Do You Really Need An Impact Driver? Comparing Lithium Drill/Drivers to Impacts

In a previous post Impact Driver – It’s not what you think. I showed you what an impact driver is and a few examples of the drivers available. Impacts have primary tool in the construction trade and many of you are wondering if you need one. In this article I am going to compare an impact driver to a drill/driver and let you decide which one is best for you. by: Paul Sikkema I have two reasons for this post.  First to show you the difference between an impact driver and a drill/driver.  Second to show you how well the newest lightweight compact units can work for you. The new lithium tools are so much lighter and smaller than tools of even two years ago that many people don’t believe these tools can possibly be strong enough to do real work. Because of that I choose two of the smallest and lightest lithium tools available for this comparison.

Small & Light Weight

The  Craftsman 17586 NEXTEC 12.0V Lithium-Ion Drill/Driver 3/8 in. and the  Craftsman 17428 Nextec 12-volt Cordless Compact 1/4″ Impact Driver 1/4 in. are about as light as you can get.  The drill/driver and the impact are about half the weight of the 4 year old DeWalt drill in the picture below.   The 12 volt lithium batteries in these tools are interchangeable with the Craftsman Craftsman NEXTEC 12.0 Volt Hammerhead Auto Hammer with Rotating Head, Craftsman Nextec Rotary Tool with LED Work Light and Craftsman Nextec 12.0V Multi-Tool with Quick Release. Thank you Sears for letting me use a 11812 and 17428 for this comparison. I own a NEXTEC multi-tool, but not these.

Tools Used

I used my own spade bits, ships auger and Milwaukee Quik-Loc Bit set. If you like any of these tools you can order them at the end of this article. I threw my Dewalt “Compact” into the picture so you can get a size comparison.  The Dewalt was a light drill four years ago and weighs in a 5.8 lbs. Let’s begin.  The first video shows the NEXTEC Drill/Driver boring a hole using a 1/2 inch auger bit.   Ships augers are designed to cut fast and at slow speed so the drill is in the low range.  As you can see 185 inch lbs is plenty of power to drill this hole.

If the YouTube Video is not showing, click on the link to see it.


The second video is another test for the drill.  I intentionally over-drove the screw into the wood to again show you the power of these small drills.  This drill has a clutch that you can adjust so you can drive a screw and have the drill stop before it damages the wood like it did in this example.


This next video shows a comparison between the drill/driver and the impact driving screws.  While the drill/driver does the job, you can see the impact driver is faster and you have complete control setting the screw. If you are building a deck or other job where you have a lot of screws to put in the impact driver is the way to go.


This next video shows a comparison between the drill/driver and the impact removing screws.  Here is where the impact really shows it’s speed.  Watch how fast it removes the screw.  With speeds up to 2400 rpm the impact makes short work of this task.   I have also found that when using an impact to remove screws I don’t break as many off as I do using a drill/driver.


This last video shows a drill/driver and the impact driver using a spade bit.  As you can see the drill is faster.  Everyone runs their drill on high speed when drilling with a spade bit but using it this way takes a lot of power and I know of more than one drill that was “smoked” because the spade bit got stuck in the hole. If you notice the drill stops part way through and I have to let go of the speed trigger and try again.  THIS IS A NORMAL SAFETY FEATURE FOR LITHIUM DRILLS! Instead of over loading the drill motor and burning it out, the new lithium drills will shut off before that happens.  Usually you just release the trigger and try again and the drill will finish the job.  If the bit is stuck and you repeat this a few times most of the lithium batteries will shut down completely.  Don’t bring them back to the store ………………. just let the battery sit for a while and put the back on the charger.  It will reset and you are ready to go again.


In the comments below tell me your experiences with impacts and how they work better for you.

NEXTEC Impact Driver

Irwin Speebor Max Spade Bit Set, 6-Piece Milwaukee Quik-Lok 38-Piece Hex Shank Drilling and Driving Bit Set

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