Guide written by:
Sebastian, self-taught DIY-er, Exeter
From hammer drills to drill drivers, your choice of drill will come down to the type of tasks you want to complete. For example, cordless drill is better for driving screws while a corded drill is best suited to drilling. Read on for our tips on picking the right torque, RPM, impact rate, battery and chuck type.
- Power: corded or cordless
- Power rating in watts
- Voltage and ampere hours
- Battery type and life
- Revolutions per minute (RPM)
- Hammer mode and impact rate
- Additional options and accessories
Choosing a drill to suit your needs
Job type and frequency of use
If you mainly need a tool for driving screws, a drill driver or electric screwdriver will be the better option. A corded drill, on the other hand, is better suited to drilling tasks. These drills are sturdier, more powerful and while they cannot be used to assemble furniture, they can be used for tightening or loosening screws on a construction site. As with any purchase, the question of budget is relative. However, if you're trying to decide between two models with similar features and performance levels, opting for a well-known brand will ensure you get a better quality product with a longer service life. It's important to think about how you might use your drill in the future as well as your immediate needs.
Frequency of use
Drilling and screwing
Small DIY jobs. Assembling furniture, drilling plasterboard, wood (30 mm) or steel (13 mm).
Choose a drill driver with 2 Ni-Cd batteries (12 to 14.4 V and 1.5 to 2 Ah), a keyless 10 mm chuck, 1,600 rpm and a torque of approx. 35 Nm.*
Shop our drills*
Various jobs. Assembling furniture and decking, drilling plasterboard, wood (35 mm), steel (13 mm) and concrete (15 mm).
Choose a combi-drill with a hammer mode and 2 Li-ion batteries (18 V and 2 or 3 Ah) a 13 mm keyless chuck, 1,600 to 2,000 rpm, a torque of 50 Nm and 22,500 strokes/minute.*
Shop our drills*
Frequent to intensive
All jobs. Assembling furniture and decking, drilling plasterboard, wood (35 mm), steel (13 mm) and concrete (15 mm).
Choose a combi-drill with a hammer mode and 2 Li-ion batteries (18 V and 4 or 5 Ah) a 13 mm keyless chuck, 2,100 rpm, a torque of 70 Nm and 31,000 strokes/minute.
Shop our drills*
Drilling wood (25 mm), steel (10 mm) and concrete (15 mm).
Choose a hammer drill with a power rating of at least 500 W, a 10 or 13 mm keyed or keyless chuck, 1,600 rpm and variable speed control.*
Shop our drills*
Drilling wood (40 mm), steel (13 mm) and concrete (20 mm).
Choose a hammer drill with a power rating of 750-800 W, a 13 mm keyless chuck, 2,000 rpm and 51,000 strokes/minute.*
Shop our drills*
Frequent to intensive
Drilling wood (40 mm), steel (16 mm) and concrete (24 mm).
Choose a hammer drill with a power rating of 1,000-1,300 W, a 13 mm keyless chuck, 3,000 rpm and 51,000 strokes/minute.
Shop our drills*
* Please note, these characteristics are only intended as a guide. For greater user comfort and a better quality tool, we recommend choosing a high-end tool with good performance ratings.
Drill components and features
- Torque control ring: adjusts the tightening force to suit the task in hand. Measured in Newton metres (Nm), ranges from 16 to 135 Nm.*
- Mode switch:
- Screwing: for driving screws (2 to 12 mm).
- Drilling: for drilling soft materials; 3 to 40 mm in wood; 3 to 16 mm in steel.
- Hammer mode: for drilling hard materials. Impact rates range from 35,000 to 50,000 strokes/minute(value indicates drilling efficiency). From 3 to 13 mm in concrete and 3 to 16 mm in brick. Optional.
- Rotation speed: determines how easily you can drill into hard materials. From 800 to 3,000 rpm (revolutions per minute).*
- Electric motor:
- Brushless motor: more efficient and does not require maintenance.
- Brushed motor: the brushes need to be replaced after several years.
- Reverse function: switches between screwing/unscrewing mode and can be used to release a jammed drill bit.
- Ergonomics and weight: user comfort relies on quality and weight of the drill (minimum 1.5 kg, including the battery).
- Belt clip: to attach drill to tool belt. Sometimes comes with a bit holder. Optional.
- Battery voltage: indicates battery power, measured in volts (V): 12, 14.4, 18 or 36 V.*
- Battery current: indicates battery life. Measured inampere hours (Ah). 1.5 to 5 Ah.*
- Battery type (it's useful to have two batteries so you always have one ready to use):
- Li-ion (lithium-ion): more efficient, quick charge, no memory effect, full power output until completely discharged. Some models have battery level indicators.
- Ni-Cd (nickel cadmium): less efficient, slower to charge, memory effect, power drops towards the end of the charge.
- Trigger: gradual control to obtain the right rotation speed for drilling or screwing.
- LED light: to light up the work area (optional).
- Chuck capacity: 10 or 13 mm, related to the tool characteristics. Determines the maximum size of drill bit you can use.
- Chuck type: keyless chuck; can be swapped for an SDS chuck or a right-angled chuck adaptor (optional). SDS chuck: for slotted-shank drill bits, used for impact drilling. keyed chuck (only on corded drills).
- Depth stop: sets the drilling depth. Standard feature on corded drills, optional on cordless drills.
- Additional handle: for better grip when drilling. Standard feature on corded drills, optional on cordless drills.
- Safety clutch: locks the drill chuck if the drill bit gets stuck in the material (optional).
- Trigger lock: locks the trigger in position for extended drilling (optional).
- Power cable: 230-volt mains supply.
- Soft start function: prevents jolting on start-up by gradually increasing the speed up to maximum (optional).
- Clutch: aluminium clutch will cool down more quickly than plastic.
- Battery charger: matches the battery characteristics.
- Storage case: for storing the drill, charger, batteries, drill bits and chuck key.
*The higher the value, the more powerful the drill.
Recommended accessories for a first-time purchase
Related buying guide
Drilling metal, hard materials and wood
Set of assorted drill bits
Drilling aluminium, stainless steel, steel, etc.
Set of metal drill bits
Drilling brick, plasterboard, breeze block, etc.
Set of multi-material drill bits
Set of wood drill bits
Set of screwdriver bits
*Please also note that you will need a pair of safety goggles in order to reduce the risk of injury from flying scraps during drilling. It is also advisable to wear hearing protection when using a drill in impact mode.
Different types of drill
The primary function of a drill is to drill holes, making it an essential tool for anyone who wants to put up a shelf or hang a picture. However, the type of drill and drill features you need will depend on whether you want to drill holes in concrete to insert fixing plugs, drill through glass, drill holes or insert screws into wood, drill through metal or drill lots of holes very accurately. Before we consider corded and cordless power drills in more detail, let's take a look at the different types of drill available and what they are used for.
Hammer drills and corded drills
A corded drill or hammer drill is an essential tool for any building site or workshop. These drills are designed specifically for drilling rather than screwing, because they are heavier, bigger and more powerful. Their key characteristics determine their drilling power and what types of material (hard or soft) they can drill into. Note: a hammer drill is not a substitute for a rotary hammer, because it is less efficient when it comes to drilling hard materials. In the past, hammer mode generally only came as an option on standard drills, but today it can be difficult to find a drill without hammer action.
Cordless drills and drill drivers
Battery-operated drills are just as useful as corded drills as they can be used in places where there is no electricity, and for driving screws. Cordless drills are versatile and easy to handle. They can be used in screwdriver mode to assemble Ikea furniture, garden sheds and decking, and in drilling mode to drill holes in plasterboard, wood, brick and even concrete (for the most powerful models with a hammer mode). These tools have adjustable torque settings, several drilling speeds and a Li-ion battery. Combi-drills will even feature a hammer mode. There is a model to suit every budget and requirement!
A pneumatic drill or air drilluses compressed air supplied by a compressor (either a standalone model or a fixed supply). These tools are lightweight, and their simple design makes them ideal if you have a large number of holes to drill. However, the air supply hose can sometimes get in the way if you are using the tool in awkward spaces. This type of drill is designed for drilling smaller holes.
Angle drills are easy to handle and allow for precise drilling. They can be corded or cordless and are ideal for inserting or removing screws in tricky corners.
The chuck on these drills is offset by anangle adaptor, making this a very specific type of tool. Angle adaptors can also be fitted on standard drills.
A drill press is a workshop drill that is mounted on a workbench and used for very precise drilling and/or drilling lots of holes in succession.
Drill presses are often called bench drills because they can be installed on a frame and attached to the floor. They are found in the workshops of cabinet makers, metalworkers, knife makers, etc. You simply need to adjust the height of the platform before bringing the drill down using a lever attached to the side of the machine.
Like drill presses, radial drills are fixed drills. They have a moving arm which pivots parallel to the workbench surface to drill holes at a considerable distance from the edge of the workpiece (extends the throat depth, which is especially useful for certain jobs). The pivoting head makes it possible to drill holes at tricky angles and in places that are difficult to access.
Magnetic drills are designed for professional users. They have a magnetic base that attaches to metal structures.
The magnetic base allows for precise drilling and grinding. Some models have water-cooling systems.
A hand drill or hand crank drill is an old-fashioned drill favoured by nostalgic DIYers who enjoy manual work or people who only have one hole to drill (although in this case, a gimlet would also do the job).
Corded or cordless drill: which should you choose?
Both types of tool can drill holes and drive screws and are used for decorating, woodworking, renovating and other DIY jobs. However, one is better for drilling, the other for driving screws.
Designed for versatility and intensive use, corded drills are more powerful than cordless drills. They plug into a standard socket and run on mains electricity (230 volts). They are ideal for working indoors and on building sites. Most of the time they feature a hammer mode for drilling hard materials like brick, breeze block, stone and concrete.
Their chucks come in difference shapes and sizes and can be used with drill bits, hole saws, screwdriver bits, sockets, etc. Corded drills can drill holes in all materials (up to a certain diameter) and can also be used for screwing and unscrewing thanks to reverse and variable speed functions. However, corded drills are heavier and more powerful than battery-operated drills, meaning they are not as easy to handle. Consequently, they are not really suited to screwing/unscrewing jobs around the home, although they may be used for larger construction projects. Their portability is limited by the length of the power cable, and the tool requires a mains power supply, or a generator if the building site does not have a mains supply.
Cordless drills are more versatile and are generally recommended as the tool to purchase if you are mainly looking to drive screws. In addition to being easier to handle, these tools do not have to be connected to the mains meaning they can be used in areas without electricity and for one-off projects such as building a shed at the bottom of the garden.
As with corded drills, various accessories can be fitted on the chuck (grinding bits, mixer paddle, etc.), which can take different sizes (10 or 13 mm). Some cordless drills or combi-drills can be used to drill holes of up to approx. 13 mm in hard materials, but drilling will take longer and consume more energy (i.e. battery power). Unlike corded drills, not all cordless drills have an impact mode, so check before you buy if you aim to drill into hard materials.
Standard drill features
Every drill has a chuck, a motor (brushed or brushless), a handle and a trigger to operate it. Each drill has different characteristics (e.g. rpm, impact rate, torque) depending on the type of technology (corded or battery-operated). The characteristics to look for should be determined by how you plan on using the tool. For each characteristic, corded and cordless models have different minimum and maximum values.
As mentioned above, although a rotary hammer can stand in for a drill for some jobs (such as heavy drilling), a regular drill should not be confused for a rotary hammer. The percussion or hammer mode on a standard drill is not sufficient for drilling large holes in concrete or reinforced concrete.
To help users choose a drill, some manufacturers indicate the maximum drilling diameters for different materials (wood, steel, concrete). There are accessories and additional tools for both types of drill (drill bits for metal, drill bits for wood, grinding bits, brushes, sander plates, hole saws, screwdriver bits and sockets, mixer paddles, etc.).
The chuck is located at the end of the drill and is used to insert a drill or screwdriver bit or any other type of accessory (mixer paddle, sanding disc, drill-powered water pump, etc.). The drilling capacity is partly determined by the chuck diameter, because it reflects the general performance characteristics of the drill (power, torque, speed). There are three types of chuck:
- Keyed or standard chucks are tightened using a chuck key (replacement keys can be purchased if lost, but to prevent this, attach the key to the power cable). Keyed chucks are only found on entry-level corded drills. Keyed chucks have a diameter of 10 or 13 mm.
- Keyless or self-locking chucks are much more practical because they allow you to change the drill bit or screwdriver bit or attachment quickly. All cordless drills and mid-range corded drills have a keyless chuck. Keyless chucks are tightened manually and have a diameter of 10 or 13 mm.
- SDS chucks are generally found on hammer drills, but some high-end corded drills have interchangeable chucks, meaning they can be used with a wider range of concrete drill bits with an SDS shank. This type of chuck holds the drill bits in place without a screw or a key, thanks to slots on the shank of the bits.
Difference between brushed and brushless motors
Depending on the technology, an electric motor may or may not have brushes (or "carbon brushes"), a special wear part that conducts current.
Brushed motors, are first-generation motors and are only found on older models. They are still reliable, but their performance ratings are inferior to brushless motors because the brushes generate friction, resulting in energy losses. Furthermore, the brushes have to be replaced after several years of use. That said, they are easy and inexpensive to replace.
Brushlessmotors, on the other hand, do not have brushes. Instead they have electric coils and an electronic controller which generate rotation. This means there is no friction; therefore, these motors are more efficient and consume less energy.
Revolutions per minute (rpm)
The speed, given as a number of revolutions per minute (rpm) determines how quickly and efficiently a drill can drill holes in hard materials. Corded drills offer higher speeds.
The impact speed or rate is measured in strokes per minute and determines how quickly and efficiently the drill can drill holes in hard materials. Corded drills have higher impact rates.
The torque rating corresponds to tightening force and is given in Newton metres (Nm). Cordless drills have higher torque ratings.
Characteristics of corded drills
Components of an hammer drill
Remember, whether you're a regular DIYer or a professional, both kinds of drill – corded and cordless – are essential to every tool kit, because the two technologies complement one another. Only occasional users can get away with having just the one type. When choosing a corded drill, you will need to decide on the following characteristics:
- Power: the higher the better if you need to drill hard materials.
- Chuck type and size: 10 to 13 mm, determines the maximum size of drill bit you can use. The choice between a keyed or a keyless chuck comes down to budget and practicality.
- Impact rate: determines how quickly you can drill through hard materials.
- Rotation speed: Higher is better for drilling hard materials.
- Variable speed setting: helps you adapt the drilling action to the type of material – steel and breeze block don't require the same speed, for example.
- Safety clutch: allows the drill motor to run without turning the chuck in the event that the bit gets stuck in the material. Without a safety clutch, if the drill gets jammed in a material, it can jolt and cause wrist injuries.
- Hammer stop function: allows you to only apply hammer action when the bit comes into contact with the hard material.
Power rating and drilling power
Power rating is the first point to check when choosing a corded drill, because it determines the other characteristics. Most corded drills have a power rating of 500 to 1300 W (watts). The more powerful the drill, the easier it will be to drill hard materials like concrete. When choosing, you need to understand the difference between rated power and output power. Rated power is the electrical power consumed by the drill; output power is the power suppliedafter power losses, e.g. friction losses due to the running of the motor. As a guide, a drill with a rated power of 550 W will have an output power of around 285 W.
Hammer mode is essential fordrillinghard and resistant materials (stone, concrete, etc.). It is turned on and off using a button on top of the drill's motor unit. The impact speed determines the hammer action rate and ranges from 35,000 to 50,000 strokes per minute. Different drills have different impact rates. The higher the rate, the more easily you will be able to drill through concrete, brick, stone, etc.
For easy, efficient drilling in one of these materials, look for a model with an impact speed of at least 43,000 strokes per minute. At lower speeds, drilling large holes can take a long time.
Rotation speed and variable speed control
The rotation speed of most drills on the market ranges from 800 to 3,000 rpm (revolutions per minute). The higher the speed, the more efficient the drill will be in hard materials like concrete, stone, etc. (Note: this does not include metal. If you try to drill through steel at high speed, the drill bit will turn blue and no longer be usable). Whether you go for a corded or cordless drill, it is best to choose a drill with variable speed control. This means you can start drilling slowly, without jolting, which will protect your wrist from injury.
A variable speed control settingis also useful because it means you can adapt the drilling speed to the material (e.g. wood, stone or metal).
Safety clutch and hammer stop
A safety clutch is a safety mechanism that disengages the chuck from the drill motor if the drill bit or hole saw gets stuck in the material. The drill motor continues to run without turning the bit, which prevents overheating and – more importantly – prevents wrist injuries (sprain, dislocation, etc.) resulting from the jolting effect.
A hammer stop is another useful feature that only turns on hammer mode when the drill comes into contact with the material to be drilled.
Characteristics of cordless drills
Components of a cordless drill
Cordless drills have some of the same features as corded drills, for example:
- Chuck size: 10 to 13 mm;
- Hammer mode: the impact rate reaches a maximum of around 25,000 strokes per minute for high-end cordless drills;
- The rotation speed is very similar to that of corded drills: up to 3,000 rpm.
Other than the features listed above that are common to both corded and cordless drills, the most important features of cordless drills are the tightening torque (as they are mostly used for screwing/unscrewing) and the type of battery.
Nickel cadmium or lithium ion battery: which is best for a cordless drill?
Battery voltage and current
Cordless drills come with voltage ratings of 10.8 V, 12 V, 14.4 V, 18 V or 36 V. The current is usually between 1 and 2.2 Ah, although top-end cordless drills may offer 3, 4 or even 5 Ah.
The higher the voltage, the more powerful the battery. An 18 V drill is more powerful than a 14.4 V drill and so on. However, this is not the only rating you need to consider as it is related to other characteristics (torque, rotation speed, etc.).
The number of ampere hours directly influences the battery life. To understand, the thing to remember is that ampere hours tell you the battery capacity: a 2 Ah battery will run for 2 hours on 1 A, or for 1 hour on 2 A. Of course, the power consumption will depend on the performance of the tool and how you use it (drilling through wood will consume more power than drilling through polystyrene).
Battery types for cordless drills
- Ni-Cd: Nickel cadmium batteries are first-generation batteries. They are heavy, large, take a long time to recharge and have a memory effect – it is best to drain them completely before recharging them fully. Their current rating is rarely more than 1.2 Ah. Nickel cadmium batteriesare found in entry-level cordless drills. They will slow down as the battery discharges.
- Li-ion: Lithium ion batteries are lightweight, compact, charge quickly (charging times vary from 30 minutes to 1.5 - 2 hours) and have no memory effect. They supply a fairly steady charge until the battery is empty. The only downside is the price. All mid-range and high-end cordless drills come with Li-ion batteries. It is best to choose a model with a battery level indicator so that you know when the battery is running low.
- Ni-MH: nickel metal hydride battery. Ni-MH batteries are quite heavy, suffer from self-discharge and do not age well, but usually don't have a memory effect. However, it is quite rare to find a cordless drill with an Ni-MH battery. -
Drill battery comparison
Voltage in volts (V)
Current in ampere hours (Ah)
Nickel cadmium (Ni-Cd)
12 - 14.4 - 18
1 - 1.2 - 1.5
18 V / 1.5 Ah
1 - 1.2 - 1.5
1 - 1.2 - 1.5
1.5 - 2
1.5 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5
10.8 V / 1 Ah
12 V / 1.5 Ah
14.4 V / 1.5 or 2 Ah
18 V / 2 or 3 or 5 Ah
How much torque do you need from your drill?
Tightening torque is measured in Nm (Newton metres). It defines the tightening force of a cordless drill, i.e. its ability to screw and/or unscrew screws in dense and/or compact materials, etc. For example, a cordless drill with a high torque rating can drill an 80 mm screw into oak wood, whereas a hand drill without much torque is only able to drill to a maximum of 30 mm. In short, the higher the Nm rating, the more torque the cordless drill can apply.
The tightening torque can be adjusted to adapt the tightening force to the material. This also prevents damage to the screwdriver bits, sockets and screw heads.
- Mid-range cordless drills generally have a torque rating of around 55 Nm.
- Entry-level models, which generally have a 14.4 V – 1.2 Ah battery, offer 16 Nm, 25 Nm or even 30 Nm.
- Professional cordless drills have tightening torques of60 Nm, 85 Nm, 100 Nmor even 135 Nm.
As with drilling diameters, some manufacturers indicate the screwing capacity of the drill (maximum length of screws that can be driven into wood).
Drill features and options
Both corded and cordless drills can have a range of accessories and options to make them easier to use.
Depth guide, light and handle
- A trigger lock lets you use the drill for extended periods without your index finger getting tired.
- A depth guide or depth stop lets you set the drilling depth.
- A built-in light (mainly found on cordless drills) provides a focused light source at the tip of the drill bit or screwdriver bit.
- An additional handle is especially useful when using a drill in hammer mode or drilling holes with large diameters.
- A spirit level (often built into the motor unit) can be helpful for checking that holes are perpendicular to the support.
- A spring-loaded drill guide helps you to drill holes perpendicular to the support.
Chuck, variable speed setting and bit holder
- An additional SDS chuck lets you insert bits with SDS shanks (slotted shank).
- A variable speed function allows you to gradually increase the speed to suit the surface material and drive screws more accurately.
- A bit holder, often built into the handle of the drill, is a handy way to avoid forgetting your bits!
- A carry case/box keeps all of your drill bits and accessories together and prevents the risk of losing items on a building site.
- A chuck key holder is made from rubber and attaches to the cable of corded drills to save you wasting time looking for the key – providing you remember to attach it in the first place, of course!
Drill comparison: brands and uses
From entry-level to high-end, there are many drill brands to choose from. The table below summarises the available drill brands according to usage and value for money. As already mentioned, choosing a drill from a well-known manufacturer means you will be sure to find spare parts if something breaks, as well as replacements brushes for the motor. Well-known brands also offer good after-sales care and products that have been designed according to strict specifications.
Drill for occasional use; entry-level
Drill for regular use; mid-range
Drill for frequent use;
Elem; Far Tools;
Black & Decker;
Bosch (Green); Ryobi;
Einhell; Skil; Hyundai;
AEG; Facom; Hilti;
Kress; Bosch (Blue);
Drill bits and screwdriver bits: the essentials
Drill bits and deburring files
- Wood bits are designed for drilling wood and soft materials. A set of bits from 3 to 12 mm will be sufficient for most projects. There are two main types of woodworking bit: flat or spade bits and auger bits.
- Metalworking drill bits are used for drilling metal. They have points tapered at specific angles and a special surface treatment. For most users, a set of metal bits of sizes 3 to 10 mm will be ideal.
- Drill bits for concrete are specially designed to drill stone, concrete, etc. They usually have a tungsten carbide coating. A set of concrete drill bits from 5 to 12 mm will be all you need for most jobs.
- Deburring files, Forstner bits and rotary files and rasps can be used for finishing in various materials.
Screwdriver bits are essential for any cordless drill or drill driver. They are sold both individually, or in sets. The bits are inserted into a bit holder, and come in different types to fit different screw heads:
- Resistorx or Tampertorx;
- Flat or slotted;
- Hex-head or Allen.
Sockets, hole saws and coring bits
Many kinds of drill accessories are available (sanding pads and discs, water pumps, brushes, stripping discs, etc.). The most common are listed below:
- Sockets are either inserted in a bit holder or come as one-piece designs, which are more robust. Impact drivers use impact sockets.
- Hole saws can be used to cut large holes in wood or metal (usually from 25 mm to more than 80 mm in diameter). Hole saws for wood have saw-like teeth, and hole saws for harder materials are called diamond hole saws.
- Coring bits are one-piece accessories designed to drill large holes in hard materials (stone, concrete, etc.).
- Mixer paddles or stirrers are useful for mixing paint, plaster and resin. If you have a lot of mixing to do, invest in a power mixer, a tool designed especially for mixing.
Guide written by:
Sebastian, self-taught DIY-er, Exeter, 187 guides
Redo a roof with wooden beams? Check.Advise Mister everybody in the DIY shop? Check.Redo the bathroom plumbing? Check.Fit together, build the walls, paint a partition, throw my hammer in a rage thinking that it will fix the problem? Check. The DIY motto ? Learning is better than delegating… well, it's also a question about your wallet! The satisfaction? The beer at the end of the job! What do the best have in common? The influence of Gyro Gearloose, Mac Gyver and Carol Smiley depending on your generation, a good dose of curiosity, a average hand-eye coordination and a taste for risks… and if it doesn't work, try again! Advise you? I'll do my best!