Written By Car Bibles Staff
Published Nov. 9, 2020

A socket set is a basic tool that every home auto repair enthusiast should have. A good socket set is also great for anyone in building, construction, or agriculture. You can confidently tackle a wide range of bolt and fastener sizes with a decent set of sockets. Many sets include ratcheting handles, spinner handles, adapters, extenders, and other helpful accessories as well.

Consider the types of fasteners you’ll likely need. Do you drive a European car? Will you be working on large diesel machinery? Keep the sizes of sockets you’ll most commonly use in mind when shopping for a new set. You’ll also want to pay close attention to the case that’s included. Read our buying guide below to find the best socket sets available.

The Best Socket Set

Our top choice and a great all-around socket set is the EPAuto 1/4-Inch & 3/8-Inch Drive Socket Set. This 40-piece set is suitable for automotive, motorcycle, and bicycle use and contains most of the tools you need at a reasonable price. The highlight of this set is the 3/8-inch drive, 72-tooth ratchet, which is made of high-grade steel and features a polished mirror finish.

All of the tools are made from chrome vanadium steel alloy and are chrome plated for corrosion resistance. The sockets are stored in a sturdy plastic case for organization. The socket set includes one 1/4-inch drive six-inch spinner handle, 15 3/4-inch SAE sockets, 13 3/4-inch metric sockets, three 3/8-inch SAE sockets, and three 3/8-inch metric sockets. It also includes a 3/8-inch adapter and extension bar.

Key Features
  • Corrosion-resistant material
  • Storage case included
  • Metric and English sizes available
Specification
  • Brand EPAuto
  • Model ST-003-1
  • Weight 2.95 lbs

Second on our list is this Dewalt DWMT73804 34-Piece Drive Socket Set. With only slightly fewer pieces than the Stanley socket set, this portable offering from Dewalt has plenty of sockets and drives of various sizes, to meet your socket needs. The set is contained in a chunky case that forms part of Dewalt’s customizable, interlocking tool storage system — making it a great choice if you’re looking to expand your tool collection in the future (and let’s face it, who isn’t?!)

The included components of this ratchet and socket set are a 1 x 3/8 drive quick release ratchet, a 1 x 3/8 drive 3-inch extension, a 1 x 3/8 – 1/4 drive adaptor, 7 x 1/4 drive standard SAE sockets, 7 x 1/4 drive standard metric sockets, 8 x 3/4 drive standard SAE sockets, 8 x 3/8 drive standard metric sockets and a 1 x 3/8 drive drill adaptor.

Related Post: Best Dewalt Power Tools

Key Features
  • 34-piece socket set
  • Polished chrome vanadium finish
  • DirectTorque Technology
  • Part of Dewalt’s customizable tool storage system
Specification
  • Brand DEWALT
  • Model DWMT73804
  • Weight 5 lbs

Billed as the ‘number one selling mechanic’s toolset’, this Craftsman 230-Piece Mechanics Tool Set comes with an impressive 230 pieces, all made from durable alloy steel with a silver finish. It’s considerably more expensive than the previous two options, but that’s pretty justified when you consider its vastly superior size, and the inclusion of other items, such as combination wrenches.

Included in this monster socket wrench set are three quick-release ratchets, 116 sockets, two extension bars, six combination wrenches, a magnetic handle, 12 nut driver bits, 50 screwdriver bits, and 40 hex keys. Most of these come in both SAE and metric measurements.

Related Post: Best Mechanic Tool Set

Key Features
  • Impressive 230-piece socket set
  • Made from alloy steel with a silver finish
  • Includes 3 quick-release ratchets and 6 combination wrenches
  • Weighs 20.3lb
Specification
  • Brand Craftsman
  • Model 50230
  • Weight 20.3 lbs

From a monster to a mini, this Niko 10074A 13-Piece Hex Bit Socket Set includes just 12 sockets and no added extras like ratchets or wrenches. This makes it a great option for a mechanic, or someone who already owns a lot of their own tools, and only wants to add sockets. This is also a metric socket set, so ideal if you don’t really know your inches from your ounces!

The sockets included with this set are 6 x 1/4-inch drives (2mm, 2.5mm, 3mm, 4mm, 5mm, 6mm), 5 x 3/8-inch drives (7mm, 8mm, 9mm, 10mm, 12mm), and 1 x 1/2-inch drive (14mm). This small socket set is packed in a slim-line case that can be easily slotted into your bag or toolbox, for your convenience.

Key Features
  • 13-piece metric hex bit socket set
  • Machine cut bits to ensure accurate sizing
  • Made from durable S2 alloy steel
  • High torque strength
Specification
  • Brand Neiko
  • Model 10074A
  • Weight 1.5 lbs

If you find yourself needing a wide assortment of sockets for a variety of situations, this set is perfect. The set includes SAE and metric 1/4, 3/8, and 1/2-inch drive sockets. You’ll also find spark plug sockets, extensions, an adapter, and a spinner handle. Each piece is housed neatly in the hard plastic carrying case. Keeping your tools neatly organized means less time wasted looking for the socket you need. This set will see most automotive hobbyists and home repair enthusiasts well tooled for most jobs. 

Easily double your productivity with the included second ratchet handle. You can easily invite a helper to work alongside you without interrupting your own work. Even on solo projects, the second handle can increase efficiency. Set up a second size ratchet and easily switch back and forth between tools. Each piece in this set is made from drop-forged steel and is coated in chrome vanadium for an attractive mirror finish. 

Key Features
  • 52 pieces
  • Two ratchets
  • SAE and metric sockets
Specification
  • Brand Stalwart
  • Model 75-HT3014
  • Weight 5.95 lbs

Easily keep your sockets perfectly organized in this heavy-duty plastic case. There is a clearly labeled space perfectly sized for each socket.  Each socket is stamped with its size, making it effortless to identify the tool you need. If you’re looking to expand your set to include hex sockets, this kit is the perfect solution. 

Enjoy years of use with this durable set made from drop forged s2 alloy steel. These sockets are made to precise specifications by CNC machines. All edges are chamfered to ensure smoothness and functionality. These bits are hardened for increased torque and durability. Each bit and socket is treated to resist rust and corrosion. If there is a flaw in your socket set you can trust the manufacturer’s lifetime warranty to replace any damaged pieces. 

Key Features
  • Imperial and Metric sizes
  • Spark plug socket included
  • Contains 2 ratchet handles
Specification
  • Brand LEXIVON
  • Model LX-144
  • Weight 4.8 lbs

Next up is this PSO40 40-Piece Drive Socket Set by Great Neck Saw, which includes a wide selection of socket sizes and a reversible ratchet. As a complete socket set, it’s unbeatable for the price, and a great starter option if you won’t be using it often — just be aware that, as several reviews mention, you get what you pay for in terms of quality. If you want a similar sized set and don’t mind spending a bit more for peace of mind, we recommend our top pick, the Stanley socket set.

This Great Neck Saw set includes, amongst other things, a 1 x 3/8-inch drive reversible ratchet, a 1 x 1/4-inch drive 6-inch spinner handle, a 1 x 3-inch extension bar, 13 x 1/4-inch 6-point sockets, 13 x 1/4-inch 6-point metric sockets, 3 x 3/8-inch drive 6-point SAE sockets, and 3 x 3/8-inch drive 6-point metric sockets. All of the aforementioned items come in a convenient molded plastic case.

Key Features
  • 40-piece socket set, metric and SAE sizes
  • Triple chrome plated sockets
  • 3/8-inch reversible ratchet
  • Cheap, entry-level option
Specification
  • Brand Great Neck Saw
  • Model PSO40
  • Weight 2.03 lbs

For our next pick, it’s back to a small socket set in the Astro 7412 12-Piece 1/4-Inch Drive Flex Socket Set. The sockets have a polished finish for a shiny ‘new’ look, and the surface drive technology minimizes rounding off fasteners by gripping them on the flat. Many reviews comment on the quality and durability of the sockets, with some saying they have used them daily for months, or even years, with no problems.

This compact set includes 12 x 1/4-inch 6-point flex sockets in metric sizes, all presented in a smart foam case. We think this would make a great gift idea for a mechanic or car enthusiast!

Key Features
  • 12-piece, 6-point metric socket set
  • Flexible joints for hard-to-reach fasteners
  • Full polished finish
  • Presented in a padded foam tray
Specification
  • Brand Astro Pneumatic Tool
  • Model APT-7412
  • Weight 14.4 oz

What makes the Crescent CX6PT20 X6 Pass-Through Ratchet and Socket Set special is the unique design of the sockets, which fit over six different types of fastener – 6-point, 12 points, partially rounded hex, square, e-torx, and spleen. Although 6-point (hex) fastenings are by far the most common, having the option to fit other types makes this socket set a great all-rounder, and could save you from having to buy more sockets in the future.

As well as 18 x sockets in both SAE and metric sizes, this set also includes a 3/8-inch adaptor to allow for use with a square drive socket and a ratchet. The pass-through system of this ratchet and socket set eliminates the need for deep drives, as it works over long threaded rods, and the ratchet is up to 50% thinner than a standard one, which allows you to reach those awkward areas.

Key Features
  • 20-piece ratchet and socket set
  • Sockets fit 6 different shapes of fastener
  • Unique pass-through design for hard-to-reach areas
  • Up to 40% stronger and 50% thinner than a standard ratchet
Specification
  • Brand Crescent
  • Model CX6PT20
  • Weight 1.5 lbs

As socket set sizes go, this next one is one of the smallest. The EPAuto 13-Piece Torx Bit Socket Set features 13 Torx bits and doesn’t come with a ratchet or socket wrench. This Torx socket set is a great option for those whose vehicles feature a lot of Torx screws (reviewers have used these in everything from a Jeep to a Mini Cooper).

This small socket set includes 7 x ¼ inch drive Torx star bits, 5 x 3/8-inch drive Torx star bits, and a 1 x 1/2-inch drive Torx star bit. All of the pieces are made from chrome vanadium alloy steel with a mirrored chrome plating for a shiny finish. They come in a small plastic case that will easily fit inside most larger tool chests.

Key Features
  • 13-piece torx socket set
  • Made from chrome vanadium alloy steel, with mirror plating
  • Corrosion resistant
  • Contained in a plastic case
Specification
  • Brand EPAuto
  • Model ST-005-1
  • Weight 1.25 lbs

Reviews of the Capri Tools CP30002 S2 Hex Wrench Bit Socket Set suggest that this is another well-made, high-quality small socket set, again for those looking purely for socket bits, and not a ratchet and socket set. The socket bits are crafted from a heat-treated S2 steel alloy that’s designed to last, and finished with chrome-vanadium plating, for oil and corrosion resistance.

The set features 7 x ¼-inch drive sockets, 4 x 3/8-inch drive sockets, and 2 x ½-inch drive sockets, all in metric sizes. They are suitable for use with breaker bars, torque wrenches, and ratchets (not included). The sockets come presented in a slim, blue carry case — perfect if you want to add some color to your garage! — and there’s a foam-lined lid to prevent the pieces from rattling around inside.

Key Features
  • 13-piece metric hex socket set
  • Hex bits made from heat-treated S2 steel alloy
  • Sockets made from chrome-vanadium for strength and durability
  • Contained in a slim blue carry case
Specification
  • Brand Capri Tools
  • Model CP30002
  • Weight 1.45 lbs

The Sunex 3342 3/8-Inch Drive Master Impact Socket Set is the first impact socket set on our list, designed for use with impact and power tools. Made from chromium-molybdenum alloy steel for maximum durability, these impact sockets also feature an internal radius corner design, which is intended to catch the flat sides of fasteners, for increased torque and reduced wear to the fastener corners. (See our FAQ below for more tips on how to reduce fastener wear when using sockets).

This impact socket set includes 10 metric sockets, 10 deep metric sockets, eight SAE sockets, eight deep SAE sockets, and 1 x 3-inch extension and 1 x 3/8-inch universal joint. The pieces come in a red, blow-molded carry case, for easy portability.

Key Features
  • 42-piece impact socket set
  • Made from chromium-molybdenum alloy steel
  • Radius corners for increased torque and reduced fastener wear
  • Includes shallow and deep sockets, and a universal joint
Specification
  • Brand Sunex Tools
  • Model 42437
  • Weight 8.5 lbs

Another great impact socket set is this 19-piece 84934N 1/2-inch Drive Deep SAE Impact Socket Set from GearWrench. It’s got less than half the amount of pieces as the Sunex set (because there are no metric sockets, only SAE), BUT it is made from the same hard-wearing chrome-molybdenum alloy steel and features the off-corner internal shaping to reduce fastener wear.

Included in this impact socket set are 19 x 6-point, 1/2-inch drive deep sockets in various standard SAE sizes. All sockets have clear, laser-etched markings so you can easily tell which one you need (just remember to put your glasses on before you start working!) and the set is contained in a chunky, grey molded carry case with re-enforced steel hinges, that looks as though it means business!

Key Features
  • 19-piece SAE impact socket set
  • Made from chrome-molybdenum alloy steel
  • Black phosphate coating for corrosion resistance
  • Laser etched markings for easy socket identification
Specification
  • Brand GearWrench
  • Model 84934N
  • Weight 18.92 lbs

Because we can’t get enough of these impact socket sets, the penultimate entry on our list is this Tacklife 18-Piece 1/2-Inch Drive Impact Socket Set. This one is similar in size to the above GearWrench option, with sockets made from chrome-molybdenum alloy steel and a black phosphate coating, but this one is a metric socket set.

This set includes 15 x 1/2-inch drive sockets (all common metric sizes) and three extensions bars up to 10 inches in length (the addition of the extension bars will be welcomed by anyone trying to unscrew hard-to-reach lug nuts). The sockets are contained in a similar heavy-duty case to the GearWrench option above.

Key Features
  • 18-piece 6-point metric impact socket set
  • Made from chrome-molybdenum alloy steel with a black phosphate coating
  • Suitable for use with power tools and hand tools
  • Includes 3 x extension bars
Specification
  • Brand TACKLIFE
  • Model HIS1A
  • Weight 9.1 lbs

These sockets stand out from the crowd. If you prefer something other than mirror chrome, the black phosphate is a breath of fresh air. Each socket is laser etched and hard stamped to make every label stand out. You’ll be able to reach any fastener with the included 3 and 6-inch extension bars. The heat-treated, drop forged alloy steel of these sockets is hardened to improve torque and longevity

This set comes with a durable hard plastic carrying case that keeps each piece organized and easy to find. This set is suitable for use with impact tools and can stand up to hard use. There are no missing sizes in this set. It contains commonly used sizes, so you can tackle most jobs with confidence. 

Key Features
  • Black phosphate finish
  • 3 and 6-inch extensions included
  • High-contrast markings
Specification
  • Brand CASOMAN
  • Model CS041
  • Weight 9.35 lbs

Best Socket Sets Buying Guide & FAQ

Feeling overwhelmed by the sheer amount of shiny socket sets on the market? Wondering whether you really need one after all? We don’t blame you! Have a read of our buying guide and FAQs to help you understand more about what socket sets are, and which one you should invite into your workshop.

Things to Consider When Buying Socket Sets

  • Type of fasteners

By far the most common shape of the bolt is the 6-sided, hexagonal bolt, and this is, therefore, the shape of most socket sets. However, other shapes and styles do exist, so you should check what type of fasteners you are working with before buying a socket set. For example, some cars feature a lot of Torx screws, and so, in this case, you may need a Torx socket set.

  • Metric or SAE sizing?

Nuts and bolts come in either metric or SAE (inches) sizing. As above, check the fastenings on your vehicle before purchasing a socket set to determine which measuring system you require, or whether you want the option of both.

  • Impact or non-impact?

Do you need an impact socket set, or is a non-impact one sufficient? This will depend on whether you just want a socket set for DIY and occasional automotive repairs, or if you will be doing more hardcore construction work, and want to an impact wrench — in which case you will need specific impact sockets.

  • How difficult are your fastenings to reach?

Depending upon the location of your fasteners, you may decide you need a socket set which includes deep drives or extension bars, in order to make sure you can reach all your nuts and bolts. An example of when you might need an extension is to access engine spark plugs.

Advantages of Using Socket Sets

  • Easier than a spanner

The main point of using a socket and ratchet system is to make tightening and removing fastenings easier. A socket will fit snugly around your nut or bolt and the attached turning tool can then be ratcheted by sometimes as little as 5 degrees, to easily tighten or loosen the bolt.

  • Better access than a spanner

Slim ratchet handles, deep drives, universal joints, and extension bars all mean that you no longer have to be a contortionist in order to unscrew your hard-to-reach bolt.

  • Less likely to damage the fastener

Hex sockets provide 6 points of contact with the bolt, rather than the 2 of the traditional spanner, making them less likely to damage the bolt when turning, as the pressure is distributed evenly. Many sockets also feature an internal radius corner design, which ensures the socket grips the flat edges of the bolt, making it less likely to wear away the corners.

  • Universal sets work with almost anything

Gone are the days when you’ll be half-way through your Saturday tinkering on your bike, only to be met with an awkward bolt that you don’t have the tools to undo. A good, comprehensive socket set will contain all the most common fastener sizes, to ensure you can continue your tinkering without interruption.

  • Space-saving

Having a socket set with multiple sized options all in one place, and with only one turning tool, will save you space when compared with having the same amount of spanner options hung up in your garage.

Related Post: Torque Wrenches

Types of Socket Sets

Non-impact sockets made from chrome or other polished metal are the most common type of socket on the market. You would generally use this type for car and motorcycle repairs and light DIY. The second type of socket is an impact socket, which has thicker walls and a carbonized surface, and is designed for use with an impact gun for heavier-duty jobs, involving higher — yes, you guessed it — impact.

The most common shape of the socket is the 6-point or hexagonal — but they also come in other shapes, including square, rounded, and 12-point (double hexagonal). Socket sets also include socket drives in different sizes, the most common being ¼ inch, 3/8 inch, ½ inch, and ¾ inch. These can also be shallow or deep varieties. You should always try to use the appropriate drive size for your job.

Socket sets themselves are available in a variety of sizes — the larger the set, the more socket options you will have. Which type is best for you really depends on what you will be using the socket set for, and the variety of jobs you’ll be undertaking. A universal socket set will generally feature a good selection of sockets and is a great all-around option for the indecisive among us.

Related Post: Best Air Impact Wrenches

Maintaining Your Socket Set for Long Lasting

In order to ensure your socket set stands the test of time, you should clean your sockets thoroughly after every use. Brush away any dirt with an old toothbrush to help to prevent corrosion. It is also important to make sure your sockets are completely dry before packing them away, in order to prevent rust. Store your sockets in a protective case (most socket sets come with one), to keep them dry and secure when not in use, and ensure you don’t lose any. There’s nothing more frustrating than an incomplete socket set – you can guarantee the one that’s missing will be the one you need!

Related Post: Best Cordless Impact Wrench

Best Socket Sets FAQ:

Q:  What is socket sets exactly?

  A socket set consists of a number of different sized socket heads, that can be attached to a ratchet, socket wrench or other turning tools. This can then be used to tighten or loosen fasteners, such as nuts and bolts, with more speed and ease than a traditional spanner. Socket sets may also include extensions, or deep sockets, in order to reach difficult-to-access bolts. Ultimately, a socket set is designed to reduce the amount of time and energy it takes to tighten and loosen fasteners. Sounds good to us!

Q:  How should I use a socket set?

  You should use a socket set to help tighten or loosen nuts and bolts on your vehicle. To use, place the correct sized socket over the bolt (attaching an extension if needed), and attach the ratchet. Hold the socket with one hand, and use the other hand to drive the ratchet. Turn clockwise to tighten the bolt, and anti-clockwise to loosen it.

Q:  Can I use a general hex socket with an impact gun?

  No, you should only use impact sockets with an impact gun. This is because the higher torque output from an impact gun poses the risk of damaging or shattering a general hex socket. Impact sockets feature a carbonized coating, which makes them strong enough to be used with power tools.

Q:  What to do to prevent round off of fasteners?

Preventing the rounding off of fasteners is all about making sure the socket doesn’t slip as you tighten or loosen the fastener. In order to ensure this, use a 6-point socket with radius corners, as this will have more traction on the flat sides of the bolt, and is less likely to slip and round the corners of the bolt as you tighten. If you are using a deep socket, make sure to keep the ratchet in line with the center of the bolt, to prevent it slipping. If a bolt is particularly stuck, it may help to heat it up first with a blow torch, which will cause it to expand and loosen, or to lube it up with some silicone spray, to allow you to hopefully remove it without rounding it off. <iframe src=”https://www.youtube.com/embed/YA7lHjbELTo” width=”950″ height=”373″ frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen=”allowfullscreen”></iframe>

Our Top Pick

The EPAuto 1/4-Inch & 3/8-Inch Drive Socket Set is a comprehensive and high-quality tool set that will help you tackle tough automotive tasks. This 40-piece set is priced just right and contains nearly everything you’ll need for home auto repair. You can also use it on motorcycles and bicycles. This complete socket set includes various-sized sockets, a ratchet, extension, and more, so it’s worth the investment.

Sources:

  1. Socket Wrench – Wikipedia
  2. The Socket Wrench: A Modern Man’s Guide to Tools – Primer Magazine

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