It’s a tool we all own. No matter the skill level, income, or age, a screwdriver is a must-have tool. We use it for installing light switch covers, for tightening down license plate screws, and for adjusting carb jets, but we also use them as impromptu hammers, chisels, and punches. A good screwdriver needs to have strong tips, it needs to be comfortable in your hand, and it needs to hold up to everyday use. Many new manufacturers have jumped into the hand tool market, and as the most competitive segment in their respective fields, screwdrivers have become better than ever.
Value and quality are always two determining factors when purchasing tools, so we placed a $40.00 limit on this screwdriver set shootout. After purchasing 13 different sets, we began testing by removing and installing screws in a typical fashion (wood, plastic, and metal), we then proceeded to remove a stripped #2 Phillips screw with each #2 screwdriver in the sets, and we also removed a high-torqued Phillips and standard ¼-inch screw. Features, such as magnetic tips, shaft material, the ability to be used as a chisel, and if they were made in the USA were all evaluated. We then closely examined ergonomics, handle material, warranty, and of course, value. This was our most competitive test to date, and the winner surprised all of us.
Eastwood 70232 9-piece set
Well-known for their unique paint and body and automotive-specific tools, Eastwood recently launched their own line of handtools. Eastwood’s 9-piece set features comfortable, slip-resistant handles, magnetic tips, and a wrench shank for the larger drivers. With four Phillips and five slotted (both with stubbys), the set provides a good variety, while also offering a lifetime warranty. In addition, the screwdrivers have holes drilled through the handle for easy hanging on a pegboard, they have a pentagon shape at the base of the handle to prevent rolling, and they’re clearly identified on the end of the handle. During our testing, the Eastwood screwdrivers exceled in every category, with our only complaint being that they are made outside of the USA. For under $30, we’ve found the best set of screwdrivers you can buy.
Channellock SD-7CB 7-piece set
$36.99 (at www.summitracing.com) www.channellock.com
Another brand expanding their tool reach, Channellock’s new Code Blue line of screwdrivers is an excellent example of a company coming to market with a clean-slate design. The three-sided handle was a little odd at first, but we really came to love the ergonomics, which provided high-torque, comfort, and speed. The steel blade was carried through the handle for easy chiseling (though not manufacturer recommended), while the magnetic tips were strong enough to pick up a variety of fasteners. Quick and easy identification at the end of the handle was appreciated, as were the large 3/8-inch slotted and #3 Phillips drivers included. Strong, easy to use, and with a unique color scheme, you’ll quickly notice if one of your buddies “forgot to return one.”
Wera Tools 334/6 6-piece set
$30.47 (at www.amazon.com) www.weratools.com
A German company you may have never heard of, Wera Tools is a global leader in unique tools engineered to get the job done, while doing it comfortably and at a high level. A painless purchase at amazon.com, we had our 6-piece screwdriver set in a few days and quickly got to work testing them. Receiving high marks in all of the tests, it was the only Phillips screwdriver to receive an A++ rating in our stripped screw test. Using lasertips that “bite” into the screw head instead of trying to back out, the Phillips’ drivers are top-notch. In addition, the ergonomic handles were our favorites overall, and the set included an ingenious rack for a wall or tool cart. What dropped the Wera Kraftform screwdrivers to Third Place were the lack of magnetic tips, no lifetime warranty, and limited sizes. A quality tool, these are a serious upgrade from your average drivers.
Milwaukee Tools 48-22-2008 8-piece set
$29.97 (at www.homedepot.com) www.milwaukeetool.com
Keeping with the theme of tool manufacturers branching out into screwdrivers, Milwaukee’s latest tool venture is an 8-piece set with two ECX bit drivers, which combine a traditional slotted with a Phillips bit. These types of bits are commonly found on electrical outlets, wiring, and conduit, however, for use on a car or truck, they’re basically wasted drivers. That left us with six well-made drivers with metal caps for the large slotted units, as well as the included 12-gauge wire strippers for the Phillips drivers. The Milwaukee screwdrivers performed admirably in most tests and did include a lifetime warranty, but they lacked magnetic tips, weren't the most comfortable to hold, and were not made in the USA.
Pittsburgh Professional 94607 8-piece set
By far the best bang-for-the-buck was Pittsburgh Professional’s 8-piece set. With high-visibility handles that were both comfortable and easy to torque, along with magnetized tips, and chrome vanadium shanks— everyone was in agreement that spending less than $9.00 on these drivers was a no-brainer. Performing well in the stripped Phillips screw test, the drivers also received high marks for good variety of tools included. Made in China, the screwdrivers did have a lifetime warranty, but fell short on lack of chisel and overall features.
Northern Tool 2522041 7-piece set
Ordering the 7-piece set from northerntool.com, we had our drivers in a few days and were impressed with the intuitive stainless tool holder included. The go-through steel shank was also a helpful feature, as was the magnetic tip, and the lifetime warranty. The Northern screwdrivers handled the stripped Phillips screw with ease, while each of us thought $17.99 was a great value for seven pieces. In the end, we didn’t find the handles as comfortable as several of the top contenders and the tips didn’t feel quite as strong.
GearWrench 80050 6-piece set
$40.51 (at www.amazon.com) www.gearwrench.com
Taking aim at the professional end user, the GearWrench screwdrivers were the only set to include a much-appreciated blow-molded case for easy storage in a toolbox. The drivers featured hex-bolstered shanks for added torque, black-oxide non-slip and magnetic tips, and a comfortable grip. With the drivers in the case, the sizes are easily identifiable on the shank, but we did wish the size was also on the end of the handle. Spinning low torque fasteners quickly and easily, the “Speed Zone” at the base of the grip did come in handy. Our only issues with the GearWrench drivers was the $40.51 price point, no chisel feature, and the fact they’re made in Taiwan.
Kobalt 314631 8-piece set
Available at Lowes, the Kobalt 8-piece Pro screwdriver set features cushion-grip handles, magnetic tips, chrome-plated shanks, and a hassle-free lifetime warranty. Clearly marked at the end of the handle, it was easy to grab the right tool for the job, and one of our favorite things about this set is its diverse size lineup. Small precision drivers were also included in addition to the standard sizes. Our complaints with this lineup were the handle feel, no chisel, and again, that they are made in China.
Husky 74503 6-piece set
Made in the USA, Husky’s 6-piece cushion grip screwdriver set featured a lifetime warranty, comfortable grips, and were clearly marked at the end of the handle. We enjoyed using this set, but were disappointed with a sub-par performance during the Phillips torque test, lack of magnetic tips, and no chisel. For under $20, the Husky set does an adequate job of loosening and tightening fasteners, but there are better sets out there.
Craftsman Professional 49020 6-piece set
Finishing in 10th Place, the Craftsman Professional 6-piece set didn’t stand out in a crowd of over-achievers and proved that the competition is quickly surpassing the heralded brand. Despite the blades being made from high-strength alloy steel and the tips precision cut for tighter tolerances, the handles weren’t the best or the most comfortable. The handles slipped in our hand on several occasions, and we missed the magnetic tips. Clear markings at the end of the handles and hex bolstering on the larger drivers were appreciated but for a $30 price point, we couldn’t find a better home than 10th Place for the Craftsman Professional set.
DeWalt DWHT62513L 10-piece set
$19.97 (at www.homedepot.com) www.dewalt.com
DeWalt’s latest venture into the handtool world provides a comfortable grip, sandblasted magnetic tips for better fastener fit, and color-coded handles for quick tool selection. With those benefits, we still wished the set would’ve included a longer driver than the 4-inch ¼-inch tip driver that topped the spec list. We also prefer a true tool identifier rather than the color-coded setup, and there wasn’t any additional features that made the DeWalt set stand out.
Craftsman 31794 17-piece set
The largest set in the group came from Craftsman, and we appreciated the large Made in the USA sticker on the packaging, and lifetime warranty. Even with the impressive size lineup, the plastic handles weren’t the most comfortable, the bits didn’t fit the best in both the Phillips and slotted fasteners, and the #2 Phillips driver didn’t score well in the high-torque test. A lack of magnetic tips and additional features couldn’t overcome the large-scale value.
Pittsburgh 68868 12-piece set
For less than $8, Pittsburgh’s 12-piece set was the low-price leader in this test. It featured cushioned grips, a wide variety of sizes, including stubby and precision drivers, and hex bolsters on the larger drivers. Unfortunately, the grips were not as comfortable as we’d hoped for and the Phillips and slotted drivers struggled with the high-torque test—primarily due to the grips. With no size information anywhere on the driver, and the weakest magnetic tips in the group, this 12-piece set was outclassed.