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Buying guide for best cordless screwdrivers

Whether you’re an an DIYer or only handle quick fix-it jobs around the house, having the right tools makes all the difference. A screwdriver is definitely an essential item for any toolbox, but depending on what task you’re using it for, turning it it over and over to tighten or loosen a screw can be a real pain. A cordless screwdriver can be such a great addition to your workbench.

A cordless screwdriver has a motor, so it does all of the turning for you – but because it’s battery-operated, you don’t have to worry about the cord getting in the way. The only problem with cordless screwdrivers? There are so many on the market. Knowing how much power, what speed and clutch settings, bit types, and other features to look for can be a serious challenge.

On the hunt for a cordless screwdriver? Check out our top choices. For general advice on what to look for in a cordless screwdriver, our shopping guide has plenty of helpful hints.

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A cordless screwdriver can come in handy for something as simple as hanging artwork on a wall to projects as complicated as building a tool shed.

Cordless screwdriver benefits

  • Convenient

While there are some electrical screwdrivers with a cord, a cordless model means you don’t have to worry about being close to an outlet when you’re working on a project. You can also move around freely with the tool, which can come in handy for many projects.

  • Safe

Because there’s no cord, friends and family members aren’t in danger of tripping and falling when you’re working with a cordless screwdriver.

  • Portable

A cordless screwdriver is usually much easier to take with you on the go than a corded model, so you can easily work on projects just about anywhere.

  • Versatile

You can use a cordless screwdriver for a wide range of home projects, such as putting furniture together, installing a light fixture, or even larger projects like building a deck.

"If you find that your cordless screwdriver keeps slipping on the head of a screw, you’re probably not applying enough pressure to the tool. Place your free hand on the back portion of the screwdriver to provide an extra boost."

Cordless screwdriver types

  • Straight

A straight cordless screwdriver looks like a manual screwdriver – it has a straight handle with a bit at the end. You hold the opposite end just as you would a traditional screwdriver, so it usually fits easily into smaller spots. However, some users find a straight cordless screwdriver difficult to hold.

  • Pistol

A pistol-style cordless screwdriver resembles a cordless drill, though they are usually lighter, more compact, and don’t offer the same power. They have a handle that you grip, while the screwdriver section with the bit sits perpendicular. Pistol-style cordless screwdrivers are usually easier and more comfortable to hold than straight models, but they don’t fit as well in tight spaces.

  • Variable

A variable cordless screwdriver combines the benefits of straight and pistol models. You can hold the tool in a straight position, or bend it at a pivot point to create a pistol-style grip. Because you can adjust the tool, you can customize it depending on the project that you’re working on to choose the best position.

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Did you know?
Most cordless screwdrivers provide some type of warranty protection. Look for a model that offers at least two years to protect your investment.

Cordless screwdriver feature considerations


A cordless screwdriver’s most important feature is its voltage, which determines how powerful the tool is.

  • For basic, light- to medium-effort projects, a screwdriver that offers approximately 4V is usually sufficient.

  • If you need a tool to handle more difficult screwing jobs, look for a screwdriver that provides between 4V and 12V.

Clutch settings

A cordless screwdriver’s clutch settings refers to the different options for the amount of pressure, or torque, that it provides to screw or unscrew. If you use too much pressure, you can strip a screw’s head or snap it off entirely, so adjustability is important.The more clutch settings that a model offers, the more control you’ll have over the clutch for each project that you undertake, which allows you to work with even the smallest or most fragile screws.

Look for a cordless screwdriver that offers 20 or more clutch settings for the most control. It’s also a good idea to choose a model with an auto-stop clutch, which turns the screwdriver off once the clutch is no longer engaged, to prevent stripping the screw.


A cordless screwdriver’s speed rating indicates how many times the tool rotates per minute (rpm). You’ll get the most control if you buy a model with variable speed, control because you can adjust the speed based on the screw material. Choose a model that offers at last two speeds:

  • For light screwing tasks, a speed of approximately 180 to 300 rpm is usually sufficient.

  • For medium screwing tasks, a speed of approximately 300 to 800 rpm is usually sufficient.

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For your safety
If you’re using a cordless screwdriver on an unstable surface, don’t try to hold the item with your hand or against your body. Instead, use clamps to secure the item, so it’s as stable as possible.

Bit types

Most cordless screwdrivers include standard size flathead and Phillips screw bits. However, some models offer the bits in multiple sizes, which allows you to work on projects that involve screws in any size and shape combination. Other models only include a few bits, but you can purchase additional options individually if you find that you need them for certain projects.


Cordless screwdrivers usually feature either a lithium-ion (Li-ion) or a nickel-cadmium (NiCd or sometimes NiCad) battery. NiCD batteries are the classic option, but lithium-ion batteries are smaller and lighter, which usually makes for a more compact screwdriver. Lithium-ion batteries also tend to last longer, and don’t lose their ability to fully charge over time.

Whichever type of battery you choose, make sure it’s rechargeable. Some cheap cordless screwdrivers have batteries that can’t be replaced, so once the battery drains down, the tool is useless. Higher end cordless screwdriver may include multiple batteries, so you never have to worry about running out of power in the middle of a project.

Some lower end models actually use alkaline batteries, which don’t less as long and may not provide the same power as those with lithium-ion batteries. You’ll also have to buy replacements to make sure the device always has power.

Extra features

  • Spindle lock

Some cordless screwdrivers have a spindle lock feature. When the spindle is locked in place, you can use the tool manually, if necessary.

  • LED light

Because screwing often involves working in tight spaces, you may want to choose a cordless screwdriver with a built-in LED light at the end. It illuminates your work area, so you can see what you’re doing more easily.

Cordless screwdriver prices

The price of a cordless screwdriver can vary based on the battery type, how powerful it is, and how many clutch settings it offers. In most cases, though, you can expect to pay between $10 and $140.

  • Budget-friendly

A cordless screwdriver that runs on alkaline batteries and offers between 4V and 6V usually costs between $10 and $20. A cordless screwdriver that runs on a rechargeable lithium-ion battery and offers approximately 4V usually costs between $25 and $35.

  • Mid-range

A cordless screwdriver powered by a rechargeable lithium-ion battery and offers between 4V and 8V usually costs between $35 and $70.

  • Expensive

A cordless screwdriver with a rechargeable lithium-ion battery and offers between 8V and 12V usually costs between $70 and $140.

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For the most control, always hold a cordless screwdriver with your dominant hand.


Q. What’s the best weight for a cordless screwdriver?

A. Choosing a weight for a cordless screwdriver is mainly a matter of personal preference. There are models that weigh less than a half pound, and others that weigh over five pounds. Many people find lighter tools easier to handle, but it’s important to remember that lightweight models typically have smaller batteries. That means they don’t offer the same battery life as heavier models, so you’ll likely have to recharge them more often.

Q. What ergonomic features should I look for in a cordless screwdriver?

A. If you want a cordless screwdriver that’s comfortable to use, it’s important to choose a model with a soft rubber grip handle. It fits the contours of your hand, so it’s usually easier to hold. A cordless screwdriver with an adjustable handle can also make using the tool easier because you can choose a straight or pistol grip, depending on which option is most comfortable for the project that you’re working on.

Q. What does it mean for a cordless screwdriver to be sold as a “bare” tool?

A. While most cordless screwdrivers that run on a rechargeable battery include the battery and the charger along with the tool, some models do not. You have to purchase a battery and charger separately. Bare tools are less expensive, but you should factor in the expense of the battery and charger to determine the overall price of the screwdriver.

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