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February 27, 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

Makita XDT16 18V LXT Brushless Impact Driver

Best Cordless Impact Driver | Makita XDT16

Before we ever started crunching the data from our test results, Tom Gaige called me up. He wanted to tell me how impressed he was with the Makita XDT16 impact driver. It’s the most compact (by 1 mm) and the second lightest on our scales. At the same time, it held its speed. It also produced more measurable torque than we found in our other impact driver reviews, some touting hundreds of more inch-pounds in their specs.

Makita continues to blaze its own trail with its control system. 4 standard modes take care of the basics. From there, 2 Tech modes help with metal fastening, Assist mode gives you a slow start for wood fastening, and Auto-Stop mode loosens a bolt and stops so you can thread it off by hand. You can even program the button above the trigger to set your favorite mode or just let it run through the 4 standard ones.

Read the review here.

Best Sub-Compact Impact Driver

Ridgid R8723 18V Sub-Compact Impact Driver

Best Sub-Compact Impact Driver | Ridgid SubCompact Impact Driver

Over the past couple of years, a new class of sub-compact tools emerged. Designed to be an 18V/20V Max tool with 12V size and weight, they can keep you on one battery platform for all your needs.

The Ridgid Sub-Compact Impact Driver manages to come in as the most compact in the class at just 4.6 inches across the head. It also keeps its weight in check at just 2.8 pounds with a 2.0Ah battery.

On the performance side, it leads the class in muscle with 1800 in-lbs of torque and 4200 IPM, though it does give up a little speed at 2900 RPM.

It’s also highly affordable, with a combo price of just $199 that includes the impact driver, matching drill driver, two 2.0Ah batteries, charger, and soft bag. Among the sub-compact impact driver reviews we’ve done to-date, the Ridgid sits at the top.

Read more here.

Best 12V Impact Driver

Milwaukee M12 Fuel Impact Driver (2553-20)

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.

Read the review here.

Best Hydraulic Impact Driver

Milwaukee M12 Fuel Surge Hydraulic Driver (2551-20)

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.

Read the review here.


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

Best Budget Impact Driver Kit

Skil ID573902 PWRCore 20 Brushless Impact Driver Kit

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!

Read the review here.

Best Budget Impact Driver Combo

Hart HPCK252B 20V Brushless Impact Driver and Drill Combo

drill or impact driver which is faster?

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

For $148, 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.

Read the review here.

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.

Read more here.

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 GSX18V-1800C Freak Brushless Impact Driver (Connected-Ready)

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 their 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.

Read the review here.

Best Craftsman Impact Driver

Craftsman CMCF820 V20 Brushless Impact Driver

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.

Read the review here.

Best DeWalt Impact Driver

DeWalt DCF888 20V Max XR Impact Driver with Tool Connect

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.

Best Hart Impact Driver

Hart HPID25 20V Brushless Impact Driver

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.

Best Kobalt Impact Driver

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

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 XDT16 18V LXT Brushless Impact Driver

Best Makita Impact Driver -Makita XDT16

For all the reasons we listed above, it’s no surprise that the XDT16 is our top pick as the best Makita impact driver.

Best Metabo HPT (Hitachi) Impact Driver

Metabo HPT WH36DBQ4 MultiVolt 36V Triple Hammer Impact Driver

Metabo HPT (formerly Hitachi Power Tools) has two compelling cordless impact driver choices. They 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.

Read the review here.

Best Milwaukee Impact Driver

Milwaukee 2857 M18 Fuel Impact Driver with One-Key

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.

Read the review here.

Best Ridgid Impact Driver

Ridgid R8723 18V Brushless Sub-Compact Impact Driver

Best Ridgid Impact Driver

Ridgid has a couple of excellent impact driver choices. Their highest performing is the Octane (read the review here). However, we’re so impressed with their combination of performance and size in the SubCompact model that it’s our top pick for the same reasons we listed above.

Read more here.

Best Ryobi Impact Driver

Ryobi PBLID02 One+ HP Brushless Impact Driver

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, are 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.

Read the full review by clicking here!

Best Skil Impact Driver

Skil ID573902 PWRCore 20 Brushless Impact Driver

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.

Read the review here.

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.

What We Look for in Our Testing

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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JC90

The new ryobi has the worst wobble by far if you add a extension bit holder.

Sally Jones

I think you forgot the Masterforce oil impulse driver. I don’t see it dethroning the Makita, but it would be nice to see how it stacks up. Especially against the Ryobi.

Andrew

How exactly do you consider the makita oil impulse driver better than the milwaukee surge? The milwaukee is smaller, more powerful, quieter and has better warranty?
Am i missing something here?

AFpuke

the xdt16 is an amazing tool, like the most powerful 12v or the most compact 18v. you can get a real deal JAPANESE-MADE one if you grab the TD171, they made it for other markets and you can get them in a million colors. I got a dark red one and it still has kanji on it, i do not like chinese made!!

tim supriano

If you look around you can find deals on the new red Craftsman v20 stuff at lowes and eBay. Lowes constantly has deals where they give away free batteries or half price tools. It’s made by Black and Decker and very similar to dewalt. It might cost a hair more than harbor freight . The warranty is way better and the tools work well.

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