Impact drivers are the go-to tool when dealing with long screws and other large fasteners. An impact driver delivers extra rotational force to drive the fixing home for jobs in which a standard drill driver would struggle.
Milwaukee has one of the most comprehensive ranges of impact drivers on the market. These are powerful, pro-grade tools with a reputation for durability.
However, since numerous models are available, finding the best Milwaukee impact driver isn’t always a straightforward process. The following drivers offer the right combination of performance and value to suit a wide range of user needs.
- BEST OVERALL: Milwaukee M18 FUEL 18-Volt Lithium-Ion Brushless
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Milwaukee Electric Tools M12 Fuel 1/4″ Hex Impact
- MOST USER FRIENDLY: Milwaukee ELEC TOOL M18 Fuel Hex Hydraulic Driver
- BEST 12V COMBO: Milwaukee Electric Tools M12 Fuel Kit 1/2″ Hammer
- BEST 18V COMBO: Milwaukee Electric Tools Hammer Drill/Impact Driver
- BEST ANGLED: Milwaukee M18 Lithium-Ion Cordless 1/4 in. Hex
- ALSO CONSIDER: Milwaukee M12 FUEL SURGE Compact Lithium-Ion 1/4 in.
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Milwaukee Impact Drivers
At first glance, most Milwaukee impact drivers look similar to other tools in their range like drill drivers and hammer drills. On closer inspection, however, important differences exist. The technical aspects of Milwaukee impact drivers can help potential buyers understand the key features that affect choice.
Until quite recently, Milwaukee offered a choice between corded and cordless versions of their impact drivers. Improvements in cordless technology mean that all the company’s drivers can run on either 12V or 18V lithium-ion batteries.
The motor in any power tool affects its use of the available battery power. Older style brush motors, originally designed for corded tools, create friction and heat that saps some of the power. Nothing is wrong with them, and they are a reliable, low-cost choice; however, brushless motors are from 30 percent to 50 percent more efficient. All new Milwaukee impact drivers use these more advanced brushless motors.
Size and Weight
Historically, 12V Milwaukee impact drivers usually were smaller and lighter than their 18V counterparts. However, the latest Milwaukee tools are all remarkably compact, and the difference is often slight. The small size can be a big benefit when working in confined spaces.
Also note that most 18V batteries are considerably larger than 12V models. The 12V battery often slides up into the handle, while the tool remains slender. While both are well balanced, it makes some difference in maneuverability. That said, the bulkier 18V unit stands up more easily. The tendency of the 12V model to topple over can be frustrating.
Milwaukee impact drivers, like most power tools, are often sold “bare” (without a battery or charger). The listed weight often doesn’t include the battery, which can add 1 to 2 1/2 pounds to the total weight.
Torque, RPM, and IPM
Torque, or turning force, which is usually measured in inch-pounds (in.lbs.), is the amount of rotational power necessary to drive screws and bolts. Milwaukee impact drivers vary from 450 in.lbs. to 2,000 in.lbs., depending on the model.
Milwaukee impact drivers maximize the torque effect by adding a hammer action. On hammer drills used for masonry, concrete, etc., this action is in line with the direction of drilling. On an impact driver, however, it’s rotary. This action provides lots of small jolts, or impacts, thus increasing the driving force. This action is measured in Impacts Per Minute (IPM). Milwaukee impact drivers use a rapid 3,300 to 4,300 IMP.
Revolutions per minute (rpm) is an important consideration for many lengthy tasks. However, it’s difficult to combine high speeds with high torque, so many impact drivers have a single speed. Some advanced Milwaukee impact drivers are unusual in that they offer multiple speed ranges, which provides the ability to match performance to the job being undertaken.
Battery and Voltage
Milwaukee produces impact drivers with 12V or 18V power. The latter offers higher performance, though the former tends to be a little lighter and more compact.
A 12V impact driver is often considered a homeowner tool, while 18V models are aimed at pro users. However, when choosing the best Milwaukee impact driver for your needs, experts generally recommend that performance is the focus. For occasional challenges, such as those when a standard drill driver is inadequate, a 12V model is acceptable. Those building a variety of outdoor structures are probably better served by an 18V tool.
While voltage is fixed in that you can’t use an 18V battery in a 12V tool, and vice versa, the Amp hours (Ah) can vary. The higher the Ah rating, the longer the battery will run between charges.
Impact drivers make considerable noise. Although some Milwaukee tools are quieter than competing models, many produce between 80 and 90 decibels. The United States government’s OHSA (Occupational Health and Safety Administration) mandates that users wear hearing protection when the noise is consistently above 80 decibels in commercial situations. While this legal requirement doesn’t affect DIY users, it’s a good idea to wear earmuffs or earplugs.
Additional Features and Accessories
- All impact drivers use a quick-release ¼-inch hexagonal chuck rather than the three-jaw model on drill drivers. Hex bits are widely available. While all wear eventually and should be considered as disposable, avoid cheap bits as they’re often soft. It’s worth investing in bits designed specifically for impact drivers.
- Standard round-shank drill bits don’t fit impact drivers, and chucks with a hex shank must be purchased as an extra. However, while impact drivers also can drill, their power means small drill bits may snap. Instead, use a standard drill or hammer drill for these tasks.
- Milwaukee impact drivers have ergonomically designed, contoured, and rubberized handles. This not only helps grip the tool securely, but also cushions the constant shock delivered by an impact driver, thus improving long-term comfort.
- All Milwaukee impact drivers have an LED work light to brighten dark corners.
- Most models include a belt hook.
Our Top Picks
Having learned about the various features offered by these impressive tools, it’s time to look at some real-world examples. The following guide will help you choose the best Milwaukee impact driver for your needs.
It’s no easy task to choose a single model of the best Milwaukee impact driver, but with a compact size, comparatively light weight, and impressive performance, the Milwaukee M18 Lithium-Ion driver takes the top spot.
Its maximum torque of 2,000 in.lbs. is higher than many rivals; however, it’s the amount of user control it offers that stands out. The four-mode drive control offers maximum speeds of 850, 2,100, and 3,600 RPM, plus it includes a self-tapping screw mode that senses when the fastening is fully seated. It then shuts off the tool to prevent damage.
As with all Milwaukee impact drivers, the company’s Powerstate brushless motor maximizes battery life. Redlink Plus digital technology monitors the battery to protect it from overload or over-discharge while working and prevents overcharging. It has an LED work light, ergonomic grip, and a handy belt loop.
- Torque: 2,000 in.lbs.
- IPM: 0 to 4,300
- RPM: 0 to 3,600
- Excellent performance and reliability
- Four modes add versatility
- Self-tapping screw mode
- No bag or case
- Battery and charger extra
Get the Milwaukee M18 Impact Driver at The Home Depot, Amazon, or Walmart.
While 12V tools are often considered the cheaper DIY option, sometimes performance must be sacrificed for cost. Milwaukee’s M12 impact driver is affordable, yet its performance compares favorably with many low-cost 18V rivals.
Milwaukee claims that their M12 impact driver is both the fastest driving and most compact in its class. Its peak output of 1,300 in.lbs. from the Powerstate brushless motor combines with Milwaukee’s four-mode drive control. On this tool, the speed ranges are 1,300, 2,400, or 3,300 RPM. It also offers a self-tapping mode like the Milwaukee 18V impact driver.
Redlink Plus manages the battery condition, and it has an LED worklight and belt loop. However, while all impact drivers are loud, at 87 decibels, the Milwaukee M12 is quite noisy for a small tool.
- Torque: 1,300 in.lbs.
- IPM: 0 to 4,000
- RPM: 0 to 3,300
- Class-leading performance
- Four modes offer flexibility
- Slender and lightweight
- Comparatively loud
- Battery and charger not included
Get the Milwaukee M12 Impact Driver at Amazon, Walmart, or The Home Depot.
The hammer action on an impact driver invariably means these tools are loud. Thousands of impacts per minute also produce considerable vibration, which gets uncomfortable over longer periods.
Milwaukee solves this problem by using hydraulic oil pressure rather than mechanical percussion. The result is an impact driver the company claims is 50 percent quieter and produces three times less vibration. In independent testing, this Milwaukee hydraulic impact driver comes in at 76 decibels, which is quiet for this type of tool.
Although the torque level does suffer, its real-time performance drop is less pronounced than expected. It’s still fast and flexible, with drive control speeds of 900, 2,100, and 3,000 RPM. However, while the Milwaukee M18 hydraulic driver attracts many fans, it’s not the best choice for consistent heavy-duty driving.
- Torque: 450 in.lbs.
- IPM: 0 to 4,000
- RPM: 0 to 3,000
- Impressive noise control
- Power exceeds expectations
- Very competitive price
- Modest torque
- Slightly bulkier than a standard M18
Get the Milwaukee 18V Hydraulic Impact Driver at Amazon, The Home Depot, or Acme Tools.
The Milwaukee M12 impact driver is great for driving, but not for drilling. One solution is to pair it with Milwaukee’s M12 ½-inch hammer drill.
Milwaukee claims this tool is the lightest and most compact in its class. It has a 16-position clutch, and, like the impact driver, it benefits from a Powerstate brushless motor and Redlink battery management. Two interchangeable batteries are included, a slimline 2.0Ah version and a larger, extended capacity 4.0Ah model. It comes with a durable canvas carryall.
The drill’s switch position for the hammer action is on the clutch ring rather than the body. It functions perfectly well, but it takes a while to get used to it.
- Torque: Impact driver: 1,300 in.lbs.—Hammer Drill: 350 in.lbs.
- IPM: Impact driver: 0 to 4,000—Hammer Drill: 0 to 25,500 BPM (Blows Per Minute)
- RPM: Impact driver: 0 to 3,300—Hammer Drill: 0 to 1,700
- Lightweight, compact combo
- Two batteries and charger
- Durable bag
- Impact driver is loud
- Drill has unusual hammer selection switch placement
Get the Milwaukee 12V Kit at Amazon, The Home Depot, or Acme Tools.
Heavy-duty drilling and driving tasks demand powerful 18V tools. Along with the Milwaukee M18 Lithium-Ion Brushless impact driver, professionals may want to consider the Milwaukee M18 hammer drill/impact driver combo.
The hammer drill uses the same Powerstate brushless motor, but with a two-speed gearbox and a 14-position clutch. At 1,200 in.lbs., its torque is competitive for an impact driver, and Milwaukee adds an auxiliary handle for additional control. The kit comes with two extended-capacity 5.0Ah batteries that offer excellent runtimes, along with a rapid charger and hard case.
These are both impressive tools; however, they may be overkill for many DIY users and come at a premium price tag.
- Torque: Impact driver: 2,000 in.lbs.—Hammer Drill: 1,200 in.lbs.
- IPM: Impact driver: 0 to 4,300—Hammer Drill: 32,000 BPM
- RPM: Impact driver: 0 to 3,600—Hammer Drill: 0 to 2,000
- Professional-grade combo
- High-performance batteries
- Good case
Get the Milwaukee 18V Combo Kit at Amazon or The Home Depot.
Fixings can sometimes be in awkward places, and while all Milwaukee impact drivers are relatively compact, none fit into the tight spaces like the M18 cordless ¼-inch hex driver. The head is small enough to allow access to places even the smallest pistol grip tool can’t fit. Reaching a conventional trigger might be difficult, so an extended paddle is provided.
Despite the slender proportions, the Powerstate brushless motor still uses 18V power. It has two modes, providing either 350 or 675 in.lbs of torque, 1,500 or 2,250 RPM, and 2,400 or 3,400 IPM. Redlink technology manages and protects battery performance.
It is, of course, something of a specialist tool, and the price reflects it. Controlling the tool, particularly in mode 2, requires a firm grip.
- Torque: 675 in.lbs.
- IPM: 0 to 3,400
- RPM: 0 to 2,250
- Ideal for tight spaces
- Two drive control options
- Extended paddle switch
- Firm grip required
- Battery and charger extra
Get the Milwaukee Impact Driver at The Home Depot, Acme Tools, or Amazon.
The Milwaukee M12 FUEL SURGE driver is another user-friendly model that employs hydraulic oil rather than mechanical impact to deliver a tool that’s twice as quiet as the conventional M12. It also has lower vibration levels, which improves comfort.
The main drawback with hydraulic impact drivers is that they produce lower torque, yet the M12 has the same output as the larger M18 model. It also has four modes, with speeds of 1,100, 2,200, and 3,200 RPM, plus self-tapping control. Like all Milwaukee impact drivers, it uses a Powerstate brushless motor and Redlink battery management.
An LED worklight and belt clip complete the specifications for a tool that provides sufficient performance for all but high-torque operations.
- Torque: 450 in.lbs.
- IPM: 0 to 3,400
- RPM: 0 to 3,200
- Quieter; reduced vibration
- Performance comparable to M18 version
- Four modes for versatility
- Larger than standard M12 drivers
- Comparatively modest torque
Get the Milwaukee FUEL SURGE Impact Driver at Amazon, The Home Depot, or Acme Tools.
The Milwaukee M18 FUEL 18-Volt Lithium-Ion Brushless Cordless driver is one of the best-performing tools in its class and a great choice for heavy-duty fixings. The Milwaukee Electric Tools M12 Fuel 1/4″ Hex Impact driver is equally impressive for its size, and it offers great value.
How We Chose the Best Milwaukee Impact Drivers
As a qualified engineer and enthusiastic DIYer, I have hands-on experience with several impact drivers. This, combined with the features discussed in this guide, formed the basis for our choices. The Bob Vila team also researched the Milwaukee brand to ensure we were aware of the latest product developments.
In general, Bob Vila guides compare tools from different brands in what is effectively a head-to-head competition. We look at performance, durability, value, and more. While these factors remain important, here we work with only a single brand, so we cherry-picked from the entire range. This allowed us to present the best Milwaukee impact drivers in a variety of categories.
This comprehensive rundown of specifications and features should make you better equipped to choose the best Milwaukee impact driver for your needs. However, a few questions may remain, and the following section tackles some of the more common queries.
Q. What is the torque on a Milwaukee impact driver?
It depends on the model. Milwaukee tools range from 450 in.lbs. on their hydraulic impact drivers up to 2,000 in.lbs. on the M18 Fuel.
Q. Can you adjust the torque on an impact driver?
Not normally. Drive speed is usually adjusted by varying the trigger pressure. However, some of Milwaukee’s best impact drivers have four modes, which offer greater control than most competitors provide.
Q. Do impact drivers have a clutch?
No. Impact drivers are designed to deliver high torque for rapid driving of large fixings. If more delicacy is required, you should use a standard drill driver, which has a clutch. The addition of a clutch also means the impact driver is considerably larger, making it difficult to access tight spaces.
Q. Where should you not use an impact driver?
The power delivered by an impact driver can damage small fixings. While plenty of control is available, it’s not really the tool for precision tasks.
Q. Can I use regular bits in an impact driver?
An impact driver has a ¼-inch hexagonal collet rather than a chuck, so it can’t use round-shank bits. Adapters are available; however, standard bits may be damaged by the extra torque, so it’s better to invest in a good set of hex impact driver bits.