Recently searched
      • Published 6 Jan 2023
      • Last Modified 4 Sept 2023
    • 9 min

    The Complete Guide to Cordless Screwdrivers

    Cordless Screwdrivers Guide

    What are cordless screwdrivers?

    Cordless screwdrivers are versatile electric hand tools designed to drive screws. Compared to their manual counterparts, they help save time and effort on tasks which involve installing lots of screws, such as constructing flat-pack furniture. Prices of these tools can vary from around £6 to several hundreds of pounds, depending on the type of tool.

    Cordless screwdrivers – also called electric screwdrivers – are portable, can fit easily in the palm of the hand, and can be used for many different projects in and around the home; from light maintenance to major DIY jobs.

    With these power tools, there’s no need to worry about electrical cords getting in the way as cordless screwdrivers are powered by rechargeable batteries, usually lithium-ion.

    What are the features and benefits of cordless screwdrivers?

    One of the best features of cordless screwdrivers is they can be used for driving in or taking out screws from awkward and hard-to-reach places.

    Here are some benefits of owning a cordless screwdriver:

    • Energy efficient – compared to a hand-driven screwdriver, an electric screwdriver will save effort and energy, as well as wear and tear on hands.
    • Time efficient – it takes half the time to drive in a screw with an electric screwdriver compared to doing it manually, helping increase productivity.
    • Precision – a cordless screwdriver allows for more accurate and precise driving, mainly because of the torque and speed which can’t be achieved manually.
    • Versatility – because a cordless screwdriver includes a variety of bits, there’s no need to carry a whole set of manual screwdrivers.
    • Cost effective – it costs less to buy an electric screwdriver kit with a range of interchangeable bits than a range of manually-driven screwdrivers.

    What cordless screwdriver is best?

    When it comes to choosing the best cordless screwdriver for the job in hand, it can be a difficult choice with such a wide range of products available.

    Although the more powerful and larger devices are up to most jobs, they can also be quite impractical for light-duty tasks. They’re usually less versatile as they come with fewer multi-functional features.

    The power of a cordless screwdriver mostly depends on the voltage of its battery. The higher the voltage, the more powerful the tool will be – and often the more expensive. Usually higher voltage cordless screwdrivers weigh more than lower voltage ones, but if the tool is only for occasional use then its weight might not be an issue.

    The voltage of a cordless power tool is often printed on its battery or on the side of the tool itself.

    There are different aspects to take into account when choosing the best cordless screwdriver: the different types available on the market, their core features such as speed and torque power, and finally the application you are going to use them for.

    Generally, cordless screwdrivers range from 3 to 10.8 volts. Below are some of the most popular models of cordless screwdrivers and their uses:

    Cordless screwdriver types

    • Straight – a straight cordless screwdriver has a straight handle with a bit at the end and looks like a manual screwdriver.
    • Pistol – a pistol cordless screwdriver resembles a cordless drill, though is usually lighter, more compact and not as powerful.

    Straight cordless screwdriver

    Pistol cordless screwdriver

    • Variable – a variable cordless screwdriver combines the benefits of straight and pistol models. It can be held in a straight position or bent at a pivot point to create a pistol-style grip.
    • Simple electric screwdrivers – this standard type of electric screwdriver looks like a traditional screwdriver. It’s good for light tasks and small spaces, but often has only 3.6v or 4v of power, so isn’t great for tougher jobs.
    Variable cordless screwdriver

    Variable cordless screwdriver

    Simple cordless screwdriver

    • Impact screwdriver – a more powerful option is an impact driver, which is best for large screws or removing rusty or damaged screws.
    • Drill driver – this is a good option if you want a tool that drives screws but also drills. Drill drivers fit both drill bits and screwdriver bits, which could save money long term.
    Impact cordless screwdriver

    Impact cordless screwdriver

    Drill driver

    Drill driver

    What are the key features of cordless screwdrivers?

    Here are some of the key features of cordless screwdrivers which should be considered when choosing the right one for the job:

    • Speed – varying the screwdriver speed provides greater control and helps adapt to different materials and types of screw. Electric screwdrivers also come with reverse action to remove screws if needed.
    • Torque control – on electric screwdrivers it’s possible to change the rotating force (known as torque) for more control. Bigger, heavier screws often need more force behind them than smaller, lighter ones. Controlling the torque settings also helps get the screw heads flush with the surface being drilled.
    • Spindle lock – some cordless screwdrivers will lock the mechanism so you can use it as a manual tool.
    • Handle – it’s possible to get a better grip with a rubberised or soft handle – useful for tougher jobs or sweaty hands.
    • Cost– consider that the higher the battery’s voltage, the more expensive it’s likely to be, so it’s worth thinking about how the tool will be used in the future. A low-voltage tool may save money initially but could have problems in the long run when used for more heavy-duty tasks.
    • Additional features – some cordless screwdrivers come with accessories such as carry cases or a selection of screw bits, and some feature LED lights to help with working in dark conditions.

    What voltage is best?

    Light-duty jobs

    • Driving small screws into softer materials like softwood (such as pine or cedar), plastic and plasterboard is considered light duty and shouldn’t need much power. For light duties, a cordless screwdriver with a lower voltage such as 4v or less is sufficient.

    Light and heavy-duty jobs

    • Drilling small holes and driving small screws into hardwoods such as oak or walnut and ceramics is considered heavy duty and will require more power. For this type of work, go for a cordless screwdriver with a higher voltage of 7v or more.

    Can you use a cordless screwdriver as a drill?

    Both cordless screwdrivers and cordless drills can be used interchangeably, but each of these tools offer advantages and disadvantages. If considering using a cordless screwdriver instead of a cordless drill, here are a few things to know first:

    Cordless screwdrivers

    • Compact and lightweight
    • Low power compared to cordless drills
    • Perfect for small projects and assembling
    • Ideal for tasks which require a regular screwdriver
    • Great for slowly advancing screws and not stripping
    • Easily controllable
    • Typically less expensive than cordless drills

    Cordless drills

    • High powered
    • Designed for drilling holes in a variety of materials
    • Perfect for projects where high torque and speed are required
    • Heavier/bulkier power tools
    • More skill/effort to control
    • Highly versatile tool with many attachments that can be used
    • Usually cost more than cordless screwdrivers

    When to use a cordless screwdriver

    Cordless screwdrivers are lightweight and very easy to use. That means they’re ideal for smaller projects around the house, such as:

    • Removing a cabinet door
    • Replacing an outlet cover
    • Removing the battery cover on an item
    • Hanging a picture frame
    • Putting flat pack furniture together
    • Craft projects
    • Minor repairs

    When to use a cordless drill

    Cordless drills are versatile tools that are much more powerful than cordless screwdrivers, offering more speed and torque. Drills can be used around the house like screwdrivers, but they are best used for bigger tasks including:

    • Drilling holes in a variety of materials
    • Cutting a hole with a hole saw
    • Hanging dry wall

    So while it’s possible that a cordless screwdriver can be used as a drill, it’s better to do so only when carrying out light maintenance or DIY jobs which don’t require the speed and power of a drill.

    For a more detailed overview on cordless drills and drill bit sets, read our cordless drills guide

    Screwdriver bits

    Cordless screwdriver bits

    Each type of screwdriver needs the correct screwdriver bit. Listed below are some of the most commonly used bits:

    • Phillips – one of the most common, it has a cross shaped head.
    • Phillips tamper-resistant – these have the same size options and shape as the regular Phillips but also a tamper-resistant pin located in the centre.
    Phillips screw bit

    Phillips screw bit

    Phillips tamper-resistant screw bit

    Phillips tamper-resistant screw bit

    • Pozidriv – it looks similar to the Philips but has ribs between each of the four arms of the cross, helping increase the grip.
    • Torx – also called a star bit, this screw bit has a hexagonal shape.
    Pozidriv screw bit

    Pozidriv screw bit


    Torx screw bit

    • Torx plus – Torx plus is a relatively new screwdriver bit which allows for more torque to be applied, even if driving at very high speed.
    • Robertson (square) – this type of screw bit has a square tip.
    Torx plus screwdriver bit

    Torx plus screwdriver bit

    Robertson (square) screw bit

    Robertson (square) screw bit

    • Tri-wing – also known as triangular slotted, this screwdriver has three radial slots.
    • Spanner – spanner bits have two small identical round pins that fit into the holes on the spanner screw head.
    Tri-wing screw bit

    Tri-wing screw bit

    Spanner screw bit

    Spanner screw bit

    • Hex – they have the same hexagon shaped head as an allen key but are designed to fit into a drill to give access when working against obstacles that limit the use of an allen key.
    • Nutsetters – nutsetters have a hexagon shape similar to internal hex drives but the nutsetter bits fit over the screw rather than into it.
     Hex screw bit

    Hex screw bit

    Nutsetter screw bit

    Nutsetter screw bit

    • Drywall bits – essentially Phillips bits that have a metal ring near to the end.
    Drywall screw bit

    Drywall screw bit

    Product Spotlights

    Here are some of the most popular brands of Cordless Screwdrivers and Cordless Screwdriver Sets. Click through to view the full product range:

    Related links