What’s the Difference Between an Impact Driver and a Cordless Drill?

Comparing Tools: Understanding the Distinct Functions of an Impact Driver and a Cordless Drill

In the realm of power tools, both impact drivers and cordless drills are highly valued for their versatility and utility. However, despite their apparent similarities, these tools serve different purposes and offer unique advantages.

Understanding the differences between an impact driver and a cordless drill is essential for anyone looking to undertake DIY projects or professional tasks efficiently and effectively.

This knowledge not only allows you to choose the right tool for the job but also helps you make informed decisions when expanding your tool collection. Let’s dive into the distinctive characteristics and uses of these two remarkable power tools.

Main Differences to Consider When Choosing Between an Impact Driver and a Cordless Drill:

Design: Impact drivers have a hexagonal socket that accepts hex-shanked driver bits, while drills have a chuck that can hold a variety of round-shanked bits. Impact drivers are generally more compact and lighter than drills, with a shorter head length that allows them to fit into tight spaces more easily. They also tend to have a textured grip that provides a more secure hold, especially when working with slippery or oily surfaces.

Functionality: Impact drivers use a combination of rotation and concussive blows to drive screws and other fasteners. This results in higher torque and more efficient transfer of power to the fastener, making it easier to drive screws into hard or dense materials. Drills, on the other hand, rely solely on rotation to drive screws, so they produce less torque and may struggle with harder materials.

Intended use: Impact drivers are designed for heavy-duty tasks that require a lot of torque and power, such as building decks, framing, or driving long screws or lag bolts. Drills are more versatile and can be used for a wider variety of tasks, such as drilling holes, driving screws, or mixing paint or drywall mud.

Why Choose an Impact Driver Over a Cordless Drill?

Here are some of the advantages of using an impact driver:

Accessibility: Impact drivers are smaller and more compact than drills, making them easier to handle and use in tight spaces. The shorter head length also means you can get into tighter spaces.

Efficiency: Impact drivers are faster and more efficient than drills when it comes to driving screws and other fasteners. Their high torque output allows them to power through tough materials, which can save you time and effort on the job site.

User-friendliness: Impact drivers are less likely to cause fatigue or strain on your arm or wrist, since they require less pressure to drive screws. Their textured grip also provides a more secure hold, so you’re less likely to drop the tool or have it slip on a surface.

Versatility: While impact drivers are primarily designed for heavy-duty tasks, they can also handle most of the same jobs as a drill. Some models even come with multiple speed settings or clutch positions, so you can adjust the torque and speed for different tasks. With Hex drill bits, an impact driver can be used to drill small holes in materials such as wood or plastic.

Tasks that are better suited for an impact driver include:

  • Driving long screws or lag bolts into hard or dense materials like wood or metal. An impact driver’s higher torque output makes this task much easier than with a drill.
  • Building decks, framing, or other construction projects that require a lot of fasteners to be driven quickly and efficiently.
  • Installing cabinets or other fixtures that require a lot of screws to be driven at once. An impact driver’s faster driving speed can save you time on the job site.

When choosing an impact driver, you’ll want to consider factors like:

Budget: Impact drivers come in a range of prices, from budget models to high-end professional-grade tools. Decide on your budget before you start shopping to narrow down your options.

Features: Some impact drivers come with additional features like multiple speed settings, adjustable clutches, or built-in lights. Decide which features are important to you before making a purchase.

Performance: Look for an impact driver with a high torque output and a fast driving speed. Battery life is also important, especially if you’ll be using the tool for extended periods of time. Consider whether you want a brushless or brushed motor, as brushless models tend to be more efficient and last longer.

Brand: Look for a reputable brand with a good track record of producing high-quality tools. Some popular brands for impact drivers include DeWalt, Makita, Milwaukee, and Bosch.


While cordless drills and impact drivers may seem similar at first glance, these tools differ significantly in terms of their design, functionality, and intended use.

Impact drivers are specifically designed for heavy-duty tasks that require high torque and power, while drills are more versatile and can be used for a wider variety of tasks.

Ultimately, the type of tool you choose will depend on your project needs, budget, and personal preferences. By considering the key differences outlined in this review, you’ll be able to make an informed decision and select the best tool for the job at hand. You can learn more about impact drivers here.