I currently own a cheapo corded drill and one of DeWalt's lower-end cordless screwdrivers. I want to buy a cordless drill because I am done with extension cords.

Most (good) cordless drills seem to be able to function as a screwdriver.

If I did buy a cordless drill, it would probably get a lot of use as a screwdriver. Probably more than it would as a drill.

Will the cordless drill be able to fill the same role as the screwdriver? Will I even need the screwdriver anymore? Are there any drawbacks to using the cordless drill as my primary power-screwing tool?

For what it's worth, I plan to get a DeWalt with a Lithium battery. I haven't decided on a specific model yet, though. (Brand/Model recommendations are welcome.)


6 Answers 6


The electric screwdriver can sometimes fit where a bulky drill cannot, e.g., electrical boxes. Apart from that, the drill is a fine screwdriver (assuming it has a clutch, of course, but I have never seen a battery-powered drill that does not).

Don't get rid of your corded drill. Battery-powered drills, especially the cheap ones, are not powerful enough for serious drilling such as a 5/8-inch hole through a 4x4 or any hole through metal.

  • 5
    The corder drill is also handy when your cordless drill dies with one screw/hole left in the project.
    – KeithB
    Aug 24, 2010 at 0:32
  • 6
    My 7 year old DeWalt 18v hammer drill can indeed drill a 5/8" hole through a 4x4, and pretty much any cordless drill can drill through any decent amount of metal these days. They're a lot more powerful than they used to be, and the batteries last a lot longer too. I'm just beginning to accept that batteries are powerful enough to power circular and reciprocating saws for extended periods of time.
    – nstenz
    Aug 24, 2010 at 23:11

Anything sold as a "screwdriver" should have a clutch in them so they won't strip the head of a screw, or can drive a screw to a set depth. (they basically just stop applying force after a fixed amount of torque)

Most screwdrivers will have a "drill" setting, which will lock it, preventing this "feature from engaging.

Drills, on the other hand, if they don't have this feature, you have to be careful when driving screws, or you can strip the head, or even tear the head clean off, both of which makes it more difficult to remove.

If you already have a decent power drill, and you're just looking at a screwdriver for occassional tasks (not like putting up sheets of drywall), and you're not driving things that need massive amounts of power, you might want to consider one of the 'quick charge' capacitor-based models. They can fully recharge in under a minute, but they're only good for a dozen or so screws per charge. If you're working in an area with power, it's enough to put up a few things, let it charge while prepping for the next part to be screwed down, etc.

  • 1
    ..or just use your drill and skip the electric screwdriver. Buy a set of manual screwdrivers that includes a few stubby ones, if you're concerned about fitting into tight spaces (about the only thing the smaller electric screwdriver does better than a drill), for the rare times it's needed.
    – gregmac
    Apr 16, 2011 at 4:56

You really need to make sure it states it has a screwdriver function, but yes it will effectively replace your cordless screwdriver.

A simple drill will carry on turning regardless whereas a screwdriver has a clutch that stops the bit turning if it meets too much resistance. This means you don't either burn out the motor or snap the head off the screw when you drive it home.

So while you could use a plain drill to drive in screws you would have to be very careful.

The drawbacks of cordless are:

  • they are £ for £ (or $ for $) lower power than the equivalent corded drill so that you have to pay more for the same drilling power.

  • you need to keep the battery packs in good condition.

  • you always run out of power half way through a job (or is that just me?), but this can be mitigated if you buy (or the drill comes with) a spare battery pack.


For what it's worth, I think the clutches on cordless drill/drivers are overrated. With a little practice, if you don't know already, you'll get the feel for slowing and stopping the driver as you're approaching a reasonable torque for the screw and material, just as you do with a regular hand screwdriver. Whenever I have tried using the clutch on my driver, say to speed things up if I'm driving a lot of screws at once, one of two things inevitably happens: 1) I hit a few soft spots in the material and strip out those holes, or 2) I mistrust my selected clutch setting and torque at least a few of the screws by hand. Each of these outcomes completely negates any speed advantage gained by blindly driving the screws until the clutch slips. I suppose this is more usage advice than purchasing advice since all cordless drill/drivers have clutches, so there's no need to seek it out if you want it.

Your choice of a Li-ion battery is a good one -- they're lighter than the equivalent nicad tools, they are more durable, and (my favorite benefit) they don't discharge over longer periods of disuse.


I use a DeWalt cordless hammer drill to drive screws most of the time, but it's big and heavy. Cordless screwdrivers have their uses as well, though- I use mine for attaching electrical equipment to boxes (light fixtures, switches, outlets), for example.

An DeWalt 18v lithium drill will work great. I'd go with that or a Milwaukee if I were looking for a new high quality piece. Even the really cheap stuff sold at Menards seems to work reasonably well these days.


What you reallllllly want is an impact driver... The one I use is a Makita 18V Impact driver... It will allow you to drive a 3 1/2" inch screw into wood without ever stripping the head. Preferably get a backup battery, but the battery lasts a real long time and takes about 20 minutes to charge.

Here's how it works ... every time it twists the screw it also pushes the bit forward... if the resistance is too great, the chuck will slip and the screw head will not be damaged... the screw head will not break off... I used a cordless drill with a chuck to try to drive screws for years and it was just an effort in frustration. Either the chuck would slip too much, or it would either strip the screw head or (very rarely) break it off...

You will wonder how you ever lived without it... (I have no affiliation with Makita, but I love their products...) https://www.amazon.com/Makita-XDT01-Lithium-Ion-Brushless-Cordless/product-reviews/B00NOVNDE2/ref=cm_cr_dp_see_all_btm?ie=UTF8&showViewpoints=1&sortBy=recent -- Mine is variable speed... this is 3 speed... seems like a 3 speed would be better... mine is a little tricky to control when I get a screw close to flush... It will be the best money you've ever spent if you do a lot of home projects...

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