The Best Impact Drivers of 2022

To find the impact driver best suited to the projects on your to-do list, start with these top tips and recommendations.

By Glenda Taylor | Updated Jul 1, 2022 11:39 AM

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The Best Impact Driver Options

Photo: Glenda Taylor

If you plan to tackle jobs involving larger or longer screws and fixings—like those used for decking or framing up a house—you’ll want to add an impact driver to your tool collection. They are specifically designed for heavy-duty screw-driving tasks, where an ordinary drill driver would struggle.

In the past few years, more impact drivers have appeared on the market than ever before. I wanted to know which ones were worth the money—and which ones were basically duds—so I personally tested the most popular sellers, and I didn’t go easy on them.

The best impact driver for your individual needs should pack enough power to handle the types of projects you plan to tackle. Read on to learn about how these souped-up screwdrivers differ from regular drills and which ones performed the best (and the worst) in my hands-on tests.

  1. BEST OVERALL: DEWALT 20V MAX Impact Driver Kit, 1/4-Inch
  2. BEST BUDGET: Ryobi P235A 18V One+ Impact Driver
  3. BEST ALL-PURPOSE: BLACK+DECKER 20V MAX POWERCONNECT 1/4 in. Cordless
  4. BEST FOR DIYERS: CRAFTSMAN 20V Impact Driver Kit, Cordless (CMCF810C1)
  5. BEST TORQUE: Metabo HPT 18V Cordless Impact Driver (WH18DBDL2Q4)
  6. BEST WITH BITS: Makita XDT16Z 18V LXT Lithium-Ion Brushless Cordless
  7. BEST COMPACT: Milwaukee M18 18-Volt Lithium-Ion Compact Brushless
  8. BEST LIGHT-DUTY: Avid Power Impact Driver Kit, 180N.m. 20V Cordless
  9. LONGEST RUNTIME: Kobalt 24-volt Max Variable Speed Brushless Cordless
  10. ALSO CONSIDER: PORTER-CABLE 20V MAX Impact Driver Kit (PCCK647LB)
The Best Impact Driver Options

Photo: Glenda Taylor

Impact Driver vs. Drill

Impact drivers and drills look similar at a glance; in fact, manufacturers often bundle them together in a single package. But both have their own purpose.

  • A drill/driver (or simply, a drill) drills pilot holes and fastens screws in a wide variety of materials. DIYers can use them to hang shelves, assemble furniture, and fit all manner of hinges and brackets. They can accept bits from as small as 3/64 inches to over 1 inch, depending on the power of the drill and the type of bit.
  • An impact driver is a handy little dynamo designed to do one thing: drive various types of fasteners. As a drill, it uses rotational force to drive screws into wood, for example. But, unlike the smooth rotation of a drill, an impact driver uses rotational hammering, which is more effective at driving fixings with screw threads. DIYers may use them for long decking screws, lag bolts, and similar fixings.

Unlike drills, impact drivers do not have a three-jaw self-centering chuck. Instead, they have a quick-release hexagonal chuck that accepts bits with a hexagonal shank. Some impact drivers use a ⅜-inch fitting, but a ¼-inch fitting is much more common.

What to Consider When Choosing the Best Impact Driver

Torque is probably the single most important aspect of an impact driver. Less powerful models can handle light-duty DIY projects, while more high-performance drivers will tackle the kind of fixing used for decking and substantial framing constructions. These heavier-duty tools make a good choice for remodelers and professional contractors. When shopping for the best impact driver, consider the following.

Corded vs. Cordless

Widely available until relatively recently, corded impact drivers have become something of a rarity. When cordless models first came onto the market, they couldn’t compete with the outright power of corded models. Their batteries didn’t perform well either; only a corded impact driver provided the all-day productivity contractors require. It is still the case that corded tools run at peak performance for as long as they’re connected to power, whereas cordless impact drivers lose power as the battery drains.

On a full battery, however, cordless impact drivers now deliver power equivalent to or greater than their corded rivals. They are much easier to maneuver without a cord, particularly in confined spaces. Though batteries can still cause problems, professionals who need continuous performance simply invest in a spare or two. For DIYers and professionals alike, it’s likely that a cordless impact driver will meet the needs of both.

Torque and Speed

Torque is the amount of “twisting power” an impact driver offers. It determines how well the tool will perform. The higher the torque (measured in inch-pounds and usually written as in-lbs), the more twisting power. How much torque is needed depends on the construction material. For example, driving screws into hardwood requires more torque than driving into softwood.

A small impact driver with 800 in-lbs of torque provides plenty of twisting power to drive screws in a household or a home workshop setting. For driving multiple large screws, such as those used to construct decking or the frame of a house, builders would want an impact driver with 1,500 in-lbs of torque or more.

Rotation speed (rpm) indicates how many revolutions the bit makes per minute (typically between 800 and 3,000 rpm). The bit revolves at slower speeds when more torque is applied. Faster speeds work well for multiple small- or medium-size fixings. The driver puts out less torque, but in these cases, faster operation is more important than outright power.

Voltage

Voltage indicates the energy output of an impact driver. The higher the voltage, the more powerful the motor. This translates into higher torque, which, as noted, is one of the most important factors when choosing one of these tools.

Impact drivers fall into two brackets: 12-volt tools and 18- or 20-volt tools. Generally light and compact, 12-volt models make great general-purpose tools for homeowners. Professionals who regularly work in tight spaces may prefer these models, too. Avid DIYers and tradespeople tend to prefer 18- or 20-volt models simply for the greater power output.

There is some understandable confusion between 18-volt and 20-volt cordless impact drivers. In power terms, they are actually the same. An electric motor produces an initial surge of power when starting, then drops to its nominal (standard) voltage. In this case, 20-volt is the surge, 18-volt is the nominal.

Some manufacturers choose one number to list in the product specs; some prefer the other. Impact driver buyers looking for the most powerful tool need to check the torque figure, not the voltage. Interestingly, 12-volt impact drivers have a nominal voltage of 10.8 volts, though makers seldom mention it.

Brushed vs. Brushless Motor

Power tools come with two types of motors: brushed or brushless.

  • Brushed motors rely on the “old school” technology for electric motors. These motors use a “brush” to send power to a coil. The coil, attached to a shaft, begins to spin, creating power and torque. Relatively low-tech, as far as electric motors go, brushed motors have a proven track record and come at a low cost. Keep in mind, brushes maintain contact with coil components while the tool runs, so they do wear out and require periodic replacement.
  • Brushless motors use sensors and control boards to send an electrical current to the coils, spinning a magnet attached to a shaft. More high-tech and far more efficient, a brushless motor produces significantly more torque per watt of power and uses far less battery power than a brushed motor. Without a brush to replace, these motors are virtually maintenance-free.

Many budget cordless impact drivers come with a brush motor, and there’s nothing wrong with that. However, an impact driver that is fitted with a brushless motor will invariably run longer (given the same size battery).

Size and Weight

Impact drivers can often be lighter than cordless drills, and some weigh as little as 2 pounds. This allows the user to drive multiple fasteners without hand or arm fatigue. That’s particularly important when inserting screws overhead, where a regular drill can quickly weigh the user down. If your plans include a lot of overhead work, make sure you factor the battery weight into the total weight of a cordless impact driver if you buy a bare tool.

As for size, an impact driver can access tight spaces where a larger drill wouldn’t fit, and some models are more compact than others. More powerful tools are not necessarily physically larger, so it is possible to get a small and mighty tool.

Batteries

As with drills and other cordless tools, cordless impact drivers run on rechargeable batteries in 12-volt, 18-volt, and 20-volt capacities. Batteries must match the tool voltage. For example, if you have a 12-volt impact driver, you will need a 12-volt battery. You won’t get more power by attempting to use an 18-volt battery; it simply won’t work.

Batteries also have an amp-hour (Ah) rating. This can vary. Think of it as the amount of gasoline in a vehicle’s fuel tank. An 18-volt 4.0 amp-hour battery has more “fuel” than an 18-volt 2.0 amp-hour version, so an impact driver with a 4.0 amp-hour battery will run twice as long.

The disadvantages of higher amp-hour batteries are increased cost and longer recharge times. With most tools, a 1.5 amp-hour or a 2.0 amp-hour battery come standard. If the aim is to maximize runtime, buy a spare with a higher amp-hour.

Safety

The hammer action of an impact driver is loud. While manufacturers sometimes claim to have implemented noise reduction technologies, all the models tested for this guide exceed the 85-decibel level, so hearing protection is recommended. In DIY settings, this is strongly advised. In commercial environments, it is an OSHA requirement.

While the best impact drivers offer a high level of control, be aware of the potential injuries that excessive torque can cause. A sudden twist can result in a painful wrist sprain. A drill comes with a clutch that stops the torque when the fastener meets resistance. Impact drivers don’t have clutches, but virtually all of them have variable-speed triggers that allow the user to reduce power when the fastener is completely inserted. Some come with additional speed and torque settings that also help control the torque.

Additional Features

Depending on how you intend to use an impact driver, one or more of the following extras may be worth pursuing in a kit.

  • Variable speed trigger: Most impact drivers have this. The harder it is squeezed, the faster the rotation. Some also have two or more rpm speed settings, which provide enhanced control for different-size fixings or driving into different materials.
  • Rubberized handle: This serves two purposes. It ensures the user can keep a firm grip on the tool, and it helps reduce the vibration between the tool and the body to minimize hand and arm fatigue.
  • Interchangeable batteries: Some manufacturers design drivers to use batteries that work with other power tools from the same brand. In that case, users can save money by buying a bare tool. But check compatibility with older cordless tools. Batteries from different brands seldom work, though converters may be available.
  • Charge indicator: Some batteries have a useful charge indicator so the user can estimate the remaining battery life.
  • Work light: LED lights built into the front of the driver are especially convenient for working in dark corners.
  • Combination kit: Many brands sell impact drivers as part of a set for those who are in the market for multiple tools. Combo kits typically contain an impact driver and a standard cordless drill. They might also include a hammer drill, a circular saw, a work light, drill bits, and/or batteries.
  • Impact driver bits: Screwdriver and other bits for standard drills are usually hexagonal and may well be the appropriate size. However, they are not strong enough for an impact driver and will wear quickly or break. Look for bits described as “impact ready.”
  • On-board bit storage: A few impact drivers have a small clip or a magnet to keep a driver bit ready for action on the tool itself.

Our Top Picks

The following models all had to meet our high-performance testing standards to earn a spot in this lineup of the best impact drivers. Each tool was pushed to its limits to determine how well it would hold up in real-world building situations. While the following impact drivers are better suited for some uses than others, each is a standout in its category for your next go-to tool. Check out both the pros and the cons before buying.

Best Overall

The Best Impact Driver Option: DEWALT 20V Max Impact Driver Kit
Photo: amazon.com

Those looking for enough driving power to build a garage or a shed need look no further than the DeWalt 20V MAX Impact Driver. Aimed at both professionals and enthusiastic DIYers, the tool’s powerful torque, compact design, and light weight of just 2.8 pounds make it among the top options for an impact driver. Additionally, this cordless impact driver includes an ergonomic grip that offers good control and three LED lights to brighten dark corners.

As a long-time fan of DeWalt tools, I was expecting good things from this 20-volt impact driver—and I wasn’t disappointed. It features a one-handed hex chuck to easily switch between bits, and it comes with a 20-volt lithium-ion battery and charger. That’s a pretty good deal. A slight downside is the 1.5 amp-hour battery, which did not last as long as I felt it should have. I got just over 40 minutes out of the battery at near-constant use. Still, the DeWalt impact driver excelled in inserting various fasteners into softwoods and hardwoods, and I found it also worked well for loosening previously frozen fasteners without stripping out the heads.

This is not a brushless driver, which means runtime is slightly shortened, but it’s well engineered and offers considerable torque and power, and I was highly impressed by the sensitivity of the variable-speed trigger. For the best results, consider keeping a spare battery charged to double runtime.

Product Specs

  • Maximum torque: 1,400 in-lbs
  • Maximum rpm: 2,800
  • Weight: 2.8 pounds

Pros

  • Suitable for heavy-duty use
  • Carrying case, charger, and battery included
  • 3 built-in LED lights
  • Ergonomic grip

Cons

  • Limited runtime

Get the DeWalt 20V impact driver on Amazon, at The Home Depot, and at Lowe’s.

Best Budget

Best Impact Driver Option Ryobia P235A 18V
Photo: amazon.com

Low-cost tools seldom perform as well as their more expensive counterparts, but that’s certainly not the case with the 18-volt Ryobi impact driver. The Ryobi impact driver performed on par with some of its more expensive competitors in my testing. It features an impressive 1,800 in-lbs of torque and 3,200 ipm (impacts per minute) and has a ¼-inch quick-connect chuck. It also comes with a sturdy cast-aluminum gear housing.

Ryobi’s cordless impact driver comes as a bare tool, but I had a spare 18-volt Ryobi lithium-ion battery that fit perfectly. The lime-green power tool put on an impressive show of driving fasteners into hardwood and softwood and removed overtightened screws without stripping out the heads. At a little over 4 pounds with the battery, it is heavier than some, and I found my arm and hand tiring after using it overhead for a few minutes. Still, it provides enough power to overcome the weight issue, in my opinion—and those with stronger arms might not even notice the added weight.

Anyone who doesn’t own another cordless tool from the Ryobi One+ system (and already have a battery) will need to purchase a battery and a charger. While this will roughly double the price, it remains a good value at the price point.

Product Specs

  • Maximum torque: 1,800 in-lbs
  • Maximum rpm: 2,800
  • Weight: 4 pounds

Pros

  • 3,200 ipm power
  • ¼-inch quick-connect coupler
  • Durable cast-aluminum gear housing

Cons

  • Battery and charger not included
  • Heavier than comparable options

Get the Ryobi 18V One+ impact driver on Amazon or at Walmart.

Best All-Purpose

The Best Impact Driver Option: BLACK+DECKER 20V MAX POWERCONNECT 1 4 in. Cordless
Photo: amazon.com

From a company with a more than century-long reputation for producing quality tools comes the Black & Decker 20-volt cordless impact driver. I’m familiar with many of the tools that Black & Decker makes, but I have never used one of its impact drivers. I was pleasantly surprised by the power (1,400 in-lbs of torque) and a high rotation speed of 3,000 rpms. The driver pulls quite a bit of energy from the slightly lackluster 1.5 amp-hour rechargeable battery, so I only got 30 minutes of consistent use out of the driver before I needed to recharge the battery.

I found the Black & Decker impact driver very comfortable in hand, and its nonslip rubberized grip added to its ease of use without hand fatigue. With the battery in place, the driver is well balanced—with the weight falling almost equally between the head and the battery compartment, which I feel helps stabilize the tool during use.

The power driver excelled at inserting and removing fasteners from softwoods and hardwoods, but the chuck failed to grab the bits securely a couple of times. That may well have been a user error since I was testing at a relatively quick pace and might not have gotten the bits in securely. When I reinserted the bits, I had no problems.

Product Specs

  • Maximum torque: 1,400 in-lbs
  • Maximum rpm: 3,000
  • Weight: 3.6 pounds

Pros

  • 3,900 ipm
  • Includes a battery and a charger
  • Variable-speed trigger
  • Long battery life

Cons

  • Some users report it is unsuitable for professional heavy-duty use
  • Short runtime due to battery size

Get the Black & Decker 20V impact driver on Amazon or at Lowe’s (tool only).

Best For Diyers

The Best Impact Driver Option: CRAFTSMAN 20V Impact Driver Kit, Cordless (CMCF810C1)
Photo: amazon.com

Craftsman has long been associated with quality tools at affordable prices for the DIY user, and its V20 cordless impact driver continues that tradition. I found this Craftsman impact driver to be a dependable and solid performer. It delivers 1,460 in-lbs of torque; 3,100 ipm; and a maximum speed of 2,800 rpm, which is competitive performance to other DIY-type impact drivers. It scored well in testing for both inserting and removing fasteners quickly from softwoods and hardwoods. Its impact hammering also kicked in right away when I used it to remove a frozen screw—loosening it before the bit stripped out the head.

I was surprised (and impressed) to find the Craftsman has a brushless motor, which is typically about 30 percent more efficient than an equivalent brush motor. Plus, it comes with a 2.0Ah rechargeable lithium-ion battery, which lasts longer than the batteries of some of the higher-priced drivers in this lineup. In testing, the battery lasted nearly an hour before needing a recharge. A rapid battery charger is also included.

This impact driver has an LED work light for improved visibility. The tool is slightly heavy at 4.1 pounds, but that’s a decent trade-off for dependability and solid performance.

Product Specs

  • Maximum torque: 1,460 in-lbs
  • Maximum rpm: 2,800
  • Weight: 4.1 pounds

Pros

  • 3,100 ipm power
  • 2,800 rpm maximum speed
  • 60-minute battery life
  • Brushless motor

Cons

  • Slightly heavy

Get the Craftsman 20V impact driver on Amazon and at Ace Hardware.

Best Torque

Best Impact Driver Option Metabo HPT 18V Cordless
Photo: amazon.com

As a fan of the former Hitachi power tool line, I was excited to test the Metabo HPT impact driver. As of 2018, Metabo became the new name for Hitachi tools, and if this impact driver is any indication of the brand’s future, I won’t hesitate to choose more power tools from this line. The Metabo impact driver offers a host of features aimed at the professional, but that shouldn’t put off the serious DIY remodeler. The tool delivers immense power with 1,832 in-lbs of torque and a 4,000 ipm triple-hammer action to drive screws and fasteners home in no time.

With four-stage speed adjustability for maximum precision, the tool reaches speeds up to 2,900 rpm. Weighing 2.9 pounds, this impact driver was very comfortable to handle—it is neither heavy nor bulky. An LED light and a charge indicator are convenient extras. The Metabo had no problem inserting and removing fasteners in softwoods and hardwoods, and it made quick work of removing frozen/overtightened fasteners without stripping out the heads.

This impact driver comes as a bare tool, so users must purchase a battery separately. Compatible 18-volt batteries range from a 1.5 amp-hour model (a little underpowered for professional users) to a massive 8 amp-hour model that offers class-leading runtimes. I picked a 3 amp-hour battery, which was more than enough to power the impact driver in my testing. With this much torque, anything less than a 3 amp-hour battery will undercut the performance of this impact driver.

Product Specs

  • Maximum torque: 1,832 in-lbs
  • Maximum rpm: 3,200
  • Weight: 2.9 pounds

Pros

  • Rubberized grip
  • Variable-speed trigger
  • 4,000 ipm
  • Built-in LED light and a charge indicator light

Cons

  • No battery included

Get the Metabo 18V impact driver on Amazon and at Lowe’s.

Best With Bits

The Best Impact Driver Option: Makita XDT16Z 18V LXT Lithium-Ion Brushless Cordless
Photo: amazon.com

An impressive tool, the Makita impact driver delivers 1,500 in-lbs of torque; the hammer action runs at 3,800 ipm; and its speed tops out at 3,400 rpm. My favorite feature of the Makita driver is the ability to choose from four different speed modes by pushing a small button just below the chuck. This speed selection is in addition to the tool’s variable speed trigger, so I was able to regulate the rpms to suit the material and the types of fasteners I was testing.

A brushless motor maximizes battery efficiency, but keep in mind this driver comes as a bare tool; users must purchase a battery and charger separately. I used a 3Ah lithium-ion battery from another Makita tool I owned to test the impact driver. Although my battery was more than a year old, I got over an hour of runtime out of the Makita driver before I needed to recharge.
The Makita impact driver includes a comprehensive impact-rated set of 50 bits with different holders, sockets, and extended shafts to cope with just about any fastener in any location. In addition to inserting and removing screw fasteners, I tested the Makita impact driver on an overtightened bolt removal, and it excelled in all tests.

Product Specs

  • Maximum torque: 1,500 in-lbs
  • Maximum rpm: 3,400
  • Weight: 3.4 pounds

Pros

  • 3,800 ipm power
  • 4-mode speed adjustment
  • 50-piece bit set included

Cons

  • Pricey
  • No battery included

Get the Makita 18V LXT impact driver with bits on Amazon, or the driver with battery and no bits at The Home Depot or at Tractor Supply Co.

Best Compact

The Best Impact Driver Option: Milwaukee M18 18-Volt Lithium-Ion Compact Brushless
Photo: homedepot.com

A remarkably compact tool, the 18-volt brushless Milwaukee M18 impact driver can access fixings in tight spots where larger impact drivers might not be suitable. The space-saving design features a compact head and grip. Comfortable to hold and easy to manage, the Milwaukee weighs in at just 2.9 pounds and is just 5.1 inches long from the chuck to the back of the tool.

Despite its compact size, I found the Milwaukee M18 impact driver provided nearly as much power as some of the larger models I tested. Maximum torque comes in at a very competitive 1,600 in-lbs—plenty for DIY tasks, remodeling, and light construction work. The tool comes with an 18-volt 2 amp-hour battery, which offers nearly an hour of continuous runtime before requiring a recharge. The charger is also included. I was slightly disappointed in the tool’s body quality—the materials didn’t seem up to par for the Milwaukee brand. The plastic felt thinner, but not cheap by a long shot.

I found this compact driver well suited to overhead use where it didn’t tire my arm as quickly as the heavier drivers, and its nonslip rubberized grip allowed me to grasp the tool firmly. The Milwaukee M18 impact driver comes with a smooth variable trigger, making it easy for me to control the rpms for the material. The tool didn’t lose power or slow down when inserting fasteners in hardwood, and its enviable 4,200 ipm hammer action knocked loose frozen screws without a hitch.

Product Specs

  • Maximum torque: 1,600 in-lbs
  • Maximum rpm: 3,200
  • Weight: 2.9 pounds

Pros

  • 4,200 ipm
  • Rubberized nonslip grip
  • Brushless motor
  • LED light

Cons

  • Questionable material quality

Get the Milwaukee M18 impact driver at The Home Depot.

Best Light-Duty

The Best Impact Driver Option: Avid Power Impact Driver Kit, 180N.m. 20V Cordless
Photo: amazon.com

Initially, I was leery when I started testing the Avid Power Impact Driver, but I soon discovered it could hold its own among higher-priced light-duty drivers. The tool is relatively lightweight at 3.1 pounds, and I found it to be well balanced. The nonslip rubberized grip is a plus, and the Avid Power impact driver has a very nice set of LED lights that clearly illuminate the work area.

The Avid Power features slightly less torque than larger models, coming in at 1,590 in-lbs. It also features 2,700 rpms, which was the lowest of the drivers I tested. However, in actual use—inserting and removing fasteners—the Avid Power performed impeccably, and it ran continuously for just over 30 minutes before I had to recharge its 1,500 amp-hour battery. The battery and the charger are included with this model.

The chuck was firm and secure, and it held the bits tightly. While the Avid Power impact driver doesn’t generate the force that other impact drivers can, it’s not intended to do so. This is a light-duty impact driver, and I found it more than suitable for most household needs. Plus, it comes with a nice assortment of socket and drive bits.

Product Specs

  • Maximum torque: 1,590 in-lbs
  • Maximum rpm: 2,700
  • Weight: 3.1 pounds

Pros

  • 3,800 ipm
  • Well balanced
  • Bright LED lights

Cons

  • Not designed for heavy-duty use

Get the Avid Power 20V impact driver on Amazon and at Sears.

Longest Runtime

The Best Impact Driver Option: Kobalt 24-volt Max Variable Speed Brushless Cordless
Photo: lowes.com

Having owned several Kobalt tools over the years, I was aware that this line of tools is available only at Lowe’s. In general, I’ve found the brand to be tough and dependable, and the Kobalt 24-volt Max Impact Driver was no exception. The only 24-volt model in this lineup, the Kobalt doesn’t mess around—it offers 1,800 in-lbs of torque and hits at a maximum of 3,500 ipm.

To top it off, this is a brushless driver, and it comes with an included 2 amp-hour battery and charger. In testing, the Kobalt showed off with the most extended runtime of any impact driver at almost 90 continuous minutes. And it only felt slightly warm after all that time, which was pretty impressive. It had plenty of torque and power to insert and remove multiple dozens of fasteners from hardwood and softwood. Still, the chuck was a little rough—it would stick occasionally when I pulled it out to remove a bit, but it could very well loosen up in time.

In addition to the responsive variable-speed trigger, the Kobalt impact driver comes with three-speed power control, which is versatile for different fasteners. All in all, the Kobalt impact driver is well suited for both DIY and professional construction use.

Product Specs

  • Maximum torque: 1,800 in-lbs
  • Maximum rpm: 2,700
  • Weight: 0.4 pounds

Pros

  • 3,500 ipm
  • 24-volt power
  • 2 amp-hour battery and charger included
  • Adjustable speed control

Cons

  • Slightly stiff chuck

Get the Kobalt 24V impact driver at Lowe’s.

Also Consider

The Best Impact Driver Option: PORTER-CABLE 20V MAX Impact Driver Kit (PCCK647LB)
Photo: amazon.com

The Porter-Cable 20V MAX Impact Driver Kit comes with two 1.5 amp-hour rechargeable lithium-ion batteries, a battery charger, and the impact driver, making it a decent option for those looking for a ready-to-go quality tool with extended runtime. In testing, the Porter-Cable ran for nearly an hour on a single battery charge, and then I had another fully charged battery to pop into place. It comes with a built-in battery-status indicator but try as I might, I couldn’t get it to work. That was fine, however, since it’s pretty easy to tell when a battery is getting low without the need for an indicator.

The Porter-Cable offers nearly as much torque and rotation speed as some of the more powerful drivers I tested, and it didn’t bog down at all during the fastener insertion and removal tests. It did become warm in my hand after about 20 minutes, and I paused to let it cool down and give my hand and wrist a break. After a 5-minute cooldown, we were both ready to go again. The impact driver never overheated, but I found it more suited to general use than constant use. That’s not unusual.

The Porter-Cable tool is well balanced and features a rubberized nonslip grip that for comfortable use. It weighs in at just 2.9 pounds, so it’s also suitable for extended overhead use. It’s an all-around impact driver that would come in handy for DIYers.

Product Specs

  • Maximum torque: 1,400 in-lbs
  • Maximum rpm: 2,700
  • Weight: 2.9 pounds

Pros

  • 3,200 to 3,500 ipm (estimated, not listed)
  • Nonslip rubberized grip
  • Brushless motor
  • Long battery life

Cons

  • Battery indicator didn’t work

Get the Porter Cable 20V MAX impact driver on Amazon and at Tractor Supply Co.

Our Verdict

While any impact driver in our lineup is well suited for fastener insertion and removal, the DeWalt 20V MAX comes complete with a battery, a charger, and a carry bag—everything that’s needed to get started. Plus, it’s from a manufacturer that is well known for producing top-of-the-line power tools. For the budget-minded, it’s tough to beat the Ryobi 18V One+ Impact Driver for affordability without sacrificing performance. This impact driver is available as a tool-only model, so shoppers will have to purchase a separate battery.

How We Tested the Best Impact Drivers

I wanted to see just how good today’s top impact drivers performed, so I didn’t pull any punches during the testing phase. I analyzed each tool right out of the package—checking the quality of the materials and whether the grip was ergonomic and comfortable in hand. I rated each tool using a scoring rubric. For each test, each impact driver was awarded points between 0 and 4, with 4 being the best.

As impact drivers, the tools in this lineup are made to start “hitting” when the driver senses resistance, either while inserting fasteners or removing them. The hitting action is vital because it keeps the drill from stripping out screw heads; instead, it helps to knock them loose. All the impact drivers in our lineup were highly sensitive and started hitting as soon as the fastener met resistance. This was a strong point for all the tools across the board.

I moved on to test the power duration of each driver by using it consistently until its battery was depleted. For the most part, none of the impact drivers lasted as long as their manufacturers’ claims, but then again, they were running nearly constantly, which probably isn’t typical. The brushless drivers scored higher on this test because their brushless motors enable longer runtimes.

The tools were also checked periodically to see if they were overheating, and while most of them became slightly warm, only one got warm enough to take a break and let it cool down. None overheated to the point where they automatically shut down.
After all the tools were tested, I added the scores and used the results to help give the impact drivers the awards that best suited them, based on their strengths and weaknesses.

FAQs

Q. How is an impact driver different from a drill?

Almost every modern drill, certainly cordless power tools, can be used as both a drill and a screwdriver. They are great all-arounders. An impact driver does not have the drill function, but it provides far superior driving power for all kinds of large fasteners.

Q. What is an impact driver drill used for?

An impact driver is in essence a high-performance screwdriver, though with the right bits it can also drive hex-head bolts, lag bolts, and other large fixings, not just screws. It is not a drill, though a chuck adapter could be added for occasional drilling tasks.

Q. How do I choose an impact driver?

You want to strike the right balance between sufficient torque for the fastener involved, tool weight for manageability, and of course your budget. The guidance and examples above will help you pick the best impact driver for your needs.

Q. What is the strongest impact driver?

With over 1,800 inch-pounds of torque and a triple-hammer action, the Metabo HPT 18V is one of the strongest options available.

Q. Does an impact driver need special bits?

Yes. The torque generated by an impact driver can break ordinary bits. Look for ones sold as “impact ready.”