Drill vs Impact Driver vs Hammer vs Rotary Drill

How do you drill holes through wooden beams? How about screws? How do you drive them through a solid brick wall? The answer is obvious. You need a drill. But if you don’t have one, what kind of drill are you going to buy?

Most of the drills you see in your local store look alike. However, if you look at their tags, you will notice that their names and prices vary. This is because drills are quite wide-ranging.

They come in a variety of types. You cannot buy a drill without first determining the type you want.

You can only do this by first taking a moment to understand what the individual drills do, not to mention the factors that separate them.


Types of Drills

You are only expected to remember four types of drills, namely:

1). Driver

Some people call this one a traditional drill. It has been on the market since power tools were invented. It has seen several advancements over the years, becoming smaller, lighter, and introducing special features such as keyless chucks and work lights.

However, for the most part, the driver drill’s operations haven’t changed. It is the one drill you can expect to find in most tool kits because it does a little bit of everything, though it is primarily used to make holes and insert screws. You can adapt it to different tasks by changing the bits.

2). Impact

The impact driver looks a lot like a driver drill. However, it is primarily used to drive screws. You use it when you have larger, longer screws that must be driven into wood.

An impact driver has an impact gear that kicks in, pounding an anvil when the motor registers a certain amount of resistance. The gear strikes the anvil in the same direction that the motor is spinning, enhancing the torque.

You use impact drivers when you have jobs that are too tough for an ordinary driver drill. It is worth noting that an impact driver’s hex shank limits the drill bits you can use.

While the impact driver can drive screws, fasteners, and bolts, people don’t use it to make holes. That shouldn’t stop you from using it for that purpose, especially once you fit the impact driver with a ¼-inch shank bit. However, it is sorely lacking in precision where holes are concerned.

3). Hammer

This is the drill that everyone uses when they need a lot of power. Hammer drills are used to punch holes through tough surfaces like masonry. You can use the best hammer drills for ordinary tasks. That includes the driving of screws.

They have a special ‘hammer mode’. Once it is activated, the hammer mode allows the drill to move back and forth like a hammer even as it spins. In other words, it drills and hammers at the same time.

This combination of movements allows the hammer drill to break apart materials that ordinary drills cannot penetrate. It is worth noting that some hammer drills don’t have a special ‘hammer mode’. That is to say, you cannot deactivate the hammering mechanism.

But even those hammer drills that have a ‘Hammer Mode’ are rarely used for ordinary jobs. Yes, you can deactivate the hammering mechanism. However, hammer drills are expensive and somewhat unwieldy.

They make ordinary jobs unnecessarily difficult, which is why people only buy them if they have tough projects that involve masonry. Otherwise, you are better off investing in an ordinary driver drill.

4). Rotary Hammer

A rotary hammer drill is similar to an ordinary hammer drill. Like the hammer drill, the rotary hammer produces a pounding motion that pushes the drill bit through tough surfaces. However, hammer drills use metal disks that click in and out against each other.

Rotary hammer drills use a cylinder of air that a piston compresses. They deliver a more powerful blow than hammer drills. People use them when they want to make bigger holes at a faster rate.

Choosing the Right Drill For Your Needs

Knowing the attributes of each drill type isn’t enough to help you select the right type of drill. You must also determine how the different types of drills compare to one another:

1). Impact Driver VS Drill

To understand how well the drill does against the impact driver, you must compare them in the following categories:

  • Construction

On the surface, these two drills look the same. However, the impact driver stands out because it uses a collet. The drill, on the other hand, has a chuck, which can be keyed or keyless.

The collet accepts drill bits with hex shanks and nothing else. In other words, impact drivers are not as versatile as drill drivers. They are primarily used to drive screws. You can fit a drill with any drill bit, allowing you to perform any task you might have on hand.

Impact drivers can drill holes if you use a ¼-inch hex drill bit. But they lack precision.

  • Speed

Drills have a clutch. They also come with two gears. You can either use a slower mode or a faster mode depending on whether you want to drill holes or drive screws. Impact drivers have one gear. You have to use the trigger to vary the speed.

  • Operation

Both drills have a rotational motion. However, the impact driver has a hammer action that allows users to drive long screws. You can insert larger, longer screws using less effort than a traditional drill requires.

The hammering motion kicks in automatically whenever the impact driver encounters resistance.

It is worth noting that the standard drill is less likely to break the screw. This is because it has a clutch that prevents the drill from exceeding a certain torque. The impact driver doesn’t offer such protections. It is more likely to shatter the screw.

  • Money

Standard drills are cheaper than impact drivers. In some cases, impact drivers are significantly more expensive.

Verdict: In a Drill VS Impact Driver debate, the standard drill comes out on top because it is cheaper and more versatile. It can do a little bit of everything. The impact driver is primarily suited to the driving of long screws. And if that is the task you want to perform, then you should buy an impact driver. Otherwise, the standard drill is better.

2). Hammer Drill VS impact Driver

Some people confuse hammer drills and impact drivers because they both have a hammering action. But these tools are not the same. The hammer drill pushes the bit into the material it is drilling.

The hammering action directs the force into the bit, which is why the hammer drill feels like a jackhammer when you use it. An impact driver, on the other hand, pushes a small anvil against the rotating mechanism. The impact driver delivers perpendicular force.

People rarely compare these two drills. Consider the following:

  • Purpose

These drills do different things. A hammer drill is used to drill through masonry. An impact driver drives screws and bolts. You shouldn’t use impact drivers to drill holes. They lack precision.

Hammer drills are in a similar boat. They shouldn’t be used to drive screws. They are not appropriate tools for such applications.

  • Construction

On the one hand, hammer drills lose out to impact drivers because they are so heavy and expensive. On the other hand, some hammer drills have special modes. You can deactivate the hammering mechanism. This allows you to use them for ordinary tasks such as driving screws.

Verdict – In their most basic forms, you cannot elevate a hammer drill over an impact drill or vice versa because they do different things. People that want to drive screws and bolts buy impact drivers. People that want to drill into masonry use hammer drills. A cordless hammer drill with multiple modes (drill, hammer, drive) is definitely better than an impact driver. But it is also quite expensive, which is why there is little point in comparing these tools. You should just buy the right tool for the right job. The hammer drill and the impact driver are not meant to cross paths.

3). Hammer Drill VS Drill

Of all these comparisons, the Drill VS Hammer Drill debate is the most common. Each tool has clear advantages and disadvantages:

  • Power

This goes without saying. The hammer drill is far more powerful. You can use an ordinary drill to make holes in concrete but it would take a lot longer and you would destroy several bits. A hammer drill makes projects that involve masonry so much easier.

  • Weight

This is where the hammer drill loses. It is heavy and bulky. As such, even though you can use it for ordinary applications that do not involve masonry, it isn’t ideal. For instance, you wouldn’t use a hammer drill around the house. It is too clunky. A normal drill is better because it is light and compact.

  • Money

Because it is more powerful, the hammer drill is also significantly more expensive.

Verdict – On the surface, the hammer drill is superior. But if you don’t have to work with masonry, and your project needs you to work in tight spaces, the standard drill is superior because it is cheaper and easier to handle. It is best suited to ordinary tasks.

4). Hammer Drill VS Rotary Hammer Drill

These two drills are primarily separated by the mechanism that produces the hammering action. If you are struggling to choose between a hammer drill and a rotary hammer drill, you should consider the following:

  • Power

Between the two, the rotary hammer drill is more powerful. It is the drill to buy if you want to make larger holes with greater ease. It hammers at a slower pace but its blows are more powerful. The rotary hammer is not only stronger but it does a better job of absorbing the shock.

  • Chuck

Rotary hammer drills use spring-loaded chucks that have to match the size of the bits you will use. In other words, each chuck has specific bits with which it is compatible. Hammer drills are not restricted in that area. They have a standard adjustable chuck that works with a variety of bits.

  • Money

Because of all the power it offers, the rotary hammer drill is even more expensive than the hammer drill.

Verdict – The rotary hammer drill is the superior option if you want to execute a heavy-duty project. But it is wasted on lighter tasks. If you can only buy one drill, the hammer drill is better because it is well-rounded. You can use it for both heavy and light tasks.


At the end of the day, you should match the right drill to the right task. Each drill serves a specific purpose. If you want a power tool to keep around the house, a traditional drill is sufficient.

You don’t have to buy a hammer or rotary hammer drill to do occasional masonry work. You can just as easily rent those drills for those few occasions where you need to drill through brick and concrete. Otherwise, a traditional drill is more than adequate. It can do everything else.

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