Drills have many useful applications, but the key to finding the best one is ensuring it meets your needs. Whatever project you have in mind, the best drill is one with power, reliability, and, hopefully, longevity. Here we’ll look at different types of power drills, how to find the best one, what features to look for (and what they mean), and which options ultimately suit your needs best.
Bottom Line Up Front
Need a reliable and easy to use the drill without a lot of headaches and special features? DEWALT’s DCD996B Bare Tool Hammer Drill is our top choice for the best power drill to cover nearly any drilling scenario.
Three speeds and a hammer drill mode make it versatile while the 20V power ensures you can successfully complete any task necessary. It’s a balanced tool with the torque to grab on and complete any job you encounter. Not what you need? Read on for more about the different types of drills and which ones best fulfill specific tasks.
Different Types of Power Drills
Three main types of power drills dominate the market: traditional (often cordless) drills, impact drivers, and hammer drills. Each is ideal for a specific job or scenario, so it’s critical to understand the ins and outs of each type.
Traditional drills deliver anywhere from 12 to 18 volts of drilling power with either cordless or corded capability. Most drills on the market today are cordless, relying on rechargeable batteries which are often interchangeable with other power tools.
Although the name suggests drills are only for drilling, you can also use them as screwdrivers. Most power drills allow for torque adjustment so you can use the drill across many applications without damaging surfaces (or the drill itself).
Traditional drills use standard and hex bits and rely on a chuck to hold the bits. Chucks can either be keyed or keyless, and many units feature single-handed adjustment features.
Best for heavy-duty projects and tasks requiring more force, impact drivers deliver more torque than regular drills. If driving screws is your primary task, an impact driver provides targeted torque, making the job faster and easier. Where a standard drill might stall, an impact driver can power through metal, hardwood, and even brick.
Impact drivers also tend to be more compact than a standard drill, but users can expect them to be a lot louder given their heavy-duty power. In many cases, using ear protection is necessary while using an impact driver.
In contrast with drills, impact drivers don’t use chucks and instead have a hex collet, a clamp for holding the drill and driver bits. For jobs such as loosening over-tight screws or ones which are “frozen” or otherwise stuck, an impact driver is an ideal tool for the job.
Hammer drills combine drill action with a pounding movement and make for quick boring. Many hammer drills can also deliver the same functions as a traditional screwdriver by shutting off the hammer mode.
Most consumers who buy a drill for home use won’t need all the features of a hammer drill. In general, having a hammer drill on hand is ideal when you don’t know what type of material you’re going to encounter while on the job.
Typically, hammer drills are best for drilling holes for concrete screws and wall plugs, so they work for drilling into concrete, masonry, stone, and other tough surfaces. Secondary handles often accompany the main handle of the drill, to ensure you can keep a good grip on the tool while working with it.
How to Find the Best Power Drills
From power sources to multiple operational modes, power drills offer plenty of features. Zeroing in on the best drills involves looking at the power output and what type of job you can use them for. Some drills are power-drill-only models, while others have multiple functions.
If you plan to perform standard tasks like drilling holes in softwood, for example, then you’ll need a different drill than someone who mostly works with tile. Here’s how to find the best power drills for any application, starting with the features you’ll come across and what they mean for everyday performance.
Power Output: Torque
When it comes to torque output, most drills range anywhere from 100 in.lb. to well over 1000 in.lb. of power. How much torque a project requires, however, depends on the material you plan to drill and how often you plan to drill it.
For example, a lower torque rating might work best in a home setting for those drilling multiple holes into wood or drywall. For more ambitious projects, such as drilling into concrete or metal, a higher-torque drill will provide better results without burning out the drill’s motor.
Motor speed is another variable which can impact how useful a drill is for a given application. For example, slower speeds with higher torque are ideal for removing or loosening “frozen” or over-torqued bolts or screws. In contrast, faster speeds with lower torque help drill into soft wood or other less resistant materials.
Variable speeds are helpful for using a single drill in a variety of settings and applications, so considering the engine speed you need most often is one way to narrow down the features of the ideal power drill.
Most drills produce a bit of noise, but in general, the decibel level is not high enough to warrant ear protection. Noise output does depend on the manufacturer, as well as the type of drill and its capabilities, so noise levels do vary.
If you plan to use a drill in close quarters (such as if you are a plumber working mostly in bathrooms), it’s worth considering what the noise level may be and how that can influence your ability to use the tool over the long term.
Accessories or Kits
Most power tools are available in one of three configurations: tool-only (no battery or accessories), tool with battery, or kit (batteries plus other accessories).
Which purchase is best for you depends on which tools (if any) you already own, what type of batteries you may already own, and whether you are familiar enough with the tool to purchase any necessary accessories or batteries separately.
In most cases, kits are the most economical way to purchase a new tool, as they often come with a charger and at least one battery. If you don’t need a case for the drill, or multiple batteries (or chargers), buying tool-only might be a better deal.
If you do opt for a tool-only purchase, make sure to note the compatible batteries, chargers, and accessories in case you need to purchase items separately. In general, it’s helpful to have at least one extra battery on hand, unless you have time to charge the batteries in between working on projects—something not many people have the luxury of doing.
Built-in technological specifications are often a highlight of a particular brand or several tools in one line. Not every manufacturer includes anti-theft protection, of course, but many tools include the technology, which is programmable via a compatible app or another service.
For someone working in a professional setting which is unsecured, anti-theft technology may provide peace of mind and protect your investment.
Another built-in tech can include preventative measures to keep tools from overheating or sensors which prevent the motor from overloading. For users who are concerned about over-tasking their power tools, automatic functions such as powering down before overheating can help avoid burnout.
Decide whether these are relevant specifications for your needs and look for those elements in our list of best power drills.
DEWALT’s Drill Driver/Impact Combo Kit combines both types of drills in a handy 20V kit to cover nearly any job or scenario.
- 20V power
- Two 20V MAX lithium-ion 1.3 Ah battery packs
- 20V MAX charger
- Built-in LED
- Includes drill and driver
Both units can use the same battery, or other batteries from your DEWALT collection, although the included 20V batteries lack the life of other heftier options from the brand. Each drill is lightweight and versatile, and the built-in LED on the drill driver helps with precise tasks in low visibility.
Ideal for daily tasks, the combo kit offers up the popular 20V drill, but the addition of the impact driver means you have the equipment to handle tougher jobs as they crop up. One-handed bit loading is also handy for keeping jobs efficient.
Depending on what types of tasks you’re working on, you might find that the accompanying 1.3 Ah batteries are a bit lackluster. For owners of other DEWALT tools, swapping out the batteries won’t be an issue, but for others, additional purchases might be in order.
- One-handed bit loading
- Included battery charger and kit
- Built-in LED
- Battery life isn’t ideal in all scenarios
- Two separate units for different tasks
Milwaukee’s 2656-20 M18 Impact Driver doesn’t just carry the label of a power drill, but it is a universal enough tool for many households (and even professional) needs.
- LED lighting array
- Quick-connect chuck
- Variable speed trigger
- Redlink technology to prevent overheating
- Belt clip
Requiring very little exertion from the user and relying on a trigger to adjust speed, the 2656-20 drill is a powerful addition to any toolbox. Adjust the speed with the variable trigger to suit nearly any drilling or removal job, and the built-in Redlink tech helps prevent overheating.
A contoured grip makes it comfortable to wield the tool, and the small profile helps you access small spaces to complete otherwise complicated jobs. An LED lighting array also helps with visibility for precise tasks.
Speed is adjustable via the trigger, but there is no separate torque setting (torque is factory-set only). For many applications, however, it’s faster and easier than a standard electric drill, and might be an ideal fit for someone handy who always finds they need more muscle than a regular power drill provides.
- Variable power adjustment
- Fits in tight spaces
- Battery not included
- No variable torque setting
A brushless motor helps generate more torque and higher efficiency in Milwaukee’s 2704-20 M8 drill.
- 1,200 in.lb. of peak torque
- Up to 2,000 RPM
- Redlink Plus technology to prevent overloading or overheating
- Redlithium battery compatible
- LED light
- Anti-theft technology
Two speeds accommodate either drilling or driving with Milwaukee’s hammer drill/driver. It offers peak torque in a package that while a bit bulky, is reasonably lightweight for the class of drill it’s in. A brushless motor means better performance overall, particularly when it comes to sustaining power over longer periods.
Built-in anti-theft tech is novel, too; sign up via the compatible app, and in the event, your tool goes missing, you can deactivate it remotely.
Beyond the built-in tech, the hammer drill/driver also includes a handle for ergonomics, although you can remove it if it gets in the way. Compatible Redlithium batteries deliver longer run time than standard batteries, but you will have to purchase them separately.
- One-Key anti-theft
- Redlithium battery compatible
- Brushless motor
- Battery not included
- Unideal ergonomics for left-handed users
A heavy-duty hammer drill packing plenty of power, DEWALT’s DCD996B drill weighs in at nearly five pounds but delivers high performance to match its size.
- 3-mode LED light with a Spotlight mode
- 820 UWO
- Ratcheting nitro-carburized metal chuck
- 3-speed transmission
- Includes side handle
- Non-hammer-drill modes
Plenty of drills work well without much regard for the chuck. But in the DVD996B, users will appreciate the ratcheting chucks, which are nitro-carburized metal and have great grip. Ample run time and a powerful motor are also plusses, thanks to the brushless motor and variable speeds.
A minor complaint might be the noise level of the hammer drill mode, but it’s to be expected with a heavy-duty hammer drill. Heavyweight is also expected with the power the drill puts out, but it feels balanced rather than overwhelming.
Sure, it might be overkill in many applications (DEWALT specifies the 996B is ideal for drilling in masonry materials), but the variable modes (both drill and hammer drill) mean it’s quite versatile, too.
- Variable speed transmission
- Brushless motor
- High-quality and durable chuck
- Fairly loud in hammer drill mode
- Battery not included
Makita’s XPH07TB hammer drill kit includes everything you need to tackle demanding and repetitive jobs.
- Brushless motor
- 1,090 in.lb. max torque
- Battery charges in 45 minutes or less
- Two 5.0 Ah batteries
Substantially heavier than other similar tools, Makita’s XPH07TB drill looks like a beast, but it’s understandable given the torque of the unit. High torque also explains the presence of the side handle, which features a sturdy grip to keep the drill from getting away from you.
For the everyday handyman, the tool might be a bit much; part of the challenge in using the hammer drill is hanging onto it while it runs. Tougher jobs, such as drilling through masonry or mixing cement, benefit from the high power output, but the unit can be tough to handle in heavy-duty scenarios.
Each kit includes two 5.0Ah batteries, both of which Makita notes will charge within 45 minutes or less, giving you plenty of time to complete even the most demanding jobs. Noise is often an issue with more powerful drills, but levels are reasonable with Makita’s hammer drill in both modes.
- Plenty of torque
- Long battery life and quick recharge time
- Brushless motor for high performance
- Limited speed settings
- Heavy in-hand
BLACK+DECKER’s LDX120C drill has the capabilities to tackle a variety of tasks at different torque levels and speeds.
- 11-position clutch
- Lightweight and compact
- Built-in LED light
- 115 in.lb.
Its size is almost deceptive, as BLACK+DECKER’s LDX120C packs a lot of power for how lightweight it is. For some heavier-duty projects, however, users may find the 115 in.lb. of torque to be a bit lacking. By our estimation, the best application for the LDX120C is home use; for professionals, something heavier and more powerful will likely provide better results.
For those looking for a lightweight drill for basic day-to-day tasks, BLACK+DECKER’s drill might be the best option. It holds battery power well, provides enough adjustable power for a range of jobs and materials, and is compact enough to carry along or stow away easily.
Fitting into narrow spaces is one highlight, and for drilling into softwood and other household project type materials, BLACK+DECKER’s drill is a handy and affordable option.
- Variable clutch
- Can handle most casual jobs
- Not “professional” torque levels
Comparing the Options
|Drill||Type of Drill||Battery Ty||Power Output|
|DEWALT DCK240C2||Drill driver plus impact driver||1.3Ah (included)||20V|
|Milwaukee 2656-20||Impact Driver||Uses M18 lithium-ion batteries (not included)||18V|
|Milwaukee 2704-20 M8||Hammer Drill/Driver||Uses Redlithium batteries (not included)||18V|
|DEWALT DCD996B||Hammer Drill||Uses lithium-ion batteries (not included)||20V|
|Makita XPH07TB||Hammer Drill||5.0 Ah batteries (included)||18V|
|BLACK+DECKER LDX120C||Drill/Driver||Lithium-ion 20V battery (included)||20V|
It can be intimidating to shop for power drills online with all the options and specifications out there. Our guide lists the best drills for multiple applications, ensuring you can find the best power drills for your needs. Whether it’s a high-torque drill for working with masonry in a professional setting or a variable-speed drill for casual use at home, our top picks offer the power and performance you need to take care of any job.