Stroll down the power tool aisle at the hardware store and youâ€™ll see a variety of drills and drivers that look fairly similar. Donâ€™t be fooled: Each has subtle differences geared to accomplish different jobs. Whether youâ€™re in the market for a jack-of-all-trades drill or you have a more specific project in mind, learn how cordless drill/drivers, hammer drills, and impact drivers differ before you buy. This guide places them side by sideâ€”hammer drill vs. impact driver vs. drillâ€”to help you sort out what you need for your to-do list.
A cordless drill/driver is primarily used to drill holes and drive screws.
Most people will buy a cordless drill/driver as the first tool in their kit because itâ€™s well-rounded enough to get nearly any household task done, whether youâ€™re hanging a curtain rod or assembling a piece of furniture. You can even use different types of specialty bits to do a variety of tasks like stir paint, make pocket screws, cut large holes for can lighting, and more.
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An impact driver only drives screws, but it has more power to get tougher jobs done with ease.
It can handle larger screws quicker and more efficiently than a cordless drill/driver, making it a better choice for woodworking projects involving lots of large fasteners, like building a pergola or bookshelf. Quality impact drivers are the most specialty item of the three, as they are typically only used for driving screws. You can fit them with Â¼â€ hex-shank drill bits for making holes, but theyâ€™re generally not as precise as a cordless drill/driver.
A hammer drill is designed to drill holes into rock, brick, concrete, and other masonry.
You might turn toÂ this tool if installing new house numbers on your stone-veneered exterior wall or hanging shelving on an interior brick wall. They donâ€™t justÂ bore holes into masonry, though:Â Hammer drills also typically have a setting that turns off the hammer function, so with the proper drill bits, you can use them for the same tasks youâ€™d use cordless drill/drivers for. However, even with the hammer function turned off, most people donâ€™t use them as their regular drill/driver because they tend to be bulkier and heavier.
Each type of drill uses a unique motion to get the job done.
A cordless drill/driver uses continuous rotational force to drive a screw into a surface. An impact driver also uses rotational force, but itâ€™s coupled with bursts of quick force in the direction of the rotation, which helps to drive the screw. Similarly, a hammer drill uses rotational force, but creates a more powerful hammering or pounding force to drive the screw straight down, as if you were driving a hammer into the back of the drill.
Impact drills supply the appropriate amount of torque for driving screws (so you donâ€™t have to).
Impact drills and cordless drill/drivers have a similar rotary motion behind their force, but impact drills have more torqueâ€”that is, the rotating force of the drillâ€”in order to drive screws faster and more efficiently. That means when driving a large fastener, youâ€™ll have to exert less energy of your own, and if youâ€™re working on a large project with multiple fasteners, this will be a lot easier on your wrist.
Each accepts different drill bits.
Cordless drill/drivers have an adjustable chuck, which holds the bits in place; that means you can use either standard or hex-shank types of bits to drill or drive. Most hammer drills also accept these same bits but require a special carbide-tipped bit specially designed for masonry work. Impact drivers do not have an adjustable chuck and can only be used with Â¼â€ hex-shank drill and driver bits. Bits should be impact-rated to stand up to the force of the impact driver.
Use the price to guide you.
Cordless drills/drivers will be the most cost-effective option, beginning around $30 and running as high as $100, depending on a wide range of features like voltage and battery run time. In comparison, similar impact drivers start at around $50 and can cost well over $100, also depending on how advanced the features are. You may also find these two products bundled together for some savings, since theyâ€™re both good tools to keep on hand if youâ€™re just starting to build your tool collection.
It may be wise to rent a hammer drill if you only need it for a one-off job here and there, because theyâ€™re the priciest. Cordless models can start in price around $70 with basic features and power and without masonry bits. Renting one, on the other hand, will run you about $40 for an afternoonâ€™s work.