Cordless drills are useful for drilling holes and driving in fasteners. Impact drivers useful for… drilling holes and driving fasteners. Do you still need both?
This isn’t a rhetorical question, or a question I will seek to answer for you. I am curious about ToolGuyd readers’ tool preferences and workflows.
Personally, I couldn’t give one up, as I tend to use drills and impacts in very different and complementary ways.
Most cordless drills have 2 speed ranges, low and high. Some premium models have more, and the most entry-priced models tend to have 1. Drills also typically have 3-jaw chucks and an adjustable torque-limiting clutch that helps users sink fasteners to repeatable depths.
Cordless impact drivers have completely different mechanical drive trains, and quick-change 1/4″ hex chucks. More premium impact drivers will offer 2-4 (or more) speed ranges, and maybe special fastener installation or removal modes.
You can use 1/4″ hex drill bits, screwdriver bits (shorter ones usually require a bit holder or extension), and other such hex-shank accessories in a cordless drill or impact driver. Drill chucks can also work with round or 3-flat drill bits and adapters, up to their maximum capacity (usually 1/2″, or 3/8″ for smaller or entry-priced models).
I tend to use both tools for different tasks – cordless drills for smaller holes and driving smaller fasteners to consistent depths, and impact drivers for larger holes and driving longer or larger fasteners.
Because of how they work, impact drivers tend to be far less prone to kickback or counter-rotational forces, such as if a large drill bit jams. Modern premium cordless drills sometimes offer anti-kickback sensors that cut power to the motor when jamming or counter-rotation is detected.
All this is to say that there are distinctions between how the two very types of tools can be used, but also a lot of overlap.
I have found that cordless drills experience less bit wobble when drilling holes, but pricier impact drivers and hex-shank bits have gotten a lot better about this.
Premium impact drivers offer multiple speed ranges, and their variable speed trigger switches have become more sensitive and easier to feather for greater user control.
Some users prefer impact drivers for everything these days – drilling holes, driving fasteners of all sizes, and in nearly every way one might have exclusively used a cordless drill for.
I prefer to use both, especially when a project involves pilot holes, or more delicate materials. I don’t really need both types of tools anymore, but there’s no way I’d give either up. But that’s me.
What are your preferences? Why?
What about cordless screwdrivers, which often borrow traits from both cordless drills and impact drivers?