Drill vs Impact Driver – Which tool to Use for Your Next Project

drill vs driver

Ask any homeowner and they most certainly have a power drill in their toolbox for routine home repairs and DIY projects. Impact drivers are a fairly new tool on the market that are quickly having people compare the drill vs impact driver.

While both tools look relatively similar side by side and have many of the same functions, there are some distinct differences between the two.

This article will compare the two tools and tell you what you need to know to make sure you use the right tool for the job.

Disclosure: As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. However, this does not impact our reviews and comparisons. All opinions are our own we pride ourselves on keeping our articles fair and balanced. For more info see our disclosure statement.

impact driver

An impact driver is a specifically engineered tool designed to do one job: drive screws. Not only does a cordless impact driver drive in screws, it does so with intense speed and power that you won’t find in a traditional power drill.

Learn more about cordless tool batteries here.

An impact driver does not accept a keyless chuck, instead it uses a collet that uses hex-shanked driver bits. Impact drivers can drive even the longest and fattest screws in with efficiency, where a regular power drill may stall out.  

Cordless Drill

cordless drill

Cordless drills have been in home toolkits for years, so most home owners will at least know what one looks like, and how it works.

A cordless drill has an adjustable clutch that acts as a (not so accurate) torque limiter, and its chuck is able to take both round and hex bit types.

It is designed to provide a smooth spinning action to the bit being used and is ideal for drilling holes, driving screws or tightening or loosening bolts. 

Drill vs Impact Driver

drill vs impact driver

First Glance: you may not recognize the difference between a drill and an impact driver, however, there are many differences that allow them to stand apart.

Size: For starters, a traditional drill is usually a bit bigger than an impact driver. Drivers are typically smaller and more compact, although they pack a more powerful punch.

Clutch: A standard drill has an adjustable clutch which allows you to adjust the torque, whereas an impact driver does not. The adjustable clutch on a standard drill prevents fasteners from being overtightened and damage to the drilling surface.

Chuck: The head of a standard drill includes a keyed or keyless chuck. Impact drivers, on the other hand do not have a chuck, instead they have a collet that accommodates hex shanks. In order to withstand the force of an impact driver, impact-rated hex bits are required.

Power and Speed: The impact driver can deliver more power in quick burst, which results in more torque. This action happens automatically when the driver meets resistance. Cordless impact drivers typically come with one gear, however, there are more advanced models available that have up to three gears.

Drills can have quite a bit of power behind them, but they transfer this to the chuck in a different way which does not have the brute force behind it that a driver does.

impact driver and drill chuck
A drill (left) accepts many types of shapes. The impact driver only accepts hex bits.

Action: The cordless impact drill uses the powerful combination of bit rotation and hard hitting blows to bust through even the thickest or toughest of surfaces. Impact drivers can deliver up to two to three more times power than a traditional drill. A cordless drill simple turns clockwise or anti clockwise, although some do have an optional hammer option.

Ease of Use: Despite its intense power, the driver manages to be easy and comfortable to use. The concussive action of the driver transfers much of its power directly to the screw, not to your hand or wrist. This allows you to drive in screws with incredible force and accuracy without compromising your arm.

The cordless drill is a simple tool that is easy to understand and use. On occasion, you may find that if a drill bit gets stuck in the material being drilled then the tool itself may spin resulting in injuries to the hand or wrist.

We Recommend

Milwaukee M18 driver

If you are looking for the absolute best of the best, then you can’t go past the Milwaukee M18.

These tools are built to last, and the power is second to none.

Drill vs Impact Driver: The Pros and Cons of Each

When you are determining which tool to use for your next home improvement or DIY project, it can be helpful to know the pros and cons of each tool.

We break it down here for you:

Power Drill

Drill Pros
  • Great multi-purpose tool
  • Perfect for jobs that require care and precision
  • Allows for a wide variety of screw and drill bits
  • Utilizes a constant torque
  • Can be used for handy accessories such as a wire wheeled brush and rotary sanders
  • A slip clutch allows for the torque to be controlled
  • Can be purchased for a relatively affordable price
Drill Cons
  • Often strips screws
  • Stalls out when used on long or large fasteners
  • Allows for a wide variety of screw and drill bits
  • Bits tend to come loose inside the chuck
  • Can have wear and tear on the users’ hand and wrist

Impact Driver

Impact Driver Pros
  • Intense power that can blow through very thick material with concussive blows and plenty of torque
  • Has the ability to drive in even the longest screws with little effort
  • Can remove even stripped screws
  • Smaller body makes it easier to fit into smaller work spaces
  • Little impact on the users’ arm and wrist thanks to the power transferring directly to the screw
  • Can be used for handy accessories such as a wire wheeled brush and rotary sanders
  • Does not strip screws often
Impact Driver Cons
  • Too strong and powerful for delicate and precise jobs
  • Can be quite costly to purchase
  • Considerably louder (impact sound) than a traditional drill
  • Only allows for hex-shanked drivers and bits

Each of these tools offers their own set of advantages and disadvantages. Determining which one to use for your next project will depend on what exactly you need it for.

As a general rule, if you are only going to buy one of these tools, the drill will provide you with more versatility for everyday use. Drills are great for working with drywall, soft woods and plastics as the drill won’t bend or break the material.

If you are looking at working on a job that requires lots of drilling through dense materials or with long, thick fasteners, consider investing in a cordless impact driver to save you some time and wrist pain.

Both the drill and impact driver are great tools to have in your tool box to bring out when duty calls. We hope that this article helped you understand the differences between these two drills and when to use a drill vs impact driver.

Which Tool to Use for Your Next Project

woman using a drill

Now that you understand the differences between a traditional power drill and an impact driver, which one should you use for your next project? The answer to this question depends on what kind of project you are working on and for what purpose you need a drill.

Standard power drills are primarily used for drilling holes and screwing in small fasteners. An impact driver is designed for screwing in large fasteners. Screws that are longer can be driven in much easier with an impact driver.

A traditional drill is better suited for jobs that require precision. Considering an impact driver is not well suited for tasks that require precision, it should be used for jobs where the placement of the hole is not crucial, but extra torque is required.

A cordless impact driver can easily blast through dense wood or metal, while a traditional power drill may be stopped in its tracks.

Pricing last updated on 2019-11-15 at 14:34 / affiliate links - Details

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2 thoughts on “Drill vs Impact Driver – Which tool to Use for Your Next Project”

  1. An interesting article, I was definitely wondering what the advantage of an impact driver is having just replaced my Makita combi drill that died of natural causes after 15 years and three house renovations. Having read this it seems to me that it is essentially about speed of working. The standard drill can struggle with large screws and tough materials if you just want to blaze straight in, But if you take the trouble to drill a pilot hole first then it won’t stall and it won’t strip the screws. It’s a slower pace of working, but my new de Walt combi will drill holes in wood, brick, concrete and board, then drive screws with a quick adjustment – and I don’t need special bits to do it with.
    Happy with my choice of combi but can see how a pro, or more dedicated DIYer would want both tools.

  2. Hi, Aaron
    I’ve found the Milwaukee is very fast and powerful, as well as compact, but heats up a lot, likely due to the compact size not allowing space for vents or cooling.

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