Best Impact Wrenches For 2021

Best Impact Wrenches For 2021
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Getty Images

Impact wrenches are a must-have tool for working on your own car or truck projects, or if you maintain home lawn equipment other machinery. These powerful wrenches feature a hammering mechanism that delivers strong, quick blows to blast seized bolts that might otherwise require serious muscle power and a breaker bar. The high-power and torque offered by the right tool will take out or tighten bolts with ease, which will make any job faster and easier.

When it comes to impact wrenches, you get what you pay for. Typically, a less expensive impact wrench will lack the torque needed for tough jobs, so if you run into a seized bolt it’ll take more effort to break it loose. If you buy the best tool that you can afford, it’s unlikely you’ll need to buy another. Recent developments in battery and electric motor technology have also produced very powerful wrenches that don’t require a cord or an air compressor, which wasn’t always the case in the past. Listed below are five top-rated models from brands known for manufacturing quality products.

Forbes specifically chose only 1/2-inch drives, which is the minimum recommended size for automotive tasks but versatile enough for general use around the home. 

Best Cordless Impact Wrench: DEWALT DCF899HB Cordless Impact Wrench

Why We Picked It: 

The 20v Max XR is DEWALT’s most powerful compact cordless impact wrench, offering a breakaway torque of 1,200 pound-feet and an overall max torque of 700 pound-feet, which ought to be enough to break loose almost any lug nut or stubborn bolt. Its brushless motor is energy efficient and generates less heat than brushed motors, which extends run time and battery life.

DEWALT equipped their DCF899HB model with an LED light for maximum visibility, a three-speed selector switch and a ½-inch Anvil with hog ring to secure and remove sockets easily. This particular package includes one pack of two premium XR 5.0h Lithium Ion batteries, which are compatible with other DEWALT 20V Max tools. However, the charger is not included.  


  • Multiple speeds
  • No cords or compressor needed
  • Huge torque


  • Comes with two batteries, but no charger
  • Hog ring anvil may take getting used to
  • Expensive

Best Air Impact Wrench: AIRCAT 1150 “Killer Torque” 1/2-Inch Impact Wrench

Why We Picked It: 

Air tools are known for packing more punch than their electric competitors while also being lighter and smaller. Air tools can push more torque and RPM to finish jobs faster, and the AIRCAT 1150 impact wrench is no exception with its 1,295 pound-feet of loosening torque and 900 pound-foot max torque. It’s reportedly the hardest hitting twin-hammer 1/2-inch impact wrench on the market at 1,400 blows per minute.

The AIRCAT 11500 is surrounded by a compact and durable composite housing. A small rear dial features a flip lever to switch between three forward speeds or reverse. The motor is tuned to be a quiet operator at 86 decibels, however that does not account for the noise that your air compressor puts out when it kicks on for a refill. 


  • High torque
  • Easy operation
  • Durable


  • Air compressor required
  • Being tethered to airline limits freedom
  • Small dial can be tough to use

Best Budget Impact Wrench: Porter-Cable PCE211 1/2-inch Impact Wrench 

Why We Picked It: 

The Porter-Cable PCE211 is one of the best budget-friendly 1/2-inch electric impact wrenches on the market. Its 7.5-amp motor hammers out 450 pound-feet of torque, which is heavy-duty enough for most jobs. Its 750 pound-feet of breaking torque is strong enough to hammer bolts loose on rust belt cars, but you may find yourself using more PB Blaster when compared to competing impact wrenches on this list.

Being a plug-in unit allows the Porter-Cable PCE211 to operate at higher RPMs than its battery-operated competitors. A handful of customers reported that the motor of this impact wrench didn’t last much longer than a year, however the PEC211 comes with a three-year warranty.


  • Low price
  • Strong enough for most jobs
  • Three-year warranty


  • Cord is restricting
  • Shorter life than competitors
  • Lower torque than competitors

Best Compact Impact Wrench: Milwaukee M12 FUEL Stubby 1/2-inch Impact Wrench

MILWAUKEE M12 FUEL Stubby 1/2 in.

Why We Picked It:  

Introducing the most compact impact wrench on the market, the appropriately-named Milwaukee M12 Fuel stubby edition. It measures just 4.9-inches long. If you’re looking for a compact impact wrench to pack in your vehicle’s tool box, this one is the most likely to fit in small spaces. 

The M12’s long-living brushless motor withstands repetitive use without overheating. It’s 250 pound-feet of torque is reportedly powerful enough to regularly remove lug nuts for wheel and tire swaps at race tracks. Since wheel changes are typically more frequent for race applications, corrosion or stuck lugs are unlikely. If repairing old cars or fixing daily drivers is more your speed, you might consider making room for a more powerful tool with a high break torque rating.


  • Compact
  • Built to last
  • Withstands regular use


  • Battery and charger not included
  • Lower torque than competitors
  • Not up to the toughest of tasks

Best Budget Cordless Kit: Ryobi P261 18V ONE+ 3-Speed 1/2 in. Cordless Impact Wrench Kit 

Why We Picked It: 

The Ryobi P261 impact wrench kit isn’t just affordable. It’s also easy to use and able to handle a variety of heavy-duty applications. Three speeds allow for better control of the machine’s 300 pound-feet of max torque and 3,200 impacts per minute. The kit includes the impact wrench, an 18V charger, one battery, a storage bag and an operator’s manual. 

The dual-chemistry P118 IntelliPort charger reportedly charges the battery in as little as an hour. To avoid pauses in projects, purchasing a backup battery or two is recommended. There are just enough complaints about the included battery not providing enough power during tough jobs for us to mention it as a possible issue. More importantly, the brushless motor could overheat if too much pressure is applied, but pressing with that much force shouldn’t be necessary for the tool to do its job.


  • Affordable
  • Three speeds
  • Quick charge time


  • Lower power than competitors
  • Overheating issues reported
  • Included batteries may lack power


For our list of the best impact wrenches for 2021, we specifically chose the highest-rated most readily available impact wrenches that are strong enough to handle most day-to-day automotive related tasks. We considered the products that are the most accessible to consumers residing throughout the U.S. 

Forbes Wheels selected five top-rated impact wrenches by considering a broad range of end-user ratings and professional evaluations. Each product is rated on quality, longevity, level of power offered and ease-of-use.


Is an impact wrench worth it?

Impact wrenches make removing tough bolts a lot easier, and securing bolts and screws will feel effortless. It’s a tool that seems expensive until you use it, and if you purchase a quality product it could last you a lifetime. 

Are cordless impact wrenches any good?

Cordless impact wrenches offer a tremendous advantage over pneumatic or corded electric varieties in that you will not be restricted by being tied to an air compressor hose or outlet cord. Battery technology has greatly improved over the years and if you keep spare batteries charged while the one in your impact wrench is working, you should never run out of juice. 

What size impact wrench do I need for automotive work?

A 1/2-inch impact wrench is large enough to handle the power needed to perform most repairs on regular day to day daily driving vehicles. The smaller 1/4-inch and 3/8-inch impact wrenches are typically used for fastening smaller screws and bolts for home building or repair. These smaller wrenches may not have the torque or power necessary to complete automotive related tasks. 

How powerful of an impact wrench do I need?

Smaller impact wrenches can do around 90% of the work needed around the house, but automotive wrenching typically requires more strength. A minimum of 400 pound-feet of torque should give the power needed to remove lug nuts and perform most suspension work. However, if you live in the rust belt or near an ocean, you may want to consider an impact wrench with a torque rating of 500 pound-feet or more. Rusting lug nuts and bolts tend to hang on tight.

Will an impact wrench break bolts?

It’s not uncommon to have a seized or over-tightened bolt break when trying to loosen it with an impact wrench. The impact wrench can create a distortion of the bolt, causing it to snap. Soaking a seized bolt with penetrating oil before attempting to break it free will help prevent damage.

Can a normal socket be used with an impact wrench, or do I need impact sockets?

Impact sockets are made out of carbonized chrome molybdenum, making them much stronger than the regular or hand sockets which are typically made with a chrome vanadium finish. Regular sockets will crack or break if used with an impact wrench, so only impact sockets should be used.