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Top 4 Best Impact Drivers of 2018

Best cordless impact driver reviews 2018

Best-in-class
DEWALT DCF887D2

DEWALT DCF887D2 3-Speed Impact Driver Kit

Best for professionals

Three-speed settings allow you to optimize the tool’s performance for every application.

#1: DEWALT DCF887D2 Review

The DEWALT DCF887D2 is the best impact driver for high-volume, heavy-duty applications, meeting the demands of most pros.

Powered by a 20-volt MAX XR battery, the unit boasts an extended runtime and power capacity.

This translates into a powerful maximum torque of 1,825 in-lbs. (206,19 Nm) and a maximum speed of 3,250 revolutions per minute. Three-speed options give you the possibility to optimize the tool’s performance to meet all project demands.

Lightweight and easy to maneuver, this cordless impact driver fits easily in tight spaces, while the built-in LED lights make it possible to work in poorly illuminated environments.

Powerful and versatile enough to handle all job site applications, the DEWALT DCF887D2 is an ideal choice for those looking after the maximum performance.

Best value
Makita XDT131

Makita XDT131 Brushless Cordless Impact Driver Kit

Ideal for most users

An efficient power management ensures a longer-than-average runtime and ultra-fast recharge.

#2: Makita XDT131 Review

The Makita XDT131 is one of the most popular impact drivers, appealing to both professionals and homeowners.

It comes with an attractive price and has the capability to handle heavy-duty applications with ease.

This machine has a variable speed feature which allows you to set the desired speed from 0 to 3,400 RPM, while the maximum torque of 1,500 in-lbs. (169.47 Nm) delivers sufficient power for driving or fastening in hard materials.

Like our best-in-class pick, this cordless impact driver comes with a brushless motor but a weaker battery. Nevertheless, the 18-volt LXT lithium-ion battery recharges in only half an hour and incorporates an efficient power management system designed to increase productivity.

Efficient and easy to maneuver even in tight spaces, the Makita XDT131 brings the best value for the money.

Also great
DEWALT DCF787C1

DEWALT DCF787C1 Cordless Impact Driver Kit

Best for the amateurs

Powerful and perfectly balanced tool, easy to control even by the less experienced users.

#3: DEWALT DCF787C1 Review

Capable of withstanding heavier duty applications but more suitable for a DIYer, the DEWALT DCF787C1 is slightly slower than our best value pick, reaching a maximum speed of only 2,800 RPM.

Despite the lower speed, this tool is still powerful and outputs a torque similar to our best-value, which makes it suitable for driving or fastening in harder materials.

Designed to fit in the tight spaces, this cordless impact driver is compact and lightweight, and it is powered by a reliable 20-volt MAX lithium-ion battery.

Like the best-value and best-in-class picks, this impact driver also comes with a durable brushless motor.

Ergonomic, reliable, and powerful enough to withstand most tasks, the DEWALT DCF787C1 is a great alternative if you’re looking for a better price point and don’t mind a lower maximum speed.

Best budget
BLACK+DECKER BDCI20C

BLACK+DECKER BDCI20C Impact Driver

A budget-friendly alternative

High-performance transmission, variable speed, and low-budget price makes this tool ideal for homeowners.

#4: BLACK+DECKER BDCI20C Review

The BLACK+DECKER BDCI20C is a great impact driver for the amateur shopping on a budget but looking for reliable quality.

Powered by a 20-volt MAX lithium-ion battery with a nominal power of 18 volts, this impact driver withstands heavier duty tasks, although it’s not designed for driving or fastening into hard materials.

Nevertheless, this unit has a decent torque of 1375 in-lbs. (155.35 Nm) and reaches a maximum speed of 3,000 RPM.

The impact driver is also lightweight and compact, perfect to use in tighter spaces and easy to maneuver. Cheap, powerful and reliable, the BLACK+DECKER BDCI20C is a great tool to add to your DIY arsenal.

1. Drill/driver vs. impact driver vs. impact wrench

The differences between most workshop tools are clear for a contractor, but an inexperienced beginner or homeowner could wonder which is the difference between a cordless drill/driver (or corded), impact driver, and impact wrench.

All three can serve the same purpose, which is driving or fastening screws and nails into various materials. But despite this similarity, there are important differences between them.

  • Cordless drills/drivers: Are designed majorly for drilling, although most models are compatible with driver bits and have a reverse mode which allows using them instead of a screwdriver. These machines typically replace the less powerful electric screwdrivers but are not powerful enough to drive large fasteners into thicker and denser materials such as drywall or plywood. Another important difference is the chuck. Cordless drills accept bits with both round and hex shanks, whereas impact drivers are only compatible with hex bits.
  • Impact drivers: Were created specifically for driving all types of fasteners into harder materials and are capable of producing a higher torque than the cordless or corded drills. Their driving power is comparable to the drilling power of a hammer drill, and these machines are capable of driving or loosening screws, nuts, and bolts of most sizes and in most materials, including hardwood, concrete studs, and drywall.
  • Impact wrenches: Impact wrenches are also designed to fasten or loosen screws, blots, and nuts, but they are capable of producing a higher torque than the impact drivers. This makes the impact wrenches more suitable for heavy-duty industrial use. Impact wrenches also come with a different type of chuck compatible only with 1/2-inch (13 mm) square drive bits.

2. Why invest in an impact driver?

Impact drivers are practical DIY tools that serve more than just fastening and loosening fasteners into harder materials. You can typically use an impact driver to:

  • Build garden decks
  • Fasten plywood subfloors
  • Bore large holes into wood and soft metals

Despite the higher torque, impact drivers are very easy to maneuver and typically allow for safe one-hand operation.

3. Impact driver power

Cordless impact drivers are typically powered by lithium-ion batteries varying from 12-volt to 20-volt. Like for any other cordless tools, the voltage dictates how much torque the tool is able to produce.

As it is easy to understand, the higher the torque, the more turning force your impact driver will generate. In broad terms, a maximum torque around 1,500 inch-pound (170 Nm) is sufficient for most applications.

Adjustable clutch

The best impact drivers feature an adjustable clutch which allows you to control the amount of torque applied. This helps you prevent damaging the screw head or the tool and enables you to use the impact driver for finishing applications in woodworking or carpentry.

Some technologically advanced machines are equipped with electronic clutches designed to adjust the torque automatically during operation.

4. Brush vs. brushless motor

Impact drivers can have brushed or brushless motors. Both types use the same working principle, but brushed models use carbon brushes to deliver the current to the windings on the rotor, whereas the brushless motors deliver the current via an amplifier. This small difference has a major impact on the motor’s efficiency.

  • Brushed motors: Are simpler than the brushless, therefore cheaper. However, they are less efficient, noisier, and require constant maintenance. These motors also have shorter lifespans than the brushless motors.
  • Brushless motors: Are more expensive but have a longer lifespan, need no maintenance, generate minimal heat and are highly efficient. A brushless motor is 10-15% more efficient than a brushed motor, which means more power of the power generated is turned into a rotational force instead of being lost as heat.

5. Speed and impacts per minute

Most amateurs believe their impact driver must reach high speeds, but this isn’t necessarily true. In broader terms, a higher speed is typically needed for driving smaller screws into softer materials like drywall or softwood.

Longer screws or harder materials require more torque, therefore lower speeds. Typically an impact driver with variable speed up to 3,000 revolutions per minute (RPM) is ideal for most applications.

Variable speed control

The best impact drivers have a variable control trigger which allows you to start driving at a lower speed, increasing the control. Moreover, some machines come with multiple speed settings which allow you to choose the desired maximum speed and torque you want to reach.

Impacts per minute

The impacts per minute (IPM) is the equivalent of a hammer drill’s beats per minute (BPM) and increases the tool’s capacity to driving fasteners into harder materials. Most cordless impact drivers deliver around 3,000 IPM, although some of the best models exceed this threshold.

6. Impact driver chuck

Impact drivers are equipped with quick-release chucks compatible with ¼-inch (6.5 mm) hex bits only. These chucks must be simply pulled or pushed back and forth for inserting or removing the bits, making the bit changing process much simpler.

Although these chucks are typically compatible with hex bits alone, power tool manufacturers usually produce adapters which allow using a round or square drill or driving bit with your impact driver.

7. Additional features

Besides all the above, you should also look for the following additional features:

  • Trigger lock: The best impact drills have a neutral trigger lock position which prevents the cordless tool from switching on if the trigger is pressed by mistake, so it doesn’t drain the battery.
  • Soft grip: Impact drivers are typically lightweight and easy to maneuver, but a soft grip handle can increase your comfort. Also, make sure the tool is balanced properly if you want to use it with just one hand.
  • Work light: Driving fasteners in poorly illuminated spaces is often difficult. The machine’s work light illuminates your working area for no-frills operation.
  • Belt hook: A nice addition if you have nowhere to place the tool but need your hands free for various operations.
  • Battery life indicator: The latest impact driver models come with a battery life indicator light which tells you when it’s the time to recharge.
  • Interchangeable battery: If you’re aiming for continuous operation, opt for an impact driver with interchangeable battery. This option also allows you to use the battery with other power tools in the system, including cordless drills and reciprocating saws.
  • Overload shutoff: An important safety feature designed to protect the tool’s motor in case of accidental overload.
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