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Can an Electric Screwdriver Drill Holes?

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A lot of people wonder whether they can ditch their drills and use handheld electric screwdrivers instead. After all, wouldn’t it be great if you could drill all the holes you needed with something much smaller and that takes up less space?

Can electric screwdrivers drill holes?

Unfortunately, electric screwdrivers aren’t an ideal replacement for drills because they spin at lower RPMs.

They can drill small holes in things like drywall that offer little resistance, but you wouldn’t want to try drilling holes in thick wood, brick, or cement with an electric screwdriver.

However, if you’re only drilling holes in your compound board walls to hang pictures or install a lightweight item, then you should be OK with an electric screwdriver.

Workers hand with electric screwdriver screwing a screw into wooden board

Some electric screwdrivers have drill settings that spin faster. If yours doesn’t have such a faster spinning option, avoid using it to drill holes.

Let’s take a look at some of the main differences between a drill and an electric screwdriver to help you decide whether you can get by without a drill.

It Depends on What You’re Drilling

Worker using the electric screwdriver

As mentioned, electric screwdrivers can drill small holes in drywall, but they won’t do well in much else. These are not designed to drill, but to make screwing things much more manageable.

Electric screwdrivers give much more torque at slow speeds. They’re designed to tighten screws and remove screws that have been in place for years or decades and might not be easy to get out by hand.

If you try to drill a large hole or screw into a wooden plank, there’s a good chance your screwdriver will jump and strip the screw.

Stripping a screw is when your screwdriver eliminates the slots in the head of the screw, making it almost impossible to get out once it’s in. You also have a good chance of screwing something in halfway, then getting stuck in the middle before the hole is finished.

Again, an electric screwdriver should do the trick if you’re drilling holes to hang pictures or want to install something lightweight on your drywall. However, people should stick to faster and more powerful drills for heavy-duty drilling jobs.

The Differences Between an Electric Screwdriver and a Drill

Handheld electric screwdrivers look like mini drills. They have battery attachments or are powered with a plug. You can hold them comfortably in your hand while you put together cabinets or tighten screws on your dining room chairs.

If you’re about to put together some IKEA furniture in your new home, an electric screwdriver will save you tons of time and muscle.

However, the shape and power of the electric screwdriver makes some people wonder whether they can skip buying a drill and use the screwdriver instead. These tools, however, are different. So, let’s take a look at some of the main differences between an electric screwdriver and a drill.


screwdriver set with bits on wooden background

The bits that come with an electric screwdriver differ from what comes with a new drill. The typical screwdriver will have interchangeable Phillips or flathead bits. It’s rare to find an electric screwdriver with any drilling bits for serious drilling jobs.


Your average drill will have a chuck that opens and closes firmly around bits once they’re in. However, an electric screwdriver will have a slot that holds the screw bits.

The difference in chucks is one of the main reasons why electric screwdrivers shouldn’t replace drills.

The bits don’t hold as firmly in place, and it’s much harder to drill at angles with a screwdriver.


Construction worker using electrical screwdriver

Electric screwdrivers are usually much smaller than your average drill. They also take less time to charge and can go longer on a single battery.

These reasons are often why so many people ask whether they can use an electric screwdriver to drill holes. They’d rather not have to buy a bulky drill when they already have an electric screwdriver.


In addition, electric screwdrivers usually cost a good deal less than a household drill. The lower price is another reason people wonder whether they can use them to drill holes.

The Benefits of Electric Screwdrivers

Unfortunately, every day, someone trying to put together a bed or unscrew something in their car engine gets frustrated by screws that are stubborn to unscrew by hand. Electric screwdrivers are a convenient tool when you’re not trying to drill holes in brick.

When you try to force something with a manual screwdriver, it’s easy to strip the head of the screw, which makes it even more challenging to get out. With an electric screwdriver, you can save your screws and your forearms because the tool does all the work for you.

Another benefit of electric screwdrivers is that a single charge lasts a long time. There is much less anxiety around running out of battery when working around the house because the screwdriver doesn’t spin around as fast as a drill. Even if you need to carry an extra battery, it takes up less space and will last longer.

man holding electric screwdriver

Buying a Drill vs. an Electric Screwdriver

Now, knowing what you know, which is best for you? Usually, most people will be better off with a drill, especially if you can only pick one.

Stretching your electric screwdriver too far could break it, and you’ll wish you had used a drill instead.

If you’re getting started with your tool kit, pick a reliable cordless drill that comes with screwdriver bits. It takes a little extra work, but you can drill and screw things in and out with relative ease.

The only thing you need to be careful of is avoiding damaging the screw heads. The RPM of the drill makes it easier for the bit to jump, which can strip the screw.

If you’re comfortable with your drill but find that you’re constantly stripping screws or screwing things in a lot, then you may want to buy an electric screwdriver to tighten cabinets or make a coffee table. The slow movement and higher torque will help you get the job done quickly.


Save yourself some heartache over a broken electric screwdriver by not using it to drill holes. Sure, it will work for light-duty jobs, but you could break the tool if you push it too far. So instead, use only drills to make holes with the appropriate bits.


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