If you plan to tackle projects that require you to use longer or larger fixings like screws, you’ll want to add an impact driver to your tool collection if you don’t already have one. Impact drivers are specifically designed for heavy-duty tasks where an ordinary drill driver would struggle. So, let’s take a closer look at the best budget impact drivers.
In the past few years, many more impact drivers have appeared on the market than ever before. With this many options, it can be hard to know which one is right for you. I reviewed some budget-friendly options for those who don’t want to break the bank. The best budget impact driver for your individual needs should pack enough power to handle the types of projects you plan to tackle.
Before we begin, are you looking for some general information on tools like miters saws, chainsaws, table saws, etc? Check out our complete resource guides on Miter Saws, Table Saws, Chainsaws, Band Saws, and Circular Saws. These guides have all the information you need. You will be able to find history, the different types of tools, the top brand sold, and more!
Table of Contents
- Drill vs Impact Driver
- What to Consider When Choosing the Best Impact Driver
- The Best Budget Impact Drivers – Reviewed
- Ryobi P235A 18V One+ Impact Driver
- BLACK+DECKER BDCI20C MAX Impact Driver
- DEWALT 20V MAX Impact Driver Kit, 1/4-Inch
- TEKTON 2905 Manual Hand Impact Driver
- Milwaukee 2656-20 M18 Impact Driver
- Wrapping Up
Drill vs Impact Driver
Drills and impact drivers can look very similar at a glance. In fact, manufacturers often bundle these two tools together in a single package but it’s important to note that they both have their own purpose.
- A drill fastens screws and drills holes in a wide variety of materials. DIYers can use them to assemble furniture and hang shelves. They can accept bits from as small as 3/64 inches to over 1 inch. However, I would like to mention that this does depend on the type of bit and the power of the drill.
- An impact driver was designed to do one thing: drive various types of fasteners. Just like a drill, it uses rotational force to drive screws in different materials. There is one major difference between these two tools. Drills have smooth rotation while impact drivers use rotational hammering. Rotational hammering is more effective at driving fixings with screw threads. For example, DIYers may use these for lag bolts, long decking screws, and similar fixings.
Unlike drills, impact drivers do not have a three-jaw self-centering chuck. Instead, they have a quick-release hexagonal chuck that accepts bits with a hexagonal shank.
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Impact Driver
Torque is singlehandedly the most important feature of an impact driver. However, there are some other things you should take into consideration as well. Less powerful impact drivers can handle light DIY projects, while more high-performance impact drivers will tackle the kind of fixing used for decking and substantial framing constructions. These heavier-duty tools make a good choice for remodelers and professional contractors. When shopping for the best impact driver, consider the following:
Corded vs. Cordless
Corded impact drivers were always widely available until recently, they’ve become something of a rarity. When cordless impact drivers first came to market, they couldn’t compete with the corded models. Their batteries couldn’t keep up either. It’s still the case that corded tools run at peak performance for as long as they’re connected to power, whereas cordless tools lose power as the battery drains.
On a full battery, however, cordless impact drivers now deliver the power equivalent to or greater than corded impact drivers. They are much easier to maneuver with, particularly in confined spaces. However, I would like to note that batteries can still cause problems. Professionals who have to work all day and need continuous performance will have to invest in a spare battery or two.
Torque and Speed
Torque is the amount of twisting power, for a lack of a better term, an impact driver offers. It determines how well the tool will perform. The higher the torque, the more twisting power the impact driver will have. You may be wondering, How much torque is needed? This is going to fully depend on the material you’re working with. For example, driving screws into hardwood requires more torque than driving screws into softwood.
A small impact driver with 800 in-lbs of torque will provide plenty of twisting power to drive screws for DIYers and homeowners. If you need to drive multiple large screws, such as those used to frame a house or construct decking, builders would want an impact driver with 1,500 in-lbs of torque or more.
Rotation speed or RPM, also known as revolutions per minute, indicates how many revolutions the bit makes per minute. The bit will revolve at slower speeds when more torque is applied. Faster speeds are ideal for multiple small to medium-size fixings. The driver will put out less torque, but in these cases, the faster operation is more important than outright power.
Voltage indicates how much power an impact driver has. Essentially, the higher the voltage, the more powerful the motor. This translates into higher torque which again is one of the most important factors when choosing an impact driver.
Impact drivers fall into two brackets: 12-volt tools and 18- or 20-volt tools. Generally 12-volt models are compact and light. They make great general-purpose tools for homeowners. Professionals who regularly work in tight spaces may prefer these as well. Avid DIYers and tradespeople tend to prefer 18- or 20-volt models simply for the greater power output.
There is some understandable confusion between 18-volt and 20-volt cordless impact drivers. In power terms, they are actually the same. An electric motor produces an initial surge of power when starting, then drops to its standard voltage. In this case, 20-volt is the surge, and 18-volt is the standard.
Brushed vs. Brushless Motor
Power tools come with two types of motors: brushless or brushed.
- Brushless motors use control boards and sensors to send an electrical current to the coils which then spins a magnet attached to a shaft. These motors are more high-tech and efficient. They produce significantly more torque per watt of power and uses far less battery power than a brushed motor. Because you don’t have to replace a brush, these motors are virtually maintenance-free.
- Brushed motors use a “brush” to send power to a coil. The coil, attached to a shaft, begins to spin, creating torque and power. These motors are relatively low-tech, as far as electric motors go. These motors have a proven track record and come at a low cost. Keep in mind, that brushes maintain contact with coil components while the tool runs, so they do wear out and require replacement periodically.
Many of the best budget impact drivers come with a brush motor, and there’s nothing wrong with that. However, an impact driver that is fitted with a brushless motor will run longer.
Size and Weight
Impact drivers are often lighter than cordless drills. This allows the user to drive multiple fasteners without arm or hand fatigue. That’s particularly important when inserting screws overhead, where a regular drill can quickly weigh you down. If your plans include a lot of overhead work, make sure you factor the battery weight into the total weight of a cordless impact driver as well.
As for size, an impact driver can access tighter spaces where a larger drill wouldn’t fit. However, it is important to note that some models are more compact than others.
Just like drills and other cordless tools, cordless impact drivers run on rechargeable batteries in 12-volt, 18-volt, and 20-volt capacities. It’s important to note that batteries must match the voltage of your tool. For example, if you have an 18-volt impact driver, you will need an 18-volt battery.
Batteries also have an AH or an amp-hour rating. An 18-volt 4.0 amp-hour battery has more “fuel” than an 18-volt 2.0 amp-hour version, so an impact driver with a 4.0 amp-hour battery will run twice as long.
The disadvantages of higher amp-hour batteries are longer recharge times and increased cost. With most tools, a 1.5 amp-hour or a 2.0 amp-hour battery come standard. If the aim is to maximize runtime, buy a spare battery with a higher amp-hour.
The hammer action of an impact driver is very loud. You will often find that manufacturers claim to have implemented noise reduction technologies, but even if that’s the case almost all will exceed the 85-decibel level. This means it’s vital that you use hearing protection.
While the best impact drivers offer a high level of control, be aware of the potential injuries that excessive torque can cause. A sudden and unexpected twist can result in a wrist sprain. Drills come with a clutch that stops the torque when the fastener meets resistance. Impact drivers do not have this, but virtually all of them have variable-speed triggers that allow the user to reduce power. Some come with additional speed settings that also help control torque.
Depending on how you intend to use your budget impact driver, one or more of the following extras may be worth pursuing in a kit.
- Variable speed trigger: Most impact drivers have a variable speed trigger. The harder this trigger is squeezed, the faster it rotates. Some impact drivers also have two or more rpm speed settings. This provides enhanced control for different-size fixings or driving into different materials.
- Rubberized handle: A rubberized handle serves two purposes. The first one is it ensures the user can maintain a firm grip on the tool. Second, it helps reduce the vibration between the tool and the body to minimize arm and hand fatigue.
- Interchangeable batteries: Some manufacturers design impact drivers to be able to use batteries that are made for power tools from the same brand. In that case, users can save money by buying a bare tool. I want to stress that it’s important to check compatibility with older cordless power tools.
- Charge indicator: Some batteries have a useful charge indicator so the user can estimate the remaining life of the battery.
- Work light: Some impact drivers have LED lights built into the front of it, these are especially convenient for when you’re working in dark corners.
- Combination kit: Many brands sell impact drivers as part of a set. This is great for anyone who is in the market for multiple tools. Combo kits typically contain a standard cordless drill and an impact driver. They might also include a circular saw, a work light, a hammer drill, batteries, and/or drill bits.
- On-board bit storage: A few impact drivers have a small clip or a magnet to keep a driver bit on stand-by on the tool itself.
The Best Budget Impact Drivers – Reviewed
Below you’ll find some of the top choices for the best budget impact drivers.
Ryobi P235A 18V One+ Impact Driver
The Ryobi P235A 18V One+ Impact Driver is a low-cost tool that performs as well as its more expensive counterparts. This is pretty rare. This impact driver performed on par with some of its more expensive competitors during testing. It features an impressive 1,800 in-lbs of torque, 3,200 ipm, and has a ¼-inch quick-connect chuck. This impact driver also comes with a sturdy cast-aluminum housing.
Ryobi’s impact driver does come as a bare tool, so if you don’t have any batteries to fit this model then you will have to buy some. However, let’s say you have a spare 18-volt Ryobi lithium-ion battery lying around. That will fit perfectly. This lime-green power tool put on an impressive show of driving fasteners into hardwood and softwood and removed overtightened screws without stripping the heads.
Coming in at a little over 4 pounds with the battery, it is heavier than some of the other options, and you might find your arm and hand tiring after using it over your head for a few minutes. With all of that being said, it does provide enough power to overcome the weight issue. Those with stronger arms might not even notice the added weight.
- Durable cast-aluminum housing
- 3,200 ipm power
- ¼-inch coupler
- Charger and battery not included
BLACK+DECKER BDCI20C MAX Impact Driver
The BLACK+DECKER BDC120C MAX Impact Driver is a low-cost reliable impact driver that is ideal for DIYers who complete light to medium tasks. It comes with a motor that delivers 1,375 inch-pounds of torque, meaning that it can handle most applications easily. Additionally, it also comes with a variable speed setting to allow you to adjust the motor’s speed to suit different materials. Overall, you’ll be able to enjoy greater control over your projects.
The BDC120C runs on a 20V lithium-ion battery. When completely drained, this battery takes around 4 hours to charge to full capacity. Therefore, it’s crucial that you factor in charging time when planning on completing a project. While the battery will only last a few hours at best when working at maximum capacity, the advantage of this battery is how reliable it is.
The battery is extremely durable, allowing years of projects and jobs being completed before you even have to start thinking about a replacement. Moreover, the BDC120C is compatible with other Black+Decker 20V batteries. This means you do not have to wait for the impact driver’s battery to charge if you own another Black and Decker power tool.
This impact driver features a compact frame that allows you to access tight spaces that standard impact drivers wouldn’t be able to fit into. Additionally, it comes with built-in LED lights for enhanced visibility in places that have low light levels. The BDC120C weighs in at only 3.5 pounds, making it one of the lightest impact drivers you can buy. This allows you to use it for extended periods without fatigue and get in awkward angles. Both of these things increase your efficiency. You will also appreciate this impact driver’s fast-releasing hex chuck, it makes swapping bits a breeze.
The major downside to this budget impact driver is that its motor is a brush motor. Brushed motors deteriorate faster than brushless motors do. It’s not ideal for heavy-duty use. Nonetheless, the Black and Decker BDC120C impact driver is a lightweight and compact driver that would be great for DIY applications.
- Lightweight and compact
- 20V battery
- Has a variable speed setting
- 1,375 in-lbs torque
- LED lights
- Not great for heavy-duty use
DEWALT 20V MAX Impact Driver Kit, 1/4-Inch
Are you looking for an impact driver that will provide enough driving power to build a shed or a garage? The I have some good news for you, you don’t need to look any further. The DeWalt 20V MAX Impact Driver is an excellent choice for both professionals and DIYers. This impact driver’s compact size, powerful torque, and light weight of 2.8 pounds makes it among the top options you can pick. Additionally, it includes an ergonomic grip that offers control as well as comfort and three LED lights to brighten any dark areas you’re working in.
This driver features a one-handed hex chuck so you can easily switch between bits, it comes with a 20-volt lithium-ion battery, as well as a charger. That’s a pretty good deal. A slight downside is the 1.5 amp-hour battery, which does not last very long. However, don’t let that acre you away from this tool. It excelled in inserting various fasteners into softwoods and hardwoods, and it works well for loosening previously frozen fasteners without stripping out the heads.
Just like the The BLACK+DECKER BDC120C MAX Impact Driver, this impact driver has a brush motor. This means runtime is slightly shortened. I was impressed by the sensitivity of the variable-speed trigger. For the best results, consider keeping a spare battery charged to double the runtime.
- Great for heavy-duty use
- Comes with a carrying case, charger, and battery
- 3 LED lights
- Ergonomic grip
- Has a limited runtime
TEKTON 2905 Manual Hand Impact Driver
The TEKTON 2905 Manual Hand Impact Driver is one of the best options you can purchase when it comes to saving costs without sacrificing quality. It’s a high-quality manual tool and can meet the needs of both professionals and DIYers.
This budget impact driver will do everything a quality motor-powered impact driver does. The only difference is that you will be using your own strength to power the tool. It excels at loosening frozen or rusted bolts and screws. Even though it is a manual driver, you don’t have to apply brute force. It utilizes the benefit of leverage to convert the strike of your hammer into high torque to allow you to take on the hardiest of jobs. I want to stress that this option really doesn’t require a lot of strength, if that’s a main concern of yours.
The compact, lightweight design of the TEKTON 2905 enhances its practicality tremendously. You will be able to use it for long periods of time before you start to tire. Additionally, you can use it anywhere and at any time because it does not rely on power.
It’s quite versatile as well, thanks to its reversible drive. A reversible drive makes loosening left-hand fasteners a breeze. It also comes with a durable and convenient storage case to allow you to keep the tool and its components safe. I would like to mention that it lacks an instruction manual, this means that this impact driver can pose challenges to beginners.
Nonetheless, at its price point, the versatility and practicality of the Tekton 2905 make it arguably the best budget impact driver under $100 for the money!
- Has a non-slip handle
- Generates high amounts of torque
- Ideal for both professionals and DIYers
- No instruction manual
Milwaukee 2656-20 M18 Impact Driver
If you are looking for an impact driver that’s powerful, reliable, and budget-friendly, you should consider the Milwaukee 2656-20 M18 Impact Driver.
For starters, this impact driver delivers 1,500 in-lbs of torque, which is remarkable considering how small it is. It also achieves up to 2,570 RPM with variable speed and 3,450 impacts per minute. As a result of this, this impact driver can drive screws into tough materials easily. The variable speed setting also means that you can optimize the driver to handle delicate materials without destroying them.
The 2656-20’s motor is equipped with Redlink Technology. Redlink technology allows the driver to be in constant communication with its battery to facilitate maximum efficiency. To sum it up, this results in a longer battery lifespan. This impact driver is also remarkably easy to use thanks to its ergonomic design and lightweight nature. Its compact head allows the unit to fit into tight spaces, while the ergonomic handle enhances comfort. Additionally, it also comes with LED lights to allow you to light up and work in dark spaces.
I’m sure you will also appreciate the fact that this impact driver is compatible with batteries from other Milwaukee M18 tools. This is especially relevant, considering that the manufacturer does not include a battery with this model
- Extended motor and battery life due to redlink technology
- Great torque
- Features a battery fuel gauge
- Comfortable and easy to use thanks to its ergonomic design
- No battery
Q. How are impact driver and drills different?
Almost every modern drill can be used as both a drill and a screwdriver. They are great all-arounder tools. An impact driver does not have the drill function, but it provides far superior driving power for all kinds of large fasteners.
Q. What is an impact driver drill used for?
An impact driver is basically a high-performance screwdriver. However, with the right bits, it can also drive hex-head bolts and other large fixings, not just screws.
Q. How do I choose an impact driver?
You want to strike the right balance between sufficient torque, tool weight, and of course your budget. The guidance and examples above will help you pick the best budget impact driver for your needs.
Q. What is the strongest impact driver?
With over 1,800 inch-pounds of torque and a triple-hammer action, the Metabo HPT 18V is one of the strongest options available.
Q. Does an impact driver need special bits?
Yes, an impact driver does need special bits. The torque generated by an impact driver can break ordinary bits. Look for bits sold as “impact ready.”
There are the best impact driver sets! We hope this buying guide helped you find the best option for you! Do you have a favorite impact driver from this list? Do you own one already? If not, are you considering purchasing one now? Please feel free to leave a comment, we would love to hear from you!
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