Impact Driver vs Drill: Which One Should You Get?

Impact Driver vs Drill: Which One Should You Get?

Technology is a blessing in this era and has led to the further development of almost every field of human endeavor. The use of power tools for home improvement purposes and usage on vehicles has also seen massive improvements from tech. Two versatile tools – i.e., the impact driver and drill – have been the subject of many arguments and debates. But plain and simple, you will need either one of these tools to get a specific job done.

Luckily, you don’t need to waste your precious time reading this article before making up your mind about the right tool to purchase, especially if you are on a tight budget.

The Impact driver is truly a superior tool for most jobs and will almost always get the job done quickly and efficiently!

However, if you want to know the reason or understand why the impact driver supersedes the drill – either cordless or corded – or you are new to the world of power tools, then you may continue reading. This is a head-to-head matchup that examines these tools and their significant differences.

Main Differences Between Impact Drivers vs Drills

The Main Differences Between Impact Driver vs Drills are:

  • Impact Drivers are designed to remove or insert screws as well as other fasteners, whereas Drills are very precise in soft materials.
  • Impact Drivers delivers a sideways hammer action, whereas Drills are designed with a clutch.
  • Impact Drivers has at least two or three times more torque or twisting power, whereas Drills are used for work that requires a precise and delicate touch.
  • Impact Drivers are used by mechanics and tradespeople, whereas Drills are great as a home tool.

Impact Drivers vs. Drill: Understanding the Differences

These tools have several things in common which are not all that surprising since they work generally based on the same principles. Each of these tools is designed for different purposes, though they can do general tasks remarkably well.

Many people who own one of these tools usually wonder whether or not they need the other. This is because both tools bear a close resemblance to each other and so many don’t see any reason why they should have both in their arsenals.

Therefore, to fully understand the difference between these two remarkable tools, it is essential that we discuss each device separately, after which they will be compared with each other. Both machines have their strengths and weaknesses – which will be pointed out later – and should ideally find a place in your workshop.

Impact Driver: What Is It and How Does The Tool Work?

An impact driver is a powerful and handheld tool that is specifically designed to remove or insert screws as well as other fasteners. This tool employs a unique combination of rotational “impacts” along with a linear, rotational force to insert or remove fastenings or large fixings, depending significantly on the particular type of bit that is utilized.

It does not matter how long the screws are; an Impact driver will drive it effortlessly into hardwood or other dense material and does so leaving the heads sharp and extraordinarily clean.

What makes the impact driver an impressively unique tool is its extraordinary ability to deliver a sideways hammer action even as it rotates, thus making the mechanical device highly capable of bestowing a much higher torque output. This is why the impact driver can easily handle tasks or jobs that an ordinary drill driver will struggle with.

When you have an Impact driver in your arsenal, you are automatically saying goodbye to half-sunk screws and stripped heads of fasteners, characteristics that are primarily found in drills. On the face of it, an Impact driver looks like a shorter, somewhat stubby drill and also has at least two or three times more torque or twisting power than a regular drill.

Impact Driver

This tool is widely used by different individuals with different vocations: mechanics use the impact driver on numerous automotive projects. Tradespeople – i.e., skilled workers such as carpenters or plumbers – use the same tool when handling some construction work while operatives that continuously deal with product assemblies use the impact driver for frequent loosening and tightening of heavy-duty bolts and nuts.

How It Works

Impact drivers come with a function that delivers a series of strong torques or rotational forces inside the mechanical device. When in operation, the tool produces an exceptionally high rotational power which helps to drive screws into hardwood, metal, etc. and for drilling as well. It is the perfect tool for overcoming the resistance that you will encounter when driving a screw or fastener into any material. To overcome this resistance, the machine needs to deliver more rotational forces or torque. This goes to show that Impact drivers are the perfect tools to go for and suited for jobs which involve driving long lag bolts into materials.

Technical details about the Impact driver

Most Impact drivers come with a lot of power, speed, and torque. A regular Impact driver is equipped with 2,500 revolutions per minute (RPMs) and 2,000 Blow per minute (BPM). In most cases, the torque of an average Impact driver is around 1,000 inches/lbs. And that is serious force and power. There is no doubt that you will get hooked for life after using the Impact driver to drive fasteners.

You can adjust the output speed of an impact driver by altering the pressure you apply on its variable speed trigger, just like you would on a drill driver. But unlike the latter, impact drivers do not come with the multi-speed transmission or dedicated clutches. This means that you need to be very careful when using the impact driver as it can be incredibly easy to over-tighten fastenings and fixings if a user is not careful with the trigger finger.

Although it is technically possible to make use of an impact driver for drilling, it is better to avoid using it and instead employ a drill driver for the purpose, especially if accuracy is a requirement. The powerful combination of speed output and high torque available results in vibration, thus making precision drilling at a specific location to a set roundness, orientation, and diameter somewhat tricky.

Impact Driver Technical Details

Impact drivers are available in different sizes – typically ¼ inches hex drive – with a substantial range of hex bits on hand which are custom-built for working with different styles and sizes of fastening.

The majority of impact drivers in the market today are the cordless variety which often uses 12-volt, 18-volt as well as 20-volt – in some rare cases – lithium-ion batteries. The higher the voltage of the battery – which translates to longer battery life – the more powerful the impact driver naturally is.

There are corded electric impact drivers in the market as well for those who prefer it or choose to have both variations in their workshops or garages.

The Inner Workings of an Impact Driver

The impact driver’s inner workings are surprisingly simple with only four major components:

I. A motor

II. An internal hammer

III. An anvil

IV. A spring

When the impact driver’s motor undergoes resistance – as a result of loosening or tightening a fastener – the internal hammer which is controlled by the spring pulls away from the anvil as the hammer keeps on rotating.

At a particular point, the spring is let loose, and this action pushes the internal hammer frontward. Since the hammer’s profile, as well as the simultaneous rotation, is generated by the motor, the lugs of the hammer hit the arms of the anvil with sufficient power or force to provide the impact driver with its distinguished torque output.

This action also makes the impact driver emit a higher noise output than the standard drill. The process repeats itself rapidly for as long as your finger presses the trigger. Impacts drivers are usually rated in IPM (impacts per minute). Some machines provide more than 50 impacts per second. That’s how powerful an impact driver is!

Corded vs. Cordless Impact driver

Impact drivers come in two varieties: corded and cordless, though most people prefer working with the cordless Impact drivers/

Cordless Impact Driver

A cordless Impact driver is powered by batteries, and it facilitates mobility as against its space-constraining corded counterpart which may slow you down in your work. Since it can handle convenient tasks, cordless Impact driver models tend to get got quickly, especially if you use it to drive a lot of large screws and fasteners one after the other in rapid succession. This tool does not like heat in any way and may start malfunctioning if you don’t do anything about it.

The best way to use a cordless Impact driver is to allow the mechanical device to sit in between fastening screws or switch from one cordless model to another if you have a lot of work to do within a limited period. You can also switch to a corded version of the tool if you need to secure lots of fasteners within a stipulated period.

Cordless Impact Driver

Most cordless Impact drivers are rated in terms of the battery rating – measured in Ah – as well as volts (V), both of which are important metrics that should not be taken for granted when shopping for the best Impact drivers out there in the market today.

Corded Impact Driver

A corded Impact driver also has its place in garages or workshops. For instance, big assembly projects and jobs require corded Impact drivers to get the tasks done in record time, thereby saving your wrists as well. Impact drivers are sturdy enough to remove and drive the most stubborn fasteners quickly you can lay hands on, thus making them one of the must-have tools in your boat or other sailing vessels as well.

Corded models also have better gear reduction systems compared to their cordless counterparts. This implies that corded Impact drivers can stay cool for an extended period, thereby lasting longer than cordless models during operations. But then, corded Impact drivers are somewhat heavy, so you may have to lug a lot of weight around as you go about your tasks.

Corded Impact drivers are equipped with motors that are rated in amps (A),

Basic Features of Impact Drivers

The following are some of the basic features of an Impact driver:

  • Chuck – This is the part of an Impact driver that is designed to hold drill bits and screwdrivers securely. There are keyless chucks as well as fast-release features which help in facilitating the swift replacement of chuck bits, thereby significantly increasing your productivity.
  • Vibration Protection – helps to reduce the amount of vibration the mechanical device gives off as it is being operated. But you cannot possibly eliminate the vibration of this tool when it is in operation.
  • Forward/Reverse Switch – The easy to use forward/reverse toggle switch allows users to swap over the direction in which the chuck – i.e., holder of the drill bits or screwdrivers – turns. Forward – i.e., clockwise – switch, when activated, is used for making drill holes or for inserting screws and fasteners while the reverse (i.e., anticlockwise) switch, when flicked, helps to remove fasteners and drills as well as for backing out drills.
  • LED Light – Some Impact drivers are equipped with an LED light which allows users to work in dark or out-of-reach areas by illuminating these target areas. A few models come with several LED lights positioned strategically around the chuck. LED saves lots of battery power and is definitely brighter than any other light source.
  • Grip – the grip is where the Impact driver is held. Some models come with rubber grips while a few others are equipped with contoured plastic casings.
  • Batteries – Batteries are required for powering cordless Impact drivers and in most cases, are rechargeable. So, you do not have to worry about swapping it for a new one every few days.
  • Electronic Clutch – Also known as adjustable clutches, this feature helps users to fine-tune or adjust the amount of force that the Impact driver exerts on fasteners. This is an incredibly useful feature to have when using the Impact driver during smaller woodwork such as windows, cabinet doors, etc.

Impact Driver Basic Features

The Impact driver comes with remarkable features and distinctive ergonomic designs which help to alleviate some of the shocks that the machine will transmit to the hand when it is in operation. Designed for ease of use, the rubberized pistol grip, as well as a balanced or well-proportioned design, helps users to avoid repetitive stress, especially if you are taking on a job or project that requires the insertion of hundreds of screws and fasteners.

An impact driver has a soft start doesn’t bring on the torque at maximum revolutions per minute the moment you press the switch. On the contrary, the machine’s soft start revs up the motor gradually. Impact drivers with soft starts are, as a rule, quite safer to use and will contribute to the maintenance of the overall life span of the mechanical device as well.

Another impressive feature of the impact driver is its brake function which enables users to stop the chuck spinning immediately. Experienced users find this feature quite helpful, especially when they are driving fasteners consecutively or back-to-back. Many impact drivers in the market today come with integrated brakes.

The switch locks or neutral switch feature are installed on the impact driver and prevent you from draining the battery of the tool when you accidentally press the switches while it is in your toolbox or tool bag, for instance.

Cordless impact drivers are equipped with charge gauges that inform you of how much power or fuel you have left before you need to recharge it by plugging it to a power socket. A few of these units come with gauges attached to them; but for convenience, it is better to have the gauges attached to the battery pack. This will allow you to catch a glimpse of the charge status as you work even though it is not connected to the impact driver.

Impact Driver Technical Details

Belt hooks do not generally come with impact drivers since they are not strictly required. But if your work will entail climbing up scaffolding, ladders, etc. then belt hooks are accessories that will be incredibly handy at such periods.

To keep everything together in one place, a carry case – if it is included with the unit – makes the entire ensemble a neat package that you can take anywhere with you.

Drill: What Is It and How Does It Work?

A professional tradesperson or a DIYer will tell you that the drill driver is the most reliable tool to have in your toolkit or workshop.

The primary purpose of a drill driver is to drive screws and drill holes, even though there are several tasks that this tool can perform, thanks to its chucks – keyless or keyed – which can be expanded according to a user’s requirement. The chuck of a drill can hold hundreds of round bits or different hex for maximum flexibility.

The torque of a drill driver is not as powerful as that of the impact driver, and this significant disadvantage, in most cases, limits the drill driver to lighter-duty tasks.

If you look at it one way, this could be a plus as the slower rotational speed or lower torque does not create too much vibration during use compact to its counterpart, the impact driver. This is why the drill driver is an excellent choice for precision drilling requirements where a high-quality output is paramount and a must.

Drill How Does It Work

Drill drivers are also different from impact drivers in the sense that they usually feature multi-speed transmissions. This is quite different from the changeable speed trigger that is regularly found on both sides of this mechanical tool. The variable speed trigger allows users to readily adjust or modify the motor’s revolutions per minute (RPM) and afterward the speed of the bit, based primarily on how hard they compress the trigger.

The drill driver comes with a feature called a clutch, and this is conspicuously missing on the impact driver. Each of the various clutch settings corresponds to a particular torque setting, thus ensuring that the drill stops driving as soon as it reaches the equivalent torque level.

Many drills also come with hammer functions to enhance performance when drilling into building materials or masonry. However, this operation is beyond the scope of this write-up as it is different from the way an impact driver operates.

What is a Drill Used For?

As mentioned in the previous section, drill drivers lower-power capacity can only take on lighter-duty tasks such as household DIY and the assembling of furniture. However, high-powered models – which come with large capacity batteries, higher no-load speed, and powerful brushless motor – are perfect for meeting the driving as well as drilling needs of professionals.

A drill can handle the following general tasks:

  • Drilling holes into drywall, wood, and non-ferrous materials viz. aluminum, some ferrous metals, masonry, etc.
  • Rotate polishing bits
  • Insertion and removal of smaller fasteners, e.g., screws
  • Rotating sanding bits
  • However, a drill driver cannot perform the following tasks:
  • Loosening or tightening of heavy-duty bolts and nuts
  • Insertion and removal of longer screws such as lag screws
  • Driving fastenings and fixings into concrete or metal

Corded vs Cordless Drill

Corded and Cordless Drills

There are also two types of drills in the market today: corded and corded drills. Let’s examine them individually

Corded Drills

A corded drill features a cable/cord and is renowned for providing more power during tasks while the motor endures the abuse valiantly. Professional contractors also prefer using corded drills because of their unique design and their ability to tolerate heavy-duty applications like drilling into concrete, etc.

So, if you decide to go for a corded drill, make sure that you have a dependable power outlet that is fitted securely outside on your job site or at your home.

Most corded drills are measured in Amps, and the more amps a drill has, the more power it supplies, and the more run time you will enjoy. Corded drills are also lightweight compared to the cordless models equipped with similar capabilities.

The additional advantage of using a corded drill is that you will not be interrupted with the need to charge the battery once you get started on your project. The only downside is that the cord will restrict your mobility. However, you can get an extension cord to give yourself more room to move around, especially if the work area is relatively far from the power outlet

Cordless Drill

Cordless drills are legendary and have always been popular in the drilling industry. The most important advantage that a cordless drill has over its corded counterpart is its mobile capability. You can move virtually everywhere with a cordless drill, and since they are powered by batteries, you don’t need to be worried about a power source.

Both professional contractors and homeowners know that a cordless drill is a necessity. A cordless drill offers high mobility, thus allowing you to work in big areas without any discomfort or restrictions caused by a cord.

However, charging the battery from time to time is a must; the best way out is to obtain a spare battery that you will always keep charged on your person as you work. So, as soon as the charge of the battery in the drill runs down, you can swap the batteries and get back to work as quickly as possible.

Impact Driver vs Drill

Impact Driver vs. Drill: What Are the Differences and Which One to Go For?

By now, you should have known that both the impact driver and drill do not have the same functions even though they bear a close resemblance.  Several features can be found in a drill which is missing on an impact driver.

One of such features is the clutch; although the impact driver lacks one, this disadvantage can be turned to an advantage as the tool is short and entirely capable of fitting into hard-to-reach spaces that a regular drill cannot reach.

The lack of clutch also inhibits the bits that an impact driver can take as well as the relative ease with which to take them.

But a regular drill is an excellent choice for work that requires a precise and delicate touch while an impact driver is the best where a muscle is needed. The additional torque of the impact driver, as pointed out earlier, drives long sheetrock screws and the tool is the best for tasks such as:

  • The installation of cabinets
  • The construction of shop furniture
  • Building Decks
  • The construction of a theater set, etc.

When Do I Need An Impact Driver?

The question that is commonly asked in dedicated home improvement forums is “When do I need to use an impact driver or a drill?” Bear in mind that impact drivers make use of mechanisms that are somewhat different to drive bits and can use nothing else than hex-shanked bits.

The answer, of course, is that when working on soft woods, you need a tool with a light touch and only the traditional drill can provide the finesse you require at that point in time.

When To Use Impact Driver

But for hardwoods, masonry, concrete, and long fasteners that need to be worked into heavy materials, an impact driver is your best bet. You will also need to purchase bits designed for use on an impact driver. These bits are usually hardened enough to withstand the thoroughness or rigors of the driving force in its use.

Can An Impact Driver Take The Place Of A Traditional Drill?

The straight answer to that question is a firm “No.” Impact drivers are brutish, thanks to that brute force that characterizes their operation. This force, according to some experts, is uncalled for. Some even claim that the power of the driving force could be utterly detrimental.

Using enormous strength for work that requires nothing more than a light touch can be disastrous as the material could rip to shreds uncontrollably.

Pros and Cons

In this section, we will be taking a quick look at the pros and cons of the impact driver and drill respectively.

Impact Driver

Pros

  • It does more work, thus preventing severe strain on the wrist
  • The tool fits into tight spaces more efficiently as a result of its compact shape and users can also drive screws from awkward positions
  • The machine is less likely to ruin bits and strip screws which could ultimately result in a wrist injury
  • It efficiently powers screws through materials considered to be very dense with more concussive blows and torque without any issues
  • It drives long screws effectively with little effort and without the need for a pilot hole
  • It is the best tool for working on tightly-fitted or stuck bolts
  • It is highly effective in driving fasteners with large diameter

Impact Driver Pros and Cons

Cons

  • It is pricey, much more than a drill
  • It works with drill bits and hex-shanked driver only
  • It is too powerful to handle delicate and more precise tasks
  • It is characteristically noisier than a drill as a result of the hammer action
  • It can be used to drill holes, but not as effective as the drill

Drill

Pros

  • It applies constant or uniform rotating force
  • It is relatively affordable
  • It works exceptionally well on tasks that require high precision and care
  • It accepts a wide variety of screw-driving and drill bits
  • It comes with a slip clutch which allows users to adjust torque accordingly
  • It accepts multiple accessories such as rotary sanders, hole saws, and wire-wheel brushes, etc.
  • It drills holes remarkably well in soft material
  • It efficiently tightens or loosens bolts that do not require too much torque

Drill pros and cons

Cons

  • Bits can come loose suddenly in the chuck
  • It can put a lot of undue strain on users
  • It can freeze or stall when driving long and large fasteners
  • It has the unpleasant potential to strip screws easily

Bottom line

Now that you are here, it is assumed that you have gone through the entire write up about the impact driver and the traditional drill as well as the differences – and similarities between them.

Some manufacturers produce combo packs that include both an impact driver and a drill. This is because they recognize and acknowledge the fact that an impact driver and a drill driver – despite their striking similarities – are two different tools designed for different purposes and to meet the needs of specialists in the professional world as well as DIYers.

But veterans in the woodworking industry stand by impact drivers and recommend it over the traditional drill. This is because the speed of an impact driver can be controlled or varied, depending on the type of material you are working on.

Impact Driver vs Drill Conclusion

But the same cannot be said when it comes to working on a hardened material with a regular drill. Despite its variable speed, the strain on your wrist will more than discourage you from continuing. And the fact that bits can come off without warning from the chucks of a regular drill marks it down, more or less.

So, if you are on a tight budget and need to purchase just one of any of these two tools, you can go for an impact driver as it is equipped and powerful enough to handle all kinds of work!

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Ben Holt

Ben has been an entrepreneur and freelance writer for the past 4 years. During this time, he has renovated, upgraded and monetized multiple properties by listing them on Airbnb. He is now able to provide insight and information to those seeking to upgrade their home, renovate their man cave, or start utilizing real estate to generate a new source of income.

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