Milwaukee M12 vs M18: Impact Driver Comparison
The impact driver is one of the most popular cordless tools on Earth. Among professional and even hobbyist craftsmen, it’s the go-to tool for driving and fastening applications. The impact driver uses a hammering action to deliver downward and rotational force, making work on hard surfaces a breeze. These tools also have a healthy power-to-weight ratio compared to traditional electric screwdrivers.
This time around, we’re going to look at two of Milwaukee’s best-selling cordless impact drivers – the Milwaukee 2453-20 M12 and the Milwaukee 2656-20 M18. Both of these impact drivers have received overwhelmingly positive reviews, and it seems that customers are extremely satisfied with either tool. The only question now is which of these two tools will offer more value in the long-term? To help eliminate some of the guesswork, we’re going to compare the two impact drivers and tell you what we think will fulfill the needs of most users.
Typically, we favor brushless motors over their brushed counterparts. Despite their more expensive price tag, they produce less heat and have fewer maintenance issues, effectively extending the life of the power tool. The M12 comes with a brushless motor so you can benefit from this impact driver for many years to come.
The M18, on the other hand, features a 4-pole brushed motor. It’s not the end of the world if you purchase an impact driver with a brushed motor, and Milwaukee’s Frameless Motor is designed to keep the extend battery life and deliver greater power when compared to other brushed motors out there.
Conclusion: We’re not biased towards brushless motors in any way; you just get more work out your tools than you would with brushed ones. For this reason, we favor the M12 over the M18, though the M18 does a great job in the same applications as the M12.
Another important spec to look out for when purchasing impact drivers is their speed rating, namely the RPM, variable speed, and trigger. The M12’s motor delivers up to 2,650 RPM, though you can choose between two speeds (low and high) depending on what you’re doing. The trigger can be used to adjust the between the two gears.
The M18 also features an identical two-speed setting which users can control with the trigger. The difference is at its high speed, it delivers up to 2,750 RPM. The 100-RPM difference may not seem like much, but professional workers or anybody attempting to sink screws into hard materials would benefit more from a higher RPM-count.
Conclusion: This really depends on what you are planning on doing. We find that the M12 provides ample speed when sinking screws for basically every home project. We haven’t really found the need in which we would benefit from a 100-RPM increase that the M18 offers.
Torque and IPM
The torque factor is really the heart of all impact drivers. For long, stubborn fasteners going in or coming out of hard surfaces, you need all the torque you can get. The M12 delivers up to 1,200-inch-pounds of torque, which is the maximum amount of power you’ll get from a 12V impact driver. The IPM-count measures how many hammer-like blows the tool delivers to help drive and pull out screws. The M12 delivers 3,550 IPM.
The M18 delivers up to 1,500-inch-pounds of torque. The additional 300-inch-pounds would suit workers and professional job sites with sinking and driving screws in a much more efficient manner. The tool also offers around 3,450 IPM for working with long, stubborn nails.
Conclusion: Once again, we see a minuscule difference between the smaller M12 and the more powerful M18. In our humble opinion, the M12 works just great in all sorts of settings – home DIY projects, heavy-duty applications, and professional worksites. Though you would definitely benefit from the higher torque and IPM of the M18, the M12 offers sufficient power for almost all sorts of applications.
One tremendous plus with impact drivers is their lightweight, compact build which is suited for one-hand use in tight-fitting spaces and awkward angles. With the battery (not included in the kit), the tool weighs roughly 2.6 pounds. This helps users operate the overhead and at a wide range of angles without causing cramping or fatigue.
With the battery (not included with the kit), the M18 weighs in at about 3.1 pounds. Compared to the M12, it’s noticeably heavier, especially when working in high places or at odd angles, but it’s not going to ruin your day. In fact, the added weight may be seen as a plus to some users who prefer a lightweight but sturdy impact driver.
Conclusion: Between 2.6 pounds and 3.1 pounds, we can’t really tell any difference. Attached to your belt, neither of these impact drivers will weigh you down as you climb ladders, nor will they cause fatigue with extended use. During overhead operation, we can’t really tell any difference between the M12 and M18 in terms of weight.
Milwaukee M12 vs M18: Bottom Line
There are several overlapping specs between the M12 and the M18, namely: ¼-inch quick-connect hex chuck and Milwaukee’s proprietary REDLINK Plus for protection against overloading as well as increased communications between the tool, charger, and battery. In addition, we didn’t discuss some minute differences such as nose-to-end length (1/2-inch difference) and fuel-gauge indicator (M12’s is shown on the unit, whereas the M18’s is on the battery).
After comparing the major differences between these two Milwaukee-made impact drivers, we’ve concluded that the M12 would appeal to a wider audience, and therefore, offer greater value to its users. First of all, no matter what fancy additions to implement on a brushed motor, it’s never going to compare to brushless motors.
Secondly, we acknowledge that the Milwaukee 2656-20 M18 is faster and more powerful than the M12, but we find that most users – e.g. DIY-ers and even professional workers – won’t turn to entry-level impact drivers such as these to handle the most demanding tasks. The Milwaukee M12, on the other hand, is just a better impact driver for most of the applications where you’ll need one on hand.