Dewalt impact driver

How To Choose A Cordless Impact Driver

When to Buy a Cordless Impact Driver

Cordless impact drivers have become increasingly popular mostly due to the advancements in brushless motors. This technology help to produce a lot of power in a compact tool while reducing overheating. Increased battery life and a more efficient motor means that these tools can be a big asset in addition to the standard cordless drill you may already have in your toolbox.

Understanding the Difference: Impact Drivers, Cordless Drill and Hammer Drills

A cordless impact driver may not necessarily be a replacement for a cordless drill. Cordless drills are still one of the most commonly used cordless tools for a reason. It’s an ideal option for most common, day-to-day tasks.

For bigger jobs, impact drivers send more power to the drill bit. Consider using an impact driver when boring longer screws into thicker materials. Impact-ready bits, fabricated from more durable metals, wear much slower than standard bits. These drive into hard woods, stud concrete and other materials faster than a standard cordless drill. Impact drivers are louder, primarily because they send more force to the bit itself. The trade off is the speed at which it cuts and the number of dense surfaces it can be used on.

If, for example, you need to attach a 2 x 4 to a stud with a long, 4-inch screw: a standard drill does not have ample enough power to drive that screw without stripping the head. The internal force of the best cordless impact driver not only forces the screw through quickly, it does so without damaging either the screw or the bit itself.

Hammer drills create impact blows in addition to increased torque. If you drill a hole for a structural screw or are mounting studs to concrete, a hammer drill does the job faster and with much less wear-and-tear on the bit. In addition to more torque, a hammer drill’s blowing action is more suited for boring into solid concrete quickly.

Tool Type

Long Battery Life

Adjustable Chuck

Adjustable Speeds

Power Driving for Thicker Surfaces

Cordless Impact Drivers X Some X
Cordless Hammer Drill X X X X
Cordless Drill X X X

Cordless Impact Driver Considerations

Most hammer drills and cordless drills have an adjustable chuck that can accept different bits; cordless impact drills come standard only with 1/4-inch chucks. You can purchase adapters to use different sized bits with your cordless impact driver to use other bit sizes if you need to work with specific non-standard bits. Because it sends power quickly to the bit itself, ensure you have the option to select from high and low speeds to prevent damaging delicate wood surfaces. Most of the top-rated cordless impact drivers have multiple speeds options, but some models run only at a single setting.

Because they utilize more power to drive and tighten lugs and screws, the best cordless impact drivers are typically much louder than a standard cordless drill. As with hammer drills, use earplugs while operating and review the safety precautions prior to operating.

What to Look for in your Cordless Impact Driver


Cordless impact drivers produce more RPMs than a standard drill for heavy-duty jobs. These increased turns give more force to the bit, making the overall job go much faster and more smoothly. The higher the RPMs, the faster the tool drives. Faster RPMs in cordless impact drills that protect the drill bit and help prevent the motor from overheating and burning out when repeatedly driving lugs and long screws into thick surfaces.


One of the major differentiators between a standard drill and a cordless impact driver is the amount of torque the tool sends to the fastener. More torque increases the effectiveness of the tool while taking stress away from the operator. Also called “reactionless” torque, these drivers work faster than a standard cordless driver or drill and deliver a fraction of the recoil. Many models have multiple speed settings to give you optimal control for different tasks. Several of these tools feature internal circuitry that redirects torque to the actual fastener to further reduce kickback.


Improvements in motor technology and fabrication means that many top-rated cordless impact drivers are lighter, more compact and more comfortable to use. Features such as pistol grips with rubberized padding help reduce user fatigue. Compact design also helps with weight balancing, which makes using a cordless impact driver even more ergo-friendly.

More power goes to the bit itself at the front of the drill, therefore, most of the shock is pulled away from the operator. This makes repeated drives, say for framing jobs, less stressful physically. Not only can it help finish these types of jobs quickly, but the best cordless impact drivers increase accuracy with repeatable tasks by decreasing user fatigue with their superior drive power.


If you often work in close quarters, ensure that your driver is compatible with a right angle attachment. These have become a standard feature of any tool kit as they can instantly turn your cordless driver into a one-handed tool. This type of flexibility is indispensable for framers and carpenters who constantly need to reach tight corners and hard-to-reach spots.

Screw and nut driving sets can make any cordless driver a more versatile tool instantly. If you’re boring holes into wood and need to create a variety of sizes with smooth finishes, then augers and spades are crucially important. Some sets are designed specifically for wood while others create standard-sized holes for plumbing jobs. Check out the entire array of drill bit sets, augers and spades to increase the potential uses for your cordless impact driver.

Brushless Motors

Brushless motors use an outer electromagnet that doesn’t need carbon brushes to send a current to the inner magnet. Its internal circuit does this instead. This decreases overall electromagnetic loss and increases the workload and efficiency of the motor. Brushless motors allow for multiple speed settings and a speed selector (high or low), and typically run longer on a single charge. Brushless motors can also help prevent overheating and may increase overall life of your tool. If you’re looking for a real workhorse capable of thousands of work hours, brushless technology is a crucial feature. It may mean more of an upfront investment, but the long-term savings can easily offset the initial cost.

Adjustable or Electronic Clutch

Like most power drills, many of the top-rated cordless impact drivers feature an electronic or an adjustable clutch. The clutch essentially controls the amount of torque that is sent to the fastener to help you avoid damaging the screw head or the hardware. An electronic clutch automatically reduces the amount of power and torque if the driver meets with excessive resistance while engaged. Ultimately, a clutch gives you more control and finesse while you work. This is especially important when woodworking or applying finishing hardware to doors, windows, cabinets and more.

Keyless Chuck

Keyless chucks are the standard in most cordless tools. This allows you to make quick adjustments as you work. Some manufacturers have built-in controls and fast releases to make bit changes even faster.

LED Lights and Indicators

LED features are increasingly popular on top-rated cordless impact drivers. Some drivers include LED-powered meters that indicate battery life. LED worklightslights are now commonplace on most drills, giving you additional high-frequency illumination that produces less of a draw on the batteries than standard bulbs.

Battery Life

New lithium-ion batteries have revolutionized cordless tool design. Not only do they hold a charge longer, they also charge up much more quickly than nickel batteries. They deliver much more power while weighing far less, making it possible for a driver to be lighter and much easier to operate than a standard cordless drill. Most lithium-ion batteries can hold a charge for up to four times longer than standard batteries.


Because of the increased efficiency and lighter weights of these newer batteries, powerful drivers come in smaller sizes than standard drills of equal power. Cordless impact drivers can help work in tight quarters, such as when working on ceilings or in high corners. Motors that pack a bigger punch may not mean a much bigger drill. Impact drills that weigh three pounds or less can still deliver 1,500 inch-pounds of torque and can still be easily operated with one hand.

Compare measurements and weights of, for example, an 18V cordless impact driver against a 12V impact driver. You may only incur a few ounces in weight for a lot more versatility, such as a brushless motor, multiple speed setting, and a clutch. Consider the overall uses for your cordless impact driver. If you are constructing a deck and will need to install several hundred screws, a larger drill with more battery life may make your job a bit easier. If, however, you are only using the tool for removing lugs from a tire or a rare task that your standard driver can’t handle, you may be able to get away with a smaller and less expensive tool.


The uses of many cordless impact drivers can vary from just drilling. Socket adapters and all-in-one socket-ready chucks enable you to instantly convert your driver into an impact wrench for heavy-duty fastening jobs. Every shop, and even home users can appreciate the convenience of tightening the occasional lug or bolt without having to make a separate investment. These tools are useful for several applications, including automotive and household repairs.

There are many considerations to make when deciding how to choose a cordless impact driver. It’s not necessarily a replacement for a standard cordless drill, but it should be used to make heavy-duty jobs go faster. Advancements in technology such as brushless motors and lithium-ion batteries make these tools both more versatile and easier to use. Determine the most frequent type of use or scope of your project and select the right tool to help you get through your next big project today.

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