Impact Driver vs Impact Wrench | What’s the Key Differences

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Impact wrench vs impact driver

Today, I will discuss the key differences between an impact driver and an impact wrench because you may get a little bit confused with these two handheld. They might seem similar but they have some crucial differences. It would be great to know them before making a hefty purchase.

I have been using impact drivers and impact wrenches for a couple of years, so I think I must share the pros and cons of using these power tools with you.

If you are reading this, I believe that you are doing your home improvement, DIY projects, auto, or any other repair or modification projects and would want the right tool for your works. A perfect set of power tools get the job done smoothly, but it can get pretty difficult for the majority when it comes to choosing between the impact driver and impact wrench.

So what sets the two tools apart? The difference is that an impact driver is a much more powerful handheld drill designed for boring through tough material while an impact wrench is a tool for tightening or loosening nuts and bolts and .

Of course there are a few other differences between them, which we will get into detail below.

So which tool is the best option for you? Basically, it depends on what project you are working on, for what you are going to use them. In this article, I will present to you a comparison of the impact driver vs impact wrench, which aspects are they similar and what sets them apart from each other.

Impact driver vs impact wrench – Key Comparisons.

Below is a brief comparison table between the impact driver vs impact wrench.

Preview
Impact Driver
DEWALT 20V MAX XR Impact Driver Kit, Brushless, 3-Speed, 1/4-Inch, 2.0-Ah (DCF887D2)
Impact Wrench
Milwaukee M18 FUEL w/ONE-KEY 18-Volt Lithium-Ion Brushless Cordless 1/2 in. High Torque Impact...
Title
DEWALT 20V MAX XR Impact Driver Kit, Brushless, 3-Speed, 1/4-Inch, 2.0-Ah (DCF887D2)
Milwaukee M18 FUEL w/ONE-KEY 18-Volt Lithium-Ion Brushless Cordless 1/2 in. High Torque Impact...
Power Source
Electricity & Battery powered
Compressed Air, Electric & Battery powered
Tool Holder
¼" Hex Socket
½" Square Shaft
Uses
Driving screws, Drill holes, etc.
Removal/tightening lug nuts & heavy bolts.
For who?
DIY, Home, lawn, Construction, etc.
Auto or car repairs, maintenance, heavy construction, etc.
Custom Rating
-
-
Prime Benefits
-
Impact Driver
Preview
DEWALT 20V MAX XR Impact Driver Kit, Brushless, 3-Speed, 1/4-Inch, 2.0-Ah (DCF887D2)
Title
DEWALT 20V MAX XR Impact Driver Kit, Brushless, 3-Speed, 1/4-Inch, 2.0-Ah (DCF887D2)
Power Source
Electricity & Battery powered
Tool Holder
¼" Hex Socket
Uses
Driving screws, Drill holes, etc.
For who?
DIY, Home, lawn, Construction, etc.
Custom Rating
-
Prime Benefits
Impact Wrench
Preview
Milwaukee M18 FUEL w/ONE-KEY 18-Volt Lithium-Ion Brushless Cordless 1/2 in. High Torque Impact...
Title
Milwaukee M18 FUEL w/ONE-KEY 18-Volt Lithium-Ion Brushless Cordless 1/2 in. High Torque Impact...
Power Source
Compressed Air, Electric & Battery powered
Tool Holder
½" Square Shaft
Uses
Removal/tightening lug nuts & heavy bolts.
For who?
Auto or car repairs, maintenance, heavy construction, etc.
Custom Rating
-
Prime Benefits
-

Last update on 2021-04-10 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

The 4 Key Differences Between The Impact Driver vs Impact Wrench:

An impact driver is used for drilling into hard material such as concrete or metal while an impact wrench is used for tightening nuts and bolts.


Basically, an impact driver is mostly for carpentry and general construction while an impact wrench is the auto industry’s primary power tool.


In terms of power, an impact wrench is way more powerful than an impact driver. An impact driver commonly used in the industry will generate around 2,000 in-lbs (inch-pounds) of torque. While a standard impact wrench will have an output of up to 15,000 in-lbs, that is almost 7 times the amount of power!


An impact driver is usually slightly heavier than an impact wrench. Impact wrenches tend to be more compact and are stubbier which makes them easier to store and bring.


Now let's get into the definitive guide on what is an impact driver vs what is an impact wrench.

Impact Driver

What is an impact driver? The simple answer is that the impact driver, also called impact drill, is the more powerful version of the regular handheld drill. Initially, it looks like a normal handheld drill but performance sets the difference. Its torque is so powerful that it can drill on wood, metal, bricks, and even rock.

What is Torque? A drill produces power for turning an object. This turning force is called torque. The amount of force subjected to the object being turned to cause it to rotate on an axis and not just how fast the object will rotate is the measure to this turning force. 

The standard unit for torque is Newton-Meters (N-m) for the metric system and Pound-Foot (lb-ft) for the English system. In terms of drilling, the measurement for torque is in Pound-Inches (lb-in). Usually, an impact driver comes with the range of 1,500 to 1,800 lb-in. One thing that sets apart impact drivers from regular handheld drills is it reduces the risk of reactionary torque. This reduces the risk of your wrist twisting while drilling. This is the reason why impact drivers are preferred over regular drills when it comes to works that require powerful drilling.

4 key point to consider when choosing an impact driver:

  • 1/4" Hex Collet: Impact drivers have a standard ¼” hex collet that holds the drill bits, compared to regular drills that come in different shapes and sizes. This standard design reduces the confusion when buying drill bits for various purposes.
  • Speed: The measure for an impact driver’s speed is RPM (rotations per minute). The higher the speed, the more powerful the drilling capacity would be. Lower speeds are for drilling through softer objects. It would be wise to buy variable speed drivers for various drilling tasks.
  • Loudness: By default, impact drivers are slightly louder than regular drills; that is why you should have ear protection.
  • Convenience of use: Most drills are cordless for a reason. This makes it easy to carry and able to reach tight spaces. Just make sure that the battery is fully charged.
  • Uses: As mentioned earlier, it is ideal for drilling through tough material. If you are into home improvement or DIY projects and expecting to use long screws, then it is perfect. It is also great for removing screws that are too tight for a regular screwdriver.

The DeWalt 20V MAX XR Impact Driver Kit, Brushless, 3-Speed, 1/4-Inch, 2.0-Ah (DCF887D2)

This section will showcase one of the industry's best impact driver for your better understanding. the DeWalt DCF887D2 20V Max Brushless. It is highly recommended for a reason. Not only is it lightweight but also very powerful. It is powerful enough to produce torque up to 2000 in.lb. Three variable speed get the job done preciously. The compact design ideal for tight space makes it a must have power tool to an expert.

best impact driver

Pros of Using 

an Impact Driver

  • A heavy-duty & powerful tool.
  • Gets the job done smoothly.
  • Super flexible. Easy to change bits depending on the job requirement.
  • Lightweight.
  • Cordless and compactly designed for tight spaces.
  • Reliable for most tasks.
  • Minimal damages.
  • Quality for your money.

Cons of Using

an Impact Driver

  • Makes a lot of noise.
    It requires a certain level of skill so that the screw does not get drilled too deep into the objects accidentally.
    It needs a specific type of drill bit.

Impact Wrench

As mentioned above, an impact wrench is the tool for tightening or loosening nuts and bolts. They may be tiny but does the job like a boss. Unlike the impact driver, the impact wrench's torque is measured by Foot Pounds (ft-lbs). Impact wrenches can be used for the same general role as impact drivers of tightening and loosening connections. What makes impact wrenches different is the sheer amount of force that it can generate. Corroded bolts, frozen nuts, and even the tightest fasteners are no match for the torque output of an impact wrench.


Usually, you will find the impact wrench used in the automotive industry for its powerful motor but will be way more than enough for home constructions or DIY projects. For example, the impact wrench is commonly used in automotive works, large-scale constructions, car repairs, among others. But they are rarely used for home renovation.

There are four different types of impact wrenches depending on power source:


1. Corded:

The name itself states that you must connect the wrench to an electrical outlet through a wire to operate it.


2. Cordless:

A cordless impact wrench requires a battery to operate. Usually, the battery comes with the wrench. It is advisable to always check that it is fully charged before working

3. Air Powered (Pneumatic)

In formula racing, the pneumatic impact wrench is a must-have power tool. It utilizes a central gas chamber with a solid pipe which uses compressed air to remove lug nuts in a matter of split seconds. This tool is not ideal for home use as it requires a heavy and bulky power source.

4. Hydraulic

The hydraulic impact wrench is the least used type compared to the other three. Its design has safety in mind just like an impact driver and powered by a low-pressure hydraulic power source. It is pretty much easy to use and reduces the risk of wrist injuries.


However, it has a ½" standard square drive instead of the usual 1/4" hex collet. If you are planning to buy this tool, make sure that you also buy some hearing protection as they can get very loud.

best cordless impact wrench

To give you an example, I recommend one of the auto industry's best impact wrench, the Milwaukee M18 FUEL 18-Volt Lithium-Ion, which comes with excellent build quality. This is the best battery powered impact wrench so far, in my opinion. This bad boy produces up to an incredible 1,400 ft-lbs of torque, which is very impressive. The two different fastening modes that you can easily switch through with a few clicks is perfect for drilling through various materials simultaneously.


It is the most recommended impact wrench due to its powerful output and compact design, perfect for tight spaces. The highlight of this wrench is the Redlink Plus Intelligence system that allows the battery, charger, and motor to communicate for a better fail-safe system.


However, before making any purchase, make sure that it includes the batteries; otherwise, you will need to order it separately. I would say that this is the best impact wrench because of its value for your money.

Pros of Using

an Impact Wrench

  • Built for heavy-duty.
  • Gets the job done, even in a challenging space.
  • Compactly designed for reducing wrist injuries.
  • Large torque output.

Cons of Using

an Impact Wrench

  • Not for home uses.
  • Requires a certain skill level.
  • Tends to make a lot of noise.

Two-in-One Tool

Sometimes we need both tools for different purposes. To solve this dilemma, Bosch made their legendary power hand tool known as 'The Freak GDX 18V 200c'. The Freak is an impressive tool that fulfills most, if not all, your drilling needs. It comes with 1/4" hex shank and 1/2" square drive. Swapping between the shank and square drive is very convenient since you can do it in seconds. Perfect for switching between  what bits/socket your project requires.

Moreover, its EC Brushless motor delivers up to 1,800 in-lbs of torque, which is very powerful. The Bosch CORE18V battery is the reason for this extraordinary power. As I mentioned above, it's two in one, that's why it's expensive but worth your money.


Additionally, it has Bluetooth connectivity for customizing settings through your smartphone such as the acceleration speed or how fast the speed of the drill ramps up, an LED option for the trigger, and a lot more options.


In the end, if you think you will be needing both tools, then definitely I suggest having this one.

Buying Guide for the Impact Wrench & Impact Driver.

I hope this article has clarified whether you need to buy an impact driver or wrench. However, according to industry experts and from my perspective, a few things need to be considered when buying these power tools.

Brand

The reputable brands are well known for their best quality products. We never know a brand until we use their products. In terms of power tools, the brand really matters. There are some so-called Chinese brands responsible for affordable but low-grade devices. The best brands will usually cost a lot but fret not, I already recommended an affordable impact driver and wrench above.

Safety features

There is a risk factor of twisting your wrist while operating these power tools. That is why some renowned brands offer the latest safety features for impact drivers or impact wrenches. Some impact driver or wrench comes with automated circuit board features that shuts down the motor when it gets overheated. Last, but not the least, a few brands have developed a battery charge system, which allows the user to see how much charge is left in the battery. You should definitely check these features when buying these tools.

Accessories

These tools usually come with bags and some extra kits like bits, socket, battery, charger, etc. However, make sure that everything is included in the package before ordering. Some brands don't provide specific parts, and you need to order them separately which in this case would cost you extra money.

Technology

With the development of science and technology, day by day, impact drivers and wrenches come out with the upgraded version of their previous iteration. A common feature of power features is having an LED light on it. It allows the users to see areas where it is difficult for light to reach. In fact, there are customization options for some impact wrenches and drivers through mobile apps. You can even check its performance by Bluetooth connectivity. It is advisable to keep these things in mind before making your purchase.

Battery

If you are going to work somewhere where it would be difficult for direct electricity to reach, then the cordless model is a must-have. Usually, a cordless impact driver or wrench comes with two batteries—one for usage and another one for backup. You need to make sure the battery has a voltage that is compatible with the charger and outlet and how much time it takes to charge the device fully.

Weight

Yes, weight is an important consideration. As you know, they are hand tools and you would need to hold them constantly. So, to avoid discomfort and strain, you need to pick lightweight items.

Go check out this YouTube video for a more in-depth insight. 

What is the best tool brand for you?

As I mentioned earlier, the brand plays a vital role when picking these tools. There are several industry-leading brands that make excellent tools since they started. Here's a list of some of them:

DeWalt

DeWalt is the American's first choice power tool brand. Since 1923 they have been producing millions of power or hand tools. Raymond E. DeWalt founded it. They have been making saws, impact drivers, drills, generators, nailers, etc. and sells them worldwide. However, they always try to improve their tools' performance; that is why you'll find that their tools can have upgraded versions. The interesting fact you may notice is that their products come with a decent warranty. This is why the above-recommended impact driver is from DeWalt.

Makita

Makita is well known as a cordless power tools brand. Since 1951, this Japanese brand has been leading the world. In fact, they have established their factories worldwide, such as in the USA, UK, China, Mexico, and many more. They have been producing cordless impact wrenches, drills, hammer, nailers, and other hand tools. As a certified tool expert, I will recommend this brand without any doubt since they are the brand for making excellent quality tools.

Milwaukee

Milwaukee is one of the best brands that experts usually recommend. They have been producing power and hand tools for nearly a century already. Among their numerous tools, they have a huge experience in manufacturing both impact wrenches and drivers. Their tools usually come with a high price point but are worth every single penny. This is why the recommended impact wrench above is from Milwaukee.

Bosch

This German tool brand made its own position in the household and industrial technology. Bosch is a 134-year-old tools brand. Just imagine how experienced they are in this industry. They make not only hand and power tools but also tools that are solar powered. They are highly rated for both impact drivers and impact wrenches.

FAQ related to the Impact Driver

What's a Brushless Impact Driver?

Basically, a brushless impact driver comes with a brushless motor. This is why it is known as a brushless impact driver. Now you may ask me, why do manufacturing companies use this motor? There are numerous advantages to this motor. For example, it is very durable, high-performance, energy-saving, delivers more efficiency, and most importantly, it requires less maintenance.

Do impact drivers have a clutch?

No, they don't have a clutch. So make sure that you don't drill too deep.

Can you use an impact driver to remove lug nuts?

The straightforward answer is no, but you can remove lug nuts by modifying. The impact wrench is the right tool for removing lug nuts.

Do impact drivers need different bits?

No, they usually come with a ¼-inch Hexagonal socket.

Do impact drivers have variable speeds?

The short answer is yes. Nowadays, almost all brands impact driver comes with variable speeds.

Is it worth getting an impact driver?

Definitely yes. As I mentioned earlier several times, if you're from a home improvement or hobbyist background, it is a must-have tool.

FAQ related to the Impact Wrench

Are electric impact wrenches any good?

Yes, it is. Usually, an electric impact wrench costs a lot but is definitely worth the money. I recommend this item for heavy-duty projects.

Can you use regular sockets for an impact wrench?

Nope! Usually, an impact wrench comes with an impact socket. You can't use a regular socket.

Is an impact wrench worth it?

For heavy-duty purposes, an impact wrench is a mandatory tool. It is not only worth your money but also does the job perfectly.

How powerful of an impact wrench do I need?

The regular impact wrench is enough for handling your cars, lawn tractor, and other machinery. But for the industry uses, you must go with electric powered wrenches.

How much do impact wrenches cost?

I believe you will find the best cordless impact wrenches under $300. But some lesser-known brands offer a lower price.

Which One Should You Get?

By this point, I believe you already know the huge differences between these two tools. Basically, it depends on what you are going to use them for.


If you think that both tools will be used for different purposes, I recommend you the Bosch Freak model since it is a 2-in-1 tool. Despite its high price point, it does the job of both an impact driver and impact wrench perfectly.


On the other hand, an impact driver is suitable for completing home renovations, DIY projects, and other handy works. In contrast, an impact wrench is perfect for tightening nuts and bolts into machines, cars, generators, and many more.


Having a perfect impact driver is a good addition to your power tool list that can finish multiple projects. In my above recommendation, the DeWalt DCF887D2 20V Max is the best impact driver for its value for your money. It is not only dominating the market but also offers numerous features.
On the other hand, an impact wrench is a specialized tool that is powerful enough to complete a heavy-duty project like industrial construction, automobile, and many more.


After testing by hand, I can say that the Milwaukee M18 Brushless Cordless is the best impact wrench for its value for your money. There is a downside, it comes at a price but if you have the budget for it, then don’t think twice in getting this tool. It not only powerful but also very helpful.


Normally, we use the impact driver for our general works. So, it is wiser to have an impact driver rather than an impact wrench.

Safety Tips while using these tools

As these tools are powerful, they can definitely harm you. So while using them, you have to observe a few safety rules.

Eye Protection

Eye protection is mandatory, especially when handling drills. You should wear safety glasses before working with these tools.

Ear Protection

By default, both the impact wrench and driver is very noisy. They can cause hearing loss. Ear protection is a must-have safety gear for these tools.

Clothes

There are various work pants available for men and women. You should wear them as they ensure your safety.

Instructions

Before using any new power tools, you must read its instructions and safety tips as every tool have a different operating procedure.

Maintain Your Tools

In order to get consistent outputs, you have to maintain your tools and gears regularly. Regular maintaining can increase the tool’s longevity and will help avoid accidents. In particular, you must maintain the impact wrench properly  after each use.

About the Author Joshua Philip

Joshua Philip is a Civil Engineer by profession with a passion for DIY Projects. He spends most of his free time working on woodcraft and home renovations.

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