10 Types of Drills and How to Choose

Find out more about these 10 common types of drills.

A person using a power drill to drill a nail into wood

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Drills are tools used to make round holes in a material, like wood, or for driving fasteners, like screws. The most common type of drills accomplish this task by rotating the equipped drill or driver bit at high speeds when the user squeezes the trigger. These tools can be manual, corded, battery-powered, or pneumatic, and they are widely used in many professional industries. Carpenters, electricians, auto mechanics, and even plumbers typically have a drill on hand or in their work vehicle because these power tools are so versatile.

Most DIYers have at least one drill around the home for various tasks, like hanging a TV or running wires. You can find full drills that are designed specifically for making circular holes through or into different materials, but a combination drill/driver may be more beneficial for a DIYer. These combination tools can be used as a standard drill or put on a different setting when you are working with fasteners. Check out this guide to learn more about these 10 types of drills and how to choose.

  • 01 of 10

    Drill Driver

    A drill driver

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    Best For: Driving fasteners and drilling holes in wood, plastic, and thin metals.

    Drill drivers are the most common type of drill for a DIYer because they are designed with a standard drill function to drill holes and a driver function to tighten or loosen fasteners. The standard drill setting rotates the drill bit at a high speed to drill holes through wood, metal, and other materials, while the driver setting slows the speed of rotation and increases the torque in order to drive fasteners, like screws and bolts.

    This type of drill has corded electric, battery-powered, or pneumatic models, so you can choose the right drill driver based on your needs. If you only have one type of drill at home, it's recommended to have a drill driver due to the sheer versatility of the tool for DIY repairs and renovations.

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  • 02 of 10

    Hammer Drill

    Hammer drill

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    Best For: Applying concussive force to drill through masonry materials.

    A hammer drill combines rotational force and concussive force to drill through a range of masonry materials. The rotational force of a standard drill is not enough to drill through tough materials like brick and mortar, so hammer drills also have a hammering mechanism that repeatedly drives the head of the drill bit against the target material while the drill bit is rapidly rotating.

    Many hammer drills can also be set to standard drill or even driver modes, allowing you to use them for a range of tasks. However, it's important to mention that if you are drilling through masonry materials with a hammer drill, you will need a masonry drill bit. A standard wood drill bit would chip and likely break due to the concussive force.

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  • 03 of 10

    Rotary Hammer Drill

    A rotary hammer drill

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    Best For: Heavy-duty drilling through brick, concrete, or even rock.

    A step up from the hammer drill is the rotary hammer drill, which combines the rotational power of a hammer drill with extreme concussive force, akin to a small jackhammer. These drills are used for a range of jobs, like running water lines through the foundation of a new home. The average DIYer won't get much use out of a rotary hammer drill, though they are very common in a number of professions.

    If you need a rotary hammer drill for a project around the home, it's recommended to rent one from a local home improvement or tool rental depot instead of spending the money to purchase this specialized device.

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  • 04 of 10

    Impact Driver

    Impact driver

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    Best For: Driving fasteners in tight spaces.

    The impact driver is a compact tool that is intended for driving screws and other fasteners. The handle and trigger are essentially the same as a drill driver, but the body is short, allowing the impact driver to fit into areas a typical drill driver might not reach.

    These often battery-powered tools prioritize torque over speed, which makes them ideal for driving or removing long, thick screws and bolts. They're also available in pneumatic and corded versions. Impact drivers have limited use for drilling holes. For most situations where a drill hole is required, it's better to rely on a standard drill or drill driver.

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  • 05 of 10

    Drywall Screwgun

    Drywall screwgun on a work bench

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    Best For: Securing drywall sheets to studs.

    As indicated by the name, drywall screwguns are specialized tools for installing drywall panels. These battery-powered or corded tools offer mobility and speed, allowing drywall installers to quickly secure drywall panels by driving drywall screws through the drywall and into the wall studs. Drywall screwguns are narrow, lightweight tools that operate essentially the same as an impact driver, though they typically have an adjustable depth gauge to keep the screws from penetrating too far into the drywall. Many models come equipped for use with collated drywall screws for even faster installation.

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  • 06 of 10

    Ground Auger

    A man using a ground auger in his vineyard

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    Best For: Boring holes in the ground.

    A ground auger is intended for digging holes into the dirt, allowing you to install fence posts or cultivate the soil for planting vegetables, flowers, or other vegetation. These tools are also known as post-hole augers, earth augers, or earth drills. While you can purchase a ground auger for the home, it isn't usually worth the costly investment if you will only be using the auger once every so often to install or replace fence posts. Instead, it's recommended to rent a ground auger for a short period of time to complete your project and save some money.

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  • 07 of 10

    Right-Angle Drill Driver

    Right angle driver

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    Best For: Drilling or driving in very narrow spaces.

    Right-angle drill drivers have a long, narrow handle that extends to the small, perpendicular head where the bits are held. If you are working in a tight location, like under the sink or up in the ceiling, a right-angle drill driver is an excellent option. These tools are made for convenience and mobility, so they are typically battery-powered.

    Use a right-angle drill driver to drive fasteners when there isn't enough space for an impact driver or you can use this tool to drill small holes in wood or thin metal. However, right-angle drill drivers are not designed for power, so if you find the tool lacking, you may need to switch to a more powerful drill to finish the job.

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  • 08 of 10

    Electric Screwdriver

    A person using a power drill to drill a nail into wood

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    Best For: Tightening or loosening screws and other fasteners.

    Electric screwdrivers fall into the drill category because of the powered rotational force used to drive screws. These portable tools often have a built-in battery that needs to be charged before the screwdriver can be used. Once charged, the screwdriver tip will rotate to drive screws and other suitable fasteners depending on the bit.

    You can use an electric screwdriver in place of a regular screwdriver to save time and effort. They are also great options for working in tight spaces where a standard drill driver or impact driver would have difficulty accessing, such as inside the ceiling or behind a wall.

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  • 09 of 10

    Pneumatic Drill

    Pneumatic drill

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    Best For: Compressed air-driven drilling.

    Instead of relying on battery power or electricity from an extension cord, a pneumatic drill uses compressed air to drive the gears of the drill. To use a pneumatic drill you need to connect it to an air compressor or to a built-in pneumatic system.

    Pneumatic drills are more common in commercial and industrial workshops because these businesses are more likely to have a built-in pneumatic system that can power multiple pneumatic tools. However, this isn't to say that pneumatic drills cannot be used by DIYers. You would just need a home air compressor or even a small pneumatic system in your workshop to effectively power a pneumatic drill.

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  • 10 of 10

    Drill Press

    Drill press

    Chonticha Vatpongpee / EyeEm / Getty Images

    Best For: Precise stationary drilling through wood, metal, and other materials.

    A drill press is a stationary power tool that is very common in woodworking and metalworking shops. It has a large body that hangs over the top of a built-in table where the target material can be clamped to prevent it from moving while you work.

    The drill bit plunges vertically down through the material to drill highly accurate holes that are difficult to achieve with a handheld drill. Not only are the drill holes accurate, they are also repeatable. So you can drill the same hole in the same location on several different pieces of wood or metal without needing to readjust the position of the drill bit.

Choosing a Drill

There are a wide variety of drills to choose from, each designed with strengths in order to help the user accomplish a specific task. With this in mind, you need to have a clear idea of how you want to use the drill before you can select the right drill for your next project. A drill press is a great option if you need precise drill holes, but if the material is too big to put onto the drill press table, then you may need to rely on a handheld drill or drill driver to get the job done.

Some drills are highly specialized, so you may not need to own them, such as a ground auger. Simply rent the tool from a local home improvement store to dig any fence posts you need, then return the tool when you are finished. Also, keep in mind that you will need to decide between a corded, battery-powered, or pneumatic drill. Manual drills are also an option, though in most cases, a powered drill is the right choice. Pneumatic drills are typically used in industrial and commercial workshops, but if you have several pneumatic tools, it may be worth it to invest in a pneumatic system for your home workshop. Consider the list of drill types above and select the drill that best suits your needs.