Impact Wrench vs. Impact Driver

What is the difference between an impact wrench and an impact driver? This is a question that comes up often, especially as cordless impact drivers become more well known and popular.

Here’s the wise-guy answer:


Here’s a slightly longer, more accurate answer:

the size and power.

How can we have different answers? Well, it’s because technically what is sold as an “impact driver” is really just a form of an impact wrench. But, the market for the smaller, cordless impact wrenches has taken on a life of it’s own. To differentiate them, they are called “impact drivers”.

Let’s improve the slightly long answer:

an “impact driver” is usually meant to mean a smaller, often cordless, version of an “impact wrench.” Impact drivers generally sport a 1/4″ hex chuck that accepts driver bits, while impact wrenches use a 3/8″, 1/2″, or larger square drive for attaching sockets.

Impact drivers are usually electrical – lately mainly battery powered. An impact wrench is usually corded, if electrical, or driven by air pressure (pneumatic). Thus, a wrench is usually much more powerful.

Usually the smaller of the tools measures its torque in inch-pounds (in-lbs), while the larger typically uses foot-pounds (ft-lbs). This is likely another marketing creation (1600 in-lbs looks better than 130 ft-lbs – remember, to convert to in-lbs, just multiply by 12).

The cordless drivers currently max out at around 132 ft-lbs, whereas a air-powered wrench – for example – can easily reach 700-800 ft-lbs of torque. Larger pneumatic wrenches exceed 1500 ft-lbs.

Hand Impact Driver With BitsYou may be aware that there is, in fact, a manual impact driver. A purist might insist the manual kind is the only one that should go by that name, and everyone else is misnaming things.


The reality is that cordless impact drivers have been going by that name under all the manufacturers for quite some time, and it’s not going to change.

Finally, let’s see what Wikipedia has to say about it all:

Impact Wrench: An impact wrench (also known as an impactor, air wrench, air gun, rattle gun, torque gun, windy gun) is a socket wrench power tool designed to deliver high torque output with minimal exertion by the user, by storing energy in a rotating mass, then delivering it suddenly to the output shaft.

Sounds like a cordless impact driver to me.

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