Many of us already have the ever-handy drill in our garage or toolbox, but more recently, a new tool has emerged that looks a bit like the love child of a drill and a pug: the impact driver. This isn’t merely a new look for our trusty standby, but a whole new tool that excels in powering screws into tough materials with rapid, twisting blows. Here’s a cheat sheet to help you determine if you need one or the other — or both — in your arsenal.

Drill

Pros:
» Works great on jobs requiring care or precision
» Applies a constant torque
» Accepts a wide variety of drill and screw-driving bits
» Accepts accessories such as wire-wheel brushes and rotary sanders
» Has a slip clutch that allows you to adjust torque
» Relatively inexpensive to purchase
Cons:
» Can stall when driving long, large fasteners
» Has the potential to strip screws
» Bits can come loose in the chuck
» Can put strain on the user

m50_SS_Drills_ImpactDriverReshoot-1

Impact Driver

Pros:
» Powers screws through some seriously dense material with more torque and concussive blows
» Prevents wrist strain because it’s doing more work
» Drives long screws with little effort
» Less likely to strip screws
» Easier to fit into tight spaces due to its smaller body
Cons:
» Costs more than a drill
» Makes a lot of noise
» Only accepts hex-shanked driver and drill bits
» Too much of a beast for more precise, delicate jobs

Both of these handy companions are slowly moving towards a frankentool that combines the drill’s precise versatility with the impact driver’s power. In the meantime, as a general rule, if you’re working with drywall, softer woods, veneers, plastics, or brass screws, stick to the drill because it won’t dent or break the material. If you’ve got a project that requires a ton of screws, using long or thick fasteners, or driving through dense materials (such as building a deck), save your wrists and some time and go with an impact driver.