DeWalt DCF887 16

The Best Cordless Impact Driver

I’ve always hated the phrase “work smarter, not harder”. When I started building houses over 30 years ago, I worked with a guy whose motto was “work better”. Work smart and hard, and never stop learning. One of the easiest ways to work better is having the right tool for the job. A cordless impact driver is the best tool for driving screws, lag bolts and other fasteners. It’s versatility, portability and ease of use make it an essential tool for both Do-It-Yourselfers and professional tradespeople alike.

In this review, we’re going to show you the different cordless impact driver designs and features that will make whatever project you are working on a success. And we’re going to look at different brands and models to help you make the right decision on what is the best cordless impact driver for you. We’re going to break it down into three categories- cordless impact drivers, cordless drills and combo kits.

THE BEST CORDLESS IMPACT DRIVER

Ryobi P238

RYOBI P238

When it comes to cordless impact drivers, torque is king. The high torque (2,000 inch pounds), super-fast hammering rate (4,350 impacts per minute) and 3 different speed settings set the P238 apart from the crowd. It has a great set of LED lights that make working in dark spaces easy, and you’ll love the handy MagTray magnetic holder for convenient placement of screws and bits. Ryobi has built a cordless impact driver with positively pro features and specs, but at an affordable prosumer price.   

Click here to see today’s price on Amazon

RYOBI BRAND and HISTORY

Ryobi was founded in 1943 selling die cast products. In the early 1960’s the company began manufacturing offset printing presses and production of power tools began in 1968. Ryobi’s power tools have been steady fixture in the homeowner/DIY category for many years. Recently they have really stepped up their game by producing many models with pro features and specs, highlighted by their ever expanding and widely popular 18V ONE+ line of cordless tools. Purchasers will appreciate the way they have made the new models compatible with the older Ni-Cd batteries.

Photo courtesy of Ryobi

THE BEST CORDLESS IMPACT DRIVER

Ryobi P238

RYOBI P238

The Ryobi P238 has great blend of features, specs and performance in a kit that is a solid value. It comes with the most torque (22,000 inch pounds) and fastest hammering speed (4,350 impacts per minute) of any impact driver in our list and three speed ranges to let you dial in the perfect amount of power for any job. If you’re looking for a professional model at a super reasonable price, the P238 might be the best cordless impact driver for you.

The Good: High torque, Fast RPMs, Great price

The Not So Good: Old style battery shape is a little large

Click here to see today’s price on Amazon

RYOBI

P238
BEST OVERALL
  • 18 Volts
  • 2,200 in-lbs Torque
  • 3,100 RPM
  • 4,350 IPM
  • Brushless Motor

MILWAUKEE

2656-20
BEST BUDGET
  • 18 Volts
  • 1,500 in-lbs Torque
  • 2,750 RPM
  • 3,450 IPM
  • Brushed Motor

MAKITA

XDT13Z
BEST SPEED
  • 18 Volts
  • 1,500 in-lbs Torque
  • 3,400 RPM
  • 3,600 IPM
  • Brushless Motor

RYOBI

P237
BEST VALUE
  • 18 Volts
  • 1,800 in-lbs Torque
  • 3,200 RPM
  • 3,400 IPM
  • Brushed Motor

DEWALT

DCF887B
BEST FOR PROS
  • 20 Volts
  • 2,000 in-lbs Torque
  • 3,350 RPM
  • 3,600 IPM
  • Brushless Motor

CORDLESS IMPACT DRIVERS WORTH CONSIDERING

BEST BUDGET

Milwaukee 2656-20

MILWAUKEE 2656-20

 If you’re looking for a great pro grade tool at a bargain price, the Milwaukee 2656-20 might be the best cordless impact driver for you. It has the REDLINK™ Intelligence feature, similar to their top of the line models that protects the tool battery and charger from overheating and damage. It’s compact and light weight (3.1 pounds) so it’s easy to work into tight places and it comes at a price that most anyone can afford.

The Good: Price, Milwaukee quality

The Not So Good: A little slow for speed

Click here to see today’s price on Amazon

BEST SPEED

Makita XDT13Z

Makita XDT13Z

If you’re all about speed, the Makita XDT13Z might just have your name on it. The brushless motor has a max speed of 3,400 RPM and a hammering rate of 3,600 IPM, which will make driving any fastener a breeze. A well balanced and comfortable tool, it comes with the reliable and dependable Makita pedigree. If you’re looking for a quality tool that can really shred, the Makita XDT13Z is the one for you.

The Good: Super-fast RPMs, Brushless motor

The Not So Good: Price

Click here to see today’s price on Amazon

BEST VALUE

Ryobi P237

RYOBI P237

 Ryobi has served up another winner with the P237. Good power (1,800 inch-pounds of torque) and great speed (3,200 RPM) combine to give you professional performance while driving most any fastener. It has a bunch of useful features that make it easy to see in the dark (3 LED work lights built in), easy to find your bit (onboard bit storage), and easy to tell how much charge is left on your battery (lighted gauge built in). While not as powerful as its big brother, the P238, it’s by no means wimpy, and it comes at a really great price.

The Good: Great price, Good power                                       

The Not So Good: Old style battery is a bit chunky

Click here to see today’s price on Amazon

BEST FOR PROS

DeWalt DCF887B

DEWALT DCF887B

DeWalt has been one of the early pioneers of modern high powered cordless tool technology since the early 1990s. The DCF887B is a quality pro grade tool that will stand up to years of jobsite abuse. Excellent power is delivered from the brushless motor and the runtime on DeWalt’s 20-volt MAX XR batteries is impressive. If you’re looking for a quality tool and you don’t mind spending just a little more, the DCF887B is a great pick. Click here for a more detailed review of the DeWalt DCF887B.

The Good: Excellent RPMs, Excellent torque

The Not So Good: Price

Click here to see today’s price on Amazon

Why Trust Me?

I always chuckle when I see the websites with the reviews of tools when they say “we spent over 20 hours evaluating these tools, trying to simulate real world conditions in our test lab” and that is somehow supposed to convince you that that makes them some kind of authority on the subject. And because they’ve spent all that time, you therefore should trust them to recommend the Best Cordless Impact Driver.

I guess maybe there is some value in knowing that a brand new tool was able to drive 143 screws into a piece of wood before the battery ran out, but you might want to know how well that tool performs after it’s a few years old. Or you might want to know if the tool can hold up to daily use and abuse like it is subjected to in the actual real world.

Over the last 30 plus years as a general contractor, I’ve been making my living using these tools at jobsites day in and day out. My crews and subs make their livings using these tools too. And we all talk. Word quickly gets around about an innovative new design, and probably even more quickly when someone made the mistake of buying a piece of junk.

There’s nothing worse than spending your hard earned money on a tool that you are expecting to make it easier and faster to tackle all kinds of projects around the house, only to find out that the tool comes up miserably short of meeting your expectations. My goal here is to keep you from buying that piece of junk.  

Why You Need A Cordless Impact Driver

A cordless impact driver is the best tool for driving screws, lag bolts and other fasteners. It’s versatility, portability and ease of use make it an essential tool for both Do-It-Yourselfers and professional tradespeople alike.

There are actually two types of cordless drills- a cordless drill is used for drilling holes and a cordless impact driver for driving screws and lag bolts. The cordless drill operates on a fast speed to allow the drill bit to bore holes into wood, metal or plastic. The cordless impact driver has more torque plus a hammering action to make it easier to drive screws and lag bolts. While a cordless drill is capable of driving screws, try driving dozens of 3” screws into decking boards and you will quickly realize that a tough job can be made easy with an impact driver.  

In a perfect world you would have one of each so you don’t have to switch out the drill bit and replace it with a screw tip every time you want to pre drill and then drive a screw. Click here for my review of the best cordless drill.

 

Best Impact Driver 2

Cordless Impact Driver Features- What's What and What's Important

Power

Power is measured in two ways: torque and speed. Torque is how much force acting on an object causes that object to rotate and is measured in inch-pounds. More is definitely always better because it makes driving a screw easier. Speed is measured in revolutions per minute or RPM. When driving fasteners, the combination of torque and speed defines performance. A very useful added feature on some cordless impact drivers is a selectable speed range that lets you dial in just the right amount of power for the size of the fastener.

Hammering Action

All impact drivers have an additional feature not found on cordless drills- A hammering action that applies a tapping force to help drive the fastener more easily. Hammering action is measured as blows per minute or impacts per minute.

Batteries

Battery power is measured in volts. While there are numerous manufacturers producing 12-volt batteries, the majority of them fall into the toy category and aren’t worth considering. The 18-volt and 20-volt models are the most popular, and rightly so, because they have plenty of power for most any task.

Battery capacity is expressed by how many Amps for how many hours a battery will last before needing to be recharged. Typical quality batteries will be rated between 1.4 ah to 3.0 ah.

There are two types of batteries commonly used in cordless tools- Nickel Cadmium (NiCd) are the old technology containing environmentally unfriendly cadmium, and the far superior Lithium Ion (Li-Ion) models. Lithium Ion batteries provide longer run time, more power, and are lighter than NiCd batteries. They cost a bit more, but are worth it.

Charging Time

There’s nothing quite as frustrating as putting your project on hold because your battery needs charging. I recommend buying a kit with two batteries, so you can always have one charged and ready to go. Charging time varies greatly, but most are reasonably quick, in the 30 to 90-minute range.

Brushed or Brushless?

Is brushless really better or is it just the latest trendy “must have” marketing feature? To be Honest, it’s yes to both questions. Brushless motors in cordless impact drivers are technically better because their design reduces the friction involved with the brushes, providing a little more power and extending the battery run time. Will you notice the difference in power? Probably not. The downside to brushless motors is they cost more, but they are undoubtedly better.

Value for the Money

Moderately priced professional grade cordless impact driver kits range from about $100 to $200 dollars for a cordless drill, two batteries, a charger and a carrying case of some sort. Under $100 will usually get you a virtually worthless toy that is usually nothing more than a glorified cordless screwdriver. Industrial grade cordless impact drivers run in the $200 to $400 range.  

 

Steve Wright

Steve Wright is a general contractor who over the last 30 plus years has built hundreds of new homes, ranging from first time affordable homes to multi-million dollar custom homes and everything in between.

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