Impact driver vs drill - A worker repairing a wooden drawer of cabinet in living room

Impact driver vs drill: Which tool do you need for your project?

Comparing impact drivers and drills based on torque and rotational speed, size and weight, noise and vibration, and more.

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Key Facts

  • An impact driver is a power tool ideal for construction, automotive, and home improvement projects. It makes screw driving and fastening easier by using a twisting and hammering action to drive screws and fasteners.
  • A drill is a versatile power tool with a chuck for holding various drill bits, suitable for drilling holes in different materials. It also features an adjustable torque that helps prevent damaging the screws and materials.

Are you planning to upgrade your home? Whether it’s to assemble new shelves, install cabinets, or build a deck or fence, having an impact driver and drill on hand is necessary. These are must-have power tools that are essential in drilling and driving fasteners, such as screws, nuts, and bolts. 

This impact driver vs drill guide explains how these tools differ, helping you understand which works best for specific home improvement tasks. 

What is an impact driver?

Impact driver vs drill - A cordless impact driver and self-tapping screws in a cardboard box on a wooden table

An impact driver is a power tool used for driving screws, bolts, and other fasteners to rigid materials like hardwood, metals, and composites. It’s ideal for construction, automotive, and home improvement projects, as it makes screw driving and fastening hardware easier by simply twisting and hammering the screw to push it into the construction material.

Some confuse impact drivers with impact wrenches or impact guns because both tools utilise a hammering action to drive screws and fasteners. However, between impact driver vs impact guns, the latter uses more power and force in driving screws and fasteners. 

What is a drill?Impact driver vs drill - Close up of electric drill and drill bits on old wooden table

A drill driver is a versatile power tool with a dual purpose — it drills holes and drives screws. Its drill chuck (the metal device to hold the drill bit or the cutting tool) can hold different drill bits, so you may use a drill driver to bore holes in various construction materials like wood, metal, and plastic. 

Another advantage of a drill driver is its adjustable torque with variable speed settings. Torque is the twisting power that a drill or an impact driver applies to turn the screws and bolts in place. With an adjustable torque, the likelihood of damaging the screw or the construction material is reduced. 

Drill vs impact driver: What are their key differences?

Understanding the differences between an impact driver and a drill is vital to avoid using the wrong tool and prevent structural damage. Remember that although both handyman tools have a similar function, which is to drive screws, each has different applications and features. 

In terms of torque and rotational speed

Drills have a lower but more consistent torque output and rotational speed than impact drivers. This can be advantageous for projects requiring precise hole placement and size, including drilling pilot holes to prevent the screw from cracking or splitting. 

Impact drivers have higher torque than drills due to having an anvil and a hammer. The anvil is one of the internal components of an impact driver responsible for delivering a high torque. Meanwhile, the hammer works to strike the anvil, generating short, powerful bursts. 

The durable impact bits for impact drivers are another reason the tool can deliver a high torque output. This lets you directly drive a fastener into the construction material without pre-drilling holes. 

However, an impact driver works a bit slower than a drill in terms of rotational speed. It generates a pulsing action instead of a consistent rotational speed, causing a slight pause when driving a fastener. 

TIP: When working with wood, use a pilot hole as a guide for driving screws. This pre-drilling technique not only ensures accurate screw placement but also prevents wood damage, especially when placing a fastener near the edge.

Recommendation: Choose drills if you need precise drilling with consistent torque and rotational speed. However, impact drivers are a much better choice if you need a higher torque to drive fasteners into tough materials. 

In terms of size and weight

Impact driver vs drill - A handyperson working with drill in the workshop

Since driver drills are versatile power tools that can handle various assembling and building tasks, they’re generally larger and heavier than impact drivers. Usually, you should use two hands when operating a drill. 

In contrast, impact drivers have a more compact and lightweight design. Their internal components consist of an anvil and hammer, which are smaller than the gearing parts of a drill. 

Due to the impact driver having a smaller and lighter design, you may use it with just one hand. This can be advantageous when driving screws while working on a ladder or in confined and cramped areas. 

Recommendation: Use an impact driver for a more compact and convenient power tool when driving screws. 

In terms of noise and vibration

Are you worried about disturbing the neighbours while assembling furniture or renovating houses? Refrain from using impact drivers. These power tools are described as rattlers because they produce loud and clicking noises. 

But on the flip side, most impact drivers have a vibration-minimised feature. So, even though these tools can be very noisy, you’ll still find them comfortable to use during extended applications. 

On the other hand, drills are quieter than impact drivers. Although their motor and gearbox make slight noises, they’re generally more tolerable and less disruptive than the rattling noise that impact drivers generate. 

Regarding vibrations, drills produce minimal vibrations, exhibiting a smoother operation. Unlike impact drivers, drills don’t generate a hammering action. 

Recommendation: Choose drill drivers for lower noise levels and vibration transmission.

In terms of safety features

Impact driver vs drill - A worker on a ladder with drill

Both impact drivers and drills are safe to use. Impact drivers are small and light, giving users more control and reducing the risk of accidental slips and falls. In addition, an impact driver applies rotational force in quick, repeated pulses instead of a continuously steady force, preventing sudden and violent kickbacks. 

Meanwhile, drills have adjustable torque settings. You can use this to reduce the drill’s twisting force, making it more comfortable and less straining on the wrists. In addition, most drills come with a safety auxiliary handle, which helps provide more balance and control to the user. 

Although both power tools have several safety features, they can pose risks since drills and impact drivers use sharp drill bits. They also require electric power to work, so practise caution when working with electrical equipment. Instead of resorting to DIY, you can leave the task to an experienced handyperson.

Recommendation: Both are safe to use. 

In terms of assembly projects

Impact drivers are best for heavy-duty, repetitive screw-driving tasks such as assembling and disassembling furniture, and building sheds. They use a hexagonal shank bit (the non-cutting end of the drill bit that attaches to the chuck of the impact driver), allowing users to remove and change the drill bit quickly. 

Conversely, drills are equipped with a three-jaw chuck for bit retention, accommodating various drill bits of different shapes and sizes. This makes drills ideal for lighter and more precise tasks, including home repairs, DIY projects, and mounting fixtures.

Recommendation: Use an impact driver for heavy-duty assembling projects while a drill driver for lighter and more precise tasks. 

In terms of costImpact driver vs drill - A person checking impact drivers and drills

Impact drivers are more expensive than standard drills because they have higher torque and specialised mechanisms. For reference, the price range for impact drivers in the UK is £23 - £1,800.

Drills are more affordable, so these power tools are best for basic home improvement tasks. However, their prices vary greatly. Basic models cost around £17, while the more expensive options built for heavy-duty work cost around £650. 

Professional help is also needed when handling complex building and assembling projects, so consider the cost of hiring an expert handyperson near you. 

Recommendation: A power drill is a more affordable choice.

Streamline your DIY projects with Airtasker

Even though impact drivers and drills are mainly used for DIY projects, you might still need professional help when tackling complex projects like building a deck or patio and upgrading kitchen cabinets. If you need extra helping hands, consider hiring a handyperson at Airtasker to ensure quality and safety work. 

Impact driver vs drill

Impact  Driver
Torque and Rotational Speed

Higher torque but slower rotational speed with pulsing action

Lower but more consistent torque and rotational speed
Size and Weight
More compact and lightweight, usable with one hand
Larger and heavier, generally requires two hands

Noise and Vibration

Loud and produces clicking noises; vibration-minimised feature
Quieter operation and minimal vibrations; smoother operation
Safety Features
Small and light, quick repeated pulses to prevent kickbacks
Adjustable torque settings, safety auxiliary handle for balance and control
Assembly Projects
Best for heavy-duty, repetitive screw-driving tasks
Ideal for lighter, precise tasks, home repairs, and DIY projects
Cost More expensive; £23 - £1,800
More affordable; £17 - £650

FAQs on impact drivers and drills

It depends on the material you are currently working on. You have two options: metal drill bit or wood. Obviously, you have to choose metal drill bits when working with metal and steel. The same goes for woodworking projects; wood drill bits are best. 

Yes, you may use an impact driver as a drill only if you have a hex-shank drill bit on hand. However, it can’t bore precise holes, unlike a standard hammer drill.

Since an impact driver delivers a high torque output, avoid using it when working with small screws and fasteners. It can overdrive the fastener, damaging the material and the fastener itself. 

Also, don’t use an impact driver when driving a fastener into brittle materials like ceramics, glass, and plastics because the hammering action of the impact driver can cause these materials to crack or shatter. 

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