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Best Hammer Drills

Updated September 2018
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
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How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

  • 97 Models Considered
  • 13 Hours Researched
  • 1 Experts Interviewed
  • 145 Consumers Consulted
  • Zero products received from manufacturers.

    We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

    Why trust BestReviews?
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers.
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.

    Shopping guide for best hammer drills

    Last Updated September 2018

    A good hammer drill is a tough tool that can handle tough jobs. Standard drill/drivers aren’t designed to cope with hard materials like masonry and concrete, but a hammer drill will power through those materials with ease. It’s an invaluable addition to the home and professional tool kit.

    We invite you to peruse our hammer drill choices above as well as the buying guide below, which contains information about what makes the best hammer drills stand out from the crowd.

    Hammer drill balance has been criticized in the past due to the weight at the bottom of the handle. There’s no getting around this weight, but manufacturers have put a lot of effort into improved ergonomics in spite of the heavy handle.

    How a hammer drill works

    The concept behind the hammer drill is actually quite simple. Imagine a drill bit being twisted and hit with a hammer at the same time. The bit doesn’t just rotate; it chips away at the surface. If you’re working with a hard material like concrete or brick, it’s a highly efficient way to make a hole.

    A modern hammer drill is a multi-purpose tool. It can be used as a standard drill – a very powerful one – by simply turning the hammer action off. A cordless hammer drill can also serve as a screwdriver. The built-in clutch offers a variety of screwdriver torque settings.

    Some people confuse hammer drills with impact drivers. While the mechanical principle is similar, an impact driver is a tool for fastening purposes. In other words, it drives large screws or bolts. A hammer drill is used for making holes.

    Cordless quality

    This is the tool that professionals were waiting for. The all-metal transmission and 1/2-inch chuck are built to withstand the rigors of site work. The extremely efficient brushless motor delivers a consistently high performance. Rapid re-charging is another bonus. We’ve waited a long time for a cordless hammer drill that consistently packs the punch of a corded model. It’s here.

    Corded vs. cordless hammer drills

    The corded vs. cordless debate has been going on since the first battery-powered tools hit the market. In a nutshell, corded tools deliver more power more consistently, and cordless tools are more convenient. But thankfully, improvements in battery technology and the efficiency of brushless motors has narrowed the power gap considerably. There are now cordless hammer drills that compete head-on with their corded counterparts.

    • If you have the budget for a premium cordless hammer drill, that tool would likely provide the best combination of performance and versatility currently available.

    • If you have a mid-range budget, the decision is more difficult. You can still find a good cordless hammer drill, but it won’t have the power of a corded model in the same price range. If you use a hammer drill occasionally, a mid-range cordless is convenient. If you use it more often than that, you’ll probably prefer the enhanced performance that a corded hammer drill provides.

    • If your budget is small, opt for a corded hammer drill. Inexpensive cordless drills are hardly ever worth it, but an inexpensive corded hammer drill could serve you well.

    DID YOU KNOW?

    A trigger locking button reduces fatigue in your hand because you don’t have to keep the trigger squeezed for prolonged drilling.

    Battery size and amperage

    Cordless hammer drills are usually rated by battery size. There’s little practical difference between 18 and 20 volts, but you don’t want less than that. Another important consideration is amp hours (Ah), which is the measure of how long a battery delivers consistent power. You can get 18-volt batteries ranging from 1.5Ah to 5Ah. For a hammer drill, 2.0Ah is a sensible minimum, but it’s worth investing in better if you can afford it.

    Corded hammer drills are rated by amps; a six-amp motor is capable of most tasks, but a seven-amp motor is ideal.

    Hammer drill transmission

    Budget hammer drills may only have one speed. If you pay a bit more, you may be able to get one with several speeds. Having two or three speeds to choose from is better for the following reasons.

    • The fastest speed isn’t always the best speed. If you’re drilling a one-inch hole in hardwood with a spade bit, you’ll want to slow things down so you get more torque and better control.

    • Using a slower speed with a cordless hammer drill can conserve battery power.
       

    Corded hammer drills almost always have a higher maximum rpm that cordless hammer drills. You’ll see figures of around 3,000 rpm for the former and 2,000 rpm for the latter.

    FOR YOUR SAFETY

    Be mindful of a hammer drill’s weight before you buy. A lighter hammer drill may be easier to handle, but it may not have the most robust construction. Having a certain amount of weight actually helps add force to your drilling action.

    Impact rating

    Manufacturers sometimes quote the number of blows per minute a hammer drill can deliver. We suspect this is because the numbers are so impressive. It’s common to see a hammer drill that delivers 30,000 blows per minute.

    Not all manufacturers supply this figure, and truth be told, there isn’t enough real-world difference in performance for it to have a bearing on your purchasing decision.

    Hammer drill chucks

    Two types of chucks are found on hammer drills: Jacobs (keyed) chucks and keyless chucks. Jacobs chucks are invariably found on corded hammer drills; keyless chucks are found on their cordless counterparts.

    Some experts argue that you can apply more tightening force using a key in a Jacobs chuck than you can using your hand on a keyless chuck. While that’s true, we have never come across a situation where a keyless chuck wasn’t tight enough.

    Some cheap hammer drills have chucks with a lot of plastic parts. However, steel components are stronger and much more durable.

    EXPERT TIP

    Adjustable depth guides are a useful extra. If you don’t have this extra, however, you can wrap a bit of tape around the drill bit to indicate when the required depth is reached.


    Staff  | BestReviews

    Hammer drill extras

    • Work light: A work light is a nice addition to a hammer drill, but you’ll usually find them only on cordless varieties. Some work lights have different settings so you can choose to illuminate a wide area or focus on a particular point.

    • Rubber grip: Some hammer drills have a rubber grip that absorbs the vibration that’s inevitable when using hammer action. The rubber grip helps reduce fatigue.

    • Storage case: It’s nice to have a case in which to store your drill. However, if you buy a “bare” cordless tool, a case will likely not be included.

    Hammer drill prices

    We advise against the very cheapest hammer drills. Vibration can make them uncomfortable to use and, because the hammer action is quite violent, it’s not unknown for them to literally shake themselves to pieces. But that doesn’t mean you have to spend a fortune.

    • Good corded hammer drills begin around $80.00. For a high-performance tool, that’s a reasonable price. But buyer beware: you’ll see DIY cordless hammer drills advertised for the same price or a few dollars more. These will be “bare” tools, meaning the battery is not included, nor is a charger. By the time you’ve purchased these additional items, you’ll be looking at $160.00 or more.

    • At the professional level, you’ll pay significantly more for a hammer drill. A bare tool costs around $150; a full kit with charger and two batteries tops $300. That said, you will have bought yourself one of the finest hammer drills available.

    Power, versatility, and exceptional value

    The Makita is an 18-volt cordless hammer drill that delivers enough power and flexibility to handle virtually any DIY job, yet it is compact and easy to handle. It even has clever electronics to protect it from overcharging and overheating.

    Tips

    • Invest in quality masonry drill bits. Cheap ones overheat and dull quickly. Some cheap drill bits will actually bend rather than drill a hole.

    • Always wear eye protection and a dust mask. The dust created from drilling brick, concrete, and cement can cause respiratory difficulties, and it may contain toxins as well.

    • If you already have a couple of cordless tools by a particular manufacturer, you could save money on batteries by buying your cordless hammer drill from the same brand. Be careful, though – not all hammer drill batteries are compatible, even when they’re from the same tool company.

    A hammer drill can create a lot of torque. Using a side handle gives you more control over the drill bit and improves accuracy. It also helps prevent the drill from twisting in your hands.

    FAQ

    Q. What’s the difference between a hammer drill and a rotary hammer/SDS drill?

    A. A rotary hammer or SDS drill is usually even bigger and more powerful than a standard hammer drill. It can accommodate masonry drill bits that are several feet long. However, the main difference between the two tools lies in the action. A standard hammer drill adds percussion to the drilling motion, banging the drill forward as it turns. A rotary hammer/SDS drill can use that hammering action on its own, without the drill. So if you fit a chisel or point tool, it becomes a small demolition hammer.

    Q. Is a brushless motor better than a brush motor?

    A. In a cordless tool, a brushless motor has a major advantage: it’s much more efficient at using battery power. In a corded tool, that’s not so important because the electrical supply is constant. A brushless motor is quieter and consumes less energy, but brush motors cost a lot less.

    Q. I’ve heard of a drilling technique called burping. What is it?

    A. One of the main reasons for buying a hammer drill is the ability to make substantial holes in tough masonry materials. But making deep holes can still be hard work! Burping is a technique that makes the job easier. You start the hole by drilling an inch or so. Then, you pull the drill bit back a little. Then, you drill a bit more and pull back a bit more. This continues, and the bit goes in deeper each time. The motion clears dust and debris from the hole that might otherwise clog it, and it also helps reduce heat buildup in the drill bit.

    The team that worked on this review
    • Bob
      Bob
      Writer
    • Devangana
      Devangana
      Web Producer
    • Eliza
      Eliza
      Production Manager
    • Melissa
      Melissa
      Senior Editor

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