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Published Sep. 27, 2021

While a cordless drill is an indispensable power tool for many applications, it has its limitations when it comes to driving screws and bolts into wood. That’s where the impact driver comes in. Impact drivers are similar in appearance to a cordless drill, but with their ability to create 1,500 pounds or more of torque, they pack a much bigger punch. This makes them capable of driving a 6-inch lag bolt into a stud, or a long wood screw through multiple 2x4s. Their ability to drive even large fasteners into wood has made impact drivers essential companions to the cordless drill. 

A simple search for impact drivers reveals a broad range of prices, which can make it confusing when trying to select the right one. This guide drills deep into impact driver specs to determine what features are crucial when shopping for one. We’ll also review some of the best impact drivers on the market.

How We Picked These Products

Methodology 

As someone who spends a fair amount of time on DIY projects around the house, I use a lot of power tools. My impact driver sees perhaps more use than any other power tool in my arsenal: whether I’m using it to drive a bolt into garage shelving, or raise the leveling jacks on an RV. I used my personal experience to create this list of top impact drivers, choosing from a selection of more than 30 models. 

  • Brand: Tool companies live and die by their reputation, which is why brand is such an important factor when it comes to power tools. That’s why my selections only include tools from well established power tool companies. 
  • Battery: A cordless tool is only as powerful as the battery attached to it. With that in mind, I only chose 18-volt and 20-volt impact drivers (with the exception of our compact selection). These drivers provide the torque and battery life necessary to be consistently useful.
  • Functions: Impact drivers with advanced settings that allow the user to adjust the torque and speed, set screws easier, or prevent stripping ranked higher than those with only basic functions. 
  • Value: While I didn’t put a premium on price, I did favor impact drivers that offered more power and features for less, while avoiding models that I felt were overpriced. 

The Best Impact Drivers Reviews and Recommendations 

Best Overall: Milwaukee M18 Fuel Hex Hydraulic Driver

Highest Impact

A hydraulic drive and four operating modes give this impact driver superior power and control, placing it firmly at the head of the class.

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Why It Made The Cut: A hydraulic drive and four operating modes give this impact driver superior power and control, placing it firmly at the head of the class. 

Specs:

  • Torque: 2,000 pounds
  • Battery: 18 volts
  • Weight: 2.8 pounds

Pros:

  • Compact size allows it to get into tight spaces
  • Powerful and quiet hydraulic drive
  • Four drive modes prevents strip outs

 Cons: 

  • Expensive

Technology sets the Milwaukee M18 Fuel impact driver apart from the rest. Its hydraulic drive sustains torque better than other impact drivers, allowing it to drive faster and with more power. With so much torque, impact drivers always risk stripping out a screw head. The Milwaukee M18 solves this problem by featuring a self-tapping screw mode that helps to start the screw without stripping it out. With its four drive modes, the user can tailor the speed of this driver to suit any job. We also like the small profile of this driver. At less than 5 inches long, this driver is compact enough to fit into tight spaces. 

While we love the power an impact driver provides, they are notoriously noisy devices. The M18 Fuel is one of the quieter models on the market, thanks again to its hydraulic drive technology, which eliminates the metal-on-metal contact that makes other impact drivers scream like a jackhammer. A battery gauge is a useful additional feature. Our one gripe with this model is that the M18’s single LED light only provides a dim view of the work area.

Best Value: Dewalt Atomic 20V MAX Impact Driver Kit

Max Impact, Max Value

When it comes to value, the Dewalt Atomic 20V Max has the highest impact.

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Why It Made The Cut: Dewalt doesn’t play around, and while this driver might lack some of the fancy features other drivers on this list have, it makes up for it in raw power.

Specs:

  • Torque: 2,000 pounds
  • Battery: 20 volts
  • Weight: 4.54 pounds

Pros:

  • Compact size allows it to get into tight spaces
  • Powerful and quiet hydraulic drive
  • Four drive modes prevents strip outs

 Cons: 

  • No self tapping screw mode
  • Loud

Part of the well-respected Dewalt line of tools, this 20-volt beast boasts some 1,700 pounds of torque at a price that’s less than half the cost of other premium brands. 

The Atomic does lack some of the cutting-edge tech offered by those higher-priced power drivers. Most notably, this driver is missing the different power modes that higher-end models boast, and the hydraulic drives that allow them to deliver torque more consistently and with less noise. But it’s still hard to argue with the value this power driver offers, especially considering the low price. 

In addition to its ample power, the driver includes some of the smart design features Dewalt tools are known for. Three LED lights integrated around the chuck create a veritable floodlight on the work area, eliminating the need to squint or blindly hunt and peck for the screw or bolt head.

If you’re comfortable using a pressure-sensitive trigger to avoid stripping screws, don’t mind a little more strain when driving lag bolts, and can endure a little noise, then the Atomic is a heck of a deal for a Dewalt power tool.

Best Pro Level: Makita LXT 4-Speed Impact Drive Kit

Drive with the Pros

With all the features, the Makita LXT is the best pro level impact driver out there.

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Why It Made The Cut: The various modes and settings on the LXT give the user a level of control that simply isn’t available on any other impact driver on the market.   

Specs:

  • Torque: 1,600 pounds
  • Battery: 18 volts
  • Weight: 2.5 pounds 

Pros:

  • Loaded with speed settings and modes 
  • Advanced technology automatically adjusts speed and torque
  • Lightweight

 Cons:

  • Expensive for bare tool

Makita has made a name for itself by pushing the technology envelope with its power tools and that’s on full display with the LXT. One can tell the difference between it and lower-end models just by pulling the trigger. But the smoothness of the motor isn’t all that sets the LXT apart. While other impact drivers are limited to pressure-sensitive triggers, the LXT is loaded with speed settings and modes, all designed to maximize the driver’s efficiency in a broad variety of applications. 

The Makita has specific speed settings for standard fasteners and bolts, and tightening modes designed to prevent stripping or breaking. There’s even an assist mode that helps to prevent cross-threading by driving at slower speeds until the screw begins to tighten. 

While these features may only serve to confuse the average DIYer, they’re invaluable to a pro who may be using it for jobs that require repetitive tasks where delays from slow tools or damaged fasteners or slow tools equate to lost dollars. 

Best Compact: Bosch Max 1/4-Inch Hex Impact Driver Kit

Compact Finesse

When access is important, Bosch Max delivers compact quality.

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Why It Made The Cut: Its smaller size and light weight make this an excellent impact driver for tight spaces and jobs that don’t require the high torque output of larger models. 

Specs:

  • Torque: 930 pounds
  • Battery: 12 volts
  • Weight: 2.1 pounds

Pros:

  • Weighs just 2.1 pounds
  • Compact size ideal for tight spaces
  • Built-in battery gauge

 Cons:

  • Not as powerful as larger impact drivers

The compact size of this power driver from Bosch makes it a great option for reaching fasteners in tight places. While most impact drivers put their battery at the bottom of the handle, this model integrates it inside the handle. That design innovation not only makes the driver smaller but also lighter—it weighs just a hair over 2 pounds. 

With a head measuring just 5 inches long, you can squeeze this driver into tight spaces where you might otherwise have to wrestle with a stubby handheld screwdriver. The light weight also makes jobs easier on the wrist and arm for longer jobs and more manageable for those who may not feel comfortable wielding a heavier 5-pound impact driver.  

While this lighter weight impact driver may be more convenient to use, note that its smaller and lighter 12-volt battery produces less power–930 pounds of torque versus the 1,600 pounds of torque heftier 18-volt models offer, so it may lack the power to handle some tougher jobs. 

Best Combo: Craftsman Cordless Drill Combo

Two for One

This versatile tool is both drill and impact driver in one.

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Why It Made The Cut: The affordable price of this drill and impact driver combo is like getting two power tools for the price of one.

Specs:

  • Torque: 1,500 pounds
  • Battery: 20 volts
  • Weight: 4 pounds 

Pros:

  • Affordably priced for two power tools
  • Quality construction from Craftsman
  • High battery capacity

 Cons:

  • Lacks bells and whistles of other impact drivers

An impact driver and a cordless drill often go hand in hand—the cordless drill bores the pilot hole while the driver secures the fasteners. This makes purchasing the two as a set a logical choice. With its ample 20-volt batteries, this duo from Craftsman is one of the more dynamic and affordable duos on the market. 

While Craftsman may not have the reputation it once did in the glory days of Sears, its tools are still well built. That shows with this combo, which boasts solid features, such as brushless motors that extend run time, a 2-speed gearbox on the drill, and 1,500 pounds of torque on the impact driver. They’re also comfortable to use, thanks to ample rubber grips and large triggers.

And while this combo lacks some of the premium features that other impact drivers and cordless drills have, such as speed controls and modes that auto-adjust torque, these Craftsman tools are much more affordable. 

Things to Consider Before Buying an Impact Driver

Torque

The main function of an impact driver is to drive fasteners into wood that a standard cordless drill simply isn’t powerful enough to handle. For that, a driver needs plenty of torque. Most impact drivers produce around 1,500 pounds of torque, which is enough to drive lag bolts into solid wood, or 3.5-inch deck screws through two 2x4s.

Battery

A cordless tool can be very well made, but if the battery isn’t strong, it won’t produce enough power, or last long enough to be useful. Look for 18-volt and 20-volt impact drivers. But don’t pay more for a 20-volt model, with the exception of the label, 18-volt and 20-volt batteries are basically the same, and offer the same amount of peak power and battery life. 

Brushless

As you’ll quickly notice when shopping for impact drivers, many use brushless motors. Power tools with brushless motors are typically more expensive, as brushless is better technology. Brushless motors produce significantly less friction inside the motor when running. As a result, these motors use less battery power. A brushless motor runs faster and lasts longer than an impact driver with a standard motor. Brushless motors also typically have a longer lifespan.

Features

While all impact drivers produce similar amounts of torque, there are features that set the bargain-priced models apart from the high-end models. Many have settings and features that allow the user to customize the driver’s performance to suit the application. These features automatically change speed and torque settings to optimize performance, preventing damage to fasteners, which can slow a project down. Other high-end models have hydraulic drives that are quieter and deliver more consistent torque. While these features are nice, they often come with a steep price, so consider how much of an advantage they’ll give you when deciding if they’re worth the additional cost.  

FAQs

Q: What is the most powerful impact driver?

With its 1,700 pounds of torque, the Dewalt Atomic 20V Max Impact Driver produces more torque than any other impact driver on the market.

Q: Is it worth getting an impact driver?

If you find yourself driving bolts or long screws into wood, it’s a good idea to have an impact driver, as a normal cordless drill usually won’t produce enough torque to drive these fasteners all the way through the material.

Q: Do I need special bits for an impact driver?

Yes. An impact driver requires hex shank bits. These bits have a hexagonally shaped shank. Bits with round shanks will not work with an impact driver. 

Final Thoughts

As with other power tools, impact drivers range from expensive models with numerous features to bare-bones options at affordable rates. The Milwaukee M18 Fuel Hex Hydraulic Driver is a great choice for those who use an impact driver regularly and will put its higher-end features to good use. For those looking for a more affordable model that still produces plenty of power, you can’t go wrong with the Dewalt Atomic 20V MAX Impact Driver Kit.

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