After digging around in the bottom of most toolboxes, you'll find a combination of things: a beat-up rusted hammer, a third-generation Crescent wrench, and a ratcheting screwdriver. The ever-popular “all-in-one” screwdriver makes perfect left-brain sense, as it's logical to think that a screwdriver with multiple bits will serve multiple functions. The problem with that logic is we never think about what happens to that screwdriver after we lose a couple of bits, or heaven-forbid, we misplace the entire driver with bits. A ratcheting screwdriver is meant to solve problems we've yet to encounter. Consider it the MacGyver of tools—ready and willing to install those taillights, remove that GM dash with Torx bits, loosen those pesky hose clamps, and defuse a bomb all, in a day's work.
We pose two questions: Do you need one and, if so, which one is best? To find out, we picked up seven of the most-popular ratcheting screwdrivers and put them through our testing protocol. Examining build quality, construction, ergonomics, bit storage, and torque quickly separated the contenders from the pretenders, but once we factored in price, warranty, and value, we had a clear-cut winner. Take a look at your toolbox, and if you could use an all-in-one ratcheting screwdriver, check out our winner.
1. Husky 55-Piece Ratcheting Screwdriver Set 395-977
It came as no shock to the testing team that Husky ran away with this competition. A simple glance at the specs will tell the tale: 55 total pieces, six different handle inserts that account for varied slotted, Phillips, security Torx bits, Metric sockets, SAE sockets, square bits, and Allen bits, lifetime warranty, and a price below $20. The ratcheting mechanism was solid and the set even includes a plastic case for easy storage.
2. Channellock 18 'N 1 Ratcheting Screwdriver 70154
$14.99 (at eastwood.com) channellock.com
Purchased on sale at Eastwood, the Channellock 18 'N 1 carries on superior ergonomics and strength found in other Channellock Code Blue screwdrivers—but it does so in one convenient driver. Six double-ended bits are stored in the handle and securely lock into the metal driver end. All-in-all, the Channellock was comfortable, easy to use, and a solid value.
3. Craftsman Ratcheting Magnetic Screwdriver With 25 Bits 47144
Everyone who tested the Craftsman ratcheting magnetic screwdriver raved about its precise ratcheting mechanism (one of the best in the test), however the handle only stores seven bits. The cap rotates, which reveals a slot that you can store your most-used bits in, but then you have to keep track of the external sleeve that stores the other 20 bits. Also, several sizes were duplicated, which should have been used to give a better variety of fasteners.
4. Kobalt 25-Piece 9¼-inch Ratcheting Multi-Bit Screwdriver 239446
The Kobalt handle swallowed up an amazing 21 bits, but they were all loose, and changing bits required dumping all of the stored bits out and sorting through them. We liked the variety, the clever storage pouch with belt clip, and the magnetic extension, but the ratcheting mechanism proved weak and unreliable.
5. Pittsburgh 34-Piece Ratcheting Screwdriver Set 94779
The absolute value leader, the Pittsburgh was comfortable, had a quality ratcheting mechanism, and it had a lifetime warranty, but the handle had zero storage. This meant all 28 bits had to be stored in external rubber cassettes, which adds to the list of things that could be misplaced. Also, we found the included sockets to not be true to size.
6. Stanley 25-piece Ratcheting Pistol Grip 63025
$19.97 (at Wal Mart) stanleytools.com
Available at most Wal Mart stores, the Stanley pistol grip screwdriver scored high on features, but low on ergonomics, handle storage, and warranty. The ability to rotate the handle into a pistol grip did increase torque, but we feel this screwdriver is better suited for home applications rather than automotive usage.
7. Milwaukee 10-in-1 Ratchet Multi-Bit Driver 22-2302
$16.97 (at Home Depot) milwaukeetool.com
A big disappointment in this shootout was Milwaukee's 10-in-1 multi-bit driver. Extra-long bits worked well in reaching screws, however when higher torque levels were placed on the driver, the ratcheting mechanism started slipping and going back and forth between tightening and loosening. Also, the area on the driver where you would typically grab with your secondary hand is the same location that switches forward and reverse, which causes accidental changes in direction.
8. Pittsburgh Multi-Angle Ratcheting Screwdriver 46801
Cleverly designed handle storage houses 12 bits in a revolver-style clip, which makes finding the right bit a simple task. What really hurt this driver was the adjustable handle that went from 0-60 degrees and was made from a combination of plastic and metal. The handle did not feel very secure, had too much play in it, and flexed quite a bit during high torque applications.