Impact Driver vs. Impact Wrench: Pros/Cons

Impact Driver vs Impact Wrench

Whether you are just a hobbyist, DIYer, or even a professional contractor, your tools will always be your greatest asset.

But, with the many tools out there that perform similar purposes, sometimes it can be hard to pick just the right one for your projects. And one of the most confusing decisions that many DIYers and woodworkers will have to make is whether to buy the impact driver or impact wrench.

The two are by far the most reliable power wrenching tools, but in most cases, you will only need to have one of them.

Whether you buy the impact driver or impact wrench, you can always be sure of getting more torque than what you would get when using the standard drill or torque wrench. 

But, to pick between the two, you need to understand the uses or applications of each and their merits and demerits. 

Impact driver

There are many tasks and project in the workshop and around the home that will require you to drive in screws. Although standard drill and torque wrenches can be handy with this, they do not always offer enough torque and might not be suitable for some project types.

And so you need something more versatile that produces more torque, and this is where the impact driver is useful.

Impact drivers are a standard tool in many workshop and woodworkers love them for their versatility and usefulness in various projects.

They are more like standard drills in appearance, but they will provide more torque for faster and more efficient performance.

These handy tools use a 1/4-inch hex drive and are one of the best power tools for driving screws into various materials. However, it is also possible to convert them to a 1/2-inch square drive (like what you get in impact wrenches) using an adaptor bit for fastening sockets.

Impact drivers will use a fast-paced rotational tapping to nudge the fastener along while also keeping the tip of the screw that you are driving in place to ensure that it does not spin out of place.

With an impact driver, you can get a torque of around 2,200 in-lbs depending on the model. And this will be ideal for a variety of household applications.

An impact driver is an efficient tool for DIY and home use. The primary purpose of this power tool is to drive screws and bolts into wood and various other materials which might not always be possible to do using a standard drill.

If you are constructing a typical deck, making drawers, installing cabinets or doing some general construction, the impact driver is your best choice.

Pros

  • Convenient to use.  Impact drivers are not only a useful tool for DIY and home use, but they are also quite convenient to use. Besides from providing the necessary torque for driving screws they also help to ensures that it does not slip out of place which is something that is hard to achieve with regular drills.
  • Quite affordable.  Although the impact drivers are still pricier than traditional drills, most impact driver models are cheaper than the larger and more powerful impact wrenches. You can get some good or basic impact drivers for as little as $50, but the best selling models will go for slightly over $150.
  • Best for driving screws. The 1/4-inch hex drive makes it one of the most reliable power tools for driving screws. And you can use it when working with wood and various other materials.
  • Compact tool. Handling or using the impact driver should be relatively easy for most woodworker as most are small and lightweight power tools.

Cons

  • Lack of torque control. Most impact drivers will not have torque control, and so it will be hard to control how much torque the tool delivers. The lack of torque control can lead to stripped screw heads and damaged work surfaces.
  • Will not accept some bits. One of the most significant and notable shortcomings of the impact driver is that it will not take some types of bits. It has a locking collect that will only accept the hex-shanked bits, and this can limit its applications, and this is a significant shortcoming for many users.

Impact Wrench

Impact Wrench

When no other wrench seems to have enough power to suit your need the impact wrench is always what many individuals will use. And this is because it consistently delivers a high torque output.

Although the impact wrench will look like a drill, it does not supply constant rotational power at high speed. It will instead deliver high torque at low speeds using a hammering action.

The impact wrench tends to be bulkier and more powerful than the impact driver, and it will use a 1/2-inch square drive. And its primary application will be to loosen or fasten sockets.

These power tools will also deliver several times more torque than the impact drivers. And depending on the model that you pick you can expect to get a torque of around 13,000 in-lbs or more.

Although most DIYers will not have much need for the impact wrench (because the impact driver is suitable for most tasks), it can still be useful for various applications. 

When doing heavy machine maintenance, mechanical work and home construction the impact wrench can be a handy tool.

Also, you can use the impact wrench for relatively light duties such as changing automobile wheels and also when building garden decking.

Pros

  • Produces more torque. When an impact driver, torque wrench, and standard drill do not seem to offer enough torque the impact wrench is always the tool to use. And you can be sure of getting enough torque to handle almost any application.
  • Easy to use. Despite the bulky feel and massive torque that the impact wrench generates it is still light and easy to use. It will make bolting or unbolting screws and sockets seem almost effortless.
  • Ideal for nuts and bolts. Although you can still use the impact wrench to drive screws (with the right bit), they are best suited for nuts and bolts. And they can handle different sizes efficiently. This capability is what makes them ideal for maintenance of large machines and mechanical work.

Cons       

  • Bulky. The extra torque and power also make this quite a bulky power tool. Although it is still quite easy to handle, most models are relatively heavy and will weigh several ounces more than impact drivers. Hence, they will take some time to get used to and might not impress hobbyists and DIYers that prefer lightweight and compact tool.
  • Relatively expensive. Impact wrenches can be quite expensive, and this is more so if you compare them to the impact driver. And since you will only need their high torque on rare occasions, it is not worth spending a lot of money on a power tool that will sit idle in the workshop most of the times. The best impact wrenches from the reputable companies will cost several hundred dollars to buy. However, it is also worth knowing that there are still some cheap and basic models that you can get even for under $50.

The Bottom Line

Impact Driver vs Impact Wrench- infographic

Having a proper toolkit is vital for every DIYer and professional contractor but having the right tools in the workshop is even more critical. Understanding the uses of each is the only way to make sure that you pick the right ones to add to your collection.

If you are shopping for a general-purpose wrenching tool, the impact driver is your best option. The torque that it delivers is more than enough for most of your projects. Using an impact wrench for things like driving screws means that all that extra torque will be useless.

However, if you run a professional automotive garage, a fabrication shop or just want something for more substantial work, then an impact wrench will be the best pick.

Another way to look at it is that the impact driver will be an ideal tool for household use while the impact wrench will be best for industrial applications.

Best Impact Drivers

#1. Black & Decker BDCI20C 20V Lithium Impact Driver

Black & Decker BDCI20C 20V Lithium Impact Driver

The Black & Decker BDC120C is a high performing impact driver that will offer more value for your money than most others in the market.

This impact driver features a high-performance transmission that will deliver a torque of up to 1,375 in-lbs. And this ensures that you have more than enough torque for most of your household drilling and driving needs.

It comes with a quick release 1/4-inch hex chuck that also helps to make it a more convenient and versatile impact driver. With this power tool, you also get variable speed as the machine can operate between 0 and 3,000 RPM to make it ideal for various applications.

The impact driver is also lightweight and compact to make it easy to use for a variety of jobs. And it also comes with a long-lasting battery to eliminate the need to keep recharging in the middle of a project.           

#2. DeWalt DCF885C1 1/4" Impact Driver

DeWalt DCF885C1 Impact Driver

DeWalt makes their DCF885C1 for hobbyists and professionals that want something reliable for everyday use around the house.

The impact driver runs on lithium-ion batteries that deliver more power and longer run times. And it has a robust design to ensure that it can withstand daily job site wear and tear with minimal downtimes.

It will deliver a maximum torque of 1,400 in-lbs and runs on a variable speed of between 0 and 3,200 RPM to make it a versatile power tool that you can use for various applications.

Bit loading will also be quick and easy with the DCF885C1, and you can even do it using one hand as it has the 1/4-inch hex chuck, and it will accept the 1-inch but tips.

The ergonomic design is also an outstanding feature as it is both a compact and lightweight impact driver that you can use in tight areas.

Best Impact Wrenches

#1. Porter-Cable PCE211 1/2" Impact Wrench

Porter-Cable PCE211 7.5 Amp 1:2" Impact Wrench

For those that want a reliable impact wrench but also do not want to spend much the Porte-Cable PCE211 will be a good choice as it is both cheap and efficient.

It runs on a powerful 7.5 amp motor that will make it ideal for heavy duty application, and it will generate up to 450 ft-lbs in torque to make it suitable for installation and removal of heavy fasteners.

With speeds of 2,200 RPM and 2,700 BPM, this impact wrench delivers fast applications speeds to make it suitable for various projects.

The Porte-Cable impact wrench uses 1/2-inch hog ring anvil to make socket changes easy, and it also offers a forward/reverse rocker switch that makes it even more useful.

#2. DeWalt DCF899P1 20V XR Brushless 1/2" Impact Wrench

 DEWALT DCF899P1

With a maximum torque of 700 ft-lbs and breakaway torque of 1,200 ft-lbs, the DeWalt DCF899P1 will provide more than enough torque for all your wrenching projects.

This impact wrench uses a brushless motor to ensure superior and reliable performance. And it will provide speeds of 0 to 400, 1,200 and 1,900 RPM to make it a suitable tool for a variety of applications.

The DCF899P1 should also be easy and convenient to handle and use for both hobbyists and professionals as it is only 8.81 inches long and weighs 7.2 pounds. The compact design also makes it ideal for use in small and tight spaces.

With this impact wrench, you also get an LED light with a 20-second delay that provides increased worksite visibility to make this an appropriate tool for use in low light and dark spaces.

And it has a handy battery fuel gauge indicator that will inform you of the amount of charge you still have one the battery.

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