Impact Driver Vs Drill: Which Is Better? | DIY Experience

Impact Driver Vs Drill: Which Is Better?

impact driver vs drill drill-impact-drill-cordless-battery-

Craftsmen, construction professionals and DIY enthusiasts alike have a plethora of fantastic, innovative tools available to them today. 

Regardless of the nature of the mission, whether it’s a heavy-duty job or passion project, there is no shortage of specialized instruments to help them accomplish the task in hand.

For the most part, each tool is designed to a job that no other tool can do better. However, there are two tools that compete for the attention of workers on all jobs.

There is much to be said for both, which bring makes the topic of impact driver vs drill an interesting debate among construction aficionados.

These two tools are essentially the same thing. They look alike, and they perform a very similar function:

They drive screws into different types of material, such as wood, metal and conduit.

But which one does it best?

The Early Beginnings Of Impact Driver Vs Drill


Image via Pixabay

For quite some time, the cordless drill has been the weapon of choice for many working professionals in the construction industry, as well as people doing smaller home improvement work in their own houses.

It is arguably the most popular power tool in history, due to its lightweight, portable nature, and time-saving abilities on almost any DIY project.

However, its status as the king of power tools has been under threat for a while now.

The impact driver is no mere pretender to the throne. Since its arrival, industry leaders and respected tool distributors have recognized the capabilities of this modern version of the beloved drill.

Over time, it has established itself as a worthy contender.

This competition of impact driver vs drill has now brought the conversation to the fore:

Which is better? If you’re only going to buy one, which one should it be?

In this article, we’ll look at the differences between the impact driver and the drill, weighing the pros and cons up of each and determining the best uses for both tools.

In the end, we’ll discover if we truly need both, or if there is one outright winner worth having in your toolbox.

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  • FITS INTO TIGHT AREAS: A 5.55-in front to back, compact and lightweight (2.8 lbs) design allows the impact driver to fit...
  • ENHANCED VISIBILITY: Onboard lights have a 20-second delay after trigger release and provide visibility without shadows
  • ONE-HANDED LOADING: 1/4-in hex chuck accepts 1-in bit tips

General Overview: Impact Driver Vs Drill

In the most general sense, a drill has a chuck at the front of the unit. During operation, this will spin. Modern chucks are keyless, which means you don’t need a hex key to change bits. Instead, you can grab hold of it and twist it – left to loosen, right to tighten.

By inserting the chuck into another shape, such as a circular drill bit, it can take hold and spin, drilling the bit into a material, or removing it if desired.

Most drills available today come equipped with many additional features including variable speeds and torque.

The impact driver operates in a way similar to the drill. It will also spin any bits that it is attached to. The key difference is that a drill will reach a point where it can’t drill any further.

Even if it is harnessing all the power and torque it has available, the bolt or screw won’t budge. This is where the impact driver comes in useful.

Some people who don’t have an impact driver available may opt for a ratchet in this scenario. However, they may not be able to leverage the bolt with it either.

With some improvisation, and the dull weight of a hammer, it’s possible to create some torque, although it may take more effort and struggle than you wish for.

An impact driver can provide that torque. Not only that, it can do it at an impressive rate, typically thousands of times in a single minute.

This is made possible by an inner mechanism that responds to the resistance of the bolt by applying a rapid, repetitive force against the chuck. This effectively uses brute force to unlock the bolt from its current position, allowing you to remove it or tighten it further.

From the outset, this may make it obvious which is better in the match-up of impact driver vs drill.

But before deciding, let’s get a deeper insight on both tools.

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Deeper Look At The Drill


Image via Pixabay

The cordless drill has stood the test of time; often, being the centrepiece of toolkits for many people around the globe over the past few decades.

From part-time craftsmen to construction pros, it has been the trusted sidekick that is always there, ready to get the job done.

Proud dads and keen children have conquered many home projects together with a drill providing enjoyable moments amid the hard work at hand.

Armed with a slip clutch, users can adjust the torque or speed, which is useful if you are tackling tougher materials.

Generally speaking, a slower speed is better for more durable materials such as metal. On the other hand, plywood is easily drilled at higher speeds.

The standard drill will deliver a constant power of about 550 in/lbs. at around 1,500 rotations per minute (RPM).

Inside, its gears are permanently engaged, enabling high-speed hole drilling or the driving of simple fasteners.

If you need to use the drill for larger, faster applications, you will need to brace it. This is often performed with an additional side-handle, which can be fitted to add support during operation.

This will allow users to use their drill for heavy-duty tasks and keep it under control. However, the caveat is that it can often cause user fatigue, with pains and aches in the arm resulting from prolonged use.


  • Well-suited to tasks that need precision
  • Equipped with slip clutch which allows torque to be adjusted
  • Deliver constant torque
  • Compatible with a vast array of different drill bits and screw-driver bits
  • Can be used with rotary sanders and wire-wheel brushes
  • Reasonably priced


  • Susceptible to stalling, especially with longer fasteners
  • Can accidentally strip screws
  • Sometimes bits in the chuck come loose
  • User fatigue is an issue with prolonged use or heavy-duty tasks
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  • High speed transmission delivers 2 speeds (0-450 & 1,500 rpm) for a range of fastening and drilling applications

Deeper Look At The Impact Driver


Image via Pixabay

The impact driver is a game changer. They uses the same principle of rotational motion that is present in power drills. However, the possess a powerful drive action, which hammers in multiple directions – downwards and sideways.

It is this hammer drive that allows users to conquer tasks on tough, resistant materials, and overcome situations where bolts or screws are stubbornly jammed.

Whereas a drill runs the risk of stripping screwheads, using an impact driver comes with no such qualms. The drive bit of the impact driver is hammered at a frenetic rate, rather than being drilled relentlessly, so you don’t need to worry about the drive bit slipping from the head of the screw or bolt. 

When you use an impact driver, you will be able to hear this hammer action, which sounds like a loud clicking noise.

A key advantage that the impact driver has over the drill is that it is easy to perform heavy-duty tasks with. If you are using a drill to go through tougher materials, you will have to use a lot of your own strength to keep the pressure on. An impact driver eliminates this need, leaving you with the relatively simple task of guiding the screw.

If you need to remove bolts or screws, simply reverse the spin direction and you can take them back out incredibly fast, even if they are over-torqued.

While it has many plusses, there are some shortcomings with the impact driver.

If you’re doing a precise job, such as screwing bits into a decorated wall or fine wood, you don’t want an intense hammer action. This could damage the furniture.

A further drawback is that impact drivers don’t have gears. While drills can be adjusted depending on the task, impact drivers lack this feature. This means you need to be a little more precise with your trigger finger.

Similarly, there is no clutch, so you need to take care not to blast bits too deep into materials. Impact drivers deliver raw power, but the onus is on you to control it.


  • Has a lot of torque to deal with dense materials
  • Easy to drive long screws with
  • Less chance of stripping screwheads
  • Makes it easier on the user’s wrists and arms
  • Has a compact body, which is good for working in small, tight spaces


  • It is very loud
  • It’s more expensive
  • Limited to hex-shank bits
  • Overkill for jobs that require delicate touch
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A Key Difference is the Relationship between Speed and Torque


Image via Pixabay

From the outset, it appears that both the impact driver and the cordless drill change gears in the same way. Traditionally, you would find a mechanical switch, located on the top of the unit.

Modern versions, however, have slightly varied design. Drills usually have the switch on the top, but impact drivers have electronic mode switches positioned just above the battery.

Whenever the user switches modes on a drill, it delivers the full potential of its torque in low speed. In high speed, the torque will drop as the rotation speed (RPM) accelerates to the maximum required.

The impact driver operates in a different way. As you increase speed, the RPM and torque will increase. This makes the driver more powerful as you increase the speed.

While you have access to the full power of a drill in low speed or high speed, it will reduce rotation speed to deliver more torque. Conversely, it reduces torque if you need more speed.

An impact driver will give you more power whenever you increase the speed. You can have both without sacrificing one for the other.

When to Use What

impact driver vs drill image icon

Image via Flaticon

In summary, drills are best for working with masonry, such as drywall or concrete backer board.

They offer a degree of precision and care that allows the user to feel more comfortable working with delicate materials that must not be damaged during construction.

When it comes to be a little craftier, there is only one winner with impact driver vs drill. The drill is practical and functional, albeit with some limitations.

In heavy-duty tasks, or when bits become somewhat stubborn, you will need to call in the big gun. The impact driver is designed to drive larger screws into studs and cast-iron.

If you are going to be working with longer screws, using an impact driver will save you a considerable amount of time.

Also, as impact drivers have a compact housing, unlike bulky drills, they are a much better choice to work in tight areas like crawlspaces or narrow roof spaces.

The rotational force and high torque take a lot of the pressure of your wrist, reducing fatigue. This is much better than the drill, which transfers a lot of the energy into the user’s arm.

Does It Have To Be Impact Driver Vs Drill?

Believe it or not, but these tools don’t have to be in direct competition. Rather than prospective buyers thinking it must be impact driver vs drill, there is a case to be made for impact driver and drill.

Having both options in your toolbox allows you the choice, and they can complement each other very well.

For a lot of people, this simply may not be an option.

If you are only going to have use for one on infrequent occasions, such as basic DIY work at home, then it may not make sense to purchase both.

But, for more serious DIY and people working full-time in construction, such as woodworkers, then spending the extra money to buy both is a worthy investment.

This will allow you to alternate between a drill and driver when needed, without having to stop and change bits every time.

The Bottom Line on Impact Driver vs Drill

Both units have advantages over the other, and while they look pretty much the same, they are very different in several respects.

Stick to the drill for work with more fragile materials. For bigger projects with lots of longer screws or tough materials, save your time and energy with an impact driver.

Featured Image via Pixabay

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