A drill is one of the first tools you buy in your DIY journey. As you progress up the learning curve, you will encounter situations where the drill doesn’t have the torque to handle the job. That’s where the impact driver comes in.
The impact driver is not a replacement for a drill. The impact driver is the next logical step in the power scale. So, if you’re ready to step it up and get serious about DIY, then you should add an impact driver to your tool kit.
Now, if you look for the words “impact driver” on Amazon, Home Depot, Acme Tools, or any other online seller, you will see hundreds of results. It’s hard to make sense of it all if you don’t know where to begin. That’s why this article includes a detailed buying guide. The guide will take you through everything you need to decide what is the best impact driver for you.
But, for your convenience, we’ve included a list of the best impact drivers of 2018. Instead of collating, comparing, and interpreting the specs of hundreds of products, you can pick one from our list. The list caters to a broad range of customer types. There’s a good chance you’ll find what you’re looking for, so let’s begin!
|Ryobi P236 ONE Plus|
(Best for the Money)
|DEWALT DCF887B||2.2 lbs||4.5/5|
|Milwaukee 2462-20 M12||2.3 lbs||4.3/5|
|PORTER-CABLE PCCK640LB||3.2 lbs||4.1/5
In my search for the best cordless impact driver I came across many worthy contenders, but when it came to matching durability with performance, the DEWALT DC825B took the lead. Here are a few reasons why I think this is the best 18-Volt impact driver on the market.
Considering the peak values, the machine delivers 1330 in/lb of torque at 2400 rpm and 2700 rpm. The frequency of impacts and the force behind each impact is considerable. Therefore, this tool is ideal for heavy-duty tasks, such as driving fasteners into wood, metal, or concrete.
This machine comes with a variable speed trigger. This means that you can increase the speed, number of impacts, and torque by increasing the pressure on the trigger. The trigger is quite responsive and gives good control.
The tool is lightweight and compact, accessory change is quick and easy, the body has an anti-slip ergonomic grip, the motor is frameless with replaceable brushes, the gear case is made of magnesium, and the transmission is all metal. Thus, the tool is both comfortable and durable.
Now, let’s talk about the negatives. This machine runs on a NiCad battery, not Li-ion. NiCad batteries are prone to memory effect and self-discharge. Unless you take great care, the tool’s uptime reduces over time. However, when it comes to power, NiCad and Li-ion batteries deliver the same kick.
Another cause for concern is the cost. This machine runs on DEWALT’s 18-Volt XRP battery. These batteries last 40 percent more than standard NiCad batteries do. However, XRP batteries and chargers are notably costlier than regular ones. The tool itself costs about $100. But, a 2 Ah battery and its charger will cost you an additional $150 to $175. Be aware of this hidden cost.
However, the batteries, charger, and tool come with a 3-year limited warranty. Even though you’re paying a premium price, you get amazing performance, long life, and excellent purchase protection.
The Ryobi ONE+ is a low-cost impact driver that delivers excellent performance. Even though this tool costs 40 percent less than our top pick, it delivers more torque than the DEWALT DC825B. Not only that, the ONE+ runs on a Li-ion battery. If you consider the cost of the tool, battery, and charger, buying the ONE+ is the better choice. Then, why isn’t this our top pick?
To understand the reason, you have to take a look inside the machine. If you look at a blown up model of the DC825B, you’ll see that the power from the motor goes directly to the hammer assembly. In the case of the ONE+, a planetary gear system transfers the power from the motor to the hammer assembly. More moving parts means more wastage and less durability.
Outside, the ONE+ makes up for what it lacks on the inside. The auto-load chuck, a magnetic bit holder and screw holder, comfortable grip, and an LED illumination light are all extremely thoughtful features. In addition to all this, the product comes with a 3-year limited warranty.
In my assessment, the ONE+ is perfect for two categories of people: people who have never owned an impact driver and people who intend to use one intermittently. If you fit into one of these two classes, then look no further – the ONE+ is the tool for you.
*I’m just nitpicking, the model is fabulous for its price.
Here we have another DEWALT impact driver. But, why another one? Well, the DCF887B performs even better than the DC825B. Thanks to its 3-speed operation, this impact driver grants excellent torque control.
You can run it on its first speed setting (240 in/lb) for light operations. When things get a little more demanding, you can switch to its second speed setting (1500 in/lb). Still not enough power? No problem, go all the way to the third speed setting (1825 in/lb).
Since the first mode runs at a low torque, you can use this tool as a drill cum impact driver. Instead of buying two separate tools, you can manage with just one. This is an indirect cost advantage if you don’t own a drill already.
Feature-wise, this model has a brushless motor, a one-hand loading system, an LED illumination light, a compact and lightweight design, and a belt hook. The brushless motor is a great addition. If you look at the internal mechanism of the machine, you will see how few moving parts it has. As a result of this, the machine is very durable.
Unlike its 18-Volt cousin, which runs on a NiCad battery, this tool runs on a 20-Volt Li-ion battery. Thus, the battery and charger for this machine are mercifully less expensive. But, they’re still pricey. Since the battery pack is Li-ion, there’s no issues with memory effect or self-discharge. So, the uptime of the battery remains consistent over time.
Also, the DEWALT DCF887B comes with a 3-year limited warranty, a year of free service, and a 90-day money back guarantee. If you don’t own a drill, then consider buying this model. You get the benefit of two machines from one.
Stepping away from the high-powered 18 and 20-Volt impact drivers, we have the 12-Volt class of impact drivers. This category of impact drivers sacrifices power for portability. For instance, the M12 is about 50 percent more compact than the DC825B.
The M12 is also economical. If you buy the M12 Impact Driver Kit, you get the M12 impact driver, a 12-Volt Li-ion battery, a charger, and a carry case. Usually, low-cost machines skimp on the warranty, but not this one. The M12 comes with a 5-year warranty.
When it comes to performance, the M12 runs at a maximum no-load speed of 2500 rpm. At this speed, it produces 3300 impacts per minute at 1000 in/lb of torque. So, this machine makes up for its lack of torque by increasing the number of impacts per minute. Due to this, the M12 performs better than any other impact driver in its class.
The REDLITHIUM™ battery powering this tool delivers 80 percent more runtime than other batteries. The impact driver also has a fuel gauge on board that shows you the remaining runtime. Instead of eyeballing the number, you get a clear reading. Apart from this, it comes with expected features such as one-hand accessory change, ergonomic grip, and a tool belt.
Overall, the M12 is an amazing side-kick. It’s light, cost-effective, compact, and powerful. But, if you intend to put it to heavy-duty use, you will not be happy. This tool is not meant for that.
First, a big thank you to the folks at Porter Cable for offering the people a powerful and budget-friendly impact driver. The PCCK640LB is an impact driver kit that includes a 20-Volt impact driver, two 1.5 Ah battery packs, and a charger.
Let’s talk about the machine itself. The PCC640 impact driver runs at a maximum speed of 2900 rpm. At this speed, it produces a torque of 1495 in/lb at 3100 impacts per minute. I’m happy with the stats, especially so because of the price.
I also didn’t find any critical features missing. This machine has an easy-load chuck, an LED illumination light, a variable speed trigger, and a battery charge indicator. Since all the other impact drivers have these features, this is not an advantage. But, missing one of these features would be a big drawback.
Now, if you look under the hood, the PCC640’s motor is rather large and cumbersome. This explains why the machine is heavier than most other impact drivers. The internal mechanism has a lot of moving parts; this reduces efficiency and durability.
Porter Cable offers only a 1-year limited warranty for this product. Given its poor purchase protection, should you buy the PCC640? Yes, but only if there’s no wiggle room in your budget. Otherwise, go for the Ryobi ONE+.
You’ll be spending quite a bit of money on an impact driver, so we need to get down to the gritty details on how to choose the one you need. So, we’ve created this buying guide to help you make the right decision. Let’s start with the most common question people have regarding impact drivers. That question is:
Short answer – yes. But, if you want the long version, I’ll use an analogy to explain when and why an impact driver becomes necessary. If you walk into the kitchen of a person who takes cooking seriously, you will find a set of knives, not just one knife. An amateur would look at the knives and say, “Why so many? A knife is a knife. If it cuts, I’m good.” But, a chef would see things differently.
A serious cook knows that different applications require different knives. The same way, if you’re serious about home improvement, you should own a drill and an impact driver. Yes, both tools serve the same purpose. But, an impact driver delivers significantly more torque than a drill does. That’s why it can do many things that a drill can’t. Here’s an example:
I compared the DEWALT DC825B impact driver, our top pick, with the DEWALT DC759KA, a heavy-duty cordless drill. Both machines run on an 18 V system. But, the impact driver produces 3.5 times more torque than the drill. In summary, the drill is perfect for small fasteners, and the impact driver is perfect for larger fasteners. For instance, I wouldn’t use an impact driver to drive a 3/4-inch wood screw, and I wouldn’t use a drill to drive a 3.5-inch deck screw.
Imagine this, while changing your car’s tire, you come across an adamant lug nut that refuses to budge. What would you do? If you don’t have any other tools, you’d probably add extra force on the wrench by kicking it or hitting it with a hammer. The impact from the kick or blow loosens the lug nut, making it easier for you to remove it.
This is the principle behind an impact driver. When the impact driver encounters resistance, tiny hammers inside the tool strike the anvil to give it extra rotational force, or in other words – extra torque. That’s the secret behind the impact drivers incredible power. It’s also how it gets its name.
Here are some performance parameters that you find on an impact driver:
One you compare the performance parameters for the impact driver, you should look at these performance parameters for the battery:
Here’s a bonus pro tip. Most impact drivers don’t come with battery and charger included. So, you should buy them separately. Rather than buying the battery and charger individually, look for combo packs. They work out much cheaper than buying individually.
The impact driver isn’t a feature intensive tool. The only essential feature that an impact driver should have is tool-less accessory change. Some other features to consider are a brushless motor, ergonomic grip, variable speed setting, the warranty, and an illumination light.
The easiest way to proceed from this point is to check our list of the best impact drivers of 2018 for a suitable product. Since we tailored the products to match a wide array of customer profiles, I am confident you’ll find one suitable for your needs. But, if you want more options, you can use the information in this guide to identify an appropriate impact driver. Some brands that you should explore are Bosch, Makita, Milwaukee, and DEWALT.
Now, here’s my favorite part. The part where I announce my verdict on the best impact driver. Before I do that, let’s take a quick look at the products once again. The DEWALT DC825B is the best performing and durable impact driver on our list. But, it is also one of the most expensive. On the other hand, the Ryobi ONE+ is the most affordable and powerful. But, it isn’t as durable as the DC825B.
Next, we have another DEWALT machine, the DCF887B. Its 3-speed setting offers a unique advantage to people who don’t own a drill because this tool is a drill cum impact driver. But, if you already own a good drill, then this machine is just too costly.
Then, there’s the Milwaukee M12. If you’re going for portability, then the M12 is an excellent option. It also offers the longest warranty. But, all these products don’t come with a battery and charger. That’s where the Porter Cable Impact Driver Kit stands out. You get everything you need to get up and running at a very budget-friendly price.
So, which one do I think you should buy? The DEWALT DC825B. I know it’s expensive, but this is such a solid and reliable impact driver that I will happily pay the price for this tool. This tool is built to last. You can count on the DC825B for many years of faithful service.
Like I said before, there are a lot of impact drivers on the market. But, if you use the information in the buying guide and our list of the best impact drivers of 2018, you can navigate around potential pitfalls and buy a product that meets all your expectations.
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