Powerful. It offers 3 speeds and DEWALT’s Precision Drive for maximum versatility. The 4-amp hour batteries give excellent run times, and you get two, plus the charger and a nice case.
Almost none. A few users report chuck defects.
At just 2 pounds, it is very lightweight. Small and powerful tool that's perfect for the DIY crowd. Makes big jobs easy. Comes with a long-lasting battery. Three LED lights for making project area easy to see. Great for doing decks. Great price point.
Not as powerful as other drills, but good for indoor projects.
Versatile and performs well. Long lasting battery. Withstands hard use. Small size with a lot of power. Three setting modes can be changed quickly. Three LED lights make working in dark spaces much easier. 3-year warranty.
Battery not included.
1330 inch pounds of torque. Small size lets you get into tight positions easily. Ergonomic designs allows for easy handling. Designed for light to medium applications. Sinks screws efficiently. Durable and easy to use.
Only has one speed.
We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.
DEWALT has a tremendous reputation for high-quality tools, and it’s often the brand you’ll see in the hands of a professional contractor.
Their impact drivers are typical of the range: well-designed, powerful, reliable and durable. Despite being a premium tool, many are very affordable, and you’ll have something you can rely on, rather than a cheap alternative you have to replace every couple of years.
If you’re in the market for a DEWALT impact driver, the following buyer’s guide looks at their uses and specifications in detail, and our recommendations cover a wide choice of price and performance options.
A standard drill driver will do a lot of jobs around the home and job site, but their performance is limited. If you try driving 2-inch wood screws into a piece of 2x4 without first drilling a pilot hole, you’ll soon discover their shortcomings.
An impact driver is designed to do that kind of job all day long. In addition to increased torque they also have a hammer action, which radically improves penetration. It’s something of a specialist tool, but if you’ve got a lot of repetitive driving of substantial screws – let’s say you’re laying decking, for example – you’ll be glad you’ve got one.
A quick change from the driver bit to a socket, and the same tool can also be used for tightening nuts and bolts.
Ever since the introduction of cordless power tools, there’s been a difficult choice between them and their and corded counterparts. Cordless tools offer greater freedom, at the expense of outright power and the need to stop – all too frequently – to recharge. However, battery performance has increased dramatically in recent years – to the extent that with their impact driver tools, DEWALT has now abandoned corded completely.
Does that mean there are no drawbacks? That still depends on the batteries.
Voltage defines outright performance – with DEWALT you have a choice of 12-, 18- or 20-volt tools. Amp hours (Ah) tells you how long that performance can be maintained. The smallest DEWALT batteries are 1.1 Amp hour, fitted to the 12-volt impact driver. While highly rated by many owners, there are limits to how long these will run. The best kits provide two batteries so you can carry on working – but that means extra cost.
If you’re buying an 18- or 20-volt impact driver, 2Ah is a sensible minimum, though we would always recommend either the 4Ah or 5Ah alternatives.
As we’ve just mentioned, there are three power options: 12, 18 or 20 volts. We suspect the 18V models will gradually be phased out, because they use a brush motor. It’s cheaper, but isn’t nearly as efficient as the brushless motor in the 20V range. Although the 18V models offer good value, if you’re looking for maximum performance we would recommend the latter.
Single and three-speed models are offered. The first does provide variable speed, but it depends on trigger pressure, and it’s not easy to judge accurately. With the three-speed models, you also have DEWALT’s Precision Drive. This offers high torque at comparatively low rpm, for work that requires delicate adjustment.
You’ll want to look at speed, torque and, to a lesser extent, IPM (impacts per minute) when considering an impact driver. Speed (in rpm) tells you how fast the driver rotates, whereas torque tells you the actual rotational force applied – that’s what does the work when you’re driving long screws. For torque, DEWALT quotes inch pounds (in-lbs) rather than the usual foot pounds (ft-lbs) – perhaps because the figure sounds higher! Just divide by 12 to convert from one to the other. IPM is an interesting figure, but of limited practical value.
Most DEWALT impact drivers are very compact, making them easier to get into tight spaces than a standard drill driver.
A set of three bright LEDs lights up dark corners and stays on for 20 seconds after you release the trigger so you can see what you’ve been doing.
Belt hooks are provided, but they’re easily removed if you find them getting in the way.
The fast chargers usually recharge spent batteries in a couple of hours, but it can be as little as 30 minutes with the 12V 1.1Ah models.
20V Max XR batteries have a useful charge indicator.
Inexpensive: Despite the fact that DEWALT is a premium brand, their tools remain competitive. The entry-level 12V impact driver kit with battery, charger and carryall can usually be found for well under $100. You’ll get an 18V bare tool (meaning it comes by itself, with no battery, charger or other extras) for similar money.
Mid-range: At around $110 to $130, you’ll find 18V kits and the top-rated 20V Max XR as a bare tool.
Expensive: The 20V Max XR kit, with charger, two batteries and carryall, will set you back between $220 and $260. For your money, you are getting one of the most powerful, reliable, and durable impact drivers available.
One of the long-standing frustrations with cordless tools has been the variety of batteries they use. You can almost never mix different brands, but often they’ve not been compatible even when you have two tools from the same company.
Fortunately, that has changed. In DEWALT’s case, more than 180 tools can run using the same 20V Max batteries. So once you’ve got a couple of batteries and a charger, you can make big savings by buying other products in the range as bare tools.
Unfortunately, the older-style 18V batteries aren’t directly compatible with the 20V range. However, you can buy an 18V to 20V adapter so you can use the improved 20V Max batteries on most 18V DEWALT cordless tools.
Q. Are DEWALT 20V batteries much more powerful than 18V models?
A. No. In fact, technically they are the same. All batteries output a higher voltage at startup, when not under load. They then drop slightly under normal operating conditions. 20 volts represents that initial voltage, and DEWALT now quotes that on all their newer batteries. Regardless, they still run at a nominal 18 volts.
Similarly, the DEWALT 12V impact driver actually runs at 10.8 volts.
Q. What’s the difference between an impact driver and an impact wrench?
A. Although it’s a common mix up, it’s easy to remember which is which if you ignore the ‘impact’ bit and think about driver vs wrench. The impact driver is a very powerful screwdriver, ideal for use with long screws and other fixings. The impact wrench is the kind of tool used for undoing lug nuts or other heavy-duty nuts and bolts.
Q. Can I use an impact driver for drilling holes?
A. You can, if you can find drill bits with 1/4” hex shanks, but it’s not really what the tool is designed for. If you want to put a big hole through a piece of 2x4 framing with a spade bit – to run pipe or cable – that’s fine, but the hammer action means they don’t have the precision for detail work.