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Home Improvement F.A.Q.

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

Posted by Arthur Beam on

In the market for a new power drill? Depending on the kinds of jobs you’re doing, an impact driver may be a better choice. Now that you're confused, we'll explain the difference between a power drill/driver and an impact driver and which jobs they're best suited for.

Bosch DDS181-02L 18 Volt 1/2" Drill Driver

A cordless drill and a cordless impact driver look almost the same. But there are some key differences:

  • An impact driver is slightly smaller than a power drill, but considerably more powerful.
  • A power drill has a chuck, a twisting collar which closes and opens jaws around the drill bit shank to hold it in place. A drill chuck also accepts tools for sawing and sanding, and tools with wire brushes. The chuck accepts bits of many shapes and sizes.
  • The impact driver has a flange at the tip instead of a chuck. This flange – also known as a collet – surrounds a hexagonal socket which accepts driver bits with hexagonal mounts and not the standard drill bits you’re used to.
  • An impact driver is designed for one job: driving screws relentlessly and frequently into dense materials. It’s especially good at driving very long and/or fat screws.
  • A power drill/driver is designed for driving screws for most household jobs and precision drilling and driving.
  • Impact drivers lack a clutch, as power drills have, which stops the drill from blasting through the material you’re driving the screw into.

When do I need a power drill vs an impact driver?

Bosch PS41-2A 12 Volt MAX 1/4" Cordless Impact Driver

Remember that time you were using your power drill and you hit a knot in the wood, bringing your screw to a dead stop? You leaned on and leaned on that drill, giving it as much downward pressure as you could, but the screw wouldn’t turn. That’s when you needed an impact driver, which would have driven the screw through that knot like a knife through butter.

The impact driver uses both rotational force and concussive blows – hammering dozens of times per second - to drive screws through dense materials, typically delivering 2-3X the turning power of a drill. Yet, the impact driver won’t leave your forearm fatigued, as its design transfers the power to the screw, not your arm.

So if you’re building a deck or installing sub flooring, the impact driver is the perfect tool. For household tasks like repairing furniture, removing rust from wrought iron railing, sanding a contoured surface or hanging window blinds, choose the drill/driver. It's basically a choice between precision and flexibility or brute force.

Shop our selection of cordless impact drivers and cordless power drills.

We love this explainer video from Woodworkers Guild of America which shows the difference between a cordless power drill and a cordless impact driver.

  • power tools
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