Impact drivers are a relatively new addition to essential tools, but most DIYers will find themselves wanting one quickly. If you’re in a hurry, go straight to the winner: DEWALT DCF885C1 20V. 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.
If you’re willing to drop the money, this impact driver is one of the best you’ll be able to find anywhere.
Table of Contents
Top 5 Best Impact Drivers
|DEWALT DCF885C1 20V||1400 in-lbs||20V Lithium Battery||Check Price|
|BLACK+DECKER BDCI20C 20V||1375 in-lbs||20V Lithium Battery||Check Price|
|Makita XDT042 18V LXT||1420 in-lbs||18V Lithium Battery||Check Price|
|Hitachi WH18DGL 18-Volt 1/4-Inch||1280 in-lbs||18V Lithium Battery||Check Price|
|HAMMERHEAD HCID120-30 12V||700 in-lbs||12V Integrated Lithium Battery||Check Price|
1. Best Overall
DEWALT DCF885C1 20V
Reviewed by: Max Perzon
DeWalt makes fantastic impact drivers, amongst the rest of their tools, and the DCF885C1 is up there when it comes to a first choice for those who are looking to get some heavy use in.
This one delivers 1400 in. lbs. of torque directly to the screw that you’re working with, and you’ll quickly find it can pound through just about anything you might have need for.
The collet is designed for one handed loading, which is a definite advantage when you’re having to switch bits quickly while you’re working, add in the fact that it has a 3 LED work light which stays on for a bit after you let go of the trigger and you’ll find it offers some serious convenience.
It’s compact and lightweight, as opposed to some of the bigger options. You shouldn’t have too much trouble driving screws into tight corners while using this one.
They’re also proven to be field-tough, there’s a reason that DeWalt is one of the first choices of many who work in the field. They’re darn near impossible to break.
- Impressive torque
- Superior build quality
- One-handed bit changing
- 3-LED worklight reduces shadows
- Only comes with a 1.5 Ah battery which leads to short life
2. Best Budget Impact Driver
BLACK+DECKER BDCI20C 20V
Reviewed by: Max Perzon
Black and Decker’s tools will nearly always be on a list of best tools for one simple reason: they make cheap tools that still get the job done.
This impact driver delivers 1375 in-lbs of torque to the screw you’re trying to drive, which is more than enough for most purposes, and the low cost makes it an ideal pick for the amateur or handyman on a budget.
It has a ¼” quick-release collet which will allow you to change out bits quickly and efficiently.
While the charger isn’t the quickest on the market, it’s quite compact which makes for easy storage at the end of the day and can allow you to get your driver back up and functioning in a minimal amount of time.
Of course, the main problem with this brand is almost never the tool’s function itself, instead it crops up in build-quality. This is no exception, and it might be destined for a fairly short life if you’re prone to dropping things from height. The plastic cover over the collet is also questionable.
It’s not much of a workhorse, but it’ll drive a screw better than nearly any drill out there and the low price makes it ideal for those on a tight budget.
- Quick-change collet
- Impressive torque
- Middling build quality
- Plastic cover for collet
3. Best For The Money
Makita XDT042 18V LXT
Reviewed by: Max Perzon
The Makita XDT042 is a powerful little impact driver that most people will feel right at home with. It delivers 1420 in. lbs. of torque to screws and is remarkably tough.
It’s also variable speed, which is important for those who plan on working with a wide variety of different materials. Use the slower speed for the hard stuff and the quicker speed for driving into wood and plastic.
It’s powered by one of Makita’s 18V Li-ion batteries, which are billed as some of the quickest charging on the market. They’re generally right about that, with the right charger your downtime will only be about 20 minutes.
The handle is well designed, coming with a rubberized grip that will keep your hand comfortable during a long day’s project.
Add in the fact that it has an LED worklight which automatically comes on when you pull the trigger and you’re looking at something of a winner.
The main problem here is that the outside isn’t all that tough. While the shell of the impact driver is quite solid, the outside seems to deteriorate more rapidly than you’d expect so it won’t look fantastic for the duration of it’s lifetime.
This Makita impact driver is one of the best on the market. If you’re looking for something you won’t have to replace for a long time to come without breaking the bank then it’s perfect for you.
- High torque
- Rubberized handle
- LED work light
- Fast charging
- Cosmetic damage to the exterior occurs during heavy field use
- Heats up quickly
4. Best For The DIY Enthusiast
Hitachi WH18DGL 18-Volt
Reviewed by: Max Perzon
Hitachi may not be the highest-end brand around, and their use in the field is remarkably rare but they offer one thing to the potential DIY enthusiast: dollar for dollar they’re one of the best brands around.
The WH18DGL puts down 1,320 in. lbs. of torque and comes with an 18V battery that keeps going for a long time.
It has an extremely ergonomic design and is super lightweight, meaning it’s easy to use all day without having to worry about your wrists or hands starting to give out.
The kit also comes with a second battery, which is extremely useful for all day projects where you’re going to have to be pounding in a lot of screws.
It also has an LED work light to allow you to bring illumination into the dark areas you might be working in.
The WH18DGL offers you the best value for your money, hands down. It’s a smart investment and while some impact drivers will outperform it, you’ll have to pay a premium to get them in your hands.
- LED Worklight
- Ergonomic design
- Two batteries in kit
- Lower torque than many models
- Not super durable
Best Small Size Impact Driver
HAMMERHEAD HCID120-30 12V
Reviewed by: Max Perzon
This driver from Hammerhead is undoubtedly the most unique driver to make our list.
The first thing that you’ll notice about it is that it’s tiny. It still delivers 700 in. lbs. of torque, which might seem a little bit low compared to the rest of our picks, but it’s an impressive little piece of work for some uses.
The small size of the tool allows it to be used in extremely tight spaces without having to worry about hitting it on anything. If your fist can fit along the wall then you’re probably going to be able to get in on there. It has an integrated 12V battery which you can easily charge with a 120V outlet.
It’s also variable speed, which makes it great for working with a variety of different materials throughout the house.
While it doubles as an auto-hammer… that side of the equation isn’t so great. You’ll want to invest in a compact one still. Unfortunate, but as an impact driver it’s well worth the cost of entry.
This is a niche use tool, compared to the others on this list, but 700lbs of torque is adequate for a lot of tasks and the small size allows it to be used in areas where other impact drivers simply couldn’t go.
- Small size
- Integrated battery
- Comes with a 30 piece bit set
- Low torque compared to most impact drivers
- Auto-hammer feature really isn’t all that great
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.