While cordless impact drivers still aren’t quite as in-demand as cordless drills, interest in these high-powered fastening tools continues to grow. It’s easy to see why – they’re often lightweight, compact, and high-powered.
Plus, impact drivers offer high fastener-driving torque without recoil. You might sometimes seem them advertised or described as delivering reactionless torque. Unlike drills, impact drivers don’t kickback or expose users to counter-rotational torque.
That’s not to say that impact drivers are better than drills, although they are certainly different. Impact drivers excel at driving fasteners, while cordless drills are great at boring holes and driving fasteners with repeatable depth and precision.
These days, there are two main kinds of impact drivers – single speed, and multi-speed. You will also find those with brushless motors, and those with non-brushless (brushed) motors. Often, but not always, brushless impact drivers will also offer multiple speed and torque settings.
I have used many different brands, models, and styles of impact drivers in recent years. For this best cordless impact driver roundup, I started off by thinking about the best impact driver models I have used. The discussion was supposed to be quick and focused, but there are too many very highly recommended models that I couldn’t leave out.
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As a reminder, impact drivers should be used with impact-rated screwdriver bits. Impact-rated bits are made from tougher steel than non-impact bits, which reduces the likelihood that they will break apart or shatter during use. Some work with 1″ insert bits, but most work best or exclusively with 2″ power bits or bit holders.
Best 18V: Milwaukee M18 Fuel (Brushless)
Milwaukee’s M18 Fuel impact driver, which is available by itself (2653-20), as part of a compact Li-ion battery kit (2653-22ct), and as part of a high capacity battery kit (2653-22), is very good at what it does.
This impact is comfortable to use, runtime is great, and its brushless motor delivers gobs of fastener-tightening power. The multiple speed and torque settings come in handy when you need to drive in smaller fasteners.
There are plenty of user conveniences as well, such as the battery’s built-in LED fuel gauge, which is positioned at the front of the tool and is easily accessed, the removable belt hook, and the LED worklight. To be fair, belt hooks and LED worklights are pretty standard these days, although the LED battery fuel gauge design is still the most practical one I’ve seen yet.
Milwaukee might not have come out with the most compact impact driver, but the M18 Fuel brushless model is a solid performer all around.
Kit pricing is understandably a little high. But, if you already bought into Milwaukee’s M18 power tool lineup, you can add the bare tool to your tool collection for just $129.
This is the model you want if you’re look for the best cordless impact driver.
Buy Now(via Home Depot)
Runner Up for Best 18V: Makita LXDT06 (Brushless)
The Makita 18V LXDT06 impact driver came close to besting the Milwaukee M18 Fuel, if not for the Milwaukee’s added power, greater user friendliness, and lower price.
Makita’s LXDT06 is still plenty powerful, and still looks to be the most compact impact driver currently on the market, at least in the USA. Overseas, there’s a new Makita 18V impact driver (TD148D) that is almost ridiculously compact, while still offering lots of torque and great features.
This Makita also sports a brushless motor, which of course means greater runtime compared to brushed motor impacts.
It also offers an automatic downshifting setting that certain users might find useful. When you toggle this mode, the driver will start off in high speed, and then shifts to a lower speed and torque setting once the tool senses resistance as a fastener is closer to being driven into position. Or you could just manually select from among the three torque and speed settings.
The only major downside to the LXDT06 is its somewhat high price. Just the bare tool, without batteries or a charger, will set you back about $189. A 2-battery kit will cost you about $350-$360.
A minor downside is the lack of a battery fuel gauge. On the plus side, Makita’s batteries charge super fast on their actively cooled rapid charger.
Editor’s Choice: Dewalt DCF886 (Brushless)
The Dewalt DCF886 brushless impact driver isn’t the brand’s first brushless 20V Max model; that honor goes to the Dewalt DCF895 impact driver, a model I really don’t like using. The DCF895 is compact, it features three speed and torque settings, and its brushless motor provides for plenty of power and runtime. But its bit holder is really hard to get used to.
The DCF886 doesn’t offer multiple speed and torque settings. Nor can Dewalt claim this driver is “best-in-class” in any regard. However, it’s a very solid-performing impact driver that is comfortable to use. It’s simple, and its brushless motor delivers a good balance between power and runtime.
This impact driver isn’t a super-featured premium model, but instead seems to be the brushless evolution of Dewalt’s DCF885 impact, a model I only mentioned in deal posts here and there a few times since its release a couple of a years ago.
I like this impact driver because it’s comfortable to use, and it just plain works. It’s priced at about $130 for the bare driver, $200 for the compact 2-battery kit, and about $280 for a combo kit that also includes a brushless drill/driver.
Even with better impact drivers at my disposal, I sometimes find myself searching this one out, at least when my personal Bosch 18V impact is nowhere to be found.
Best Budget 18V: Porter Cable 20V Max
I know I might hear some complaints from Porter Cable’s product team for saying this, but the Porter Cable PCC640 20V Max impact driver, along with their PCC600 drill/driver, are jewels that stand out from a rather ordinary and mediocre 20V Max cordless power tool lineup.
Not that ordinary and mediocre is bad. In fact, I own a couple of Porter Cable’s 18V tools, and bought them because they offer okay features and deliver reasonably okay performance at great prices.
If you picked up another tool from the expanded Porter Cable 20V Max lineup first, you might be mistaken into thinking the impact driver was another so-so performer. But it’s not.
Porter Cable’s 20V Max impact driver isn’t a stellar performer, but it is very solidly built and offers reliable and consistent performance. It delivers pro-grade results at consumer-friendly prices.
The 2-battery kit is priced at $125 most of the time, but sometimes it goes up to $140, and other times it goes down to $99.
If you’re on a tighter budget, this is the impact to buy, at least if you want a little extra robustness. This Porter Cable impact feels a little more solid than say, Ryobi or Craftsman’s $100-$125 impact driver kits.
There is a downside to the PCC640: a lot of guys cannot stand the way it looks.
Buy Now(via Amazon)
Special Mention 18V: Bosch Hybrid 18V (Brushless)
The Bosch IDH182 18V hybrid brushless impact driver is part impact driver, part impact wrench. It first debuted as an 18V brushed motor hybrid impact in Europe before evolving into a brushless model that was released internationally.
With this model you get great maximum torque that’s higher than even Milwaukee’s M18 Fuel model could muster, as well as multiple speed and torque settings. You also get great runtime thanks to the brushless motor. Besides all those things, you get a combination 1/4″ hex bit holder and 1/2″ square drive anvil.
Due to the hybrid bit holder and socket driver design, the Bosch IDH182 isn’t quite as compact as a standalone single-purpose impact driver. It’s a great multi-functional and versatile cordless tool, but not quite in the running for best overall impact driver.
This is the impact to buy if you often find yourself switching between an impact driver and an impact wrench or square drive bit adapters.
Best 12V: Milwaukee M12 Fuel
There’s no beating around the bush. The Milwaukee M12 Fuel impact driver, which I reviewed a while ago, is the best compact cordless impact I’ve used thus far.
Brushless motor? Check.
Multiple speed and torque settings? Check.
Comfortable tool balance and ergonomics? Check.
Battery fuel gauge? Check.
Excellent quick-change chuck? Check.
The M12 Fuel impact driver, model 2453, delivers power when you need it (1,200 in-lbs), and lower torque (175 in-lbs) when you need greater finesse and precision. Its grip feel as though it was sculpted to fit my hand. Seriously, it’s that comfortable and well balanced.
Other brands’ impact drivers can do the job, but Milwaukee’s does it a little better. At this time, I’m not even sure there are any other 12V-class brushless impact drivers currently on the market. That’s not to say that other brands’ brushed motor impact drivers are slouches, but if you want the best, this is it.
Editor’s Choice 12V: Ingersoll Rand W1110
I was kind of hard on Ingersoll Rand when they first announced their 12V line of cordless power tools. But now that I have actually used their IQV12 impact driver, I totally get it.
Ingersoll Rand designed this impact driver – and their other 12V cordless tools – for automotive techs and industrial users. Its plastic grip and housing materials are specially formulated to resist common automotive fluids, solvents, and chemicals, and the polished aluminum gearbox is both easy to clean and durable enough to shrug off bumps and bangs with ease.
I’ve used plenty of superb impact drivers, including the aforementioned Milwaukee Fuel model, but this one has a somewhat greater indestructible feel to it.
Buy Now(via Amazon)
Best Budget 12V: Bosch PS41
Quite frankly, I’m not sure how Bosch is able to offer their PS41 2-battery impact driver kit for less than $115. It can deliver up to 930 in-lbs of torque, which is plenty powerful for a compact impact.
Even after being on the market for more than 4 years now, the PS41 is still one of the most compact and comfortable 12V impact drivers I’ve used. Its design doesn’t even seem to be getting long in the tooth, as its ring-style LED worklight and built-on LED battery fuel gauge are timeless conveniences.
I almost feel bad calling the Bosch PS41 a budget model, as it is comfortable, durable, and powerful enough for a majority of professional users and applications, yet priced low enough for DIYers, hobbyists, and homeowners.
This is the best budget-without-being-a-budget-model-by-design impact driver currently available.
Buy Now(via Amazon)
Do you agree with my picks? Disagree? Please chime in with your own comments, opinions, and recommendations!
Also, please note that I haven’t tested every single impact driver under the sun. I’ve tested very many models, but there are those I haven’t even handled or seen in person yet. If there’s a model you’d like to see considered for the next iteration of this review/roundup, please let me know and I’ll see what I can do.