LAST UPDATED: November 22, 2020
The Best Impact Sockets (Review & Buying Guide) 2021
Stop abusing your chrome—it’s time to get some impact sockets
The Drive and its partners may earn a commission if you purchase a product through one of our links. Read more.
PUBLISHED ON November 22, 2020
There's no doubt that you need an impact gun in your life. Let's face it: disassembly can be a real drag with standard hand tools. From zipping things apart in a moment's time to busting stubborn bolts free, they'll save you a significant amount of effort. But, as if paying for a good impact wasn't enough, you're going to need to cough up some more cash for a decent set of impact sockets. No, you're not going to want to use those chrome sockets for the application. In short, they just aren't made for it. And like all other tools, you don't just want to get the cheapest set available to you.
You can take a breath of relief knowing that some excellent affordable impact socket sets are available to you. Obviously, the more you spend, the better the quality will be, but there are ways to gauge what exactly you should be looking for. The good news is that you're not on your own. We're here to help you find the best set of impact sockets on the market.
This 27-Piece deep SAE and Metric sockets are for use with 1/2-inch drive tools. They are a fair price and come in a range of sizes—perfect for beginners and professionals.
- Respectable quality and price point
- Includes a wide range of common socket sizes
- Comes with storage case
- 27 sockets might not be enough for pros
The 11-piece deep SAE sockets are compatible with 1/2-inch drive tools. They are at an exceptionally low price, making it an excellent option for beginners or to use in a pinch.
- Very low price point
- Includes a decent selection of socket sizes
- Limited usefulness
- Low durability
The 43-Piece SAE impact socket set is for 1/2-inch drive tools. They use premium materials and are of quality construction, making this a set worth the extra money.
- Includes deep and shallow sockets
- Premium materials resist wear
- Radius edges protect hardware
- High price point
Why Trust Us
All of our reviews are based on market research, expert input, or practical experience with most products we include. This way, we offer genuine, accurate guides to help you find the best picks.
Benefits of Impact Sockets
- Use with impacts. The most significant benefit of impact sockets is that they allow you to use impact tools. That is because the metal they use can absorb the force of an impact tool without cracking.
- Can use them as regular sockets. Despite their intent to function with impact tools, you can use them on regular ratchets and socket wrenches. Retention may be an issue, but a good ratchet can hold them in place.
- More affordable than chrome. Impact sockets are almost always cheaper than the chrome sockets offered by the same supplier. This aspect, combined with the fact that they are more affordable than chrome, is why many professionals begin by purchasing a set of impact sockets before chrome.
Types of Impact Sockets
Deep vs. Shallow
Impact sockets in themselves are a type of sockets in general. That means that they are a purpose-built tool, but that doesn't mean there aren't small variations. Variations in wall thickness and the materials they use contribute to how an impact socket performs, but what we care most about is the socket's depth.
Deep sockets are more versatile and allow you to reach over the top of the threads of bolts and engage the nut. Short sockets are often better for use in tight spaces and for shorter bolt heads because they are less likely to slip off.
Sunex set up in 1977 intending to build the best impact sockets on the market. With a headquarters in South Carolina and 40 years of experience, it remains a leading force in impact tools and sockets.
Since 1996, Maryland-based Gearwrench has been developing tools that make life better. Ratcheting wrenches may be their claim to fame, but today they produce all kinds of quality tools for tradespeople and retain an affordable price point.
Neiko is a definite favorite among hobbyists and professionals who need affordable tools. While production is in China, they still seem to develop exceptional quality tools concerning the price point. The Neiko 65-Piece Master Impact Socket Set is a great option on our list.
Impact Socket Pricing
- Up to $50: Budget entry socket sets, single sockets, or small sets offered by premium names list within this price range.
- $50-$100: More extensive sets offered by budget-oriented brands and premium names can be found in this price range.
- $100 and up: Sets that list for more than $100 are typically master sets that include a range of sizes commonly used in professional fields.
The most important thing to look out for is the size of the socket. For this, we’re referring to the size hardware the socket is compatible with. You want to make sure that the socket is of the proper SAE or metric size first because this tells us if it is even usable for an application.
You must make sure that you select the proper depth of your impact socket. If you’re not sure, it is usually safer to go with a deeper socket because it can still be used for regular bolts and nuts. Nevertheless, you want shallow sockets for use in tight spaces where a deep socket won’t fit. You will also likely have a better experience using short sockets on bolt heads because they are less likely to slip.
Always double-check that the socket has the correct drive compatibility. Most impacts have a 1/2-inch drive, but there are plenty with 3/8-inch and 1/4-inch drives out there. Therefore, you will need to make sure the socket or socket set you are purchasing is compatible with your tool, such as an air impact wrench.
Materials Used and Wall Thickness
The quality of the materials used and how thick the walls are concerning their strength is critical. You subject these sockets to serious force with an impact gun. Therefore, the socket itself must be able to stand up to the test. Many consider this to be the most crucial characteristic because poorly made sockets will crack or shatter if exposed to too much power.
- Set Size Range. As you see in the list below, we discuss socket sets and not individual sockets. That is because you are far better off purchasing a set rather than separate sockets. They offer better value, include sizes you don’t expect to need, and prevent you from having to make multiple small purchases. But you should always pay attention to what the set includes in terms of sizes, accessories, and so on to make sure it best matches your current and future intentions.
- Warranty. A good warranty is important because you will eventually wear out or break your impact sockets. If you’re a hobbyist or only use impacts on rare occasions, you can overlook this. However, if you use sockets daily, we highly recommend investing your money in a tool that you can replace when you need to.
Best Impact Sockets Reviews & Recommendations 2021
This set of SAE and metric impact sockets has just about everything the amateur mechanic could ever need. These heavy-duty chrome-molybdenum alloy steel sockets feature a 1/2-inch drive for use with impact wrenches. Each six-point socket includes a black oxide finish for rust resistance and laser etching for easy identification. The off-corner loading design and chamfered openings reduce fastener wear while increasing the torque you can apply. This set also comes with a blow-molded case for storage. This set's build quality meets and exceeds both ANSI and ASME specifications, making the GearWrench 27-Piece Deep Impact Socket Set a perfect option for hobbyists and many professionals who don't want to spend a fortune on quality tools.
At just 27 pieces, you can expect to invest in another set down the road. This is especially true considering you will want to have a set of short impact sockets on hand.
This is a set of 11 deep impact sockets that you can snag for a fraction of the cost of many other entries. That makes it a perfect option to snag in a pinch, throw in your back-up box, or to give as a gift. It includes 3/8-inch to 1-inch sockets and all the typical sizes in between, making it ideal for working on classic cars, bikes, and maybe even some industrial equipment. It also comes with a nice storage case with a padded insert, so you don’t have to listen to the sockets rattle around every time you carry them.
You get what you can expect in terms of durability. These aren’t the end-all, be-all sockets, and you will break them with excessive force. However, considering how affordable they are, it’s hard to complain about this.
This is a 43-piece SAE socket set for 1/2-inch drive impact tools. It has both deep and shallow sockets ranging from 3/8-inch to 1-1/2-inch in either configuration. It also comes loaded with a selection of extensions to help you keep working. One notable feature is that the sockets in this set have radius edges to reduce contact with fasteners' sharp corners. This design reduces the risk of damaging hardware, but they still provide a tight fit. That means you can safely apply more torque with less risk of stripping the head of a bolt and ending up in a nightmare.
Yes, the price is very high for a set that only includes SAE sizes, and you can double it if you need a similar set for metric applications. Still, a high price point is something to expect when investing in high-quality tools.
This set is perfect for beginners because it includes everything you need: eight of the most common socket sizes and two adapters for drills and impact guns. Pivoting organization in a hard plastic storage case makes it easy to find the right impact socket for those fine-tuned jobs in tight, awkward spaces. Each socket is constructed of a high-impact resistant material for longevity and extra durability throughout plenty of uses. The laser etching on each piece makes each socket easy to identify for maximum efficiency. Each set arrives in a lockable stacking case with a window that allows users to make sure the socket they need is present before fumbling around with them.
While the stacking case's window is a cool feature, the entire package is a little bulky and can feel clumsy to many users.
These sockets feature smaller drives for use with 1/4-inch and 3/8-inch drive impact tools, so you'll need a 1/2-inch set for heavier jobs. Still, this set proves its worth by allowing you to use power tools on smaller bits of hardware with less risk of destroying them. The kit includes SAE and metric sizes in both deep and shallow configurations. All sockets have radius corners as well, which allows you to apply more torque safely. There are a total of 48 socket sizes, which is more than enough for most jobs.
It's hard to pick anything out that we don't like about this set. Sure, fitment on ratchets and some impacts might not be the best, but it won't impede the tool's use.
This set includes an extensive combination of deep and shallow sockets in both SAE and metric sizes, creating a complete impact socket collection. Each six-point socket is drop-forged with chrome vanadium steel finished in black phosphate and features a 1/2-inch drive socket. This set also includes a plastic storage case, a 72-tooth ratchet, three extension bars, a 1/2-inch chrome-molybdenum universal impact joint, a 3/8-inch to 1/2-inch adapter, and a 1/2-inch to 3/8-inch adapter. The heavy-duty Neiko 65-Piece Master Impact Socket Set screams quality, all the way down to its laser-etched markings.
It’s hard to beat this set for the price—it offers excellent quality and reliability, which is why so many people love it. But good value doesn’t mean low price, so if you are going to grab this kit, you are still going to spend a fair amount of money.
Moving on to a second entry from Neiko, you may notice that this set can be bundled with the previous entry. And if you are interested in attaining both sets, you might as well go for the bundle option. As far as what this kit has to offer, it is a 44-piece 3/8-inch drive impact socket set. It features a wide range of SAE and Metric sizes in both deep and shallow configurations. The sockets in this set feature radius edges, and the design increases the amount of torque you can apply with less risk of damaging hardware. It also comes with a few extensions and adapters to help you work through sticky situations.
While this set is hard to beat for its price, there are limitations in regards to durability. They are great for typical projects, but subjecting them to severe force levels can run into problems.
If you’re looking for a way to save some space but still have all the tools you need, you should consider this socket set. This set includes three dual-sided sockets in six of the most common SAE and metric impact socket sizes (17 and 19 millimeters, 3/4 and 13/16 inches, and 21 millimeters and 7/8 inches) as well as a three-inch impact extension for 1/2-inch drive sets. Each drop-forged chrome-molybdenum steel component is heat-treated for strength and durability and given a rust-resistant finish (black electro-plating for the sockets and black oxide for the bar). With their thinner socket walls, color coding, and impressive quality, this set is a fantastic value option—especially considering you get eight socket sizes.
Thin walls are a significant problem as they won’t handle excessive torque loads. But, if you are mindful of the limitations, this set is convenient and worth keeping around.
Unlike most SAE only sets on our list, this kit comes with a range of Metric sizes, which is ideal for the modern car owner. The sockets in this kit include 19 deep well and 19 shallow options. The sizes range from 9 mm all the way to 30 mm in either configuration. What’s especially nice is that it only skips 25 mm, 28 mm, and 29 mm sockets, which are used relatively infrequently for most car owners. Each socket is constructed of chrome molybdenum alloy steel and features laser-etched markings to keep your sizes legible. We love the case that comes with this set, too, mostly because it seems much sturdier than what you can usually expect.
As we mentioned, this is a metric only set, and if you prefer SAE, the price goes up a considerable amount despite having the same number of sockets. Otherwise, it’s an excellent set, especially considering the pricing.
This set offers excellent value because it includes a total of 16 sockets for a fraction of the cost of comparable listings from premium brands. The sockets in this set are all deep well and are all Metric sizes. Sizes range from 8 mm to 24 mm. It does skip the 9 mm socket, but otherwise, it’s a complete set. It also comes with two extensions and an adapter that allows you to run these sockets with an impact gun. These are 1/2-inch drive sockets, so they are better for impact wrenches, especially when working with larger hardware. This set also comes complete with a carrying case to help keep things organized.
Of course, the durability of this is lower than premium options, but you should know the laser etching strips away quickly and can leave you guessing what size you are using.
- Use a breaker bar first. Yes, impact tools do speed things up. But you are better off lessening the amount of force you subject anything to, especially if it’s old and rusty. Start with a breaker bar and then move to an impact if you can’t get it loose with elbow grease.
- Treat your sockets with respect. It may seem condescending to mention this but show your impacts love. We only say it because they seem invincible, but they aren’t. Taking good care of them is the only way to get a long life out of them.
- Don’t use impacts for assembly. Using an impact to tighten things is a recipe for disaster—ask me how I know. Take the time to reassemble anything with hand tools to prevent causing damage. If you need a good set of hand tools, consider reading our buying guide for Mechanic’s Tool Sets.
- Invest in good tools. It’s understandable if you invest in low-cost tools when you’re on a budget. But you are better off sinking your money into good tools now because they need replacing less frequently, making them cheaper in the long run.
Best Impact Sockets FAQ:
Q: Can impact sockets be used as regular sockets?
Yes, but the thicker walls may prove cumbersome to use in tight spots.
Q: Why is it bad to use chrome sockets on an impact?
Chrome sockets are more brittle and will crack under high load. They also feature a different retention design that can get caught on, and even break, your impact’s hog ring or pin detent.
Q: Are Snap-On impact sockets worth it?
If you are a professional, there is no substitute for premium tools. Quality is superior, and Snap-On impact sockets, in particular, offer an excellent warranty.
Q: Are all impact sockets black?
In most cases, impact sockets are black. That is because of the carbonized surface that is used to harden them.
While GearWrench 27-Piece Deep Impact Socket Set is our top pick, we think that the EPAuto 1/2-Inch Drive SAE Deep Impact Socket Set is a quality choice if you need to pinch pennies. However, any of the impact sockets mentioned above would make a great addition to your toolbox.