Drilling rigs can be:
- Small and portable, such as those used in mineral exploration drilling, water wells and environmental investigations.
- Huge, capable of drilling through thousands of meters of the Earth's crust. Large "mud pumps" circulate drilling mud (slurry) through the drill bit and up the casing annulus, for cooling and removing the "cuttings" while a well is drilled. Hoists in the rig can lift hundreds of tons of pipe. Other equipment can force acid or sand into reservoirs to facilitate extraction of the oil or natural gas; and in remote locations there can be permanent living accommodation and catering for crews (which may be more than a hundred). Marine rigs may operate many hundreds of miles or kilometres distant from the supply base with infrequent crew rotation or cycle
- Mechanical — the rig uses torque converters, clutches, and transmissions powered by its own engines, often diesel
- Electric — the major items of machinery are driven by electric motors, usually with power generated on-site using internal combustion engines
- Hydraulic — the rig primarily uses hydraulic power
- Pneumatic — the rig is primarily powered by pressurized air
- Steam — the rig uses steam-powered engines and pumps (obsolete after middle of 20th Century)
- Cable — a cable is used to raise and drop the drill bit
- Conventional — uses metal or plastic drill pipe of varying types
- Coil tubing — uses a giant coil of tube and a downhole drilling motor
- Single — can pull only single drill pipes. The presence or absence of vertical pipe racking "fingers" varies from rig to rig.
- Double — can hold a stand of pipe in the derrick consisting of two connected drill pipes, called a "double stand".
- Triple — can hold a stand of pipe in the derrick consisting of three connected drill pipes, called a "triple stand".
By method of rotation or drilling method
- No-rotation includes direct push rigs and most service rigs
- Rotary table — rotation is achieved by turning a square or hexagonal pipe (the "Kelly") at drill floor level.
- Top drive — rotation and circulation is done at the top of the drill string, on a motor that moves in a track along the derrick.
- Sonic — uses primarily vibratory energy to advance the drill string
- Hammer — uses rotation and percussive force (see Down-the-hole drill)
By position of derrick
- Conventional — derrick is vertical
- Slant — derrick is slanted at a 45 degree angle to facilitate horizontal drilling