Whether you’re working on a car, installing a doorknob, or driving a screw by hand into a piece of dense wood, the best ratcheting screwdriver can help. These handy tools can help you maintain contact with stubborn screws, nuts, and bolts when you need to apply a bit of extra torque.
These hand tools are all about convenience. They use interchangeable screw bits, many of which are stored onboard. Plus, their ratcheting mechanisms allow you to maintain contact with the fastener to quickly tighten or loosen—offering plenty of torque without resetting your grip between twists.
Choosing the best ratcheting screwdriver can be a bit tricky, so we decided to test some of the bestselling models to see if they lived up to their reputations. Some did, but others didn’t. Ahead, learn what to look for when shopping for a ratcheting screwdriver, and find out why the following tools earned a spot in our lineup.
- BEST OVERALL: Wera Kraftform Kompakt 27 RA 2 SB Screwdriver
- RUNNER-UP: Megapro Multi-Bit Screwdriver, Phillips, Slotted
- BEST MULTIPURPOSE: Milwaukee 10-in-1 Square Ratcheting Multi-Bit Driver
- MOST VERSATILE: Makita 47-Piece Ratcheting Screwdriver Accessory Kit
- BEST IN TIGHT SPOTS: MulWark 20pc 1/4 Low Profile Mini Ratchet Screwdriver Set
- BEST ALL-PURPOSE: WORKPRO 12-in-1 Ratcheting Multi-Bit Screwdriver
- BEST T-HANDLE GRIP: Williams 7 7/8″ T-Handle Ratcheting Screwdriver
- BEST WITH LIGHT: Bahco Phillips/Pozidriv/Slotted Ratchet Screwdriver
How We Tested the Best Ratcheting Screwdrivers
Each of the ratcheting screwdrivers we tested was pushed to its limits so we could get a good idea of how it would perform over time and in various situations. With each tool, we inserted screws into three types of wood—pine, ash, and walnut—to see whether the ratcheting action would stand up to the different densities.
We checked the directional collars of each tool to see if they switched directions easily and to make sure they didn’t slip while using the tool. We also inspected the overall solidness of the tool and checked whether onboard bit storage was easy to access.
While we considered whether the tool came with a variety of bits, we didn’t eliminate models that didn’t come with bits because the user can also pick those up later. We awarded points for the screwdrivers that accepted standard bits and subtracted points if they didn’t. Not all of the ratcheting screwdrivers we tested made the cut, but the ones that did are among the best options available today.
Our Top Picks
It’s time to find out how some of today’s most popular models fared in our tests. Rest assured, we didn’t go easy on them. We used them to remove stuck screws, insert new screws into different densities of wood, and to tighten and loosen hex and other fasteners. While each of the following ratcheting screwdrivers is designed for slightly different uses, each is a standout in its category.
If you’re looking for a heavy-duty ratcheting screwdriver capable of frequent use, consider the Wera Kraftform Kompakt RA Screwdriver. This ratcheting screwdriver has secure in-handle storage for your bits. It also has an ergonomically designed grip for comfortable use and plenty of torque.
The Wera comes with six bits, including two Phillips-head bits, two square drivers, and two slotted drivers. The shaft also doubles as a ¼-inch nut driver.
The Wera ratcheting screwdriver feels solid in the hand, and one of the first things we noticed was its nonslip, ergonomic grip that’s contoured to help the user get a firm grasp. The bit storage base slid out easily with just a light push of the button on the bottom, making it easy to select the bits. We inserted screws in pine, ash, and walnut boards, and the screwdriver held up to all densities.
One of the nicest features is the Wera’s minimized ratcheting action—we didn’t have to rotate the handle very far backward in order to engage the gear again—less movement equals less physical effort. Another nice feature is the strong magnet in the head that locks the bit in place so it doesn’t fall out. This ratcheting screwdriver is well suited for general around-the-house and DIY use. The only downside—and it’s not a big one—is that the directional collar is a little wider than the grip where it attaches, and large hands can inadvertently change the direction without meaning to.
- Onboard bit storage: Yes
- Bits included: 6 bits
- Grip type: Nonslip, ergonomic
- Well-designed handle is easy to grip; suitable for DIYers as well as pros
- Strong magnet in head keeps the bits and screws in place while in use
- Easy-to-access bit storage for versatility and quick changes
- Smooth ratcheting action provides additional ease of use
- Slightly obtrusive directional collar may not be ideal for some users’ preferences
Get the Wera screwdriver at Amazon.
When it comes to really cranking down on a fastener, the Megapro ratcheting screwdriver has all the grip you could need. This ratcheting screwdriver’s shaft doubles as a ¼-inch nut driver, and it comes with 12 bits (six double-ended bits), including four Phillips bits, two square drive bits, two slotted bits, and four Torx bits.
The cartridge’s cap rotates freely at the end of the handle, so you can use one hand to apply downward force on the cap while the other twists the handle for maximum torque and control. Also, the thick handle is rubber-coated, providing plenty of gripping surface area. Switching from tightening to loosening, or locking the shaft in place is easy with the Megapro’s collar mechanism.
We found the Megapro well suited for use by those with large hands. Its handle features rubber inserts and is comfortable to grip, but it might be a little large for someone with smaller hands. The end cap slides out for easy bit retrieval, and the double-ended bits make it handy to find the right bit without needing to carry extra bits around. The directional collar is easy to switch, and the ratcheting action is smooth.
We used the Megapro to insert screws in pine, ash, and walnut boards, and then we tested it on removing stubborn screws. It stood up to strong twisting force, and the ratcheting action didn’t slip or break. We used quite a bit of torque. If we could ask for one thing to be different it would be a magnet in the head—when we turned the screwdriver downward, the bits often fell out.
- On-board bit storage: Yes
- Bits included: 12 (six double-ended bits)
- Grip type: Rubber, ergonomic
- Good variety of bits for ample project types; provides a lot of versatility
- Able to withstand strong torque pressure for professional use
- Solid and well-made construction provides years of use and effectiveness
- Non-magnetic head; may not keeps bits or screws in place well
Get the Megapro screwdriver at Amazon or Grainger.
If you’re looking for a quality ratcheting screwdriver with a few extra features, you should check out the Milwaukee Multi Bit Ratcheting Screwdriver. This screwdriver comes with six 3.5-inch driver bits, including three square drive bits, two Phillips bits, and two slotted bits. The longer bits are easy to manipulate, and they store on the handle in secure slots, so there’s very little risk of them falling out. The downside is that they were kind of difficult to get out without firmly pressing with our fingertips.
The screwdriver also features some handy extras. It has a wire stripper built into the handle as well as a wire loop bender. Also, the handle sans bit functions as a ¼-inch nut driver. As far as ratcheting goes, the Milwaukee has a collar to switch directions or lock the shaft in place. Although the bits do take up a bit of space on the handle, there is plenty of gripping area for applying lots of torque.
The Milwaukee is a solid little tool, and its ratcheting action is among the smoothest of the models we tested. This didn’t come as a surprise, since the Milwaukee brand is well known and has a great reputation for making quality tools. The head features a strong magnet that holds the bits in place, and the directional collar is well made and easy to switch.
We tested the Milwaukee’s ratcheting action on a variety of boards, and it didn’t bog down even when we used maximum force inserting screws into walnut wood.
We also tested the wire stripper, and it easily removed the insulated sheath from household electrical wires, making the Milwaukee a beneficial tool for DIY electricians as well as for assembling furniture and other projects.
- Onboard bit storage: Yes
- Bits included: 6
- Grip type: Rubber and molded plastic
- Strong, tight ratcheting action for effective use
- Wire stripper included for ample versatility; may be ideal for professionals
- Easy-to-switch directional collar
- Bits can be slightly tough to get out
Get the Milwaukee multi bit screwdriver at Amazon.
The Makita Ratcheting Screwdriver and Bit Set is worth checking out if you’re looking for a ratcheting screwdriver that comes with a comprehensive set of bits and sockets. This 49-piece kit comes with a screwdriver, 11 Phillips bits, eight Torx bits, and four slotted bits. It also comes with seven sockets and several square and hex-drive bits. With this range of bits, most jobs around the house should be a cinch.
The screwdriver has a collar direction adjustment, as well as a lanyard hole for a wrist strap or hanging cord. However, it doesn’t have any onboard storage, so you should keep the case on hand for easy access to bits.
The Makita is a relatively compact tool—smaller than some of the other ratcheting screwdrivers we tested–but its ergonomic, rubber-nubbed handle made it easy to get a firm grasp, and the large selection of bits and sockets allowed us to use the tool to remove and insert screws as well as tighten and loosen nuts. It has a magnet in the head, but it’s not as strong as we would have liked. Still, it kept the bits from falling out. The Makita stood up to maximum driving force for inserting screws in dense wood, and it has a smooth ratcheting action.
While it doesn’t store bits onboard as some of the others do, the plastic storage box that holds the sockets and bits is relatively small, just 2.2 inches by 5.25 inches by 10.25 inches, so it fits neatly in a kitchen drawer or in the glove compartment of a vehicle. We’ve come to expect durability and functional design from Makita, and this little ratcheting screwdriver didn’t disappoint.
- Onboard bit storage: No
- Bits included: 42 bits, 7 sockets
- Grip type: Nonslip, ergonomic
- Variety of bits and sockets included with purchase for use during many tasks
- Compact but well made construction can fit in tool boxes, belts, and pockets
- Smooth ratcheting action provides ease of use
- No onboard bit storage integrated into the design
Get the Makita ratchet and bit set at Amazon, The Home Depot, Tractor Supply Co., or Ace Tool.
If you’ve ever tried to tighten or loosen screws in tight spots where a straight-handled screwdriver won’t fit, consider the MulWark Low Profile Mini Ratchet Screwdriver. It comes with 20 bits, featuring an assortment of Phillips-head bits, slotted bits, torx bits, and hex bits. It comes with a strong magnet in the head so bits don’t fall out. No onboard storage because this tool is just too small, but the bits fit in two plastic holders that can be easily stored together in a drawer.
Right off the bat, we’ll tell you that the MulWark isn’t suitable for tightening or loosening stuck screws in dense materials because it doesn’t come with a handle large enough to grip with a fist. But that’s not what it’s designed to do, anyway.
The MulWark is made to insert and remove fasteners where there’s very little room to maneuver. Although it was the smallest ratcheting screwdriver we tested, we were able to insert screws in different types of wood—even in walnut—without the ratcheting mechanism failing. But because the MulWark is intended for use with fingers, not a fist grip, our fingers wore out before the tool did. For those times when you need to insert fasteners behind a mounted flat screen or in another tight spot, the MulWark shines.
- Onboard bit storage: No
- Bits included: 20
- Grip type: Metal, finger grip
- Small enough for tight spots in tool boxes, belts, and pockets
- Easy-to-switch ratcheting lever for ease of use and versatility
- 20 low-profile bits included with purchase
- Strong magnet in head keeps the bit and screws in place
- Not suitable for use on large or stuck screws
Get the MulWark mini ratchet at Amazon.
The Workpro Ratcheting Screwdriver features a nonslip grip and solid feel, making it easy to get a firm grasp on the handle. The tool stores six 3.5-inch double-ended bits in its base, which gave us 12 different bits to choose from, including slotted, Phillips head, star, and Torx. The bits themselves are magnetic—rather than the head—but they remained firmly in the tool, even when we shook it upside down.
We tested the Workpro by inserting screws in a variety of wood types, and it came through with flying colors—even when we used maximum force and dense walnut wood. We then tested the tool on a range of fasteners and found the bits are well made and appear to be hardened steel.
The directional collar switches smoothly from left to right. The longer bits gave the tool greater reach, and the head comes with a metal, pull-back release that—along with the magnetic bits—keeps the bits firmly in place during use.
- Onboard bit storage: Yes
- Bits included: 12 (6 double-ended)
- Grip type: Nonslip
- Longer bits add reach in tight spaces; suitable for electrical, HVAC, or plumbing work
- Magnetic bits keep the screws and bits in place during use
- Easy-to-switch directional collar can be locked if necessary
- Not suitable in tight spots
Get the WorkPro screwdriver set at Amazon.
Don’t expect frills or extras with the Williams T-Handle Ratcheting Screwdriver, because you won’t find any. What you will find is a solid screwdriver that comes with a long shaft and accepts standard ¼-inch bits. It comes with just one Phillips-head bit.
What the Williams T-handle lacks in extras it makes up for in durability. We were impressed by the hefty feel of the tool—the high-impact, molded-plastic handle is ergonomically designed to fit in the palm of the hand, which allowed us to exert pressure directly on the fasteners and helped prevent stripping out the screw heads.
We used the Williams screwdriver to insert screws in a variety of wood types, and its ratcheting action remained smooth and sure—even when we used force. The directional collar switches with ease, and the shaft head features a magnet that holds bits in place. The long, thin design of this screwdriver is well suited to reaching fasteners in tight spots while exerting pressure.
- Onboard bit storage: No
- Bits included: 1
- Grip type: T-handle
- Well made, solid construction lasts for years of use
- Handle fits nicely in palm; suitable for long-term or professional use
- Long shaft for extended reach in tight spots
- Only one bit included with purchase; does not offer a lot of versatility
- No onboard storage for extra bits
Get the Williams screwdriver at Amazon.
If you’ve ever struggled to hold a flashlight in one hand while wielding a screwdriver with the other, the Bahco Ratcheting Screwdriver might just be the tool for you. We were impressed not only with the solid feel and nonslip, ergonomic grip of this tool, but we were also awestruck with how bright the little LED light was.
The directional collar on the Bahco switches directions smoothly, and the screwdriver’s ratcheting action is smooth. We inserted screws into pine, ash, and walnut boards, and the Bahco didn’t miss a beat, even when we exerted force. There’s a tiny bit of play in the shaft, which we would have preferred not to be there, but it wasn’t enough to affect the tool’s performance.
By simultaneously depressing the two buttons on either side of the handle, we were able to eject the storage tray that comes with six bits—two slotted and four Phillips head. The shaft comes with a magnetic head that holds the bits securely.
- Onboard bit storage: Yes
- Bits included: 6
- Grip type: Nonslip, ergonomic
- Bright LED light allows for ample visibility in dark or tight spaces
- Magnetic head keeps the screws and bits in place
- Ergonomic comfort grip can be used for long period without causing fatigue in the hands and wrists
Get the Bahco screwdriver at Amazon.
We really wanted to like these two Klein Tools ratcheting screwdrivers, but they failed to meet our high standards. While both came with nonslip grips and each had extra bits stored in its base, the shafts on both were loose, and the plastic directional collars stuck and were difficult to switch.
On the larger Klein Tools screwdriver, using strong force to insert a screw into a walnut board was more than it could take, and the ratcheting mechanism broke.
Another problem is that the bits are proprietary—they feature a snap-lock bearing on the side that holds them in place—so we could not use standard bits in either of the tools, which reduces their versatility. While these two are among the most affordable options, they just didn’t live up to the hype. We look forward to seeing new and improved versions coming from Klein Tools.
What to Consider When Choosing a Ratcheting Screwdriver
There are some things worth considering when shopping for the best ratcheting screwdriver beyond just the style of bit storage. Consider the length, the grip, and other built-in features you might find with certain models. Keep the following points in mind while shopping so you’re sure to get the best ratcheting screwdriver for your needs.
Types of Ratcheting Screwdrivers
There are a handful of styles of ratcheting screwdrivers, so the results of our tests and this comprehensive guide let you know what’s out there before you start shopping. The main difference in style is how each screwdriver stores its interchangeable bits. There are benefits to each style, so it’s worth giving some consideration.
Bits in the Handle
The most common style of ratcheting screwdriver stores its bits inside the grip. Often, there is a cap that threads on and off or pops out of the handle, providing access to the driver bits. Multiple bits clip to a removable ring, allowing you to choose the appropriate bit or store it away securely. Other models have bit-clips built into the cap.
The benefit of storing the bits in the handle is that it’s harder to lose them. As long as the cap stays shut, the bits are secure, even if they pop out of their clips. The downside is that switching between bits stored in the handle does create some downtime. Also, these bits are often smaller and harder to grip.
Bits on the Handle
As opposed to storing your bits inside the handle, several models come with storage on the handle. These models have slots or holes for holding the bits right in the grip. They either clip into place or slide in from the bottom of the handle.
The benefit of these screwdrivers is that, many times, the bits are long. You can get a good grip on them when storing or swapping bits. The downside is that these screwdrivers are often heavier, and bits often fall or slide out of lower-end models when you aren’t looking.
Occasionally, you can get a ratcheting screwdriver in a comprehensive kit of driver bits and attachments. They come in their own boxes or cases with slots for storing driver bits, sockets, and nut drivers.
Some of the benefits of these screwdrivers are that they’re usually lighter and come with more bits. You can see all the bits at once, so you can grab one quickly, knowing easily if something’s missing. The downside is that you might have to keep a bulky case nearby if you’re frequently swapping bits.
Kit vs. Single Screwdriver
When shopping for the best ratcheting screwdriver, you may need to choose between a kit and a single screwdriver.
The overwhelming benefit of purchasing a kit is that they’re usually fairly comprehensive. Phillips, slotted, square drive, and even Torx bits can be found in these kits. You can find nut drivers and socket attachments as well, which can be a big help on a variety of projects. The problem is that you can’t store all these bits in or on your handle, so be sure to keep the case nearby.
A single screwdriver is a far more streamlined tool than a ratcheting screwdriver kit. The bits all fit inside or on the handle, allowing you to keep everything with you. The issue is that you simply won’t get as many bits as you would with a kit. Also, when storing all of those bits on board, single ratcheting screwdrivers tend to be heavier.
Ratcheting screwdrivers aren’t new technology. One of the first popular models was the “Yankee,” manufactured by North Bros and first marketed in 1895. Not much has changed in the ratcheting function since then.
Most ratcheting screwdrivers use a gear-and-pawl system. Depending on the direction you set the screwdriver to, the pawl will engage with the gear, forcing the tip to rotate with the handle. When you twist the screwdriver in the other direction, the pawl skips over the gear’s teeth, rotating the grip independently of the tip.
While this mechanism is rather universal, engaging it and switching directions does vary a bit from screwdriver to screwdriver. Older models have switches in the shaft that allow you to toggle between clockwise, counterclockwise, and completely locked. More modern variations have collars that you twist to change directions.
The benefit of ratcheting screwdrivers is that you can get a firm grip on their handle and apply plenty of torque repetitively without adjusting your grip. Not all screwdrivers handle torque as well as others, so try to find a robust, durable model.
Not all screwdrivers will have their torque rating clearly displayed, but durable models can handle around 50 newton meters (nm) or about 36 foot-pounds of torque. Taking a screwdriver beyond its torque capacity will usually break the pawl or shave teeth off the ratcheting gear, making the screwdriver useless.
When looking for the best ratcheting screwdriver, notice they come in different lengths. Standard-length models are around 7 or 8 inches. Stubby models are under 3 or 4 inches. You can also find longer models with long shafts and handles over 9 inches long.
There are benefits to each. Stubby screwdrivers fit in tight places, and they’re easy to line up with the fastener. Longer screwdrivers provide plenty of grip, and they allow you to see the workpiece without blocking it with your hand or grip. Mid-length screwdrivers do a bit of both.
However, they have their downsides as well. Maintaining a solid grip with a stubby screwdriver can be challenging. Small variations in your grip can change the angle of the tip quite a bit, leading to stripped screws and scuffed knuckles. Conversely, longer screwdrivers are hard to line up with a fastener one-handed, but contact is easy to maintain.
Grip shapes and styles vary from screwdriver to screwdriver. Some brands have one handle design that they use on all of their products, and some tradespeople have come to prefer them. Other models use tapered grips, allowing for several hand or grip positions.
Primarily, the “right” grip comes down to personal preference and how the screwdriver fits in your hand. For the most torque, however, a thicker grip with plenty of surface area is best. For the best dexterity, you may want something thinner with a tapered design.
If you’d like a little more function out of your ratcheting screwdriver, there are several models available with additional capabilities. Some features are rather trade-specific. For instance, you can find screwdrivers with wire strippers, benders, and wire nut sockets for electricians. A few models come with small LED lights that help illuminate in low-light situations.
Beyond the added features, ratcheting screwdriver kits tend to be the most versatile. They include tons of bits and attachments for tackling a wide range of projects like renovations, automotive work, and routine home maintenance.
If you’re still a little twisted up about buying the best ratcheting screwdriver, the following section will help. It includes some of the most frequently asked questions and answers about ratcheting screwdrivers.
Q. How does a ratcheting screwdriver work?
Ratcheting screwdrivers use a gear and a pawl to allow the shaft to rotate independently on the backstroke and engage the shaft on the forward twist. As the handle rotates backward, the pawl skips over the teeth, allowing the shaft to remain still. As the handle rotates forward, the pawl grabs the gear, engaging the shaft and rotating it with the handle.
Q. What is the difference between a ratchet screwdriver and a standard screwdriver?
Standard screwdriver shafts are permanently fixed to the handle, so every twist of the handle twists the tip. Ratcheting screwdrivers engage and disengage from the shaft, allowing you to twist the handle back and forth while only driving the fastener in one direction.
Q. How do you remove a bit from a ratchet screwdriver?
Most ratchet screwdrivers use ball detents or magnets to hold their bits in place. In either case, removing the bit simply requires pulling the bit straight out of the shaft.
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