Comparing Impact Drivers and Drills: Choosing the Right Tool for Your Projects

It’s no secret that having the right tool for the job makes the job a lot easier, but it’s not always easy to know what tool this is, especially when it comes to those that seem similar to the untrained eye.

In this guide we’ll give you the info you need to tell the difference between impact drivers and drills, so that you can choose the right tool for your job. Here’s what we’ll cover:   

    • The difference between impact drivers and drills
    • Applications for each tool  
    • Pros and cons for each tool
    • How to be sure you’re choosing the tool you need

Impact Driver vs Drill

Impact drivers and drills are two of the most commonly used power tools, and although they share some similarities, each has distinct features that makes it more or less suitable for certain types of job.

First let’s take a look at these features.

 

Impact Driver

Impact drivers are very similar to traditional drills in that both are handheld power tools designed for driving screws and drilling holes. The main differentiating factors are as follows:

         
    • Motion: impact drivers use fast-paced rotational tapping to nudge the fastener along while keeping the screw tip in place, in addition to a drill’s standard rotational motion.
    • Torque: impact drivers generally have higher torque, giving them more power and making them better for working with heavy materials or larger screws.
    • Versatility: because impact drivers are more specialized than drills, they excel in some jobs but may have limitations in others.
    • Size: impact drivers are usually smaller and lighter than drills, potentially improving maneuverability in tight spaces.

The selection of impact drivers varies based on factors like voltage, torque, and speed, catering to DIY and professional use, with considerations for specific needs and power requirements.

 

Drill

There are different types of drills, including lightweight drills for DIY, power drills, and combi-drills. They share many similar features and differ in areas that help them to achieve the required task. Here’s a look at the features that define each:

         
    • DIY drills are great for light household tasks and DIY  
    • Power drills are better suited to more heavy-duty applications and are more likely to be used in a professional context than a DIY one
    • Combi-drills feature hammer and screw driving functions suited to work with harder surfaces

If it’s a drill you need and you’re looking for guidance on the right one to buy, we offer a comprehensive guide to choosing the right drill.

 

Applications for Drills and Impact Drivers

Deciding whether an impact driver or drill is right for you depends on the specific tasks you're planning to do. Let's explore the applications of both tools to help you decide.

 

Impact Driver

Impact drivers are useful for quickly inserting or removing screws, as well as drilling holes. They’re great for jobs involving lots of screws and repetitive work. Some common applications for an impact driver include:

         
    • Woodwork, especially involving dense or knotted wood
    • Jobs involving larger screws, like building decking or fencing
    • Jobs involving tougher materials, like metalwork
    • Removing screws that have become damaged or wedged in, and are proving difficult to remove manually or with a drill

Drill

Drills are versatile tools designed to create holes and drive screws. They are suitable for things like:   

    • DIY tasks around the house, like putting up pictures and curtain rails
    • Assembling flatpack furniture 
    • Changing tires on your vehicle
    • Installing or replacing locks
    • Drilling holes for wiring and electrical work
    • Building garden structures

 

Power drills and combi-drills open up a range of other jobs, including: 

    • Masonry work: combi-drills with hammer functions are strong enough to drill into concrete
    • Heavy-duty construction work, including structural work
    • Carpentry projects, where both drilling and driving are required

 

With a drill, you also need to make sure you’re using the right drill bit for the job.

 

Pros and Cons

As well as the distinctive features and prospective applications for each tool, understanding their relative advantages and disadvantages is helpful in making the right decision. In this section, we’ll look at some of the pros and cons of each tool.

Pros of an Impact Driver

    • You can attach many different bits, broadening the range of applications
    • Usually faster than drills, making them more efficient for jobs requiring speed
    • Effortlessly removes screws with its rapid rotational tapping (around 50 bumps a second)
    • Higher levels of torque are suitable for larger screws or tougher materials than a drill
    • Removes stress from your arm compared to manual removal
    • Their light weight means further reduction in stress compared to heavier tools
    • Less likely to strip screws

 

Pros of a Drill

    • Versatile for a wide range of applications
    • Affordable and accessible for DIY users through to professionals
    • Different speed options, giving you flexibility to choose the setting best suited to the job at hand
    • Higher levels of precision made possible through variable speeds: great for work involving delicate materials
    • Compatible with a range of accessories, opening up even more applications

 

Things to Consider With Each

In terms of potential drawbacks with each tool, here’s what to consider:

       
    • Both tools can be very loud during operation; the impact driver more so. Consider wearing ear protection when working with either tool
    • While specialization makes some jobs easier, it may also bring limitations for simpler jobs
    • Drills may require more manual effort than impact drivers, especially when working with tough screws, repetitive jobs, or harder materials

 

Drill or Impact Driver: Choosing the Right Tool

With the above information in mind, there are a few questions to ask yourself when deciding which of these tools are right for you.

DIY or professional?

Requirements in terms of the materials you’ll be working with, the screw sizes you’ll need to use, and so on will vary significantly between DIY applications and professional ones.

At a top level, here’s what to look out for in each case:

       
    • Scale: DIY jobs are lower in complexity and usually involve a lower volume of tasks. Professional jobs involve higher levels of complexity and require more advanced knowledge and experience to complete to the desired standard. Choose a tool that can handle the workload
    • Materials: DIY jobs are more likely to involve common household materials like wood, plaster, or light metals. Professional jobs will likely entail tougher materials like dense woods, concrete, or heavier metals. Choose a tool that can work safely and effectively with all materials
    • Precision: DIY jobs have more leeway in terms of precision, while professional jobs will demand full precision. Ensure your tool can deliver the level of precision required.
    • Budget: The casual nature of DIY means that projects and their requisite tools may be subject to tighter budgets, while professionals see value in investing in high-performance tools tailored to specific jobs. Make sure the tool you choose is compatible with your budget level as well as your requirements

User Experience and Skill Level?

Similarly to the above, take into account your skill level (or that of the person who’ll be using the tool). Impact drivers or certain drill types may require higher levels of experience and a steadier hand than others: if you’re not sure, check in with an expert before buying your tool.

Corded or cordless?

Cordless tools are more lightweight, great for working outdoors or away from a power source. They are alsogenerally smaller, making them a good choice for accessing areas that are tricky to reach.

However, they may provide less power than the corded alternative, though: take this into account when weighing up the two options.

Battery life and charge time?

If you go for a cordless option, take a moment to consider whether the battery life and charge time are compatible with your needs. Nowadays, with improved battery technology, you can expect tools to hold a charge for a long time; but if you’ve got many concurrent days of DIY projects planned, you may find yourself coming up against issues.

In Conclusion

While impact drivers and drills share some similarities, there are key factors that differentiate them. Choosing the right tool is the best way to ensure you can complete your job to a high and safe standard.

In this guide, we’ve covered some of the most common considerations to keep in mind when deciding whether an impact driver or drill is right for you. To summarize: choose the tool that can handle the jobs you have in mind, and make sure it is compatible with your level of skill, your budget, and the other requirements of the task.

To get more help in choosing the right tool, get in touch with our team or take a look at our range of power tools.