Which Type of Drill do You Need? A Buying Guide for Beginners

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When it comes to buying a drill for a DIY toolkit, you have a lot of options to choose from. First off, you have several types including hammer, combi, and drill drivers.

Then you have the various brands including Bosch, DeWalt, Makita and Ryobi to name just four.

If that isn’t enough to make your head wobble, you have a load of other options to think about: corded vs cordless, how many batteries you need for a cordless drill and, of course, drill bits.

In this article, we’ll be looking at some of the different types of power drill on the market to help beginners become more informed when buying a drill for the first time.

How will you use your drill?

Knowing how you’ll use your drill immediately limits your options when choosing the right type of machine for you.

If you’re mainly interested in doing little jobs around the house, such as hanging pictures, putting up shelves and building flatpack furniture, a drill driver, which doubles up a powered screwdriver, will probably be the best option for you.

Alternatively, you could buy one of these popular electric screwdrivers for the sole purpose of driving screws and a drill for the sole purpose of drilling holes.

If you think you might one day need to drill into concrete or brickwork, the drill driver won’t have the capabilities to handle this type of work. You’ll need, at least, a combi drill to do that.

Cordless drill versus corded drill – you decide!

For many DIYers, cordless drills are the best option.

You have extra flexibility and can freely move around the work area without fear of the cable getting in your way.

One of the negative sides of a cordless drill is battery power. Once the battery runs down, you’ll need to charge it to carry on working.

Not ideal if you’re in the middle of a job.

For this reason, it makes sense to have a fully-charged spare ready to take over while you recharge the flat one. Especially if you do a lot of DIY or you’re working on a large project, such as fitting a kitchen, laying decking or building a summerhouse.

Some drills come with a spare battery, but many don’t. Be sure to check this when making a buying decision.

4 types of electric power drill currently on the market

An electric power drill typically falls into one of the following categories:

  • Combi drill
  • Drill driver
  • Impact driver
  • Hammer drill

What to look out for

  • The higher the voltage, the more powerful the drill. Most home DIYers will get adequate service from an 18v machine, but if you’re in the trade, you should choose a 24v or higher model. For light work, a 12v machine is fine.
  • Battery capacity is rated using an Ah measurement. Ah stands for ampere hour or amp hour. The higher the Ah number, the more powerful the battery (and weightier too!).

Combi drills

A combi (combination) drill is a great all-rounder.

It performs a lot of tasks such as drilling into wood or metal, driving screws and, when you switch to the hammer action, drilling into concrete and masonry. 

If you use it for drilling concrete or masonry, you’ll need to use the right drill bit for the job (diamond or tungsten carbide tipped).

Pros of combi drills

  • Versatile machine with the ability to drill into wood, metal, masonry and concrete
  • Can be used as a drill, hammer or driver
  • A wide range of choices with prices to fit every pocket

Negatives

  • Usually more expensive than drill and impact drivers
  • Lower torque and speed compared to impact drivers

Drill drivers

Drill drivers don’t quite have the power or versatility of the combi drill, but they’re a good choice for drilling into wood and metal and for driving screws.

They don’t have the power to tackle concrete or brickwork, though.

So if you think you’re going to be drilling into brick walls or concrete posts in the future, the drill driver isn’t the right choice for you.

If light DIY jobs around the home are your thing, it’s certainly worth considering a drill driver.

Pros

  • Quite cheap compared to combi drills
  • Use on metal and wood
  • Doubles up as a powerful and efficient screwdriver

Cons

  • Not suitable for heavy work such as drilling into masonry
  • Not as strong as a combi drill

Which? tested combi drills and drill drivers at different price levels and found the cheaper ones didn’t perform too well. Which? recommends spending around £100 on a drill driver and £120 – £150 on a combi drill if you want a decent tool that performs well.

Impact drivers

Impact drivers add a bit of clout when needed. They’re high torque machines designed to do one job only – drive screws. Which they do faster and easier than any machine currently on the market. With that said, they can also be used for drilling but you’ll need a set of hex shank drill bits to match the chuck of the typical impact driver.

Pros

  • Ideal for high torque applications
  • Awesome screwdriver
  • Compact design makes them versatile

Cons

  • Not suitable for drilling masonry
  • Not as versatile as combi drills or drill drivers

Hammer drills

Hammer drills are used for drilling into brickwork, stone and concrete. They use a hammering action that provides short, powerful and rapid blows to the material’s surface. With the proper masonry bit and sufficiently powered machine, you’ll drill a hole in no time.

Pros

  • Perfect for drilling into brickwork, stone and concrete
  • Strong

Cons

  • Can’t be used on wood or metal
  • Not as versatile as a combi drill or drill driver
  • Typically bulky and heavy

Which is the right power drill for you?

When you’re buying a drill, always shop around for bargains. There are plenty to be had if you’re in the right place at the right time. Choose a machine that matches the kind of DIY work you do, and always spend as much as you can afford at the time.