What is the Difference Between an Impact Driver and a Drill?

So, you watched a DIY video for making a cute treehouse that you think will match perfectly with your backyard. But you are new to building things. You cannot differentiate between the tools that are needed for you to build the perfect backyard Treehouse that will impress your kids and make you so popular in the neighborhood.

You always thought that an impact driver and drill are the same things but your video disagrees with you.

Worry no more.

We are here to clear all your confusions. Here we will let you know, what is the difference between an impact driver and a drill, in a step-by-step guide and let you know which one, if not both, you need.

Step-by-Step Guide

These two tools can be confusing for a beginner since they share the same outer looks and their functions also overlap a lot. 

What’s similar to these, is that they both can drive screws in and out, they both function when a trigger is pressed. They can both be corded or cordless and both are handheld like guns.

What is the difference between an impact driver and a drill

But what are the differences?

They might look the same while sitting together on a tool shelf but are worlds apart. So let’s break down the key differences between the two.

But before we get started, let us define each individual for all amateur mechanics.

What is an impact driver?

An impact driver is a handheld tool that uses its powerful torque for basically screwing and unscrewing nuts also known as screw setting. It can also drill holes, but that is not what they are essentially made for.

In even simpler words, the basic function of an impact driver is tightening the screws or nuts fast.

What is a drill?

A drill is a powerful and versatile tool that is used for boring holes and setting nuts and screws. But they are better at boring holes. They have been essential in professional and household toolboxes.

Basic Mechanical Differences

Impact driver

An impact driver is a high-torque tool. It pushes screws with a much powerful “impact” that is delivered after short intervals, hence lending it its name. They produce a lot of rotational force up to 50 times in a second that can drive the largest screws in just seconds. 

Furthermore, they rotate in a two-step forward and one-step backward fashion which drives screws even more efficiently.

Another point to be noted is that the impact drill accepts all hex driver bits that are one-quarter of an inch in size.

But what is it that makes it superior to conventional drills, when it comes to engaging and driving screws?

The fact that they can be powerful and exert more power when they sense the resistance of some sort while driving a screw.

But there is one downside to this amazing new tool:

If you need a very precise job that has particular screw lengths then using an impact driver can be a risk. As its immense power can be a little too much sometimes.

Drill

A drill is the most multi-functional tool that we know of. It has a chuck that supports multiple bits according to need. The bits may have a cutting edge for drilling holes or a rotational bit that can drive screws in and out. 

Some drills also have a hammer function. This means they can pulse forward and backward while doing their common rotary function. This hammering function enables them to drill holes in concrete and cement or stone.

What a handy tool!

Drills come with different chuck sizes that support different bits. And hence they can be easily used for drilling holes of different sizes.

But these are considerably heavier and larger than the more petite impact drivers and can make you tired if you try to hold them for long.

 Also, when it comes to driving screws, the torque of drills is much less than that of the impact driver. They do not engage screws as well as impact drivers and; thus, tend to slip quite often while doing so.

Impact Drivers vs Drills – which one do you need?

Now that you know which one is which and does what let’s get down to which one do you actually need?

It all depends on what you want to use them for?

Are you an every weekend DIY enthusiast or just need tools for a few projects?

Here are your answers.

If your work needs boring holes through wood, concrete, plastics, metals, steel, and many other tough materials it is a drill that you need. A drill may also come in handy for occasional nut setting through these materials, a drill can be your go-to tool.

But if your work requires a lot of screw driving and tightening through the wood, you should consider buying yourself an impact driver. The efficiency of impact drivers at driving nuts and screws will save you a lot of time, effort, and a sore wrist from working with a much heavier conventional drill.

AttributesImpact DriverDrill
Torque (Average)1700-1800 lbs250-425 lbs
Chuck Design¼ inch hexHex bit or straight shank bit
Speed VariationYesYes
WeightLighterHeavier
SizeSmallerLarger

Impact Driver vs Drills – How to Choose?

By now you must have made your mind on what you need according to your specific needs. Now let us help you choose the right one for you.

The big question here is that:

What are the properties one must keep in and while choosing a good impact driver or drill for them?

Impact Drivers:

Size of Impact Driver

For impact drivers, there are four basic things that you should look for:

1. Battery Power:

An impact driver is usually battery-driven. Hence, you should choose the battery power according to your needs. There are 3 options available; 12, 18, and 20 volts. The higher the voltage, the powerful the driver will be. While 18 and 20 volts variants don’t have quite a big difference, the 12 volts options are much less powerful than the latter two.

It is quite simple!

If you want to use them for driving more screws in less time, you will need more power.

And hence you should go for a more powerful one.

But keep this in mind that:

More power comes at a price. The batteries will be bigger and heavier and the tool will be more difficult to control and could slip easily.

2. Brushed or Brushless Motors:

There are two types of motors available: Brushed and brushless. 

The drivers that feature a brushless motor offer low-maintenance, improved power, and extend the working life of your tool. The brushless motor is also more compact and light-weight and also produces less noise and vibration. The heat and friction generated are also reduced considerably.

3. Variable Speeds:

Impact drivers come with different speed options that you may choose from according to what your work requires. So you may want to invest in a model that offers to select different speed settings. Such models produce different amounts of torque or power depending on how much you press the trigger.

Drills:

Size of Drill

If you are planning to get yourself a drill driver, here are the main key points you should know about beforehand.

1. Battery Power:

Like impact drivers, drills also come in a variety of battery power options. They range from 8 volts to volts. The most commonly available options are 12 and 18 volts.

It is the same with drills too. If you increase the voltage, you increase the power of the instrument, and hence high-voltage variants are equipped for heavier work. If you need to drill bigger or deeper holes and drive bigger screws then you should opt for a drill that offers the most voltage batteries.

2. Amperage:

Amperage means the amount of electrical current a drill can draw. This term is specific for corded drills that do not operate on batteries. The more the amperage of a drill, the heavier duty they are.

3. Chuck Size:

There are many sizes of chuck options available that support different types and sizes of bits. You can use one with your choice of variations.

Cordless drills come with two chuck sizes; that is, 3/8 inch and half an inch. Whereas corded drills have more options available. There are 3/8 inch, ½ inch, 5/8 inch, and ¾ inch chucks.

If your work requires making holes of larger diameter, you should choose a drill with a larger chuck size.

Safety precautions while using drills and impact driver

Be it drills or impact drivers, both are extremely useful components of a toolkit. But both of them can be very dangerous if not used with proper safety precautions.

To ensure no accidents take place while using them, read these safety measures that you should take before you get your hands on either one.

  • Never hold the surface you are working on with your hands. Use a holding device.
  • Keep clear of the workplace place while the drill or driver is operating.
  • Always wear eye protection goggles.
  • Make sure the bits and chucks are locked in place before starting.
  • Keep your hands, hair, and clothes away from the machine in operation.
  • Do not clean the chips or dust by hand. Use a brush.
  • Remove all keys and wrenches from the drill/driver before starting.

Conclusion

Drills and impact drivers are two of the most useful tools in your shed. Whether you are a handyman or just like to help around the house in simple repairing works, these will be your best friends. So next time someone asks you the question; what is the difference between an impact driver and a drill, we hope you know the answer.

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