If you’re looking to expand your power tool collection (or start one – check out our list of essential DIY tools) you might be looking for multitasking options. If that’s the case, you might think that you could skip the electric screwdriver and just get a drill.
However, while it’s true that a drill can be used as a screwdriver with the right bits (see our guide on drill bits), there are some big differences between these two tools. So, while you might be able to get away with just a drill if you rarely use either, you might want to invest in both. Here’s what you need to know in the great electric screwdriver vs drill debate.
Electric screwdrivers are specialist handheld machines used for driving and removing screws. They are lightweight, easy to control and cheap. Drills are capable of these tasks but are more cumbersome and expensive. But, drills are more well rounded and can fulfil many other purposes.
Very often, when you need to insert, tighten, or loosen a screw, it’s going to be in a hard-to-reach place.
Electric screwdrivers are designed to be compact, so they can get into those tight spaces. Many also have a swivel mounted chuck so you can angle the tool away from the bit while using it.
Drills are much bigger and bulkier, which makes them harder to use where space is a premium.
As an added bonus, and because they’re often used in dark corners, many electric screwdrivers have an LED light built in. This lets you not only get into those hard-to-reach corners but see what you are doing while you’re there!
Check out this video on how to use a screwdriver and drill:
Power and Torque Differences
Most cordless electric screwdrivers use between 4 and 10V and require a much smaller battery. Drills, on the other hand, use 12 to 18V batteries (for DIY models), or as much as 20 to 24V for industrial or commercial use.
The bigger batteries in power drills are used to drive bigger motors, which produce more torque. That’s great for drilling, but when you’re using a drill to tighten or loosen screws, it could also cause you to strip or damage the screw. See 12 unique ways to remove a stripped screw. So, in the electric screwdriver versus drill battle, more power and more torque isn’t always a good thing!
On the other hand, if a screw has already been stripped, a power drill can be used to remove it, whereas the much smaller motor on the screwdriver might struggle with that sort of punishment.
Easier to Control
Another big factor related to the power of the motor in a screwdriver versus a drill, and the torque they produce is that screwdrivers are much easier to control. This makes them easier to use for people who aren’t used to using power tools, or who might not have the arm or hand strength to use a drill.
Often, when you are using an electric screwdriver, you will be working at odd angles. You might need to tighten or loosen several screws overhead, or in similarly awkward positions.
Since your average electric screwdriver weighs between 1 and 3 pounds, that’s not too hard on your arms. But the average electric drill weighs anything from 3 ½ to 10 pounds. Using that on a dozen or more screws above your head or in another awkward location is not going to be comfortable at all.
Another big difference between electric screwdrivers and drills is that many screwdrivers (especially lower end models) don’t have removable batteries. Instead of removing the battery to charge, you charge the whole unit. That means that when the battery runs out, you can’t switch it out for a spare.
There are larger and usually more expensive models of electric screwdriver that do have removable batteries. If you plan to use this tool a lot, choose one of those, and get a couple of spare batteries. That way you can always have at least one charged up and ready to go when you need it. Note: most power tool brands will have universal batteries so you can interchange them between tools. Check out this article on who owns all these brands (hint: it’s not what you expect!).
Electric drills are available in corded, and battery powered options. The former is great if you will be using your drill where you have a reliable power source (and will never run out of batteries!) but the latter is great for portability on job sites that don’t have power.
Electric screwdrivers and drills actually cost roughly the same, when you’re looking at the lower end of the scale. You can pick up a decent entry level tool in each category for around $25 or $30, but higher end and commercial grade tools are likely to cost a lot more.
A good electric screwdriver can cost over $100, and a really good cordless electric drill can cost $200 or more. Power tool prices do usually indicate quality though, so if you can afford to spend a little more on either of these tools, you’re likely to get one that is more powerful and has more bells and whistles!
Which One Should You Get?
If you aren’t going to be tightening or loosening a lot of screws, you can get away with a drill and a set of screwdriver bits. However, if you’re going to use it more than occasionally, or you think you might need to use it in tight spaces, an electric screwdriver is a good investment.
Some power tools can sub in for each other in a pinch, but if you are going to use them more than occasionally, it’s always a better idea to get the right one for the job!