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Should You Use A Drill Or An Impact Driver? Here’s How To Tell

Both rotary driving tools, drills and impact drivers (sometimes referred to as impact drills) are handy items to have either around the home, or in a workshop or garage. However, despite impact drivers often being given the same name as a drill, drills and impact drivers have a number of distinct differences, despite their shared similarities.

Confused? This short guide should help you determine whether you need to use a drill or an impact driver:

What is a drill

Drills can be bought as corded tools, or cordless, and by rotating a drill bit in a clockwise manner, they help you bore holes into different types of materials. Applying constant torque, drills are able to turn bolts, screws and other types of fastener into a range of materials, and can also be used in reverse, to remove fasteners. 

What are the benefits of using a drill?

For certain tasks, a drill has the following benefits:

  • They can drill and drive
  • They can be cost-effective
  • Greater utility

On other occasions however, there are several disadvantages of using a drill:

  • Not good at driving longer fastenings
  • Pre-drilling is necessary for tricky fasteners
  • They can be painful/tiring for the hand, arm and wrist

What is an impact driver?

While impact drivers are shaped like a drill, they are typically smaller and shorter in length. They share many of the features of a drill, and have a handle, trigger and chuck known as a hex collet.

Impact drivers are capable of delivering sequential power bursts more effectively, that many users try to achieve with a drill and find themselves unable to do so. This is due to the driver delivering force from a spring-loaded concussive mechanism, which it does so automatically with no input from the user. Additionally, an impact driver is able to drill holes at a speed that’s constant when required, drawing upon the spring-loaded mechanism when a material shows signs of resistance. That said, it’s not recommended to use an impact driver for drilling holes, and they should be used only for driving fasteners.

What are the benefits of using an impact driver?

For the removal of a variety of fasteners, an impact driver is the clearest choice:

  • With self-generated torque, it’s easier on the arm and wrist
  • There’s less risk of stripped screws
  • They’re smaller and more compact
  • In comparison to its size, the power ratio is higher

For some tasks, though, an impact driver might not be the best choice:

  • It doesn’t have variable speeds
  • It’s not great for drilling
  • Can’t be used for masonry materials
  • The bits are costly
  • The tool itself costs more than a drill

When should a drill be used?

If you need to bore holes, drill into masonry, or drive smaller fasteners into a soft material such as wood, a drill is the ideal choice.

When should an impact driver be used?

If you need to loosen or tighten screws or any kind of larger, longer fastener, an impact driver should be your tool of choice.

Drills and impact drivers are both fantastic power tools in their own right, and if you browse an online retailer, you should be able to find a great selection of both tools, at prices you can afford.