If you fancy yourself as a bit of a handy Andy who likes to tinker, maintain or repair a range of household devices like cars, white goods and whatever else you can get your hands on, having a reliable socket set is going to be vital for getting the job done. However, with so many sets available on the market, how do you know which is the right one for you?
To assist in your search and help you identify exactly what you need, we’ve put together a clear and concise buying guide providing all the most important information and advice. From there, check out our recommendations and reviews of the best socket sets for mechanics and beginners for sale on Amazon, Halfords and eBay.
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Table of Contents
Without further ado, let’s get into the thick of it. In this part of the article, we’ll be taking a look at all of the most imperative features of a socket set, including its measurements, the size or amount of pieces in the set, why you need to know the drive size and much more.
The first, and perhaps the most vital factor, is making sure that your set uses your preferred unit of measurement. After all, you don't want the trouble of having to return your set, or worse, buy a new one.
Of course, this all depends on your needs, so you’ll want to check what you plan on fixing before committing to purchasing any particular set, but in the UK we generally favour the metric system. For socket sets, this means millimetres rather than inches.
It’s worth pointing out that if you’re planning on working on a car, its age is often a good indicator of which will be used. Many old vehicles used the imperial system, whereas modern transportation has moved over to metric. However, always be sure to double-check.
The next thing to consider is how many pieces are in the set. This can vary wildly from 10 to well over 200, so there are plenty of options for all types of fixer-uppers. So, think about what you need alongside how much you’re willing to spend. For conciseness, we have split them into three groups: compact, medium and large.
Smaller sets suit those looking to fix little bits up around the house and usually come with 10-30 pieces, while medium sets are in the 30-60 range and offer extra sizes and accessories. These additions make the sets more versatile and should see the average folk capable of fixing pretty much any household appliance.
Large sets with 60+ pieces are best for people who want to get into fixing everything, as you’ll have numerous socket sizes that are capable of fitting whatever you can imagine. As with anything tool-related, remember that prices will start to increase once you get to these comprehensive sets.
Sockets and screws are all available in up to three different drive sizes, ¼, 3/8 and 1/2, and each requires a different drive handle and ratchet. If you’re buying a complete set, these will be part of it and will therefore already fit, so you needn't worry about it.
However, if you’re buying just the sockets to match with a handle you have at home, then you’re going to want to make sure the sizes line up.
Size-wise, smaller sizes are generally used to reach smaller nuts and bolts in tighter spaces; for larger sizes, it's the opposite. Luckily, some companies provide sets that aren’t limited to one size, so these could be worth looking for as they’ll save you from having to buy additional sockets or adaptors further down the line.
As we mentioned in the previous section, you don’t always have to buy socket sets with the handles, especially if you already have gear at your disposal.
Unfortunately, sets that come without handles tend to be in smaller sizes, which means you’ll either be required to purchase a lesser number of sockets or double up on your handles and ratchets. Definitely something worth bearing in mind!
The point refers to a socket's sides, of which there are two options: six-point or twelve-point. Many professionals advise that six-point sockets are stronger and more robust. This is because, due to the additional surface contact from the flat edges, more force can be generated. The edges are also thicker, which adds to the overall strength.
Twelve-point sockets, on the other hand, are aimed more towards convenience. The additional points make the sockets quicker to attach to the fasteners, so twelve-point sockets are ideal if you’re trying to work with something difficult to see. Because they can connect more easily, this size is also better for working in tight spaces.
It all comes down to what you’re working on, as the different sizes are better suited for different situations. That said, if you’re planning to work in this field professionally, or this is a serious hobby of yours, it wouldn’t hurt to have a set of both.
Finally, you'll want to decide on the finish of the set. While this might seem like an aesthetic choice, in reality, the two finishes (chrome and black oxide) provide different types of protection to the sockets.
Black oxide is the choice for impact sockets. Manufacturers choose this because it is much less likely to chip off, which in turn, protects your tools from corrosion or wear for longer. This finish is wise if you plan on using your sockets in conjunction with wrenches or power tools.
If you plan on using the sockets only manually, then picking up a chrome finish set will be fine. These are generally considered easier to clean thanks to their smooth finish, and as long as they're not compromised, they'll stand up better to corrosion. Unfortunately, the finish will be put in jeopardy if used alongside power tools.
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Drive Socket Set
A Functional, Durable and Economical Option
16359 Metric Socket Set
For the Mechanics on the Move
1/2 in Drive Combination Impact Socket Set
Laser Etchings Make Identifying the Correct Size a Touch Easier
Socket & Mechanical Set
Get Your Hands on Everything You Could Ever Need All at Once
Add Extra Firepower to the DIY Arsenal
Drive Socket Set
A Super Set for Those Who Only Plan to Use It Sparingly
Ideal for Those Looking to Do Odd Jobs
Impact Socket Set
Tackle the Most Stubborn of Mechanical Issues
Advanced 150-Piece Socket & Spanner Set
One for the Tradespersons and Mechanic Enthusiasts
Blue Spot Tools
46-Piece Chrome Vanadium Socket Set
A Value Chrome-Finished Set to Kick Start Your Hobby
WORKPRO are unlike many other tool manufacturers – they specialise in creating socket sets. This means their whole focus is on creating top-of-the-line quality, which is clear in this kit. All the components are built from high-grade CR-V (chrome and vanadium) and are engineered to have the ultimate strength and sturdiness.
Furthermore, the set contains 108 pieces which is ample for most mechanics, nevermind your average DIY-er. Our favourite factor, though? It'll cost you so little to get your hands on, especially considering that sets like this are usually more than double the price. It's also capable of fitting two drive sizes. Talk about a bargain!
Draper has built a brilliant reputation when it comes to making tools, and thankfully this is upheld with their compact, metric socket set. While it might be small, this is designed for fixers on the move, so it's more of a reliable secondary option than a primary one.
If you don't plan on doing much fixing while out and about, it could still be a great choice for use around the house. We think any user, regardless of experience or knowledge, will like that the chrome sockets have been hardened and tempered in order to make the pieces as robust as possible.
This set of O-ring and retaining pin compatible impact sockets by trusted brand Dewalt is ideal for plumbers, mechanics, sparkies, DIY-ers and practically anybody who wants to get stuck into fixing gear. The sockets are made from heat-treated CR-440 steel and finished with black oxide for extra resilience.
Each quality-made socket also has a laser-finished etching on it to indicate the size, which makes identifying them and putting them away properly a little easier – particularly when you have one of their signature yellow lockable and stackable cases. A lifetime guarantee tops things off nicely.
Is there a more adaptable socket set on the planet than this offering from Bahco? We haven't seen them all, but to our knowledge, it'd be pretty hard to better! It's capable of fitting with various drive sizes and uses both metric and imperial measurement systems, making it perfect for any machine or appliance.
Additionally, alongside the versatility, there is also an abundance of differently-sized sockets for any job you could ever wish to get stuck into. It might be pricey, but if you're looking to get your hands on everything you could ever need in one quick purchase, look no further.
Although this is a compact socket collection, it has a very different purpose from the previous small set in our ranking. You see, this set is strictly about the sockets, and it provides a range of sizes from 8-36 mm.
This means that it is ideal for people who want to enhance their collection, perhaps for a different drive size or different point size. Of course, it will be better suited to keen handymen and women rather than your average Joe.
This compact set contains just 26-pieces including a ratchet and extension bar. While may aficionados would claim this to be far too small, if you're looking for something that is only going to be using sparingly over the years, then buying something practical and economical is a good shout.
The set comes with a durable case so you won't lose the pieces in the shed or garage, and is crafted from chrome vanadium steel for strength and sturdiness. The downside of this is obvious: it won't tackle the tough jobs, but if you're not looking to do that, it should be more than fine.
Coming in at under £30, this medium-sized set from Haskyy is going to provide more than enough options for the average home mechanic. One of our favourite aspects is that the drive can alternate between 1/4 and 3/8 sizing, meaning that you'll be able to use a multitude of different sockets should you ever wish to pick any more up.
This set is also twelve point, so again, it is more appropriate for those who tend to do smaller odd jobs rather than, say, taking their car apart. However, as with most twelve-point sets, this isn't going to be great at trumping tenacious, tight bolts.
Are you looking for some substantial and durable impact sockets? Look no further than this 35-piece set from MultiWare. With sizes ranging from 8-32 mm, this batch will have you capable of tackling pretty much any nut or bolt you will ever come across. Unless you work on huge machinery like tractors, that is.
The sockets use a hexagonal six point and combined with the black oxide finish, this means they're the tools of choice for tackling the most stubborn mechanical issues. While the sockets are tough, the same can't be said for the storage box, so you may want to replace it with another.
This set is designed by professionals, for professionals. It comes complete with everything one could ever require in their workshop with a combination of sockets, spanners, drive bars and a ratchet. Not only does it have everything, but you'll also get a lifetime guarantee, which tells us these guys are confident in their tools.
The collection is a six-point, which Halfords claim will help you produce up to 28% more torque before rounding. It's possibly a bit overkill for the average person, but for those do-it-yourself types, this is going to be like getting a bike for Christmas when you're 10.
The first socket set in our ranking is a 46-piece offering from Blue Spot Tools. The set contains a drive socket, wrench spanner and driver bits, all with a chrome vanadium finish for strength and durability. Each socket comes with a size marking that makes it easy to distinguish that you're getting the right one for the job.
On top of this, you get a sturdy storage case with dedicated slots to keep all the tools in the right place, making them much easier to find. While the price is certainly appealing – especially for beginners – some users report that it's a case of getting what you pay for here, as the sockets don't always fit perfectly in the ratchet.
Looking for more useful DIY equipment for work or a home renovation? Check out our related articles, where we've ranked and reviewed many more comprehensive sets and power tools for all of your hammering, drilling and screw-tightening needs.
Whether you're just starting to fix things around the home or you've been doing it for years, we hope that you found all the information in the buying guide useful. All that's left to do now is find your next project, in fact, hasn't the fridge has been acting a bit funny recently?
Author: Lewis Clark
No. 1: WORKPRO｜Drive Socket Set
No. 2: Draper｜16359 Metric Socket Set
No. 3: DEWALT｜1/2 in Drive Combination Impact Socket Set
No. 4: Bahco｜Socket & Mechanical Set
No. 5: Haskyy｜Socket Box
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