Just five years ago, impact drivers weren’t quite as popular as they are today. Now, you can choose from several models that can be found online or at your local tool retailer. This type of tool is gained popularity quickly and has become a staple in any DIYers or professionals tool chest. But finding the best impact driver isn’t exactly easy, especially when you consider the many best-selling options available today. Because of this, I’ve created a buyers guide that will cover every feature you could ever want in an impact driver that won’t let you down.
I’ll go over the pros and cons of some of these features, how these powerful tools work, and why you just gotta have one.
I’ve also reviewed many of the leading impact drivers on the market, narrowing it down to six that have what it takes to get the job done. Below, you’ll find a comparison chart that includes each of the models that made it onto my top 6 lineup, how each of these impact drivers rated, and what features they have to offer.
Impact Drivers Comparison Chart
Best Overall-Milwaukee M12 Impact Driver
This ⅜” drill, the Milwaukee M12 is an all-metal drill and driver that features 12-volts of power and is capable of reaching speeds up to 1500 RPMs. The impact driver is highly adjustable, with a 20 position clutch that allows you to adjust the torque up to 275-inch pounds. This is more than enough power to drive larger screws and fasteners, or drill holes for both DIY and industrial projects. The drill runs on 2 12-volt lithium-ion batteries that feature Red Link technology, allowing the motor and battery to communicate. This communication will prevent the battery from sending too much power to the motor, preventing it from overheating.
- Battery charging indicator light
- Comes with a contractor bag
- Red Link intelligence
- LED light
- Compact design allows it to fit in tight spaces
- Does not include drill bits
The hex impact driver Milwaukee M12 has it all, including long battery life, an LED light that allows you to get a clear look at your project as you work, Red Link technology that prevents the impact driver from overheating on the job, and a textured grip handle designed to provide improved control, especially when you’re working in tight spaces. This driver will work well for both DIY and professional use and comes with plenty of power to get the job done.
Best 20v Impact Driver-Dewalt Impact Driver Kit
This Dewalt 20v impact driver offers plenty of torque and features a lightweight, compact design that promotes longer use while reducing user fatigue and wrist strain. The driver’s high-performance motor delivers 300 unit watts of power. The driver also comes equipped with a high-speed transmission that provides two-speed options:
- 0-450 RPM
- 1,500 RPM
The impact driver’s ½-inch sleeve ratcheting chuck offers tight bit gripping power.
Aside from the lightweight design, the driver also comes with an ergonomic handle that improves user control and comfort.
- Excellent battery life
- Variable speed settings
- Offers plenty of torque
- 90-day money-back guarantee
- Lightweight design
- 20-volt max power
- Faulty battery charger design
- Does not include a bit holder
One of the best cordless impact drivers on the market, this budget-friendly model is equipped with a ½ inch single-sleeve ratcheting chuck that offers a strong bit gripping strength for a fast and efficient drilling performance. Buyers will appreciate the free extras including two batteries and the durable carrying case that allows you to easily pack the impact driver up and take it from job site to job site. While there are issues with the charger, requiring plenty of force to lock the battery in when it’s time for a charge, overall, this compact impact driver features the type of sturdy, lightweight, and powerful performance that all buyers are looking for.
Best Value-Milwaukee M18 Impact Driver Kit
The impact driver Milwaukee M18 18v is a high-speed impact driver that features the patented in-line D handle ergonomic design that makes using this tool on the job more comfortable while giving you more control over the driver. This particular model has a reputation for impressive power, offering 2.1 feet pounds of impact energy.
The tool’s three-mode function is designed for both chipping and drilling applications, adding to the impact driver’s versatility on the job. Milwaukee’s patented Red Link technology allows the battery to communicate with the motor, regulating the power during operation to prevent the driver from overheating. The driver’s built-in LED light will allow you to see your project as you work, which is a huge plus for the user working in dark, tight spaces.
- Built-in LED light
- Intelligence mode prevents the tool from overheating
- 3-mode options
- High speed
- Heavy-duty design
- Variable speed settings
- Does not include batteries
This 18-volt cordless impact driver Milwaukee offers 1,500 RPMs, provides enough power to last you all day on the job site and is designed for both chipping and drilling applications, so it’s perfect for professional use or for the DIYer that is taking on a huge project at home. This speed impact driver may be overkill for the homeowner who wants power tools for small repair use, but professionals and DIYers in need of some serious power will appreciate this 18-volt variable speed impact driver that’s designed to take on the toughest materials.
Best Impact Driver Kit-Makita XDT131 Brushless Impact Driver Kit
This brushless impact driver by Makita includes all the accessories and power you need to handle the toughest jobs. The brushless motor provides 1,500-inch pounds of torque and features variable speed options ranging from 03, 400 RPM to 03, 600 RPM, providing a wide range of power for all types of drilling and fastening jobs at work or around the home. The brushless motor design means no carbon brushes. This allows the motor to run more efficiently and cooler, compared to impact drivers with brushed motors. The motor is controlled for optimal battery energy use. This enables the compact impact driver to run 50% longer than competing models.
- Variable speed settings
- Hex impact driver power
- Lithium-ion batteries
- Long battery life
- Offers plenty of torque
- Perfect for work on job sites or around the home
- High inch-pounds of torque makes the impact driver difficult to control
This cordless impact driver kit offers plenty of inch-pounds of torque, variable speed settings, and includes some great extras, such as a lithium-ion battery, ¼” hex chuck bit for fast bit changes, dual-LED lights, rubberized grip, and aluminum gear housing for top of the line durability. The impact driver itself weighs just a little over three pounds, making this model the best impact driver for pros or DIYers who need a driver they can use all day long.
The impact driver is engineered to handle a wide range of fastening and drilling jobs, including cabinet screws, TEK screws, and tightening lag bolts.Versatile, lightweight, beginner-friendly, and offering impressive inch-pounds of torque, this kit comes with everything you need to handle jobs of every size.
Best 12 Volt impact Driver-BOSCH PS41-2A Hex Impact Driver Kit
One of the leading 12-volt impact drivers on the market, this model by Bosch comes with some nice extras and a lightweight design that makes it a great choice for working in tight spaces and handling tight corners. The lightweight design allows you to use this cordless impact driver all day long. It features a max RPM of 2,600 and a built-in fuel gauge that allows you to keep a close eye on the battery life. This cordless impact driver also comes with LED lights that will illuminate your workspace, which will improve user safety.
- Offers plenty of torque
- LED lights
- Low price
- Heavy duty
- Short battery life
- Does not offer variable speed setting
- Does not include a bit holder
According to the manufacturer, this 12-volt impact driver features the shortest head length of its class. While this cordless impact driver may be small, it offers 930 inches pounds of torque. While this drill driver can’t quite compete with heavy-duty impact drivers that are designed more for professional use, this is the best impact driver for those DIY projects around the house, when an industrial quality impact driver would be overkill.
Best 18 v Impact Driver-Ridgid R86035 Gen5X 18V Cordless Impact Driver Kit
The Rigid R86035 Gen5X 18v cordless impact driver features three power modes, allowing you to adjust from 0 to 2,000-inch pounds of torque. This will come in handy if you need to perform a wide range of jobs, such as small tasks around the home or serious renovation work. Despite packing some serious torque, the impact driver is lightweight, adding to its portability. Additionally, the driver comes with a belt clip, that can be attached to either side of the impact driver.
The 18-volt impact driver’s pistol-style grip has a rubber over-mold that improves user control and helps minimize fatigue.
- Belt hook
- High torque
- Variable speed power options
- 18-volt max
- 2,000-inch pounds
- Does not include driver bits
- A battery must be purchased separately
This 18v impact driver is lightweight, portable, features an ergonomic grip, complete with a rubberized coating, and a powerful design that allows you to handle jobs of every size, relying on the three included power modes. The price is also right, so the DIYer or pro on a budget can get plenty of bang for their buck for an impact driver that’s built tough and designed to last.
Impact Drivers Buyer’s Guide
Many people tend to confuse the impact driver with a hammer drill. Like a regular drill, a hammer drill is distinct from an impact driver and designed for a different purpose. A hammer drill is like a regular drill with the added ability to vibrate bits forward and backward rapidly as it spins. This makes the tools much faster and easier to drill blocks, stone, brick, or concrete.
If you need to drill holes and drive small screws, then a standard drill can get the job done. But if you’ve got some serious jobs around the house to handle, such as building a deck or treehouse, or you have a plywood subfloor to install, consider investing in an impact driver.
Designed for Speed and Power
These tools are designed to cut your work time in half, giving you the satisfaction of driving huge screws into wood in a matter of a few seconds. Like any type of power tool, if you invest in an impact driver, make sure you know how to use it safely. Wear hearing protection and safety glasses and keep your hair, clothes, and hands clear of the tool when it’s in operation.
The impact driver will quickly become your go-to tool for a variety of jobs around the home or at work. The best impact driver is powerful, durable, and can help you finish a project faster, compared to a cordless drill or driver. Before I go over the different features available, first, let’s learn more about some of the benefits impact drivers have to offer and what makes these tools so versatile and powerful.
Cordless Impact Driver Benefits
Impact drivers are powerful, versatile, and packing the type of power you need to handle bigger jobs around the home, in the workshop, or on the job. Below, you’ll find a list of some of the impact driver’s most important benefits.
An impact driver has an impressive advantage over standard drivers and drills and that advantage is the massive amount of torque. Essentially, this high level of torque means with an impact driver you’re able to bore large holes or drive a big screw with a small driver.
The best impact driver can handle jobs of all sizes. When used with a small bit they work just like a drill, however, they offer nearly twice the RPM’s compared to most cordless drills. When used with a bigger bit, an impact driver will move into high torque impact mode, allowing the user to bore big holes with a small driver.
When you use a standard driver, you need to put all of your weight behind the tool and use plenty of force. If you don’t, a bit can easily cam out, chewing up the screw head. You won’t run into this issue with an impact driver. On the driver, you’ll find a hammer mechanism that’s responsible for producing torque and also creates forward pressure. This means you won’t have to use so much physical force to prevent a cam out. This tool is perfect for one-handed use and stretch and drive situations.
Additionally, these drivers are so versatile that they can take on pretty much any job. However, when high torque isn’t necessary, most pros like to avoid the noise and will opt for using a standard drill instead.
Typically, a high amount of torque will put extreme strain on the user’s arm. Fortunately, because the impact driver generates less wrist twist compared to a standard driver you will not experience the same type of wrist strain and soreness after a job
Other Important Features
Below, I’ve included a list of the different features available. These features can have an impact on the impact driver’s performance, power, and overall quality.
Amp Hours (AH)
Amp-hours is another feature that you’ll want to keep in mind and one that can indicate how long you can use the driver. Amp-hours is the number of amps a battery can discharge for one hour.
How often or how long you’ll use your impact driver is determined by how long the battery is going to last before you have to replace it or recharge it.
Brushless and Brushed Motors
With a brushed motor there are carbon brushes that pass their power to the armature. This will energize the copper wire coil, causing a chain reaction that will cause it to spin between the stationary magnets.
A brushless motor contains coil and wire magnets that are reversed, which is designed to ensure that contact with the armature comes from the bearings that it spins on. Because of this design, a brushless motor is considered more efficient and durable than brushed motors which is why it’s also the most expensive option.
These days, the best impact drivers come equipped with some type of ergonomic handle or grip that’s designed to promote user comfort and prevent hand and wrist strain.
However, not all handles are created equal. When you’re shopping for an impact driver make sure that the one you choose comes equipped with plenty of grip so you can reduce the chance of accidentally dropping it or the grip slipping out of your hands when your hands become sweaty.
Because of the size of the motor and the type of power the best impact drivers are packing, some models can be quite heavy. However, some manufacturers do create more compact and lightweight impact drivers. If possible, look for a lighter model. A lighter tool will help prevent wrist strain and can reduce user fatigue.
Modern models are battery powered and their batteries are usually available in three sizes:
Higher voltage means more torque and power, which is a good thing if you want to drive screws much faster. However, you should keep in mind that a higher voltage also means heavier, larger batteries, and a power tool that’s more difficult to slip in and out of your tool belt.
The 18v impact driver is the most common and features the right amount of power and torque needed to handle most jobs, big and small. A 20-volt impact driver, compared to an 18-volt model, offers faster speeds and more torque and is commonly used to handle industrial materials. A 20-volt model may be overkill for smaller home projects. A 12-volt impact driver is perfect for smaller jobs, but cannot handle drilling through tougher materials.
A drive bit is what is used to turn a screw via torque. Driver bits comes in a variety of configurations designed to fit a range of screws available. Whatever screw you’re looking for, there’s a driver bit that will fit it. Driver bits, also referred to as driving screws, have a hex shank head that will allow them to fit in the impact driver’s collet. Some impact driver kits will come with a few bits, while other drivers will not come with any. In most cases, you’ll have to purchase the bits you need separately.
Inch Pounds of Torque
Impact drivers that have 1500 to 1800 inch-pounds of torque will have a higher RPM rating. The tool will do work more quickly than an impact driver that has slower speeds and more torque.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the Best Size Impact Driver?
Many pros recommend the half-inch impact driver, which is more versatile and can be used for a wide range of projects, whether you’re working on your car or on a construction site. For home use or smaller jobs in general, go with either the 3/8 impact driver or the ½ inch option.
Can I Use an Impact Driver for Screws?
An impact driver operates much like a cordless drill, meaning it uses rotational force to drive screws. This tool also uses its bursts for fast power if it feels any type of resistance. You can use an impact driver for long screws as well as large fasteners.
Is an Impact Driver the Same as a Screwdriver?
Yes and no. The impact driver is designed for denser, heavier materials and more prolonged use. The impact driver uses the type of force that’s similar to a hammer tool, which is what helps the tool drive screws quickly into dense materials.
The impact driver is one of the most useful power tools that will come in handy for a variety of DIY projects, when you’re in the garage working on the car, doing some construction around the home, or for professional use on the job site. This guide and my reviews of the best-selling impact drivers are designed to help you choose the right model, one that’s packing the type of power you need to get the job done.