10 Types of Drills and How to Choose

Drilling holes accurately is an essential skill for many DIY, construction, and industrial applications. With the wide variety of drill types available, choosing the right drill for your needs is key to achieving the best results. This guide will overview the 10 most common types of drills and discuss the key factors to consider when selecting a drill. Learning about the different drill types and features will help you pick the best drill for your particular project.


Drills have been used throughout history to create holes in various materials. Early drills were simple hand tools made of stone or bone. Modern drills are powered by electricity, pneumatics, or combustion engines and allow for drilling holes with precision.

There are many types of powered drills available today, each designed for specific applications and materials. Key differences between drill types include:

  • Power source – electric, battery, pneumatic (powered by compressed air) or combustion engine. Electric drills offer cordless convenience while pneumatics have higher torque.
  • Chuck type – keyless, keyed, SDS, etc. The chuck determines how drill bits are secured. Keyless chucks are quick and convenient.
  • Rotation only or rotation plus hammering – Hammer drills also oscillate to pulverize material as they drill. This allows them to drill concrete and masonry.
  • Torque and speed – Higher torque is needed for larger holes, drilling in hard materials or using larger bits. Speed is measured in RPM. Slow speeds are used for larger bits/holes.
  • Size and weight – Smaller drills are more maneuverable while larger ones are heavier but more powerful.

Understanding these factors will help choose the optimal drill for the material, hole size, precision needed and your usage requirements. Let’s look at 10 of the most common drill types and their key attributes:

Cordless Drill Drivers

Cordless drill/drivers are the most versatile and commonly used drill type for DIY and home use. These are battery powered drills that feature a keyless chuck to hold drill bits. They can drill holes in wood, plastic and light metals. Most cordless drills offer two speed settings – higher speed for smaller bits and lower speed for larger bits or hard materials.

Key Features:

  • Portable and convenient to use anywhere
  • Powered by rechargeable lithium-ion batteries
  • Typically have 3/8″ keyed or keyless chuck
  • Variable speed triggers for controlling RPM
  • Torque settings for driving screws to optimal depth
  • Reversing switch for removing screws
  • Lightweight but offer lower torque than corded models

Cordless drills are available in 12V to 20V models. Higher voltage equals more power but lower run time per charge. 12V to 18V models offer a good balance for typical DIY tasks. Most kits include batteries, charger and a selection of bits. Cordless drills are the top choice for mobility, versatility and convenience.

Hammer Drills

As the name implies, hammer drills combine rotation with hammering or chiseling motions. This allows them to drill into concrete, brick or other masonry that regular drills can’t handle. Hammer drills use special bits like masonry drill bits and SDS chucks designed to withstand the hammering forces.

Key Features:

  • Can drill holes in concrete and brick thanks to hammer function
  • Typically use special SDS chucks to hold bits securely under hammering
  • Provide higher torque than standard drills
  • Offer rotation only mode for drilling wood/metal with regular bits
  • Generate lots of vibration and kickback forces during use
  • Heavier than standard drills due to hammer mechanism

For serious masonry work, choose a corded hammer drill with 8-10 amps or higher power. Lighter duty rotary hammer drills are also available for occasional concrete/brick drilling. Always wear eye protection when using hammer drills because they can produce rock chips as they pulverize material.

Impact Drivers

Impact drivers provide extremely high torque output in a compact cordless format. They are designed to drive larger screws and bolts with speed and power. Impact drivers use concussive rotational impacts to maximize torque while minimizing kickback. This allows them to outperform standard drills for driving larger fasteners and in high torque applications.

Key Features:

  • Deliver very high torque in a compact size
  • Allow driving large fasteners and screws with less effort
  • Utilize concussive impacts rather than steady twisting rotation
  • Typically use 1/4″ hex chuck for impact rated driver bits
  • Much higher RPM (2500-3500) than standard drills
  • Prevents damage to fasteners due to adjustable torque settings
  • Good for driving large lag bolts into wood or automotive applications

Impact drivers offer many advantages but lack the versatility of standard drills. They are best used in tandem with a regular drill/driver. The compact size, one-handed operation and high power makes them ideal for driving screws and bolts quickly. They are available as 12V to 20V cordless models.

Rotary Hammer Drill

Rotary hammer drills take the hammer drill design one step further by fully optimizing it for masonry work. These feature an electro-pneumatically driven piston that generates faster and harder hammering action compared to standard hammer drills. This allows them to bore bigger holes into concrete, stone and other masonry.

Key Features:

  • Optimized for serious masonry drilling and chiseling work
  • Provides more powerful hammering action via pneumatic mechanism
  • Typically use special SDS chucks for masonry bits
  • Offer rotation only mode for wood/metal drilling
  • Generate high vibration and require two hands for control
  • Larger and more powerful than standard hammer drills

For heavy duty concrete work, ditch the hammer drill and opt for a rotary hammer. They require special SDS bits but allow drilling larger diameter and deeper holes in concrete and stone. Match the drill size to expected usage – smaller ones handle light duty while heavier duty models can substitute for electric jackhammers. Wear eye and ear protection when using.

Magnetic Drills

Magnetic drills are designed to drill holes in metal, especially steel. As the name indicates, an electromagnet is used to secure the drill base firmly to the work surface. This provides stability when drilling large diameter or deep holes in metal. The base pad can be moved around as needed on the workpiece.

Key Features:

  • Built in electromagnet secures drill firmly to steel surfaces
  • Allows drilling big and deep holes in metal
  • Typically used annular cutters or twist bits for metal
  • Offer excellent stability and precision in metalworking
  • More powerful motors than standard metalworking drills
  • Can be bolted down or mounted on machine tools.
  • Safety cut-off switch disables magnet if power is lost

Magnetic drills are essential for fabricating metal structures. They excel at boring precise, clean holes in steel and are a staple in machine shops. The electromagnet allows using the full power of the drill motor without worrying about slippage or walking. They are available in corded electric and hydraulic models.

Right Angle Drills

Right angle drills have a gearbox that allows the drill to operate at a right angle (90 degrees) to the chuck. This provides access for drilling in tight spaces and awkward spots. The offset chuck allows drilling close to walls and ceilings in ways a standard drill cannot.

Key Features:

  • Chuck is positioned at 90 degrees from drill body
  • Allows drilling in tight spots and close to walls/corners
  • Typically smaller and less powerful than standard drills
  • Usually have keyed chucks and shorter bit lengths
  • Require special right angle attachments for driving fasteners
  • Useful for electrical and plumbing work in cramped spots
  • Also used heavily in automotive repair work

While less versatile than standard drills, right angle drills are invaluable for accessing tight spaces. They help avoid costly damage to surrounding areas. Cordless battery powered models offer the most convenience for tight space drilling.

Core Drills

Core drills, also called annular cutters, are used to cut large, clean holes in wood, metal or masonry. They consist of a drill bit that cuts an annular ring around a central core, allowing neat access holes for pipework, wiring, ventilation and other needs with minimal surface damage.

Key Features:

  • Cut a ring around a central solid core rather than boring a regular hole
  • Allow cutting access or ventilation holes with minimal surface damage
  • Typically used on masonry and metal but also suitable for wood
  • Require high power and rigid setup for optimal performance
  • Produce clean, high tolerance holes
  • Available as standalone drill bits or kits with rigs/frames for stability

Core drills excel at boring neat, smooth holes in floors, walls and ceilings for installing electrical and plumbing systems. They are also used for metal fabrication. Proper setup and stability is key for best results and safety.

Auger Drills

Auger drills utilize a screw-like bit to bore wide and deep holes in wood quickly with minimal cleanup. The spiral auger screw helps pull the drill into the material while removing chips efficiently. This makes auger bits perfect for drilling large diameter holes for pipes, fence posts, deck piles and more.

Key Features:

  • Allow quick drilling of very large diameter holes in wood
  • Screw bit efficiently removes chips and provides stability
  • Requires high torque, low RPM to penetrate deep into wood
  • Excellent for drilling holes for fence posts, deck piles etc.
  • Removes large amounts of material quickly

Auger drills excels at heavy duty wood drilling. Powerful electric or combustion engine drives are commonly used in tandem with auger bits up to 12″ or more in diameter. Auger drills make short work of boring the giant holes required for structural supports in wood construction and landscaping projects.

Masonry Drill Bits

Masonry drill bits are made from special materials that can bore holes in concrete, brick, mortar and other masonry materials. The cutting edges are made of tungsten carbide or black oxide coated HSS to handle abrasive masonry without wearing down prematurely. Using masonry bits allows drilling masonry with standard rotary drills.

Key Features:

  • Typically made from tungsten carbide or black oxide coated HSS
  • Designed for boring holes in concrete and brick
  • Should be used with rotary hammer drills for optimal performance
  • Require slower speeds than wood/metal bits
  • Must be used with stabilizing sleeves for deep holes

For occasional light concrete drilling, masonry bits used with a standard rotary drill/driver allow reasonable results. But for heavy duty work, use them with a rotary hammer drill for longer bit life and faster drilling. Make sure to lubricate and cool the bits during use.

Glass and Tile Drill Bits

Glass and tile drill bits use special materials and geometry to reliably drill holes in these brittle materials without cracking or shattering them. Diamond coatings or silicon carbide edges do the grinding work, while the non-traditional drill point helps align the bit to prevent wandering.

Key Features:

  • Designed to drill holes in glass and ceramic tiles
  • Special drill point geometry prevents wandering
  • Diamond grit or silicon carbide provide abrasion without shattering material
  • Requires slow RPM to avoid damage due to brittleness
  • Cooling and lubrication are essential

With care and proper technique, glass and tile drill bits allow drilling creative holes for lighting, shelves, plumbing, ventilation and more. Always follow manufacturer’s speed recommendations. Lubricating and cooling the bit is also critical.

Step Drill Bits

Step drill bits allow drilling a series of graduated hole sizes using a single bit. They have successive larger diameter steps machined along the drill shaft. This removes the hassle of constantly switching between different size bits. Step bits are extremely useful when a range of hole sizes is required.

Key Features:

  • Feature multiple steps for different hole sizes
  • Allow switching hole sizes without changing bits
  • Can bore precise sizes or used stepped for rough/gradual holes
  • Require pecking approach and frequent extraction to clear chips
  • Ideal for metalworking where odd hole sizes are needed

For electrical work, metal fabrication and other applications where an assortment of precise hole sizes is needed, step drill bits are indispensable. Just a few step drill bits can replace an entire collection of individual metal drill bits.

How to Choose a Drill

With so many drill types available, it can be daunting to select the right one. Here are some key factors to consider when choosing a drill:

Intended Use and Materials

Consider what materials you will be drilling most frequently – wood, metal, masonry, concrete, glass etc. This affects the drill type, bit types, optimal torque and other factors. Will you need special modes like hammering or right angle ability?

Power Source

Corded electric drills offer unlimited runtime but limit mobility. Cordless drills provide freedom of movement but battery life is limited. Corded drills provide higher sustained power while cordless models offer greater convenience.

Power and Torque Requirements

Larger drill bits or harder materials demand higher torque. Check the drill’s torque rating and low speed RPM to make sure it can handle bigger bit sizes without stalling or damaging the material. Variable speed helps match the power to the task.

Size and Weight Considerations

The overall size and weight of the drill impacts comfort and ease of use. Smaller drills may lack power while larger ones add fatigue during extended use. Consider the tradeoffs for your needs.

Additional Features

Factor in any additional features like multiple speed settings, torque control, hammer function, reverse, clutch, brushless motor etc. Look for features that suit your specific drilling requirements.


Drill prices span a wide range. In general, you get what you pay for in terms of power, precision and durability. Consider paying more for heavier usage or longer-term ownership.

Evaluating these factors will help narrow down your optimal drill choice. Being clear about your usage, needs and budget makes the selection process much simpler.

Drill Usage Tips

Using the right drill technique is just as important as choosing the best drill itself. Here are some tips for drilling success:

  • Always brace yourself firmly and hold larger drills with two hands for control. Be mindful of kickback.
  • Let the drill do the work using light pressure – don’t force it. Apply smooth, even pressure when drilling.
  • Use the recommended speed for the bit diameter and material to avoid breakage or damage. Start holes slowly.
  • Periodically back the bit out to clear chips and cool the bit using lubricant. This prevents binding and overheating.
  • Keep bits sharp. Dull bits are inefficient and prone to breakage and stalled motors. Sharpen or replace as needed.
  • Use a center punch on metal to keep the bit from wandering when starting a hole.
  • Clamp down your workpiece for stability and accuracy. Never hold small workpieces directly.
  • Always wear eye protection – flying bits and chips are dangerous. Wear a dust mask when appropriate.

Proper drilling technique allows you to get the most from your drill. Combined with the right drill choice, it helps achieve beautiful and precise holes in any material.

Frequently Asked Questions about Drill Selection

What type of drill is best for home use?

A 12-20V cordless drill/driver with keyless chuck offers the best combination of power, convenience and versatility for most home DIY drilling tasks. Ensure it has variable speeds and adequate torque.

What kind of drill can drill concrete?

To drill concrete, stone and other masonry, use a hammer drill or rotary hammer drill along with special masonry drill bits. Hammer drills employ impacting action to pulverize material while boring.

Is a cordless or corded drill better?

Each has pros and cons. Cordless drills offer unlimited mobility but corded drills provide continuous high power. Larger corded drills have higher torque for big bits and hard materials. Combine corded for heavy duty work and cordless for mobility.

How do I choose the right drill bit type?

Match the drill bit to the material – wood, masonry, metal, tile etc. Pay attention to the cutting edge material and geometry. Ask a specialist for recommendations if unsure of optimal bit types for your job.

What drill bit material is best?

HSS is suitable for most metals and wood. Carbide tipped bits last longer, especially in high temperature/hardness situations. Diamond or silicon carbide works on masonry and tile. Ask an expert for project-specific bit advice.

How to select the right drill size and power?

Check your expected drilling needs – hole sizes, typical materials and duty cycle. Match these factors to the drill’s power, speed range and torque ratings. Allow room to grow in case you need larger bits or harder materials later on.

What drill speed should I use?

Always follow the manufacturer’s speed recommendations based on bit size and material. As a rule of thumb, larger diameter bits and hard materials need slower speeds. Use higher speeds for smaller bits in softwood or aluminum. Variable speed is ideal.

Why does my drill keep getting stuck?

Frequent binding likely means the bit is too small, the material is too hard or the speed is too fast for the job. Using proper downward force and extracting regularly to clear chips will also prevent binding. Lubricating and sharpening bits helps.

How can I stop my drill bit from wandering?

Using a center punch dimple, pilot hole or clamp block will keep the bit stable and prevent wandering, especially on metal. Go slow and let the centered bit grab before applying more RPM. Maintaining a perpendicular angle also reduces wandering.

How do I drill a large diameter hole without breakout splintering?

For clean holes with no backside splintering in wood, drill a smaller pilot hole first, then bore the large diameter from the opposite side using a spade bit or Forstner bit. The pilot hole prevents splintering as the bit breaks through.