Drills vs Drivers – What’s the Difference?

There was a time when things were much simpler. Drills were all about drilling holes. And that was it.

However, since we now also have impact drivers in the mix, it is important to keep differences in mind between drills vs drivers.

It may sound more complicated but the truth is that with more tools at our disposal, we now have more options. So although it’s a bit more complicated, we can avail greater functionality.

When thinking about drills vs drivers, you should know when to use each tool and how.

impact driver image

Before getting into the details, you should realize from the get-go that these have different mechanisms and operate differently. Hence, they also have different uses.


In simple terms, the drill turns a chuck located towards its front. You will find that these days checks tend to be keyless. That is, you don’t have to fiddle with a key to change the bit.

Using a keyless drill chuck is simple. You simply have to twist it one way so that it loosens and then spin it in the opposite direction to tighten it up.

Ratcheting chucks in particular are quite efficient. They can hold almost any kind of drill bit that you decide to mount. Hence, they can also securely hold smooth drill bits with ease.

There are a number of torque and speed settings on drills. Hence, you can select a configuration that best meets your current needs.

Impact Drivers

Impact drivers are kind of similar to drills. They are similar in the sense that they too turn a chuck just like ordinary drills. However, the main difference is the amount of torque that impact drivers can provide – they provide much higher torques than drills.

When a drill is used for driving a big fastener, you might find at some point that the drill is not doing its job although it is operating at full power. But despite using full power, it cannot move the big bolt or fastener. This calls for an impact driver since it has a much higher torque.

Impact Drivers Work By Providing Much More Torque

Imagine that you are trying to pry loose a bolt. However, it is fastened so hard that you can’t budge it even with a wrench. Even though you lean on it with your full weight, it still won’t move.

You then realize that you will need to generate much more torque to get that bolt loose. To do that, you grab hold of a hammer and strike it on the wrench handle. This hammering provides extra bursts of torque.

This is sort of how impact drivers work. However, they are much more efficient since they can provide big bursts of torque a few thousand times a minute.

While you are operating the impact driver, you may encounter very high resistance from the bolt at some point , due to which it won’t budge; then, the internal mechanism automatically starts generating big bursts of torque to the chuck (much like the hammering action on a wrench described above). This will help to tighten or loosen the bolt.

As you may have realized by now, impact drivers are much more powerful compared to ordinary drills. Not only can they pry open stuck bolts, they can also drive bolts deeper into the material you are working on.

Ryobi P235A 18V One+ Impact Driver

Drills Have Greater Speeds Though

Since impact drivers have a pulsating torque delivery that is not constant, they are not the fastest. A drill on the other hand is much faster since it does not have a pulsating torque.

Since ordinary drills deliver constant force to the chuck without pausing or pulsating, they work consistently at high speeds and are much faster.

So although impact drivers have much higher torque, they tend to be slower than drills due to their pulsing action.

But there is a point at which impact drivers can be faster than drills though. That is the point at which the bolt needs more torque to make it move than what the drill can supply. When this happens, the drill becomes stuck. However, an impact driver keeps going because it automatically starts pulsing torque.

DEWALT 20V MAX Cordless Drill

Drill vs Driver Impact Chucks

Impact drivers work with a smaller chuck compared to drills. Hence, you will notice that impact drivers tend to be shorter compared to drills. This is important especially when you will have to work in tight spaces.

Impact drivers work with a hex chuck which is different compared to the standard round drill bit.

Quite recently, you needed a drill for drilling holes. But now leading brands like DeWalt, Ridgid, and Milwaukee are now offering drill bits that can fit easily on impact drivers. As a result of advances in the industry, you can use an impact driver for pretty much all that drills do.

However, you will have to be cautious since impact drivers generate far more torque than drills. You will thus have to use impact-rated bits to make it work seamlessly.

Impact drivers available on the market often operate at a single speed. However, since impact drivers are now being designed to accommodate accessories for drilling, you will now see multiple torque and speed settings in the latest impact drivers.

Where to Use Drills vs Impact Drivers?

You will normally need a drill when working with softer material that needs less torque like drywall or wood. Drills can work well in situations where you don’t need massive amounts of torque.

Impact drivers work where you need more torque for harder materials like metals and hardwood. They often work better for larger bolts and screws that require much more torque than what a drill can generate.

Our Final Thoughts

Drills vs drivers – what’s the difference? They might look more or less the same from the outside, but they do have key differences. We hope the differences laid out above help!

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