Hammer Drill vs Impact Driver. Is There 1 Colossal or Decisive Difference?

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What do you need to get the job done? A hammer drill driver or an impact driver? They might seem like they’re the same thing, but there are some critical differences between these two tools that will help you choose which one is right for your project. Hammer drills have a rotary motion and can be used in tight spaces. Impact drivers are best for driving screws into hard surfaces since they use a high-torque reaction force. Hammer drills also have more torque than impact drivers, so if you’re looking at using just one tool on your next project, then go with a hammer drill!

Here’s a rundown of what we’ll provide in this Hammer Drill vs Impact Driver article:

  • First, we’ll explain the basic differences between the two tools
  • Next, we’ll discuss the mechanisms of both tools
  • Then, we’ll tell you about their uses and applications
  • And then, we’ll advise you which tool you need
  • Finally, we’ll recommend our top hammer drills and impact drivers where we share their pros and drawbacks you might need to know about.

Sound good?  Let’s get started!

Hammer Drill vs Impact Driver Mechanism   

The primary differences between a hammer drill and an impact driver are the mechanisms and the applications. Let’s break that down into a more straightforward definition. A rotary hammer drill driver and an impact driver differ in how they exact pressure on the twisting action. What does that mean? Think of a hammer drill as a person slamming the back of a drill into a hard surface drilling. The hammer drill exerts an extra force directly onto the drilling bit while an impact driver increases the pressure applied to the drilling bit perpendicularly.

A hammer SDS drill will feel like a jackhammer in your hands because of the direct force being applied, while an impact drill employs a unique mechanism, thus pushing the small anvil against the rotating mechanism from the side. Both are more powerful than a standard drill so let’s look at the means of each tool.

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Hammer Drill Mechanism

The hammer drill mechanism differs from an impact drill by degree rather than kind. However, the difference results in a forward force and much less torque compared to an impact driver. The hammer drill accomplishes its function by the use of two plates. As you start drilling, the bearings slip up and over the opposite bearings, creating a motion that pushes forward, causing the hammer drilling effect.

The motion causes the drill to slips back and transfers the bit or screw. The plates interlock for a fraction of a second and then separate again, causing the bit to turn rapidly. A hammer drill uses a rotational force and creates a powerful hammer function to drive the screw head or drill bit straight downwards as if you were using an actual hammer action to drive a regular drill bit from the back of the power drill.

A hammer drill has an impact rate of 10,000 blows per minute (BPM), but some can exceed even 30,000 bpm. The power tool also accepts the same drill driver bits though some require special carbide-tipped bits designed for masonry work.

hammer drill vs impact driver

Impact Drill Mechanism

As mentioned, the impact drill employs a unique technique that sets it apart from a traditional drill. The drill works by way of hammer and anvil design. Most impact drills have two hammers though some come with three. When the impact is put to work, the motor turns a spring-loaded hammer plate causing the spring to compress. The hammer and anvil push apart, creating a small space between the plates for a split of a second. At this time, there is potential energy in the spring.

Check Out Impact Drivers on Amazon

Due to the space created, the hammer and anvil plates slip past each other and then forcefully slam into each other because of the spring’s potential energy, which has been converted into kinetic energy. A great deal of torque, or little downward force, is created as the hammer hits the anvils. The energy is then transferred into the screwdriver bit, therefore turning the fastener or screw.

Therefore, the process is repeated rapidly, thus driving screws faster and more efficiently than a conventional drill. You will need to exert very little energy of your own, even when going a long screw or working on a large project with multiple fasteners. Impact drills do not have an adjustable chuck and can only be used with a 1/4″ hex shank and driver bits. It would be best if you had impact-rated bits that can stand up to the force of an impact driver as it produces more torque.

Here is a list of our Favorite Hammer Drills

CLICK any image to see Ratings & Reviews on Amazon


Further reading: Best Manual Hand Drill – Top 5 Reviews and Buyers Guide

Video: Hammer Drill vs Impact Driver

Hammer Drill vs Impact Driver Applications

Hammer Drill Applications

A hammer drill is a perfect tool for a masonry bit, that is, when you are working with brick, concrete, and stone. The drill comes in handy to set anchors and creates holes in the stone. Block or brick for outlet boxes. The hammer drill chips as it turns to push through the material you are working on.

A hammer drill is more compact and lightweight compared to a rotary hammer. It makes an excellent choice when drilling holes up to 1/2″ in masonry, but it does not come with a dust collection, which prevents you from breathing in the silica dust.

When buying a hammer drill, beware of traditional models as they are not the best for driving screws. A hammer drill will often look like a traditional hammer drill, so it’s good to be cautious. A modern cordless hammer drill allows you to select between a drill, drive, and hammer drill, so you get three functions in one.

You can turn off the hammer drill so you can drill bits properly into the material. You can use the hammer drill for the same tasks you would use an impact driver though the efficiency may not be comparable. A hammer drill is also heavier than an impact driver, primarily the cordless tool, because the weight of the battery is heavy. 

However, both the cordless and corded hammer drill offer many power and top-spec features such as an adjustable clutch, keyless chuck, variable speed mode, and brushless motor.

Impact Driver Applications

As mentioned, an impact driver creates a rotational impact, which is excellent in driving screws and a driver bit of all kinds. The rotational impact also makes an impact drill an exceptional option for driving hex bolts. This drill’s mechanism also ensures it produces a greater torque, making it simple to drive and remove tough fasteners faster. The static torque from the tool causes the screws and fasteners to stop altogether.

You can also use an impact driver to drill with hex shanks though it will not function at its optimal. An impact driver functions best when driving screws, and it’s equipped to drive long screws faster and more efficiently. It’s a great option when working on woodwork projects involving a large number of fasteners.

There are also two main types to choose from – a cordless impact driver or a corded drill driver. Once again, both options have their fair share of pros and cons, and it’s down to individual preferences as to which one is best. A cordless drill is the best value when purchased as a part of a combo kit where you get more than one drill type (e.g., impact wrench / regular drill/rotary drill), a charger, and battery in one set. If you opt for a bare tool only, you’ll need to add the cost of a lithium-ion battery (unless you already have one).

Here is a list of our Favorite DEWALT Impact Drivers

CLICK any image to see Ratings & Reviews on Amazon

Hammer Drill vs Impact Driver – Price Comparison

The price is another factor that differentiates an impact driver from a hammer drill. Impact drivers are typically cheaper than hammer drills. Impact drivers start from $50, ranging to $100, depending on the advanced features that come with the tool. Hammer drills are the most expensive. 

The cheapest models start at $70 with essential features and power. For such a price, the hammer drill does not come with masonry bits. If you are looking for a hammer drill for a one-time job, the economically sound option would be to rent rather than buy. You will be charged $40 at most to rent a high-quality hammer drill. 

So, Should You Use a Hammer Drill or an Impact Driver?

This will depend on your situation and whether your budget can stretch to buying both tools. If you are limited on funds and doing the occasional lightweight jobs, we would recommend getting an impact driver as it’s far more versatile and is perfect for most domestic jobs. If you will be doing some medium to heavy-duty work or drilling lots of holes, then a hammer drill is recommended as the two tools become less interchangeable the heavier the job.

We hope you have found this helpful guide and you can now understand the subtle differences between the two tools?

Here Are Some Other Articles You May Like:

Best DeWALT Impact Driver – Reviews and Buyers Guide

13 Different Types of Drills – Which One is Right For You?

Best Milwaukee Drills – Reviews and Buyers Guide

Best Milwaukee Impact Driver for the Money – Reviews

Here are our favorite Milwaukee Impact Drivers for the money!

CLICK any image to see Ratings & Reviews on Amazon


Walter Snyder

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