The best DeWalt impact driver

Bob Beacham

A good impact driver is like an ordinary drill or driver on steroids: It's designed for jobs like powering long screws into decking boards all day long. DeWalt has an unrivaled reputation for quality, performance, and reliability, and their impact drivers are undeniably among the best you can buy.

We've looked at their extensive range and the different options available and selected a few favorites. Our top pick, the 20-Volt Max XR Impact Driver, isn't just a great tool, it's a comprehensive kit that satisfies the most demanding homeowner or contractor.

Considerations when choosing DeWalt impact drivers

Understanding specifications

An impact driver's efficiency comes from the fact that it doesn't just twist a fixing like an ordinary driver does -- it also adds a rotational hammer action. When you're looking at specifications, you see torque (twisting force) given in inch pounds (in-lbs.) and the hammer action given as impacts per minute (IPM). The figures can be impressive, but what do they mean in real terms?

Unless you have a specific application with known parameters (which doesn't happen often), they're only useful for comparison purposes. Put DeWalt's numbers up against their rivals, and you'll see they stack up well.


When you're deciding between DeWalt impact drivers, you can choose between 12- or 20-volt (V) models. A quick look tells you that the 12V tool runs at a little under 1,000 in-lbs., the 20V Max reaches at least 1,400 in-lbs., and the Max XR can top 1,800 in-lbs. This means the 12V model is a handy tool for occasional home use, and the others are what a serious DIY enthusiast or pro would choose.

Battery life

The other big consideration is battery run times. Where 12V or 20V are the power available, Amp hours (Ah) is a measure of how long the tool runs between recharges. It's impossible to give precise figures because it depends on how hard the tool is working, but definitely the more Ah, the better.

Inexpensive DeWalt impact driver kits usually have a single 1.5Ah battery. The best offer two 4.0Ah batteries, and the difference is enormous. Individually, 4.0Ah batteries run about three times longer. With two, you've always got a spare while one is charging. If you're saving money by buying a lower-quality battery to begin with, it's worth investing in a higher-capacity spare when you can.


Trigger speeds

The whole DeWalt impact driver range has variable speed triggers, but the 20V Max XR also has three speeds, giving it greater control as well as more power.

Dimensions and weight

These tools are quite compact and comparatively lightweight, but if you have specific tasks in mind, particularly if you work in tight spaces, you might want to compare actual dimensions.


Each impact driver has a useful LED light array -- three lamps that don't just brighten dark work areas but minimize the shadows you get with single-light tools. Usefully, they stay on for 20 seconds after you let go of the trigger, so you can have a quick look at what you've been doing.

Charge indicator

The 20V Max XR batteries have a useful charge level indicator, which is something we'd like to see on all power tool batteries.


You might expect all DeWalt tools to command premium prices, but surprisingly their least expensive impact driver, a 12V kit with battery, charger, and bag, is under $90. In fact, the whole range is very affordable. Even the range-topping 20V Max XR with two batteries can be found for less than $250.


Q. Is a brushless motor better than a brush motor?

A. Brush motors are fine in corded tools, and a lot more affordable. They're okay in cordless, but the brushless motor makes much more efficient use of battery power and requires no maintenance.

Q. Are an impact driver and an impact wrench the same thing?

A. No, although people get them confused. One way to tell them apart is to picture the fixings they're used with. The impact driver is mostly used for long screws. The impact wrench is used for nuts and bolts.

DeWalt impact drivers we recommend

Best of the best: DeWalt 20V Max XR Impact Driver Kit

Our take: The ultimate high-performance model for the busy professional.

What we like: Efficient brushless motor, plus three speeds for superior control. 1,825 in-lbs. torque at 3,800 IPM. Two extended run time 4.0Ah batteries, charger, and hard case.

What we dislike: Very little. A few have had problems with wobbling chucks.

Best bang for your buck: DeWalt 12V Max Impact Driver Kit

Our take: Great tool for the DIY user. Very competitively priced.

What we like: The same advanced features as 20V models. Delivers 948 in-lbs. torque at 3,400 IPM. A light, reliable, low-cost alternative.

What we dislike: Nothing, as long as you're okay with modest performance.

Choice 3: DeWalt 20V Max Impact Driver Kit

Our take: Not the latest model, but still an excellent choice for those on a budget.

What we like: Powerful, lightweight, and compact tool. 1,400 in-lbs. torque at 3,200 IPM. Comes with battery, charger, and bag. Superb value.

What we dislike: Supplied battery is only 1.5Ah.

Bob Beacham is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.

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