The Best Ratchets of 2022

Get a grip on the ratchet with the right features for your home and auto projects and repairs.

By Tom Scalisi | Updated Oct 1, 2020 9:34 AM

We may earn revenue from the products available on this page and participate in affiliate programs.

The Best Ratchet Option

Photo: depositphotos.com

Don’t get it twisted: Anyone who may be doing repairs around the house or on their car needs a ratchet—a wrench with a fastener component used to tighten or loosen nuts and bolts. A ratchet has a rotating gear inside its gear head and two levers (known as pawls) that catch the gear’s teeth. One pawl, when engaged, tightens the nut or bolt, while the other pawl is used to loosen a fastener as the user turns the handle.

Basic as these hand tools may be, they’re definitely not one-size-fits-all, so a DIYer will want to reach for the ratchet (aka socket wrench) that best suits the task. Plus, as any professional builder or mechanic knows, there’s a big difference between a high-end ratchet and a low-quality model. This shopping guide will give shoppers the 411 on these essential devices and detail why the models here rank among the best on the market for a tool box or garage.

  1. BEST OVERALL: DeWalt ⅜-Inch Quick-Release Ratchet
  2. BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Ares ⅜-Inch Drive Ratchet
  3. BEST HANDLE: Neiko ⅜-Inch Drive Extendable Ratchet
  4. BEST ELECTRIC: ACDelco Power 12V ⅜-Inch Cordless Ratchet
  5. BEST LIGHT-DUTY: Tekton ¼-Inch Composite Offset Ratchet
  6. BEST HEAVY-DUTY: Ares ½-Inch Drive Ratchet
  7. BEST SET: Craftsman Mechanics 32-Piece Tool Set
  8. BEST FOR TIGHT SPACES: Wera ¼-Inch Square Drive Bit Ratchet
The Best Ratchet Option

Photo: depositphotos.com

How We Chose the Best Ratchets

We wanted to ensure that we were suggesting only top-of-the-line ratchets for this roundup. We called upon all of our experience working on cars, power equipment, and other mechanical devices to determine the most important features we felt a ratchet should offer.

Once we knew what features and considerations were important to look for, we performed extensive product research to collect some of the best ratchets on the market for comparison. We compared their prices, their features, and even their materials to ensure they had what it takes to make the list. Those that didn’t offer enough value were removed, while those that passed our tests were given awards based on their strengths.

Our Top Picks

Each recommendation listed below is considered one of the best ratchet options on the market. Whether a shopper is looking to save a few bucks, buy a premium tool, or needs just a little more torque, there’s a ratchet here for them. Pair one of these with a ratcheting screwdriver, a complement of bits, and a socket set, and DIYers will have a decent foundation for efficiently tightening fasteners.

Best Overall

The Best Ratchet Option: DEWALT 3/8-Inch Quick-Release Ratchet
Photo: amazon.com

Folks looking for an all-around high quality-ratchet should consider this model from DeWalt. Although DeWalt is best known for its battery-powered tools, the company makes quality hand tools as well—and this ⅜-inch ratchet is an example. It features a quality chrome-vanadium steel body that is both sturdy and easy to keep clean. It also has a 72-tooth-count gearing, allowing this ratchet to make progress after only 5 degrees of swing. And, to help keep knuckle busting to a minimum, there is a smooth quick-release button on the rear of the head to make socket swaps simple.

The DeWalt’s ergonomic handle has nonslip grooves, allowing users to get a comfortable grip and apply force. However, this model doesn’t have any additional texture, like ribs or knurling, so greasy hands may find it challenging to get a solid grip.

Product Specs

  • Drive size: ⅜ inch
  • Tooth count: 72
  • Material: Chrome vanadium

Pros

  • Chrome-vanadium construction is sturdy enough to handle force but also easy to keep clean
  • 72-tooth gear allows user to make progress while only twisting the ratchet handle 5 degrees
  • Quick-release button allows user to remove the socket without busting their knuckles

Cons

  • No knurling or ribs for grip with hands that are greasy

Get the DeWalt ratchet on Amazon or Blain’s Farm & Fleet.

Best Bang for the Buck

Ares ⅜-Inch Drive Ratchet
Photo: amazon.com

For those who don’t want to spend a lot on a high-quality ratchet, this model from Ares may be the way to go. It features an entry-level price tag despite having high-end features, meaning users can potentially purchase this model and save money for upgrading other tools. It’s made from chrome-vanadium tool steel to be strong, durable, and easy to clean, and it features a large quick-release button that is accessible for gloved hands.

The real benefit of this ratchet (beside its price) is its gearing. This ratchet has a 90-tooth count, helping users make progress on a fastener in even the tightest of situations—it requires just 4 degrees of swing. The smooth, round handle allows users to get a comfortable grip without creating pressure points under force. The biggest issue with this model, however, is how smooth that handle is, as it won’t provide much grip when greasy or wet.

Product Specs

  • Drive size: ⅜ inch
  • Tooth count: 90
  • Material: Chrome vanadium

Pros

  • Price point provides a high-quality ratchet, allowing users to spend their money on other tools
  • 90-tooth gearing allows users to make progress on fasteners with just a 4-degree twist of the handle
  • Large quick-release button on the back of the head make swapping sockets with gloved hands easy

Cons

  • The handle is extremely smooth, meaning it could become difficult to handle when wet or greasy

Get the Ares ⅜-inch ratchet on Amazon or Ares Tool.

Best Handle

Neiko ⅜-Inch Drive Extendable Ratchet
Photo: amazon.com

Home mechanics who want a bit more comfort and flexibility from their ratchet should consider this ⅜-inch Drive Extendable Ratchet from Neiko. This chrome-vanadium model features a sure-grip rubber handle that telescopes to let users maximize torque and increase leverage in tight spots. Simply pull back on the handle’s collar and extend to the desired length; the locking collar, when released, will maintain the length of the handle. It adjusts from 8½ to 12⅜ inches.

The handle’s grip is rubber, promoting comfort and a good grasp in wet or greasy conditions. Also, this models’ 72-tooth gear requires smaller ratchet increments (just 5 degrees)—something that can be important with the handle extended to reduce unnecessary movement. The telescoping feature and rubber handle make for a heavier-than-average ratchet, however. While this Neiko is capable in nearly any scenario, DIYers might want to also own a lighter model for long ratcheting jobs.

Product Specs

  • Drive size: ⅜ inch
  • Tooth count: 72
  • Material: Chrome vanadium and rubber

Pros

  • Telescoping handles adjusts from 8½ inches to 12⅜ inches, allowing users to adjust for size and torque requirement
  • Rubber grip on the handle helps maintain a secure grasp in wet or greasy situations while also providing comfort
  • Requires only 5 degrees of rotation to maintain progress, allowing users to make the most of the ratchet in extended mode

Cons

  • It is slightly heavier than other models

Get the Neiko ratchet on Amazon.

Best Electric

ACDelco Power 12V ⅜-Inch Cordless Ratchet
Photo: amazon.com

For DIYers who don’t mind spending a little extra cash for some convenience, the ACDelco Power 12V ⅜-inch cordless ratchet could be an option. This tool all but eliminates busted knuckles and unnecessary movements. It uses a 12-volt battery to power the ratcheting function, allowing users to work faster and more efficiently.

This cordless ratchet is handy for tightening bolts in tight locations, as it has a low-profile design that isn’t much larger than a typical ratchet. It’s also useful for dealing with multiple fasteners over the course of a project, saving the user’s wrist from fatigue. It also comes with seven sockets and a ¼-inch drive adapter.

Alone, the ACDelco provides 45 pounds of torque—more than enough to snug a bolt initially—and users can then apply up to 100 pounds of torque by hand to tighten the bolt all the way. But since 100 pounds is its maximum torque output, the ratchet is fine for lawn mowers, bikes, and regular shop use but won’t cut the mustard for heavy-duty work on trucks, trailers, or professional applications.

Product Specs

  • Drive size: ⅜ inch
  • Tooth count: NA
  • Material: Metal, rubber, specifics unknown

Pros

  • 12-volt battery powers the ratchet, minimizing effort and maximizing efficiency
  • Provides 45 pounds of torque on its own, but allows the user to apply up to 100 pounds of torque by hand
  • Low-profile design fits in tight places similarly to a standard ratchet

Cons

  • Won’t apply enough torque for heavy-duty work

Get the ACDelco ratchet on Amazon or at Walmart.

Best Light-Duty

Tekton ¼-Inch Composite Offset Ratchet
Photo: amazon.com

Those looking for a new ratchet option for a light-duty tool set might consider this ¼-inch ratchet—especially users who like to tinker with small, light-duty projects like audio/video, computer, or small-engine work. This Tekton ratchet features a 72-tooth count with a compact head that fits in tight spots, requiring just 5 degrees to make progress with this pear-head ratchet. It also has an offset handle that curves to provide more room for hands and fingers, which can be a real knuckle saver.

The body consists of a composite shell with a chrome-vanadium core, making it fairly strong yet lightweight, and the quick-release button makes swapping tiny, tough-to-grab sockets an easier process. Users won’t be able to apply a lot of torque due to the shorter-length handle, so this shouldn’t be the only ratchet in a tool kit.

Product Specs

  • Drive size: ¼ inch
  • Tooth count: 72
  • Material: Composite shell and chrome-vanadium core

Pros

  • Offset handle allows more room for knuckles and fingers in tight situations, such as electronics or small-engine repairs
  • Composite shell with a chrome-vanadium core makes this model lightweight
  • 72-tooth head requires just 5 degrees to make progress in tight spots

Cons

  • Won’t handle much torque

Get the Tekton ratchet on Amazon or at The Home Depot.

Best Heavy-Duty

Ares ½-Inch Drive Ratchet
Photo: amazon.com

When it comes to stubborn bolts and heavy-duty work, the Ares ½-inch drive ratchet could be the go-to tool for getting the job done. This ratchet accepts ½-inch sockets and is built to withstand plenty of torque.

The Ares ratchet features a chrome-vanadium body and longer handle, making it strong and helpful for applying torque. Yet, this model also retains some of the convenience of smaller models, such as a 90-tooth count that requires only 4 degrees of rotation and a quick-release button—a big benefit for heavy-duty sockets, making their removal easier and safer. The smooth and slippery grip, however, may become an issue with a heavy-duty application, and could even lead to injury in heavy-torque applications.

Product Specs

  • Drive size: ½ inch
  • Tooth count: 90
  • Material: Chrome vanadium

Pros

  • Heavy-duty construction and longer handle allow for applying plenty of torque
  • 90-tooth gearing allows users to rotate the handle just 4 degrees to make more progress
  • Quick-release button makes removing heavy-duty sockets easier and safer

Cons

  • Smooth handle doesn’t offer much grip

Get the Ares ½-inch ratchet on Amazon or Ares Tool.

Best Set

Craftsman Mechanics 32-Piece Tool Set
Photo: amazon.com

When a high-quality ratchet isn’t enough, consider this Craftsman Mechanics Tool Set. This socket set comes with twenty ⅜-inch sockets, a socket extension, a screwdriver, several bits, and a ⅜-inch ratchet, all housed in a durable plastic case. Each of the sockets has large markings to make identifying them easier, and the bit includes the most common fasteners styles.

The ratchet itself is Craftsman’s popular ⅜-inch model. It features a 72-tooth gear to minimize swing to just 5 degrees. It also features a quick-release button to make popping those sockets on and off easier as well as chrome-vanadium construction for durability. If there is a complaint to register, it’s that it this kit only comes with a ⅜-inch ratchet and compatible sockets, where some other kits may include ¼-inch ratchets and sockets as well.

Product Specs

  • Drive size: ⅜ inch
  • Tooth count: 72
  • Material: Chrome vanadium

Pros

  • Kit includes a ratchet, sockets, an extension, a screwdriver, and several bits, covering most DIY bases in 1 purchase
  • Sockets have large markings to make identifying them easier, a big benefit when working under a car
  • Quick-release buttons allows users to swap out sockets quickly and easier

Cons

  • Only includes ⅜-inch ratchet and sockets

Get the Craftsman ratchet set on Amazon or at Lowe’s.

Best for Tight Spaces

Wera ¼-Inch Square Drive Bit Ratchet
Photo: amazon.com

Users looking for a tiny but capable (and flexible) ratchet should consider this model from Wera. Its short handle fits in tight places and has an ergonomic design for comfort and ease of use. It also has a thumbwheel around the head, allowing users to place the ratchet over a fastener and spin the wheel with their fingers until it’s snug—particularly helpful with small bolts and screws.

With the ability to accept ¼-inch hex bits and nut drivers, as well as coming with a ¼-inch drive-socket adapter, this model provides plenty of flexibility. It also features drop-forged all-steel construction for durability and strength. It does feature a 60-tooth gear, however, which is lower than most other models on the list and requires 6 degrees of rotation. But, with that short handle (under 3½ inches), it should be easy to use regardless.

Product Specs

  • Drive size: Comes with ¼-inch adapter
  • Tooth count: 60
  • Material: Steel

Pros

  • Very compact design fits in tight places, allowing users to tighten fasteners they might not otherwise reach
  • Thumbwheel allows users to tighten fasteners quickly by hand without twisting the ratchet, regardless of their size
  • Ergonomically designed handle provides comfort and grip for all-day use, even in tight spots

Cons

  • 60-tooth gear requires 6 degrees to make progress

Get the Wera ratchet on Amazon or at Walmart.

Jump to Our Top Picks



What to Consider When Choosing the Best Ratchet

While most ratchets follow a very similar exterior design, things do differ in internal design. If shoppers consider different sizes, materials, and convenience features, they’ll soon see that not all ratchets are built to the same standards.

Drive Size vs. Socket Size

There are two measurements that shoppers need to understand when it comes to ratchets: Drive size and socket size. Drive size refers to the size of the sockets that fit on the ratchet’s drive square (the square head that sockets snap onto). Socket size simply refers to the size of the nut or bolt that a particular socket was intended for.

The three common drive sizes that most DIYers will become familiar with over time are ¼ inch, ⅜ inch, and ½ inch (those larger than ½ inch are more common for boilermakers and pipe fitters than DIYers). The smaller the drive size, the lighter the duty that the ratchet was intended for.

If a shopper is going to buy just one of these tools, they should consider a ⅜-inch drive ratchet with compatible sockets. These ratchets are small enough to fit in tight places, like alongside an engine block or the underside of a dishwasher, but robust enough to withstand quite a bit of force.

Tooth Count

Tooth count refers to the number of notches in the ratcheting gear inside the ratchet’s head—a number that makes a big difference depending on usage situation. A ratchet with a high tooth count (72 teeth and up) means that less handle movement is required for progress, while a lower tooth count (as few as 32 teeth) requires a lot more room to manipulate the ratchet handle and turn the fastener. This is often expressed in degrees, indicating how far a handle must rotate in order for the pawl to pick up the next tooth and continue making progress:

  • 90 teeth: 4 degrees
  • 72 teeth: 5 degrees
  • 60 teeth: 6 degrees
  • 32 teeth: 11+ degrees

Users will appreciate a high tooth count in tight scenarios where their range of motion is limited, like inside a car’s wheel well during a brake job. The ratchet can be twisted in smaller increments to make progress on the fastener, whether tightening or loosening.

Socket Release

Most ratchets on the market today include a quick-release button on the backside of the ratchet head. This button releases the socket from the face of the tool, making for a convenient way to swap sockets for differently sized fasteners without pulling the socket off by hand, making quick-release ratchets fan favorites.

Without this feature, a user will have to pull the socket off with their free hand—and in tight quarters, like while working under a car, they’ll run the risk of smashing a hand into something when the socket pops loose. What’s more, greasy hands simply make socket removal frustrating. Even sockets with nonslip textures can be a challenge to remove with just a little oil on their surface.

Quick-release ratchets are safer and easier to use. It’s a good idea to oil them regularly to keep them working smoothly.

Length and Weight

The longer the ratchet handle, the easier it will be to apply torque to a fastener. While this can release a bolt with less effort, it can also quickly overpower the fastener’s strength, potentially stripping or tearing the head off of the fastener. Most ratchet handles are designed for optimum torque application—long enough to apply leverage and loosen a bolt but not so long that they destroy the fastener with marginal effort.

Another consideration in length is whether the user will be able to manipulate the ratchet in a given position. A long-handled ratchet can be near useless under the hood of a car, while a thinner ratchet with a short handle can fit almost anywhere.

In terms of weight, heavier ratchets will obviously fatigue the user faster. Keep in mind that when working overhead, such asdriving lag screws through a deck’s ledger board, even a lightweight ratchet can feel heavy and cumbersome. It’s generally best to purchase a high-quality, lightweight model that can get the job done without tiring the user out.

Material

Almost all ratchets on the market today are built from chrome-vanadium steel, but quality varies. Chrome vanadium is an alloy—a combination of metals designed to deliver particular attributes, such as shock resistance, strength, weight, and other characteristics, as well as cost savings.

As these alloys are essentially the result of a metallurgic recipe, they vary in quality depending on the amounts of materials combined. This is why users are far more likely to get the best combination of strength, durability, and weight if they purchase a high-quality ratchet from a trusted brand.

FAQs

You’re up on the different types and styles of ratchets, as well as some excellent choices, but may still have some questions on usage and size. Most of these questions apply to all models, but you can also contact the manufacturer with any questions that aren’t covered here.

Q. How does a ratchet work?

Ratchets have a rotating gear inside their heads and two levers (known as pawls) that catch the gear’s teeth. One pawl engages, determining which direction the gear can spin freely.

Q. What size ratchet should I buy?

Your best bet is to pick up a ⅜-drive model. They’re small enough for tight clearances but robust enough to handle some torque and pressure.

Q. How many teeth does a good ratchet have?

Quality ratchets generally have 72 teeth or more. However, ratchets designed for truly heavy-duty hardware, such as those on heavy construction equipment, may have fewer teeth in order to make each individual tooth more robust. In fact, some double-pawl ratchets are able to click 80 or more times despite having just 40 or so teeth. To apply the amount of torque some of these heavy-duty models can exert, it may be necessary to choose a set of impact-ready sockets.

Why Trust Bob Vila

Bob Vila has been America’s Handyman since 1979. As the host of beloved and groundbreaking TV series including “This Old House” and “Bob Vila’s Home Again,” he popularized and became synonymous with “do-it-yourself” home improvement.

Over the course of his decades-long career, Bob Vila has helped millions of people build, renovate, repair, and live better each day—a tradition that continues today with expert yet accessible home advice. The Bob Vila team distills need-to-know information into project tutorials, maintenance guides, tool 101s, and more. These home and garden experts then thoroughly research, vet, and recommend products that support homeowners, renters, DIYers, and professionals in their to-do lists.