Top 8 Socket Sets
By | Last updated: June 13, 2022

We’ve covered mechanic’s sets in the past but, in this updated post, we are going to focus on dedicated socket sets. That means no sets with piece-count padders like Allen keys in an obscure size or that one tool that only serves to remove the Färhfvingenator on your clapped-out Volkswagen.

If you disagree with our picks or have a favorite you’d like to add, be sure to toss it in the comment section. We’re always up for suggestions from the B&B. Now, block off some time this weekend and get wrenching!

1. Editor’s Pick: DeWalt Impact Socket Set, 3/8" Drive Metric/SAE: 23 Pieces

There’s a reason your author started both this a DeWalt product: they simply work exceptionally well. We’ve all had experiences with ratchets that have worse teeth than your average British person in the 1970s, with said ratchets refusing to permit even an ample quarter turn when trying to work in tight spaces.

All the sockets included in this set are shallower than your average TikTok socialite, so you’ll need to look elsewhere if you want deep sockets. However, these are impact-grade six-point units that include both metric and standard measures (don’t lose that 10mm!). A single 3/8-inch drive ratchet is included.

Pros/Top-notch ratings, impact quality
Cons/No deep sockets
Bottom Line/A solid set of shallow sockets

2. Neiko 3/8-Inch Drive Impact Socket Set: 44 Pieces

Nei-who? Neiko, apparently. This never-heard-of-em brand of sockets is all over Amazon, garnering mostly positive reviews (and, yes, we read them before recommending something here on TTAC). This is so-called Master Set has 44 pieces and includes both deep and shallow sockets.

Made of heat-treated material and robust enough to warrant approval for use with an impact gun, these six-point sockets are made of heavy-duty drop-forged premium chrome vanadium steel to resist corrosion and absorb extreme levels of torque changes. Big markers mean even you can see what size they are, old-timer.

Pros/Wide variety of sockets, AARP lettering
Cons/Reports of a cheap case
Bottom Line/Organize these sockets in your own toolbox

3. Milwaukee 1/4" Drive Ratcheting Socket Set: 50 Pieces

The city of Milwaukee is famous for a couple of things – beer and tools not being the least of them. While some of their products are made overseas, the company has recently invested nearly $50 million into American production facilities.

This set is aimed squarely at the lighter duty jobs, or at least ones that require a modicum of finesse. All the sockets here are 1/4-inch drive, a size which comes in handy depending on the job. Like many others on this list, metric and standard measures are included but deep sockets pop up here as well.

Pros/Includes a couple of extensions and a ratchet
Cons/Frightening lack of reviews on this particular item
Bottom Line/Read the other Milwaukee reviews

4. WORKPRO 3/8" Drive Socket Set: 39 Pieces

If all you’re looking for is a basic set to see you through a couple of light repairs, one could do worse than this particular off-brand set. Absent of piece-padding Allen keys or screwdriver bits, this just-the-facts socket set is a decent selection for beginners.

They’re all shallow sockets, ranging in size from 5/32″ and 4mm to 1/2″ and 13mm. While the included screwdriver-type handle looks cheaper than chips, the ratchet handle is said to be of good quality. It also comes with a very basic blow-molded case.

Pros/That price
Cons/Not many socket sizes
Bottom Line/Your First SetTM

5. Bosch 3/8-Inch Deep Well Socket Set: 8 Pieces

Bosch seems to lend its name to nearly every product on the planet. Witness its brand popping up on items as varied as underhood car components and your author’s set of stainless steel kitchen appliances. I made a tasty baked pasta dish in a Bosch-branded oven just last night.

They’re in the socket same too, apparently, with this 8 piece set of stout deep well sockets that are fit for consumption by impact guns. Fitting a 1/2-inch drive, not included, these standard-sized sockets range from 7/16″ to 15/16″. The nearly 100 product ratings from real-world customers are overwhelmingly positive.

Pros/4.9 out of 5-star rating, der Bosch name
Cons/Costly for eight sockets
Bottom Line/It seems that one gets what they pay for

6. Spurtar 1/2" Drive Extractor Socket Tool Set: 5 Pieces

Can’t get your nuts off? Us, either. Immature jokes aside, we’ve all tried to remove damaged bolts and fasteners at some point in our gearhead lives. Wailing on them with a torque wrench, called The Persuader around these parts, rarely helps. And melting the things off with fire is satisfying but can leave long term scars on both yourself and your car.

Enter these products which purport to grip and bite into damaged fasteners like an angry dog on the postman’s leg. This set is built for big nuts, as the Spurtar twist sockets set includes 17mm to 22mm units plus a drift punch nut removal bar. All of these things are designed for general automotive applications.

Pros/The satisfaction of removing a stubborn bolt
Cons/Only four sockets here
Bottom Line/Your sanity is worth 20 bucks

7. TACKLIFE 1/2" Drive Impact Socket Set: 18 pieces

In a confession that will totally give away my rural Canadian upbringing, Tacks were always a good set of CCM hockey skates. Add the suffix ‘Life’, however, and one apparently ends up with a set of hearty sockets ready to take the abuse of an impact wrench. They’re deep-welled and a full 95% of over 5000 customers gave this set a 4 or 5-star rating

Offered in either standard or metric – but you’ll have to choose unless you want to buy both – these sockets are a six-point design that enlarges surface contact and prevents the rounding off of bolt heads. The metric set comes with one extra socket because that’s the system you should be using – here’s lookin’ at you, America.

Pros/Stellar reviews, markings etched with freakin' lasers
Cons/You gotta choose between inches and millimeters
Bottom Line/Stop whining and get both sets

8. Sealey Impact Socket Set: 16 Pieces

Here’s a metric-only socket set (ducks the swooping bald eagle) that comes highly recommended by real-world customers who plunked down a not-insignificant amount of money for sixteen sockets, all of which accept a 1/2-inch drive.

Though it is not readily apparent in the ad, one respondent was good enough to list the socket sizes that are included in this kit. Apparently, they go all the way from the always-lost 10mm up to a staggering 32mm. The latter is reserved for brutish farm equipment or that infernal anode rod in the camper’s hot water tank.

Pros/Great variety of sizes
Cons/No ratchet included
Bottom Line/Lots of kudos from customers


Which brand is the best for socket sets?

Some reputed brands that are best known for manufacturing quality sockets are:

Known for impact sockets.

Known for general-purpose sockets.

Known for professional-grade tools.

What are the strongest sockets?

Impact sockets are considered to be the strongest because of the following two characteristics:

  • Material

Impact sockets are made of chrome-molybdenum that is a steel alloy with increased ductility. Because of this, the impact sockets can handle more vibrations and torque without getting shattered. However, since chrome-molybdenum is costlier than chrome-vanadium (used in manufacturing regular sockets), the impact sockets are expensive and are considered to be of premium grade.

  • Locking

Impact sockets have a locking pin at the drive end that is used to lock them so they don’t come off because of vibrations. This is something that is not available in regular sockets.

You Should Also Know

When it comes to distinguishing between regular and impact sockets, the following points help you with the process:

  • Color

Because the surface of impact sockets is carbonized to make them hard so they can handle abrupt torque fluctuations, they are black in color. With that said, this difference in color helps you in identifying impact sockets easily and quickly.

  • Application

You need impact wrenches and drivers to work with impact sockets as they can handle more pressure than the regular ones. Simply put, impact sockets are manufactured in a way that the material can easily take and absorb vibration that could be caused due impact wrenches.

What is the best material for a socket set?

The best material for a socket is chrome-molybdenum which is a type of steel alloy. Although the products made of this element are costlier than the standard ones, they offer more durability. That is why chrome-molybdenum is mostly used to make impact sockets that are less prone to shattering due to high ductility.

Furthermore, the sockets made of chrome-molybdenum (usually impact sockets as discussed earlier) can bear more vibrations and higher torque without getting damaged.

Additional Info

Although there is another material called Chrome Vanadium Molybdenum or CVM that, as the name suggests, has molybdenum in it and is mainly used in manufacturing screwdriver bits that can work with impact products.

What socket sets do mechanics use?

Even though the mechanics may have their preferences when it comes to selecting socket sets, some that most professionals appreciate are listed below:

  • Stanley Drive Socket Set (123 pcs.) (Buy here!)

These are made of chrome vanadium steel and are corrosion-resistant. Now, you don’t have to confuse these with impact sockets merely because of their dark color as they are not carbonized but have a coating of black polish that is applied to them.

This socket set is present under the Amazon’s Choice category. The sockets are made of chrome vanadium and are shipped in a quality case to enable convenient and strong storage. These are available in both Metric and English size sockets.

  • Tekton Drive Socket Set (45 pcs.) (Buy here!)

This set is from one of the most admired companies and therefore is a bit costlier than others. Because of this reason, some professionals avoid using these sockets, unless the service station they work for makes them mandatory. As with the above two, even these sockets are made of chrome vanadium steel.

From time to time, TTAC will highlight automotive products we think may be of interest to our community. Plus, posts like this help to keep the lights on around here. Learn more about how this works.

(Editor’s note: This post is meant to both help you be an informed shopper for automotive products but also to pay for our ‘90s sedan shopping habits operating expenses. Some of you don’t find these posts fun, but they help pay for Junkyard Finds, Rare Rides, Rental Reviews, and whatever else. Thanks for reading.)

[Main Photo Credit: Ensuper/ Product images provided by the manufacturer.]

32 Comments on “Best Socket Sets: Sock It To Ya...”

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    “Wailing on them with a torque wrench, called The Persuader around these parts, rarely helps.”

    I hope you meant “breaker bar” instead of “torque wrench”, because a torque wrench is a calibrated device not meant for wailing on anything.

    • 0 avatar

      All the other issues with this post and you’re picking nits about torque wrench vs breaker bar? They’re mixing up sizes (1/4, 3/8, 1/2), depth, purpose (impact/non-impact), set contents… all in a ranked format. It’s really insulting.

      If they really want to generate revenue with paid content while maintaining some semblance of honesty to the “The Truth About XYZ” branding, they’d actually review in some systematic fashion what they are being paid to promote. These advertisements-dressed-up-as-reviews don’t even attempt to appear to be legitimate.

      This may actually be worse than their Stanley Black & Decker drill ad based solely on how low-effort it is. This is really a “zero farks given” scenario.

      • 0 avatar

        They also appear to be based on Amazon reviews, not any actual tests. For actual useful reviews that provide meaningful recommendations find your way over to the YouTube channels Project Farm or Wrench Every Day (which is about car repair, not wrenches).

  • avatar

    A subject near and dear to my heart. I got rid of my Craftsman and started investing in Snap-On when I was in my 20s and the chrome plating peeled off a deep well socket I was using under a dashboard and sliced my fingers open before I realized what was going on. Bought my first two rails (SAE and Metric) that day off the Snap-On man. Fast forward 30+ years and I still have those two rails, now surrounded by a drawer full of others. My advice for those starting out is to buy the basics and acquire other items as they are needed. If you’re working on cars, 8mm through 19mm (1/4″ and 3/8″ drives) will allow you to do a lot. (Only 6-point – never use 12 point!) Buy a longer-handled 3/8 drive ratchet than those pictured with the sets above so you get some leverage (a flex-head works great for slight angles). Get yourself deep-well 1/2″ drive impact sockets in 17mm, 19mm, 21mm, and 22mm and you’ll have what you need to get the wheels off 95% of all cars out there. Despite my penchant for Snap-On, I have a set of Irwin Bolt-Grip sockets I bought at the auto parts store for rounded-out nuts and bolts that have amazed me with what they can do! Cheap and they work! Finally, pull, never push on a wrench the 90% of times that it is possible (push with an open hand when you have to) and always think where your hand is going to go if the socket slips or fastener breaks loose suddenly.

    • 0 avatar

      You’re a lot stronger than I am.

      I still have my 12 point 3/8″ Craftsman metric set from 42 years back, complemented by the ratcheting flex head. More rounded bolt heads than with a 6 point, but tolerable nonetheless.

      I’m actually amazed the flex head never disintegrated even with the occasional cheater.

      I’m not a pro, so SK has become my go to.

    • 0 avatar

      As a tooler&wrencher of many decades, I still have my original Craftsman tools I began buying in 1965, when I left home and struck out on my own. That’s when Craftsman tools still had their unlimited warranty. No more. It’s junk now, worse than other brands.

      But over the many decades, I acquired high-quality tools from Snap-On, Crowmwell, and other brands based on needs I had at that time for a given project. I picked up many high-quality tools and metric-sockets while stationed in Germany 1972-1980, and they have held up really well, especially the ones marked Solingen Stahl.

      I found the key to tool-longevity to be to clean your tools after you used them.

      I don’t do much tooling and wrenching these days, and neither do any of my kids or grandkids. But my tools have served me well and saved me a lot of money over the past 55 years. Especially the specialty tools like the AC -compressor sockets, or temp-sensor sockets, hollowTorq-X set, BMW service-reset tool, and other OEM-specific tools.

      Tools are an investment. Treat them with respect, keep them clean, and you could make a lot of money when you decide to sell them.

    • 0 avatar

      I have to agree with @Yankee. Just buy 6 point sockets and like HDC said, keep them clean.

    • 0 avatar

      “Get yourself deep-well 1/2″ drive impact sockets in 17mm, 19mm, 21mm, and 22mm and you’ll have what you need to get the wheels off 95% of all cars out there.”
      Plus an 18mm for those lug nuts that have lost their stainless steel cap and are just bare steel.

  • avatar

    The Milwaukee listing completely missed two unique features with these sets (which also obviously come in 1/2 and 3/8). That is, the sockets are partly square on the outside so they should roll away a lot less. And the part of the case that holds the pieces is a separate insert, so you can keep em in a tool cabinet without the outer case.

    I’m personally partial to 3/8 sets that span a big range (say 6-24mm like my Wera) instead of having to deal with 1/4, 3/8 and 1/2 drive handles, extensions, etc. especially since other stuff that gets used on cars often (hex, torx, etc.) also come 3/8 drive.

  • avatar
    CKNSLS Sierra SLT

    I like the socket sets from the store that’s named after the place where you would dock a ship.

    Because they are cheap!

    • 0 avatar

      Their impact sockets are actually ok. But I’ve seen their basic 12-point chrome sockets crack in half, which is a great way to rack up a medical bill more than what you would have paid for a better set. I have no experience with their new Icon brand that is supposed to be a premium offering. They look nice, but I don’t know how well they work. Their base wrenches and sockets are made of pure Chinesium, however, which will end up costing you a lot more in the long run when you take your car to a mechanic to get out the bolts you rounded off, driving with one hand while your other one is in a sling.

      • 0 avatar

        I’m just a hack but I never push hard on the handle or wrench with a closed fist.

        It’s asking for trouble, and plain dumb, but not the Emergency Department variety anyway. Always push with the palm, even with Snap Ons.

        There’s absolutely no need for buying off the Snap On truck unless it’s for something highly specialized.

        Hasn’t anyone gone to a garage/yard sale, flea market, etc? I buy them by the bucket and form an “A Team”, with as much USA Made as possible, and as they break, get loaned out, or lost (left on the side of the road, under the hood, etc), it’s back to the buckets.

        I’ll grab a handful, if it’s 100% Chinese, I’ll walk.

        I assume all the sets listed above are Chinese, even with a USA address, until I see the USA on the tools themselves.

    • 0 avatar

      ” the store that’s named after the place where you would dock a ship.”

      When they opened up an outlet near me I did buy some stuff from them, like AC-generators, hydraulic jacks and other tools like 1/2″ drills, 3″ circular saw, etc, and yeah, you’re right…. they are cheap!

      I’ve got horror stories based on personal experience, especially about AC-generators used in day-to-day operations……. and drill-motors used to mix mortar in 5-gallon buckets.

  • avatar

    Koken. Not sure how they do it, but their ratchets have almost no backdrag at all. Heck, everything is low friction, from changing sockets to getting the sockets themselves around nuts. Yet, everything fits tighter than almost anything. And the handles are almost strangely perfect for all hands. Not cheap, but not Snap-On either.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    Mathew, enjoyed the Tacks reference. There was a period of about 20 consecutive years where every winner of the Art Ross (top points) in the NHL wore Tacks. Which is short for Tackaberry the surname of their inventor. For a considerable period they were also the most expensive skates. Just like Snap-On tools, you got what you paid for.

  • avatar

    Two top brands now that Craftsman is long dead and buried:

    Snap On

    I managed to break in half a Craftsman 18″ breaker bar. That ended it for me.

  • avatar

    Dewalt does not make hand tools, they brand them. The hollow ratchet handle is comfortable but come on, they make popular yellow crap and that’s their only claim to fame.

  • avatar

    Some of my favorite socket-related tools available at Amazon (click on one of the “Shop Now” links first):

    This wobble (or non-wobble, see the third picture in the product description) extension set has been very useful, is well-made, reasonably-priced and comes with a nice foam storage tray:

    • “ARES 70330-9-Piece Wobble Extension Set”

    Stacking these (multiple wobbles) can get you into some surprisingly tight spaces. No they are not impact rated.

    • Check out the “Neiko” impact extensions (real CR-V).

    I have enjoyed this TEKTON impact socket set because it includes *every* metric size from 10mm to 24mm:

    • “TEKTON 1/2 Inch Drive Deep 6-Point Impact Socket Set, 15-Piece (10-24 mm) | 4883”

    • 0 avatar

      Tekton is getting a good reputation – they have a no questions asked lifetime warranty, and they pay shipping both ways on warranty items.

    • 0 avatar

      Grabbed a HART “18-Piece 3/8-inch Drive Deep Socket Set” last night from Walmart – delivered to my porch less than an hour later. (Price rollback to 16 bucks? Yes, please.) 6 point, full polish, 90-tooth. What a time to be alive. [Out of stock now, so sorry.]

      Also got a larger HART set to carry in my truck. The carrying case for that one has real steel latches.

      [I wonder how the world will change ~6 months from now, when this post shows up again?]

      Oh, sorry, you wanted automotive hand tools from Amazon. Here:
      • “ABN 1/2in Drive 8in Long Color-Coded Torque Limiting Socket Extension Bar 10pc Tool Kit 65-150 ft/lb Set”
      • “Craftsman Extreme Grip 6-piece Diamond Tip Screwdriver Set”
      • “ARES 71100 – Flexible Hose Clamp Plier”
      • “TEKTON 30812 Double-Faced Soft Mallet, 35 mm”
      • “Crescent 3 Pc. Flare Nut SAE Wrench Set – CFNWS0”
      • “Crescent 3 Pc. Flare Nut Metric Wrench Set – CFNWS1”
      • “Neiko 20657A ISO/Bubble Flaring Auto Tool Kit”

      I have used and highly recommend the first three; haven’t used the others yet.

      • 0 avatar

        If you are flaring steel lines, try to rent or borrow one of these:

        You might be ok doing nickel-copper with the hand tools. I haven’t gotten very good results doing steel with them. Maybe it was the quality of the tools, maybe it was my lack of skill. A few flares turned out well, but never 2 in a row.

        I like spline-drive sockets myself … the sockets never bottom out! I got one of these years ago, when it was branded GearRatchet.

  • avatar

    Started collecting Craftsman tools in the mid 70’s when I got my first car. Was made in America at the time. Now, its imported from China and not worth you time and money.

    To add to the existing collection or find missing parts, I go to garage sales or flea markets and pick up on missing pieces or add items to the inventory. Once found an entire tool cabinet stocked with Craftsman tools and a Sears tool catalog from the 70’s. Makes your mouth water

  • avatar

    I have a 20 gallon, 4 hp Craftsman air compressor I bought in 1976 (yeah, 44 years old!). Still runs fine on 220V. I change the oil yearly and two intake filters when they get too much paint in them.

  • avatar
    Jarred Fitzgerald

    I’ll ask my wife if she could give one of these to me. It would be a great Christmas 2020 present.

  • avatar

    The expression is “whaling on” something. “Wailing” is what you do when the tool slips and skins your fingers.

    For top quality tools, look at Snap-on, Stahlwille, Facom.

    And yeah, these TTAC buyer’s guides are pretty much useless.

    • 0 avatar

      Also, Koken. A good bit less expensive than at least Snap-on and Stahlwille. But really, really nice to use. Their standard ISO line has the lowest backdrag ratchets of any available (although much fewer teeth that Snap-on/Stahlwille/Nepros et al.).

      While Koken’s newer smaller-and tighter-than-ISO-tolerance line for working in the tighter confines of newer cars, really is meaningfully smaller and tighter. With cordless ratchets getting smaller and more common for even DIY every day, manual socketry will increasingly be relegated to confines too tight for cordless tools to fit. In spots where the restriction is having enough space to swing a ratchet handle, rather than the physical size of the tool itself, a cordless can beat even a 4 degree, 90 tooth Nepros.

  • avatar

    I’d agree that this article is kinda laughable, especially since the selections seem pretty random, and not comparable to each other.

    I bought my first set, a Craftsman 3/8″ drive 12-point regular and deep Standard set, along with a Craftsman beam-type 1/2″ drive torque wrench. I’ve gradually collected other stuff (mostly all US-made Craftsman) since then. Lately I’ve bought a few Capri tools off of Amazon, like a couple of thin open end wrenches (14mm/15mm and 16mm/17mm), good for removing pin-slider type brake calipers (to keep the pin sliders from moving while turning the caliper bolts), and a long Torx bit set (I needed a T40 for removing the driver’s airbag in my daughter’s 2012 Kia Forte Koup, so I could replace a cruise control switch). Most of their tools are made in Taiwan, but they’re quality, and they have a lifetime warranty.

    There are lots of other good US-made tools on Amazon – I bought a Lang Tools 15-piece Metric thread restorer set last year, and it’s come in handy for several things, like chasing threads on wheel studs and other bolts.

  • avatar

    The best socket set is the one I got from SEARS (remember them) in 1974. I suddenly learned that my ’63 VW Beetle were metric and all the tools in Dads shed were standard. We went to SEARS and for $50, you got a metal tool box full of Craftsman metric sockets and wrenches, some screw drivers, and a set of pliers. I still have the set with multiple additions bought from SEARS over the years (brake tools, tire tools, rolling tool cabinets, etc). Stopped buying SEARS when I noticed the Craftsman tools were imported.

  • avatar

    I’ve had various Neiko Pro tools (Taiwan) over the years and had zero issues with them. It’s kind of shocking to me that people have never heard of the brand before, as it’s been out there a fairly long time. I have a 3/8″ and 1/2″ ratchet, not as nice as my old Wright 1/2″, but nothing wrong with it. The Wright is pushing 50 and needs to have the ratchet redone, but I don’t know if the still service tools almost old enough for a Golden Buckeye card.

  • avatar

    My two best socket sets are the Husky 3/8 inch drive SAE set I inherited from my dad who bought it in the mid-60s at Two Guys department store in NJ and the 1/4 inch Craftsman set I bought in the early 90s mostly to wrench on my metric motorcycles .

  • avatar

    This shill article for imported Chinese junk sold on Amazon is to genuine journalism what the Peel P50 is to Formula One racing.

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