Whether you’re a professional or a handy amateur, a good power drill is a DIY essential. Capable of generating enough torque to drill through wood, masonry and even metal, a high-quality power drill allows you to do jobs that would simply be impossible without one, all while saving you serious amounts of time and effort.
Whether you’re replacing an older model or looking to build out your first toolbox, you’re sure to be confronted with a host of options when shopping for a power drill.
This article focuses on cordless hammer drills, which are a sound choice for professionals and DIY enthusiasts alike. They are cheaper and more widely available than they’ve ever been, making this a great time to be on the lookout for a new model.
Below are the best cordless hammer drills available on the market.
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A brief guide to drills
The humble power drill is one of the most important items in any toolbox, giving users the ability to drill through most materials with a speed and efficiency that can’t be matched by human effort alone.
The range of drills available on the market can seem bewildering, especially for DIY novices, but a few simple decisions can narrow down your options and set you on the way to finding the perfect drill for you.
These are the decision between corded or cordless, and the choice of action – what functions you want your drill to perform besides drilling.
Corded drills offer power and torque (twisting force) which can’t be matched by cordless models. Drawing on mains electricity will almost always offer greater power than batteries, and power drills are certainly no exception. Corded drills can be used for lengthy periods of time without having to worry about changing batteries.
An added bonus is that many corded drills are able to sport additional features or functions, as designers don’t have the battery life constraint limiting their options when making the drill.
Despite the many good reasons to consider a corded drill over the cordless alternative, cordless drills are undeniably the most popular models today.
The main reason for this is simply convenience: cordless drills can be used almost anywhere and can often get into awkward positions that a corded drill can’t, making them a flexible and easy-to-use choice. They’re also notably lighter than their corded cousins, making them easier to use over longer periods.
One further hidden benefit is that a decrease in power and torque leads to an increase in safety: despite still being able to get through most of the same materials as a corded drill, cordless drills are less potentially dangerous if mishandled or dropped during use.
Besides the choice between corded and cordless, the main decision to be made when starting to look at power drills is what kind of action you’ll find most useful.
Basic rotary drills can drill, but aren’t able to do much else. This makes them a relatively inexpensive option for DIY novices, but of limited use to the more experienced handy-person.
Driver drills can – as the name suggests – use the torque generated by the drill to drive in screws and perform similar tasks.
Hammer drills, meanwhile, combine the rotary action of a standard drill with a hammer-like striking action, improving the drill’s speed and enabling it to strike through harder materials than a basic rotary drill.
Cordless hammer drills offer the flexibility and convenience of a cordless drill with the striking power of a hammer drill. This is the type of drill that we will be discussing going forward.
Why buy a cordless hammer drill?
Power drills, whatever their type, are a DIY essential for a number of reasons:
- They allow you to drill through wood, masonry and metal with ease.
- Power drills can be used in any location, so long as they have an adequate power supply.
- A high-quality power drill will likely have a variety of actions and functionality: hammer drills can hammer, driver drills can double up as electric screwdrivers, while combi and SDS drills offer users a range of possibilities.
- If you do your homework and buy wisely, a good power drill is a sound long-term investment. Over the many years a high-quality drill will serve you, the money saved compared to buying and replacing cheaper options can really add up to make your power drill a sound financial choice.
Among the many different power drills available on the market, there are some good reasons to consider a cordless hammer drill in particular:
- As with any cordless power drill, cordless hammer drills are lightweight. This can make a small difference when it comes to storing and transporting the drill, but it’s most noticeable when working on tasks that take a day or more to complete. Holding a heavy drill fatigues your arms, making it more difficult to use and requiring you to take more frequent breaks. Despite it seeming counter-intuitive, a lighter drill may help you to get the job done quicker.
- Cordless hammer drills are easy to use, simply requiring that the battery is charged in order for them to get to work anywhere. They’re also safer than any corded alternative, presenting less of a danger if dropped or mishandled and not requiring you to work using a mains electricity supply.
- Cordless hammer drills are both flexible and convenient. This is true of most cordless drills, but cordless hammer drills are in a particularly sweet spot in that they offer the varied functionality of a hammer drill with the mobility and accessibility of cordless models.
- The striking action of a hammer drill increases the power and speed with which tasks can be completed, without giving up any of the control that is lost with an increase in torque or rotational speed.
- Cordless hammer drills are particularly good at jobs involving masonry, rock, or similar materials. If you know a lot of your work will involve drilling into walls and floors, this makes the cordless hammer drill an even better choice; but their marriage of flexibility and functionality makes them worth considering, whatever your DIY needs.
Things to consider
If you’ve decided a cordless hammer drill is the drill for you, there are a number of points to consider before getting stuck in and comparing individual products.
- Your DIY needs. As with any important purchase, you’ll be happier with the end result if you put the time in and think about your particular needs. Will you be mostly doing indoor home DIY, or working outdoors? Do you need something suitable for a big renovation project? Are you a professional, looking for something heavy-duty enough to last but versatile enough to be worth the investment? How many hours do you anticipate working for at any one time? What you want a drill for makes all the difference to deciding which drill is best for you.
- Size and weight. How big, bulky and heavy is the drill? Will it be comfortable to use over several hours? This is where trying drills out in person – even if only to feel their weight and how they sit in your hand – can make a big difference. Where the handle is placed on the drill can also affect how comfortable it is to use.
- Torque. How much twisting power can the drill generate? With a hammer drill the torque isn’t the only factor affecting the drill’s efficiency, as the striking action is also providing force, but a good drill needs to generate enough torque to get through wood and masonry at least.
- Battery type. Lithium-ion batteries are smaller and lighter, and hold their charge for longer. Nickel-cadmium batteries are bigger and heavier, and run out of charge quicker than the lithium-ion equivalent; but they’re significantly cheaper.
- Battery life. This will largely be affected by the materials the battery is made from, but there will still be variation across different models. How long does the battery take to recharge? Can you switch out batteries, allowing you to keep working on long tasks without needing to stop to recharge? Are the batteries generic, allowing you to switch them with other generic batteries from different drills? Anything that improves battery life, or makes switching batteries easier, is a real benefit.
- Voltage rating. This is partly tied to the torque a drill will generate: a higher voltage means the drill will generate more power, but it also means the drill will be heavier and the battery’s charge won’t last as long. Higher voltage drills are also likely to be more expensive than their less powerful relatives.
- Gears. If you just want to drill, a single gear will be fine for your purposes. If you want to use your power drill for more than one type of task, a multi-gear drill will be the superior choice. For that reason, most cordless hammer drills will offer a choice of gears: a higher gear equates to higher speed and torque, but less control, much like shifting to a higher gear in an automobile.
- Variable speed. As with the number of gears, variable speed is important if you know you’ll be using your drill for a range of tasks. Again, be aware that an increase in speed will lead to a decrease in control, meaning more care needs to be taken when using your cordless hammer drill at higher speeds.
- Chuck type. There are three main types of chuck (the part of the drill where the bit is attached) in drills today. Keyless chucks tend to fit standard 13mm drill bits, allowing the user to switch bits in and out as the job demands. Key-operated chucks hold the bit in place more firmly, making them a good choice for heavy-duty work, but they’re slower and fiddlier to use than the keyless alternative. SDS drills have their own SDS chuck, being a high-specification quick-lock variant of the more common keyless system.
- Extras. Some manufacturers are kind enough to bundle in some useful extras with their cordless hammer drills. Look out for accessories including carry cases and additional or specialist drill bits; including chisel bits, which allow your cordless hammer drill to take on seriously tough jobs. Particularly with the more expensive models, you may also want to look at what kind of warranty (if any) is available.
- Price. As is always the case when it comes to consumer decisions, price will be more of a factor for some people than others. It’s always helpful when approaching a purchase, however, to have a rough idea in your mind of how much you’d like to spend. Cordless hammer drills are more affordable than they’ve ever been, but you should still expect to pay upwards of $50 for an entry-level model, up to around $200 for something that’s professional quality.
Risks and warnings
Just like any other power tool, a cordless hammer drill is a powerful and potentially dangerous piece of equipment, and there are a few risks to be aware of before operating one.
- Not being plugged into a mains electricity supply, cordless drills are fundamentally less dangerous than the corded equivalent, but they can still cause serious damage if mishandled or dropped while in use. Take the time to read the operator’s manual and stay focused while using your cordless hammer drill. If there will be any children or animals around while you’re working, make sure they’re aware of the dangers and try to be aware of where they are at all times.
- Most cordless hammer drills will have an adjustable clutch, which can be used to set a limit to how far you can drive anything in. Make careful and consistent use of this to avoid causing any structural or electrical damage when drilling walls.
- Hammer drills are specialists at working on masonry and stone, but these are strong materials which will damage your drill if not approached in the right way. For hammer work on masonry, you will benefit from using TCT (tungsten carbide-tipped) masonry drill bits, which have been specially strengthened for that purpose.
- Whether using the hammer action or not, it’s worth knowing the difference between drilling into hard and soft materials. When drilling into hard materials, lower speed and higher torque will typically achieve the best results; when drilling into soft materials, higher speed and lower torque is the way to go.