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The 4 Best Impact Drivers of 2024

We tested impact drivers from top brands like Kobalt, Milwaukee, Makita, DeWalt, and others to find the best products
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Best Impact Driver Review (Some simply out-drove the competition during our assessments.)
Some simply out-drove the competition during our assessments.
Credit: Laura Casner
By Ross Patton, David Wise, Matt Spencer, and Austin Palmer  ⋅  May 31, 2024

The Best Impact Drivers for 2024


During our quest to find the best impact drivers, we bought and tested the 13 most promising models on the market to put in a head-to-head, hands-on, battery-powered tool showdown. All the top products today are cordless models, making them easy to use, but they are also powerful, which is the main reason to upgrade from a drill. We carefully measured, weighed, and timed dozens of performance test metrics on these products, but we also looked for tiny details such as the usability of the bit holder as well as the pattern and effectiveness of the target lights. We judged the comfort and ergonomics of each driver and beat the heck out of them by effectively maxing out their torque capabilities.

With the ever-evolving quality and technology of the newest and best tools, choosing the right model for the job can often be daunting and confusing. Our team has done the groundwork to take the headache out of the process of shopping for you, comparing the best circular saws as well as our favorite cordless circular saws and all of the best drills on the market. If you're in fall yard cleanup mode, check out our picks for the best leaf blowers.

Editor's Note: On May 31, 2024, we added more details about how we test and added a summary of our buying advice.

Top 13 Impact Drivers - Test Results

Displaying 1 - 5 of 13
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Awards Editors' Choice Award  Editors' Choice Award  Best Buy Award 
Price $220 List$151 List$135 List
$118.99 at Amazon
$129 List
$95.00 at Amazon
$110 List
Overall Score Sort Icon
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Pros Spectacular power, lightning-fast driving, great batterySeveral fastening modes, nifty lighting approach, great battery efficiencyIncredibly fast, phenomenal torque, four speed settingsExceptional torque, very fast, great battery lifeFast, lots of torque
Cons So-so light, two-handed bit insertionNoisy, priceyNot the best battery life, noisyLoud, only one RPM settingLoud, average battery life
Bottom Line An impressively strong and fast model with a long-lasting batteryA powerful driver with a great battery life that's a fairly large investmentIf you're looking for a fast 18V impact driver with excellent torque in a condensed size, we recommend this modelThis driver had the most impressive battery life in our test and offers torque performance that is on par with the bestThis driver is fast and provides excellent torque at an affordable price
Rating Categories Kobalt XTR Max 24V Makita XDT16Z Lithi... Milwaukee M18 Fuel... Makita XDT13 Ryobi P238
Speed (35%)
10.0
9.0
9.0
9.0
9.0
Torque (25%)
10.0
10.0
10.0
10.0
10.0
Convenience (20%)
6.0
8.0
8.0
6.0
7.0
Battery (15%)
10.0
9.3
7.0
8.8
4.8
Noise (5%)
3.0
4.0
2.0
3.0
1
Specs Kobalt XTR Max 24V Makita XDT16Z Lithi... Milwaukee M18 Fuel... Makita XDT13 Ryobi P238
Impact Driver Model # KXID 124B-03 XDT16Z 2853-20 XDT13 P238
Average Measured Fastening Torque 300 ft-lb 300 ft-lb 300 ft-lb 282 ft-lb 300 ft-lb
Measured Breaking Torque 300 ft-lb 300 ft-lb 300 ft-lb 300 ft-lb 300 ft-lb
Measured Length 139 mm 114 mm 116 mm 126 mm 161 mm
Average Measured Sound Pressure Level 96 dBa 94 dBa 99 dBa 97 dBa 104 dBa
Quick Bit Insert? No Yes Yes Yes Yes
Bit Holder? No No Yes No Yes
Multiple Fastening Modes? Yes Yes Yes No Yes


Best Overall Impact Driver


Kobalt XTR Max 24V


89
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Speed 10.0
  • Torque 10.0
  • Convenience 6.0
  • Battery 10.0
  • Noise 3.0
Weight: 2.4 pounds | Length: 139 mm
REASONS TO BUY
Powerful
Fast
Phenomenal battery efficiency
REASONS TO AVOID
Dim light
No quick insert
SPECIFICATIONS
Average Measured Fastening Torque 300 ft-lb
Impact Driver Model # KXID 124B-03
Measured Breaking Torque 300 ft-lb
Measured Length 139 mm
Average Measured Sound Pressure Level 96 dBa
The Kobalt XTR Max 24V is our hands-down favorite for heavy-duty tasks. During our head-to-head speed assessment, this model outperformed every other impact driver that we've seen. The XTR showed a ridiculous amount of torque, maxing out our torque wrench for both fastening and loosening large nuts. We love that this model has four different settings, including three speeds and an “ASSIST” mode that slowly increases RPMs to reduce the chances of cross-threading. When we added the XTR to our review, we had to rewrite the battery scores for every other model because this version's battery outlasts all of them.

The XTR is not completely flawless. Its light is relatively dim and doesn't do the best job of illuminating a dark work area. For most folks, this issue may not be a deal breaker. That said, a low-quality light can become problematic when working in poorly lit areas like crawlspaces or attics. We were also somewhat disappointed that the chuck lacks a quick insert function. This technology is a little outdated — most newer drivers allow for one-handed insertion of bits. Despite our few gripes, the XTR is our top recommendation for those requiring top-notch power and speed. If you're looking for a model with a bright light and an easy-to-use quick insert, check out the Ryobi P238.

Read more: Kobalt XTR Max 24V review

impact driver - the kobalt xtr max 24v is powerful, fast, and has excellent battery...
The Kobalt XTR Max 24V is powerful, fast, and has excellent battery life.
Credit: Abriah Wofford

Best Tool-Only Impact Driver


Milwaukee M18 Fuel 2853-20


84
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Speed 9.0
  • Torque 10.0
  • Convenience 8.0
  • Battery 7.0
  • Noise 2.0
Weight: 2.5 pounds | Length: 116 mm
REASONS TO BUY
Super fast
Phenomenal torque
Compact
Four RPM settings
REASONS TO AVOID
Mediocre battery life
SPECIFICATIONS
Average Measured Fastening Torque 300 ft-lb
Impact Driver Model # 2853-20
Measured Breaking Torque 300 ft-lb
Measured Length 116 mm
Average Measured Sound Pressure Level 99 dBa
For a first-class impact driver, look no further than the Milwaukee M18 Fuel. In our speed trials, it surpassed almost all of the competition. When tested for torque strength, it hit its ceiling with a 300ft-lb wrench, as it could loosen and tighten nuts onto ½" bolts that we had welded to an I-beam. Due to this tool's compact size, it can easily access small places. The M18 Fuel has four RPM settings — three different speeds and one specific setting for finish work.

Our primary complaint with the Milwaukee M18 Fuel is the battery life just doesn't live up to some of the other contenders. If long battery life is a key factor in your decision-making, consider upgrading to a larger Milwaukee battery or search for a different model altogether with a longer-lasting battery. Lastly, we should mention this driver is quite noisy. While most impact drivers make a bit of a ruckus, the M18 Fuel is surprisingly offensive. If your projects call for a longer battery life, the Kobalt XTR Max 24V is the one for the job.

Read more: Milwaukee M18 Fuel 2853-20 review

impact driver - the m18 was was of the best torque test performers.
The M18 was was of the best torque test performers.
Credit: Laura Casner

Best 12 Volt Impact Driver


Milwaukee M12 Fuel 2553-20


60
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Speed 7.0
  • Torque 6.0
  • Convenience 7.0
  • Battery 3.5
  • Noise 3.0
Weight: 1.7 pounds | Length: 132 mm
REASONS TO BUY
Compact
Light
Convenient
REASONS TO AVOID
Unimpressive battery life
Lacks quick insert
SPECIFICATIONS
Average Measured Fastening Torque 143 ft-lb
Impact Driver Model # 2553-20
Measured Breaking Torque 275 ft-lb
Measured Length 132 mm
Average Measured Sound Pressure Level 97 dBa
The Milwaukee M12 Fuel is the best impact driver we've found in the land of 12-volt battery-powered tools. This impressive little driver essentially fits in your pocket. Not only is it compact, but it's also lightweight, easy to use, and comfortable to hold. Our favorite thing about the M12 Fuel is that it kept up with (and, in several instances, outperformed) drivers with substantially more girth and voltage. To top it off, Milwaukee offers a fantastic array of tools built on the M12 Fuel platform, so you may only need to buy one battery and charger for a fleet.

The M12 Fuel has some small flaws. Despite its tiny size and lighter weight, it is still very loud. It is also far from being the most affordable model we tested. If you don't mind a tool that's slightly more cumbersome, it may be worth getting a less expensive model that might not be able to squeeze into the tight spaces that the M12 Fuel can but ultimately offer the same performance, such as the Ryobi P238.

Read more: Milwaukee M12 Fuel 2553-20 review

impact driver - the m12 fuel is one of the fastest 12-volt models that we&#039;ve tested.
The M12 FUEL is one of the fastest 12-volt models that we've tested.
Credit: Laura Casner

Best Bang for the Buck


Ryobi P238


78
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Speed 9.0
  • Torque 10.0
  • Convenience 7.0
  • Battery 4.8
  • Noise 1.0
Weight: 2.7 pounds | Length: 161 mm
REASONS TO BUY
Fast driver
Lots of torque
Bright LED lights
Magnetic plate to hold loose screws and bolts
Great value
REASONS TO AVOID
Only average battery life
Longer length can be an inconvenience
SPECIFICATIONS
Average Measured Fastening Torque 300 ft-lb
Impact Driver Model # P238
Measured Breaking Torque 300 ft-lb
Measured Length 161 mm
Average Measured Sound Pressure Level 104 dBa
Ryobi is a name synonymous with both quality and affordability, and the Ryobi P238 is no exception. This was one of the fastest drivers in our lineup and one of the most inexpensive. It's incredibly fast and provides ample torque in our tests, and we love the bright LED light and the magnetic plate that you can toss your extra fasteners on — no more “now, where'd I put that screw?” moments.

The Ryobi P238 is one of the longer impact drivers in our test fleet, which can be a drawback for certain applications where you may need to get into tight spaces. It also has a shorter battery life than other contenders in our review. Still, we think for the money, it's hard to go wrong with this offering from Ryobi. If you want a shorter model with better battery life, consider another option like the Milwaukee M18 Fuel.

Read more: Ryobi P238 review

impact driver - the ryobi delivers incredible torque.
The Ryobi delivers incredible torque.
Credit: Laura Casner

Compare Products

select up to 5 products to compare
Score Product Price
89
Kobalt XTR Max 24V
Best Overall Impact Driver
$220
Editors' Choice Award
88
Makita XDT16Z Lithium-Ion 18V
$151
84
Milwaukee M18 Fuel 2853-20
Best Tool-Only Impact Driver
$135
Editors' Choice Award
83
Makita XDT13
$129
78
Ryobi P238
Best Bang for the Buck
$110
Best Buy Award
73
DeWalt MAX XR DCF887B
$140
66
Porter-Cable PCCK647
$150
60
Milwaukee M12 Fuel 2553-20
Best 12 Volt Impact Driver
$120
Editors' Choice Award
59
DeWalt DCF809B Atomic
$120
57
Makita XST01Z Lithium-Ion Oil Impulse 18V
$224
51
Milwaukee M18 2760 Fuel Surge Hex Hydraulic
$169
37
Black+Decker 20V Max Impact Driver BDCI20C
$110
21
DeWalt DCF815S2 12V
$165

impact driver - we extensively tested to compare the performance of the top impact...
We extensively tested to compare the performance of the top Impact Drivers and score each one on five key performance metrics.
Credit: Laura Casner

How We Test Impact Drivers


Here at GearLab, we strive to offer our readers the most accurate and thorough reviews possible. We purchase all of the products we test at full price, and we never accept any demos or freebies from manufacturers. After putting these drivers through 144 individual tests in our lab, we spent dozens of hours working on projects ranging from changing furnace air filters, fastening TV mounts, and assisting with custom furniture construction. To make the most accurate assessments concerning which impact drivers are truly the best for which applications, we researched the subtleties of each one's design and how they work, then found out which features are gimmicks versus must-haves. The detailed results of this review represent 13 of the best impact drivers available on the market today. Our in-depth testing process of impact drivers breaks down into five rating metrics:
  • Speed (35% of overall score weighting)
  • Torque (25% weighting)
  • Convenience (20% weighting)
  • Battery (15% weighting)
  • Noise (5% weighting)

Why Trust GearLab


For this review, we put together a dream team of testers. Review Editor Ross Patton has spent countless hours with an impact driver in his hands during his years working in the HVAC industry as well as building custom features for a world-class snowboard park. Senior Review Editor David Wise grew up using power tools and also has a degree in mechanical engineering from MIT. He has used a plethora of tools for a multitude of projects, including designing and building deepwater surveying robots. Senior Research Analyst Austin Palmer has plenty of experience with impact drivers from his experience working on oil rigs in Texas as well as being an avid DIY specialist. Review Editor Matt Spencer, the newest addition to the power tool testing team, is currently studying engineering and has impressed the crew with his ability to uncover the subtle nuances that set great products apart from those that fall short.

Lots of bolts and the old trusty stopwatch are a few of the tools we...
Lots of bolts and the old trusty stopwatch are a few of the tools we used to assess impact drivers.
We welded 3/4&quot; bolts to an I-beam in order to measure each driver&#039;s...
We welded 3/4" bolts to an I-beam in order to measure each driver's torque.
We went through buckets of fasteners in order to put these tools to...
We went through buckets of fasteners in order to put these tools to the true test.

How to Pick an Impact Driver


We've put together a list of important buying considerations, including size, budget, and features, to help find the correct impact driver for your next project, big or small.

What Voltage is Best?


Impact drivers typically range in voltage size from 12V up to 24V. Deciding on the correct voltage depends on how demanding your work is. A 12V driver is more compact and easier to use for a wide range of tasks, while a 20-plus volt driver is most appropriate for heavy-duty applications. 18V lives somewhere in the middle and serves the majority of people's driver needs.

impact driver - for tight spaces and hard-to-reach spots, a smaller driver may work...
For tight spaces and hard-to-reach spots, a smaller driver may work best.
Credit: Jason Peters

How Intensive Are Your Projects?


You'll want to choose a driver with an adequate amount of torque for the jobs you're doing. For more intensive tasks such as heavy-duty carpentry, more powerful drivers with lots of torque will be the right choice. For smaller jobs like furniture installation and shelving projects, less expensive options exist that can still help speed up processes. Consider the typical size and intensity of your projects as a way to choose an impact driver that is both usable and effective.

impact driver - choosing the right impact driver starts with considering the size...
Choosing the right impact driver starts with considering the size and intensity of your projects.
Credit: Laura Casner

Does Brand Matter?


For folks who already have a stable of tools, buying from the same brand helps with convenience and battery compatibility. On the other hand it's a good idea to consider options that fit your needs best, regardless of brand. If the right driver aligns with your preferred manufacturer, that's great, but otherwise, it's best to consider options that will serve you best regardless of the name.

How Important is Battery Life?


Finding an impact driver with adequate battery life can mean the difference between finishing a job on time or not. For folks who use their driver at the job site and take it on the go, having a long-lasting battery and a spare handy is incredibly important. For those using a driver for home projects with easy access to charging, battery life may be less crucial to finishing a project. Consider how often you are away from charging access when using your driver, and consider if a faster charge time is relevant to your personal tasks and projects.

impact driver - if battery life is a concern, options that come with extra batteries...
If battery life is a concern, options that come with extra batteries and affordable replacements are worth keeping in mind.
Credit: Laura Casner

Analysis and Test Results


We spent days researching each model and manufacturer's claims for these products, then purchased the most promising models for an extensive hands-on comparison. To help you find the right product for your specific needs, we conducted dozens of different assessments over several weeks of testing, using five weighted rating metrics in which to group our findings and results — speed, torque, convenience, battery life, and sound.


Value


Unlike many power tools, there is nothing close to a parallel between price and performance regarding impact drivers. Our research and test results taught us that several models could outperform more expensive models in certain aspects. We also know that this review's most affordable tools can handle a very reasonable workload, especially for light-duty and finish applications.

Whether or not you already own a certain brand's batteries and chargers can greatly affect the value for you. Suppose you own one of these brands and are pleased with their products. In that case, your best option is likely to stick with the brand you have, provided that you do your research and confirm with the manufacturer that your current battery system is compatible with the model of impact driver you're planning on purchasing. Also, make sure that our testing results match the performance you're looking for — because one brand may be great at making circular saws but terrible at making impact drivers.

If you're a professional, a serious DIYer, or just know that you put a beating on your tools, we suggest you go with a model like the Ryobi P238, which is one of our highest-scoring models that easily outperforms some models that cost substantially more. One of the best models, the Milwaukee M18 Fuel, is one of the most expensive. However, the high cost can be offset if you already own Milwaukee batteries or if you buy the impact driver in a kit with other tools. If you're in the market for a 12V version, the Milwaukee M12 Fuel is well worth the price considering its outstanding performance. If you don't already own a collection of a certain brand's tools that you'd like to expand upon, Kobalt's new model, the XTR Max 24V, includes a 24-volt battery and a charger.

impact driver - the right driver depends on its intended use.
The right driver depends on its intended use.
Credit: Jason Peters

Speed


One of the primary benefits of owning an impact driver is increased efficiency and project workflow. In this regard, speed is crucial. For professionals, as the saying goes, time is money. If you're a DIYer, the last way you want to spend your limited free time is waiting for a tool that lags during a project. For these reasons, we decided to let this metric account for 35% of the total score.


To determine the various speeds of each model, we clocked a dozen individual time trials per driver using multiple types of screws and lumber. We began with a stack of sheets of plywood that allowed ample room to sink a 3-⅝" ledger screw completely. For this test, we took five time trials for each model. We then used the same ledger screws, but this time we used a stack of 2x12 boards to test an alternative wood, taking seven trials. Finally, we drilled 11/32" pilot holes into the 2x12s to accommodate a ½" x 3" lag bolt. For this experiment, we clocked how long each tool took to drive the bolt completely and how long it took to remove it.

impact driver - we designed several repeatable tests in order to be able to gather...
We designed several repeatable tests in order to be able to gather heaps of objective data for product comparison.
Credit: Abriah Wofford

The Kobalt XTR Max 24V was the undisputed champion of this assessment. During the ledger screw test, this model was the only one to squeeze below the three-second barrier. When we timed this model driving and removing the lag bolt, it easily destroyed the competition, taking 10 seconds to tighten the bolt and only 3 seconds to remove it.

impact driver - the kobalt xtr max 24v makes quick work of large lag screws.
The Kobalt XTR Max 24V makes quick work of large lag screws.
Credit: Abriah Wofford

The Milwaukee M18 Fuel and Makita XDT16Z are next in line behind the Kobalt XTR for this portion of the review. Each of these models had an average ledger screw time of 4 seconds. The XDT16Z took 14 seconds to drive the lag screw and 5 seconds to remove it, while the M18 Fuel took 16 seconds to wholly sink the screw and 7 seconds to back it out.

impact driver - the fuel had some of the best speed performance of any model in our...
The Fuel had some of the best speed performance of any model in our tests.
Credit: Laura Casner

The DeWalt MAX XR DCF887B, Makita XDT13, and the Ryobi P238 also had a respectable showing. The Makita and DeWalt MAX tied for both the plywood ledger screw test and the lumber ledger screw test at 4 seconds and 3 seconds, respectively. The Ryobi was barely slower on the plywood at 5 seconds but had a calculated average of 3 seconds for the 2x12 trials.

impact driver - the makita xdt13 drove ledger screws quickly and easily.
The Makita XDT13 drove ledger screws quickly and easily.
Credit: Laura Casner

At 14 seconds, the Ryobi P238 put up one of the faster times for driving the ½" x 3" lag bolt and removed it in 6 seconds. Just behind was the Makita XDT13, which also took 6 seconds to remove the fastener but showed a tad slower time of 15 seconds to sink it. The Milwaukee M18 was barely behind at 16 seconds to install and 7 to back it out. The DeWalt MAX XR was slower at driving; it took 18 seconds for this test, but it made up for it with a time of 5 seconds for removal.

We drove hundreds of screws in order to time each model's fastening rate.
Credit: Abriah Wofford

Torque


Compared to a standard drill, torque (or twisting force) is a critical differentiator for most impact drivers. The motors on these tools are designed to allow quick rotational bursts of force that deliver an extra boost of tightening power. The amount of torque that each model offers can be the difference between whether the tool can handle the job or not, so we allotted 25% of the total score to this metric.


To test torque, we welded several ¾" bolts to an I-beam that would be nearly impossible to shear off with an impact driver. We tightened nuts onto each bolt using a torque wrench to determine the number of foot-pounds of force each driver could loosen. Next, we used each model to tighten the nuts for five seconds and then used the wrench to determine the torque each driver delivered.

impact driver - the kobalt xtr is one of a number of models that maxed out our...
The Kobalt XTR is one of a number of models that maxed out our testing setup.
Credit: Abriah Wofford

The torque wrench we used for testing maxes out at 300 foot-pounds of force, so we determined that models that could both reach and break a minimum of 300 foot-pounds should earn a perfect score for the metric.

impact driver - the fuel 2853-20 was one of the most impressive performers in the...
The FUEL 2853-20 was one of the most impressive performers in the torque tests.
Credit: Laura Casner

The Kobalt XTR Max 24V, Makita XDT16Z, Milwaukee M18 Fuel, and Ryobi P238 were all able to achieve this standard. The Makita XDT13 could only reach a torque of 285 ft-lbs while tightening, but it was so quick at breaking 300 ft-lbs that we opted to award it a perfect score.


Falling just behind the top scorers are the Porter-Cable PCCK647, Milwaukee M18, and the DeWalt MAX XR. The M18 averaged 245 ft-lbs while tightening, while the DeWalt MAX followed at an average of 238 ft-lbs — both models were able to break 300 ft-lbs in under two seconds. The Porter-Cable had a slightly higher tightening average than these two models at 257 ft-lbs, but when it came to breaking 300 ft-lbs, it took this model nearly 10 seconds to pass the test.


Of the hydraulic drive models, the Makita XST01Z Lithium-Ion Oil Impulse 18V showed the most impressive results. This model was able to fasten nuts to an average of 255 ft-lbs and was able to loosen nuts tightened to 300 ft-lbs after holding the trigger for about five seconds. However, our team chose to dock the XST01Z a point for this metric because this model's ability to display its highest level of performance was largely inconsistent.

impact driver - the makita xst01z showed great results during our torque assessment...
The Makita XST01Z showed great results during our torque assessment, but only some of the time.
Credit: Abriah Wofford

Convenience


Convenience is an important element of impact driver efficiency. Therefore, we dedicated 20% of the total score to this metric. To reach a numeric value for convenience, we examined the subtle differences between each model, including the bit holders, the quality and performance of the LED lights, the functionality of the quick connect hex head collet and any other additional features.


The top performers in the convenience department were the Milwaukee M18 Fuel and the Makita XDT16Z. The M18 offers a quick-release chuck, a belt hook, and a bit holder. Additionally, it has four RPM settings, and we found the button to be easy to press and in a great location. One of our favorite aspects of this model is its size — only 116mm.

impact driver - we appreciated the thoughtful placement of the button that changes...
We appreciated the thoughtful placement of the button that changes speeds on the M18 FUEL.
Credit: Laura Casner

With a length of 126mm, the XDT16Z is slightly longer than the M18 but certainly compact enough for most limited space tasks. This model has eight different modes including four impact settings and four assist types for specific materials. We love the bright light that can be engaged without starting the driver.

impact driver - the xdt16z has eight different modes with easy-to-use controls...
The XDT16Z has eight different modes with easy-to-use controls located at the bottom of the handle.
Credit: Abriah Wofford

The Milwaukee M12 Fuel, Milwaukee M18 2760 Fuel Surge Hex Hydraulic, Ryobi P238, Makita XST01Z Lithium-Ion Oil Impulse 18V, and the DeWalt MAX XR are equipped with switches to select different RPM settings.

The Milwaukee M12 FUEL has 4 RPM settings.
The Milwaukee M12 FUEL has 4 RPM settings.
The Milwaukee M18 Fuel Surge controls are located at the bottom...
The Milwaukee M18 Fuel Surge controls are located at the bottom front of the driver's handle.

In addition to different RPM settings, the Makita XST01Z Lithium-Ion Oil Impulse 18V has a button for turning the light off when it is not needed — allowing it to save battery and minimize wear on the light.

impact driver - the makita xct01z has its rpm controller and a light switch at the...
The Makita XCT01Z has its RPM controller and a light switch at the handle's bottom.
Credit: Abriah Wofford

The innovative chuck is one of the best bonus features we found on the Ryobi P238. Not only is it a quick connect, but inserting a bit into the driver cocks a spring-loaded disconnect that makes it very fast and easy to use.

impact driver - the ryobi has a quick bit insert chuck that also ejects the bit with...
The Ryobi has a quick bit insert chuck that also ejects the bit with almost zero effort.
Credit: Jason Peters

This model has a bit holder on the front of the handle and a magnet plate for holding additional bits or fasteners. The RPM switch, located on the driver's back, is very easy to see and access.

impact driver - the magnetic plate to hold fasteners is a thoughtful and convenient...
The magnetic plate to hold fasteners is a thoughtful and convenient feature.
Credit: Laura Casner

The DeWalt MAX XR has a similar style of LED lights to the Ryobi P238, and we also love that it has a short total length, which makes it easy to use in tighter spaces.

impact driver - the dewalt max has a very effective light pattern.
The DeWalt MAX has a very effective light pattern.
Credit: Laura Casner

The Milwaukee M12 Fuel is lightweight and small in size, and we appreciate these attributes of this model. It's about as compact and light as they come, ideal for folks without much storage stage or for pros hoping to carry a lighter load in their tool kit. In addition, its small size makes the M12 Fuel great for driving into weird angles and harder-to-reach places.


Although the Kobalt XTR Max 24V is not the longest model in our review, at 139mm, it is longer than most. This comes as no surprise considering that it is also one of the fastest and most powerful impact drivers we've ever gotten our hands on. The XTR has three different speeds and then an “ASSIST” mode which gradually increases RPMs in order to reduce cross-threading and cam-out.

impact driver - the control button on the xtr max is located at the base of the...
The control button on the XTR Max is located at the base of the handle, but the battery level indicator is on the battery itself.
Credit: Abriah Wofford

We love that the Makita XDT13 is so short — from front to back, it's only 126mm. Regrettably, this driver is devoid of RPM setting controls.

impact driver - the tiny size of the milwaukee m12 fuel helps it squeeze into tight...
The tiny size of the Milwaukee M12 FUEL helps it squeeze into tight places.
Credit: Jason Peters

Battery


To wear out the impact drivers, we alternated between sets of sinking 14 ledger screws and 1 ½" x 3 " lag bolts, repeating this process until each battery was effectively dead. Some of the drivers showed remarkable battery life. Others, not so much. Because a short battery life can be extremely inconvenient and annoying when you're fully committed to a project, we decided that this metric should account for 15% of the total score.


During this assessment, the Kobalt XTR Max 24V left the rest of the field in the dust. This model completed seven rounds of our ledger screw and lag bolt gauntlet before finally running out of juice after five ledger screws on the eighth round.

impact driver - we sunk hundreds of ledger screws to wear each impact driver out.
We sunk hundreds of ledger screws to wear each impact driver out.
Credit: Abriah Wofford

Coming in second place for this portion of our side-by-side analysis was the Makita XDT16Z. It completed five rounds of alternating between the ledger screws and lag bolt before dying after ten ledger screws on the sixth round.

impact driver - the makita xdt16z has one of the longest-lasting batteries that...
The Makita XDT16Z has one of the longest-lasting batteries that we've tested.
Credit: Abriah Wofford

The Makita XDT16Z's cousin, the XDR13R, did a good job of driving five sets of 14 ledger screws and four lag bolts in and out, but it eventually ran out of sauce while loosening the fifth lag bolt of the experiment. The DeWalt MAX XR died on the fifth lag bolt after driving 14 ledger screws five times. The Milwaukee M18 Fuel 2853-20 completed four sets of the ledger screws and the lag bolt but died after driving four ledger screws on the fifth go-around.

impact driver - we were impressed with the overall battery life of the makita model.
We were impressed with the overall battery life of the Makita model.
Credit: Laura Casner

The hydraulic drive models we tested, the Makita XST01Z Lithium-Ion Oil Impulse 18V and the Milwaukee M18 2760 Fuel Surge Hex Hydraulic, earned scores near the middle of the pack for this assessment. Each of them completed three sets of our trials before dying partway through the ledger screw section of the fourth set. The Fuel Surge drove 12 out of 14 screws in the fourth set, while the XST01Z drove 7.

We drove screw after screw until the batteries were completely drained.
Credit: Abriah Wofford

While the Ryobi P238 couldn't quite keep up with the top models during our battery test assessment, it outperformed most of its adversaries. It got through 42 ledger screws and drove the lag bolt three times, but when trying to remove the lag bolt on the third round, the battery died.

impact driver - this model is not very fast at driving fasteners.
This model is not very fast at driving fasteners.
Credit: Laura Casner

Noise


As far as noise goes, impact drivers are just, well, loud. Period. Nevertheless, we decided to run some experiments and include the results in our overall assessment of these tools. We used an SPL meter to measure each model's average decibel level while in operation. Noise only accounts for only 5% of a product's total score.

We always suggest you consult the manufacturer's instructions and wear the recommended PPE regardless of what our results show. OSHA has some great information concerning various sound pressure levels and the amount of exposure a person can be subjected to before causing damage to their hearing. See our reviews of the best safety glasses and top-rated earplugs for our picks.


Unfortunately, nearly every impact driver failed this metric because they all emit absurd amounts of noise.


The DeWalt DCF809B Atomic emitted 92 decibels while in use, earning an average score for noise. Considering its incredible speed and power, we think that the loud noise produced by the Kobalt XTR Max 24V isn't that bad.

impact driver - there&#039;s no way around it, impact drivers are loud.
There's no way around it, impact drivers are loud.
Credit: Laura Casner

The supposed primary benefit of purchasing a hydraulic drive model over a traditional percussive impact driver is that the former is known to be much quieter. Unfortunately, the data in our testing proved otherwise. The Makita XST01Z Lithium-Ion Oil Impulse 18V produced an average of 100 decibels, and the Milwaukee M18 2760 Fuel Surge Hex Hydraulic jacked the SPL meter to a painful 102 decibels during our noise assessment, making them two of the loudest models we've ever tested. Current technology has not yet found a way around the loudness of this particular type of tool.

impact driver - the hydraulic drive models were fabled to be easier on the ears --...
The hydraulic drive models were fabled to be easier on the ears -- sadly, this is untrue.
Credit: Abriah Wofford

Conclusion


We hope our review has provided you with the in-depth information you need to make an informed decision in choosing the right impact driver for your needs and applications.

Ross Patton, David Wise, Matt Spencer, and Austin Palmer