Cordless Impact Drivers Explained
For anyone tightening a lot of fastenings every day, a cordless impact driver is a must-have tool. Whether you work in construction, automotive, or any other sector, you still want to find the best cordless impact driver on the market today.
Every buyer has different needs. Some are industry pros who will care about ergonomics and reliability. Others might be DIYers who aren’t ready to invest as much money in their tool.
We’re taking all that into account, and have picked out the best cordless impact drivers for a variety of buyers and reviewed them all below. We’ll help you walk through the key features and find the perfect match for your needs and budget. Let’s get right into it!
1. DEWALT DCF885C1
⤍ 2800RPM & 1400in-lbs of torque
⤍ LED work light
⤍ Rave buyer reviews & great value
⤍ Single speed mode
⤍ Moderate weight
The DEWALT DCF885C1 is a hugely popular driver with buyers, and glancing down the specifications, it’s easy to understand why. While this machine might not come with all the bells and whistles, it does the basics very well and is available at a great value price point.
Looking at the key numbers, this is a 2800RPM driver with 1400in-lbs of torque delivered from the 20V lithium ion battery. That’s plenty of power and speed on tap, so for all your impact driving applications this machine is going to be just fine. While it has no speed modes per se, you can control the speed by how far you depress the trigger. For most applications that’s perfectly fine if you’re careful, particularly when starting or finishing your fastening.
This unit is equipped with a work light, which is a handy addition to help you work in tight spaces. Speaking of which, this – like the Makita – is a small machine and works well in awkward spots. Weight wise, this is also a very light driver, coming in at only 2.8lbs.
One final consideration is around battery interchangeability. Obviously DEWALT have a huge range of largely excellent tools, so it’s worth considering what other tools you’ll be buying and what battery “family” you’re moving in with.
All in all, this is an excellent cordless impact driver, and while it’s not the top performer in any one area, it’s a great unit and great value for money.
2. Makita XDT16Z
⤍ 1600in-lbs and 3600 RPM
⤍ 4 Speeds 2 Tightening Modes
⤍ Very compact unit
⤍ Customizable mode button
⤍ LED work light
The XDT16 drivers from Makita have long been considered the best cordless impact drivers on the market. Makita has managed to combine solid reliability and power with some clever innovations to make using this machine that much better.
Considering the basics first, the XDT16 is an 18V driver powered by a brushless motor which can deliver 3600 RPM of screwing speed and 1600in-pounds of torque. That’s among the most powerful cordless impact drivers out there when it comes to raw speed and horsepower.
Makita have also included a number of helpful innovations into this device. First off, it features 4 speeds as well as an Assist mode and two tightening modes. The speeds are obvious, but buyers love the two tightening modes which control motor torque to prevent cross threating and damaging screws. In addition, you’ve also got an LED work light, auto stop mode to prevent lost screws when loosening, and a one-handed bit removal chuck.
This really is a market leader in every sense, and when it comes to finding the ultimate driver, you should be looking no further than this tool.
3. BLACK DECKER BDCI20C
⤍ Respectable 1375in-lbs and 3000 RPM
⤍ Single speed 20V motor
⤍ One-handed chuck
⤍ Battery and charger included
⤍ Excellent price point
Diving into another affordable option, this time from BLACK DECKER, in the shape of the BDCI20C. A 20V lithium powered unit like others in the test, this is a basic level tool aimed at the DIY and home user.
Delivering 1375in-lbs of torque at up to 3000RPM, this driver is actually quite fast although not hugely powerful. That could be fine if you’re largely doing timber frame construction or something similar where speed will be a priority over torqueing power. The transmission on this unit is of the single-speed type, so you’d find fancy modes to toggle between. Speed is controlled via depressing the trigger as you would with a cordless drill or other type of basic impact driver.
Sold as a kit with a charger and battery, this machine will have you up and running quickly rather than having to find compatible batteries as you sometimes do with more premium models. The chuck is a modern-style one-handed design, allowing fast and easy one-handed bit changes. Buyers appear to be largely very happy with this driver for home use – with any reporting great value for money and good experiences. Offered at such a great price point – it’s hard to see why they wouldn’t be.
Tying it all together, this is a great DIY tool, and excellent value for the level of performance. For a home use and DIY driver, this will be one of the best choices out there.
4. Milwaukee 2853
⤍ Massive 2000in-lbs of torque
⤍ 3600 RPM of speed
⤍ 4 mode brushless motor
⤍ 18V Lithium ion battery
⤍ Small and light unit.
When it comes to al out power, you don’t need to look much further than the Milwaukee 2853. In line with the other tools in Milwaukee’s M18 Fuel line up, this is a no-holes-barred high performance machine, which leads the category.
With up to 2000in-lbs of torque, this machine can challenge a cheap impact wrench (next tool category up), and combined with 3600 RPM of speed, you can’t ask for any more. All that power is delivered from the 18V brushless motor through their M18 lithium ion battery system.
This unit isn’t short on innovation either. The 2853 features 4 speed and torqueing modes for different applications, and a self-tapping mode to help you avoid stripping fasteners. There’s a small LED work light integrated as well, so you can keep track of work in tight spaces.
It’s also worth discussing the form and feel of this machine. The rubberized exterior helps protect it in work environments, and much of Milwaukee’s technology has actually been funnelled into squeezing all that power into what is a very small unit indeed. In fact, weighing in at just 2.2lbs tool only, this is a very light and compact impact driver.
If you need all out performance, you should look no further than the 2853. Both this and the Makita are exceptional machines, and perhaps one could argue that the Makita is a bit more “techie” while this is a bit more powerful.
5. BOSCH GDR18V-1400B12
⤍ Moderately powerful 1400in-lbs and 2800 RPMs
⤍ Moderate size and weight tool
⤍ LED work light integrated in handle
⤍ Battery and charger included
⤍ Reasonable if not standout price point
Next up we have an 18V offering from German tool giant Bosch – the catchy-named GDR18V-1400B12. This is another professional grade cordless impact driver, which will be more than capable for the majority of applications.
With this unit, we’re looking at a 2800 RPMs and 1400in-lbs – so respectable from a power and speed perspective but by no means a standout on either. It’s worth noting that this is another variable speed tool, operated via the depression of the trigger. There are no fancy speed modes or tightening modes, so if you’re in a commercial setting and working through a lot of fastenings, that could be a consideration.
From a size a feel perspective, this is a good-quality tool made by a well-respected manufacturer. Weighing in at 2.3lbs tool only, this is in in line with other machines in the category, but is very slightly larger. The driver features an LED work light integrated into the grip, which is good but perhaps not as effective as the light ring you’ll find on other machines like the DEWALT.
Supplied with a charger and a battery, this is the full package at a pretty reasonable price point, so certainly worth some consideration. We’d class it as a solid low-end commercial option or a medium level DIY option, probably best compared to the DEWALT discussed earlier.
6. CRAFTSMAN CMCF810C1
⤍ 1500in-lbs of torque and 2800 RPM
⤍ Brushless 20V motor
⤍ Lithium battery system
⤍ Spring loaded one-handed chuck
⤍ Great value for DIY buyers
A solid contender for the DIY market, Craftsman’s CMCF810C1 is a 20V impact driver that packs a lot of punch for a reasonable price point. This machine is certainly no slouch, and only gets more attractive as you comb through the details.
Let’s start with the key numbers for this machine, before we get into the niceties. This is a 1500in-lb driver with 2800 RPMs on tap, so certainly well-equipped when you consider it’s aimed at the DIY market. That power comes by way of a brushless motor and a Lithium battery, which features a very respectable 1-hour charge time.
Getting into more details, although this is not a multi-mode machine, it does feature variable speeds via a trigger which is what we’d expect for a driver in this class. The ¼” hex chuck is well thought out, and features a one-handed bit change design. On the bit-ejection side of things, there is a spring-loaded system to make bit ejection that bit easier.
Looking at ergonomics and feel, this is a light driver, weighing just over two pounds without the battery. An LED work light is included in the just under the chuck, to help you in less illuminated spaces.
Wrapping up, this is a very solid DIY offering, and will be a great fit for most homeowner buyers. Pricing is very reasonable, and you’ll be able to pick up the whole unit with a battery and charger included.
7. Ridgid R86037
⤍ Plenty powerful at 2250in-lbs of torque
⤍ Good speed at 2750RPM
⤍ Slightly heavy driver
⤍ 18V lithium system
⤍ Brushless motor with 3 modes
The R86037 from Ridgid is another powerful little package which will be well suited to high end residential users and light commercial use. Equipped with Ridgid’s 18V lithium ion battery pack, this little powerhouse will pop out some impressive numbers.
With a brushless motor, this machine was never going to be a couch-potato, but with 2250in-lbs of torque on tap and a max speed of 2750 RPM, she’s certainly a powerful one. Speed and power are controlled via three speed modes, allowing you to select an RPM and torque package appropriate for the job in hand.
Ridgid have clearly thought through the usage experience with this machine, as it features a very easy to use chuck. The system allows you to change bits with one hand, like most leading impact drivers, and eject them quickly by pulling back on the collet.
It’s worth noting that during our research we did encounter some owners complaining about long term battery performance and their experiences making claims under the warranty. We weren’t able to substantiate them, but they are out there, and given you’ll find yourself buying into a family of cordless tools, it is worth consideration.
All in all, a respectable impact driver and a good fit for light commercial and demanding DIY uses. With so many incredible drivers out there, we are very spoilt for choice, and despite some great features this machine doesn’t quite manage to compete with the Milwaukee or the Makitas.
8. PORTER-CABLE 20V MAX Impact Driver
⤍ Respectable 2700RPM and 1400in-lbs of torque
⤍ One-handed chuck release
⤍ Small unit size
⤍ Battery and charger included
⤍ Attractive pricepoint
Porter-Cable is another great DIY and light consumer offering, based around their 20V power system. Although not perhaps one of the best-known brands out there, Porter Cable nonetheless have a slid range of power tools based this platform. As we’ve discussed, sometimes it can be helpful to take a look at other tools in the family when making a buying decision.
Digging down into the details, this machine is a great mid-market offering, and certainly attractive for the price. The 20V Brushless motor delivers some 1400in-lbs of torque, with 2700 RPMs available for fast fastening. This is a simple single-mode machine, offering variable speed control via depressing the trigger rather than job-specific modes. As we’ve mentioned though, this will be perfectly adequate in the vast majority of settings, and mode switches really are the icing on the cake!
Porter Cable put a great deal of work into making this machine smaller than its predecessor, and managed a 15% reduction in overall length. That puts this impact driver into the similar sizes and shape range of the leaders in the category and is especially nice to see. Equipped with a quick-change chuck, the only feature this unit is missing is the LED work light we find commonly on other units.
All things considered, this is a solid cordless impact driver in all the ways that matter, and comes equipped with a charger and battery so you can get right to work.
9. Ryobi P235
⤍ 1600in-lbs torqueing power
⤍ 2600RPM speed
⤍ Magnetic organization tray
⤍ Quick release collet
⤍ Accepts some older Ryobi NiCad batteries
Another cordless impact driver aimed squarely at the DIY market segment is the Ryobi P235. Building off their popular ONE range of devices powered by their Lithium ion batteries, Ryobi have added a solid impact driver at a reasonable price point. Also worth noting is the fact this driver will work with older Ni-Cad batteries, which is a nice feature for owners of older Ryobi cordless products.
Getting into it, this is a moderately powerful driver, with 1600in-lbs of torqueing power and 2600RPMs worth of turning speed. That’s a respectable pairing for a machine in this category, and puts it in firm competition with the Craftsman, which is another performer in this category. This driver does use an older style brushed motor, which limits its top end power somewhat and battery efficiency compared to the more modern brushless devices.
Although there isn’t an LED light on this impact driver, there is a clever organization tray to store bits and fasteners on. This tray is fitted with a magnet to prevent things from falling out – and nice little feature. The chuck on this driver is a ¼” hex type, with a one-hand release system for fast and easy bit changes.
Putting it all together, with the P235 you’re looking at a very solid DIY level driver, at a very reasonable price point. It’s a very close competition between this and the Craftsman offering. Both will be great for this type of buyer.
10. Kobalt 24 Volt Impact Driver
⤍ 1800in-lbs and 2700 RPM
⤍ 3 speed options for precise fastening
⤍ Quick release collet
⤍ 24V motor
⤍ Includes battery and charger
Another candidate in the affordable-to-mid range cordless impact wrench category, the Kobalt driver is a compelling option. Not as inexpensive as the BLACK DECKER, this machine incorporates some of the features you’ll find in more expensive drivers at a lower price point.
As always, we’ll start by looking at the basics: it’s ability to get those fastenings in and out. Torque-wise you’ll get 1800in-lbs and 2700 RPMs, which is plenty for a DIY and homeowner type of application. This machine is equipped with 3 speed settings depending on the task you’re working on. That is particularly useful if you anticipate using this for both wood fastenings where you might go faster, and metal bolts where slower speeds are required.
Moving on, this driver has a standard 1/4” hex drive chuck like the others in this review, and a quick release collet for easy bit changes. Not the smallest unit, this device is nonetheless reasonably sized, if a little on the heavy side. Given it’s not targeted at commercial applications, we think that’s probably ok.
In summary, this is a step up from the BLACK DECKER to a slightly more expensive but more powerful tool. If that’s you requirement then we heartily recommend it, and you might also give a little thought to taking the next step up to the DEWALT which is not a great deal pricier.
What factors should I consider when buying a cordless impact driver
Cordless impact drivers are not the most complex of devices. But it is worth giving some thought to how you’ll be using your new purchase. This will allow you to place more or less weight on certain features. We’ll help you go through each in more detail and understand what is worth looking out for.
First and foremost, Cordless impact drivers are designed to secure fastenings faster than you can by hand. As a result, speed is definitely a consideration, but don’t get too hung up on it.
If you work in a commercial application, then speed could indeed be an important part of getting the job done. This is especially true if you’re working your way through a lot of fastenings. If you’re a home DIY user exclusively focused on self-tapping wood screw assemblies, then speed might also be important. Examples of this could be patio or deck construction or something similar. In those situations, you’ll also be working through a lot low-friction fastenings, and speed will be your friend.
It’s worth noting that almost all of the drivers in this review are fast. And in most situations, certainly fast enough to get the job done.
Torqueing power is much discussed and is one of the primary differences between an impact driver and its more powerful cousin, the impact wrench. While power is important, especially so in automotive settings, it’s worth asking yourself if you really need it. If power is a big requirement for lug nut tightening or something similar, perhaps consider purchasing an impact wrench.
Some of these drivers, such as the Milwaukee, are hugely powerful. But they do end up coming out a little more expensive than the mid-range offerings. Give it some thought, and remember that most applications for an impact driver should not require insane torqueing power.
Although not obvious, size is actually quite important when it comes to picking a great impact driver. This is because you’ll often find yourself squeezing your hand into a tight space to reach a nut or fastening.
We strongly recommend you to look for the smallest driver you can find that meets your requirements. Once you start drivin’ you won’t want to stop! There’s nothing more annoying than finding a fastening you can’t reach and having to stop and do it by hand.
Weight will mostly be a factor for commercial buyers, who are either doing a lot of work with their impact driver or moving from site to site. For these types of buyers, a lighter driver will be much better.
For most DIY or home users though, these devices are all a pretty similar weight. As a result, it’s probably not worth losing much sleep over it.
Modes & Control
Device modes can be hugely helpful during repetitive tasks, although can seem a bit confusing at first. The most basic modes which you’ll see on a few machines in this review cover a speed and torqueing setting.
You’ll still be able to control the speed via the trigger, but it just means that when you slam that trigger all the way in you have the comfort of knowing a speed a torqueing limit. That’s important in situations where you can easily strip threads in automotive settings, or destroy fastenings in fabrication settings.
Companies like Makita and Milwaukee have taken this a step further, by adding additional settings to try to help fix these problems. Makita’s Assist mode will help you start slowly for tapping a screw into wood, while their Auto-stop feature will leave the final bit of thread for you to remove by hand. This is a huge help in tight settings where it’s sometimes easy to get over-excited and lose the nut or bolt you’re working on.
Now fairly common on mid to higher end drivers, we do love an LED work light. The best versions are configured in a ring around the collet. On other devices, you’ll find them on the driver handle.
When you’re working in a roof space, or have the power off because it’s a construction site or you find yourself in any other low-light setting, these really do help you locate the fastener.
All the machines in this review feature the one-hand quick-release chuck collet. It’s worth mentioning that this really is a helpful addition.
When you want to make a quick change there’s nothing more annoying than a jammed drill bit. These make your life much, much, easier.
Wider tool family
One final note, regarding cordless equipment generally. Many of these tools share battery systems with other devices from the same manufacturer, so it’s worth taking the time to find the right fit for your requirements. If you’re a pro or high-end consumer, investing in a premium manufacturer like Makita or Milwaukee is definitely worth it in the long run. You can share batteries between the tools, and you’ll have the comfort of knowing you’ll get great reliability.
DEWALT and Bosch are also a great option, with a wide range of tried-and-tested tools that share batteries. Often these are available at very appealing prices. All we would say is give this some quick consideration before you dive in with an unknown brand.
Cordless Impact Driver Buyers Guide Questions
What is the best cordless impact driver?
Like any tool, the best tool will be the one that’s the best suited to your specific needs. In the case of cordless impact drivers, that means what are you fastening, how many fastenings do you have to do, and what is your budget.
When it comes to all-out performance – RPMs, Torque, small size, and great usability, we rate the Makita XDT16Z as our winner. This tool offers exceptional torqueing and speed packed into a small size. What’s more, it offers a great set of features to help you avoid stripping threads and damaging screws, and is quiet as drivers go. The Milwaukee 2853 is also very much worth a mention when it comes to all out performance, as it offers slightly more speed and torque compared to the Makita.
Taking a step down in price, our next best choice would be the DEWALT DCF885C1. This is a powerful, simple, and reliable driver, and offers great value for money. In an all-out trade-off between value and performance, for most buyers, we would say go with the DEWALT. If you’re a heavy commercial user – Makita is a better investment.
What are cordless impact drivers for?
Cordless impact drivers are designed to help you both tighten and loosen various types of fastenings. These could be screws, bolts, nuts, or even Torx and hex bolts. They are also occasionally used for drilling holes but you must use the correct rated drill bits.
They are much faster than something like a ratchet wrench, and if you spend a lot of time working with any of those fixings mentioned above, they are a very worthwhile investment.
What is the difference between an impact driver and a drill?
Although they seem similar on the surface, these two machines are actually quite different when it comes to how they work. A drill press contains a motor and a gearbox which is connected to the drill bit. An impact driver on the other hand containers and spinning hammer that impacts onto the drill head repeatedly as it spins inside the tool.
This circular hammering action generates a lot more torque than a drill and also transfers a lot less feedback to the tool’s handle and operator. If you’ve ever tried screwing a screw-down with a drill, you’ll have noticed that the drill kicks a little at the end, and you can feel the torque as you wind the screw. This is significantly reduced with a cordless impact driver.
Finally, these tools have very different chucks. The drill uses an expandable type of chuck, whereas the impact driver chuck is a fixed size ¼” hex chuck. Some drill bits are available to fit into an impact driver chuck.
What’s better Dewalt or Milwaukee impact driver?
As ever, that’s going to depend on your needs and preference, but we’ll do our best to quickly explain the differences.
Generally, Milwaukee is a more expensive and sophisticated driver. It offers quite a bit more torqueing power and speed, and several modes to help you avoid damaging bolts and screws. In addition, it features 4-speed modes with different torque levels for different materials and types of fixing.
The DEWALT, on the other hand, is a very simple driver, with only one-speed setting and speed controlled via depression of the trigger. The driver offers quite good RPM and torque capacity – not as much as the Milwaukee or Makita – but respectable for almost any task.
The DEWALT is, however, a little bit cheaper than either the Milwaukee or the Makita, so that is a consideration. If you’re a demanding buyer – I’d go with the Milwaukee, whereas if you’re a DIYer or light commercial user then the DEWALT is absolutely fine too.