Here’s the Difference Between a Drill and an Impact Driver

Woodworking Workshop
Here’s the Difference Between a Drill and an Impact Driver

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.


» 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
» 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


Impact Driver

» 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
» 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.

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Carla Bruni

Carla Bruni is an architectural historian who spends her time saving old buildings. She’s teaches DIY workshops, landmarks buildings, restores homes, runs repair clinics, works in salvage, and aspires to be a Viking blacksmith.

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