Best Impact Drill: Our 2017 Consumer Guide
Last Updated October 2017
An impact drill can also be known as an impact driver. Whatever you call it, this is a power tool that has a lot of uses and that will be a great addition to many a handyman’s collection. In this post, we’ll be looking at exactly what is the best impact drill, how it works and how to go about choosing the best impact drill. There are a lot of factors to consider when you buy your impact drill, which include the price of course but also the convenience, the power you’re getting and the versatility.
Should you spend more and get a more powerful device? Or can you make do with something a little lower powered that will nevertheless do enough for your specific requirements? Read on and we’ll take a closer look at the different types of drill on the market and which one is the best impact drill.
To start with, let’s go over some of the basic differences you have to choose from when picking the best impact drill for you. We’ll look at how different tools vary and at what you should prioritize when making this choice.
Once we’ve looked at these very basics, we’ll then go on to look at our best impact drill models and why you should consider them. Finally, we’ll look at the specifications in a little more depth and detail so that you can better understand what you’re getting and how to use the drill.
So for the basic differences, you basically need to know what the main use for your impact drill will be. Yet more names for this particular tool include roto hammers and rotary hammers. In case you hadn’t already guessed (and didn’t already know), these tools serve double duty by letting you both screw and unscrew screws (the roto or ‘drill’ part) and also drill into the wall with powerful impact. The larger and more powerful ‘hammer drivers’ can double as hammers too, as can some of the bigger impact drivers – allowing you to hammer in nails (the impact, or nail part). They can also be used to hammer small holes or drill into the wall in some cases and generally have a variety of different functions depending on who’s using them and where.
So you need to consider whether you are most likely to be drilling into the ground, into a wall or into a plank of wood or metal that is part of a piece of furniture. This will partly define the amount of power that you need and thus the type of money you’re likely to have to spend.
You might also want to consider which type of job you’re going to be doing most often. Is this primarily an Electric screwdriver with the drill function being a great added bonus? Or are you going to be looking for something to do a lot of hammering with and the occasion bit of screwing? (In which case, you need a hammer drill and not an impact driver). You may also want to consider using a nailer. This will ultimately help you decide which features are the most necessary for your job.
You also need to ask yourself whether the device should be portable. Do you want something corded or uncorded? Are you likely to be near a power outlet, or do you need a battery? And how long should that battery ideally last?
There are a lot of features that can make an impact driver more or less useful depending on how you’ve answered these questions. If you’re doing a lot of driving into softer surfaces for example, you might look for more control over the speed and force so that you can more gently drive the screw home to get it just flush with the surface of the material you’re drilling into.
For more on the different options and specifications, read the section toward the bottom on specifications. Otherwise, read the description for each of our top picks below and see which option sounds best for your requirements…
Our Top Impact Drill picks of 2017
There are countless impact drivers out there, many of which will do a good job. There’s no right and wrong answer when comparing these; it’s just a matter of finding the tool that is the best fit for your specific requirements.
But with that said, a minimum requirement for everyone should be that the device is going to be well made and good value for money when compared to similar models. We’ve chosen the following drill drivers because each of them represent those things. These are all solidly built products that anyone can benefit from in their homes. What’s more, they all offer great features and specifications for the price that you’re going to be paying for them.
This drill driver comes with variable speeds, allowing you to more carefully drive screws home to just the right level. The maximum RPM is 2,300 and the device itself is very small and light at 3.3lbs. As a cordless unit, you won’t near to be near to a power outlet in order to use it, while the kit that it comes with will provide multiple bits and more.
Overall then, this is a small and convenient powertool that nevertheless offers a higher-than-average amount of control and settings! It’s small and light but still 18v, meaning you can get some good performance out of it when necessary. In terms of max torque, this is capable of delivering up to 1,420lbs per inch.
It’s also reasonably priced and has fantastic reviews – so all in all it’s a very tough proposition to beat! And because it’s cordless, you’ll be able to use it anywhere with no need to be near a power outlet.
In nearly every category, DEWALT are constantly at the front of the pack thanks to their excellent combination of power and value. This model is a little cheaper than the Makita XDT042 but it’s nevertheless still capable of delivering a lot of horse power. With 2,400 RPM and 1,740 in-lbs of torque, it’s actually an even better performer. It also has a lot of thoughtful features such as an anti-slip handle and frameless motor.
Something negative we can say about this model though, is that it doesn’t come with a battery. This means you’ll have to buy a battery separately, which will increase the cost of the unit overall. It’s 18 volts and 2.45lbs – so it’s an excellent choice if you can get around that one slight irritation.
Another light, cordless hammer driver from Makita.
This is not a true hammer driver and won’t be suitable for hammering home nails. That said though, it should have the right stuff for drilling holes and is perhaps better designed for that application than the previous entries on this last. So, it’s an impact driver like the other items on this list but with a little more emphasis on the drilling and at only 4lbs, it’s incredibly light for carrying around. It’s a little heavier than the last Makita and actually delivers less power at 480 in-lbs and 1,500RPM. It has a wide selection of drill speeds though and is very ergonomic and if you’re more interested in drilling, this will be perhaps the more appealing proposition – despite its lower numbers.
Both are great drills though and both are very well made by a very good brand!
Bosch DDB181-02 18-Volt Lithium-Ion 1/2-Inch Compact Tough Drill/Driver Kit with 2 Batteries, Charger and Contractor Bag
This is a great package that includes the device, two batteries, a contractor bag and a charger. On top of that, you also get a great drill driver in itself. This model comes with 350lbs of torque for powerful fastening and 1300 for when you want to drill quickly. This is a less powerful drill and driver than other options on this list but what you get in exchange is the Bosch brand (which is very reliable) a quite low price point and more importantly: 2 speed transmission. That latter factor means you can enjoy better control and power at slower speeds for drilling into more brittle surfaces. It also has an LED light included which is ideal for illuminating darker spots when you’re at work! Great for reaching into dark cupboards and other spaces when you’re doing your drilling!
Bosch PS31-2A 12-Volt Max Lithium-Ion 3/8-Inch 2-Speed Drill/Driver Kit with 2 Batteries, Charger and Case
This is a very compact and – dare we say – cute little drill driver which comes with two batteries, a charger and case. It also provides a fuel gauge, which is very handy for keeping an eye on how long you have until you need to power up again and has two different speeds for fast or controlled work respectively. An LED light helps you to see into dark spots while it also boasts a newly designed sleeve chuck that is intended to support up to 90% of applications.
All these things combined essentially mean that you have a great proposition at a very affordable price! From a name like Bosch as well, that’s a particularly appealing proposition!
Hitachi DS18DSAL 18-Volt 1/2-Inch Lithium-Ion Cordless Drill/Driver (Includes 2 Batteries + Flashlight)
This Hitachi drill driver can offer 460 in-lbs of torque and has a handy LED light. It’s small and convenient and again very well priced.
So far, it’s very similar to the other options on this list then. But what really sets this one apart in particular, is its amazing number of settings. This has a 22+1 clutch to provide an amazing 22 drive settings. Add in the drill mode and you have a hugely versatile device capable of handling a wide range of situations. It’s a shame the top speed isn’t a little higher or this might be our favorite pick of all. As it is, it’s an excellent choice for those people who find themselves doing a lot of precision work and who don’t really need the very most powerful device.
This is the most affordable item on this list but you’re still getting a lot of power and a lot of extras for that money. It might not be the very most powerful but in terms of value, it’s probably our top choice.
This comes with 2 batteries, a carry case and quick charger for getting your device up and running that much faster. The speed is 2,700 and BPM is 3,200 for both good driving speed and quick drilling. The tool has a lifetime warranty too, which is a very nice addition. And it’s actually quite a bit more powerful than many of the other options on this list at 955 in-lbs!
All this makes for a very well rounded product that even professional handymen give a lot of praise in the reviews section.
As you can see then, your choice of impact driver doesn’t need to be expensive! You can save money and still get a very reliable, versatile and powerful tool. Any of these will be a great place to start.
Or if you’re wondering just what BPM and in-lbs means… read on and we’ll go into those things in a little more detail!
We’ve seen the best drill drivers out there but what do all the numbers and features mean? Here is a breakdown of the different specifications and differences between various impact hammers, so that you can better understand just what you’re buying and what you should prioritize.
One of the most important considerations of all when looking at any kind of drill is the torque. The torque is the power with which the drill twists and the more torque you have, the more adept your tool will be at removing large, heavy or rusted screws. What’s more, is that it will be able to drive into harder materials including some metals and it will hopefully make quicker work of most jobs.
And the great thing about impact hammers is that they have enormous torque compared with standard electric screwdrivers. With a small bit attached an impact driver can then become a drill if it has enough power, hence the term ‘impact drill’.
Torque is normally measured in Nm (Newton meters), with the higher number meaning more torque. That said, you’ll often find it in inch-lbs online, which means it can deliver N lbs of force across D amount of inches.
Look too for devices with multiple gears. If you have a drill driver with two gears, then you can use higher gears at slower speeds, which means you’ll have better performance and more control – ideal for drilling delicate materials like glass.
The amount of torque you get from your impact drill will largely be related to the amount of power it consumes. Often you’ll be choosing between a 12 and 18 volt model and this is where you make the trade-off between size and power. Do you want something smaller at 12 volts or something much more powerful at 18-volt. The size difference isn’t huge, so if you can afford it it’s often worth stepping up to 18v.
When you buy a drill driver ‘kit’ rather than just the driver itself, you’ll get a lot of extras with the main tool. That will probably include a few bits or potentially more than one tool. Particularly useful are the hex shaft accessories which include the bits for the drills and drivers and the socket adaptors.
Hammer Driver vs Drill Driver
While the terms are often used interchangeably, there is a difference between a hammer drill and an impact drill. The internals are designed differently so that only really the former is suitable for hammering nails home or breaking up stone etc. That said, you can sometimes get away with a little hammering using a drill and again this will come down to what you want to do more of.
This handy guide to terminology will ensure you’re up to scratch with your drill driver jargon.
This is nothing to do with your heart rate! BPM is ‘blows per minute’, telling you how many blows the drill delivers each minute.
This is the percussive force of the drill. Higher settings = faster drilling and the very highest power (in joules) will allow the device to become a hammer drill.
This tells you how many individual clutch settings a drill has. The best models go all the way up to 24 settings!
The chuck holds the drill bit and other accessories. Keyless chucks have jaws that can be tightened together around the bit, meaning you don’t need to use a key for manually loosening.
Revolutions per minute. This tells you how quickly the drill rotates which will normally be roughly equivalent to the amount of torque – but not always.