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Design

Best Impact Driver for Screwing Firmer, Faster & Easier

 August 26, 2021

By  Tim Parry

A cordless driver/drill is normally one of the first power tools most people buy, thanks to its tremendous versatility. A solid driver or drill makes several tasks easier, from building decks and screwing down plywood to installing tile backer boards and many other jobs that need driving screws into wood. So, we've looked at and rounded up a couple of standout options on the market to help you find the best impact driver for your home or workshop.

Which Brand Impact Driver Is The Best?

What's an Impact Driver?

An impact driver looks similar to a power drill and is also a handheld tool mainly used to drive screws. However, an impact driver has significantly more rotational force than a power drill, extremely quick bursts of up to 50 times per second. This creates an extremely powerful torque that can drive even large screws and various fasteners into hard materials easily and quickly.

Impact drivers also don't have a chuck; instead, they have a quick-release shank that fits all 1/4-inch hex driver bits. Therefore, impact drivers are not only nifty for simple around-the-house tasks, but they're also equally capable when you're facing projects that involve lots of wood screws, like building a deck, erecting a fence or even assembling a child's swing set. The power, lighter weight and ease of use make an impact driver both an effective and efficient power tool.

How Does it Work?

The typical drivers apply torque on the load at a steady rate. Conversely, impact drivers produce exceedingly rapid bursts of impact-somewhat similar to a hammer blow to generate their torque, creating an incredibly powerful turning force. So how does it all happen?

An impact driver is (in part) made up of a spring, a "hammer", and an anvil. When the motor spins the shaft, it compresses the string and then releases with immense force, striking the hammer and which hits the anvil. The entire process happens very rapidly, usually over 50 times per second, which adds bursts of impact to the torque.

1. DEWALT 20V Max Impact Driver Kit

Sale
DEWALT 20V Max Impact Driver Kit, 1/4-Inch (DCF885C1)
  • Compact (5.55-inch front to back), lightweight (2.8 lbs) design of...
  • 3 LEDs with 20-second delay after trigger release of the cordless...
  • DEWALT 20V 1/4 impact driver features one-handed loading 1/4-inch hex...

The DEWALT DCF885CI impact driver is a stalwart tool if you're on the lookout for a first-time or replacement power fastener. It comes with a no-frills approach, focusing mostly on delivering a reliable driver and solid battery to boot. In fact, this one comes with a nifty independent charging station so that you can keep the driver going for as long as you require.

This cordless impact driver can produce up to 1400 inch-pounds of torque, 32oo impacts per minute (ipm) and 2800 rotations per minute (rpm) for robust power. It features the standard 1/4-inch hex shank and is small and compact enough to fit into tight spaces without compromising power and torque. The DEWALT 20V Max impact driver also sports three LED lights for lighting up the spaces you're working on.

The small build means it's impressively lightweight and feels pretty compact in the hand. The battery lasts a decent while, enough to get you through light to medium-duty tasks. Plus, it has a relatively fast recharge time in case you need more juice to get going.

PROS
  • Powerful performance
  • Compact design
  • Fairly lightweight
  • Long battery run-time
  • Decent recharge time
CONS
  • Battery life can be shaky

2. DEWALT 20V Max Cordless Drill/Impact Driver Kit

Sale
DEWALT 20V Max Cordless Drill Combo Kit, 2-Tool (DCK240C2)
  • DCD771 in cordless drill combo kit features 2 speed transmission...
  • DCD771 high performance motor of cordless tools combo kit delivers 300...
  • DCD771 compact, lightweight design of the drill/ impact driver combo...
  • DCD771 1/2-inch single sleeve ratcheting chuck provides tight bit...
  • DCD771 Ergonomic handle delivers comfort and control

The DEWALT DCK240C2 Combo Kit makes a solid case for the best impact driver, mostly because it offers the best of the company's power tool line. Featuring a drill and impact driver means the kit covers almost all fastening needs you'll have around the house or yard. The ergonomic design means both tools are compatible with virtually most 1/4-inch hex shanks.

It's a 20-volt impact driver/drill that delivers 1400 inch-pounds of torque, 3200 ipm and a maximum speed of 2800 rpm. The kit includes a charger that boosts up the tools in just a couple of hours. Additionally, the set comes with two batteries, as well as a carrying bag when you're moving around.

PROS
  • Two useful tools for light-to-medium jobs
  • Reliable performance
  • Compact size
  • Includes carrying/storage bag
CONS
  • Bits may come loose in the drill
  • Battery life can be rocky

3. Milwaukee M12 Fuel Impact Driver

Milwaukee 2453-20 M12 Fuel 1/4 Hex Impact Driver tool Only
  • POWERSTATE Brushless Motor: Delivers up to 1,200 in-lbs of peak torque...
  • DRIVE CONTROL: Two fastening modes provide variable power and speed...
  • Its reduced size and weight cut down on user fatigue, while the...
  • REDLINK Plus Intelligence: The most advanced system of cordless power...
  • Includes one (1) Milwaukee 2453-20 M12 12V FUEL 1/4-inch Hex Impact...

If you're looking for an impact driver suited to occasional small projects around the house, the Milwaukee M12 Fuel is a solid choice. For starters, it offers an attractive deal for its price for quality value. It gives the average DIYer a reliable tool that delivers a good amount of torque effectively and quickly.

The Milwaukee M12 Fuel has a 12-volt power supply. It produces a maximum of 1000 inch-pounds of torque and 3300 ipm, with 2500 rpm to deliver terrific performance for mostly light tasks around your home. Additionally, its small size makes it very easy to carry around when working on larger sites.

The cordless impact driver comes with an ambidextrous belt clip so that the tool is always close to you. It also features an LED meter that allows you to monitor the driver's power level. Unfortunately, the M12 Fuel battery is sold separately, so that could be an additional cost you'll have to consider.

PROS
  • Great performance
  • Fairly long battery run-time
  • Compact
  • Easy to handle
CONS
  • Battery has to be bought separately

4. BLACK+DECKER 20V Max Cordless Impact Driver/Drill Combo Kit

Sale
BLACK+DECKER 20V MAX Cordless Drill Combo Kit, 2-Tool (BD2KITCDDI)
  • Part of the black+decker 20V max* battery system
  • Drill / Driver features an 11 position clutch with a LED work light to...
  • Impact Driver features a high performance transmission that delivers...
  • Quick release 1/4" hex Chuck, 0-3000rpm, 0-3900ipm
  • Lightweight compact design on both tools

In most cases, impact drivers and drills go hand-in-hand for most tasks. In that light, some manufacturers offer nifty combo kits that come with both an impact driver and drill. Both tools use the same battery and charging station, giving you the ultimate bang for your buck.

The Drill/Impact runs off a 20V battery that can produce 1375 inch-pounds of torque, 3900 ipm and a maximum speed of 3000 rpm. That makes it perfectly suited to light and medium tasks around the house. To cap it off, the battery is compatible with plenty of cordless power tools in the lineup, making this a versatile impact driver kit.

PROS
  • Two-in-one power tool
  • Ideal for light-to-medium jobs around the house
CONS
  • Not for heavy-duty tasks

5. Ryobi ONE+

Sale
Ryobi P238 18V One+ Brushless 1/4 2,000 Inch Pound, 3,100 RPM Cordless...
  • 3 SPEED SETTINGS: For those instances where you want to work with...
  • GRIPZONE OVERMOLD: The pistol grip on the P238 has a rubber molding...
  • TRI-BEAM LED: The lighting unit below the keyless chuck prevents...
  • BELT CLIP: Keep this stored on your person throughout the day with...
  • ONE+ COMPATIBLE: This tool is compatible with Ryobi’s 18V battery...

The Ryobi ONE+ is arguably aimed at the professional level but still presents a great choice for the DIY/handyman, thanks to its remarkable power and performance. It produces a maximum torque of 2000 inch-pounds, a tremendous 4350 ipm and a speed of 3100 rpm, giving you tremendous power for all your drilling duties.

More so, it's a brushless impact driver, hence more power and longer battery run-time so that you can keep going on your project. The 18-volt batteries, also used on more than 80+ power tools in the company's lineup, do a great job of powering this powerful and fast impact driver. In addition, the 1/4-inch quick-connect hexagonal shank holds most driver bits firmly and securely, while a magnetic tray holder offers the space to keep spare bits when you're not using them.

PROS
  • Brushless motor for extended run-time
  • Powerful and fast
  • Reliable performance
CONS
  • Battery not included

Factors to Consider in the Best Impact Driver

1. Battery Power

While you can always find corded impact drivers, the cordless impact driver is more common, thanks to its unlimited radius of use. That means easily working your way down a series of screws when dealing with a large project. Generally, cordless impact drivers run on batteries with three common power capacities; 12-volt, 18-volt and 20-volt.

12V impact drivers are compact and lightweight, hence easier to carry around while your work. They pack enough power to drive your average-sized screws into soft to mid-weight wood, making them an excellent choice if you'll only use the tool for small and light projects around the house, say putting together a swing set.

18V impact drivers are a bit larger and heavier, certainly with more power, making them more suited for projects that involve large screws and hardwood. That means an 18V impact driver is a great versatile choice for people who are serious about DIY and need that extra bump-up in power.

20V impact drivers are the big guns; heavy-duty tools built to drive even oversized screws into the hardest wood repeatedly. This makes them ideal for contractors or DIYers working on exceptionally large projects, such as building a deck or adding a room to the house.

2. Torque & Impact

Impact drivers are primarily all about torque, which represents the tool's turning power in inch-pounds. Typically, the more the battery power, the higher the torque, explaining why 18V and 20V impact drivers handle harder wood with more ease than 12V drivers.

A 12V impact driver produces around 800 inch-pounds of torque, while a 20V counterpart can deliver a robust 2,000 lb-ft. Therefore, the 12V models are more suited to typical house and DIY tasks, while the more powerful 20V models are ideal for heavy-duty projects.

You'll also want to consider the rate at which the tool delivers an additional "blow" of power when in use, usually measured in impacts per minute (ipm). Lower-powered impact drivers generally produced around 2,000 ipm, while the more powerful ones are capable of up to 3,700 ipm. It's worth noting that manufacturers indicate the tool's "no-load" ipm, meaning the impact produced when it's running in the air and not, in fact, driving a screw.

3. Speed

The rotations per minute (rpm) refers to how fast the driver bit turns. Naturally, the faster the bit turns, the quicker the job gets done. But it's important to consider that turning too fast can strip screws or cause damage to the wood.

You'll also find the speed tends to increase as torque increases. That said, most higher-end impact drivers nowadays come with multiple rpm settings, ranging from 600-800 rpm on the lowest settings, 1800-2000 rpm on mid settings and 3000+ rpm on the highest settings. The number stated is equally the "no-load" rpm, representing the speed when the driver is running in the air and not driving a screw.

4. Weight

Generally, impact drivers are small and light, allowing you to use them over an extended period without causing hand or arm fatigue. It becomes especially crucial when you're inserting screws overhead. The smaller the impact driver, the less cumbersome it is to use and the more it fits into tight spots that would be inaccessible with a regular drill.

5. Grip

It's also important to ensure that the tool fits in your hand firmly. This means having a comfortable and secure rubber overmold to ensure that you get maximum grip when working.

6. Noise Level

In recent years, hydraulic impact drivers have become more affordable. Therefore, we don't have to contend with these tools being loud as just the way it is. Now you can find quieter options that are handy in occupied spaces such as office buildings and schools.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) on Impact Drivers

1. Do impact drivers typically require special bits?

Yes. Impact driver bits are built to withstand immense torque. As such, they are made of fairly more flexible metal than regular bits. Furthermore, impact driver bits have slightly narrower shafts with hexagonal ends, unlike the rounded ends in most regular bits.

As such, while you can arguably use impact driver bits with a regular drill, it is UNSAFE to use regular bits with an impact driver.

2. Do impact drivers come with torque settings?

No. Unfortunately, impact drivers come with preset torque. Therefore, they're most all-or-nothing tools that are best saved for projects that really need substantial force to drive screws through hard materials, or tasks where the high driving speed is necessary.

Tim Parry


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