoid basing your decision solely on the cost of the drill. Buying a drill because it’s cheaper than others could be a mistake if it’s not suited to your purpose.
The proper drill will help make carpentry projects like this f you’re using your drill for carpentry projects like the DIY gazebo pictured here, a quality drill will make the construction go more smoothly and quickly than a light-duty drill.
Source: Home Stratosphere
Buying the wrong drill because it’s inexpensive could have negative consequences. You’ll either have to give up what you’d like to do and hire someone to do the job (which will cost far more than an expensive drill), or you’ll end up buying an upgraded drill and wasting the money spent on your initial drill.
Know the purpose of your drill, and visualize your end result. Remember, you’re not really buying a tool, you’re investing in your finished projects.
Tool Tip Basics: Power Drills
Related: How to put a screw into brick