Reviews

Best Socket Sets: A Must-Have For Car And Motorcycle Repair

These top socket sets can be used in your garage and around the home

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BY Hank O'Hop / LAST UPDATED ON August 6, 2021

The last thing you need is to get caught in a DIY situation where you need a socket that you don't have. That means you’re putting everything on hold so you can run to the hardware store and drop a bunch of cash, or wait for a delivery drone. Suddenly, what was a quick project turns into an all-day (or multi-day) ordeal. How do you avoid that? Preparation. And in your garage, you prepare by building a solid collection of sockets. While we might not know what you already have to work with, we can fill you in on what can round out, or fully build out, your current collection and find the missing links for your soon-to-be bulletproof hardware.

Best Overall
Craftsman 18pc. Deep 3/8-inch Socket Set - Metric & Standard
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Summary
Summary

Two 12-piece, 12-point, deep-well socket sets for 3/8-inch drive ratchet. Includes metric and SAE sizes, making this set very versatile. 

Pros
Pros
  • Affordable pricing
  • Lifetime warranty
  • Respectable quality
  • Decent socket selection
Cons
Cons
  • Small sizes are limited
  • Case quality is questionable
  • Deep-well sockets only 
Best Overall
Craftsman 18pc. Deep 3/8-inch Socket Set - Metric & Standard
Best Value
TEKTON 3/8-Inch Drive 12-Point Impact Socket Set
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Summary
Summary

Affordable 12-piece, 12-point, impact socket set. Impact sockets can be used with power and hand tools, making this a great set for many situations.

Pros
Pros
  • Respectable quality
  • Competitive pricing
  • 12-point sockets increase versatility
  • Can be used on impact and hand tools
  • Storage case included
Cons
Cons
  • Limited size selection
  • Thick walls may pose clearance issues for hand tools
  • No stamping to accompany laser etching
Best Value
TEKTON 3/8-Inch Drive 12-Point Impact Socket Set
Honorable Mention
SK Professional Tools 49pc. 3/8-Inch Drive 6-Point Metric Socket Set
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Summary
Summary

Premium quality tool set made in the USA. Comes with a solid selection of SAE and metric sockets as well as a ratchet, accessories, and storage case.

Pros
Pros
  • Exceptional quality
  • Made in the USA
  • Ratchet and accessories included
  • Lifetime warranty
Cons
Cons
  • Premium pricing
  • Limited range despite the high price
  • Dated ratchet design
Honorable Mention
SK Professional Tools 49pc. 3/8-Inch Drive 6-Point Metric Socket Set

Best Socket Set Reviews & Recommendations

Best Overall
Craftsman 18pc. Deep 3/8-inch Socket Set - Metric & Standard

Craftsman is hard to beat for the average consumer. Professionals might have a different opinion, but there’s no arguing that the quality and value help this brand remain excellent when it comes to affordable tools. These particular sockets are all constructed from chrome vanadium that isn’t likely to corrode or crack. We’re looking at more than general value, though. 


This set includes all deep-well sockets compatible with 3/8-inch drive ratchets, which adds versatility to the selection, and we’re willing to bet that a 3/8-inch drive ratchet is what you use in most cases. Size selection is also decent, and you will get plenty of use out of what’s here. Though, it would be nice to see some better range for small fasteners. 3/8-inch and 10mm sockets are very common, but we know that a 5/16-inch or 8mm fastener can be an unpleasant surprise if these are the only sockets you have. And while the packaging doubling as a storage solution is nice, the quality suggests the case not long for this world.

Specs:

  • Brand: Craftsman 
  • Part number: Craftsman 9-34558
  • Weight: 4.64 pounds

Pros:

  • Affordable pricing
  • Lifetime warranty
  • Respectable quality
  • Decent socket selection 

Cons:

  • Small sizes are limited
  • Case quality is questionable
  • Deep-well sockets only
Best Value
TEKTON 3/8-Inch Drive 12-Point Impact Socket Set

Tekton is a force to be reckoned with as a brand that prides itself on providing tools of exceptional quality at very affordable prices. This particular socket set is impact rated, which is why we chose it for the Best Value award. Impact sockets are designed for use with power tools, but can also be used on regular hand tools, too. Seeing as these are 3/8-inch drive, you can use them on your impact driver and socket wrench without question. 


On top of that, these are 12-point sockets. It’s not as though that’s a rarity, but most impact sets you find are six-point variants, which can pose some minor issues while working. Better yet, these sockets feature highly visible laser etching that both stand out and stand up to wear. The included storage case helps you keep from losing track of this collection. As great as this set can be, it is fairly limited with just 12 sockets. We should also point out that impact sockets have thicker walls than chrome sockets, and you might run into clearance issues because of it. And the lack of stamping can be a major issue if the laser etching is ever worn or stripped away.

Specs:

  • Brand: Tekton
  • Part number: 47911
  • Weight: 1.9 pounds

Pros:

  • Respectable quality
  • Competitive pricing
  • 12-point sockets increase versatility
  • Can be used on impact and hand tools
  • Storage case included

Cons:

  • Limited size selection
  • Thick walls may pose clearance issues for hand tools
  • No stamping to accompany laser etching
Best Premium
SK Professional Tools 49-Piece, 3/8-Inch Drive, 6-Point Metric Socket Set

We want to cover all the bases, which is why we're making sure to include a top-shelf option. SK Professional Tools is one of the few U.S.-owned tool brands continuing to produce tools in the USA. You may already know that the quality of these tools is far beyond much of the others on our list because of that, but if you don’t, you do now. This set is comprehensive as well, netting you a good selection of deep-well and shallow-well six-point sockets with SAE sizes spanning from 1/4 inches to 7/8 inches and metric sizes ranging from 6 mm to 19 mm. SK also throws in a couple of extensions and a universal joint to really tie things together. 


You'll also walk away with a 3/8-inch drive ratchet and a storage case to protect your investments. There's no pulling the punches of that price tag, though. This is nearly 10 times the price of some of the others we're talking about. It is more inclusive than some, but we still have points of contention. For one, socket sizes ending at 7/8-inch and 19 mm may stop you from doing certain jobs with just this kit. And that old-school ratchet, while built well, won't do you favors in tight spaces.

Specs:

  • Brand: SK Professional Tools
  • Part number: 94549
  • Weight: 8.75 pounds

Pros:

  • Exceptional quality
  • Made in the USA
  • Decent socket selection
  • Ratchet and accessories included
  • Lifetime warranty 

Cons: 

  • Premium pricing
  • Limited range despite the high price
  • Dated ratchet design
Best Impact Set
Neiko 65-Piece, 1/2-Inch Drive, Master Impact Socket Set

We’ve had our hands on this particular set, and our experience with it is exactly why we think it to be one of the best impact socket sets on the web. Despite the relatively affordable pricing, you’re getting quality tools. These impact sockets are constructed with drop-forged chrome vanadium steel and will certainly take a good amount of abuse. This set is comprehensive, with SAE and metric sizes covering most fasteners you could expect to find on a typical passenger car. 


Each socket also features large laser etching to call out sizes with stamping to help out if it wears away. Neiko also throws in some adapters, extensions, and a 1/2-inch drive ratchet, which all boost the versatility of this kit. Does this impact set compare with a pro-level tool? No, but it’s hard to beat for the money and is good enough for the average consumer. You will pay more for it than other similar kits, but we say it’s worth the couple extra dollars. However, the case is absolutely massive, which may make storage an issue.

Specs:

  • Brand: Neiko
  • Part Number: 02448A
  • Weight: 35.8 pounds

Pros:

  • Excellent socket selection
  • Acceptable quality
  • Features laser-etching and stamping
  • Ratchet and accessories included

Cons:

  • No lifetime warranty
  • Case is massive
  • Higher price than comparable options
Best for Small Jobs
Gearwrench 47-Piece, 1/4-Inch Drive, 6-Point Socket Set

So far, we’ve covered sockets for the bigger ratchets, but what about your 1/4-inch drive bad boy? You have the work for it and this 47-piece set is it. It comes with both SAE and metric sizes in both shallow and deep configurations helping you to tackle virtually any small faster you’d find under the hood, and then some. Metric sizes start at 4 mm and run to 15 mm, and SAE sizes are just as inclusive as they span from 3/16 inches to 9/16 inches. 


The 1/2-inch and 9/16-inch ratchet included are limited to deep-well sockets, but that’s still not bad for a 1/4-inch drive set. Gearwrench supplies really good quality tools at relatively affordable prices, and these sockets are no exception. It also always adds a unique touch, and the double-lined callout for SAE sockets and knurling for the metric is a prime example of that. You do pay a little extra for the Gearwrench touch, though. Also, sockets are all you get. There is no storage case or tray — just an order of sockets. That’s something you will want to prepare for.

Specs:

  • Brand: Gearwrench
  • Part Number: 80314D
  • Weight: 1 pound

Pros:

  • Impressive quality
  • Respectable socket range
  • Unique callouts for easy identification
  • Lifetime warranty 

Cons:

  • Some sizes are limited to deep-well configuration
  • More costly than comparable options
  • Does not include any storage solution
Best for Stripped Hardware
RocketSocket 13-Piece Extraction Socket Set

Every now and again, you’re going to come across a stripped fastener. We’ll take your side and assume the dummy before you did it. The same fellow does it to us all of the time, too. But don’t worry, as these sockets just might be the solution you’re looking for. They’re specifically designed for extracting rounded-off fasteners. The specialized spiral design inside the sockets works by gradually increasing grip as you twist. It grips so tight that you’ll even have to drive the removed fasters out of the socket, which the included drive pin is for. 


The real beauty of this 13-piece set is that the sockets are compatible with multiple fasteners, and you can tackle a range of 19 different sizes with what’s included. All sockets are also compatible with a normal 3/8-inch drive ratchet, so no further specialty tools are needed. These aren't normal sockets in this set, though, and you don’t want to use them like one unless you intend to destroy the fastener in question. Furthermore, this kit can be a lot more costly than some comparable options with higher quantities, though these are made in the USA.

Specs:

  • Brand: RocketSocket
  • Part Number: RS101
  • Weight: 1.35 pounds

Pros:

  • Made in the USA
  • Compatible with 3/8-inch drive ratchet
  • Designed for extracting rounded off fasteners
  • Drive pin and storage case included

Cons:

  • Cannot be used as a traditional socket set
  • Relatively high price
  • Limited piece count despite high pricing

How We Selected The Products 

A big part of our consideration when putting this list together was our personal experience. Most of the names you see here are those we’ve put our real-world faith in over the years. Any of the brands we haven’t had a chance to use yet, are those that we know to have excellent reputations in this division, though. Details like the warranty, pricing, and overall quality, are all things that also came into play as we evaluated our options.

While all of that is important, it doesn’t give us specific choices. That can be something of a trick, as it is very hard for us to gauge what you, the reader, needs for your particular situation. So, we looked at details such as piece count, socket sizes, and drive compatibility to generate a list of tools that we think have the best potential for a host of uses.

Best Socket Set Buying Guide and FAQs

You need sockets to work on your car. Sure, combination wrenches can take their place, but your torque wrench and free time are relying on those sockets. Don’t worry. We’re not just going to leave you with our top picks, though. After all, we know that there are plenty of readers who need a little more than what our favorites can offer. That’s why we’ve put together this buying guide to help you pick the best set of sockets. 

What to Consider When Buying A Socket Set

As simple as sockets are, there are a few things you want to take into consideration before buying the first thing in front of you. There are a lot of things that separate the good from the bad and the “Oh, dear god, why!?” By reading into the following considerations, you can quickly narrow down your choices. 

Drive Size 

We suggest that the first detail you look for is the drive size. This tells you right away if the set you’re looking for will work with the ratchet you have. In most cases, drive sizes will be 1/4-inch, 3/8-inch, or 1/2-inch. However, 3/4-inch, 1-inch, and even larger drive sizes do exist. 

This detail is usually easy to hash out, and most sockets intended for automotive use will stick to the first three sizes mentioned. 

Included Sizes 

The next thing you need to be sure of is that the sockets will work for your application. Most vehicles work exclusively with metric fasteners these days, but that’s not a guarantee. Many domestic cars rely on metric and SAE sizes, and you don’t want to realize that halfway through a job. Being familiar with your car will take you a long way here. 

Quality

Quality should be on the back of your mind at all times. Sockets are simple, and it doesn’t seem like much can go wrong. Trust us, that’s not the case. Manufacturers can fail to get the sizing just right, leave behind all kinds of defects, or simply use junk materials for construction. It’s a good idea to read into manufacturers before you buy. Take the time to see what names generally fit into your price range, then narrow it down from there. 

Point Count 

We’re not going to put on a front and pretend like you absolutely cannot use 12-point sockets on six-point fasteners. We do it all of the time, and it works out just fine—mostly. Those 12-points do make it easier to slip a socket onto a 6-point socket in many situations.

It isn’t the right tool for the job, though. The best practice is always to match the point count of your sockets to the point count on the fastener. This will ensure you have the best fit possible, making a major difference under high load.  

Types of Socket Sets 

Not all socket sets are the same. You already know that, still, it’s a good idea to talk a little about the different types of socket sets. That way, you have a better idea of what you’ll run into out in the wild and can narrow things down even more. 

Shallow/Deep-Well 

Stating the obvious, shallow and deep-well sockets are two different animals. A shallow socket is shorter than a deep-well socket. Why? Shallow sockets are better suited for bolt heads. You can use a deep well socket to do the same job, but they may have an increased tendency to slip off because of the added length. 

Deep-well sockets are used for a number of situations. The deeper body allows the socket to slip over nuts, with long sections of thread passing through them. They can also reach deeper into narrow passages or even over the bodies of spark plugs and other special components. 

Impact/Hand Sockets 

There is a difference between impact and hand sockets. To put it simply, impact sockets are used for impact tools, while hand sockets are designed for hand tools. Impact sockets are built to endure the massive forces created by impact tools, and hand sockets, often called chrome sockets, are not. Using chrome sockets on impact tools can lead to severe problems. 

That isn’t to say hand sockets aren’t durable, though. They are made from hardened steel alloys, typically with chrome plating. This is a far harder material than is used for impacts, and it won’t flex nearly as much. That characteristic makes them ideal for hand tools and torque wrenches. 

Standard/Specialty 

What we’re referring to as standard sockets are those with traditional six and 12-point configurations. For the most part, that’s all you’ll need for doing routine maintenance on your vehicle. There are plenty of exceptions to that rule, though.

Many vehicles use specialty fasteners. Torx, external star, and internal hex are just a few examples of what you might come across. You will need special sockets to match them. There are also other specialty sockets you should consider for removing rounded/damaged hardware — RocketSocket 13-Piece Extraction Socket Set is a prime example. 

Expert Tips 

Before we wrap this up, let’s talk about some quick tips for buying socket sets. These might not be essential to your particular buying process, but they are little things we picked up on along the way. They just might save you some heartache. 

Buy More Than You Need

Always buy a more extensive socket set than you think you’ll need. Even if it covers all of the faster sizes you typically run across, there are those oddballs that will ruin your day. Go with the bigger set to be safe. 

Also, don’t rule out the idea of buying extras. Everyone jokes about losing that 10mm socket, but it’ll happen with all of them. You can continue working until those wandering sockets show their face again by investing in a backup set. 

Pick a Brand 

Consistency is key to a pleasant working experience. All of the sockets will come from one manufacturer in a set. What we’re saying is that it’s a good idea to buy socket sets from the same brand that made the tools you own and stick with them for future investments. 

By sticking with one brand, you will know what to expect of your tools. You’ll learn all the things they do well and what they don’t, which will help you to work at a much more consistent rate. 

Read Into Warranties 

If you work with hand tools, you will put your warranties to use. Not all warranties are the same, though. Some tools only come with a 90-day warranty, while others are covered for life. Some you can swap out at local retailers. Others need to be mailed in. 

Take the time to research the warranties. Figure out what works for you and go with that. Otherwise, you can be caught off guard by a warranty that doesn’t work quite as well as you’d expect. 

FAQs on Socket Sets

Still scratching your head? We would be too. There’s no way to know what questions you're asking from here. We can, however, address some of the most common questions surrounding socket sets! 

Q: What size socket set should I get?

What size set you should consider depends on a few factors. If you’re just starting out, or have multiple applications to work between, it’s best to go with a larger selection. You might even consider a large mechanic’s tool set. Otherwise, you can work with smaller sets. Our advice is to think about what the most common fastener sizes are for your application and find a set that covers those at the very least.

Q: What's better: 6-point or 12-point sockets?

Neither. They're designed to work with 6-point or 12-point fasteners, so you can consider them equal. However, you will most likely encounter 6-point fasteners, making them the clear choice for most situations. 12-point sockets will work fine on 6-point fasteners, but they won't have much contact and are more likely to slip. Still, people often use them anyway because that's not very likely under normal circumstances.

Q: What's the difference between impact sockets and hand tool sockets?

There are quite a few things that separate impact sockets from hand tool sockets. Primarily, it’s down to their hardness. Hand sockets are usually made from much harder materials than impacts. That does boost durability, but the hardness doubles as brittleness under impact forces, and the sockets may crack or shatter when used on impact tools.

Q: Should I just get impact sockets?

It might not be a bad idea to just buy impact sockets if you use both impact and hand tools as they are compatible with either. Impact sockets are much thicker than hand sockets, though. Even if by only a few thousandths of an inch, that can create clearance issues in the right circumstances. If you use both impact tools and hand tools, you should buy impact and hand sockets.

Q: Will chrome sockets rust?

Chrome plating is used on sockets because it doesn't rust. So long as you buy from a reputable supplier, you shouldn't have this issue. Some low-quality brands might use something else as a substitute to replicate chrome, or the plating quality might be questionable, which will likely lead to the tools rusting up.

About the Author

Hank O’Hop is a self-taught gearhead struggling with a lifelong love affair with classic automobiles. He may not have experience in a professional garage, but he’s broken more than his fair share of parts to know how not to do things under the hood. He’s driven to find what works and what doesn’t. Writing serves as an opportunity to help others avoid the headaches he’s bound to come across.

Why Trust Us

The Drive seeks to be the internet’s premier destination for news, features, reviews and guides about modern automotive culture.

Founded as the /DRIVE YouTube channel before growing into a full-fledged online publication in 2015, The Drive brings you the best of what’s new in the world of speed, from gear reviews to the latest industry coverage—all from a veteran team of writers and editors with many decades of combined hands-on experience. Our reviews are driven by a combination of hands-on testing, expert input, “wisdom of the crowd” assessments from actual buyers, and our own expertise. We always aim to offer genuine, accurate guides to help you find the best picks.