The Best Milwaukee Impact Drivers (2024 Guide)

Best Milwaukee Impact Drivers
Table of Contents

Team red, let’s ride! To say that Milwaukee has die-hard fans would be an understatement. No power tool brand generates such insane levels of fandom. But why exactly? That’s the question we asked ourselves when setting out to find the best Milwaukee impact drivers.

The most vocal Milwaukee supporters are professional trades workers who demand performance and durability. If you’re a power tool brand, that’s a good audience to be singing your praises. To determine if Milwaukee indeed offers best-in-class impact drivers, we put a fleet of models through the wringer in our lab to determine which models outperformed.

Without holding you in suspense for too long, several Milwaukee impact drivers are among the best we’ve tested.

Below, we cover the best Milwaukee impact drivers for various driving tasks and across price points. Be sure to check out each model’s review for our full lab results, including rankings in critical tests, comparisons, and deeper dive commentary to inform your buying decision.

Best Milwaukee impact drivers

Ratings methodology
21 models tested

Milwaukee M18 Fuel 2953-20

Milwaukee 2953-20 Angle 5
DIY Gear Reviews Award Badge 23 24 Site
TestRank
Driving speed1
Torque1
Battery run time18
RPM1
Bare weight17
Impacting noise5
Brand Milwaukee
Platform M18 Fuel
Motor Brushless
Tested torque in-lbs 1,236.0
IPM 4,400.0
Drive modes 4
Collet 1/4-inch hex
Same as M18 gen 4

Rating

4.72 / 5 ⭐️’s

Buy

2953-22

Includes (2) M18 Red Lithium XC 5Ah battery

The Milwaukee M18 Fuel 2953-20 is the best Milwaukee impact driver for heavy-duty tasks, including driving big screws and busting loose some stubborn nuts. Our tests demonstrated that the 2953-20 is the most powerful Milwaukee impact driver. It turned in class-leading results in our driving speed tests, breezing through driving long GRK RSS screws with its high RPM and torque profile.

The four driving modes improve versatility in light and medium-duty tasks with a reasonably good screw finish. However, no 18V impact driver is the best option for a consistent screw head recess.

Another standout feature is the compact footprint. The 2953-20 isn’t comparably light, but its short collet-to-back length helps it fit into tight areas and through small openings better than many models we’ve tested, including smaller 12V sub-compacts.

Milwaukee 2953-20 45-Degree Clearance
The Milwaukee 2953-20 is compact and fits easily into tight corners. Credit: Nathan Hamilton

The primary downside is the battery run time compared to other flagship models. Kitting the 2953-20 with one of Milwaukee’s M18 XC 5Ah batteries extends the run time over the 2Ah version we tested, but expect it to underperform other models with the same Ah setup.

Combine the performance and feature set, and the 2953-20 is ideal for dedicated heavy-duty usage on the job site or for the prosumer that appreciates class-leading performance. Admittedly, it’s overpowered for many tasks around the home. Importantly in either usage scenario, Milwaukee includes an outstanding warranty, removing any durability concerns.

The Milwaukee M12 Fuel 3453-20 is Milwaukee’s flagship 12V brushless model with performance that makes it one of the best Milwaukee 12V impact drivers. It’s ideal for driving versatility around the home or for woodworkers and carpenters wanting a highly accurate and durable sub-compact impact driver.

With the 3453-20, there aren’t significant performance tradeoffs jumping to a 12V impact driver, unlike many competing models lacking torque and RPM. Interestingly, the 3453-20 pushed out some of the highest RPMs we measured across our 12V and 18V impact driver test fleet.

The 3453-20 leads the sub-compact testing class in our driving speed tests designed to determine brute-force driving performance. Of course, no 12V impact driver is ideal for driving big structural screws, lag bolts, and decking screws. But the 3453-20 is among the most powerful sub-compacts, capable of easily handling heavy-duty tasks in a pinch.

But where the 3453-20 shines is with its speed and accuracy in light and medium-duty tasks and its incredibly lightweight design.

The four drive modes improve driving versatility, with drive modes 1 and 2 offering outstanding precision finishing screws with a consistent recess in materials ranging in density from dimensional lumber to MDF and drywall.

The 3453-20 is one of the few models we’ve come across that weighs less than 2 lbs. with a battery. It is one of the lightest setups available on the market, both in its bare tool form and with a battery, great for reducing arm fatigue over long driving sessions and making it highly agile.

Milwaukee 3453-20 On Scale
The Milwaukee 3453-20 is lightweight in its bare form and when kitted with a battery. Credit: Nathan Hamilton

As with several Milwaukee models we tested, one unfortunate downside is the battery run time performance. The 3453-20 finishes near the bottom of the pack with its run time. Adding a higher Ah capacity battery extends the run time when needed for longer sessions, but the 3453-20 will continue underperforming other setups with the same Ah batteries.

Consider the Milwaukee M18 Fuel Surge 2760-20 if not requiring the brute-force power of the 2953-20. The 2760-20 is a hydraulic impact driver that uses oil impulses to generate impacts, whereas more traditional models use a hammering mechanism. The result with a hydraulic impact driver is a less violent and far quieter impact with lower torque.

Importantly, we didn’t encounter a heavy-duty task the 2760-20 couldn’t handle. It capably drives big screws and other fasteners without bogging down significantly. It’s just not the fastest.

It shines when driving 3-inch and shorter screws into various material densities, including dimensional lumber and MDF, with a clean and accurate finish. The reduced vibrations when impacting are unmatched, and it’s a pleasure to hold in hand when driving screws, something not commonly associated with impact drivers.

We also appreciated the incredibly subtle noise generated in these driving scenarios. No impact driver’s noise is tame, but the 2760-20’s noise output is unmatched and indeed something to experience.

The hydraulic mechanism’s less violent, smoother impact combined with the four drive modes also improves driving accuracy, making this a solid option for many woodworkers.

Milwaukee 2760-20 Drive Modes
The Milwaukee 2760-20 has three speed modes and a self-tapping screw mode that are precise and improve its versatility. Credit: Nathan Hamilton

Like other Milwaukee models we’ve tested, the major downside is battery run time, which is comparably lower than competing models running the same Ah setup.

The Milwaukee M12 Fuel Surge 2551-20 is a solid alternative to the 2760-20 for driving jobs that require precision, all while offering incredible noise and vibration performance. There are several reasons why the 2551-20 is a suitable impact driver for light and medium-duty tasks.

Firstly, it’s a hydraulic impact driver that uses oil impulses to generate impacts, giving it a smooth driving profile unmatched in the 12V class. With most common length screws, the experience while driving screws is closer to the more subtle feel of a cordless drill than an impact driver but more powerful.

The 2551-20’s drive modes are also fantastic. The low and medium-speed drive modes offer among the best precision we’ve tested, regardless of the material density. There are few impact drivers we’ve come across where it’s as smooth and easy to achieve an accurate screw finish, whether you hit the recess dead on the first time or need to feather the trigger for micro-adjustments.

But the 2551-20 isn’t the perfect tool. It is underpowered for heavy-duty jobs, so you’ll need a separate impact driver in your arsenal to handle jobs demanding torque. The battery run time also isn’t much to write home about.

Whether these downsides are make or break depends on the intended usage. Most woodworkers and DIYers will be hard-pressed to find a Milwaukee 12V impact driver with similar precision while retaining such impressive noise and vibration performance.

Milwaukee 2551-20 Size
The Milwaukee 2551-20s small footprint and subtle performance are ideal for woodworking, light-duty carpentry, and homeowners who want an easy to use impact driver.

These types of users are unlikely to bring any power tool to its knees with rugged use over time, but there’s always the piece of mind that the 2551-20 includes Milwaukee’s best-in-class warranty.

Check out the Milwaukee M18 2850-20 if you’re looking for one of the cheaper Milwaukee brushless impact drivers available. As with most Milwaukee impact drivers, it includes an outstanding 5-year tool warranty, removing concerns about quality when moving down the price spectrum.

As the price declines for any power tool, it’s essential to understand the tradeoffs. Nicely, there’s no driving performance tradeoff with the 2850-20, as demonstrated by our driving speed tests.

The 2850-20 turned in one of the fastest total and average times across our test fleet when driving GRK RSS screws. It also capably drives big lag bolts without bogging down, thanks to its powerful torque, high impacts per minute, and high RPMs.

The 2850-20 quickly makes sacrifices when testing beyond its torque-rich driving profile, although its battery run time beats some other pricier Milwaukee models.

Notably, there is only a single drive mode that is all brute force and no precision, making it a one-trick pony for heavy-duty tasks. We found it challenging to recess screws in varying-density materials consistently. Adding more drive modes would improve the consistency and accuracy of its screw finish.

The 2850-20 is also not ideal for one-handed bit changes. It doesn’t include an easy-insert collet like other higher-end Milwaukee impact drivers.

The Milwaukee M18 2656-20 is a solid budget impact driver worth considering if you want to get into the Milwaukee ecosystem or if you’re reviewing mid-range and lower options from other brands.

It capably drives big screws and lag bolts but won’t win any speed contests. The 2656-20 also includes Milwaukee’s exceptionally-long tool warranty, vital for any power tools with brushed motors that are less durable and efficient than brushless models.

Where it shines compared to other budget models is the compact footprint, especially the comparably short collet-to-back length. Most budget impact drivers are longer than a country mile from the front to back, vastly reducing the tight corners they can fit into. This shorter design explains why the 2850-20 outperformed competing models in our clearance tests.

The primary downsides are its poor battery run time, and it only includes a single high-speed drive mode that offers little in the way of precision.

Milwaukee impact driver torque

Milwaukee’s M18 Fuel impact drivers generate the most torque within Milwaukee’s deep impact driver lineup. Specifically, the Milwaukee M18 Fuel 2953-20 was the highest torque Milwaukee impact driver in our testing, handily beating all models in our summer 2023 test fleet. We’ve tested many M18 Milwaukee impact drivers, and the torque results ranged from 480.6 to 1,236.0 in-lbs of torque.

Milwaukee 2953-20 Torquemeter
Testing the torque of the 2953-20. Credit: Nathan Hamilton

It’s worth considering that third-party testing rarely matches the lofty advertised torque brands include on their specification sheets. Accordingly, we recommend using our impact driver torque test results as a relative comparison for models we’ve tested.

Milwaukee impact driver lineup explained

M18 Fuel and M18

Only Milwaukee’s flagship tools comprise the brushless Milwaukee Fuel impact driver lineup. While Milwaukee cordless impact drivers with the Fuel branding are the most expensive, they offer more power, brushless motors, premium build quality, and other advanced features that Milwaukee’s brushless M18 power tools don’t provide.

Below, we include results from several lab tests to demonstrate the driving performance difference between a Milwaukee M18 Fuel impact driver and a Milwaukee M18 impact driver.

ModelDriving Speed Results (sec.)Max RPM ResultsMax Torque Results (in-lbs)
Milwaukee M18 Fuel 2953-2011.23,788.01,236.0
Milwaukee M18 2850-2014.73,240.0850.2

Fuel Surge

The Surge lineup of impact drivers is a subset of tools within the flagship Fuel ecosystem. Surge impact drivers use a hydraulic, oil-impulse design to generate impacts, resulting in a less violent and far quieter impact than traditional impact drivers using a hammer mechanism. Hydraulic impact drivers typically offer less torque than equivalent hammer-based impact drivers.

We test all of the best impact drivers for their noise performance using a decibel meter. We’ve included noise performance below for several Fuel Surge and equivalent Fuel impact driver models and driving performance details.

ModelMax Impacting Noise (dBA)Driving Speed Results (sec.)Max Torque Results (in-lbs)
Milwaukee M12 Fuel Surge 2551-2086.124.8472.8
Milwaukee M18 Fuel Surge 2760-2089.518.7480.6
Milwaukee M18 Fuel 2953-2095.211.21,236.0
Milwaukee M18 2850-2096.814.7850.2

Milwaukee’s M12 Fuel Surge 2551-20 and M18 Fuel Surge 2760-20 are its two hydraulic entrants, both extremely quiet impact drivers for light and medium-duty driving tasks.

M18 & M12

Milwaukee signifies the voltage of its impact drivers with standardized M18 and M12 branding. M18 models are 18V and M12 models are 12V.

The M18 impact driver lineup includes Milwaukee’s more powerful compact offerings with a less precise screw finish than the M12 sub-compact lineup.

Kits and model numbers

Milwaukee standardizes the model numbers for its impact drivers, making it reasonably easy to determine what you’re buying once deciphering the numbers and letters.

First, let’s review a bare tool example, such as the Milwaukee M18 Fuel 2953-20. We instantly know this impact driver is a Milwaukee brushless impact driver in the M18 Fel lineup.

Generally speaking, the higher the four starting numbers, the higher the tool is in the Milwaukee lineup. The 20 at the end signifies that it’s a bare power tool.

Milwaukee’s power tool combo kits include different ending numbers to represent the included batteries, such as the “22” in model number 2953-22. Here are several common number combinations that Milwaukee uses across its power tools to represent bare tools and the batteries included in kits:

  • 20: Bare tool
  • 21/21P: Kit includes one Red Lithium battery and is used for M12 and M18 models. The Ah batteries included vary based on the tool included in the kit.
  • 22CT/22: Kit includes two Red Lithium batteries and is used for M12 and M18 models. The Ah batteries included vary based on the tool included in the kit.

Generations

Some users refer to Milwaukee’s impact drivers based on the generation of the tool, such as calling the Milwaukee M18 Fuel 2953-20 the gen-4 impact driver. The generations simply represent each update, though there is no real consistency in naming across tools to signify the generation.

In the case of the M18 Fuel impact drivers, models 2953, 2853, and 2753 represent the gen-4, gen-3, and gen-2 tools, respectively.

One-Key

The One-Key branding represents Milwaukee’s impact drivers compatible with the One-Key app. Inside One-Key, you can customize driving profiles, including the RPM for each drive mode. One-Key includes several theft deterrents, such as remote lockout and location tracking.

Milwaukee impact driver battery lineup explained

M18 batteries

M18 batteries fit any tool in the M18 ecosystem. The batteries come in many Ah capacities and include Red Lithium branding. Red Lithium CP batteries are compact models with lower Ah capacities, such as 1.5Ah and 2Ah versions. Red Lithium XC branding covers the mid-range of Ah capacities, including the popular 5Ah size. Red Lithium HD batteries are the highest Ah capacities.

M12 batteries

M12 batteries have an in-handle design where the overall footprint varies based on the Ah capacity. The 1.5Ah, 2Ah, and 2.5Ah designs integrate seamlessly into the grip. The higher Ah versions attach to the grip similarly but are designed with a wider and longer base to accommodate the extra battery cells.

FAQ

  • What's the newest Milwaukee impact driver?

    The Milwaukee M18 Fuel 2953-20 (gen 4) is the newest 18V Milwaukee impact driver.

  • What's the most powerful Milwaukee impact driver?

    The Milwaukee M18 Fuel 2953-20 is the strongest Milwaukee impact driver, as demonstrated in our driving speed, RPM, and torque tests. It’s also one of the strongest impact drivers on the market.

  • What size Milwaukee impact driver is best?

    A small Milwaukee impact driver in the M12 lineup is most suitable for DIYers, woodworkers, and carpenters that frequently tackle light and medium-duty tasks where a consistently accurate screw finish is essential.

    M12 sub-compact impact drivers work in a pinch to drive big lag bolts and decking screws. However, an M18 impact driver is ideal for heavy-duty tasks at home and on the job site.

  • What Milwaukee impact driver battery is best?

    It’s best to have two batteries for your impact driver so you never lose a beat when one battery is drained. We recommend pairing an M18 impact driver setup with a Milwaukee M18 Red Lithium CP 2Ah and a Milwaukee M18 Red Lithium XC 5Ah battery. This way, you have a compact battery for a lightweight setup and an extended run-time battery for heavy-duty tasks.

What's new?

1/12/24: Updated editorial insights for current picks
12/18/23: Added a section discussing Milwaukee impact driver torque ranges
10/23/23: Minor editorial update
8/4/23: Full guide published
8/2/23: Early access guide launched

Nathan Hamilton
Nathan Hamilton
Nathan Hamilton is the founder of DIY Gear Reviews and a recognized expert in the home and DIY space. He has over 200 bylines covering topics such as power tools, hand tools, and woodworking. Nathan is the strategic director for DIY Gear Reviews, deciding everything from the content covered to designing the testing methodologies for lab-tested reviews. He can be emailed at nhamilton@diygearreviews.com.

Related

Leave a Comment