During our quest to find the best cordless impact drivers, we bought and tested the 20 most promising models on the market to put in a head-to-head, hands-on, battery-powered tool showdown. We measured, weighed, and timed dozens of variables but also looked for tiny details such as the usability of the bit holder as well as the pattern and effectiveness of the target lights.
We subjectively judged the comfort and ergonomics of each driver, but we also beat the heck out of them by effectively maxing out their torque capabilities.
What are Impact Drivers Used For?
Pros typically use impact drivers to drive screws using bits such as Phillips, Torx, or even hex head bits. For our purposes, we drive screws up to 1/4-inch diameter. While you can use an adapter to use sockets and work with larger nuts and bolts, an impact wrench is typically a better tool for that.
They have a rotational impact that comes from a hammer and anvil mechanism. This keeps the screw moving forward when it starts getting tougher to move. The mechanism works without transferring rotational torque to your wrist. It makes these tools easier on your wrists for hard stop driving applications.
In general, they’re lighter and more compact than drill drivers or hammer drills. Many Pros use them in tandem with a drill driver to drill a pilot hole and then drive a fastener without switching bits.
Impact Driver vs. Drill
These two power tools look similar and perform similar but different functions. Both are offered in cordless and corded models, and both offer a reverse direction setting.
- Drills: A standard drill driver is one of the most essential all-purpose tools. The drill’s head features a keyed or keyless chuck that holds the bits securely in place. Standard bits and hex bits are available for ultimate versatility. A power drill is an adjustable-speed tool that drills and drives in fasteners.
- Impact Drivers: An impact driver is more compact and lightweight by design. It also has more torque than a power drill. These tools are available in cordless designs ranging from 12 volts up to 20 volts. As the voltage increases, so does the power and speed of the impact driver. Unlike a drill, impact drivers do not have a chuck. Instead, they feature a quick-change clamp that holds drill bits and driver bits with a hexagonal shank. This hex-bit design is necessary to accommodate the power output of impact drivers. Impact drivers are superior at directing their force downward, making them more comfortable to use over a long period of time.
Key Considerations When Choosing an Impact Driver
Power is the most important aspect of impact drivers. Less powerful models are suitable for workshop and DIY projects, while more powerful drivers will tackle the insertion of large screws, making them a good choice for professional contractors. Consider the following when shopping an impact driver:
Our Top Picks
Topping the charts, we have a brand you know and trust. The Makita XDT16Z Cordless Quick-Shift Mode Impact Driver is a workhorse ready to get on the job site 5 minutes ago. Its patented quick-shift mode uses the brushless motor’s electronic controls to determine the best balance of speed and power for more efficient fastening.
It has four speeds to choose from for precise fastening control no matter what the application, an assist mode to help remove cross-threaded items, and 600-inch pounds (in-lb) of max torque. The XDT16Z knows what you want, knows what you need, and is more than happy to deliver.
The only complaint we can see isn’t with the tool, but with customer support. In the unfortunate event that you drop the tool, and it breaks, Makita is reluctant to honor the warranty. It’s something to keep in mind.
Never get caught in the dark with this little fellow. The Milwaukee 2462-20 M12 Impact Driver has LED lighting just above the trigger, so you can always see what you are doing. With its innovative location, you will never work in a shadow. And as far as LEDs, an LED fuel gauge on the side tells you how much battery life you have in 25% increments.
It has an internal computer that communicates with the RedLithium batteries feeding it the much-needed power it craves. This feature keeps the tool from overheating and drawing too much power when it isn’t needed, all through cross-communication. Indeed, one of the best impact drivers for the money.
There have been a few models with manufacturing defects, but it is infrequent. When there is a problem, it has to do with the metal near the driver chuck cracking with use. As we said, it is remarkably uncommon, but something to look out for all the same.
From the DeWalt family of products, we give you a powerhouse that will make you give it the respect it deserves. The DEWALT DCF887B MAX XR Impact Driver uses its patented Precision Drive in three speed settings for versatility and improved control, and it has a variable speed trigger with no load speed.
It has three LED lights that stay on for 20 seconds after the trigger is released for those dark, tighter areas, and the brushless motor ensures long life. Lightweight in design with an ergonomic handle for comfort, and a belt clip, you will enjoy going to work when you get to use this fantastic tool.
Some consumers have noticed trigger issues that have led to their units being underpowered on the job site — not a good thing when you need a reliable tool. The same folks also felt the quick bit change system was faulty. Fortunately, this is an isolated problem, not a representation of the entire line.
With its patented green rubber overmold, the Ryobi One+ P236 Impact Driver is as accurate as it is sleek. Its pistol grip can be held firm, without slipping, even in moist conditions. And the Tri-Beam LED light illuminates your work area every time you pull the trigger.
Its magnetic tip offers a tool-free bit exchange that is quick and clean, and the magnetic tray at the base holds bits on the unit, giving you free hands for other uses. With a One+ compatible battery as part of the One+ family, your battery will work with any One+ product when you aren’t using the impact driver.
This is another impact that is best for home projects. And when you order one, make sure you order the P236 if you want the LED spotlights on the front. The 235 does not have them, although it is identical otherwise. It’s more about convenience than anything else.
The Hart 20-Volt Cordless Impact Driver is a real workhorse, and it’s built for functionality as well as ease of use. Whether you’re a first-time impact driver user or looking for a quality new tool to invest in, this driver is just the right one to pick. With up to 1,700 inch-pounds of torque, you’ll have plenty of power for all kinds of projects.
A variable-speed trigger gives you control over the RPMs, from zero to 2,500. You’ll have control while you drill and drive, and the trigger offers nice precision. A 1/4-inch quick-connect chuck makes bit changes simple, and you can even stash your bits right inside the built-in storage compartment on the driver itself. An integrated LED work light also gives you better visibility, illuminating your workspace no matter the lighting around you.
There’s just one drawback you need to know about: This impact driver doesn’t include the rechargeable battery. That has to be purchased separately, which does increase your investment.
You don’t always have to spend a ton of money to get a decent, efficient tool — the Hyper Tough 20V Max Cordless Impact Driver is proof of that. When you choose this driver, you’ll get an excellent bang for your buck while staying within budget. With up to 1,320 inch-pounds of torque and a no-load speed of zero to 2,700 RPMs, you can put this driver to work in a wide range of ways.
The tool itself weighs just 2.5 pounds, meaning it’s light and easy to work with, all without increasing hand fatigue. The 20-volt rechargeable lithium-ion battery means you can take your impact driver anywhere, and the 1/4-inch locking hex chuck suits plenty of bits.
More importantly, your comfort is front of mind — this driver features a soft overmold grip to give you a strong, secure hold while you work. You’ll even get an LED light on this driver, a feature that’s usually found solely on more expensive models.
The Ryobi Tools 18V 1/4″ Impact Driver is the tool you need if you do a lot of heavy-duty drilling and driving. It’s built for extra-tough tasks and offers just the right level of capability. While it isn’t the toughest when it comes to torque — you’ll get a maximum of 1,600-inch-pounds — it is more powerful than your average driver. Featuring a 1/4-inch quick-connect coupler, bit changes are quick and simple. The entire driver is built with a sturdy, highly durable housing made out of cast aluminum.
You can put both the motor and the tool itself through plenty of bumps and bangs, plus challenging jobs, and they’ll survive. There are extra details to love, too, like the built-in MagTray magnetic holder that’ll keep fasteners and bits right where you need them, and an included belt clip. Just remember that this impact driver doesn’t come with a battery or charger.
The Bosch Freak 18V Impact Driver is a great option if you’re looking for a high level of accuracy at fast speeds. This driver delivers up to 1,600 inch-pounds of torque, a maximum 2,800 RPMs, and up to 3,600 IPMs. A variable-speed trigger gives you control no matter how fast you’re moving with your tool. The standout detail of this driver is its accurate driving speed. Thanks to that special trigger, you’re able to get accurate fastener driving even at the highest speeds, adjusting as needed to achieve the perfect result.
You’re also getting great versatility. This driver includes the common 1/4-inch hex chuck of most impact drivers, but it also comes with a 1/2-inch square chuck. You’ll be able to use more bits and tackle more jobs with this sole impact driver; you can swap between the two chucks as needed. The battery, however, has to be purchased separately, and only Bosch batteries will work.
Any tool you can buy that will save you time and effort is a smart purchase. This is why multi-tools capable of handling different tasks are so popular. While most impact drivers tend to be single-use tools, BLACK+DECKER has taken the approach of offering more with its Matrix Quick Connect System. This next product is their platform for making one tool do several different things almost at once.
The BLACK+DECKER BDCDMT120IA multi-tool takes a different approach than typical combo kits. Instead of including a separate impact driver and drill, this power tool has a swappable attachment system that fits on the same base. The impact driver is capable of delivering 1,375 inch-pounds of torque and up to 800 rpm of speed. In addition to the driver and drill attachments, BLACK+DECKER also sells other attachments such as an orbital sander and jigsaw in its expansive Matrix Quick Connect System.
The PORTER CABLE Cordless Impact Driver has a brushless motor which provides fifty percent more runtime. It packs plenty of torque for large fastening applications at 1400lbs and 2900 RPM. I really love the quick change hex that allows for rapid, one-handed drill bit changes – perfect for when you’re standing on top of a ladder in a tight space.
It’s very lightweight weighing in at 2.9 LBS and carries is a three-year warranty. The ergonomic design is 14% shorter than other models and makes it easy to grip and hold.
How does an impact driver work?
Unlike drill/drivers, which apply torque at a steady rate, impact drivers provide extremely rapid bursts of impact—something like a hammer blow—to their torque, creating a very powerful turning force far beyond what a regular drill is capable of. To achieve this, an impact driver contains a spring, a “hammer,” and an anvil. As the motor spins the shaft, the spring compresses and then releases with great force—imagine using your hands to squeeze a large spring together and then abruptly letting it go—striking the hammer which then strikes the anvil. This happens very quickly, typically more than 50 times per second, adding bursts of impact to the torque.
Do impact drivers require special bits?
While bits for impact drivers resemble the bits used in a regular power drill, they are not the same. And although it is safe to use an impact-driver bit in your handheld drill, it is NOT safe to use your regular drill bits in your impact driver.
Impact-driver bits have to withstand the tremendous torque of the tool. Because of this, they are made of metal with a bit more flexibility than regular bits, which are prone to shattering if used in an impact driver. Impact-driver bits also have a slightly narrower shaft than regular bits, and the end of an impact-driver bit is hexagonal in shape, unlike the rounded end of most regular bits.
Do impact drivers have torque settings?
You might be surprised to learn that a tool that’s all about torque doesn’t actually have a setting allowing you to adjust the torque level, but that’s the reality of impact drivers. Unlike many drill/drivers, which often do have torque settings, impact drivers are mostly an all-or-nothing tool. That’s why they are best saved for projects requiring considerable force to drive screws through hard materials, or for jobs where the high speed of these powerful tools will come in handy.
We hope our review has provided you with the in-depth information you need to make an informed decision in choosing the impact driver that’s right for your needs and applications.