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Drill vs Impact Driver

Drills are an absolute essential for almost any household, no matter the size or DIY skill level of its inhabitants! From installing curtain rods to assembling furniture, drills make everyday household projects simple–and are, of course, a vital tool for anyone with DIY dreams that go beyond the basics. But there’s another tool that many tradespeople swear by that’s not as well known to home owners and DIYer’s–the Impact Driver.


Impact Driver.
Image courtesy of Makita.
Image courtesy of Milwaukee.

What’s the Difference?

Our favorite general guideline for understanding the difference between drills and impact drivers? You use a drill for drilling holes and a driver for driving fasteners. 

Both are rotary tools in a gun shape, but a drill has a chuck that holds the bit securely in place while an impact driver does not–it has a much simpler quick-change clamp. A drill uses a fast, constant rate of spin as its power, while an impact driver uses short, quick bursts of intense torque. 

In fact, the impact driver uses an incredible amount of torque (much more than a drill), making it a favorite among tradespeople to drive in incredibly large fasteners without worrying about camming out (the fastener getting stuck) or their arm getting fatigued.

In general, impact drivers are more lightweight, easy to operate, and are easier on your arm than a drill, but have a more limited scope of use, as a drill can be used to both drill out holes and drive in fasteners. We don’t recommend using an impact driver to drill out holes because, as it uses a non-constant power stream, it can’t smoothly bore through wood.

That said, because of the impact driver’s torque, a drill is preferable when driving in smaller fasteners in finishing projects like building furniture, when precision and aesthetics are important.

Things to Keep in Mind

Impact drivers need their own special bits because the torque stress an impact driver delivers would break standard bits; you can find these specially engineered for impact drivers in any hardware store.

Additionally, as impact drivers become more popular among DIYers, many brands sell drills and impact drivers together as a two-piece kit, giving you the option to use both in a single project, which is, in our opinion, an ideal way to use these two power tools. They’re sisters, not twins!

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