Difference between impact driver and drill

A Cordless Drill or an Impact Driver – A Brief Comparison

Nowadays, every homeowner should have at least one cordless drill, and an impact driver in their workshop or tool shed. These power tools often come in handy, especially when assembling furniture and doing repairs around the house. While they’re both rotary tools that serve mainly to turn bits, each machine does it uniquely.

Perhaps, everybody has seen these gun-shaped tools at their local hardware store. A pro can easily distinguish an impact driver from a cordless drill, but an enthusiast may hardly tell the difference. If you’re a DIY enthusiast who’s still looking for the answer to the question, we’ll gladly help you out. Let’s find out more about what makes these power tools different and where to use them.

What is a cordless drill?

Usually, the first thing that comes to mind when you think of a cordless drill is a “spinning machine”. This battery-powered tool uses a simple combination of chuck and jaws to clamp down the shaft of a drill bit. Typically, a drill may either drive screws and fasteners or drill holes into soft materials like wood or drywall. Thanks to the constant torque of the motor, the bit spins without losing power.

As you can imagine, the cordless drill is extremely valuable for all types of jobs, especially for carpentry. It’s a must-have machine for home improvement as it employs a massive variety of bits. Besides, it can cut through materials smoothly for making perfect holes. While you can use standard bits, you can also use paddle bits, hole saws and many more.

Undoubtedly, one thing that makes cordless drills so valuable is their ability to turn driving bits. Usually, such bits are designed for driving fasteners and may include Philips bits, flatheads, star and square bits, etc. This feature pretty much explains why a cordless drill may be the last thing you’ll need in your tool arsenal.


  • Excellent general-purpose versatility

Typically, a cordless drill offers much more versatility compared to its successor. The self-centring chuck allows the use of different kinds of bits depending on the task. As a result, you can use your unit to drill, drive screws, polish and sand. These features make it a must-have machine for all types of DIY, woodworking and home improvement projects.

  • Tremendous torque control

Arguably, these machines are the better ones when it comes to torque control. Thanks to the slip clutch and constant rotation, you’ll quickly finish any task.

  • Affordable and straight forward

Another crucial advantage of cordless drills is their accessible price. They’re relatively affordable, so it won’t be hard to get your hands on one of these machines. Besides, they’re pretty easy to use – just put the bit into the chuck, and you’re ready to go.


  • May strip screws

The most significant disadvantage of cordless drills is their inability to “hammer” screws. This relieves the tool of the chance to force the screw in the material. Consequently, it may falter and strip the screw, leaving it stuck.

  • Can cause wear and tear on the user’s hand and wrist

Even though they’re generally featherweight, cordless drills are a bit heavier than impact drivers. This may put a lot of strain on your hands and wrists, especially during prolonged use. Moreover, when a drill bit gets stuck, the machine itself may spin, resulting in injuries to the hand and wrist.

Difference between impact driver and drill

What is an impact driver?

Similar to cordless drills, impact drivers also spin in a rotary manner and have the same shape. However, one thing that distinguishes every impact driver is that it’s almost exclusively made for driving fasteners. What’s more, their smaller size shouldn’t fool you. Such a machine will give you way more torque than a standard cordless drill.

In this regard, it’s safe to say that an impact driver will effectively drive fasteners and screws into denser materials. But the main difference is not in the torque power but the way the impact driver transfers that force. While the cordless drill only spins, the impact driver combines the strengths of rotation and concussion.

Basically, a drill would rely on friction to hold the shaft in place. On the other hand, an impact drill will introduce a hammering action when it senses resistance. In other words, the impacts are both in the rotational and axial directions. What the tool does is disengage the motor from the drill bit and then re-engaging it again. The process repeats tens of times in fractions of a second, applying little bursts of torque.


  • Higher power output

Unlike drills, impact drivers deliver a lot more torque power. This feature makes them ideal for driving self-drilling screws into softer materials. Moreover, they will effortlessly drive screws into tough and dense materials like metal and hardwood.

  • Compact size

Even though these machines pack a lot of power, they are highly compact in size. That way, you can quickly get into tight spaces like cabinets or drawers. What’s more, the smaller dimensions mean more ease on the hand. This will ensure more prolonged use without tiring your arm.

  • Doesn’t strip screws

Perhaps, the main advantage of the impact driver is that it virtually eliminates the risk of “camming out”. This problem happens when the drill bit slips out of the screw head and ruins the bit slot. Consequently, you can’t drive in or back down the screw anymore. Ultimately, the impact driver’s disengagement feature prevents rapid binding, helping the bit stay firmly in its slot.



  • It may not be suitable for delicate jobs

Due to their higher average torque, impact drivers may not be suitable for delicate materials. Improper use of the machine can result in cracking, driving through the material or other types of risks.

  • Work only with hex-shanked drivers and bits

Probably the main disadvantage of impact drivers is their restricted versatility. They can work only with hex-shanked drivers and bits, which limits their area of use.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, both machines have their pros and cons. In most cases, they complement each other and may work best when used together. While the cordless drill can drive fasteners into softer materials, the impact driver will quickly drill holes in hardwood. That’s why it’s safe to say that you’ll need both power tools as they effortlessly go hand-in-hand. Typically, manufacturers and retailers offer impact driver and cordless drill kits.

If you’re a carpenter or an occasional DIY enthusiast, a cordless drill will play an essential part in your projects. On the other hand, an impact driver will help you remove stubborn fasteners and drive long screws in more rigid materials. Finally, it will give you the much-needed torque when building large furniture, installing cabinets or other demanding tasks. Simply grab both tools and get to work!

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