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Best impact driver: Five cordless drivers that will make a lasting impact on your DIY setup

Derek Adams
29 Mar 2021
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We've tested these impact drivers for efficiency, speed, ease of use, accuracy and all the other features worth knowing about

When it comes to driving screws, there are some tasks that even the best cordless drill driver will struggle with, such as installing decking, roofing timbers and ceilings, constructing a shed – or indeed any job that involves harder woods and the need for longer than normal screws. In these instances, there's only one tool powerful and quick enough for the job: a cordless impact driver.

There’s a wide variety of impact driver brands to choose from, so to make things easier we’ve called in a clutch of top-rated models and put them through their paces.

Granted, impact drivers aren’t a necessity if all you do is assemble Ikea furniture or drive small screws into window frames to hang up ornaments. But when it comes to tackling bigger jobs on a regular basis, the impact driver rules the roost.


Best impact driver: At a glance


How to choose the best impact driver for you

What’s the difference between a drill driver and an impact driver?

A drill driver is a combination of an electric screwdriver and a drill. It’s the perfect tool for light DIY duties such as building flat-pack furniture, repairing sheds, assembling barbecues and, in most cases, drilling into walls. However, drill drivers will struggle with some hardwoods and they require a lot of forearm and wrist pressure to drive in the screw. This commonly ends up stripping the head of the screw.

Most decent drill drivers are equipped with two gears for smooth, controllable drilling and screwing, and, perhaps more importantly, an adjustable torque clutch that stops the driver’s rotation the moment it senses resistance. This helps save you from driving screws too deep into the wood or, in the case of nuts and bolts, stripping the threads.

By comparison, an impact driver is the tool to reach for if you’re doing some serious woodcraft that involves driving longer screws into all types of wood. These little titans look very similar to drill drivers, only their bodies are usually smaller, making them well-suited to working in confined spaces.

A good impact driver will drive an 8in monster screw into wood without kicking up a fuss. It does this by complementing its screwing action with an up, down and sideways hammering motion that's both fast and very noisy. The upside is that screws are driven in at record speed and with minimal effort and far less stress on the wrist and forearm. This, in turn, means far fewer instances of screw heads being stripped.

The downside is that impact drivers don’t come with an adjustable torque clutch like most drill drivers, so there’s every chance you could – and probably will – drive the screw too deep into the wood, especially if it’s a small screw. As a consequence, some manufacturers have now started fitting their impact drivers with two and three-speed switches that allow you to drive the screw in at a more leisurely pace and be able to stop it before it buries itself too deep. Despite being equipped with a variable speed trigger, an impact driver’s gearing system is less subtle than that of a drill driver, so having a slower speed also lets you align the screw more accurately, which will prevent it from veering off at an angle.

Finally, where drill drivers are equipped with a chuck system – a clawed device on the end of the drill that opens and closes to accept different sized circular drill bits – impact drivers have a spring-action sleeve that only accepts screw bits with 1/4in hex shanks. This means you can’t use an impact driver for drilling holes.

Should I get a brushless model?

Many of the best power tools are now equipped with brushless motors. Without getting too technical, a brushless motor not only allows for a more compact body, but also provides longer run times, almost infinite motor life and more power. Brushless motor-driven tools cost more than their brushed counterparts but are definitely worth it.

Why doesn’t an impact driver come with a battery?

You’ll notice that when you search for a power tool, or even a lawnmower, it’s advertised as being sold without a battery or charger. That’s because most manufacturers have developed their own swappable battery systems to fit their entire range of tools. They, therefore, assume the user already has one of its power tools to hot-swap the battery with. Of course, this locks the user into a specific brand, which is precisely what the manufacturer wants.

So, if you already own a Makita power tool and you’re in the market for a different tool from the same brand, there's no need to order a separate battery and charger. But, if you don’t already own a Makita product, you’ll need to pay a higher price for the power tool, a battery and a charger. With the exception of the DeWalt, all of the products featured here are sold naked without a battery and charger.

Now you know your onions, it’s time to dip into our mini-roundup of the best impact drivers on the market.

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The best impact drivers you can buy

1. Gtech 20V Impact Driver: The best value impact driver

Price: £130 (with battery & charger) | Buy now from Gtech


Gtech specialises in cordless products from electric bicycles and vacuum cleaners to lawn mowers and garden tools. The company only recently branched out into DIY power tool design and manufacturer, and this small, compact and rather snazzy looking impact driver is one of the very first products out of the blocks.

The Gtech 20V retails at a shade under £130 and comes with a 20V battery, a charger and a variety pack of 12 quality bit heads that fit most screw types, including Phillips, Posidriv, Torx, Slotted and Hex. Great value, in other words.

At just 1.12kg, this little impact driver is one of the lightest and smallest here, which makes it a perfect choice for any DIY task, even those in confined spaces. We tested it against a piece of pine and a very well seasoned hardwood log and its 180Nm of torque provided more than enough power to drive the four-inch screws all the way. Granted, the hardwood proved to be a bit trickier but only because it stripped the head of the first screw. Hint: make sure you use your own quality screws and never the cheap ones that come with self-build products you’ve bought. Also be sure to put a lot of extra hand pressure on the butt of the tool to help prevent the head from stripping.

This model is also equipped with a really smooth and sensitive variable speed trigger that starts the brushed motor very slowly for screw alignment before it gradually increases in speed as you apply more finger pressure. However, be aware that the last centimetre of trigger travel suddenly ramps up the motor to full power. A bright angled LED lamp on the base completes an amazingly tidy and very keenly priced tool that will almost certainly make light work of any DIY task. Highly recommended.

Key specs – Weight as tested: 1.12kg; Motor: Brushed; Voltage: 20V; Max Torque: 180Nm; Power modes: Variable speed trigger

Buy now from GTech


2. DeWalt DCF887D2 Kit: The best brushless impact driver to buy

Price: £299 (with battery & charger) | Buy now from Amazon


DeWalt is a hugely popular brand on building sites, where you can’t miss its vivid yellow and black branding. Most power tools are supplied without a battery and charger, but this test model arrived in a sturdy plastic box replete with two small 2.0mAh 18V lithium-ion batteries and a charger (the impact driver is also available without a battery and charger for around £80).

Despite their diminutive size, these dinky batteries deliver oodles of power and seem to run forever – certainly long enough for several hours of hard grafting. It’s no surprise that they also help keep the weight to a minimum (at just 1.31kg, this model is the second lightest here) and provide better balance. Whichever way you use it – vertically or horizontally – this driver sits perfectly level, making the task of driving screws utterly effortless. Its slim and ergonomic rubberised grip is extraordinarily comfortable too.

The DeWalt’s high-power, brushless motor outputs a mighty maximum torque of 205Nm, which makes it suitable for almost all heavy-duty applications. Other convenient features include a variable speed trigger, a three-speed switch for different length screws (which is a boon for novices unfamiliar with the power of these things), three bright LEDs for illuminating the job, a handy magnetic holder for two spare bits and a trouser clip.

The DeWalt’s bit sleeve is easy to use. Simply push in the bit and it snatches it automatically but be careful when ejecting it because it springs out and the bit could end up dropping somewhere out of reach, like between the slats of the newly-laid decking you just spent hours installing.

If you’re after a lightweight impact driver that truly excels at driving long screws through difficult materials – we tested it using a lump of maple and a fine-headed screw and it performed admirably – make this model your first port of call.

Key specs – Weight as tested: 1.31kg; Motor: Brushless; Voltage: 18V; Max Torque: 205Nm; Power modes: 3

3. Ryobi One+ R18IDBL: The best high-torque impact driver

Price: £107 (without battery & charger) | Buy now from Ryobi


The Ryobi’s frictionless, brushless motor delivers a whopping torque of 270Nm (more powerful than anything else in this roundup), but that extra power does equate to more weight. In fact, even with a slim 2.5mAh 18V battery attached, it weighed in at 1.54kg, which is 230g more than the DeWalt. Perhaps bear this in mind if your work entails having your arm outstretched for lengthy periods. On the plus side, Ryobi’s batteries come with smart management electronics that are said to deliver a 20% longer runtime than other models.

The Ryobi has a fairly chunky grip, so it’s perhaps better suited to users with bigger hands. That said, it's extremely comfortable, and the balance is excellent when used horizontally. Features-wise, it comes with a variable speed trigger, three handy power levels, a specialised DeckDrive mode that’s been optimised for decking work, three bright LEDs to work by and an easy-to-use spring-loaded bit sleeve that, it must be said, spits out the bit a little too enthusiastically.

Granted, the Ryobi’s flash livery does make it look a bit like a toy but show it a piece of decking and it’ll laugh in its face as it drives the screw deep with zero fuss and hardly any pressure or kickback on the wrist. This model arrived without a battery and charger so don’t forget to order those separately if you don’t already own an 18V Ryobi product to hot-swap the battery with. This is a top buy if outright power is your main concern.

Key specs – Weight as tested: 1.54kg; Motor: Brushless; Voltage: 18V; Max Torque: 270Nm; Power modes: 4

Buy now from Ryobi


4. Makita LXT DTD152Z: The best budget impact driver

Price: £54 (without battery & charger) | Buy now from Amazon


This model comes with a cheaper brushed motor that delivers a perfectly adequate 165Nm of torque, which is more than enough oomph to drive most lengths of screw. In our test, we didn’t notice any issues when using it to drive a 4in screw into a block of pine, but it did take a bit longer to complete the task when we switched to maple. Its variable speed trigger isn’t quite as sophisticated or as smooth as others in this roundup and, perhaps more importantly, it doesn’t provide an option for different power modes. It does come with very bright twin LED headlights, though.

Despite the much larger size of the long-lasting 4.0mAh 18V battery (available separately), this model weighed in at 1.57kg. The driver’s rubberised grip is comfy enough, although the extra weight of the battery does make it feel a little bottom-heavy when used horizontally. Thankfully, Makita produces a range of batteries in different sizes, so if you want to reduce the weight and improve balance, consider a lighter – though shorter running – 2.0Ah 18V battery when placing your order.

When you buy a Makita, you’re buying into one of the most popular brands among professionals and endorsements don’t come much better than that. True, it doesn’t feature a brushless motor and doesn’t have as much power as the DeWalt, Ryobi or Milwaukee but, according to the surfeit of user reviews, there aren’t many owners out there that regret their purchase. This is a great value impact driver for pretty much any DIY task you have in mind. It’s likely to be very reliable too.

Key specs – Weight as tested: 1.57kg; Motor: Brushed; Voltage: 18V; Max Torque: 165Nm; Power modes: None

5. Bosch EasyImpactDrive 12: The best compact impact driver

Price: £74 (without battery & charger) | Buy now from Amazon


This compact Bosch model is from the German behemoth’s DIY range (hence the green body) so it’s not as powerful as its blue-liveried professional stablemates. No, we’re not sure why some manufacturers prefer to divide their power tools into two different retail categories (DIY and Professional), but it’s true to say that this model costs quite a bit less than the company’s cheapest pro alternative.

With its optional, mini clip-in 12V battery installed, this compact impact driver weighs just 1kg (the lightest on test) so definitely consider it if weight is a prime concern. It’s also the only driver here that’ll fit in a drawer but, conversely, it isn’t the best balanced and you can’t stand it upright on its battery while in the middle of a job.

This Bosch is the least powerful product here but, despite its brushed motor producing just 100Nm of torque, it proved to be surprisingly sparky when we tested it on a block of pine, driving in a 4in screw with no problem whatsoever. The addition of a two-speed power switch is a bonus.

In the pantheon of lightweight, easy-to-store DIY power tools, this little green machine cuts a great deal of mustard.

Key specs – Weight as tested: 1kg; Motor: Brushed; Voltage: 12V; Max Torque: 100Nm; Power modes: 2

6. Milwaukee M18FID-0: The best impact driver for features

Price: £140 (without battery & charger) | Buy now from Amazon


This 18V powerhouse doesn’t come with a battery or charger, so expect to pay more – unless, of course, you’re already a Milwaukee user and have a similar 18V battery knocking about.

This compact driver’s brushless Powerstate motor boasts a maximum torque range of 203Nm, which is ample for pretty much any heavy-duty task you throw its way. As one startled user so accurately points out, “this driver just tears in and I’ve yet to find a screw it can’t drive”. Expect a combined weight of around 1.7kg if used with an all-day 18V battery.

Aside from the obligatory variable speed trigger, many impact drivers now come equipped with a variety of speed modes. This one features four modes of operation, each producing a different speed and torque range (mode four is an especially clever setting that automatically adjusts the bit speed if it detects a high level of resistance). As with all good modern power tools, the M18FID comes with a front-mounted LED and a handy power gauge that lets you know when it’s time to recharge or change the battery.

If you’re a very serious DIY enthusiast – or even a pro – and have this much to spend on an impact driver that delivers in spades and is tough as old boots, pop this one at the top of your list.

Key specs – Weight as tested: 1.7kg; Motor: Brushless; Voltage: 18V; Max Torque: 203Nm; Power modes: 4

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