Cordless screwdriver purchasing advice: how to choose the right product

  • What you need to know
  • Cordless screwdrivers are popular tools for do-it-yourselfers and professionals alike, and can be used to insert and remove screws.
  • Cordless screwdrivers are particularly useful when, for example, numerous pieces of furniture have to be dismantled and reassembled due to a move.
  • There are different types of cordless screwdrivers for different purposes, such as cordless drill drivers, cordless screwdrivers, cordless impact screwdrivers and cordless impact drill drivers.
  • Which cordless screwdriver is suitable depends not only on the intended use, but also on specific device characteristics such as design, weight, charging time and battery power.

Cordless screwdrivers: popular with DIY enthusiasts and professionals alike

Regardless of whether a mirror needs to be hung, a shelf needs to be built or a skirting board needs to be fixed, there are always screws involved and they need to be screwed in. But at this point, opinions differ, because craftsmen are spoilt for choice: they can either tighten the screws by hand, i.e. manually, or with the help of a cordless screwdriver, i.e. automatically. Working with a conventional screwdriver is not only strenuous and tedious, but usually also very slow. Anyone who frequently disassembles or assembles furniture and the like should therefore buy a cordless screwdriver.

A cordless screwdriver is in fact a screwdriver that is powered by a rechargeable battery. While cordless screwdrivers were originally powered by nickel-cadmium batteries and then by nickel-metal hydride batteries, this has changed in recent years. In the meantime, these battery types, which can be described as obsolete, have been replaced by lithium-ion batteries. This has enabled manufacturers to improve the devices enormously, because disadvantages such as premature self-discharge or the so-called memory effect have been eliminated.

cordless screwdriver

The different types

Anyone who has already dealt with the topic of cordless screwdrivers superficially knows that, in addition to cordless screwdrivers, there are also cordless drill drivers and cordless impact screwdrivers as well as cordless impact drill drivers. These designations confuse many consumers because it is usually not clearly stated what the differences are between the various types of cordless screwdrivers and which cordless screwdriver is suitable for the respective application.

In the following, we will therefore discuss exactly how the devices differ and which type of cordless screwdriver is the right one for the job.

Cordless screwdriver

The devices commonly known as cordless screwdrivers are actually miniature screwdrivers. They only have a low torque, so they can be used for screwing but not for effective drilling. For this reason, simple cordless screwdrivers do not have a drill chuck. Instead, mini cordless screwdrivers have a magnetic bit holder that has a hexagonal socket for various bits, i.e. screw attachments.

cordless screwdriver lies on the side with screws

Mini screwdrivers score with their low weight and compact dimensions, which makes them ideal for screwing in places that are very difficult to reach. The lithium-ion battery is usually built into the housing. This means that it is not a replaceable plug-in attachment that is located in the handle of the cordless screwdriver. This has the disadvantage that users can only work with the mini screwdriver when the battery does not need to be charged.

Cordless drill

One of the most popular tools is the cordless drill. This is because it is a combination of a cordless screwdriver and a drill in one device. As a rule, cordless screwdrivers have a two-speed gearbox: while one, usually the slow gear, is used for screwing, the other, fast gear, is used for drilling.

To ensure that the cordless drill can be used for both drilling and screwing and can cope with the different types of screws, it is possible to equip it with different screw attachments. In addition, a cordless drill has a drill chuck. Drills of all common sizes can be clamped into this chuck.

High-quality cordless screwdrivers are equipped with a lithium-ion battery. If you are thinking about buying a cordless drill, you should choose one that has at least 10 to 15 volts of power, ideally even more. Cordless drill drivers with a lower power rating are by no means equivalent to conventional drills in terms of power.

Cordless impact wrench

A cordless impact wrench is also a cordless screwdriver, but with a higher output and more power. Not only does it have the ability to perform a normal rotary motion, but it also has an integrated impact mechanism to create a regular vibrating motion in the direction of the axis.

With the help of this rotary movement, it is possible to achieve a significantly higher torque. Screws and nuts can be tightened much more firmly and loosening them is also easier. As a rule, cordless impact wrenches contain high-quality and therefore powerful lithium-ion batteries.

Cordless impact drill

It is difficult to distinguish between a cordless impact drill and a conventional cordless drill. Just like an impact wrench, a cordless impact drill produces a pulsating force in the axial direction. The resulting pressure ensures that they can drill easily even into harder substances such as stone or concrete.

Since a cordless impact drill has an integrated speed control, it advances to a universally usable tool. With a cordless impact drill, it is possible to screw or drill into almost all common materials. Just like all other types of cordless screwdrivers, cordless impact drills are also equipped with lithium-ion batteries.

Which type of cordless screwdriver is suitable for which purpose?

If you have to deal with the above-mentioned cordless screwdriver types and numerous different manufacturers, you will quickly be overwhelmed. If the cordless screwdriver is needed for smaller, occasional jobs, a mini cordless screwdriver will suffice. The situation is different if the cordless screwdriver is to be used for professional work, because then consumers should consider a higher-quality model, preferably a cordless impact screwdriver or a cordless impact drill.

The following overview should clarify which type of cordless screwdriver is best suited for which purpose:

Cordless screwdriver
  • Suitable for: Beginners
  • Work: Screwing in plastic and wood
Cordless drill driver
  • Suitable for: Beginners and do-it-yourselfers
  • Working: Screwing and drilling in plastic and wood
Cordless impact screwdriver
  • Suitable for: Do-it-yourselfers and professional craftsmen
  • Work: Screwing in plastic, wood and metal; loosening and tightening nuts
Cordless impact drill
  • Suitable for: Do-it-yourselfers and professional craftsmen
  • Work: Screwing in plastic, wood and metal; drilling in wood, plastic, metal and concrete

What matters when buying

When buying a cordless screwdriver, it is important to consider various factors. Whether a very cheap cordless screwdriver from the supermarket is recommended, whether several batteries should be available and whether a drill chuck is needed – these are all questions that need to be answered on the basis of the following purchase criteria.

The battery

One of the most important criteria is the quality of the battery. This is important to ensure relaxed and, above all, continuous working. Forced breaks that have to be taken during the work process because of the battery generally cause stress.

For this reason, consumers should pay attention to the type of battery when buying a cordless screwdriver. Either a lithium-ion battery or a lithium-ion polymer battery is best. The two types of battery mentioned are convincing due to their low self-discharge and the fact that they do not have a memory effect, as is the case with the so-called NiMh batteries. In addition, the battery should be replaceable.

Battery capacity

Battery capacity is expressed in milliampere-hours or ampere-hours. If a battery has a capacity of two ampere-hours, for example, it can be used for two hours at a rate of one ampere per hour before the battery is empty.

In other words, the higher the capacity of the battery, the longer users can work with the cordless screwdriver. When screwing or unscrewing tight screws or drilling hard materials, more power is needed than when screwing or unscrewing less tight screws. Before buying a cordless screwdriver, consumers should therefore consider what kind of work it will primarily be used for and how much capacity is required.

The charging time of the battery

The charging time of the battery is especially important for models that do not have a replaceable battery. If it is very high, users will probably have to take forced breaks during longer work. For this reason, mini screwdrivers often come with a quick charger that allows the battery to be fully recharged in about 60 minutes.

The power

Basically, the power of a cordless screwdriver depends on three factors: the torque, the battery voltage (volts) and the idle time. The higher the voltage and the greater the torque, the more power the cordless screwdriver has. Accordingly, users can also use the cordless screwdriver for drilling or screwing in hard materials as well as for heavier screwing and unscrewing work.

man uses cordless driver

The chuck

The drill chuck of a cordless screwdriver determines the diameter of the attachments that can be used with the tool. Many cordless screwdrivers have a chuck that can be opened to a diameter of up to one centimetre. Even when a larger drill chuck span is required, some manufacturers of cordless screwdrivers can be found.

As a rule, the chuck can be easily opened with the help of a quick-release fastener, fitted with an attachment and tightened again. If bits are to be screwed in, a so-called bit holder is required. This is usually included in the scope of delivery.

The weight

The weight of cordless screwdrivers varies from type to type. While miniature screwdrivers are available with a weight of 200 grams, cordless impact drills often weigh two kilograms and more. When buying a cordless screwdriver, you should always make sure that it weighs as little as possible so that your arms and hands do not tire so quickly.


According to official specifications, a cordless screwdriver should not be louder than 80 decibels. This is not only relevant for the owner, but also for the people who are in the immediate vicinity. Cordless screwdrivers louder than 80 decibels can cause hearing damage.

LED lighting

LED lighting on cordless screwdrivers is undoubtedly helpful. Thanks to the lights, it is possible to work more precisely. Accordingly, anyone who has to work a lot in angled places or in dark areas should make sure that the cordless screwdriver has LED lights.

Ergonomics and handling

It is important that the tool lies well in the hand, has handles that are ergonomically shaped and ideally has a so-called soft-touch coating. In addition, the bits or attachments should be easy to change. If these criteria are met, the tool not only fits very well in the hand, but the risk of injury is also significantly reduced. Furthermore, the weight of the cordless screwdriver plays a decisive role in terms of ergonomics and handling.


Cordless screwdrivers can be equipped with more than just drilling and screwing attachments. There are also other accessories. Some manufacturers offer cordless screwdrivers that can be converted into gardening tools. This is child’s play when the tool is equipped with a shrub shear or grass attachment. There are also cordless screwdrivers with a corkscrew attachment, a barbecue blower attachment and a variety of other special attachments.

Tips for care and use

If you use the cordless screwdriver for screwing, there will be neither chips nor dust. Therefore, it is usually sufficient to wipe the cordless screwdriver with a lint-free dust cloth or a microfibre cloth. If you remove the dust residue, no dirt particles can get into the gearbox of the tool; thus, while working with the cordless screwdriver, the motor cannot overheat unnecessarily.

In addition, a cordless screwdriver should be given a basic cleaning at regular intervals. Ideally, you should use cleaning cloths, cleaning brushes and a hoover. If you have a cordless screwdriver with a drilling function and chip residue is produced during the drilling process, remove the residue from the cordless screwdriver. Clean the cooling slots with a hoover. If this is not done, dirt or dust particles may get into the interior of the appliance. Never use compressed air or a compressor to clean the cordless screwdriver, as it is possible that the particles will be blown even deeper into the interior of the cordless screwdriver.

Maintenance and care of the battery

If you charge the battery properly, you can prolong its life. In this respect, it is important to distinguish between the different rechargeable batteries:

Lithium-ion batteries

The battery should not be completely discharged, but it should also not have a full charge capacity permanently. In addition, lithium-ion batteries do not tolerate the full charging current – at least if the state of charge is not low enough. The battery should have a minimum charge level before using the cordless screwdriver. On the positive side, these battery types do not have a memory effect.

Nickel-cadmium batteries

This type of battery should be fully charged before first use. In addition, nickel-cadmium batteries should be fully discharged regularly so that the memory effect is avoided.


In general, rechargeable batteries can be damaged by overcharging. In other words: When the battery is fully charged, it should be removed from the power supply. This is especially important if the charger does not have a limit switch, which is often the case with low-priced devices.

Storing the cordless screwdriver

Once the work with the cordless screwdriver is done, store it ideally in a tool case in a dry place. It makes sense to store batteries that will not be used for a long period of time in a half-charged state. Also make sure that they are not stored in a place with extreme temperatures.

Image 1: © fefufoto / | Image 2: © Sebastian Wolf / | Image 3: © Wellnhofer Designs /