What Makes a Good Cordless Impact Wrench?
Whenever I'd use my beat-up old electric drill my brother would laugh. He told me I should ditch it for a good cordless impact wrench. Obviously, I was curious, and after giving his a whirl, I was hooked.
They pack a ton of punch in a small size, and they're awesome for fastening bolts and screws tightly with tons of torque. And with the advent of lithium batteries, they are light in weight and small enough to carry around all day. Whenever I've got a stubborn bolt in a tight spot, I reach for my impact wrench.
So what is the best cordless, rechargeable impact wrench around anyway? Having come across some good ones and some bad ones, I can tell you that not all brands are made equal. Some just aren't up for the task.
This article is written for any tradesperson or handyman who needs a tool that will work all day long with no issues. We'll be looking at a handful of the best brands and kits for your money. Hopefully, this list of cordless impact driver reviews will help you make an informed decision that you won't regret!
Curious? Keep on reading!
1/2" Versus 3/8": Which Cordless Impact Gun Is Better?
When you're shopping around, you'll see two options available to you: 1/2" and 3/8". There are two primary differences between the two: compatibility and power.
Compatibility: A half inch driver will only be compatible with half inch sockets, and a three-eighths will only work with their counterparts. I'd base your purchase largely around the tools you currently have, or you risk having to reinvest in a whole new set.
Power: A half-inch driver typically has a lot more juice. The RPMs aren't always higher, but the torque is, and that's the key indicator. Because of this added power, they're almost always bigger than their 3/8" counterparts.
Wrench vs. Driver: What's the Difference?
As you're hunting around for the best battery powered impact wrench, you'll see the word "driver" bandied about. While there is some functional overlap between the two products, they aren't the same thing, and they're not interchangeable.
Both tools provide a lot of torque by using a rotary hammering action to deliver sudden, rotational force. This impacting force is very effective in providing more force than a traditional cordless drill would provide.
Impact drivers differ in that they provide a downward force in addition to the rotational hammering. This downward pressure is particularly good at loosening stuck screws and bolts without stripping.
Another key difference is that a cordless electric impact driver typically has a "female," quick-release hex chuck, whereas most wrenches have a standard 1/2" or 3/8" square drive.
This article will deal primarily with the top portable cordless impact wrenches I've come across, and we won't delve into drivers. That said, there is quite a bit of overlap in usage, so pick whichever works best for your needs.
1. Dewalt: A Light, Portable Option With Great Reviews
Dewalt is likely a name you'll recognize, and you may not be surprised to see them making this list. They've consistently been a leader in the cordless power tool sector. Their line of 18V drills, wrenches and drivers are durable and easy to use.
This impact wrench is light and portable, weighing in at around 3.5 pounds, and it's small too, with a length of fewer than six inches.
Unlike a lot of drills, the nominal voltage (meaning the voltage under load) is 18 volts, so you get every ounce of power promised. The battery is a long-lasting lithium ion with an indicator to show how much juice remains. You'll be surprised at how quickly this unit recharges too.
The grip is ergonomic and comfortable. It features some impressive extras, like a trio of LED lights to illuminate your work.
It has a good amount of power too, with 1560 inch pounds of torque. You can really feel it!
If you need a bit more power to work with, I'd recommend opting for the larger 1/2" version of this wrench. It's bigger and heavier, but it has considerably more torque.
In any case, this Dewalt is one of the best cordless impact wrenches around, and it's affordable to boot.
2. Bosch: A Combo Impact Driver & Wrench in One
Over the years, Bosch has really stepped up its game. Like the other manufacturers reviewed here, they used to offer only separate drivers and wrenches. Now with the IDH182B, Bosch breaks through with a 1/4" quick-change hex driver that is also a 1/2" wrench driver for sockets.
This socket ready driver chuck eliminates the need for you to own both an impact wrench and an impact driver and does away with socket adapters that are often too weak to handle the torque anyway.
Another handy feature is Bosch's Performance Control System, which allows you to choose from three separate speed and torque settings—so you can avoid potentially overpowering your lighter workpieces.
While I'd classify most of Bosch's products as light industrial - they're in that sweet spot between home and commercial use - that doesn't mean they don't pack a punch. The IDH182B operates at 18 volts under load and has the highest available torque in its class at 1,650 pounds.
Lastly, if you're after an impact wrench/driver that's light and portable, this one by Bosch is a good option to consider. It's smaller and lighter than most of the competition, but that lighter frame doesn't detract from its power.
3. Ingersoll Rand W7150: A Powerful, Pro-Quality Portable With Top Marks for Power
With Ingersoll Rand, we are now getting into professional-quality gear, and this little rechargeable impact wrench is up for the task of a hard day's work.
With 20 volts of power and efficient lithium-ion battery packs, this serious impact wrench is more than capable of grueling jobs like auto work and construction. It has an all-metal drive train and hammer mechanism, and it cranks out a maximum of 1,100 foot pounds of torque. It has 2,800 BPM.
It also has one of the hardiest housings I've seen in such a drill, with a full metal sleeve and chemical resistant plastic. It can handle being dropped and abused and keep on kicking (and boy does it kick.)
The batteries have a really impressive capacity, with 3 Ah they should last for more than a full day of use. If you want more run time, you can upgrade to the optional 5 Ah batteries, which doubles your capacity.
This kit includes a battery, charger, and hard case. If you're looking to get away from the air tools and into something a little more convenient, the 5130 by Ingersoll Rand is a great cordless impact wrench gun that will do you proud.
4. Milwaukee M18 Fuel: With High Torque, a Top-Quality Battery-Powered Impact Wrench
I've saved the most powerful for last. Milwaukee is a premium brand in the power tool world, and their line of 18-volt equipment is second to none. The M18 Fuel is a fantastic and powerful rechargeable impact wrench with a truly impressive amount of torque to play with.
This is the 1/2" version, so it's more powerful than the 3/8" model they offer. It has 700 foot pounds of torque when fastening, and it has 1,100 foot pounds of 'nut busting' torque for loosening stubborn bolts.
Despite all this power, Milwaukee has designed a brushless motor that has a long lifespan that also happens to run a lot cooler, meaning the wrench just lasts longer. The batteries have a considerable amount of juice, and they charge up fully in a mere 75 minutes.
Other features are nice to have too. The battery features a power level indicator. The wrench itself has an auto shutdown mode to prevent overload or overheat. And the metal nose and solid, chemical resistant outer housing will last forever. This one is a keeper.
It comes with a hard case, charger and two batteries.
It's the best cordless impact wrench on this list in terms of both power and value. Try it for yourself: the real question is, what can't it do?
I'm More Interested in a Portable Impact Driver...
If you prefer something without a square chuck, or if you want the positive pressure attributes that a driver would bring, you have some options. Each of the brands above produces impact drivers that are similar in quality, price, and features to the wrenches.
A driver is a better choice if you have a lot more hex bits than sockets, or if you plan to remove bits that you fear will strip.
I'm not going to review the cordless impact drivers offered by these companies since they're quite similar. I'd just caution you to do your research, and make sure it has the power and the features you'll need for whatever project or line of work you're in.
Is a Cordless Impact Gun BETTER Than a Battery-Powered Drill?
This is an interesting question that I hear pretty frequently. The short answer is no, they serve different purposes.
However, Dewalt sells kits that contain both a wrench and a drill. Over time I found myself turning to the wrench more often, and eventually, I started to use it exclusively.
Why? I found that the small size and great balance of the wrench was the main reason. Also, the power and capability pushed it over the top. Nothing unsticks a stubborn bolt like the torque from an 18v rechargeable impact gun. Just make sure you brace yourself, I've had one swing around and smack me before, no joke!
My personal experience is that a cordless impact wrench is best for heavier duty work, and a drill is useful for more 'around the house' type chores.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
Eric on December 28, 2017:
Why is Kobalt not on this list? I have had the Dewalt and it sucks for power and battery life. It only has a 20v battery which results in about 16-18v.
Kobalt has 24 and gives the full 24v. I have had the 18v for over 7 years and it still used to take the lugnuts off my truck and I use it to raise my truck with my jack. dewalt got hot and then quit.
The other 2 on your list might be better but the cost is higher and the batter life still not compare with Kobalts 24V. I say do another test and prove your theory.
Jo Ho on November 23, 2016:
Good article, but I would like to have seen some of the professional brands such as Snap On or Mac thrown in. These are an option and generally these tools are higher quality, but sometime, consumer brands are just as good.
anonymous1 on September 17, 2016:
I think you're wrong about impact drivers providing a downwards force when in use. This doesn't especially make sense when you say this downwards motion is used to loosen fasteners; it would basically strip them as the bit is bouncing in and out and can't pull anything.The main difference between the driver and the wrench is that the latter has more torque. Both use the same rotary hammering action to drive or loosen fasteners/bolts.
Richard Arthur from Vancouver Island, west coast Canada on September 26, 2014:
Great Article! I didn't actually know the difference between an impact wrench and driver, but I do now! I have one of the Milwaukee drivers and they are certainly top quality, I'm hooked.