Wondering if you need a drill or an electric screwdriver? Learn the differences, uses for each, and which to buy in this side-by-side comparison.
Deciding between a drill and an electric screwdriver can be confusing because they appear to have similar functions. So, what are the differences between them? Which one is better for making holes? And which one is right for your project? In this article, we’ll explore their uses, pros and cons, and differences and help you decide which is best for you.
Table of Contents
- What is an Electric Screwdriver?
- What is a Drill?
- What’s the Difference Between a Drill and an Electric Screwdriver?
- Should I Buy an Electric Screwdriver or a Drill?
- Frequently Asked Questions
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What is an Electric Screwdriver?
An electric screwdriver, also called a cordless or power screwdriver, is a handheld, battery-powered tool that drives screws into various materials.
Cordless screwdrivers help you drive screws faster and won’t tire out your arm like a traditional screwdriver.
Their small, lightweight design makes them ideal for reaching into tight spaces or for anyone who lacks the gripping strength to turn a manual screwdriver or hold onto a larger electric drill.
Power screwdrivers have a forward/reverse switch that changes the direction of rotation, so you can use it to drive or remove screws.
You can use various bits with it, like flathead, Phillips, square, Torx, and more. An electric screwdriver’s bit holder, also known as a chuck, is actually a collet, a band or sleeve that fits snugly around the bit to hold it in place. Electric screwdrivers only accept 1/4-inch hexagonal bits.
When power screwdrivers first made their debut, most ran on AA batteries that had to be replaced often. Modern electric screwdrivers have come a long way. They now feature batteries that are either recharged directly in the driver or removable batteries that you can take out and charge in a charging station.
The cost of an electric screwdriver varies depending on the quality and the features it offers. You can find some for as low as $30, while others may cost upwards of $100.
If you’re on a budget, a driver with a permanently installed battery is usually cheaper; however, you’ll have to stop working every so often to recharge. On the other hand, drivers with replaceable batteries are generally more expensive but allow you to swap in a second battery and continue working while you’re dead battery recharges.
When comparing batteries, you’ll notice voltage (V) ratings and ampere-hour or amp-hour (Ah) ratings. The voltage rating measures how much power the battery can provide, which controls the speed and twisting force, known as torque. A low-voltage battery will spin more slowly and have less rotational force than a higher-voltage battery which will turn faster and provide more torque.
The amp-hour rating measures how much energy a battery can provide for one hour, or in other words, how long the battery can last before needing to be recharged. The higher the rating, the longer it will run before needing a charge.
Electric screwdrivers are generally offered with battery voltage that ranges from four to ten volts and an amp-hour rating of around 1.5.
Torque settings are available on some models, which allow you to tailor the power to better suit the material and screw size.
What is an Electric Screwdriver Used For?
You can use electric screwdrivers for many repair and assembly tasks that typically require a manual screwdriver.
An electric screwdriver provides more power and torque than a manual one, allowing you to drive screws faster and with less effort.
Electric screwdrivers are ideal for smaller projects. Their low torque makes them an excellent choice for delicate tasks requiring precision, such as assembling furniture or toys, hanging blinds, installing new cabinet hardware, tightening a loose cabinet door hinge, and more.
They are also great for working in tight spaces because their compact size can fit into even the smallest hard-to-reach areas. However, electric screwdrivers aren’t very powerful and can’t handle tough jobs like driving long screws.
Can an electric screwdriver be used as a drill?
If you’re in a bind, an electric screwdriver can be used as a drill to make pilot holes in wood, plastic, and soft metals like aluminum. Pilot holes are small holes that create an entry point for screws or larger drill bits. However, power screwdrivers only accept hex-shaped bits and many drill bits are round.
Related: 14 Types of Wood Drill Bits (Which to Use & Why)
They also spin much slower than drills, so making holes with an electric screwdriver may be challenging.
If you frequently need to make holes, especially large ones, then a drill is almost always the better choice. They are more powerful and spin faster than cordless screwdrivers, allowing them to create holes more effectively.
Cordless Electric Screwdriver Pros and Cons
- Faster, takes less effort, and has more torque than a manual screwdriver
- Compact size is ideal for reaching tight spaces
- Excellent for delicate projects that require precision
- Lightweight design is perfect for anyone who lacks the strength to hold onto a larger drill
- Has rechargeable batteries for convenience
- Only accepts 1/4-inch hexagonal bits
- Not powerful enough for heavy-duty jobs
- Limited torque compared to electric drills
What is a Drill?
An electric drill, also known as a power drill and drill driver, is a handheld tool that uses an electric motor to rotate a replaceable bit.
Drills have a chuck with adjustable jaws that allow you to switch between bits of various shapes and sizes easily. So whether your project requires a hex or a round bit, a drill has you covered.
Additionally, drills have a switch for changing the direction of the rotation and settings for speed and torque.
With a flip of the forward/reverse switch, you can change the direction of your drill’s rotation which is useful for driving or removing screws and bolts.
The speed setting regulates how quickly or slowly the drill turns, allowing you to go as fast or slow as needed. High speed is typically used for drilling, while low speed is used for driving fasteners.
The amount of torque a drill generates is adjustable. Most models have a clutch or torque setting that lets you fine-tune the amount of rotational force exerted by the electric motor.
When the clutch reaches the designated setting, the motor stops applying force to the bit, which prevents screws from being over-tightened and reduces the chances of stripping the screw’s head. Stripping a screw means the head has been damaged and turning it’s no longer possible.
Unlike electric screwdrivers, drills are available in either corded (plugged into an electrical outlet) or cordless (powered by a battery).
Corded drills provide more power and torque than cordless models but are limited by the length of their cords.
Cordless drills offer more convenience, as you won’t need to move around a cord whenever you change locations; however, the battery’s charge limits the time you can work.
High-voltage lithium-ion batteries usually power cordless drills with voltages ranging from 14V to 24V and amp-hour ratings ranging from 1.5 to 5.0Ah.
A battery with a higher voltage will spin more quickly and provide more torque than a lower-voltage one, so if you need a powerful tool that can handle tough jobs, look for a drill with a higher-voltage battery. And the higher the amp-hour rating, the longer it will run before needing a charge.
The cost of a power drill varies depending on the type and quality. Lower-end models can be found for as little as $50, while higher-end professional-grade models can cost upwards of $200 or more.
What is a Drill Used For?
Drills are versatile tools designed to handle tough jobs, making them ideal for heavier-duty carpentry, woodworking, and home improvement projects that require driving fasteners and drilling holes.
Commonly, drills are used to drive screws or bolts into wood or metal using driver bits like flathead, Phillips, square, star-shaped, etc.
Occasionally drills may bog down or stall when driving long or large screws. In those cases, an impact driver may be a better option. An impact driver is similar to a drill but uses a hammering action to drive fasteners with more force.
Related: Impact Driver vs Drill (Which to Use & Why)
Drills are the go-to tool for drilling holes of almost any size into most surfaces, such as drywall, softwood, hardwood, metal, or plastic. With the right bit, you can make:
- Countersink holes to create a starting point for screws
- Large holes for plumbing using a hole saw
- Holes in studs for electrical work using a spade bit
- Holes for woodworking projects using a Forstner bit
However, drilling holes in materials like concrete and brick requires a hammer drill and special drill bits. A hammer drill operates similarly to an impact driver but is designed for making holes instead of driving screws or bolts.
You can use a drill for more than driving fasteners and making holes. It can also be used with accessories like rotary sanders, wire-wheel brushes, right-angle attachments, flexible drive shafts, and more.
Drill Pros and Cons
- More powerful than electric screwdrivers
- Can handle heavier-duty tasks such as drilling large holes or driving long screws
- Accepts bits of various shapes and sizes, from round to hexagonal
- Available in both corded and cordless models
- Settings for speed and torque
- More expensive than electric screwdrivers
- Heavier and bulkier than electric screwdrivers
- Corded models are limited by their cord length
- Battery-powered models have a limited runtime
What’s the Difference Between a Drill and an Electric Screwdriver?
Now that we’ve discussed electric screwdrivers and drills let’s look at how they differ.
Speed and Torque
The key difference between an electric screwdriver and a drill is their speed, and the amount of torque or turning force each tool can generate. Power screwdrivers are slow-turning, low-torque tools, while drills spin faster and generate significantly more rotational force.
The difference lies in their battery’s voltage. The voltage rating measures how much power the battery can provide, directly impacting the tool’s speed and twisting force. A low-voltage battery will spin more slowly with less rotational force than a high-voltage battery, which turns faster and has more torque.
Electric screwdrivers generally have battery voltages ranging from 4 to 10 volts, while drills range from 14 to 24 volts.
I like to think of an electric screwdriver as an alternative to a manual screwdriver. It’s excellent for light-duty jobs that require precision or delicacy, such as assembling furniture, hanging window treatments, and putting together small toys.
On the other hand, drills are more powerful, making them better suited for heavier-duty jobs such as drilling large holes or driving long screws into hard materials.
Another difference between electric screwdrivers and drills is their chuck, which is the part of the tool that holds the bit. Electric screwdrivers have a collet that only accepts 1/4-inch hex shank bits, while drills have a chuck with adjustable jaws that can grip either hexagonal or round bits.
Size and Weight
The most obvious difference you’ll notice between a drill and a power screwdriver is their size. Electric screwdrivers are typically much smaller, lighter, and more compact than a drill, making them convenient to use in hard-to-reach places or for extended periods.
Drills are bigger and heavier, making them tricky to maneuver in tight spots. Plus, their size and weight may be a drawback for people with issues like carpal tunnel syndrome or arthritis.
Electric screwdrivers are typically less expensive than drills ranging from $30 to $100, while drills can cost anywhere from $50 to more than $200, depending on the type and quality of the tool.
When it comes to versatility, drills are the clear winner. Not only do they accept round and hex bits, but they can also make various size holes and drive fasteners. Plus, they’re compatible with other accessories, such as scrubbing brushes, socket drivers, and more.
An electric screwdriver can be a great addition to your toolbox; however, they only accept hex bits and are primarily used for driving and removing screws.
Should I Buy an Electric Screwdriver or a Drill?
When deciding between an electric screwdriver and a drill, consider your budget, what projects you plan to do, and how often you plan to use it.
I recommend an electric screwdriver if you need a tool that will fit into small spaces or tackle light-duty household tasks like assembling store-bought furniture or hanging blinds. It’s affordable, easy to use, and can easily handle small jobs.
On the other hand, a drill is the way to go if you want to take on bigger projects like drilling large holes or driving screws into hard materials. It’s more powerful and offers more versatility than an power screwdriver. Plus, you can use it with accessories like right-angle attachments, flexible drive shafts, and more.
At the end of the day, electric screwdrivers are great for light-duty tasks, while drills are better suited for heavier-duty jobs. So, consider which type of project you’ll do most often and choose the best tool for the job.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is an electric screwdriver the same as a drill?
No, electric screwdrivers and drills are not the same. Electric screwdrivers are smaller and lighter than drills and typically only used to drive screws. Drills are larger, heavier, and more powerful, making them better suited for drilling holes or driving large screws.
Which is better a power screwdriver or a drill?
The better tool, a power screwdriver or a drill depends on the job. Power screwdrivers are better suited for light-duty tasks such as assembling store-bought furniture or installing blinds, while drills are better for heavier-duty jobs like drilling holes in hard surfaces and driving screws into lumber.
Electric screwdrivers and drills are useful tools, but they’re not interchangeable. When deciding between them, consider your budget, the type of job you need to do, and how often you plan to use it.
Electric screwdrivers are excellent for light-duty tasks, while drills are better suited for heavier-duty projects like making large holes. Whichever tool you choose, make sure it meets your needs so you can work smarter and get the job done right!
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