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An impact driver has become more of a toolbox essential in recent years. Though they are very similar products to drills, the best impact driver out there should offer some excellent features which provide an upgrade on the standard drill, particularly when it comes to torque. This means you can exert more power in your DIY projects, driving fasteners and screws, tightening nuts or drilling holes in metal with a lot more ease.
We’ve looked into features such as torque, impacts per minute, and speed, which will determine the power of the drivers and how quickly and easily they can get a job done. We’ve also considered in our reviews the dimensions and weight of a product to ensure they fit in your toolkit and aren’t overly bulky when you are using them. It should be comfortable, and sometimes you need to use an impact driver even in a tight space. The warranty has also been considered, as any power tool such as this should be well-built and able to handle whatever’s thrown at it. You want this guaranteed for at least a year or two.
In this article, our research has involved first hand experience, consumer reviews and star ratings and a whole lot of YouTube videos and both professional and DIY users. We’ve structured it in a simple to understand way, with an easy to view comparison table, detailed reviews and a buying guide to help you choose the best product for you and the DIY and home improvements level you are at.
Impacts per minute: 0-1,100 / 0-2,600 / 0-3,800 IPM
Max. torque: 1,550 in-lbs
Dimensions: 3.5 x 8.3 x 6.5 inches
Weight: 3.3 lbs
Warranty: 3 years
Extra features: brushless motor, dual LED work lights, one-touch chuck for quick bit changes, comes with 2 batteries and charger
Makita produce a huge amount of well-respected tools, and this is the best Makita impact driver we’ve come across, with a huge amount of features. It is sold as a kit, with a charger, batteries and a chuck for changing bits with ease.
The XDT14T has an incredible 1,550 lbs of torque and is one of the most precise and powerful options on the market, all of this without weighing a huge amount, which is often the trade off if you are looking for a powerful driver.
A quick-shift mode means that you can alter the torque and even the speed of an option to allow you to change these to suit the project you are working on. This has a tightening mode which is designed to reduce the impact speed and help to minimize the chance of any breaking or damaging. Three different power settings on top of this mean you have a huge level of power.
The 18V lithium ion batteries are incredibly fast charging and are also long-lasting. This makes this one of the best battery powered impact driver options, as the battery has such an incredible level of battery life. It can also allow you to use batteries from other tools in their range, as long as they have the ‘star symbol’.
Makita’s star system is a computer control which allows the tool to be monitored and stops things like overheating or over-discharging. A clever extra benefit.
Makita offer a lot of different options in this particular market, and this stakes a claim of being the best brushless impact driver, meaning it has a brushless motor.
The XDT15ZB is designed to be ‘ultra-compact’. It is both lightweight and pretty small, which means you can store it easily, but more importantly it means that this is a lightweight and simple-to-use impact driver.
The dimensions and weight might make you think that this is not going to have the power you need, but actually, this still offers impressive IPM and variable speeds to suit your needs.
The whole of the Makita range offers impressive quality in terms of battery, and the 18V battery can be switched out and used among the other products in their range, so not every tool needs its own battery necessarily. This battery is one of the many reasons this is possibly the best 18v impact driver.
There are a lot of benefits of a brushless motor, and this allows it to run both coolly and without wasting energy unnecessarily. This results in it lasting longer. The motor gives 1,240 in lbs of torque, which isn’t the most powerful, but is certainly not weak.
The LED lighting is designed to brighten up the area you are using your impact driver. This is one of the many reasons that this is particularly great for use in difficult spaces.
What makes it stand out?
Very compact model good for using in tight spaces
Efficient brushless model of motor
Excellent battery compatibility and long life
Which disadvantages must you keep in mind?
Not as powerful as some other options due to its size
Extra features: LED work light, comes with drill/driver
Whether you’re after a budget-friendly impact driver, or a cordless drill under $100, Black & Decker have some of the best options to suit any budget. This model from Black and Decker is available at an exceptional price, especially when you consider the fact that it ships as both a drill and an impact driver in a kit, all for a cost that is reasonable.
Though this may not be quite as feature-packed as some of its competitors, it has plenty to offer on a budget and the power stands up as exceptional in the market for the best drill impact driver combo.
The 20V battery system is standard for a lot of the Black and Decker range and means that it is interchangeable between the products. It has an 11-position control clutch to help you to choose the level of torque. Just like products that are more costly, this also has an LED light that can light up the area you need to work within.
The design is pretty lightweight, compact and ergonomic meaning that the drill feels pretty good to use, though it doesn’t have the same amount of grip control as some of the more expensive options.
The torque of the impact driver can reach 1375 in-lbs in terms of torque, and the rpm can reach up to 3000, with full control over this.
Though we can’t call this Black and Decker offering the absolute best product on the market, when you take into account the fact that the cost is relatively low, then it is a great option for DIY on a budget.
Why are we impressed?
Great value for money
High torque and RPM in spite of low price
What negatives must you be aware of?
Not as many grip options and features as competitors
Extra features: comes with drill/driver, 2 batteries and carry case, inbuilt triple LED light ring
Bosch needs no introduction as a brand which produces tools, and this is arguably the best 12V impact driver on the market. It is sold as a kit which includes a drill and an impact driver, both of which give a lot of quality and value when you consider the fact that both are sold at one, reasonable price.
This is an incredibly compact driver, the PS41 has a head that is over five inches but still manages to weigh in at less than 2 pounds! It also has 20 different clutch settings between 350 RPM and 2,600 RPM so you get a huge amount of controls to alter the torque and the speed for the best control over your driving. The 930 in-lbs torque is impressive too.
The safety features are impressive too, a long with a few added extras. It has an LED ring-style light so you can illuminate the space in which you’re working. The ergonomic handle is great for extended periods of use and keeps your hand feeling comfy and in full control. There are also bumpers that stop slipping which can be dangerous. All in all, this is a wonderful option for any tool kit.
What makes it special?
Lightweight and still offers lots of power
Comes as a set with both driver and drill
Inbuilt lighting ring
Comes in a holder/carry case
What cons did we find?
Occasionally users have reported it becoming jammed
Extra features: comes with 2 batteries, charger and hard carry case, inbuilt LED work light
The Hitachi WH18DGL combines the features of many of the other products to make our list. It has an RPM, IPM, weight and other features that are very similar to the competitors, but there is one specific area where the Hitachi wins out; warranty.
For a manufacturer of any sort of tool to be able to offer a lifetime warranty shows exactly how much thought has gone into the design, and how much faith they have that this is a product which has been built to last. Naturally, the battery does not have a lifetime warranty, but this is still guaranteed for two years, which is certainly not a negative.
It offers a ¼ inch chuck which is pretty standard, and the battery is lithium ion and therefore lightweight and reliable. The 2,400 RPM driving speed is pretty respectable, and the 1,280 in/lbs of torque is roughly what we’d expect from a top quality impact driver. An LED is included as well as a carry case to take the Hitachi WH18DGL out and about with ease. You can purchase it either on its own or as a set with 45 bits.
What makes it stand out?
Easy bit replacement
Good torque and RPM
Which disadvantages must you keep in mind?
Some users report losing torque after extended use
Things to Consider
It is all very well being able to look at a list of great options for impact drivers, but the only way you are going to choose the right option for you is if you have some understanding of the features, their benefits, and which driver will end up being the correct choice for you. In order to help you with this, we’ve created a buying guide to walk you through the benefits and, of course, the most important features.
Advantages of having a top-quality impact driver
The main benefit to spring to mind when talking about impact drivers is the fact that they are so much more powerful. They combine both rotating and creating impacts or ‘blows’ to the screw or wood you are looking to drill into. This leads to quicker and easier drilling and driving, and also means you can get more power from a compact driver. Many impact drivers are sold in combos with cordless hammer drills, meaning that you can have the best of both worlds.
Features to consider while choosing an impact driver
So which are the features you should be on the lookout for? What do all of the numbers on the product descriptions mean? And just how do you decipher which is the impact driver you should choose? The following guide to the listed features should help you to understand the products and which of the aspects of these products are most important for you.
Just like your average cordless drill, there is a rotation element of an impact driver in the way the mechanism works. The speed range is how quick this rotation is, and is measured in RPM or ‘revolutions per minute’. This is the same sort of term you may have seen used to discuss engines or even your record player! The range means the choices of speed available to you, from the lowest to highest RPM.
Impacts per minute
Combined with the rotating function of the drill bit is the ‘impact’ feature. Think of this a little bit like a tiny hammer helping to make more of a powerful impact, tapping away at the drill bit and helping it into the surface. The impacts per minute is how many of these ‘taps’ it is able to produce per minute.
Torque is a measurement of force which can be something either pushing or pulling, and is measured in inches-pound (or feet-pound). In the case of an impact driver, the torque is what gives it a huge amount of power in spite of being relatively small, and means you can create larger holes or drive huge screws even if the impact driver itself isn’t the biggest. It gives beefy power to relatively small drivers.
When talking about most tools, the voltage will have a big impact on the power. In the case of impact drivers, all the power you could need is pretty much already in place, and voltage will not have a huge impact on this. What the voltage will have an effect on is the speed at which the driver can do the job, and sometimes a higher voltage can also lead to a more weighty product. Generally speaking, voltage is less important for an impact driver than many other power tools.
Corded or cordless
All of the impact drives to make our list are lithium ion battery products, and therefore cordless.
There are many benefits to having a cordless impact driver including less of a trip hazard, the ability to reach into smaller places, and the ability to use your tool far away from somewhere it is plugged in.
Modern technology has allowed most tools to embrace cordless.
In an age where Li-ion batteries are so widely used, it is very rare that we would recommend any other sort of tool except for those which utilize this technology. It holds charge so well, and this means that your tools can pack a punch for a long time with no loss of power. Charging them up is also much faster using this technology.
A lot of the impact drivers on the list are parts of bigger ranges of tools made by certain brands. Often, these take identical batteries. In some systems, you may be encouraged to just have one, great quality lithium ion battery to cover a multitude of tools, which you can just plug in when needed.
Put into very simple terms, a brushless motor is often more efficient. Brushed motors lose a fair amount of their power as heat, which means they can even cause overheating of impact drivers and other tools. Brushless have a much higher level of efficiency, lose less power and run coolly. There are impact drivers with both brushed and brushless motors, and which you opt for will come down to personal preference. The Makita XDT15ZB and its cousin, the Makita XDT14T, are examples of exceptional impact drivers offering a brushless motor.
The chuck of the driver is the section where the drill bits are inserted. Chucks tend to either be ¼ inch or ⅜ inch in size, and on our list of the top cordless and corded impact drivers there are products with both types of chuck. Fortunately, these can be adapted if you have a preference of which to use, or if you already have bits of one chuck size, which you intend to use with your driver.
LED work light(s)
The impact of having an LED work light should not be underestimated. This is a relatively simple product feature, but one which many drivers have started to include as manufacturers realize how much more control and safety it can give.
The LED lights are usually included as a ring, and will illuminate the area in which you are working. This reduces the chance of accidents and mistakes and generally makes life a lot easier.
A lot of light is not always available when using your impact driver, but if there is a light included then you don’t have to worry about it.
When you think about the dimensions of a product you may instantly think of the storage. This is a legitimate concern to have, and if you have a lot of tools, them all being big and bulky can be troublesome when it comes to taking them out and about, or finding somewhere to put them.
Dimensions of an impact driver are also important for other reasons, mainly the spaces in which they can operate. If you are looking for the best impact driver for automotive use, for instance, you may be looking for a product that is compact enough to fit in tight spaces and still do an adequate job. Impact drivers are great at providing power without having to be huge.
The weight of a tool is always worth thinking about. This becomes especially important if you plan on using your impact driver for a considerable length of time. If you are going to use it for hours at work, or are just a serial DIYer who constantly needs to use tools, you can become very tired very quickly if your tools are heavy. This can even increase the chances of accidents, but mainly the consideration of weight is due to the comfort of the user. Luckily, impact drivers that are small and lightweight don’t have to lose power.
Tools should be able to take something of a beating. They can’t be flimsy, and the manufacturers should know this and also back it up with the fact that they can protect your purchase via a warranty. Good quality impact drivers will have some form of warranty to show that the makers are confident that they are offering a great quality product. The warranty on the tool itself and the battery may be slightly different as batteries do not last as long.
These two aren’t really different terms at all! BPM and IPM stand for ‘blows per minute’ and ‘impacts per minute’ which ultimately mean exactly the same thing, which is how many times the driver can deliver a blow (or impact) within a minute.
If you have a trade job where you are likely to be using your impact driver daily, and for long periods of time, you should consider buying a drill which comes with a long warranty to ensure you have protection from something going wrong. On top of this, we’d recommend a drill which is both powerful and lightweight to stop fatigue from setting in during use.
When you first start drilling into a material the number one priority should be control while the drill starts to thread into the surface. If you start at full speed, then control is very often compromised. With a ‘slow start’ this is not the case, and it lets you be more accurate and precise as the drilling begins.
From looking at our list, it is easy to see that we’ve been very impressed with the Makita range of impact drivers. The Makita XDT14T is recommended as the best all-rounder due to the fact that it has a lot of power but is still relatively compact, the battery life is great, and the warranty is pretty generous at three years. This model is the top of the range due to its reliability and functions.
The XDT14T is closely followed by the Makita XDT15ZB, which is also full of great quality but has the added benefit of being ‘ultra-compact’ allowing you to use it for long periods of time with no fatigue, and also making it easy to fit it into fit into small and compact areas. It also boasts a brushless motor meaning more efficient running and less loss of power to heat.
If value for money is your top priority, then make sure you take a look at the Black & Decker 20V Drill/Driver Impact Combo Kit. This is our ‘budget pick’ and has deserved a very high rating due to the fact that its features are comparable with products with much higher price tags. It also comes with an included drill.
There are many suitable options on the market, and doing a little bit of research can help you find the best impact driver for your own specific requirements.