Hammer Drill vs Impact Driver | What Tool Is Better And When

If you’re asking this question, it means you’re probably tired of worrying about which option is better every time—and not getting a headway—anytime you’ve a drilling task to handle.

Or perhaps, you’re finding it hard to tell the difference between both tools at a glance?

If your answer is affirmative, then this article is for you.

But before moving ahead, it’s best you know this;

A hammer drill has a hammer function while the impact drill has an impact function.

Also, the major difference between both drills is the force the tool head transfers. That is, the hammer drill pulsates and gives a knock on the head of the tool. So, it gets through harder materials.

The impact driver on the other hand, rotates and makes an impacting motion as well.

There are more features and differences, which you can use to differentiate both tools.

That’s why I created this article to show all the differences, features, pros, and cons between the Hammer Drill vs Impact Driver.

I also added a few FAQs that will help you answer a few questions still bothering you about both tools.

So, if you’re ready, let’s move on!

Difference Between the Hammer Drill and Impact Driver

You can spot the difference between both tools by comparing the drills in the following category:

Design

Before we dive into the competition, let’s check out what makes up these tools. Both tools operate with rotation, but how they use it is what differentiates them.

Also, the type of torque and impact you get from these tools are different as well.

Note: this is just a preview of the mechanisms of these tools. I will discuss them in detail later.

Like the regular drill drivers, hammer drills supply a sustained torque that continuously spins your bit at constant speeds. However, switching to hammer mode changes the tool’s mechanism.

The tool won’t only give you rotational power but a powerful force that also hammers in and out from the chuck with speeds that hit over 30,000 blows per minute. Plus, the adjustable chuck is compatible with bits up to 1/2” in diameter.

On the other hand, the impact driver has a lower supply of sustained torque. But, when it reaches top speed, the hammer moves away from the anvil through the depressing movement of the coil.

Once this happens, the hammer will rotate freely, enough to gather sufficient force to deliver a powerful blow to the anvil—when the coil gets released.

This impact generates a momentary amount of torque that surpasses that of the hammer drill. As a result, the impact driver can reach feats of over 4,000 impacts per minute.

The impact driver only accepts bits with a 1/4” hexagonal shank.

Mechanism

As I mentioned earlier, the hammer drill and the impact driver both deliver impact force differently.

But that’s a superficial comparison.

As the name implies, the hammer drill’s mechanism is like cooperation between a hammer and the drill. While the drill supplies rotational force, the gear-driven cam supplies force along the path of the drill bit in a linear striking motion. It’s just like chiseling and drilling combined in one tool.

The hammer drill’s impact action is quite effective in drilling holes into brick, concrete, cinder block, and other similar tough materials. It even has a variation (SDS) that can drill into walls that are several feet thick. Although, it’s not recommended to use hammering action to drill plastic, wood, or metal.

Also, it’s vital to deactivate the hammer mode before engaging in such applications with this tool.

At first glance, the mechanism of the impact driver looks quite similar to the hammer drill. But, it provides more rotational energy than the hammer drill.

The mechanism includes a heavy-duty spring that compresses at every half-turn and then releases a powerful force. This process is similar to the hammer drill.  However, the driver directs the force in the same direction as the rotation of the chuck.

Hence, the force is better suited for driving bolts, screws, and other fasteners or removing them. It’s worth mentioning that earlier designs were about all or nothing brute force. Thankfully, recent designs allow for more control with variable speed.

Drilling Speed

The hammer drill and impact driver both have great drilling speeds with immense power. So, to fully differentiate the drilling speed of the tools, we will use different bit sizes.

Let’s get down to business.

Drilling Speed: 1/4“ Ledger Screws

When it comes to no-load speeds and light-load, the impact driver is much faster than the hammer drill. You can see speeds of up to 3000 rotations per minute from the impact driver, while the hammer drill remains at the 2,000 range.

However, when I used bigger loads like the 1/4” ledger screw, the hammer drill was about 3 seconds faster than the impact driver. Therefore, the hammer drill takes the win for heavy-load operations.

Drilling Speed: 1/2“ Twist Bit

Using the 1/2” twist bit, I noticed that the impact driver was faster than the hammering drill with a 1.2-second advantage.

Drilling Speed: 1” Spade Bit

The spade bit is useful when you have a lot of material to remove. In this area, the hammer drill beat the impact driver by finishing the job in under four seconds.

Drilling Speed: 1/4 “ Concrete Bit

With this bit, I found that the impact driver and the hammering drill both delivered almost the same speed when drilling through concrete.

Noise Level

Generally, impact tools produce more noise than drills. For example, impact drivers produce about 100 decibels, while the drills produce  88 decibels. That’s a huge 12 decibels difference.

The impact driver is twice as loud as normal drills. This high noise generation could lead to hearing loss. So, if you want to enjoy these tools, it would help if you wear the proper ear protection and follow safety guidelines

Types of Drill Bits

The hammer drill has a self-centering three-jaw chuck that accepts various bit shapes for different kinds of jobs. In addition, some heavy-duty hammer drill models feature a spring-loaded chuck that locks the SDS drill bits in place when inserted.

Most general-purpose masonry bits for hammer drills use the same round shank as the normal bits for metal or wood. Also, many use the same base material (high-speed steel) but differ at the tip.

Masonry bits have wider tips that help to remove the surface when rotating slowly. SDS drill bits have similar constructions. But each shank is designed to fit the matching SDS chuck, giving a more secure hold when doing heavy-duty jobs.

On the other hand, impact drivers don’t use a chuck. Instead, it uses a quick-release clamp that is compatible with many bits that use a 1/4 “ hex shank. These bits are mostly used for driving or fastening, but you can purchase HSS 1/4” shanks drill bits for the usual drilling activities.

Impact drivers are compatible with a large variety of driving bits. The different fastener shapes and sizes help to meet all your driving needs. The impact driver is also compatible with a socket adapter—so you can use nuts and bolts with your impact driver.

It is crucial to choose bits designed for the impact driver that can withstand the pressure. Normal drill bits will get destroyed under the output of the power tool. In short, avoid the temptation of getting them because they are “cheaper.”

You can use a three-jaw drill chuck, flexible drive shafts, hole saws, and right-angle adapters to widen the uses of the impact driver.

Main Features

Here, we’ll look at the different features of the hammering drill and the impact driver. The first feature we will talk about is the size.

Impact drivers have a smaller and lighter design than the hammer drill, especially when talking about heavy-duty hammer drills. However, there are more compact hammer drills. But, the impact driver still takes the win because it remains the lighter of both tools.

The tools both have manual or electronic speed control switches. Electronic controls are more dominant in brushless motor models. Also, some models offer smart custom controls.

Impact drivers can have different speed settings depending on the model you want. For example, if you want a more budget-friendly model, you can opt for a one-speed setting.

However, you can get two-speed and three-speed models if you need something more professional. For instance, some impact drivers have assist modes that can help you when self-driving screws. Plus, it offers a more controlled start-up, auto-stop, and many other options.

All drills except the most basic ones have two-speed settings. Only a few models offer three to four-speed settings. So, to switch between drilling, driving, and hammer drilling modes, all you have to do is adjust the collar to your desired mode.

Also, a few models have their clutch on the same collar while others separate them.

Some hammer drills have a clutch system that automatically shuts down the motor whenever it senses binds in your bits. It does this faster than letting go of the trigger –to avoid getting injured while operating. It’s a feature you should use on your heavy-duty drill.

Impact drivers don’t need a clutch system. Even when the rotation stops completely, the hammering action keeps going.

Although the tool sends vibrations to your hands, it makes fastening metals more bearable than using a drill. It’s one reason why an impact driver is ideal for larger applications, even though a hammer drill might be faster.

A lot of impact drivers and hammer drills use similar LED light placements in their designs. It’s usually mounted above the battery or below the chuck.

So, what differentiates them?

It’s quite rare to see hammering drills using two or more LED lights for better illumination. But, the impact driver’s design makes it easy to mount two or three LED lights around the chuck. With this feature, impact drivers have the upper hand in better visibility.

Applications

Now that you know the differences between an impact driver and a hammer drill let’s look at what jobs you can do with these tools.

The Hammer Drill is Built to Drill Holes into Hard Materials

The hammer drill is specifically designed for boring holes into tough materials like brick, rock, concrete, etc. Thus, the hammer drill is a perfect go-to for jobs like hanging shelves on a stone wall, drilling holes through brick for water pipes, or electric conduits.

That doesn’t mean the hammer drill is only used for making holes in masonry. Some models allow you to switch off the hammer mode so you can perform normal drilling tasks. However, it would help if you are careful because the power tool can easily break small drill bits. In addition, most professionals don’t use it as a normal drill because of how heavy it can be.

SDS hammer drills are useful only in hammer mode and without any rotation. Nevertheless, they are great tools capable of small demolition projects (when fitted with masonry chisels).

The Impact Driver Drives Screws and Other Fasteners with the Power to Take On Tough Jobs

In simple terms, you can use the impact driver in areas where the regular drill won’t work. The tool is all about rotational force. Imagine doing everything a cordless drill can do with more power.

Impact drivers can easily handle large screws and fasteners without resistance and pressure on the wrist. Further, its high torque delivery system makes it the best choice for tough woodworking projects.

Price

It’s quite common to see the hammer drill and impact driver combo set. Plus, this combo set comes with a few batteries and offers the best overall value.

But if you’re not into the kit, you can purchase the bare tools separately. Also, the Impact driver is more expensive than the hammer drill.

The standard price for a bare-tool impact driver is about $219 and $329 for the kit. On the other hand, the hammer drill goes for $199 and $329 for the kit.

FAQs

Is there a need for an impact driver if you have a hammer drill?

The question should be, which do you need more? The truth is the hammer drill and impact driver both perform different functions such that one cannot perform the role of the other.

Yes, they have their similarities. But they also have differences. Even the way they operate and deliver power is different. Hence, it would help to have both tools—if you can afford them.

Which hammer drill is ideal for home use?

Hammer drills are useful for heavy-duty projects. If the home project involves removing fences or minor demolitions, I recommend the METABO HPT multi-volt hammer drill. If it is for small home projects, then you’re fine with just a regular drill.

Is it better to buy a hammer drill or a regular drill?

It depends on the project you’re handling. For instance, hammer drills aren’t fit for small projects that require a regular drill, while drills can’t do the work of the hammer drill. So let your project decide which one you need to get.

Final Words

Hammer drills and impact drivers are two similar but distinct tools. This article aimed to properly state the differences between the two so you know which one best fits your projects.

Getting one of these tools also depends on what you want to use it for. In the end, it’s best to get the tool that would help you get the job done faster.

If you have not made your decision, I hope this article helps you out.

If you need more information, please reach out to us and let us know what you think.

James Thomas

James Thomas

Tool Enthusiast

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About The Tool Square

James Thomas

Hi, I’m James. I created The Tool Square to help as many understand and know how to use Table Saws, and many other tool-related products. About Me.

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