Drills & Drivers

Impact Driver vs. Impact Wrench – What’s the Difference?

Impact Driver vs. Impact Wrench

Before the introduction of the impact drivers and wrenches, DIYers and professionals relied mostly on the standard drill and the torque wrench for power wrenching.

But, when these tools came into the picture, they became an instant hit as they offered users a more comfortable, accurate and reliable way of power wrenching.

Besides both providing better results than the standard drill, they work pretty much in the same way which entails making use of continuous rotational blows to help maximize the torque generated.

And while they also look quite similar and are used for almost similar applications, these are quite different tools designed for different jobs. Hence, they will work for different kinds of users.

If you are thinking of adding these power tools to your tool collection, here we help make it easy to choose between them, with our in-depth comparison and overviews.

Impact Driver Overview

Impact Driver

Photo: Makita

Impact drivers were at some point a preserve of professionals but things have since changed as they can be easily bought online which means that they are now one of those tools you can expect almost every DIYer to have.

While they are still quite versatile, impact drivers are built for driving fasteners through materials like wood, but they will also do an excellent job unfastening the screws and drilling holes with the right bit.

Although they might not generate as much torque as the impact wrenches, they will still provide way much more than standard drills, and this is what gives them their excellent performance.

These tools are also easier to balance and hold for extended periods as they come in a more compact and lightweight design. Unlike the impact wrench, they are also straightforward to use and many users will love their reliability.

You will also not need to spend much on one as they are relatively more affordable. But, many users might not like the fact that they will typically only accept hex-shanked bits which can limit their versatility.

Also, unless you are getting one of the newer top tier models, most will typically not have torque control which can also be very restrictive when using the tool.

Pros:

  • More affordable
  • Highly reliable for driving screws
  • Convenient and easy to use
  • Compact and lightweight

Cons:

  • Accepts hex-shanked bits only
  • Most models lack torque control

Impact Wrench Overview

Impact Wrench

Photo: Bosch

If you are on the hunt for a power-wrenching tool for heavy-duty use, nothing beats the impact driver as it will deliver more torque than any other tool in its class out there.

The high torque output makes these tools perfect for fastening and loosening larger and problematic nuts and bolts. And with a model that has proper torque control, you can also use an impact wrench for typically everything you would use an impact driver to accomplish.

Impact wrenches are very popular with professionals and are typically what you will get in automobile repair shops and assembly plants as they are built for heavy-duty applications. Also, their overall construction uses top quality component and heavy-duty materials that allow them to take more abuse for long.

Because of the power required to operate these tools, they will be mostly powered by compressed air, but you can still get some electric and hydraulic models out there.

Despite being a little heavier and larger than the impact drivers, these tools are still easy on your hand and most will come with a nice soft grip.

But, they will typically cost much more than the impact drivers. And if you are not careful when using one for certain tasks like driving in screws, you can easily overdo things and end up damaging the workpiece

Pros:

  • High torque output
  • Great for fastening nuts and bolts
  • More ideal for heavy-duty use
  • Well-built and with top-quality components

Cons:

  • More expensive
  • Not very good for driving in screws

Comparison Chart

‚Äč

Impact Driver

Impact Wrench

Average Torque

Around 2,000 in-lbs

At least 15,000 in-lbs

Power Source

Electric corded or battery-powered

Electric, pneumatic or hydraulic

Tool Holder

1/4" hex drive

1/2" square drive

Typical Uses

Drilling holes and driving in screws

Loosening larger and heavier bolts and fastening lug nuts

Who Is It For?

DIYers, hobbyists and home improvement projects enthusiasts

Mostly professionals

Size and Weight

Compact and lightweight

Heavier and bulkier

Average Prices

$50 to $150

$60 to $300

Impact Driver vs. Impact Wrench

If your budget allows it, having both the impact driver and wrench around is not a bad idea, and this is more for those that do a lot of power wrenching or other projects that require this type of tool.  But, if you only want one, keeping the following points in mind when shopping will help ensure you make an informed pick.

1. Average Torque

The high torque that these tools produce is what sets them apart from the regular torque wrenches and the standard drills that have been in use way much longer.

Both are famous for delivering high enough torque which allows them to handle almost any project at all but they also differ greatly on the actual amount of torque you get from each tool.

The impact drivers will produce significantly less toque when compared to the impact wrenches given the tasks they are designed for. On average, you can expect to get around 2,000 inch-pounds from a good impact driver. Some smaller impact driver models can even provide as little as 150 inch-pounds.

Impact wrenches, on the other hand, will deliver several times more than this as most will generate up to 15,000 inch-pounds, and even the simplest and cheapest models can still generate at least provide 12,000 inch-pounds of torque.

2. Power Source

When buying any power tool, it is vital to check the power source to determine whether it will be convenient and affordable to use for your particular situation. Given that the impact driver and wrench are more powerful tools, they will typically also require more power to operate.

Impact Driver

Because the impact driver is relatively smaller and less powerful, it will also not need a lot of power to operate, and so most will be electric.

But, they will also come in either corded or cordless versions. The latter being more convenient to carry around for use in different worksites while the former delivers a consistent power supply with no downtimes.

Impact Wrench

The impact wrench is the more powerful of the two, and so it will typically be air-driven which means it is powered by an air compressor which is capable of generating the extra power-required. If you do not already have an air compressor, this will be an extra cost for you.

However, there are still many impact wrenches that are electric-powered which means you only need to plug them in. But you also need to check their draw and make sure it is ideal for use in your workshop. Some industrial-style impact wrenches are also hydraulically powered.

3. Tool Holder

The tool holder or drive head that you get on your power wrenching tool will determine the bit and accessories it can accept and hence what you can use it for. This makes it a crucial element to consider.

While both are still available in different tool holder sizes, some specific sizes are almost standard and are what a huge chunk of brands will use on their respective tools.

For the impact drivers, you will usually get the 1/4-inch hex drive that allows the tool to accept both hex shaft bits and the hex-head fasteners. But, many models will also be able to use adapter bits with the hex shaft on one end and 1/2-inch square drive on the other.

These adapter bits will allow the impact driver to accept the sockets you would use on an impact wrench and hence making the tool more versatile

Impact drivers will typically come with the 1/2-inch square drive that has been built to fit sockets since the tool is primarily designed for working with sockets. But, there are still other sizes such as the 1-inch head that you find on the large impact wrenches that deliver super high torques of up to 3,000 square feet.

4. Typical Uses

While the impact driver and impact wrench are designed for pretty much the same applications, the differences in the torque output and the tool holder head makes them ideal for different uses.

The Impact driver will be typically used to drive in screws and loosen them because of the relatively lower torque. When compared to the impact wrench, the lower torque minimizes the likelihood of over-tightening or damaging the screw head.

Many DIYers will also use their impact drivers to drill holes into different materials such as wood and plastic.

Impact wrenches are a little more versatile than the impact drivers since they often have better torque control to allow them to operate at both high and low torques. But, they will more often be used at the higher torque to fasten and loosen larger lug nuts and bolts. However, they are also used to drill holes in hardwoods and other harder materials.

5. Who Is It For?

Each tool will always have a certain group of people that it serves well given its power output and features and they will hence use it more than others. The same is also true for the impact drivers and wrenches.

Impact drivers are smaller, easier to use and also more affordable and widely available than the impact wrenches. This makes them the perfect choice for DIYers, hobbyists and those into home crafts and home improvement projects.

The larger, more powerful and also more expensive impact wrenches are mostly used by professionals in places like assembly lines, large construction sites and automobile repair shops. But, DIYers that do a lot of heavy-duty tasks can also use them.

6. Size and Weight

Size and weight will determine the tool's ease of use and will hence also affect how long you can use it without fatigue and even how fast you finish the job at hand.

Impact Driver

When it comes to the size and weight the impact drivers seem to have a significant edge over the impact wrenches. Impact drivers are mostly built to be compact and lightweight tools that can be used by anyone including users with smaller hands.

Some are even smaller than regular drills and will in many instances be under 3 pounds and under 10 inches long.

Impact Wrench

Impact wrenches will be much heavier than the impact drivers. They are generally bulky and heavy and sometimes can even be unwieldy for inexperienced users. Most will weight over 5 pounds and are also over 10 inches long.

But many manufacturers try to give them a more balanced weight distribution to give users an easy time. And once you get used to one, it should be easier to wield even with the extra weight and size.

7. Average Prices

What you pay for your impact driver or wrench depends on the specific model you are buying and the brand you buy from. Also, what is in the pack matters as some will come as a complete kit and are hence more expensive.

With that said, impact wrenches are generally more expensive when compared to the impact driver given their larger size and the fact that they are more powerful.

You can get a simple but good enough impact driver model for as little as under $50, but to get a basic impact wrench without too many fancy features and lower torque output, you should be ready to part with at least $60.

To get the best of either type, you can spend up to $300 on the impact wrenches, but you will hardly need more than $150 to buy a top-quality impact driver.

Conclusion

Power-wrenching tools like the impact driver and impact wrenches can be very handy to have around as they will help with everything from fastening and removing screws and bolts to drilling holes into different materials.

But, the two are quite different tools given that they come in different sizes and will deliver varying torque outputs meaning each will be ideal for particular tasks and users.

For DIYers and hobbyists looking for something for simple tasks like fastening screws and drilling small holes in wood and don't want to spend much, the impact driver is the right buy. 

But for the professional users that handle a lot of heavy-duty tasks such as fastening heavy lugs and bolts, the higher torque output of the impact wrench makes it the more appropriate tool.

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