Impact drivers are a relatively new addition to essential tools, but most DIYers will find themselves wanting one quickly. There’s a huge amount of options out there, so why not let us simplify the matter for you?
We’ll show you some of the best options available on the market today, and then we can help you figure out which one should be the newest addition to your tool kit.
The Top 5 Impact Drivers
|BLACK+DECKER BDCI20C 20V||1375 in-lbs||20V Lithium Battery|
|Makita XDT042 18V||1420 in-lbs||18V Lithium Battery|
|HAMMERHEAD HCID120-30 12V||700 in-lbs||12V Integrated Lithium Battery|
|DEWALT DCF885C1 20V||1400 in-lbs||20V Lithium Battery|
|Hitachi WH18DGL 18-Volt||1280 in-lbs||18V Lithium Battery|
What is an Impact Driver?
- The Top 5 Impact Drivers
- What is an Impact Driver?
Impact drivers are tools used to push screws through hard materials, they utilize a motor and a hex-bit collet in order to provide you with a mechanical advantage.
Most people will find that using one instead of a standard drill for driving screws is absolutely the way to go. They simply push screws a lot easier than you’ll be able to find with any other tool.
Despite featuring amounts of torque which would necessitate a side handle if used with a standard drill, they actually don’t deliver much of it to the wrists of the user. This is because they also utilize a forward concussive blow to deliver an extreme amount of torque, hence the impact part of the name.
The result is an easy to use tool that delivers a huge amount of force without the risk of injury to the user.
This makes them a huge boon to the home handyman, allowing them to quickly and easily complete projects that their drill would have a hard time doing.
What are the Advantages of an Impact Driver?
Compared to a drill, even a low-end impact driver has a lot more torque.
Torque is the force which allows you to drive screws through hard or thick surfaces, whether it’s a steel plate or a two by four. A good cordless drill might deliver 500 in. lbs. of torque, while an impact driver that delivers less than 1,000 is exceptionally weak.
They also tend to be compact tools which can be useful when driving screws. Anyone who’s put up a panel in a corner or along the roof knows that it’s an absolute pain to do it with a drill and the resulting frustration.
They don’t hold drill bits, and they can be limited in the bits you can use, but overall they’re the absolute best tool around for driving screws directly into materials without having to bother with pilot holes.
What Types of Impact Driver are Available?
For the most part, all impact drivers do the same thing. The main differences you’ll run across are the size of the tool.
Compact impact drivers are pretty rare, but they do exist. They’re kind of a niche tool, but if you ever try to drive screws as close as possible to the wall you’re going to fall in love with them.
They tend to be less powerful than their bigger cousins, but they still provide an amount of torque that beats out cordless drills by a long shot.
The most common size of impact driver are still pretty small.
The theory is that if you want to drive something that requires more torque than a fairly small impact driver can give you, then you’re going to want to use a different tool.
Nearly all of our picks are compact models, and they’re the most common in both homes and in the field.
What to Look for in an Impact Driver?
There’s a few things you need to keep an eye on when you pick out one of these tools. The first thing that you need to do, however, is figure out how often and what you’ll be using it for.
Power is a function of the torque and RPM of your impact driver. The torque is enhanced by the forward concussive motion of the motor, resulting in an accurate torque rating.
RPM is less of an issue here than it is with regular drills, but being able to finely tune it with the trigger is pretty much a requirement. High RPMs will cause the tool to heat up faster, which can be problematic if you’re trying to drive a self-drilling screw into a metal surface for instance.
Torque is the main measurement you’re going to be looking for. Anything above 400 in. lbs. will make putting screws into wood a snap, and anything above 1000 should be able to handle most metal surfaces without worrying about overheating if you’re careful about the RPMs.
Ergonomics and Weight
This factor is more important than when you’re working with a drill because quite often you’ll find that impact drivers end up being used much more frequently than a drill. Often you’ll just be grabbing a handful of screws and going at it.
This means that a comfortable handle and a low weight are pretty much ideal qualities to keep an eye out for as long as the device delivers enough power for your projects.
Your batteries should be lithium. This pretty much goes for any kind of cordless tool you’ll be buying, they’re superior to the old stuff in pretty much every way.
You should also check the Ah rating to see how long they’ll last. Impact drivers suck up a lot of juice due to their high power, and this means that you want to be absolutely sure that it’s not going to die on you after a couple dozen screws.
Most brands have higher Ah batteries, shoot for at least a 3.0 if you want to upgrade, although a 4.0 is better.
Some people will be better served with a compact impact drill, the smaller ones can be quite handy.
If you’re looking to do heavy duty work, however, stick with the normal sized ones. They’ll still be able to fit almost anywhere, it’s just a little bit more of a hassle.
The cost of your tools is always a consideration. With impact drivers, things can be all over the place. Some brands simply make the tools better and are worth the premium, like DeWalt, while others are subpar despite the higher price tag. Milwakee comes to mind as an example of the latter.
If you’re unsure if the branding is worth the cost, you can check the history of the company out a little bit. It largely depends on where the tools were made, Japanese and American impact drivers have the highest standards placed upon them for the most part.
Overall, the ideal impact driver for most people is the one they can afford. Adding even a cheap one to your bag of tools is an investment that will pay for itself in saved time more rapidly than you can possibly imagine if you’ve never used one.
An impact driver is one of the few tools that we would consider completely indispensable and there’s no real replacement for one in your tool bag. Drills just don’t cut it sometimes and the best impact driver will have you questioning why you ever had to waste time drilling pilot holes in the first place. Add one to your garage or shop as soon as possible, you’ll never look back.