Best Impact Drivers

Best Impact Drivers

An impact driver is an indispensable tool in your arsenal, whether around the home or on the job site. Impact drivers excel at driving big lag bolts and fasteners, as well as busting loose the occasional lug nut. Some models even shine in precisely finishing fasteners in lower-density materials, jobs a drill is commonly used for. But finding the best impact driver for your tool belt isn’t as straightforward as it should be.

There is no standardized way that tool manufacturers are required to measure and market the performance of their tools, which would simplify comparing performance across models and brands.

That’s where we come in. We put all impact drivers in our test fleet on a level playing field by standardizing the testing process. This approach cuts through the marketing hype to simplify the process of buying the best cordless impact driver. Below, we include our shortlist of top impact driver picks that performed best in our testing.

Be sure to also 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 impact drivers

Ratings methodology
21 models tested

Milwaukee M18 Fuel 2953-20

Milwaukee 2953-20 Angle 5
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

Recommended configuration

2953-22

Includes (2) M18 Red Lithium XC 5Ah battery

The Milwaukee M18 Fuel 2953-20 is is the best impact driver tested in our lab. It is outstanding with brute-force driving power consistently leaving other flagship models in its dust. The 2953-20 somehow achieves this performance in an incredibly small footprint, making it one of the best compact impact drivers.

Milwaukee 2953-20 Width Clearance
The Milwaukee 2953-20 is incredibly compact from tip to tail, helping it to fit in tight areas.

Notably, the 2953-20 finished at the top of the pack across our Summer 2023 test fleet for its unmatched driving speed, mostly thanks to the high RPM and high impacts per minute.

It’s most at home driving big lag bolts and screws, even though it offers solid enough versatility with the three speed modes and a specialty self-tapping screw mode designed for thin sheet metal.

Durability shouldn’t be a concern since Milwaukee offers a best-in-class tool warranty of 5 years for its impact drivers.

If the battery run time was better, the 2953-20 would’ve easily ascended to the elite status of the perfect heavy-duty impact driver, something we can’t state for any model we’ve tested. Unfortunately, all power tools have tradeoffs.

The 2953-20 offers some of the lowest battery run times we’ve tested. We run our battery tests using 2Ah batteries for an apples-to-apples comparison across models and brands. Of course, adding a higher Ah battery increases run time significantly to remove any battery longevity concerns. But the 2953-20 will continue underperforming the same Ah setups from other brands.

The Makita 18V LXT XDT19Z is a fantastic alternative for the best cordless impact driver, especially considering the improved footprint, versatility, and weight.

The XDT19Z is a flagship Makita impact driver, so there’s no doubt it is powerful and fast, as our torque and driving speed tests demonstrated.

Compared to the DCF887 (detailed below), the XDT19Z has a far shorter collet-to-back length that easily fits into tight corners and narrow clearances. Not surprisingly, the XDT19Z is incredibly light in its bare tool form and with a battery. Our weight tests demonstrated that it’s one of the lightest in the 18V class, which is impressive given its robust driving performance.

Makita XDT19Z On Scale
The Makita XDT19Z’s weight is one of its defining features, which makes it easy to use and agile.

The XDT19Z also offers unmatched driving versatility with a total of 8 drive modes. We’ve not found many impact drivers that can as confidently breeze through driving big lag bolts while still offering outstanding precision in light-duty tasks, all thanks to different drive modes. The XDT19Z also includes specialty wood, self-tapping, and bolt-loosening drive modes that work well in practice for each unique use case.

Lastly, Makita threw in a few other nice-to-haves, such as a dedicated flashlight mode and an on/off work light button.

The Dewalt 20V Max XR DCF887 is a powerful impact driver with exceptional build quality. It offers an outstanding balance of driving performance, versatility, and battery run time in its class.

The DCF887 shined most in our driving speed and torque tests, turning in among the best results across our test fleet. The DCF887 rapidly drives big screws and lag bolts, highlighting its performance for the most demanding heavy-duty tasks. Admittedly, it’s overpowered for jobs around the home.

The tested torque was outstanding, explaining one reason why prosumers and trades workers prefer Dewalt impact drivers over other brands. Including several drive modes also improves versatility for an accurate screw finish when needed, although we don’t recommend the DCF887 as the ideal impact driver for accuracy and consistency. It’s overpowered in the high-speed mode for light and medium-duty tasks, offering lower precision than less powerful models.

Dewalt DCF887 Torquemeter
The Dewalt DCF887 has a robust torque profile, as demonstrated when tested on a torque meter.

The main downside otherwise is the middle-of-the-pack footprint. The DCF887 is neither compact nor bulky, so it’s not ideal for squeezing into tight areas. Consider the Makita 18V LXT XDT19Z, Milwaukee M18 Fuel 2953-20, or Dewalt 20V Atomic DCF850 for similar performance in a more compact footprint.

Check out the Makita 18V LXT XDT14Z if you are looking for one of the best impact drivers for the price. It offers unparalleled performance and versatility in its price range, shining most in our battery run-time and driving speed tests, just like other models in the highly competitive Makita 18V LXT lineup.

If considering only a Makita 18V impact driver, the XDT14Z is the best option if you don’t need the number of drive modes or work light functionalities offered with the flagship XDT19Z, but still want a lightweight and highly compact impact driver.

Nicely, the XDT14Z includes four drive modes, improving its accuracy and screw finish in light or medium-duty tasks.

Makita XDT14Z Drive Modes
While the Makita XDT14Z has four drive modes that improve driving versatility.

The main downside is its noise output. No impact driver is designed to whisper gently while impacting, but the XDT14Z is moderately loud compared to other impact drivers we measured with a decibel meter.

Milwaukee M12 Fuel 3453-20

Milwaukee 3453-20 Angle 5
TestRank
Driving speed15
Torque6
Battery run time21
RPM2
Bare weight1
Impacting noise13
Brand Milwaukee
Platform M12 Fuel
Motor Brushless
Tested torque in-lbs 696.0
IPM 4,000.0
Drive modes 4
Collet 1/4-inch hex
Same as M12 gen 3

Rating

4.56 / 5 ⭐️’s

Recommended configuration

3453-22

Includes (2) M12 Red Lithium CP 2Ah battery

The Milwaukee M12 Fuel 3453-20 is worthy of its flagship status as a leading sub-compact impact driver. The primary reasons to consider a 12V impact driver are the more compact footprint, lower weight, and improved precision over bigger 18V impact drivers. The main tradeoff is the performance in heavy-duty tasks, which the 3453-20 balances well compared to competing models.

Milwaukee 3453-20 Torquemeter
The Milwaukee 3453-20 impressed in our torque tests, far surpassing many larger 18V models.

The 3453-20 is incredibly lightweight in its bare tool form and with a battery. It’s the only impact driver we’ve tested that weighs less than 2 lbs with a 2Ah battery, perfect for extended driving sessions where hand and arm fatigue can be an issue.

We appreciated the 3453-20’s driving versatility offered with its 4 drive modes. The high-speed drive mode can drive lag bolts in a pinch and outperform other sub-compacts in heavy-duty tasks, but it’ll bog down just like any 12V impact driver and is best used for these tasks when a more powerful impact driver isn’t within reach.

The medium-speed drive mode is well balanced for an accurate screw finish in materials ranging in density from plywood to dimensional lumber and MDF. However, a dedicated drill/driver is arguably the tool of choice the softer the work material. That said, the 3453-20 is a solid option for woodworkers, DIYers, and carpenters coveting precision.

We were impressed with the moderately short collet-to-back length, combined with its in-handle battery design, improving agility and helping to reach into tight spaces better than many competing models in our test fleet.

As with other Milwaukee impact drivers, battery run time is a letdown. The 3453-20 performed near the bottom of the pack in our battery run-time tests.

Dewalt 12V Xtreme DCF801

Dewalt DCF801 Angle 5
TestRank
Driving speed19
Torque21
Battery run time9
RPM17
Bare weight3
Impacting noise6
Brand Dewalt
Platform 12V Xtreme
Motor Brushless
Tested torque in-lbs 441.0
IPM 3,600.0
Drive modes 3
Collet 1/4-inch hex
Same as DCF801B

Rating

4.23 / 5 ⭐️’s

Recommended configuration

DCF801F2

Includes (2) Max 12V 2Ah battery

Consider the Dewalt 12V Xtreme DCF801 for a 12V impact driver with a much better battery run time than the 3453-20. We achieved 44.0 minutes of no-load battery run time with the DCF801, compared to far lower with the 3453-20.

Importantly for a 12V impact driver, the DCF801 is versatile across light and medium-duty tasks with its three drive modes, and it’s lightweight.

Dewalt also includes a long tool and battery warranty, reducing concerns over durability.

Milwaukee M18 Fuel Surge 2760-20

Milwaukee 2760-20 Angle 5
TestRank
Driving speed12
Torque19
Battery run time12
RPM15
Bare weight13
Impacting noise2
Brand Milwaukee
Platform M18 Fuel Surge
Motor Brushless
Tested torque in-lbs 480.6
IPM 4,000.0
Drive modes 4
Collet 1/4-inch hex
Same as M18 hydraulic

Rating

4.13 / 5 ⭐️’s

Recommended configuration

2760-22

Includes (2) M18 Red Lithium XC 5Ah battery

The Milwaukee M18 Fuel Surge 2760-20’s standout feature is the vastly quieter and less violent impacting performance compared to other models. The 2760-20 is a hydraulic impact driver that uses oil impulses to generate impacts, whereas other impact drivers use a hammering mechanism.

The quiet driving experience is, dare we say, “unheard” of and a welcome change. It impresses most when driving 3-inch and shorter screws. The driving experience is incredibly quiet for an impact driver and doesn’t aggressively vibrate in your hand.

The 2760-20 offers unmatched driving accuracy as well. It’s a pleasure recessing screws with the 2760-20, especially when not hitting the recess the first time, and feathering the trigger to perfectly set the screw head.

The 2760-20 has sufficient torque and RPMs to capably handle driving big screws and some lag bolts, but it won’t win any speed contests, highlighting one of the key downsides of hydraulic impact drivers.

Of course, the tested battery run time is one consideration as well, though some of the downsides can be mitigated by kitting the 2760-20 with a higher Ah battery.

Milwaukee M12 Fuel Surge 2551-20

Milwaukee 2551-20 Angle 5
TestRank
Driving speed17
Torque20
Battery run time18
RPM12
Bare weight9
Impacting noise1
Brand Milwaukee
Platform M12 Fuel Surge
Motor Brushless
Tested torque in-lbs 472.8
IPM 3,400.0
Drive modes 4
Collet 1/4-inch hex
Same as M12 hydraulic

Rating

4.36 / 5 ⭐️’s

Recommended configuration

2551-22

Includes (1) M12 Red Lithium CP 2Ah battery

The Milwaukee M12 Fuel Surge 2551-20 is the more agile sibling of the 2760-20. The 2551-20 is a 12V hydraulic impact driver that is exceptionally quiet with little vibration under impact.

The advantages of moving to the 12V oil impulse iteration are a much more compact footprint, a lower weight, and more precision, all while still retaining solid enough driving performance for a sub-compact.

The 2551-20 has unmatched accuracy in the 12V class, improving upon the already impressive precision of the more powerful 2760-20. Recessing screws to the perfect depth is an absolute joy with the various driving modes combined with the balanced torque and RPM profile and subtle impacts.

We tested driving common screw lengths into lower-density materials such as MDF and drywall to better understand its precision. This is one of the few impact drivers we’ve come across where the lower-speed drive modes excelled in driving screws accurately into these materials.

This overall performance makes it an exceptional fit for woodworkers and DIYers commonly tackling light and medium-duty tasks.

The primary downside is the lacking battery run time relative to other models with the same Ah-capacity battery.

The Makita 18V LXT XDT13Z is a fantastic impact driver that won’t break the bank. It outperformed many more expensive models with outstanding battery run time, finishing near the top of the tested tool fleet. The XDT13Z is also incredibly lightweight at its price point, cementing its status as one of the best impact drivers for the money.

The XDT13Z continues to outperform with its driving speed, RPM, and torque. While it didn’t secure podium positions in any of these areas we tested, the XDT13Z outperforms or matches many higher-priced alternatives.

We were also impressed with the compact footprint that squeezes into tight areas nearly as well as the sub-compacts we tested. The XDT13Z has a short height and collet-to-back length, explaining why it shined in our interior clearance driving tests.

However, there are sacrifices made to hit this price point. The most glaring is that the XDT13Z includes a single drive mode, reducing its driving versatility and precision in light and medium-duty tasks.

Impact driver buying tips

Driving performance (torque, RPM, and impacts per minute)

18V Impact drivers are designed for heavy-duty tasks, such as driving decking screws, structural screws, and lag bolts. The combination of an impact driver’s torque, RPM, and impacts per minute determine how each impact driver performs for demanding tasks.

Below, we outline key impact driver performance specifications to help you understand what’s considered high or low in each driving category.

SpecificationHighMediumLow
Torque (in-lbs)1500.0 and higher1000.0 to 1499.0Less than 1000.0
RPM3200.0 and higher2900.0 to 3199.0Less than 2900.0
Impacts per minute4000.0 and higher3600.0 to 3999.0Less than 3600.0

Torque is perhaps the most important specification to consider. Without a high enough torque, an impact driver will bog down when driving big lag bolts, and battery run time will suffer as the motor is overloaded. A high RPM and high impacts per minute mostly just speed up the process.

But the highest torque isn’t always ideal. A low torque, high RPM impact driver drives screws faster than a high torque, low RPM impact driver. Speed and torque are inversely related.

Our global impact driver rankings are helpful for comparing key specs, including driving performance and more, across our entire test fleet.

Footprint

12V sub-compact impact drivers are designed for agility over driving performance, though a sub-compact impact driver can tackle most heavy-duty driving jobs in a pinch.

For example, we tested 12V sub-compact and 18V compact impact driver models using the same driving speed test designed to test brute force driving power and speed. All 12V models completed these tests, though many took 3x to 4x longer than the most powerful models. The only fasteners most 12V impact drivers struggle with are 5/8-inch and larger lag bolts.

This performance tradeoff is why picking the right size impact driver is essential. DIYers, woodworkers, and carpenters coveting precision can benefit from adding a 12V sub-compact impact driver to their arsenal. Naturally, sub-compact impact drivers fit through tight holes and into corners better than larger 18V models, as shown in our interior clearance tests.

More powerful 18V compact impact drivers are ideal for DIYers who frequently tackle demanding jobs and trade workers who prefer power over agility.

Voltage

The higher the voltage, the more powerful an impact driver will generally be. Most impact drivers are either 12V or 18V models, though some 40V and higher voltage models are on the market.

Tool manufacturer marketing practices can obfuscate an understanding of which impact drivers are most powerful. For example, Dewalt advertises their impact drivers as 20V models, compared to other brands advertising their equivalent impact drivers as 18V models.

In short, both are equally powerful, all else held constant. Dewalt advertises the max voltage, even if that number isn’t reached in most practical applications. 18V is the nominal working voltage for any 20V impact driver. The only difference is some brands market their equivalent tools as 18V models by quoting the nominal voltage, not max.

Battery performance

Run time is another essential performance indicator to understand when searching for the best battery-powered impact driver. We can think of a few scenarios where the option with a short battery run time is preferred when comparing two otherwise equivalent impact drivers.

Many Dewalt and Makita models we’ve tested have outstanding battery run times. Milwaukee and Ryobi impact drivers typically sacrifice some battery run time for improved driving performance.

There is no perfect impact driver, just tradeoffs for each performance specification and feature.

Check out our battery performance lab results to see how each impact driver performed in our tests.

Drive modes

If in the budget, we recommend always opting for an impact driver with several drive modes. Including more than one drive mode improves versatility. The low and medium-speed drive modes on many impact drivers precisely finish screws with an accurate recess while still offering the brute force driving power impact drivers are known for in their high-speed drive modes.

An impact driver with a single drive mode is a one-trick pony and is best for dedicated usage driving big screws and lag bolts. High-speed drive modes rarely offer an accurate screw finish. We recommend also owning a cordless drill for versatility if purchasing a single-speed impact driver.

Brushed vs. brushless

Just like recommending models with several drive modes, we recommend buying impact drivers with brushless motors if it’s within your budget. Brushless motors are more efficient, smoother, quieter, and durable than brushed motors. Brushed motors are most commonly found in budget impact drivers.

What’s the best impact driver brand?

We contemplated at length how to answer this question since determining the best impact driver brand is not black and white. The answer ultimately depends on your budget and planned usage.

One tried-and-true answer is that the best brushless impact driver brand may be the one within the same battery ecosystem for tools you already own.

Makita, Milwaukee, Dewalt, Ridgid, and Flex all offer many tools in their lineup across several price points, and all are arguably excellent for some users and not ideal for others.

Ryobi impact drivers are also massively popular due to their exceptional performance offered for the price. The acceptable downside for many is the durability, even though we’ve not tested all brands and models to understand their multi-year performance, yet.

Instead of attempting to answer this question, check out our global impact driver rankings to decide which impact is best for you. Our lab test results are unbiased and provide a clear idea of how each impact driver performs in critical areas, helping to cut through the marketing hype and anecdotal evidence of the best impact driver brand.

FAQ

  • What’s the strongest impact driver?

    The strongest impact driver we’ve tested is the Milwaukee M18 Fuel 2953-20, as evidenced in our torque and driving speed tests. Several impact drivers are closely behind, including the Makita 40V XGT GDT01Z and Dewalt 20V Max XR DCF887.

  • What should an impact driver be used for?

    Impact drivers should primarily be used for driving screws 3 inches and longer, including decking screws, lag bolts, and structural screws. Impact drivers are competent in driving shorter screws, though an impact driver isn’t as precise as a drill/driver and may be overpowered for some tasks.

Picture of 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.

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