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Impact Drivers vs Drills

by Shassi Kumaran 05 Feb 2024
Impact Drivers vs Drills

In the world of DIY projects and home repairs, having the right tools can make all the difference. Two essential rotary driving tools that often find a place in workshops and garages are drills and impact drivers. While these tools share some similarities, they serve distinct purposes, and understanding their differences is crucial for tackling a variety of building and repair tasks.

Understanding the Drill: Versatility at a Cost

Drills, available in both corded and cordless options, are the workhorse of many toolkits. The primary function of a drill is to rotate a drill bit clockwise, allowing users to bore holes in materials by cutting and removing waste. Additionally, equipped with a driver bit, drills can turn screws, bolts, and other fasteners into materials, with the ability to reverse for fastener removal.

However, the drill's versatility comes at a cost. While it excels at drilling holes and driving small fasteners into soft wood, it struggles with driving long fasteners and may require pre-drilling for difficult materials. The constant torque applied by the tool can also be hard on the hand, wrist, and arm.



  • Greater utility than impact driver
  • Can both drill and drive
  • Affordable bits and drivers
  • Ineffective for driving long fasteners
  • Difficult fasteners may require pre-drilling
  • Hard on the hand, wrist, and arm


Shaped like a drill but typically shorter and smaller, the impact driver is a game-changer in the world of fastening. It shares similarities with a drill, such as a handle, trigger, and a hex collet chuck. The key difference lies in its ability to deliver sequential bursts of power automatically, thanks to a spring-loaded concussive force mechanism.

The impact driver excels at driving fasteners with great torque, making it ideal for tasks like driving 3-inch screws into wood or dealing with dense or knotty materials. While it can be used for drilling in a pinch, it's not its primary strength. The impact driver's ability to apply torque without stressing the user's wrist and arm makes it a valuable addition to any toolkit.



  • Easy on the wrist and arm due to applied torque
  • Reduces the chance of stripped screws
  • Compact size compared to most drills
  • High power ratio for its size
  • No variable speeds
  • Ineffective for drilling
  • Not suitable for hard, brittle materials
  • Requires special, expensive bits
  • Higher cost compared to a drill


Choosing the Right Tool for the Task: When to Use Each

When deciding between a drill and an impact driver, it's crucial to understand their strengths and weaknesses.

Use a drill when:

  • Boring holes with drill bits
  • Driving small fasteners into soft wood
  • Drilling into masonry
  • Precise control is needed, especially for drywall screws

Use an impact driver when:

  • Driving most fasteners, except very short ones
  • Handling dense or knotty wood
  • Working with machine bolts or lag bolts

Understanding the specific applications for each tool ensures efficient and effective results in your projects.

Exploring Specialized Drilling Tools: Impact Wrenches and Hammer Drills

While drills and impact drivers cover a wide range of tasks, specialized tools like impact wrenches and hammer drills serve specific purposes.

Impact Wrench: Often confused with an impact driver, an impact wrench is designed for securing or loosening machine nuts or bolts. While it looks similar, an impact wrench operates at a slower speed and is more commonly used in automotive applications.

Hammer Drill: A hammer drill combines rotational bursts with front-to-back movement, making it ideal for drilling into difficult masonry. While less versatile for general use, it's invaluable for projects involving a significant amount of drilling into masonry.

Understanding Motor Types: Brushed vs. Brushless

In the realm of power tools, the type of motor used can significantly impact performance and longevity. Two common motor types are brushed and brushless.

Brushed Motors

Brushless Motors

  • Classic design with permanent magnets and a commutator
  • Inexpensive but prone to wear and tear
  • Common in bargain consumer-level tools
  • Replaces commutator and brushes with an electronic circuit
  • More efficient, compact, and quieter
  • Longer lifespan and requires minimal maintenance
  • Higher cost but offers better service over time


Choosing between brushed and brushless motors depends on factors like budget and expected tool lifespan. While brushed motors are cost-effective, brushless motors provide superior performance, especially in battery-powered tools.

Conclusion: Building Your Toolkit with Precision

In the dynamic world of DIY projects and home repairs, having the right tools is essential. Understanding the nuances between drills and impact drivers, along with the applications of specialized tools like impact wrenches and hammer drills, empowers you to tackle any project with confidence.

Consider the motor type, weighing the affordability of brushed motors against the long-term benefits of brushless motors. As you build your toolkit, selecting the right tool for each task ensures efficiency, precision, and the successful completion of your projects.

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