Best DIY Impact Driver Head to Head Review
Finding the Best DIY Impact Driver Means Looking at More than Just One Performance Level
As we looked over the entire list of current impact drivers and decided on more than 30 models to bring in for testing, we included some DIY models. The best DIY impact driver can mean a couple of things, though – it can be for serious DIYers (AKA Prosumers), or for general homeowner maintenance and repair. We see the difference across several tests.
Best DIY Impact Driver
Hercules 20V Max Impact Driver
Up until Harbor Freight introduced the Hercules line, they didn’t have many tools to take seriously against Pro models or even against names like Ryobi and Porter-Cable. Their new impact driver is impressive in our performance testing and has a very clear resemblance to DeWalt’s ergonomic design. In a heated race, Hercules gets the win over Craftsman in a back and forth event.
The final push for the win is Harbor Freight’s value pricing for the Hercules 20V Max Impact Driver – just $99.99 with a battery, charger, and case. Just keep in mind that it only has a 90-day warranty, and you can’t use your Harbor Freight coupons on this brand.
It’s nearly a tossup between Hercules and Craftsman for the DIY title. Look to this model if you don’t mind paying a bit more ($149 for the kit), prefer the 3-year warranty to Harbor Freight’s 90 days, and want Craftsman’s deeper line of compatible tools.
Most Powerful DIY Impact Driver
Skil 20V Brushless Impact Driver
Skil’s 20V is a few points behind the leaders. However, if you’re looking for sheer nut-busting power, Skil’s brushless 20V model tops all 30+ models in our test with 4200 in-lbs. That’s 350 ft-lbs if you’re comparing it to impact wrenches. Skil showed a monstrous amount of torque. And this impact driver didn’t just bust that number once—it did 5 times without any failures between them.
Most Compact DIY Impact Driver
Skil is breaking the DIY mold with a 12V line that competes well against Pro brands with pricing and features that DIYers want. As a 12V brushless model, Skil has a compact, lightweight design compared to the 18V/20V Max models in this group. The tradeoff is lower power, but it should still handle 80% of the jobs you turn to an impact driver for.
Best DIY Impact Driver if You Need More Than a Drill and Impact Driver
Ryobi’s P238 brushless impact driver is the most powerful in this group, scoring the highest in both torque tests. It comes with a weight penalty, and since it’s only sold as a bare tool ($99), you have to add the cost of a battery/charger starter pack. Of course, if you’re one of the 35 million people already using the One+ system, you just need the tool.
Aside from the power, one of Ryobi’s greatest assets is simply how deep their One+ 18V lineup is. From power tools and lighting, to lawn care and lifestyle, Ryobi spans a broad range of products. All of them use the same 18V ONE+ battery system.
Best DIY Impact Driver for Homeowners
Black+Decker 20V Max Impact Driver BDC120C
Head-to-head against the Prosumer models, Black + Decker trails in performance, but it’s deceiving. At their heart, DIY impact drivers simply drive screws. Black + Decker’s BDC120C handles the job well and is the second lightest in this class.
What makes it so appealing for general homeowner use is the price—less than $60 for the full kit. If you’re looking for an impact driver to pick up the slack on those occasional repairs and projects where your drill struggles, there’s no reason to pay more.
Note: To see our testing methods, please check out our Best Impact Driver main page.
Speed Under Load
The race for the highest speed under load is close with Hercules (565 RPM) edging out Craftsman (552 RPM) for the win. Ryobi (447 RPM) still has respectable speed.
Skil (239 RPM) is no surprise on the bottom with its 12V power plant. Meanwhile, Black + Decker (296) comes in at the sub-300 RPM mark. The good news for both tools is that these speeds are high enough to continue driving 1/4″ ledger screws effectively without straining their motors to the point of concern.
Our torque tests do not and cannot replace how manufacturers test for their specifications. Our Best Impact Driver main page has our testing methods. Please check it out to see the details of how we get our results.
Ryobi really flexes its brushless motor muscles with a dominating performance in fastening torque at 2401 in-lbs. Skil’s brushless 20V (2049 in-lbs) is more than 350 in-lbs behind it with Craftsman (1614 in-lbs) at a distant third. Only 3 of our Pro 18V models deliver more fastening torque than Ryobi in our tests.
Skil (732 in-lbs) and Black + Decker (665 in-lbs) continue to put out adequate power for the target sectors but below the Prosumer 18V models.
Skil rises up to crush not only the DIY competition, but it also puts the Pro models in its wake with 4200 in-lbs (350 ft-lbs) of nut-busting torque! Hercules matches Ryobi with 3000 in-lbs to muscle out a tie for 2nd place. Craftsman is right behind them at 2880 in-lbs. Those numbers mix right in with the upper half of Pro models, so it’s an impressive performance for tools that fit in the DIY class.
Skil (1680 in-lbs) and Black + Decker (1200 in-lbs) represent their respective classes well and both hit and/or exceed 100 ft-lbs of torque.
There’s a big gap between the lightweights and heavyweight in this class. Skil’s 12V (2.7 pounds) and Black + Decker (2.8 pounds) are the only ones to keep the weight under 3 pounds. Ryobi is easily the heaviest at 4.4 pounds.
Mirroring DeWalt’s 20V Max silhouette, Hercules gives us the smallest overall footprint at 5.8″ long and 7.5″ tall. Skil’s 12V (5.9″/7.5″) is a few points behind, barely ahead of Craftsman (5.5″/8.0″). You can make the argument that Craftsman is your best bet if head length is more important than tool height to you.
There’s a sizeable gap from there to the larger Black + Decker (6.7″/7.4″) and Ryobi (6.4″/7.8″) impacts.
Brushless motors are now firmly planted in the Prosumer market, and several of our models in that sector of the DIY class have one. Black+Decker as a homeowner level impact driver doesn’t and Hercules opts to go brushed with their 20V.
Craftsman and Ryobi stand out with their 3-speed mode selection, and Skil’s 12V gives you two. Skil’s brushless 20V goes with 2 standard speeds plus a slow start for wood fastening.
They also feature 3 LED lights to work with around the chuck while Skil has a halo on their 12V, making shadows all but disappear.
Craftsman and Ryobi wrap things up with spring-loaded bit ejection and a collet that lets you slide the bit in without pulling the collet out to accept it. Skil also has one-handed bit insertion.
Overall, you’ll get the most features with Craftsman and Ryobi. Skil follows just a few points behind.
The results flip around in noise level with Skil (97 dB(A)) producing the fewest under load and Black + Decker just touching the 100 dB(A) mark. Craftsman and Ryobi both top the list of all 30+ impact drivers with their 105 dB(A) levels.
Black + Decker easily earns the highest value score with its ability to effectively do all the jobs we asked it to and its sub-$60 price tag. Hercules brings its brushed motor performance into 2nd place and Skil’s 12V wraps up 3rd.
Ryobi is uncharacteristically at the bottom this time since it doesn’t have a kit option. If you don’t already have a One+ 18V battery and charger, it’ll cost you around $119 for a 4.0 Ah starter kit. However, its value score is much higher if you’re already on the system and don’t need to add the cost.
* Value ratings have been edited to reflect updated pricing.
We’re not engineers and we don’t have the expertise to take apart each of these tools to quantify the differences in the quality of their components. However, the warranty a manufacturer offers tells you something about their willingness to stand behind their tools.
- Skil: 5 years tool, 2 years battery
- Craftsman: 3 years battery and tool
- Ryobi: 3 years battery and tool
- Black + Decker: 2 years battery and tool
- Hercules: 90 days battery and tool
1 – There’s a Big Difference Between Homeowner and Prosumer DIY Impact Drivers
Prosumer impact drivers are designed to compete with similar performance to Pro models with fewer features or less expensive parts and can crossover into some Pro use. Ryobi is a great example. You’ll see MRO and construction crews all over the country with Ryobi tools to cover some of their basics.
Homeowner impact drivers are still effective tools for doing projects around the house when speed or weight isn’t as big of a priority as cost. The bottom line is that they still get the job done and will give you excellent results when you use quality accessories.
2 – There’s a Reason We Only Tested Skil and Black + Decker for Their Sectors
When it comes to the best DIY impact driver, Skil doesn’t really have any competition in the 12V class. Craftsman as a Stanley Black & Decker brand is moving on from that focus as it replaces Porter-Cable in the line, and there’s not much else out there that can compete with its brushless design.
Black + Decker has more competition, but not everyone we invited chose to participate. Could those brands be better? Maybe. For now, we’re confident in the performance that Black + Decker offers homeowners and don’t have any concerns about giving it a high recommendation for that user base.
3 – Know When to Say When
Craftsman, Hercules, and Ryobi all have enough power to easily snap a socket adapter when you’re working on metal fastening. If you really need the top end of its power curve frequently on hex head fasteners, a cordless impact wrench is a better tool. Otherwise, bring it down a gear.
4 – As the Performance Gap Shrinks, So Does the Price Gap
While Harbor Freight still hits a solid value price point, Craftsman, Ryobi, and the Skil 20V are creeping closer to Pro brand pricing. Higher quality materials like brushless motors demand a higher price.
It’s worth looking at the Pro brand kit prices to see if they’re close enough to reach for their higher performance, more refined fit and finish, and better warranties.
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 18V impact driver.
Just remember that there are real people who did the work and who are contributing through their comments. I hate having to ban people for acting like middle schoolers, so keep it on topic and clean.