Back in the days of yore, impact drivers were used exclusively by professional mechanics and builders for contract jobs, but today we find them becoming a crucial part of a DIY-hobbyist’s collection of power tools. The thing that makes impact drivers so great is their ability to deliver rapid bursts of high torque for driving screws of any shape and size.
Furthermore, with the right bit, an impact driver can work similarly to a power drill. The great thing is that its high-power motor makes it work even more efficiently than a regular cordless drill.
A quick stroll down the power tool’s aisle in your local hardware store will show you the wide selection of different impact drivers available. The great thing is that you have many different specs and features to choose from, but the bad is that with so many choices, it’s normal for first-time buyers and even experienced ones to find the right model that fits their specific needs. The following portion of this article will provide you with a brief buying guide of impact drivers and the most crucial features to take into consideration.
Like many handheld power tools, impact drivers come with or without power cords. Generally, corded impact drivers offer more power, but cordless models are much more portable – something that every contract worker is looking for. In this article, we’re going to focus only on cordless models since there is a higher demand for them.
Brushed vs Brushless Motor
In general, there are two different types of motors installed in impact drivers: brushed and brushless motors. Brushed motors are the classic type that is slowly being replaced by brushless motors.
Brushless motors don’t have any brushes that will wear down over time, meaning that it requires fewer visits to the maintenance man and will be usable for many years longer than the brushed variety. Performance-wise, there aren’t any significant differences.
RPM, BPM, and Torque
There are three important variables that can help you determine how well an impact driver performs. These are RPM, BPM, and torque. RPM (rotations per minute) can be an indicator for helping you know how efficient the tool is. BPM (bumps per minute) is the number of hammer-like bumps for driving screws through dense materials. Torque is the amount of force applied while the bit rotates (measured in inch pounds). Greater RPM, BPM, and torque mean more power and better efficiency.
The size of the chuck determines the size of the bits that are compatible with an impact driver. The largest commonly used size is half an inch, but you can get a lot of work done with weaker ¼-inch chucks and bits. Large bits are for more heavy-duty jobs whereas small bits are for quick driving jobs that require limited amounts of torque.
Like any handheld power tool, comfort should be a priority when choosing an impact driver. Try and find a model that offers an easy-to-grip plastic or rubber handle. The weight of an impact driver can also affect how comfortable the tool is, but you honestly won’t have any trouble finding any lightweight, compact impact driver.
More often than not, you’ll need to use an impact driver in poorly lit areas (e.g., closets, under the hood of your car, or even under your car). There are several impact driver models from various manufacturers that are equipped with LED lights near the chuck. However, you probably shouldn’t fully rely on these LED lights for proper illumination and also invest in a high-lumen LED torch.
Top 5 Cordless Impact Drivers
Impact drivers are naturally versatile tools that can be used in a wide range of applications, but some people, especially first-time buyers, might have some difficulties finding an appropriate model. This is understandable since a quick internet search will literally yield thousands of results.
No need to worry, we’re here to help. The following list contains our picks of the five top-performing cordless impact driver models.
5 Milwaukee M18 Impact Driver
The first impact driver on our list is from the infamous manufacturer of red-colored power tools: Milwaukee’s M18 2656-20. Keep in mind that this is a bare-tool kit, meaning you need to purchase the 18V battery RED Li-Ion battery, battery charger, and hex bits separately.
The proprietary 1.5-amp frameless motor generates up to 2,750 RPM, up to 3,450 BPM, and up to 1,500-inch-pounds of torque. This should help users finish a wide range of different jobs, though some of the more heavy-duty tasks like driving screws through dense surfaces may pose a problem. Nevertheless, for the average hobbyist, mechanic, and furniture-maker, the M18 2656-20 can be a reliable impact driver for most jobs.
4 Hitachi WH18DGL Impact Driver
The WH18DGL from Hitachi is another great impact driver worth considering. This kit includes the impact driver, a single 18V rechargeable Li-Ion battery, and a battery charger. To get started with this tool, you’ll have to purchase your own ¼-inch hex bits.
The 3-amp motor generates up to 2,400 RPM and 3,200 BPM at 1,280 inch-pounds of torque. The total weight of the tool with its battery included is only around 3.1 pounds, and it also features a handy LED light near the chuck for keeping your work surface properly illuminated. When working on different surfaces with different screws or bolts, you can alter how much power to deliver by playing around with the touch-sensitive trigger.
3 Makita XDT111 Impact Driver
The XDT111 from Makita – another Japanese-made impact driver – is definitely worth mentioning. The four-brush motor has two speeds: a low setting that provides 2,900 RPM and the top gear that delivers up to 3,500 RPM. This tool provides up to 3,500 BPM with 1,460 inch-pounds of torque. This ¼-inch impact driver weighs only around 3.9 pounds – battery included – and measures in at only 5-3/8 inches long from chuck to end.
The kit includes the tool, a hard carrying case, an 18V Li-Ion battery, and a rapid charger that can fill a battery from 0 to 100% in only 40 minutes. There are also LED lights for keeping your work surface lit up for easy visibility.
2 BLACK+DECKER BDCI20C Impact Driver
No list of handheld power tools is complete without including at least one BLACK+DECKER model. The BDC120C is a ¼-inch impact driver that runs off of a super-powerful 20V battery. The kit comes with the tool, the battery, a rapid charger that fills a battery to 100% in less than 40 minutes, and a screwdriver bit to get right down to work.
The 1.5-amp motor delivers up to 3,000 RPM and 3,900 BPM at a maximum torque of 1,375 inch-pounds. The amount of power-delivery is determined by how hard you press the touch-sensitive trigger. What’s impressive about this unit is that despite being equipped with a brushed motor, the heat produced by the spinning brushes dissipates much quicker than in other comparable impact driver motors.
1 DEWALT DCF885C1 Impact Driver
The final and number one pick on our list is the DFC885C1 from DEWALT. The company has built a reputation on manufacturing some of the world’s most reliable and efficient power tools, and the DCF885C1 is no exception.
Weighing in at only 2.9 pounds, you’ll hardly feel the weight of the unit even when working overhead and at odd angles. Although the chuck is ¼ inches, the 1.5-amp brushed motor provides enough power that you can attach 1-inch bits with an adapter. Using the touch-sensitive trigger, the impact driver can deliver up to 2,800 RPM and 3,200 BPM at 1,404-inch-pounds of torque. Three LED lights are placed conveniently near the chuck to provide more than enough light for illuminating dark spaces.
Impact drivers are ingenious tools that don’t just drill holes but also have the capacity to drive screws and tighten nuts and bolts. Back in the day, impact drivers were considered to be exclusively used by professionals and contract workers, but today we can find impact drivers in almost every hobbyist’s collection of handheld power tools. If you need to fix up your car, hang pictures, or put furniture together, an impact driver can be your go-to tool.
There are numerous specs and features to keep an eye out for when scouring the market for an impact driver. The most important of these include whether it’s corded or cordless, whether it has a brushed or brushless motor, its speed and power ratings, the size of the chuck, how comfortable it is to grip and use, and whether it has forward-facing LED lights. As long as you know the basics and understand what you need an impact driver for, finding the right model should be much easier to do.
Of course, even if you do know what you want and need, you’re going to be bombarded with thousands and thousands of different impact driver models to choose from. To help you with your search, we’ve compiled a list containing the top five cordless impact drivers available. They are all made from the world’s most popular manufacturers of power tools, but the one that takes the cake is the DCF885C1 from DEWALT. The company has established a reputation so great that an overwhelming number of people – professional and hobbyists alike – swear by the name.
The DCF885C1 is a simple 1.5-amp ¼-inch impact driver that gets its power and speed from a powerful 20V battery. The motor delivers more RPM, BPM, and torque that professional workers are looking for. Even hobbyists can enjoy using this tool as the touch-sensitive trigger can be used to deliver as much or as little torque and speed as you need.
3 Recommended Impact Drivers
- ERGONOMIC DESIGN: Lightweight tools designed to fit the user's needs
- INCREASED VISIBILITY: The DCF885 features a built in LED with 20 second delay after trigger release
- INCLUDES: (1) DCD771 Drill/Driver, (1) DCF885 1/4 inches Impact Driver, (2) 20V MAX Lithium Ion 1.3 Ah Battery...
- INCREASED VISIBILITY: Has built in LED with 20 second delay after trigger release
- ERGONOMIC DESIGN: Compact (5.55 in. front to back)and lightweight (2.8 lbs) design fits into tight areas
- ONE HANDED BIT LOADING: Has a 1/4 in. hex chuck and accepts 1 in. bit tips. No load speed: 0 2,800
- POWERFUL MOTOR & HIGH TORQUE – Maximum torque of 1590 in-lbs, along with variable speed up to 2700RPM, this...
- COMPACT & LIGHTWEIGHT: Compact design can help you fit into tighter areas, ultra-lightweight(3.1 pounds) make...
- BRIGHT LED LIGHTS: With 3 built-in LED lights, which can increase your visibility in enclosed work spaces or...