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October 26, 2021

Professional Tool Reviews for Pros


Best Cordless Impact Driver Reviews 2021

Best Impact Driver

We’ve tested dozens of the impact drivers currently available to find out who makes the best impact driver in multiple classes. There are some impressive new players entering the scene that look to challenge the traditional powerhouses. When it was all said and done, the biggest names still stepped up to the plate. Our impact driver reviews hold nothing back and test these tools to see who performs best in various applications.


Best Cordless Impact Driver

Milwaukee M18 Fuel Impact Driver with One-Key 2857

Best Milwaukee Impact Driver | Milwaukee M18 Fuel Impact Driver with One-Key

Compact and with a muscular 2000 in-lbs of torque, Milwaukee’s third-generation M18 Fuel impact driver was a big step forward in performance. It maxes out with 3600 RPM and 4300 IPM to have legitimate speed as well.

4 standard modes and a built-in assist mode help control that speed and torque with the press of a button. Taking it to a whole new level, Milwaukee One-Key offers control, tracking, and inventory management in the most well-developed smart tool system currently available.

If you don’t need the extra tech, grab the Milwaukee 2853 for the same tool without One-Key.

Milwaukee has some serious competition, though. Flex’s 24V max Quick Change impact driver tested stronger than Milwaukee and the two went back and forth in our tests. Where Milwaukee holds its greatest advantages are in its tech options, depth of line on the M18/M18 Fuel system, and an overall weight that’s a full pound lighter.

Best Lightweight Cordless Impact Driver

Makita 18V LXT Brushless Impact Driver XDT16

Most Compact 18V Impact Driver -Makita XDT16

If you’re thinking compact, Makita’s XDT16 is the best lightweight impact driver to get your hands on. Just 4.1 inches from tip to tail, it reaches into tight areas better than most. It’s just 1.9 pounds as a bare tool and 2.9 pounds with a compact 2.0Ah battery.

Despite its size, this impact driver hits harder than its 1600 in-lbs of torque suggest and it drove much faster than its competition in several of our tests. It also enjoys a design that’s a step up in quality compared to other brands with an advanced control system and refined driving characteristics.

While we haven’t had the chance to test it yet, keep your eyes on DeWalt’s Atomic DCF850. It’s more than 1/2 an inch shorter across the head and still lightweight at 2.1 pounds bare.

Most Powerful Cordless Impact Driver

Flex 24V Brushless Impact Driver with Quick Eject FX1371A-2B

There are now several excellent impact driver options with 2000+ in-lbs of torque and they’re all happy to break socket adapters all day long. Among those options, Flex’s FX1371A-2B stands out with Kobalt’s 24V and Milwaukee M18 Fuel as hitting harder than others in our nut-busting test.

Flex set itself further apart when we drove 1/2-inch lag screws, setting them faster than the others and proving that it not only has the muscle to get them moving but also the speed to keep them going.

The downside is that this is a heavy tool for its size. On the other hand, it’s a solid value at $249 for the kit.

Best 12V Cordless Impact Driver

Milwaukee M12 Fuel Impact Driver 2553

Best 12V Impact Driver | Milwaukee M12 Fuel Impact Driver

Milwaukee’s third-generation M12 Fuel impact driver has been tough to beat. Its combination of 3300 RPM and 4000 IPM kept it running faster than other 12V models in our testing. It also had fastening strength that only the M12 Fuel Surge beat in our tests.

As part of an incredibly deep line of compatible 12V tools, this Milwaukee M12 FUEL impact driver has little in the way of competition for this crown at the moment.

Best Hydraulic Impact Driver

Milwaukee M12 Fuel Surge Hydraulic Driver 2551

Best Hydraulic Impact Driver | Milwaukee M12 Fuel Surge

In our 12V testing, it took another M12 Fuel product to finally knock the M12 Fuel 2553 off the top of our charts. The Milwaukee M12 Fuel Surge did it with the highest torque numbers of all our 12V impact driver reviews. It also had significantly less noise than any other impact driver we’ve tested.

One of the features that stands out on the Milwaukee 2553 is the self-tapping screw mode. It’s something we see in the 18V models, but it’s not so common in the 12V class. When you kick into it, you start the drive quickly and automatically back down in power to avoid shearing off screw heads in metal fastening.

Note: Check out our head-to-head comparison of the Milwaukee M12 Fuel vs M12 Surge impact driver! Or watch the video.

Best Value Cordless Impact Driver

Skil PWRCore 20 Brushless Impact Driver Kit ID573902

Best Budget Impact Driver -Skil 20V Brushless Impact Driver

For $149.99, the Skil PWRCore 20 brushless impact driver includes a 2.0Ah battery and upgraded PWRJump charger. This 2-speed impact driver has 2700 RPM with 1800 in-lbs of torque and 3400 IPM to handle most of the screwdriving jobs you’ll come across.

The PWRJump charger is a significant upgrade. It takes your battery from 0% – 25% charge in just 5 minutes. If you’re just one sheet of drywall away from being done, slap the battery on the charger, cut your drywall, and you’ll have enough juice to finish up by the time you’re ready to hang it.

Keep your eyes open on this one—we’ve seen some pretty sweet deals on Amazon, too!

Best Budget Cordless Impact Driver Set

Hart 20V Brushless Impact Driver and Drill Combo HPCK252B

drill or impact driver which is faster?

We greatly prefer brushless motors over brushed, even though you pay more to get them. Hart takes some of the sting out of that premium with their 20V brushless impact driver and drill combo kit.

For $138, you get the brushless impact driver, brushless drill, two 2.0Ah batteries, charger, and soft bag. If you want the best bang for your buck to cover those projects around the house, Hart has you covered.

If you don’t need the drill, you can get just the impact driver with a 2.0Ah battery for $128. For an extra $20, we’ll take the additional battery and brushless drill, thank you very much.

Best Impact Driver Bit Set

Makita Impact XPS Driver Bits

Makita Impact XPS Driver Bits - Torsion Rings

Bits designed to use in impact drivers have to flex to absorb the torsion of the impacts or they risk breaking, especially when you’re fastening metal. Every manufacturer has a delicate dance to perform between bit hardness, flex, and the variety of materials people like us are going to use with them.

We’ve had good success using the Makita XPS impact bits since they first launched. These bits are designed to last up to 90 times as long as standard bits in those hard stop situations and still work great for wood fastening.

Makita covers a wide range of bit sizes and styles with the line. Check them out for yourself and see if they outperform the bits you normally use.

Top Recommendations From Brands We Trust

Not every impact driver we use leads the class, but there are plenty that we still recommend. Below are our choices for the best impact driver models from the top brands in the business.

Best Bosch Impact Driver

Bosch Freak Brushless Connected Ready Impact Driver GSX18V-1800C

Best Bosch Impact Driver | Bosch Brushless Connected-Ready Freak

Bosch gave their original hybrid 1/4-inch hex and 1/2-inch square drive impact driver an upgrade and it now boasts 1800 in-lbs of torque and 3400 RPM from its brushless motor. As a bonus, it comes ready for the Connected Module that offers smart controls and diagnostics using Bosch’s app.

If a compact design is higher on your priority list than socket compatibility, check out the GDR18V-1800CN. It’s essentially the same impact driver but with a standard collet and a more compact head.

Bosch has announced an upgrade to the brushless Freak. As much as we’ve enjoyed this model, keep your eyes open for our review to see what kind of improvements you can expect.

Best Craftsman Impact Driver

Craftsman V20 Brushless Impact Driver CMCF820

Craftsman V20 Brushless Impact Driver - Best Craftsman Impact Driver

Even though Craftsman didn’t dominate the DIY category across the board, it prioritizes a combination of speed, power, size, and design makes it a solid choice when you’re on a budget. With 1700 in-lbs of torque and 2900 RPM, the Craftsman CMCF820 V20 impact driver serves as the top-performing tool in their lineup.

Best DeWalt Impact Driver

DeWalt 20V Max XR Impact Driver with Tool Connect DCF888

Best DeWalt Impact Driver | DeWalt DCF887

DeWalt took their excellent 20V Max XR impact driver and gave it a Tool Connect upgrade to get the DCF888. The smart controls give it 4 customizable speed settings, diagnostics, and tracking.

Both models have the same performance profile: 1825 in-lbs of torque, 3250 RPM, and 3800 IPM. If you don’t need the smart controls, snag the DeWalt DCF887 instead.

Check out the head-to-head against Makita here.

Keep your eyes open for DeWalt’s Atomic DCF850. It’s a much more compact tool that boasts the same specs as this one and could take over as the top choice for DeWalt fans.

Best Hart Impact Driver

Hart 20V Brushless Impact Driver HPID25

How much torque do you need on an impact driver

Hart has a couple of impact drivers to choose from and their brushless model is the way to go in our opinion. A monster 2200 in-lbs of torque highlights its performance backed up with 3000 RPM speed.

In addition to outperforming the brushed version, the brushless motor gives you longer runtime and longer overall motor life. Paired with Hart’s brushless drill, the combo kit with a pair of 2.0Ah batteries is just $148 at Walmart. If you only want the impact driver, it’s $128 with a 2.0Ah battery.


Best Kobalt Impact Driver

Kobalt 24V Max XTR Impact Driver KXID 1424A-03

Best Kobalt Impact Driver | Kobalt XTR Impact Driver

With the launch of the XTR series, Kobalt joined the ranks of a group we call “advanced tools”. They use upgraded batteries, motors, and electronics to deliver better performance than standard brushless tools.

Paired with their Ultimate Output battery, the Kobalt XTR impact driver is capable of 2400 in-lbs of torque, 3400 RPM, and 4000 IPM. There are three standard speed settings to go along with an assist mode.

While there’s no bare tool option, the kit is only $179 with a 4.0Ah battery and charger, and it’s part of several other combos.

Best Makita Impact Driver

Makita 40V Max XGT Brushless Impact Driver GDT01

Makita 40V Max XGT Impact Driver Review GDT01

Makita’s XGT impact driver starts with the foundation of their flagship XDT16 and builds on it for the higher-performing 40V max line. With 3700 RPM, 4400 IPM, and 1950 in-lbs of torque, it’s a little faster and a lot stronger. It showed in our tests as this model tied with Flex as the fastest on our Impact Driver Test Track.

The higher-performing design doesn’t add a lot of bulk, though. The GDT01 is less than 0.2 inches longer and just 0.3 pounds heavier with its 2.5Ah battery.

Best Metabo HPT (Hitachi) Impact Driver

Metabo HPT MultiVolt 36V Triple Hammer Impact Driver WH36DBQ4

Metabo HPT (formerly Hitachi Power Tools) has two compelling cordless impact driver choices. Both use an impact mechanism with three hammers, giving rise to the name “Triple Hammer”.

The 18V version is excellent but the 36V MultiVolt version steps the performance level up a touch. It has 1859 in-lbs of torque, 2900 RPM, and 4100 BPM with two standard and two assist modes to control it. The 18V shares the same speed and impact rate but with a slightly lower 1832 in-lbs of torque.

Thanks to a compact MultiVolt battery, you can enjoy the extra torque without having to sacrifice a ton of extra weight. Realistically, you can go either direction with this one and be in great shape.

As part of the 36V MultiVolt line, this model is compatible with the AC adapter in case you need to run corded while your batteries charge.

Best Milwaukee Impact Driver

Milwaukee M18 Fuel Impact Driver with One-Key 2857

Best Milwaukee Impact Driver | Milwaukee M18 Fuel Impact Driver with One-Key

Compact and with a muscular 2000 in-lbs of torque, Milwaukee’s third-generation M18 Fuel impact driver was a big step forward in performance. It maxes out with 3600 RPM and 4300 IPM to have legitimate speed as well.

4 standard modes and a built-in assist mode help control that speed and torque with the press of a button. Taking it to a whole new level, Milwaukee One-Key offers control, tracking, and inventory management in the most well-developed smart tool system currently available.

If you don’t need the extra tech, grab the Milwaukee 2853 for the same tool without One-Key.

Best Ridgid Impact Driver

Ridgid 18V Brushless Impact Driver R862311

Ridgid 18V Brushless Impact Driver Review 02

Ridgid made massive gains with the release of their 18V brushless impact driver and drill. The irony is that those massive gains are a huge reduction in size and weight. Leaving the Octane line behind, this impact driver is more compact, measuring 5.4 inches from front to back and dropping 1/2 an inch compared to Octane. It’s also lighter. With its 2.0Ah Max Output battery, you’re looking at 3.2 pounds, dropping more than a 1/4-pound from Octane’s weight.

Despite the size reduction, the performance consequences don’t hurt much. It has the same 2900 RPM as Octane and loses just 100 in-lbs of torque (now 2300 in-lbs). Its impact rate actually increases by 300 to reach 4200 IPM. On the Impact Driver Test Track, this model took 25 seconds off of Octane’s time to get within 3 seconds of the leader.

Best Ryobi Impact Driver

Ryobi One+ HP Brushless Impact Driver PBLID02

Best Ryobi Impact Driver

If you haven’t used Ryobi’s One+ HP tools yet, it’s time to meet the new high-performance side of the popular budget brand. Their HP Brushless impact driver uses 3 standard modes and an assist mode to reign in 2200 in-lbs of torque, 2900 RPM, and 4000 IPM.

It’s also worth noting this, along with other HP and HP compact tools, is legitimately more compact than the last generation of brushless models. By increasing the performance and decreasing the size, they’re giving budget-minded Pros fewer reasons to look at other brands.

Best Skil Impact Driver

Skil PWRCore 20 Brushless Impact Driver ID573902

Best 18V Impact Driver Value -Skil 20V Brushless Impact Driver

Skil packs a lot of value in their flagship PWRCore 20 impact driver and it goes well beyond a compelling price and feature set. It’s a touch slower than others at 2700 RPM and 3400 RPM. However, it hits much harder than its 1800 in-lbs torque spec would have you believe. In fact, it was able to remove Grade 8 hardened bolts we had set to 4200 in-lbs!

And did we mention it’s a great value? $149.99 gets you the impact driver, PWRJump charger, and 2.0Ah battery.

What Are Impact Drivers Used For?

Pros typically use impact drivers to drive screws using bits such as Phillips, Torx, or even hex head bits. For our purposes, we drive screws up to 1/4-inch diameter. While you can use an adapter to use sockets and work with larger nuts and bolts, an impact wrench is typically a better tool for that.

They have a rotational impact that comes from a hammer and anvil mechanism. This keeps the screw moving forward when it starts getting tougher to move. The mechanism works without transferring rotational torque to your wrist. It makes these tools easier on your wrists for hard stop driving applications.

In general, they’re lighter and more compact than drill drivers or hammer drills. Many Pros use them in tandem with a drill driver to drill a pilot hole and then drive a fastener without switching bits.

Check out how impact drivers compare to impact wrenches in this article.

Best Impact Driver Buying Guide | What We Look For

PTR Impact Driver Test Track

To see the practical application of speed, torque, and design, we run impact drivers on a specially designed test track. Here’s what it includes:

  • 1-1/2-inch drywall screws (20 into a 2×4 stud)
  • Self-tapping screws (10 into 20-gauge steel stud on 2×4 stud)
  • 1/4-inch twist bit holes (10 into a 2×4 stud)
  • 1/4-inch ledger screws (10 into layered 3/4-inch OSB subfloor on 2×4 stud)

Along the way, we have to make 3 bit changes.

Speed

We measure both RPMs and total time to gauge an impact driver’s speed. Using a variety of fasteners from drywall screws to ledger screws helps us see how the tool adjusts to increasing loads.

Torque

Measuring torque on an impact tool is tricky. We use two methods. For fastening torque, we use a rig made of angle iron and Grade 8 hardened bolts and nuts. With the bolts welded in place, we drive the nuts for 5 seconds at high speed. Then we measure how much torque it takes to loosen each nut and average the results.

We use the same rig to preset specific torque measurements and see how much breakaway torque each impact driver has.

Noise Level

Noise level wasn’t a big deal with impact drivers for a long time. They’re loud and that’s just the way it is. At least, that’s the way it was up until hydraulic impact drivers became affordable.

We test the decibel level of each impact driver to help us understand which ones are the best for using in occupied spaces such as schools and office buildings.

Size and Weight

One of the reasons we love impact drivers is that they tend to be smaller and lighter than drill drivers. They can reach into tighter areas and are less fatiguing when you’re working overhead. We check the weight of each impact driver bare and with a battery along with measuring the length of the head.

Grip

While we don’t come across many tools that have a terrible grip, some are better than others. Slide packs are important because they give design teams more freedom in handle and grip design. Stick packs have to fit into the handle and tend to be thicker than slide pack designs.

Beyond the handle diameter, we also look at how the tool fits in your hand. We also check how comfortable and secure the rubber overmold is. While we look for abnormalities that affect everyone, different hands prefer different styles.

Feature Set

Sales 101 will teach you that every feature must have a benefit. When we look at the feature set to help determine the best impact driver, we’re looking for features that have tangible benefits. Here’s the standard list of what we look for:

  • Brushless motor
  • Number of standard speed modes
  • Special modes
  • App-based controls and tracking
  • LED light design
  • Bit ejection
  • Bit insertion
  • Belt hook

We also look for special features. Brushless motors require electronics that open the door to systems like Milwaukee One-Key, Bosch Connected control, and DeWalt Tool Connect. Some manufacturers like Makita choose to program helpful modes rather than having you customize them. Of course, smart controls aren’t the only thing manufacturers add. We look for anything out of the ordinary that’s genuinely beneficial.

Price and Value

The value a tool offers will be different for everyone depending on what features, performance, and price you prioritize the most. Regardless, it’s the sum of what you get compared to the price you pay that determines the value for you. That’s how we give each impact driver a value rating.

Why You Can Trust Pro Tool Reviews

Ever check out a “review” site and you can’t tell if they actually tested the tools or if they’re just “recommending” the Amazon top sellers? That’s not us. We won’t recommend anything unless we’d actually use it ourselves and we don’t really care who the primary retailer is. It’s all about giving you a legitimate recommendation and our honest opinion of each product.

We’ve been in business since 2008 covering tools, writing reviews, and reporting on industry news in the construction, automotive, and lawn care industries. Our Pro reviewers work in the trades and have the skills and experience to know whether tools can perform well in the field.

Each year, we bring in and review more than 250 individual products. Our team will put our hands on hundreds of additional tools at media events and trade shows throughout the year.

We consult with innovators in the technology and design of tools to gain a broader grasp of where these products fit and how they work.

We work with more than two dozen professional contractors around the United States who review products for us on real job sites and consult with us on testing methods, categories, and weighting.

The end result is information you can trust because of the editorial, scientific, and real-world professional experience we collectively utilize each and every time we pick up and test a tool.

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William

I’ve been an electrician for 30 years now. I have always bought Milwaukee power tools until this year 2021. Milwaukee has cheapened their tools. They are not as good as they used to be. Just my opinion. I started buying the FLEX power tools and they are by far the best power tools on the market. This could change as well. It seems that companies put out a good product and then start putting cheaper parts in them after awhile.

Fyrfytr998

Instead of rehashing this same article every few months, wouldn’t it be easier to keep a ranked list with links to the review articles of each individual tool?

Big Richard

Should throw in the Klein BAT20CD into the conversation for most powerful. 2,520 in-lbs is top of the list, spec wise. Slower and less IPM than the competition, though.

FyrFytr998

Not really digging this best of each brand stuff. Bring back the first to worst lists. If brands can’t hack coming in, last tell them to do better.

Stan

This list isn’t very good. Rigid make’s the best sub compact despite Milwaukee’s ID being smaller and having more compact batteries and a better warranty? How is the Makita superior to both Milwaukee and Metabo’s Triple Hammer? Why is there absolutely no mention of 18v Oil impact drivers outside of self tapping?

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