What’s the Difference Between a Combi Drill, Hammer Drill Driver, Drill Driver, SDS+, and Impact Driver? We get asked this question almost hourly so we made this handy guide that will explain the key differences, the pros and cons, what each tool is best suited for and, most importantly, what tool is best for you! In this article we will be covering cordless tools as they are usually the most suitable. However, some people do choose corded over cordless if they are going to be using the tool for a long period of time without a way to recharge batteries. Price also plays a big part as corded options are usually cheaper than the cordless option.  

Combi Drill

The combi drill is really the workhorse of drill's and you will struggle to find any tradesman who doesnt have one of these in their toolbox. The name Combi comes from the fact that a combi drill has a combination of modes. You can punch through masonry with "hammer action", you can drill straight through metal with "rotary action", and even drive screws into the toughest material with "screwdriver action". You will also see the combi drill referred to as a hammer drill driver but they are the exact same thing! A typical combi drill has 3 modes of operation with the most notable being “Hammer Action”. If you are putting up a shelf or some sort of thing that goes on the wall then the chances are that you’ll be drilling into brickwork and, if you are drilling into brickwork without hammer action on, the chances are that you’ll be standing there for a very long time. With hammer action on the drill will force your bit through the brick with a smashing action as well as a rotary action (almost as if the bit is acting as a hammer). This will let you power through that brickwork and have your shelf or whatnot up with enough time left for a swift half.   The second function is “Rotary Action” and this is pretty much as it sounds. Your bit will just spin around until the hole is made. This is ideal for drilling through wood because if you’re drilling through wood with hammer action on the drill will just smash your wood to pieces. Josh's Tip - Use a low speed and high torque when going through wood and a high speed with low torque when you're going through metal    The 3rd and final function is “Screwdriver Action”. Again, this mode is fairly self-explanatory, but it just slows the drill speed right down, puts most of the power into the torque, and lets you drive screws quickly and easily.

Pros of a Combi Drill

  • You can accomplish the most tasks with a combi drill.
  • Combi drills are usually more robust than drill drivers / impact drivers.
  • It’s really hard to go wrong with a combi drill. Stick with a decent brand and the tool will last you many years.

Cons of a Combi Drill

  • Combi drills are usually more expensive than other types of drill.
  • More features mean more weight.
  • Lower torque than an impact driver so, if screw driving is your game, you might want to skip the combi.

Who is it for?

A combi drill is one of those tools that every tradesman under the sun and almost every DIY'er worth their salt will have one stashed away in their shed or toolbox. The range of jobs you can accomplish with a combi make them absolutely invaluable. If you're just getting your kit together, this is where you start.    

Impact Driver

The impact driver is a very interesting tool. The bit at the end spins in the same way as any other driver but the way the tool makes it spin is very different. Inside our little driver there are two pieces of metal called “Hammers” and these hammers spin around  at very high speeds and smash into what we call the “Anvil” which is another piece of metal that is attached to the chuck. The hammers hit the anvil at very high speeds and force it to spin around with an incredible amount of torque which is transferred through the chuck, through your specialised Impact screwdriver bit, and down into the screw. Josh's Tip - You’ll need a specialised impact bit because Impact Drivers generate such a high amount of torque that a regular bit will probably shatter. Not to worry though, you can pick some up here I realise that this is not easy to wrap your head around but going into massive detail about impact action is beyond the scope of this post. For now you can check out this article from Popular Mechanics which goes into greater depth here

Pros of an Impact Driver

  • Extremely high torque that will drive the biggest screws through the thickest materials with ease and without impacting your wrist.
  • Compact design makes it ideal for kitchen fitters and other trades that need a lot of power in a small package.
  • Can usually pick them up fairly cheap.

Cons of an Impact Driver

  • With great torque comes great risk. If you’re not careful with your trigger finger you could end up powering the screw straight through the material and damaging your work piece.
  • Fairly limited to just screw driving and other rotary based activities.
  • A standard impact driver is sometimes referred to as a “Rattler” for a reason. When the hammers hit the anvil they sure let you know about it. These things are loud!

Josh's Tip - If noise is a big concern for you then check out the Oil-Impulse Driver here

Who is it for?

If your work demands a lot of screwdriving power in a small package then this is the tool for you. Its just as comfortable on site as it is assembling flat pack furniture so don't be put off if you're a DIY'er because once you have one, you'll wonder how you got by without it. If you need more convincing about the benefits of an Impact Driver, we have a fantastic article that goes in to great depth on the subject here    

Drill Driver

Here we have a drill driver which looks very similar to a combi drill because it is very similar to a combi drill. Just remove the hammer function from a combi and this is what you get. You may be asking yourself what the point of this tool is, but it is actually quite useful! This machine has no hammers or anvils, so it is much lighter than a combi and is usually a lot more compact so, if your job is just driving screws and drilling then you wouldn’t want to be carrying around a great big combi all day. Your average Joe who picks up a drill twice a year for a bit of DIY would be better off getting a combi but, if you’re on the tools all day every day, weight becomes a big factor.

Pros of a Drill Driver

  • Compact and light. Easy to carry around all day and fit into tight spaces.
  • Can drill and drive screws so this tool bridges the gap between the impact and combi drill.
  • Usually cheaper than a combi drill.

Cons of a Drill Driver

  • You won’t be able to get through masonry with this.
  • Not as robust as a combi drill.
  • Not as much torque as an impact or some combi drills.

Who is it for?

Good question. The Drill Driver is designed for people who drill through wood and metal all day with a bit of screwdriving. They're designed to be light and maneuverable but, if you're more in the DIY side of things, you're better off with a Combi Drill.    

SDS+

Here we have the SDS+ Drill. This is a serious machine intended for serious work drilling through tough masonry. You could try and put up a picture frame with it, but you’ll probably end up in your neighbours living room so this one is best left to site work or heavy-duty DIY with an experienced DIYer. Designed primarily for drilling through masonry, the SDS+ drill packs a lot of power and is not afraid to show it. If you're drilling through concrete all day every day then you'll need an SDS+ by your side. Bit of an odd name for a drill but it actually stands for “Slotted Drive System” however, some argue that it comes from the German phrase ‘steck, dreh, sitzt’ that translates as ‘insert, twist, fits’. Either way, SDS+ just means how the chuck the bit go together. It works similarly to the combi drill in terms of hammer action but at 100x the scale. The drill bits have a long slot on them (hence the name) which the chuck grips into and lets the bit slide back and forth with much more freedom than a combi drill. The extra power and huge hammer action will have you tearing down walls and patios with ease. Most SDS+ drills will come with a rotary only mode for when you want something a bit gentler and also a hammer only mode, which means the bit will just move in and out instead of spinning, for when you want more of a chisel action rather than a drilling action. Some high end SDS+ drills will have a 4th function which will allow you to rotate the bit in the chuck meaning you can get your chisel into some difficult to reach places.

Pros of an SDS+

  • Massively powerful tool that will chew through most  brickwork with ease.
  • Very strong and designed for heavy duty work.

Cons of an SDS+

  • Usually large and quite heavy so not great for delicate work.
  • This tool is all about smashing and destroying whatever you put in front of it, so it is not quite as versatile as the other tools on our list

Who is it for?

These machines are big, heavy, and packed full of power so unless you're a very experienced DIY'er, it is best to leave this one to the professionals. SDS+ Drills are designed to tear through masonry so they are the ideal tool for demolition work and anything that needs big holes in tough material. There is a big jump between the combi drill and the SDS+ drill, enough to warrant an article of its own. Here is the article of its own if you fancy a bit of further reading on this topic. Link    

Summary

Choosing the right tool is absolutely crucial in getting your job done to the highest standard so you really can't afford to leave it to chance. Combi Drill: A versatile workhorse that will get you through the majority of jobs. If you're a tradesman you've probably got one already. If you're looking to get started then this is what you want first. Impact Driver: Built to drive screws and drive screws well. If your combi struggles to screw a tail on a Donkey then this is the tool for you. Has its place in an experienced DIY toolkit but it's probably beyond the scope of the average Joe. Drill Driver: In a nutshell, its a combi without hammer action. This means its not particular useful unless you're in a specialised trade that doesn't use hammer action. If you're not in that field its advisable to go for the Combi. SDS+ Drill: If you have a wall that needs taking down ASAP then this is the tool for you. Built to chew through tough masonry it is definitely more at home on site than in someones house. Unless you're a seasoned DIY'er we recommend leaving this one to the professionals.   This article is in no way a complete guide as manufacturers are always inventing and developing new tools to cater to the ever changing market but we hope it has helped point you in the right direction when you’re looking for All The Tools You Need to get your job done! Please leave any questions, queries, or comments in the section below!