Best Impact Drivers (1/4″) – Top 9 Rankings
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What is the best impact driver to buy? That question is what has brought you here and that question is what we have answered in today’s post.
From installing 3-inch deck screws and driving sheet metal screws in HVAC ducts to driving Tapcons into reinforced concrete, an impact driver is equally important for construction workers and mechanics.
However, with so many options and competing brands available in the market, finding the best impact driver for your needs is not an easy job. This is where we come in. We have researched the market to find the most recommendable impact drivers for your requirement.
Best for Cars, Lug Nuts, Changing Tires; Best for Lag Bolts in Construction; Costs under $200
Best Impact Driver under $100
The Best Impact Driver for the Money (under $50); Best for Woodworking; Best for HVAC
Best for Deck Screws and other carpentry jobs
Our top recommendations for the best impact driver are based on successful combination of performance, power, ergonomics, compactness and manufacturer’s support for the product. So without further due let’s begin.
Under $200 | The Best Impact Driver for Cars | Best for Lag Bolts | Highest Torque
Our Rating: 9.7 / 10
This Dewalt cordless impact driver boasts the highest torque in competition at 1,825 in-lbs. With a brushless motor driving three speed ranges up to a maximum of 3,250 RPM and delivering 3,800 impacts per minute to the job, Dewalt DCF887 is a formidable combination of power and efficiency.
We found it to have the best user feedback in competition in woodworking, construction, automotive and sheet metal applications. It is the best impact driver for working on cars such as tightening lug nuts, changing tires, de-trimming car interiors, bolting on fenders or even occasionally drilling out exhaust manifold studs in a car repair project. It can also rotate tires and even help in overhauling your 3/4 ton truck. HVAC technicians will also find this tool to be of great use.
It is also great for carpentry and concrete construction in jobs ranging from constructing a garden bed, driving deck screws into lumber and tightening nuts onto carriage bolts to taking off skid-steer bolts and being the best impact driver for lag bolts on our list.
The chink in the armor we found were the complaints about its chuck being wobbly and the tool heating up on some occasions.
Overall, its heavy duty performance; suitability in a wide array of applications make it the best impact driver in competition.
This tool is available in both bare form as well as kit including battery, charger and a hard storage case.
Under $100 | The Best Impact Driver for Mechanics & Electricians | Most Compact
Our Rating: 9.6 / 10
The Milwaukee M12 Fuel series impact driver is the most compact impact driver in competition with a front to back tool length of only 5.1” and weight of merely 1.76 lbs. that reduces user fatigue, increases convenience of handling and allows you to work in tight spaces.
However, this is not the only specialty it has. Apart from the three main driving modes, it also has a fourth driving mode specially made for self-tapping screws – a bonus feature not available in any other competitor product.
Its compact design allows it to fit in the automotive dash and 1,300 in-lbs. of torque carries sufficient power to handle all autobody interior work and a wide variety of suspension and engine work. From installing a brake controller to impact use for assembly and disassembly, it is the best impact driver for mechanics and autobody technicians on our list.
From hanging fixtures, tightening nuts and bolts on pipe strut clips to installing Sammy hangers and driving threaded rods into hardwood beams, it is also the best tool for general electricians on our list.
Its performance on driving thousands of sheet metal screws is equally flawless. It will drive self tapping screws into metal surfaces with ease. It has received praises from aircraft mechanics for its screw driving utility in aircraft repairs.
Its performance in home repairs and remodeling applications is also commendable. From changing out doors throughout the house and indoor shelving to building a pool deck and sinking 3-inch deck screws all day long, it is a great tool for home use too. Despite its small size, it carries enough torque to screw a double-walled speaker box together.
This particular package includes battery and charger but no carrying case.
Highest Driving Speed | Highest Impacts per Minute | Great Torque
Our Rating: 9.0 / 10
Milwaukee M18 2850-20 features the highest driving speed in competition at 3,400 RPM as well as the highest impacts per minute capacity at 4,200 IPM with the most compact design in 18V impact drivers at a short front-to-back length of 5.1” and weight of only 2 lbs.
Powered by a brushless motor for improved efficiency and reduced maintenance, it packs decent power to efficiently handle woodworking, mechanical, HVAC and automotive applications. At 1,600 in-lbs. of torque capacity, it proves itself to be a handy tool at construction sites and workshops.
However, with only a single speed setting, it is not recommended for precision screwdriving. Backed by an extensive 05 year warranty by Milwaukee, this tool packs a big punch in a compact design making it worthy of recommendation.
Battery and charger are sold separately for this model by Milwaukee.
Great for Woodworking
Our Rating: 8.7 / 10
The Dewalt DCF885C1 is a very ergonomic impact driver with a chuck mechanism that allows single handed bit replacement and three LED lights placed in a manner to reduce shadows on the job. These lights remain on 20 seconds after the trigger is released allowing the tool to be used as flash light for the job.
It brushed motor drives the chuck at 2,800 RPM and delivers 3200 impacts per minute to the job. With a torque of 1,400 in-lbs. it is great for woodworking applications. To give a few examples of its utility, use it to drive the normal 3″ Philips deck screws, torx screws and lag bolts as well as the special Spax Powerlag structural screws, Timberlok screws, GRK screws and structural fasteners for applications from building decks to installing ledgers.
From taking care of around the house and DIY work like remodeling an old bathroom to carpentry framing jobs, this tool finds itself in a variety of applications. It has enough power to drive 5/16 lag bolts (4″ log) into pressure treated pinewood without prior drilling.
You may also use it for sheet metal screws for completing your metal roofing project. In automotive work, it will work on engine cover bolts easily but it is not powerful enough for lung nuts or axle bolts.
This particular model is a kit i.e. it comes with battery, charger and a bag for storage.
We just used the term Spax Powerlag above. Spax Powerlag refers to a specific brand product series of screws used in framing applications in woodworking and construction. SPAX is originally a German manufacturer and Powerlag refers to its line of structural screws made for constructional wood. Similarly, GRK and Timberlok also refer to branded screws.
Highest Drive Speed | Great Torque | Great Impact Driver for Lug Nuts & Changing Tires
Our Rating: 8.6 / 10
Makita XDT131 impact driver features the highest screwdriving speed at 3,400 RPM that is seconded only by Milwaukee 2850-20 at rank no. 03 on our list. Its brushless motor reduces maintenance and improves efficiency.
Its torque capacity is also decent at 1,500 in-lbs. To give a few examples of its use, it will drive 3/8″ x 8″ lag bolts into breakwall pier planking and 3/4″ x 10″ lag screws into oakwood as well as driving 1/4″ and 3/8″ Spax screws or Camo deck fasteners for building a free-standing deck.
It is a good choice for HVAC work, small engine mechanics and general contractors.
It comes in the form of a kit that includes battery, charger and bag for storage.
Best Impact Driver for the Money | Under $50 | Best for Woodworking | Best for HVAC
Our Rating: 8.4 / 10
This 12-Volt Milwaukee impact driver features a single speed transmission with a speed of 2500 RPM delivering 3300 impact per minute to the job powered by a conventional brushed motor.
With a torque capacity of 1000 in-lbs. it is not the tool for lug nuts and tire replacement, however, it has received the highest positive user feedback in doing deck boards, metal roofing work and HVAC duct and panel work making it the best impact driver for woodworking, HVAC and sheet metal applications.
Milwaukee sells battery and charger separately for this particular model.
Best Value for Money in 18 Volt Tools | Great for Gas & Diesel Mechanics
Our Rating: 8.3 / 10
Milwaukee 2656-20 is powered by a 4-pole frameless motor carrying a torque of 1,500 in-lbs. and driving screws at 2,750 RPM delivering 3,450 impacts per minute to the job.
With a reversible all metal belt hook and ergonomic grip, the tool is convenient to work with. It has received positive user feedback in construction and woodworking applications.
It will find good use in the hands of a gas and diesel mechanic for driving (or undoing) valve cover bolts and brake caliper bracket bolts. It will remove the undercar splash shield and underhood engine cover easily. It can also break loose the 5-14mm bolts used in engine and suspension assemblies. However, it’s not built for removing lug nuts. It can also be a handy tool on the tool belt of a lineman working on 7200 Volt lines as well as a mechanical works contractor.
From undoing 1/4″, 3/8″ and 1/2″ lag screws in a deck demolition and rebuilding project to driving drywall screws and even drilling holes into studs for Romex in home wiring project, this tool will be your companion.
Backed by 05 Year warranty by Milwaukee that is the longest warranty period in competition, its price point makes it the best value for money in 18-Volt bare tools category.
Good for Home Use | Onboard Bit Holder
Our Rating: 8.0 / 10
This Porter-Cable impact driver features a single speed transmission at 2800 RPM delivering 3100 impacts per minute to the job. Its chuck ergonomics are great because you can easily replace the bit with one hand (just like the Dewalt models on our list).
From installing garage doors and driving 3″ lag bolts into lumber to sinking hardibacker screws and other cement board screws, this tool comes in handy in a variety of DIY and home use jobs.
Backed by 03 year warranty, 01 year free service and 90 day money back guarantee by Porter-Cable (terms similar to Dewalt), it is a decent tool to have at your side.
Best Impact Driver for Deck Screws | Onboard Bit Holder | Great for Driving Tapcons
Our Rating: 7.8 / 10
This Black and Decker impact driver might not appear the most outstanding with its comparatively large size, single speed transmission powered by conventional brushed motor and controlled by a conventional speed trigger instead of a variable one, however, its performance is not to be underestimated.
With a speed of 3,000 RPM and torque of 1,375 in-lbs. it delivers 3,900 impacts per minute to the job that is enough for driving deck screws into lumber and tapcons into concrete.
This tool is exceptional at carpentry work. Whether you are driving 7″ deck screws to build a new deck or reinforcing an existing deck with 2″ or 3″ decking screws, this tool will do it as smoothly as driving 6″ deck bolts for attaching door frame to existing studs or driving angle screws in studs with precision. It will take care of your bedroom, athroom and hallway framing projects because it is a carpentry impact driver.
It will also handle majority of fasteners in engine work or unmounting a motorcycle engine in your workshop. With battery and charger included in the package and 2 year warranty, it is the best value for money in 18-volt kits.
How Impact Drivers Work?
The Science Behind the Magic
Have you ever wondered what makes it so easy for an impact driver to drive screws into tough materials?
An impact driver is able to drive screws into tough materials much faster than drill drivers because it has a built-in hammering mechanism on top of it rotating mechanism.
The screw driving bit of the impact driver not just rotates but also digs into the material. This digging is caused by a reciprocating impact mechanism driven by the same motor that rotates the bit through a gearbox.
These impacts are expressed by the Impacts per minute (IPM) rating of impact drivers. For example, Dewalt DCF887 – the best impact driver on our list has an IPM rating of 3,800 while having driving RPM of 3,250. It means that the gearbox runs the hammering action such that the screw driving bits received 3,800 impacts every minute or 63 impacts each second.
These impacts allow the impact driver to drive screws into tough materials more easily than a simple drill driver where the human hand has to provide the pressure and force needed to drill into the material.
Check the demonstration of the above explained impacting mechanism below.
Video Credit: YouTube Channel “ChrisViral Vlogs”
Buyer’s Guide Questions
Dewalt DCF887 carries the highest torque on our list. It has the highest torque overall as well as in cordless impact drivers. It has a torque of 1,825 in-lbs. Let us rank the top 9 impact drivers on the basis of their torque rating:
The amount of torque needed to remove lug nuts on cars ranges from 900-1,000 in-lbs. For example, Toyota Corolla and Toyota Camry have lug nuts torque of 912 in-lbs. Similarly, Honda Accord and Honda CR-V have lug nuts torque of 960 in-lbs.
Lug nuts of trucks are tightened at a higher torque, generally 1,600-1,800 in-lbs. For example, lug nuts of Ford F150 truck are tightened at 1,800 in-lbs. while lug nuts of Chevrolet Silverado are tightened at a torque of 1,680 in-lbs.
We found Milwaukee 2850-20 as the most powerful impact driver and Dewalt DCF887 to be a close runner up. Considering that we are not talking about power as it is commonly understood in electrical context (where it is expressed in terms of wattage of the motor driving the impact driver), the power of an impact driver is a measure of its ability to drive screws in tough materials.
Based on this definition of power, the three main factors that play most important role are:
Combination of these parameters will generally dictate how easily an impact driver will drive screws into tough materials. We developed a simple power score for the impact drivers that we reviewed by combining their speed, impacts per minute and torque capacity to assess which is the most powerful impact driver.
3400 RPM x 4200 IPM x 1600 in-lbs. = 22,848 Million Power Score
3250 RPM x 3600 IPM x 1825 in-lbs. = 21,352 Million Power Score
3400 RPM x 3600 IPM x 1500 in-lbs. = 18,360 Million Power Score
3300 RPM x 4000 IPM x 1300 in-lbs. = 17,160 Million Power Score
3000 RPM x 3900 IPM x 1375 in-lbs. = 28,462 Million Power Score
2750 RPM x 3450 IPM x 1500 in-lbs. = 14,231 Million Power Score
2800 RPM x 3100 IPM x 1450 in-lbs. = 12,586 Million Power Score
2800 RPM x 3200 IPM x 1400 in-lbs. = 12,544 Million Power Score
2500 RPM x 3300 IPM x 1000 in-lbs. = 8,250 Million Power Score
No. Impact drivers don’t have torque settings. They may or may not have speed settings or operation modes. These refer to a selector switch that selects between different speed ranges.
Since torque produced by the motor is dependent on speed, when you select a particular speed range, say 0-1000 RPM, you automatically confine the torque as well, say 0-500 in-lbs.
It depends on application. Most cordless impact drivers have torque in the range of 1000-2000 in-lbs. Any torque above 1500 in-lbs. can be considered as falling towards the higher side of the range and is good enough for a wide variety of applications.
For example, the highest torque on our list is offered by Dewalt 1/4″ Impact Driver Model DCF887 at 1825 in-lbs. while Milwaukee 1/4″ Impact Driver Model M18 2850-20 is the runner up at 1600 in-lbs. of torque. Both of these impact drivers can handle heavy duty work in woodworking, sheet metal, construction sites and automotive applications.
However, you should match the torque specification with your requirement otherwise it would be an extra resource that is of no advantage to you.
For example we found Milwaukee 1/4″ Impact Driver Model M12 2462-20 to be the best impact driver for woodworking, HVAC & sheet metal applications at a torque of 1000 in-lbs. because it is sufficient for those applications. Similarly, we found BLACK+DECKER 1/4″ Impact Driver Kit Model BDCI20C as the best for deck screws, concrete as well as DIY applications at a torque of 1375 in-lbs. Milwaukee 1/4″ Impact Driver Kit Model M12 Fuel 2553-20 is the most compact on our list and best for mechanics with a torque of 1300 in-lbs.
In short, going after the highest torque rating is not the best idea. You should always match the torque with your requirement.
Yes you can but it is better to use a hammer drill for that purpose because impact drivers are built for screw driving applications and hammer drills are built for drilling holes. That being said, you can use a hex shank drill bit with your impact driver to drill holes in concrete brick and other masonry. Since impact drivers have impacting action similar to hammer drills, they will drill into tough materials.
Impact drivers are built for screw driving applications and they will drive screws in masonry such as driving Tapcon screws into reinforced concrete or other self-tapping screws into brick. However, if you are looking to drill into concrete, a hammer drill is a better choice.
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