Whether working on a bicycle, replacing your kitchen outlets, putting batteries in your child’s remote control car, or completing another DIY project, a cordless screwdriver can come in handy to tighten and remove screws quickly and efficiently. Think of a cordless screwdriver as a less powerful alternative to a corded or cordless drill—it doesn’t have the power to drive through a lot of dense material, but it can be a good option for light to medium jobs.
While drills can be a bit unwieldy, a slim cordless screwdriver can get you into tight spots. And because it works faster than its manual forefather, a cordless screwdriver will help keep your project on track. It will also reduce fatigue, and benefit anyone with wrist or hand mobility issues—after all, twisting your wrist back and forth with a conventional screwdriver can be a real pain. Plus, with a manual screwdriver, your hand can get in your line of vision, making it challenging to see what you’re doing and potentially causing you to slip off fasteners—not a problem with a cordless model. Finally, because they’re lightweight and require no outlet to plug into, they’re perfectly portable, a tool you can tote anywhere.
If you’re in the market for the best cordless screwdriver, read on to check out the features to look for and find out why these recommendations are worth considering.
- BEST OVERALL: DEWALT 8V MAX Cordless Screwdriver Kit
- RUNNER UP: Milwaukee 2401-22 M12 12-Volt Cordless Screwdriver
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: BLACK+DECKER 4V MAX Cordless Screwdriver
- BEST COMPACT: WORX WX255L SD Semi-Automatic Power Screw
- BEST HEAVY-DUTY: Bosch PS21-2A 12V Max 2-Speed Pocket Driver
- BEST SAFETY FEATURES: SKIL 4V Cordless Screwdriver with Circuit Sensor
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Cordless Screwdriver
If you’re unfamiliar with cordless screwdrivers, keep these considerations in mind while shopping so you’ll choose the model that best fits your needs.
Speed and Torque
The more power your cordless screwdriver has, the faster it can turn. While cordless screwdrivers don’t need the amount of power that a drill driver or impact driver might have, they still need enough juice to get the job done. If purchasing a straight driver, choose one with a speed between 300 and 500 RPM—ideal to loosen or tighten a screw quickly without being too fast to handle. With pistol grip models, speeds over 1,000 RPM are easier to control.
The more torque your screwdriver has, the denser the material that it can drive a fastener into. Heavy-duty screwdrivers have an increased amount of torque available and may be suitable for driving a few drywall screws into wood studs, but keep in mind that this will drain the battery quickly.
A cordless screwdriver can reach and manipulate screws in small or awkward spaces much better than a manual tool can. If you can get the tip of the driver on to the fastener, these screwdrivers help do the rest.
To fit into such tight places, the best cordless screwdriver will be highly maneuverable. A slim, compact design helps, and many models also have rotating handles that swap from a straight grip to a pistol grip, like those seen on drills and screw guns. Also, a smaller battery size makes cordless screwdrivers easier to tuck between boards and other low-clearance scenarios, such as behind sinks for plumbing tasks.
Many cordless screwdrivers come with rechargeable batteries, and they tend to be between 4 and 8 volts. Since a cordless screwdriver requires much less speed and power than a drill, these lower voltages are adequate. The benefit of a smaller, lower-voltage battery is that it fits in tighter places than full-size options, and it makes the screwdriver as light as possible while still being rechargeable.
Some lower-end screwdrivers use replaceable batteries. These models are less convenient, not to mention expensive if replacing batteries frequently. They usually have less power and torque as well.
If you have a large project on your hands, you want a cordless screwdriver to see you through to the end. Luckily, battery life isn’t much of a concern for most of the best cordless screwdrivers because their small motors don’t use as much battery energy as a large motor does.
That said, some cordless screwdrivers have a battery level indicator that alerts you if you’re running low. That way, you can juice up your battery while on a break—they’ll typically recharge in about an hour.
Cordless screwdrivers tighten or loosen screws in pre-threaded holes. They’re perfect for screws in electrical boxes and fixtures, screws used in automotive interiors and appliances, installing door locks and cabinet hardware, and other mechanical settings with threaded holes.
Except for the most heavy-duty cordless screwdrivers, these tools are not typically designed for lag screws and bolts, wood screws, and fasteners in other dense materials. While you may be able to drive a screw through drywall with one of these tools, that’s simply not the type of job these tools are made to tackle. For this situation, grab your drill or impact driver instead.
Cordless screwdrivers use tool-less chucks so you can swap between bits quickly and easily. These chucks fit ¼-inch bits—the same bits used in standard multi-bit manual screwdrivers. You can also find ¼-inch-drive drill bits, allowing you to use your screwdriver as a drill in light-duty material like thin wood or plastics.
The variety of ¼-inch bits available make cordless screwdrivers incredibly useful. You can go from driving Phillips head screws to removing Allen or Torx screws in seconds. Most cordless screwdrivers use magnets to hold the bits in place, while also providing a bit of magnetism to keep the screw on the end of the bit.
The clutch in fastening tools regulates the amount of torque applied to a fastener. Once you reach the set torque, the clutch will start to “slip,” preventing you from driving the fastener or drill any deeper. You adjust the clutch according to the type of fastener and the type of material you’re drilling into. Since this is situation-specific, the rule of thumb is to set the clutch to a low setting and increase slowly as needed.
Too much torque can break smaller, older, or low-quality fasteners. Fortunately, the best cordless screwdrivers have adjustable clutch settings to avoid stripping or breaking these fasteners. The clutch can also avoid overdriving the screw too deeply, which may also cause unwanted results. These torque settings can make a significant difference when working with old, stubborn fasteners. Instead of tearing the heads off screws or stripping the fastener beyond recognition, the clutch will begin to slip, preventing the driver from continuing to turn and cause damage.
Not all cordless screwdrivers have adjustable clutches, though. Some don’t have the power to require one. You will, however, find these on the higher-end screwdrivers with more torque.
Our Top Picks
The following products are among the best cordless screwdrivers for your home or workshop. They’re lightweight and compact enough to store in a drawer, keep on your toolbelt, and tote to your worksite.
If you’re looking for a cordless screwdriver with plenty of features and a rock-solid reputation, the 8V MAX Cordless Screwdriver from DEWALT is a terrific choice. This cordless screwdriver has a gyroscopic trigger that activates the motor with the motion of your wrist: Twist the tool to the right, it will tighten or drive a screw; twist left, and it will loosen the screw. It also has two LEDs to light up your workpiece, as well as a two-position handle that allows you to choose between a pistol grip or a straight screwdriver.
It has a 15-position clutch, an RPM range between 0 and 430 RPM, and a torque range of up to 40 inch-pounds. The ¼-inch chuck fits standard bits and the 8V lithium-ion battery charges in under an hour with the included charger.
If it’s less about fancy features and more about getting the job done, Milwaukee’s 2401-22 M12 12-Volt Cordless Screwdriver is a solid choice. This pistol grip screwdriver uses Milwaukee’s 12-Volt lithium-ion batteries to create a mighty peak torque of 175 inch-pounds. It has an RPM range of 0 to 500 RPMs, allowing you to set fasteners quickly. The 2401-22 uses a ¼-inch quick-change keyless chuck to swap out bits quickly, and it has a 15-position clutch to help you regulate torque.
All that power makes it a bit on the heavy side, at just over 2 pounds, but it’s still plenty portable and comfortable to use. Another plus: This cordless screwdriver’s battery charges in under 30 minutes with the included charger, so you can get back to work after a short break.
If you’re looking for a light-duty cordless screwdriver that won’t crush your screws or your budget, the BLACK+DECKER 4V MAX Cordless Screwdriver may fill the bill. This screwdriver has a three-position handle, swapping easily from a straight screwdriver to a 45-degree or right-angle driver in seconds. It uses ¼-inch driver bits so you can swap between bits or use the chuck as a ¼-inch nut-driver.
The screwdriver boasts a bright LED flashlight to help illuminate your workpiece and it comes with two bits and a charger. Its 4-volt lithium-ion battery holds a charge well, and you plug the charger into the screwdriver to charge it.
Even if you drive screws day in and day out, you’ll occasionally drop a screw or two. The WORX WX255L helps prevent that problem with its automatic screw holder. This tiny clamp in the front of the tool holds the screw until you drive it into place. Equally helpful, it can also catch screws as you remove them.
The WX255L comes with a handy bit-swapping feature that rotates through your bits by sliding the top back and forth—simply continue sliding until you find the bit you want. It has a 4-volt built-in battery that can hold a charge for up to 18 months. The on-board bit storage and light 1.5-pound heft make this an excellent compact and portable cordless screwdriver.
If you need a cordless screwdriver that can tackle some heavy-duty jobs, check out the Bosch PS21-2A. It has two speed ranges—0 to 350 RPM and 0 to 1,300 RPM—and a ton of torque to match, up to 265-inch pounds. It’s an incredibly powerful tool in such a small package, weighing in at only 1.4 pounds.
In addition to ample torque and speed, it’s also extremely compact with a head length of just over 5.5 inches. It has 21 clutch settings to allow you to regulate all that torque as well. It comes with two 12-volt batteries and a charger, plus there’s a built-in LED to help you see what you’re doing in dim locations.
Talk about no shock value! If your DIY projects have you working with outlets or wiring, you’ll appreciate the Circuit Sensor of the SKIL 4V Cordless Screwdriver. This safety feature alerts you when it detects electrical current in a box or outlet—saving you from a potential zap when you shut off the wrong breaker.
This compact cordless screwdriver also boasts a dual-LED light, 45 changeable bits, a micro USB charger, and a protective carrying case. The chuck accepts any ¼-inch drive bit and also functions as a ¼-inch nut driver. It has both forward and reverse but no adjustable clutch or speed settings.
The Advantages of Owning a Cordless Screwdriver
By the time you finish a project that entailed a lot of assembling, your forearm and hand might be tired from using a manual screwdriver. Instead, you could forgo hand and arm fatigue with a cordless screwdriver, which may save you energy and time to move onto the next project.
Being able to see what you’re doing is key to a quality finished project. If your hand keeps getting in the way of your task, you’re likely to slip off the screw, marring the surface or scratching the workpiece. Cordless screwdrivers let you see what you’re doing since your hand won’t block your view.
Instead of carrying several screwdrivers around in your toolbox or tool belt, why not tote just one cordless model? Since the tips are easy to swap, you can purchase a complete set (available here), reducing the amount of weight and freeing up space in your belt for other tools. It’s much easier to carry one cordless screwdriver with eight tips than eight separate screwdrivers.
- Cordless screwdrivers minimize your fatigue when driving several fasteners.
- You’re able to see your workpiece better when using cordless screwdrivers.
- One screwdriver can take the place of a drawer-full, making for easy portability to the job site.
Tips for Using a Cordless Screwdriver
You’ll likely reach for your cordless screwdriver again and again for a host of different tasks. Here’s how to make the most of it.
If using your cordless screwdriver to drive a screw into wood, drill a pilot hole first. Most of these tools simply don’t have the power or torque to run a fastener into dense materials.
In a pinch, if you need to drive a new screw without a pilot hole, try a bit of lubrication. A drop of liquid hand or dish soap on the threads may lubricate them enough to allow a cordless screwdriver to get the job done.
Many small hex-head screws on appliances like washers, dryers, and refrigerators are ¼-inch. That means the tip of your cordless screwdriver will fit over the head, and you can use it to tighten or loosen these screws.
- Drill pilot holes for driving screws into dense materials.
- A drop of soap on the threads may allow you to drive a screw into dense material in a pinch.
- Use the ¼-inch chuck to loosen or tighten ¼-inch hex screws.
FAQs About Your New Cordless Screwdriver
If you’re still wondering about the ins and outs of your new cordless screwdriver, consider these answers to commonly asked questions.
Q. What is a cordless screwdriver?
A cordless screwdriver is a battery-operated tool that tightens and loosens screws with a motor and a trigger instead of the user’s hand power.
Q. What’s the difference between a cordless screwdriver and a cordless drill?
Cordless drills accept several size drill bits with adjustable chucks, while cordless screwdrivers only accept ¼-inch bits. Also, cordless drills tend to have more adjustability in terms of speed to allow you to drill different materials accurately and efficiently.
Q. How do you operate a cordless screwdriver?
There are a few slightly different methods, but here is a general usage guideline:
- Choose the right bit and place it in the chuck.
- Adjust the direction you want to drive the screw (tighten or loosen) with the switch on the screwdriver.
- Seat the bit completely into the head of the screw.
- Maintain pressure on the fastener and squeeze the trigger.