Driver packs exceptional power and is extremely durable. Kit comes with numerous handy features designed to make your job easier.
Switch is touchy and slips into safety mode at the slightest touch.
Does the work of an 18-volt unit in a more compact, 12-volt package.
Driver only; no kit with extra batteries or accessories.
Includes case, charger, and slide-style batter. Satisfactory 18-volt system.
Unit is loud to the point of needing ear protection for prolonged use. Battery life can be an issue.
Variable light and power settings in an easy-to-use unit that packs plenty of power and exceptional battery life.
Durability is sometimes a question. Deep collet might mean bit holders with longer shanks are needed. Speed settings vary wildly.
We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.
A good impact driver is a powerful and versatile tool. It will breeze through jobs an ordinary drill/driver can't cope with.
If you’re shopping for a new impact driver, you’ll find plenty of options. This is good news in some ways, but the bounty of choice also presents some challenges. Voltage, torque, rpm, bpm ... there's a confusing array of specifications to consider and compare.
BestReviews was created to help consumers find answers to their product-related questions. We've got extensive facilities for testing and expert contacts for professional advice. Using practical results and real-world feedback from owners, we build a comprehensive picture of each tool's capabilities.
Our recommendations are trusted because we're completely independent. Some reviewers work with free samples from manufacturers, but that can lead to accusations of bias. Instead, we spend our own money, buying from the same places you would.
Our top five tools each deliver outstanding performance and value. There are options to suit all needs and all budgets. For a more in-depth look at what makes the best impact drivers shine, please read the following review.
A standard drill/driver does everything an impact driver does, so why might you want to spend the cash on an extra tool? In a nutshell, it comes down to power.
An ordinary cordless drill will do dozens of jobs around the home and garden. Everyone should have one. But try using one to put a dozen three-inch screws through decking planks, and you won't get very far. Cordless drills just don't generate enough torque.
An impact driver is designed for jobs like this. In addition to being able to apply vastly increased twisting force to the screw, an impact driver provides the rapid hammer action needed to deliver considerable additional force. It makes for a powerful combination, driving screws and other fixings almost effortlessly.
Cordless tools are often criticized for a lack of power (compared to corded versions) and short battery life. The DeWalt goes a long way toward changing people's attitudes. Its 20-volt battery gives class-leading performance and plenty of torque for tough jobs. Recharge time takes just 20 minutes.
So what should you look for when shopping for an impact driver? Our investigations covered the following topics, each of which we delve into below.
Cordless impact drivers now dominate the market to such an extent that corded models are all but impossible to find. That being the case, the question becomes one of battery power.
Look for lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries. Though more expensive, they don't suffer the "memory effect" of nickel cadmium (NiCad) types. L-ion batteries deliver more energy for longer, and they recharge more fully, too.
Torque (twisting force) is clearly a major factor when doing (or undoing) fastenings. Impact drivers are known for their exceptional torque. You can expect figures of around 1,000 inch pounds (in. lbs) from a 12-volt tool and in excess of 1,800 in. lbs from 18/20-volt models.
That said, torque without control can be excessive. If all 1,000+ in. lbs. came in at once, it would almost certainly tear the impact driver out of your hands. Because of this, impact driver triggers are progressive, allowing you to increase power gradually.
Impact drivers deliver plenty of torque, but if you can't dial it down, an impact driver may be too powerful for delicate jobs.
In addition to torque, impact drills can be rated for speed in rpm. Faster speed gets screws and other fixings fastened more quickly, so it ought to be a benefit. However, speed figures are not always quoted, not even by top manufacturers. The implication is that there’s always enough rpm to do the job.
Out research confirmed that assumption, but there is an additional feature on some impact drills that's well worth considering: variable speed. Many top impact drivers offer two or three speed choices. Effectively, they have a gearbox. This gives different torque ranges and thus more finesse for smaller fixings where full torque could actually strip threads or damage heads.
Impact drills create a lot of torque, and fast. Make sure you have a good grip when you pull the trigger! Do it gently until you become accustomed to the power.
All impact drivers have a hammer action that jolts the screw. This is a very effective feature, but again, it's one where some manufacturers quote a figure and others don't bother. Our own investigations returned figures of between 3,000 and 4,000 blows per minute, depending on the model. Hammer action is a feature that's vital to efficient operation, but it’s not a feature that is necessarily “better” in one tool than another.
Be careful when checking the weight of impact drivers. If you’re considering a bare tool, remember to factor in the weight of the battery to get a fair comparison.
Consider buying an impact driver with a work light to illuminate dark corners. The best work lights have a time delay, allowing you to see the area for 20 or 30 seconds after the trigger has been released.
Consider a tool with a battery charge indicator. This can be useful.
Consider an impact driver that comes with a storage bag for tidiness and a belt clip for convenience.
Some recent impact driver designs incorporate the battery within the handle. This makes for a slender appearance, and at first, our testers found this attractive. However, most had gotten accustomed to putting an impact driver down and having it stay upright thanks to the bulk of the battery. Slimline models tend to fall over. It's perhaps a minor factor, but some people did find it frustrating when they went to reach for it, particularly if wearing gloves.
"The perfect job for impact drivers involves continuous fixing of self-tapping or similar screws." For DIY drilling and driving duties around the home, a cordless drill could be a better option.
Old School, But a Great Tool
As Richard, our DIY consultant, pointed out, the Porter Cable is like an old-style corded impact driver with a battery stuck on rather than a purpose-designed cordless. However, despite the brush motor – and a 1.5-Ah battery where 2.0 Ah is standard – it delivers competitive performance, and owners rate it highly. It's robust, dependable, and an excellent value.
Consider more than just torque when choosing your tool. Maximum torque isn't everything; modern impact drivers deliver plenty of that. What you want is control – the ability to turn the tool up to drive long screws into cedar decking or down to drive self-tappers into sheetrock.
Be aware that the chuck on an impact driver is only designed to accept hexagonal bits (usually 1/4 inch). It doesn't open and close like the self-centering chuck found on ordinary drills and drivers. However, socket adaptors are available to extend the tool's usefulness, and most only cost a couple of dollars.
Q. What's the difference between an impact driver and an impact wrench?
A. An impact driver is a bit like a cordless drill/driver on steroids: it does a similar job but with lots of extra torque plus a hammer action for continuous work. It can drill holes and secure long fastenings where an ordinary driver would struggle.
An impact wrench is primarily an auto tool that is used for undoing wheel nuts or other parts on vehicles.
Q. Will I get a better deal if I buy a bare tool?
A. You might, particularly if you already own cordless tools from the same brand and have compatible batteries. You need to check carefully, though, as this isn't always the case.
Otherwise, you'll need to buy at least one battery and a charger. You'll need two batteries if you want to continue working while one is recharging. Each of these things adds to the cost, so you may want to consider a kit option, as these sometimes work out to be cheaper.
Q. Which is better, a brush motor or a brushless motor?
A. Brushless motors are better every time. The reason: brush motors wear out quickly, are less efficient at transmitting power, and are often noisier. The main reason they're still around is that they're considerably cheaper to produce. There's nothing wrong with a brush motor in principle. If you want a cheap impact driver for occasional use, it's a viable solution. You'll pay more for an impact driver with a brushless motor, but you'll get a more durable, virtually maintenance-free tool.
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