Driving screws and other fasteners into wood, metal and plastic is a key part of most construction, maintenance and renovation jobs. This is true whether you are a professional or an enthusiastic DIYer. Without the correct tools, this job can take a huge amount of time losing your money and leading to fatigue. With the best impact driver for the job (sometimes called an impact drill), it can take a fraction of the time! Impact drivers are designed specifically to drive screws into a range of materials and have the power to get the job done quickly.
These useful tools work along the same lines as cordless drills in that they are normally battery-powered and have a motor that creates a twisting force called torque. However, unlike a cordless drill or a hammer drill, they are specifically designed to drive in nails rather than being a multi-purpose tool. They have exactly the right torque to drive in screws without slipping and are more compact so that they can fit into awkward spaces. To help you choose the best impact driver for your jobs, we have prepared this useful guide.
The Best Impact Drivers
Our pick of the best impact driver is the DEWALT 20V MAX XR Impact Driver offering flexible and reliable performance for both professionals and enthusiastic DIYers. It features a brushless motor that delivers a maximum driver torque of 1,825 inch pounds and up to 3,250 RPM. These impact drivers can be set to one of three speed settings - with setting 1 having the greatest precision and the best option for intricate tasks. You can also alter the speed using the trigger.
This Dewalt driver is robust enough for a work setting and these impact drivers have a 1/4 inch hex chuck with an easy grip sleeve so that you can change the bit one-handed. This compact and cordless tool is powered by a rechargeable 20 volt battery but this is not included. It has a three bright LED lights to illuminate your work area.
The compact and lightweight BLACK+DECKER 20V MAX Impact Driver Kit comes complete with a 20V rechargeable lithium-ion battery, battery charger and a screwdriving bit. This cordless impact driver features a high performance transmission that you can rely on to deliver up to 1375 inch pounds of torque.
The 1/4 inch hex chuck is quick release and the speed is controlled by the trigger up to a maximum of 3000 RPM or 3900 BPM.
Including everything you need for hassle-free impact driving, the Makita 18V LXT Lithium-Ion Brushless Impact Driver Kit is also the most ergonomic of our featured impact drivers. It weighs just 3.3 pounds even when the battery is attached so you do not get tired when using it for longer periods. It is also only 5 inches long making it highly maneuverable and easy to use in tight spaces and features a soft rubberized handle for comfort.
These cordless impact drivers are powered by a Makita BL Brushless Motor so you get as much as 50% longer run time as well as greater speed and power. Overall, the brushless motor together with the aluminum gear housing give you the ultimate in durability.
Within the kit, you get a 18V LXT 3.0Ah battery - it will reach full charge in just 30 minutes making it one of the fastest charging cordless impact drivers around. This would be an ideal compact driver for deck screws, cabinet screws, TEK screws and lag bolts making it suitable for use by automotive mechanics, electricians, carpenters, plumbers and enthusiastic DIYers.
Our premium pick for the best impact driver is the Milwaukee M18 FUEL Impact Driver that gives you as much as 30% faster driving speed to get the job done quickly. It has one of the most powerful brushless motors you can get in an impact driver offering you a maximum of 2,000 inch pounds torque to tackle even demanding commercial jobs without the worry of overloads and over-heating.
The casing is just 4.59 inches long so you can easily reach into tight spaces. This impact driver delivers an impressive battery life and four settings to give you ultimate control of the power and speed. There is even a 'self-tapping screw' setting to speed up your jobs without stripping fasteners. It is compatible with all M18 REDLITHIUM batteries and comes with a belt clip and bit holder.
Our Best Value pick of the impact drivers is a high performance tool suitable for DIYers that won't break the bank. This combo kit includes the cordless impact driver, a 20V 2.0Ah battery, a fast charger with three LED lights), three 1/4 inch hex to square socket adapters (for 1/4 inch, 3/8 inch, 1/2 inch), two chrome vanadium driver bits, a carry bag, a belt clip and a user manual so it would make a great gift.
The 2000 MAH lithium ion battery fully charges in just one hour making it perfect for emergency jobs around the home. The TECCPO Impact Driver is capable of delivering 1600 inch pounds of torque and the 4-pole copper motor gives you 4000BPM of impacts which is enough for wood, plastic and metal. It has a 1/4 hex chuck made of metal. The driver speed is controlled by the trigger making it very easy to use.
The stand out feature of the PORTER-CABLE 20V MAX Impact Driver Kit is that you get two 20V MAX* Lithium Ion Batteries as well as a charger meaning that you don't have to make any other purchases. In terms of speed settings, you get a maximum of 2,700 RPMs which is plenty to get the job done quickly. It offers 1,495 inch pounds of torque for multiple surfaces.
The 1/4 inch hex on this Porter Cable impact driver allows you to change the bit with just one hand and the brushless motor gives you 50% more runtime than comparable models. It's compact size allows you to access awkward jobs with ease. There is a useful indicator on the Porter cable impact driver that lets you know how much battery charge is left and an LED work light to illuminate your job.
With a lightweight design, compact case and powerful motor, the Avid Power 20V MAX Cordless Impact Driver Kit has everything you need to complete your construction and maintenance quickly and without hassle. This impact driver has the power to deliver a maximum of 1590 inch pounds of torque and the speed is controlled by a trigger and can reach a maximum of 2700RPM. There is a forward and reverse function. It is more than capable of tackling screws and nuts and driving them in and out of a variety of surfaces such as brick, concrete, plastic, metal and wood.
This cordless impact driver features a 1/4 inch special chuck that can be changed quickly and simply. It comes with a 20V Max Lithium-ion battery with a capacity of 1500mAh and that charges in 3-5 hours. In addition to the speed impact driver and battery, you get a 14 piece socket set, a 10 piece driver bits set, a tool bag, charger and user manual.
Our budget pick is a competitively priced cordless impact driver that gets the job done without costing a packet. The GALAX PRO 20 V Lithium Ion Cordless Impact Driver is a DC power tool that offers high precision and up to 3,000 impacts per minute. In terms of speed, you get up to 2,800 RPM to get your building, restoration, or maintenance job completed in good time. The speed is controlled using the trigger.
The battery unlocks quickly and locks into place securely and it features a thick rubber handle that is safe and comfortable to grip. The hex chuck allows bits to be fitted quickly and without the need for any tools. The included 1.3 Ah Lithium Ion battery gives you plenty of working time before it has to be recharged and you also get a charger, a belt clip and six screwdriver bits included as well as a manual.
The three speed settings on the Ryobi 18V Brushless Impact Driver makes it a highly versatile tool for when you need a drill driver working at lower power. The speed switch is mounted at the top so that it is easy to reach. The grip handle is both textured and soft so it will not slip out of your hand and does not cause discomfort when used for prolonged periods.
The chuck does not require a key to change the bit and there is a triple-beam LED light located beneath it so that there are no annoying shadows across your work. It is a compact and lightweight unit that is also fast - it gives you up to 3,100 RPM to get the job done quickly. The battery is not included with the driver.
Featuring an included 20V MAX* Lithium rechargeable battery that fully charges in under an hour, the CRAFTSMAN V20 Impact Driver Kit is suitable for both home working and commercial use. It has the usual 1/4 inch chuck that is quick release and requires no tools so you can change the bit with just one hand.
These impact drivers offer some impressive statistics; they can produce 1, 460 inch pounds of torque which is strong enough to drive even large fasteners. The maximum speed is 2, 800 RPM and it delivers 3, 100 impacts per minute to get through multiple fastenings in a short time. These versatile impact drivers are also compatible with the Versatrack hang hook which is useful for when you are not using them.
Features To Consider With Impact Drivers
A speed impact driver (or impact drill) could be the most useful tool you have in your tool bag, provided you have purchased the right one! Impact drivers come with a range of features, here are some of the main ones that you should consider before making a purchase.
It is very frustrating when you buy a tool that does not have enough power to carry out the job you need it to do. There are two aspects to the power of impact drivers.
Firstly, the size of battery is important. If the battery does not deliver a lot of power, the impact drill driver will not be able to drive the screw or other fastener where you need it to go. Before you choose the best driver for your needs, think about the type of fastener and the surfaces that you will be working with.
The second aspect is the maximum torque that the impact driver can deliver. Torque is a special kind of force - it acts in a circle and is called a rotational force. Impact drivers are high torque tools so they rotate very quickly. This gets the job done fast.
The amount of power that you need in an impact driver will depend on the job that you need it to do. As a casual DIY enthusiast, you can get away with a low power model. However, if you need an impact driver for commercial use, it would be best if you selected a more powerful tool.
Brush vs. Brushless Motor
Direct current motors can be either brushed or brushless. The more traditional motor for electric tools was the brush version where wire coils were arranged around an armature that acted as an electromagnet with two poles. The constant pull and push against the permanent magnets creates the desired movement - in the case of an impact driver this is rotational movement.
With a brushless motor, there is a permanent magnet and driving coils in three phases that do the work.
Whilst the brush motors have lower construction costs and work best in extreme environments, a brushless impact driver is considered superior and is a more heavy duty choice. There are no brushes that can wear out and they are therefore more durable. They are also more efficient and create less noise when they are working.
Overall, it is best to look for an impact driver with a brushless motor if possible.
Speed and Impacts Per Minute
An impact driver is highly efficient at driving screws and other fasteners into a variety of materials because they contain a hammer and anvil mechanism. This produces bursts of torque (twisting force) to a screwdriver bit that is highly effective at rotating the screw head. This makes them the ideal tool for screwdriving work.
The number of impacts per minute is a measure of the number of bursts of force. It is often given as a number in the product description of the drill driver with the letters IPM following it which stand for impacts per minute. An impact driver that delivers a higher number of IPM will be able to overcome a greater resistance and will be more efficient at driving in screws. This also makes the job quicker and is best for people who do a lot of manual work. Typically, an impact driver tool will have an IPM value of around 3,000 to 3 200 impacts per minute which equates to a staggering 50 impacts per second.
The other value to look out for is the speed of the impact driver tool. All impact drivers have a variable speed that you alter by pressing the trigger. The further you press the trigger, the faster it operates. However, some other impact drivers have speed settings. Usually, the slower settings are used for jobs when greater precision is needed. Speed is usually given as revelations per second or RPM. An impact driver with a higher RPM will drive the screw more quickly into the surface. Commercial impact drivers often have high RPMs because professional carpenters and construction workers need to get the job done quickly. You can expect to see values of around 3000 to 3 200 RPM in the best models.
Impact Driver Chuck
Another factor that will affect how quickly you can get a job done is how fast you can change the bit in the chuck. Most impact drivers have a 1/4 hex chuck and you should look out for those that allow a rapid change. This is where impact drivers differ from a cordless drill. A drill will often require a chuck tool to change the bit which can be fiddly and time-consuming. An impact driver has a bit change that does not require a tool and, thanks to a rubberized surface around the chuck, many of them feature a one-handed change. This is a useful feature to look out for.
When you buy any cordless tool, the capacity of the battery is a key feature and cordless impact drivers are no exception. They are a DC power tool and require a strong battery to power the motor. If the battery is not strong, the motor will not have enough power to drive the screw into the work surface. Most impact drivers have at least a 20 volt lithium-ion battery that is rechargeable.
Battery life is also very important. There is nothing more frustrating than having an impact driver run out of battery half way through a job. The battery life may be given in the tool product description but that can only be an estimate because every job is different. Tougher jobs will use up more of the battery power and reduce the time that it will last. The best place to find information on battery life is in the reviews. Here, you can see how long each impact driver lasts under different types of working conditions and can select the best model for your needs.
The final feature to look out for is the time that the battery takes to charge up. The best models have rapid charging times and will be ready to go in under an hour. If the charging time is several hours, it may be best to purchase two batteries!
The best impact drivers will have additional features that make the tool more efficient, easier to use or better value. In particular, several models have a single, double or even triple LED work light that illuminates the area where you are using the impact driver. This is very useful, especially in low light conditions. The position of the LED light on the tool casing is also important. If it is below the chuck, you are less likely to get annoying shadows as you work.
You can also expect a battery indicator to be included in the best impact driver models. This is usually a series of lights that show how much charge is left in the battery. This is an extremely useful impact driver feature and prevents you running out of power when you are half way through the job.
Comfort and ergonomic design is another important consideration when buying power tools. An impact driver with an ergonomic handle with a soft handle grip is going to be more comfortable to use and will not lead to fatigue. This is especially important if you are going to be using it for long periods. You may also prefer to choose a lightweight model for the same reasons.
The size of the impact driver is important. Many impact driving jobs require you to reach into tight areas and this is where impact drivers have the advantage over cordless drills. They have a shorter width - making them suitable for cramped working conditions.
Finally, make sure that you understand exactly what is included with your purchase. Some brands sell just the impact driver without the battery. If you already have a compatible battery that is not a problem. However, if you do not have a battery, you will have to purchase one as well as a charger which could add up to a considerable additional expense. You may decide to purchase an impact driver kit that includes the impact driver itself, two batteries, a charger and a tool bag to carry them in. This would make an ideal gift for anyone starting out on a DIY project as it contains everything that they need to get started.
Impact Driver FAQ
Q: What is an impact driver used for?
Impact drivers work along the same principles as a cordless drill but instead of drill bits they have screwdriver heads. They are very useful tools that produce a lot of torque so that they can drive screws into many types of material at great speed.
They are the best option for enthusiastic DIYers as well as professionals.
Q: Can I use an impact driver as a drill?
Drills are heavy duty tools that are used for making holes in a variety of surfaces. A cordless drill is a convenient tool that can be used for a variety of tasks whereas a hammer drill is a special type of cordless drills that is suitable for heavy duty tasks such as drilling into concrete.
It is possible to insert special drill bits into a driver but they are not really the best tools for drilling holes.