DIY, car and motorbike projects are made considerably easier when using the right tools. A well-selected socket set will come in useful time and time again against a range of nuts and bolts. However, there are lots of socket sets on the market and the right one for you really depends on your application.
To help you find the best option for your toolkit, we’ve analysed the most popular socket sets on the market and assessed them against a range of important criteria including drive size, accessories and durability. Use this comparison to find the best socket set for you.
Best Overall: Sidchrome 64 Piece Socket Set
This 64 piece socket set from Sidchrome contains all of the commonly used AF and metric sockets in one handy case.
The kit includes 1/4 inch, 3/8 inch and 1/2 inch drive sizes to suit a range of applications. Each size includes a ratchet, one or two extensions and a universal joint. The 1/2″ also comes with a breaker bar. The sockets are made from chrome vanadium steel and come with a lifetime warranty too.
The storage box is well organised and measures only 490 x 205 x 50mm and 6kg making it compact and highly portable. While not the lightest kit the Sidchrome set is one of the most complete with multiple drive sizes and accessories in a single box. The Gearwrench kit comes with 4 more pieces but does not include the 1/2″ drive size so this Sidchrome kit is the better option overall.
This high-quality tool kit can be stored in your car and contains a wide range of sockets.
Best Value: Gearwrench 68 Piece Socket Set
The Gearwrench 68 piece socket set includes 1/4″ and 3/8″ sockets. This includes 6 and 12 point standard and deep metric and SAE measurements.
This set is made from alloy steel and has a chrome polish making it durable while also helping to keep the cost down.
The thin ratchet size combined with the 84 tooth count makes this kit more enjoyable to use in tight spaces. They also offer a 4.3-degree swing arc for added ease of use. This is a good quality set of tools for DIY mechanics, if you have heavy-duty applications then take a look at the Dewalt Mechanics Tools instead.
The one thing we would change about this Gearwrench set is the storage case. It doesn’t have a carry handle and if you pick it up wrong or it sits in the wrong position all of the tools end up jumbled and out of position. It would also be nice if the measurements were laser etched so they could be read more clearly.
Upgrade Pick: Dewalt Mechanics Tools Set
The Dewalt Mechanics Tools Set is an impressive 192 piece kit. It contains a full set of ratchets, extensions and adaptors. You also get universal joints and a hex key set so you won’t need anything more than what is in this case to handle most jobs.
It doesn’t contain impact sockets or bits but the three 1/4″,3/8″ and 1/2″ drive ratchets are all solid and durable. The kit includes standard and deep sockets in SAE and metric measurements. Each tool is made from chrome vanadium steel and has a polished finish making them tough and strong to keep clean.
The Dewalt ratchets have 72 teeth, this is more than the Bahco (60 teeth) but not as many as the Gearwrench ratchets (84 teeth). Generally, a larger tooth count is considered better as it reduces the turning arc but too many teeth also reduce the torque output so, 72 is optimum for most uses.
Each socket features a knurled band that makes them more user-friendly and provides more grip when in use. One of the other features that make this kit easier to use than the Gearwrench set above is that the laser-etched size markings are deep, large and easy to read.
This set includes a limited lifetime warranty so any broken tools can be easily replaced. This is an excellent mechanic’s toolset that comes at a good price. The storage case is high quality with metal hinges and clasps to hold it closed. This Dewalt kit is heavy, it weighs 16.8kg making it the heaviest on the list but it is also arguably the most complete high torque socket set.
Best Budget Option: Bahco 25 Piece Socket Set
This 25 piece socket set from Bahco is a popular option for homeowners. It contains a 1/4 inch ratchet, extension bar, a Torx adapter and a couple of Hex Head bits too. This is a metric kit made from alloy steel.
This is not a heavy-duty set but instead is best suited for light use with cars, bikes and jobs around the house. It contains all of the smaller sizes you may need but as this is a 1/4 inch set it is best for the smaller stuff on cars. Heavier car parts require a 1/2″ socket, so a different socket set would be needed.
This Bahco socket set is excellent value for money. The tools are lightweight, compact and easy to use. The kit measures just 344.9 x 210.1 x 175 mm so is highly portable. We also like how easy it is to put the sockets and bits into the case and that the tools stay where you put them.
This is a low-cost kit ideal for smaller jobs, it offers good quality and a good selection of bits.
Socket Set Comparison Table
|Socket Set||Our Verdict||Check Price||# of Pieces||Drive Size||Measurements||Tooth #||Material||Extension||Breaker bar||Universal joint||Weight||Kit Size|
|Sidchrome SCMT19120||Best Overall||eBay||64||1/4″, 3/8″, 1/2″||Metric and AF||Not listed||Chrome Vanadium Steel||Yes||Yes||Yes||6kg||490 x 205 x 50mm|
|Gearwrench||Best Value||Amazon, Tools Warehouse||68||1/4″, 3/8″||Standard and deep SAE and metric||84||Alloy Steel||Yes||No||No||190g||200 x 32.5 x 29.7 mm|
|DEWALT DWMT75049||Upgrade Pick||Amazon||192||1/4″, 3/8″, 1/2″||Standard and deep SAE and Metric||72||Polished chrome vanadium||Yes||No||Yes||16.8kg||599.4 x 480.1 x 129.5 mm|
|Bahco SL25||Budget Option||Amazon, Tools Warehouse||25||1/4″||Metric||60||Alloy Steel||Yes||No||No||422g||344.9 x 210.1 x 175 mm|
Socket Set Buying Guide
Type of fasteners
A 6 point socket is a good option if you are applying a lot of force, for example when removing lug nuts. This type gives you more surface coverage, greater durability and improved strength. The 6 point socket is less likely to slip from a bolt meaning it is less likely to strip the bolt too. It has thicker walls so it shouldn’t bend or break when under tension.
A 6 point socket is best for heavy-duty jobs.
This socket is the best option if you need an easier connection or an improved range of motion. As it has twice as many points, this fastener can connect more quickly and at a wider range of angles than the 6 point option. This can be used over square-head nuts and bolts too. It is also easier to connect to a bolt that is in a more awkward position or difficult to see. However, this type of socket is more likely to slip which means you need to take extra care not to strip the bolt.
A socket with 12 points is best for lightweight repairs and tight locations.
Torx, or star sockets, are widely used in automotive and motorcycle applications. This has increased the amount of Torx socket sets available. The Torx screw can withstand a higher torque without being damaged so Torx sockets are often available in regular, deep socket and impact socket options. Some kits come with a Torx adapter for use with Torx screws.
A Torx socket is best for dealing with tamper-resistant star socket screws.
¼ inch, 3/8 inch, ½ inch, and ¾ inch
The most popular sizes for the majority of DIY tasks are 1/4″, 3/8″ and 1/2″.
- 3/8″ is the most versatile
- 1/4″ is useful for small motors
- 1/2″ is useful for large motors
Many DIY socket set kits will come with all 3 measurements or at least with 1/4″ and 3/8″.
Others may include an adapter that lets you use sockets of different sizes on the ratchet. The larger 3/4″ and 1″ options are rarely useful on vehicles.
Shallow or Deep
Shallow sockets (also referred to as low profile sockets) are ideal for use in tight locations where there is limited space. Shallow sockets are the most common and are around 1/2″ long. As these are more common, most kits will include more shallow sockets than deep sockets.
Deep sockets have a longer body (around 1″) which means they can reach fasteners that are further back and can reach the nut on a threaded bolt. Deep sockets help to make sure you can access even the hard to reach nuts. A deep socket may be needed to access the spark plug, remove fuel injectors or cylinder head bolts.
SAE stands for the Society of Automotive Engineers and is the standard measurement. It uses the imperial system of inches and fractions of inches.
Metric measurements are based on millimetres. Metric is more common today but SAE sockets are needed for most older American cars as well as motorcycles.
Many quality socket sets will include both metric and SAE sockets to cover most repair applications and needs.
Impact vs Non-Impact
Impact sockets are designed to be used on a high torque impact wrench. This means an impact socket can withstand much more torque, stress and impact without being damaged. Rather than being quick release, an impact socket often has a locking pin that ensures it doesn’t come off the wrench by accident.
Regular or non-impact sockets risk cracking or shattering under the same amount of strain which is why you cannot use a non-impact socket on an impact wrench. You can, however, use impact sockets on regular ratchets.
RELATED: The Best Torque Wrench
Universal vs Task Specific Socket Sets
A universal socket set is generally inexpensive and contains everything the average homeowner needs. It’s a convenient option that is great for lighter tasks.
As universal kits aren’t designed for specific automotive uses, such as dealing with a spark plug or oxygen sensors, it is best to go for an automotive kit if you are carrying out this type of work. A lot of automotive work is heavy duty so you’ll get much better results from a socket set that is specifically designed for this.
A universal set will be able to handle most general DIY applications. You will find these sets are compact, lightweight and are very handy to have around the house. If you have a specific project or a heavy-duty requirement then take a look at larger kits as these offer more versatility.
A professional construction socket set will include a larger range of accessories and tools to ensure the majority of tasks can be completed using one set. As you are going to have more specific requirements it is best to choose a task-specific set.
1. Reversing levers
A reversible ratchet has a lever that lets you reverse the direction of the ratchet to loosen or tighten the fastener. This is a convenient feature that helps you get the most from the ratchet in each situation.
2. Deep drives or extension bars
An extension bar makes hard to reach jobs easier to manage. They are ideal for use in places where it is too difficult to move the ratchet handle to loosen or fasten the fastener. Extension bars come in standard lengths so you can select the size necessary for the application and available space.