Almost all DIYers and professional builders start their power tool collection with a standard drill. But as you scale up your projects, you find that there are some things that an ordinary drill can’t deliver, such as driving long screws into dense materials and removing stripped screws. For these tasks, you’ll need a power tool that is stronger and more robust, specifically an impact driver.

It might look like a cordless drill and hammer drill’s stubbier cousin, but impact drivers are in a class of their own. These power tools are engineered to drive longer fasteners into dense materials, as well as loosen smaller bolts and nuts. They are more expensive than a standard cordless drill, but if you frequently work on dense materials and you want a tool that packs a punch, then the cordless impact driver is a must-have.

In this article, we’ll discuss what makes impact drivers different from standard drills and hammer drills. In case you’re looking for the best impact driver online as a gift for yourself or someone else, then you’ll definitely find our buyer’s guide and impact driver reviews helpful.

1.
Sale
Makita XDT131 18V LXT Lithium-Ion Brushless Cordless Impact Driver Kit (3.0Ah)
  • BL Brushless motor delivers 1, 500 inches pounds Of max torque
  • Variable speed (0 3, 400 RPM and 0 3, 600 IPM) for a wide range of fastening applications
  • The BL Brushless motor eliminates carbon brushes, enabling the BL motor to run cooler and more efficiently for longer life
  • Efficient BL Brushless motor is electronically controlled to optimize battery energy use for up to 50 percentage longer run time per charge
  • The electronically controlled BL Brushless motor efficiently uses energy to match torque and RPM to the changing demands of the application
2.
Sale
PORTER-CABLE 20V MAX Impact Driver Kit (PCCK647LB)
  • Brushless motor of the the cordless impact driver provides 50% more runtime
  • Powerful motor provides 1,400 in-lbs of torque for large fastening applications
  • Transmission provides 2,700 MAX RPM's for speed of fastening applications
  • 1/4-inch Quick change hex for one handed quick and easy bit changes
  • Battery and charger sold separately
3.
BLACK+DECKER 20V MAX Impact Driver Kit (BDCI20C)
  • High performance transmission of the cordless impact driver delivers 1375 in-lbs of max torque
  • Quick release 1/4-inch hex chuck
  • Compact and lightweight for ease of use
  • Maximum initial battery voltage (measured without a workload) is 20 volts. Nominal voltage is 18.
  • Determined by 30 second impact load gauge test method
4.
Sale
CRAFTSMAN V20 Impact Driver Kit, Cordless (CMCF810C1)
  • Part of the V20 cordless system
  • Brushless motors provide up to 30% more runtime and improved durability
  • 1/4in.Cordless impact driver delivers 1, 500 inlbs of torque for driving larger fasteners
  • Quick release chuck for easy1-handed bit changes
  • Max 2, 800 RPM and 3, 500 ipms for quick fastening applications
5.
SKIL 20V 1/4 Inch Hex Cordless Impact Driver, Includes 2.0Ah PWRCore 20 Lithium Battery and Charger - ID572702
  • EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO GET STARTED—Cordless impact driver set comes with a PWR Core 20 2. 0Ah Lithium Battery and 20V Charger.
  • TORQUE FOR TOUGH TASKS—This 20V Impact Driver is ideal for heavy-duty work like driving large fasteners through dense wood.
  • Longer run time & battery life—the PWR Core 20 Lithium battery has an innovative temperature management system to keep the battery cool and powering on through your project.
  • Easy bit changes/4 inch hex collet makes for quick changes, wasting no time.
  • VARIABLE SPEED CONTROL—Precise start with full control for a variety of tasks.
6.
Ryobi P1870 18V Lithium Ion Battery Powered 1/4 Inch 1,500 Inch Pound Impact Driver Kit (P234 Impact Driver, P102 18V Battery and P119 Charger Included)
  • P236 IMPACT DRIVER: With multiple useful features like a notched rubber grip mold for comfort and a keyless, tool-free bit changing system, the P236 is a powerful piece of hardware that will dish out up to 1,500 inch pounds of torque for as long as your Ryobi One+ batteries will keep it charged
  • MAGTRAY: Keep fasteners or bits stored safely on this impact driver’s magnetic tray, located conveniently at its base. With its help, you’ll be able to work with both hands on the driver, switching applications in a flash as needed
  • P119 CHARGER: This compact charger fits over the top of your lithium ion or NiCad batteries to keep them charged for a variety of tasks around the home
  • P102 BATTERY: This compact battery will provide you with plenty of energy while minimizing the working weight of your tool so you can work with greater precision
  • ONE+ COMPATIBLE: This tool will work with the Ryobi One+ suite of batteries. Compatible models include the P100, P102, P103, P104, P105, P107, and P108
7.
Sale
GALAX PRO Impact Driver 20 V Lithium Ion 1/4" Hex Cordless Driver with LED Work Light, 6 Pieces Screwdriver Bits, Variable Speed (0-2800 RPM)- 1.3 Ah Battery and Charger Included
  • 20V Max battery: The Cordless driver comes with a 1.3 Ah Lithium Ion battery and a charger for extended run time; Indicator on the the front of the battery to display how many power left for less downtime on the job
  • Variable speed trigger: Variable speed switch adjust speed by the amount of trigger depression; The trigger switch(0 and 2800 RPM) allows to control your own drilling speed which perfects for what you are setting up for
  • Tool-less bits change: With this special chuck, you can easily and quickly remove bits from the tool by simply pulling back on the collet; Insert the bits into the collet; No tools necessary
  • Ergonomic handle design and convenience: Soft rubber handle provides a comfortable grip for being breezily operated in one hand, includes a belt hook attached to the base of the tool lets you hold on to fasteners and bits that you may need to attach to the tool while you’re high up on a ladder
  • What you get: 1*GALAX PRO 95307 impact driver, 1* 1.3 Ah battery, 1* charger,1* belt clip, 6* screwdriver bits, 1* user Manual

Impact Driver Basics

To better understand how an impact driver works, let’s compare and contrast it with your standard drills and hammer drills.

A standard drill is a handheld power tool that is used to bore holes or drive screws into wood and some metals. Its motor produces a simple rotary motion to bore a hole or drive a fastener into the material. You can use it to drill holes through concrete or masonry, but it should be done carefully or it’s going to shorten the life of your drill.

Hammer drills, on the other hand, are perfect for brick, concrete, and stone. Unlike standard drills, hammer drills don’t just produce a regular rotary motion. These power tools combine rotary drilling with a very fast hammering motion to bore through masonry.

Despite their sheer power and ability to create a hole through the toughest materials, driving screws is not something hammer drills can do. This is a job for another type of power tool called the impact driver.

Impact drivers are high-torque power tools used to drive larger self-threading screws into dense materials. Unlike standard and hammer drills, their chucks only use ¼” hex-shank driver bits and drills. They can also be used to loosen and extract screws, nuts, and bolts. If you have corroded or over-torqued fasteners and you’ve tried every trick in the book to remove them but to no avail, then having an impact driver can definitely help you.

These tools are almost similar to hammer drills in which they combine rotary motion and hammering action. Hammer drills, however, use a simple tapping motion to bore through masonry. Impact drivers, on the other hand, use hammering blows that do not just go downwards, but also move side to side, to drive larger screws into the material. Take a look at this video to learn more about how an impact driver works.

Impact Driver Buyer’s Guide

Torque 

When you pick up an impact driver’s box or manual, you’ll notice the ubiquity of information about its torque rating. That’s because torque is one of the most important factors to consider when choosing the best impact drivers.

Torque (or max torque) is the amount of rotational force (not the speed) generated by a power tool. It is rated in inch-pounds (in-lbs) or Newton-meter (N⋅m if you’re using SI units). Because they generate an enormous amount of torque, impact drivers are perfect for driving longer screws into dense materials.

When choosing the best impact driver, look for one that generates a lot of torque. Couple that with a high-voltage battery, and you have the perfect tool. If you’re going to use it for drilling, then make sure that it produces high RPM, too.

Excessive torque is a common problem for single-speed impact drivers. It can result in thread damage and stripped or snapped heads, especially if you’re using smaller and delicate fasteners. To prevent excessive torque, choose an impact driver with a variable speed setting. This allows you greater control of the tool by starting slowly, then increasing the speed as you go along.     

Brushless Versus Brush Motor

Impact drivers with brush motors are reliable and inexpensive. The problem with impact drivers with brush motors is that their carbon brushes eventually wear out and need to be replaced. Impact drivers with brush motors, however, are very rare these days and have largely been replaced by brushless motors.

Power tools with brushless motors are more reliable when it comes to performance and power. They are more expensive, but you can save money in the long term as you don’t have to replace the carbon brushes now and then.  

Battery Voltage

Some impact drivers are powered by 12-volt batteries, while some are powered by 18-volt or 20-volt ones. So, which battery is perfect for your application?

12V impact drivers are ideal light-duty applications. If you’re driving smaller or moderately sized screws or you’re not going to use the tool regularly, then a 12V impact driver will suffice.

But if you’re planning to drive a lot of screws in one day or you frequently drive 3″ screws and above into dense materials, then choose the more powerful 18V or 20V impact drivers. 

Is a 20V battery better than its 18V counterpart? The truth is no, both batteries work basically the same. 20V batteries might sound a little more impressive, but this is all a marketing gimmick. When you squeeze the impact driver’s trigger, the power output will surge to 20V at first and will dial down to 18V after several moments.  

Amps

The maximum output of your impact driver’s battery is measured in voltage. Amp-hours (Ah), on the other hand, will tell you how long a single charge will last. Amp-hours range from as low as 1.3Ah to as high as 6Ah. If you want to get more out of your battery, then choose one with  higher Amp-hours. In most cases, a 2 to 3Ah battery will suffice.

Weight

Consider the tool’s weight before buying one. If you’re going to drive more than a hundred fasteners in one day, chances are an extremely heavy tool that will take its toll on your hand, wrist, and arm. Include the battery’s overall weight into the equation, too.

LED Light

The majority of impact drivers today have a built-in LED light. This feature is important because you sometimes have to do your work in a poorly lit area of your workshop. Users with poor eyesight will also find it helpful.

Belt Hook

When choosing an impact driver, look for ones that have a metal belt hook so you can keep your tool within reach always. If you don’t want the belt hook, you can always unscrew and remove it anyway.

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Conclusion:

The Makita XDT131 18V Cordless Impact Driver Kit is one of the best impact drivers in the market right now. It’s a little more expensive than most of the other tools we have reviewed, but it’s well worth the investment. So, what makes it the superior impact driver?

The Makita XDT131 Impact Driver is equipped with a brushless motor that produces as much as 1,500 in-lbs of max torque. Couple that with a variable speed that can go up to 3,400 RPM, and you have a powerful tool that you can use at home or even in jobsites if you’re a professional builder.

This impact driver comes with an 18V lithium-ion battery. It is rated 3Ah, so  you’ll get more out of it in a single charge than the other impact drivers on the list. The battery has an LED light that tells you when it’s time to charge. Plus, it comes with its own charger with indicators, as well as a tool bag.

The body is more compact than most. This allows you to squeeze it into corners and tight spaces easily. It only weighs 3.3 lbs even with the battery attached at its base, reducing hand, wrist, and arm fatigue.

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