Impact Driver Vs Hammer Drill: Know The Differences

It can be difficult to drill through hard surfaces like wood, concrete, or metal if the right equipment isn’t used. Important for construction purposes, some equipment is specialized for doing heavy-duty work. Two of these pieces of equipment are an impact driver and hammer drill. Both are widely used for drilling tough surfaces. But they are two different devices. 

Impact driver and hammer drill are used for drilling only but they function differently. While many stay confused about which one to use, you just need to know the differences between the two to select the right one. They have both major and minor differences that you must know to apply the one that suits your purpose. But if you are struggling to find the differences, I am here to help you out. 

In this article, I am going to discuss impact drivers and hammer drills in detail. It will help you know and understand which one you should buy to perform your task. So hang in there to know all about impact driver vs hammer drill. 

Differences Between Impact Driver Vs Hammer Drill: A Detail Comparison

Impact drivers and hammer drills are used for different purposes. Also, their working mechanisms are different which makes their usage distinct too. My point is you can use both for the same task.

They have their own purposes to serve. And to select the right one to fulfill your purpose, you need to know the basic differences between these two options known for drilling through tough and hard substances. 

To clarify, here are the main differences between an impact driver and a hammer drill: 

  • Working Mechanism Of Impact Driver Vs Hammer Drill: 

Impact drivers have hammers and anvils in them. Some have two, while others have three hammers. So as you turn on the motor, the hammer and anvil plates move apart as the spring compresses. As the plates move apart for a moment, there becomes a space and the spring gains potential energy. 

The created space makes the anvil and hammer plates slip past and collide with each other again as the spring’s potential energy is converted to kinetic energy. Now this collision generates a downward force and a great torque transferring the kinetic energy to the bit to turn the fastener. This process goes on at a high speed to create an impact on the material. 

In contrast, the torque of a hammer drill is less. A hammer drill also uses plates to generate force but the plates are placed as if two checkers are put together. 

A hammer drill has sharp zigzag teeth at the edges of the plates. As the drill is turned on, the teeth at the plates touch and slip over each other generating motion and making the plates slip back and move forward at a fast speed.

This energy is transferred to the bit while the plates interlock and move apart fast to turn the bit. The speed of a hammer drill is greater than the impact driver. 

  • Application Of Impact Driver And Hammer Drill: 

An impact driver works in a rotational motion creating a rotational impact. This makes it perfect to apply on hex and bolts and embed them on hard materials. An impact driver makes driving and removing all types of hexes, bolts, and screws easier and faster. The static torque is responsible for fastening and removing screws and bolts efficiently. Due to this revolving motion, an impact driver is used on wood and metals. 

But to drill through harder substances like stones and concrete, you need a hammer drill. You can drill for setting anchors or simply to make holes. It creates the impact straight to the material rather than exerting a rotational motion. 

Lightweight and easy to use, a hammer drill is suitable for making 0.5 inches of the hole through surfaces. Besides, it doesn’t spread silica dust as the bit drills straight through the material. This means it is safe for everyone. However, don’t use a normal hammer drill to embed screws. 

Another option is to buy a hammer drill that has a drill, drive, as well as a hammer drill so that you can switch between the modes and use whichever you need. 

  • Functions Of Impact Driver And Hammer Drill: 

Impact driver exerts an impact while a hammer drill puts a hammering motion on a material. The hammer drill knocks the surface and penetrates the surface going straight into the material. This knocking force at a high speed is greater than the impact created by an impact driver. 

In contrast, the bit of the impact driver rotates and also creates an impact motion. It works more or less similar to the hammer drill but the usage is different and the force is more gentle than a hammer drill. You can use a powerful hammer drill to drill through hard substances efficiently. You can make big holes with it.

On the other hand, an impact driver is usually for embedding screws, bolts, hexes, etc. 

  • Material Drilled By Impact Driver And Hammer Drill: 

You don’t use the same material to drill a substance. These two tools, impact driver and hammer drill, are used to drill through different substances as the motion created is different. Also, the purposes are different too. While a hammer drill is suitable for making holes, an impact driver better embeds and puts screws, bolts, etc. in hard and tough material. 

A hammer drill is used to drill through concrete. But to make holes in wood, metal, and tiles, you would need an impact driver. But now you may think that if a hammer drill is that powerful why can’t you use it on metal and wood surfaces? This is because hammer drills can be too harsh on them and can damage or crack the surface. Not all materials can handle the direct force. 

Besides, an impact driver has 2 mechanical speed settings and you can adjust the RPM too. Thus you can control it to decide on how to use it. 

Impact Driver vs Hammer Drill Quick Comparison: Which Is Ideal For You?

Here is a comparison chart showing the basic differences between an impact driver and hammer drill: 

FactorsImpact DriverHammer Drill
Drill In MetalYesYes
Drill In WoodYesYes
Drill In Plaster And Soft StoneYesYes
Drill In Tiles And BricksYesYes 
Drilling In ConcreteNoYes
Demolition And ChiselingNoNo

Impact Driver Is Ideal For:

While you choose an impact driver, you need to consider a few factors only. The very first factor is to select one that is handy and easy to work with. While most impact drivers offer the option of switching the modes, some don’t have that option. So always choose an impact driver that allows you to switch the speeds and modes. This will make the task more efficient and easy. 

Another factor to consider is the battery power. You will get impact drivers in three different powers: 12 V, 18 V, and 20 V. I suggest you choose between an 18 V or a 20 V impact driver as they offer more power and torque making you work more efficiently.

But having a high-power battery also means that it would be bulky and hard to handle. Keeping a heavy impact driver steady is hard if you are not a pro. So you can choose an 18 V impact driver but make sure that you practice driving it several times before applying it. 

The other factor to consider is the motor of the impact driver. You will get two models: brushed motor and brushless motor. Choosing a brushless motor can be expensive but it is more efficient and powerful.

Besides, consider buying an impact driver that has the option of changing the speed. This helps you alter the speed when necessary making it convenient for you to use it for different purposes. 

Hammer Drill Is Ideal For:

A hammer drill is used to drill through hard materials like brick and concrete. So first, you need to decide whether you need a hammer drill or not. This is because a hammer drill is used for heavy-duty work only.

For general screwing and drilling purposes, an impact driver would be enough. So you would need to get a hammer drill only if you drill through really hard substances regularly. For instance, if you do construction work at home, you can consider having a hammer drill. 

If you need to do heavy-duty work regularly, go for a high-power hammer drill. For example, you can go for a 36 V hammer drill for heavy-duty work. On the other hand, you can buy a handy and small hammer drill. Remember that a cordless model would be heavy. However, if you need to carry it frequently, you should go for a cordless hammer drill. 

The main factor is that you would need a hammer drill only for heavy-duty work. Otherwise, even a normal electric drill would suffice. For regular tasks, you don’t need a hammer drill. Also, you need to choose the chisels, spades, and bits according to the surface you are drilling through.

So buy it only if you need it. Otherwise, the investment would go down the drain. 

Related Questions:

Can You Use A Hammer Drill As An Impact Driver? 

A hammer drill and an impact driver are two devices intended for different purposes. They are different devices for a reason. Though they are similar, their functions and purposes are different.

A hammer drill is a powerful device for drilling through tough substances such as brick and concrete. You can use it to drill through a bit less hard substances too like tile and plaster. But it is not recommended for use on soft surfaces as the force is high. On the other hand, an impact driver can’t be used to drill through hard surfaces. It is used to embed screws, hexes, etc., and drill through moderately hard substances. 

Therefore, hammer drill and impact driver have distinct functions and it is not recommended to use a hammer drill as an impact driver as it may damage the surface. 

Does An Impact Driver Have Hammers? 

Impact drivers create great torque by exerting impact on the bits to drill through materials. But this procedure involves two hammers in the device too. 

An impact driver has a hammer and anvil design. While most of the impact drivers have two hammer plates, some have three. The hammer plates collide to create an impact. The hammer and anvil come together and move away to create an impact on the spring-loaded hammer plates. 

Therefore yes, impact drivers have hammers that are responsible for creating an impact on the bits. 

What Can A Drill Do That An Impact Driver Can’t? 

Both drill and impact drivers are used for drilling through surfaces. But they don’t drill the same materials. 

An impact driver can’t drill through bricks, blocks, etc. as effectively as a hammer drill. Hammer drills make drilling a bit easy and swift while drilling through hard surfaces using an impact driver is challenging. Using an impact driver is much tougher and can strain your wrist. But a drill can do the task easily and smoothly. 

Therefore, to make holes in hard surfaces, a drill is a better choice than an impact driver. You just need the right drill bits to drill through the surface. 

Why Do You Use An Impact Driver Over A Hammer Drill?

If you are about to embed screws and bolts, you should not use a hammer drill and go for an impact driver. For regular activities, it is always easy and convenient to use an impact driver. 

A hammer drill is used for construction works that general people won’t do. For everyday activities, an impact driver is the best choice. It puts a rotational force-making hole, putting less strain on your wrist, and making it easier for you to fix nails, screws, or bolts. On the other hand, a hammer drill has an extreme direct force to penetrate hard surfaces that you may not require as it is for heavy-duty activities. 

For everyday convenience and ease, using an impact driver is the best idea. A hammer drill is rather a more professional device for heavy-duty work. 


Now that you know the differences between an impact driver and a hammer drill, you will be able to decide which one suits your purpose. Look into the differences once again and try to figure out which one you would need. 

So have you found your desired drilling device? 

Masud Rana

This is Masud Rana. I run this blog. My Tools Guide is a blog where I share product reviews of different tools. Stay tuned to get more helpful articles!

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