Best 12V Cordless Impact Driver Head to Head Review
The Best 12V Impact Driver Results are Dominated by Just Two Models in Performance
We put 30+ impact drivers through a wide range of evaluations, and 8 of those land in our search for the best 12V cordless impact driver. When it was all over, two models rose above all the others.
Best 12V Cordless Impact Driver
Milwaukee dominates the performance tests with their M12 Fuel Impact Driver and has the most complete feature set to go with it. Unless you’re looking for the absolute lightest weight you can get or something a little easier on your wallet, there’s not a higher performing option in the 12V class.
Best 12V Cordless Impact Driver Runner Up
2nd place overall goes to Skil’s 12V Brushless Impact Driver. Before anyone claims that we put too much weight on value, Skil went toe to toe with Milwaukee on nut-busting torque and finished second in fastening torque. And they did it with an impact driver that’s less than $100 and includes their premium PWRJump rapid charger.
Best 12V Cordless Impact Driver Value
Ummm… Did you see what I just said about Skil?
Most Compact 12V Cordless Impact Driver
Ridgid’s Palm Impact Driver isn’t new to the scene, but it’s still one of the best in awkward spaces. It has the smallest overall footprint of the entire 12V group. This model fits in the palm of your hand and uses forward pressure to activate the motor instead of a trigger. If you can fit your hand in the space, the Palm Driver can drive screws.
Note: To see our testing methods, please check out our Best 18V Impact Driver main page.
Speed Under Load
Ridgid’s Palm driver is the only one that couldn’t complete the test in the 30-second allotted time frame. In its defense, it’s technically a screwdriver intentionally designed with lower power.
Please realize that our torque tests do not and cannot replace how manufacturers test for their specifications. Head over to the testing methods section on our main shootout page to see the details.
In fastening torque, Milwaukee (804 in-lbs) once again has massive lead with over 70 in-lbs more torque than Skil (732 in-lbs). The surprise here is that third place Hilti (431 in-lbs) lands another 269 in-lbs distant from Skil.
Ridgid’s niche Palm Impact (161) is at the bottom—not surprising after their speed test. Ridgid’s R82230 (301) and Makita’s DT03 (307) wrap up the lowest.
Who knew that a 12V impact driver could break 140 ft-lbs of torque?!?! Milwaukee and Skil both break 1680 in-lbs (140 ft-lbs) to put a big lead over Bosch in third place with 1200 in-lbs of nut-busting force.
Ridgid’s Palm Driver (240) maintains its placement with Metabo HPT (360) leaving a big gap to a 3-way tie at 600 in-lbs.
Ridgid’s Palm Driver makes up some ground as the lightest of the 12V class and the only one to stay under 2 pounds with its battery. Bosch (2.1 pounds) and Milwaukee (2.3 pounds) round out the top three.
The heavyweights in this compact group are Ridgid (2.4), Hilti (2.5), and Skil (2.7). All told, everyone is within a pound and our team didn’t mind the weight of any of them.
Ridgid’s Palm Driver continues to make its case for relevance with the smallest footprint by a pretty wide margin. Its 4.2″ length and 5.0″ height are easily the best in both measurements. Ridgid’s standard model is a distance second (5.4″ length, 6.0″ height) with Bosch again making an appearance on the podium (5.6″ length, 6.3″ height).
The largest footprint belongs to Skil (5.9/7.5) with Metabo HPT (5.9/7.3) and Hilti (6.2/7.0) not far behind.
12V impact drivers aren’t quite as feature-rich as the 18V models, but there are still some things that stand out from our baseline expectations.
- Bosch PS42
- Brushless motor
- 2 speeds
- 3 LED light ring around the chuck
- Milwaukee 2553
- Brushless motor
- 3 standard speeds
- Self-tapping screw mode
- Ridgid Palm Driver
- Pressure-sensitive push drive
- Skil ID5774401
- Brushless motor
- 2 speeds
- LED halo around the chuck
- USB charging port on battery
- PWRJump rapid charger available as an option
Thankfully, 12V impact drivers give our ears a break over their noisy 18V cousins, but they’re still not quiet. Ridgid’s Palm driver reaches the level of our hydraulic impact drivers at 94 dB(A). Hilti is a little higher at 96 dB(A) and Bosch rounds out the top 3 at 97 dB(A).
Three 12V models hit 100 decibels: DeWalt, Makita, and Milwaukee.
Given its solid performance and price, Skil easily takes home the win for the highest value. Makita scores a nice 2nd place finish here while Ridgid’s Palm Driver takes 3rd.
On the low end of the value rankings are Bosch and Hilti – Bosch having a higher price without high enough performance to back it up and Hilti managing a decent price but only mid-pack performance.
We don’t claim to have a deep enough knowledge of manufacturing process and components to give a solid score to each of these tools based on the quality of their construction, even though there are differences in the feel, fit, and finish. That said, the warranty each manufacturer stands behind can tell you about the confidence they place on their tools and increase the value proposition.
- Metabo HPT: Lifetime tool, 2 years battery
- Ridgid: 3 years warranty, lifetime service agreement (includes replacement batteries)
- Hilti 20 years tool, battery not stated
- Milwaukee: 5 years tool, 3 years battery
- Skil: 5 years tool, 2 years battery
- DeWalt: 3 years tool and battery
- Makita: 3 years tool and battery
- Bosch: 1 year tool and battery
You know the winners already, and here’s how the entire group shakes out:
- Milwaukee M12 Fuel Impact Driver 2553
- Skil 12V Brushless Impact Driver ID574401
- Bosch 12V Brushless Impact Driver PS42
- Metabo HPT (Hitachi) 12V Impact Driver WH10DFL2
- Hilti 12V Impact Driver SID 2-A
- DeWalt 12V Impact Driver DCF815
- Makita 12V CXT Impact Driver DT03
- Ridgid 12V Impact Driver R82230
- Ridgid 12V Palm Impact Driver R8224K
Rather than just leaving you with the final rankings, here are 5 things we learned while we discovered that Milwaukee makes the best 12V impact driver:
1 – “DIY” tools are getting better
It’s pretty clear that DIY brands are closing the gap in performance to Pro models. Skil’s allegedly DIY impact driver just put some serious distance on major Pro brands.
2 – Milwaukee’s M12 Line Dominates the 12V Class
Milwaukee has one of the heaviest focuses on 12V tools in the depth of the line and performance. They might be bigger than some of the weight weenies, but there’s no doubt about the muscle the M12 Fuel line packs.
3 – Test Results Aren’t Everything
Tools like the Ridgid 12V Palm Driver don’t need to top the list in power. This one fills a specific niche for screwdriving, and it takes care of fastening in awkward spaces beautifully. Moreover, it’s actually a lot of fun to use!
4 – The Race is Far From Over
While we got our hands on the most relevant 12V impact drivers, new models are constantly under development and we didn’t bring in everything we hoped for. One we’re anxiously waiting for is Makita’s DT04 with significantly more torque than the 03. This isn’t over yet…
5 – The Final Call is Still Up to You
We weight our results based on what our Pros agree is most important. If money is the biggest priority for you, your final rankings will look different than ours. We love diverse opinions, so tell us what you think is most important and which model you think is the best 12V impact driver.
Just remember that there are real people who do the work and who are contributing through their comments. I hate having to delete comments and ban people for acting like middle schoolers, so keep it on topic and clean.