The Best Socket Sets of 2022

Get outfitted for automotive and maintenance work by having a quality socket set at your side.

By Timothy Dale | Updated May 12, 2022 10:49 AM

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Best Socket Set Options

Photo: depositphotos.com

Socket wrenches allow you to tighten and loosen fasteners with a speed and ease that isn’t possible with a traditional wrench, making them essential tools for automotive or maintenance work. They come in a variety of sizes, types, and finishes, but thankfully, they usually come in sets. You can also find combination wrenches, which have one open wrench end, like a traditional wrench, and one socket end that can be equipped with sockets.

The best socket set for DIYers and professionals would include a wide variety of sockets—both in size and purpose. Or, there are also specialty sets, like a spark plug socket set. The products below represent some of the top socket and tool sets available in their respective categories. Each product underwent thorough vetting and an in-depth review to make it on the list.

  1. BEST OVERALL: Sunex Tools 3/8 Inch Drive Impact Socket Set 51-Piece
  2. BEST VALUE: WORKPRO 39-Piece Socket Set
  3. UPGRADE PICK: Sunex 3580, 3/8 Inch Drive Master Impact Socket Set
  4. BEST FOR SPARK PLUGS: Sunex 8845 3/8-Inch Drive Spark Plug Socket Set
  5. BEST FOR MECHANICS: Milwaukee 3/8 in. Drive Socket Mechanics Tool Set
  6. BEST TORX BIT SET: Neiko Master Torx Bit and External Torx Socket Set
  7. BEST COMPLETE SET: Stanley 3/8 in. and 1/4 in. Drive Socket Set
Best Socket Set Options

Photo: depositphotos.com

Types of Sockets

It is important to know the type of socket you need for your project before purchasing a socket set. Otherwise, you may get a set that doesn’t have what you need. Common socket types include SAE, metric, Torx bit, impact, driver, pass-through, and spark plug.

SAE

SAE sockets are primarily used for work on American-made products. This is because SAE socket sizes are based on the imperial system of measurement, including inches and fractions. SAE sockets are simply a description of a sizing system.

SAE measurements can sometimes be found alongside metric measurements where the two coincide. This applies to regular sockets, impact sockets, pass-through sockets, and spark plug sockets, among others.

Metric

Metric sockets are the same as SAE sockets in that they are not a type of socket so much as they are grouped by a measurement system. These sockets use millimeters and are great for working on imported cars that may have bolts that correspond better to a metric socket than an imperial socket. Metric sockets include all the same socket types as SAE sockets.

Torx Bit

External Torx sockets are used for six-pointed star Torx-style fasteners, and Torx bits are specifically designed for use with Torx screws, which have a six-pointed star- shape impression and may have a raised security pin that requires a security Torx bit. These bits can connect to regular ratchets but give you more torque to tighten or loosen Torx screws.

Torx Plus bits have a thicker wall and are made for high-torque situations. However, if you are not working with Torx screws, these bits are not that useful. Keep this in mind when looking for a socket set.

Impact

The first thing you will notice about impact sockets is the color. These sockets have an industrial finish that makes them black instead of the polished chrome that you see with other sockets.

Impact sockets are designed for use with impact drivers that put more torque and power into the bit than a human is capable of producing. Due to this stress, impact bits have thicker walls and a noncorrosive finish so that they can handle the power and vibration.

Driver Bit

Driver bits are similar to the Torx bits in that they are not true sockets. Instead, a driver bit will correspond to a screw head type and size, including flat or slotted, Robertson or Phillips. These bits fasten to regular ratchets to provide extra torque when loosening or tightening a screw but will only work in the specific screw they are designed to fit.

Pass-Through

Pass-through sockets are handy for removing or fastening bolts or studs that have a very long shaft. A hole in the middle of the socket allows the shaft to pass through the socket and ratchet. This feature makes it easy to thread the shaft through the socket to reach the nut.

When tightening with a pass-through socket, you can continue tightening the bolt as the shaft passes through the socket and ratchet, giving you the ability to tighten the nut completely without needing a wrench. However, to use a pass-through socket you need a pass-through ratchet, so be sure to get a socket set that has both.

Spark Plug

Spark plug sockets are for removing or fitting spark plugs. These sockets are much longer than standard sockets because spark plugs, depending on the manufacturer, are often located in difficult-to-access areas in the engine.

These sockets sometimes have a rubber insert to keep the spark plug from being damaged during removal or installation. For automotive professionals, spark plug sockets are necessary tools, but DIYers who enjoy getting under the hood of their car would also benefit from having a set.

What to Consider When Choosing the Best Socket Set

Before choosing a tool set for your workshop, take a few minutes to educate yourself on the most important shopping considerations to keep in mind.

Drive Size

The drive size of the socket refers to the opening on the top of the socket that attaches to the ratchet. This opening comes in three different drive sizes including ½-inch, ⅜-inch, and ¼-inch.

  • ½-inch drive size sockets are for high-torque applications like automotive wheel replacement and when you are using a breaker bar. This size of the drive socket isn’t the best for all-purpose jobs because the socket selection is lower with this drive size, but they can be used with any ratchet size if you have an adapter.
  • ⅜-inch drive size sockets are the most common and most available. They are used in many different industries and DIY projects, from assembling a gazebo to working on a bicycle. Due to their common use, sockets with a drive size of ⅜-inch also tend to be more affordable at a higher quality than either the ½-inch or the ¼-inch.
  • ¼-inch drive size sockets are ideal when you are in tight spaces or when you are working with recessed nuts. Where ½-inch sockets give you extra power, ¼-inch sockets are designed for accessibility. However, using a socket with a ¼-inch drive size regularly will make it more difficult to complete projects because you have less power and torque than if you used a ⅜-inch or ½-inch socket.

Shallow vs Deep Sockets

Standard sockets can come in both shallow and deep versions of the same size to allow you to work with any nut-and-bolt configuration. Both types are usually included in an all-purpose socket set.

  • Shallow sockets are for working with nuts that sit less than an inch from the end of the shaft and are the most frequently used for nonautomotive purposes. These sockets can be attached to regular ratchets and make it quick to work with shallow nuts instead of having to line up a deep socket.
  • Deep sockets are for reaching nuts that sit farther down the bolt shaft. The sockets are a step away from pass-through sockets, allowing you to use a normal ratchet to reach deeply driven nuts. However, if a deep socket hits the end of the shaft before reaching the nut, a pass-through socket and ratchet will be necessary.

Shape

The shape of the socket falls into two main categories: six-point sockets and 12-point sockets.

  • Six-point sockets are sturdier than 12-point sockets because they have thicker walls. These sockets are best for high-torque applications, but they are also the most commonly used of the two types. Six-point sockets apply force to the flat sides of the fastener, making them less likely to slip off of rounded edges.
  • 12-point sockets cannot apply the same force to a fastener that a six-point socket can, making them more suitable for low-torque purposes. However, they are ideal for gripping a nut in any position, making them perfect for working in difficult-to-access areas where you can get the socket onto the nut in only one position. These situations are harder to handle with a six-point socket.

Surface Finish

The surface finish of a socket set will fall into two common categories: chrome plating and black oxide.

  • Chrome plating is used on most sockets to provide a smooth, easy-to-clean surface that won’t hold dirt or grime. The chrome plating also helps to protect the socket from moisture exposure and prevents rust buildup. Socket sets with chrome plating tend to be more affordable than those with black oxide finishes.
  • Black oxide is primarily used for impact sockets as an alternative to chrome plating. While chrome plating is equal to black oxide in weatherproofing the socket, it is not capable of withstanding the same forces since flaking off will occur, and this exposes the metal to rusting. Black oxide is a tougher material that is better able to protect impact sockets simply because it doesn’t chip or flake when exposed to high forces, though these sockets often cost more.

Portability

The portability of a socket set can be an important factor if you want to use your socket set around the house or on different work sites. Find a socket set that has a sturdy carrying case with a handle that is easy to grip.

You also need a case that comes with a high-quality interior to ensure that your sockets do not get dislodged in your case during transportation. Interior casing needs to be able to grip the sockets tightly but also have enough give so that they do not impede your work.

Additional Tools

Socket sets can include a wide variety of tools that can be used with ratchets to adapt to many different tasks. Popular inclusions are extension bars, swivel joints, and breaker bars.

  • Extension bars can be attached between the ratchet and the socket to reach fasteners that are located in tight spaces where you would otherwise be unable to swing a ratchet handle.
  • Swivel joints let you deviate from the centerline of the ratchet to engage with bolts that are in tight spaces or at awkward angles. This part is also known as a universal joint. By attaching the swivel joint between the ratchet and the socket, you are able to change the drive angle to suit your needs.
  • Breaker bars are long, nonratcheting bars that are used with sockets to break free a seized or incredibly tight fastener by allowing you to generate more torque while applying the same amount of force.

Our Top Picks

The top-rated products below are some of the best socket sets on the market based on quality, price, and reputation. Any of these socket sets would be an excellent addition to your automotive garage or workshop.

Best Overall

The Best Socket Set Option: Sunex Tools 3 8 Inch Drive Impact Socket Set 51-Piece
Photo: amazon.com

When users open the heavy-duty carrying case to reveal the Sunex socket set within, they will first notice that every socket is neatly labeled with the size of the socket in millimeters. While this set doesn’t have SAE sizes, it does include 48 metric sockets, a ¼-inch bit adapter, a universal swivel joint, and a 3-inch extension bar to help reach fasteners in tight spaces.

The sockets are each made of strong, durable chromium-molybdenum steel, and they have a black oxide finish that won’t shatter or chip when the sockets are used with impact wrenches. Despite having a ¼-inch bit adapter, this set only includes ⅜-inch sockets, and it doesn’t come with a socket wrench, so users will need to invest in their own.

Note that the internal design is specifically made to reduce wear and tear on the parts by eliminating contact between the interior corners of the socket and the corners of the fasteners. Instead, the force is distributed along the walls of the socket, ensuring that this set will last for years if it’s properly maintained.

Product Specs

  • Pieces: 51
  • Finish: Black oxide
  • Drive Size: ⅜ inches

Pros

  • Durable design made for high-torque impact drivers
  • Reduced-wear corner design
  • Made with tough chromium-molybdenum steel
  • Heavy-duty carrying case

Cons

  • Only metric sizes
  • Does not include a socket wrench

Get the Sunex Tools socket set at Amazon, The Home Depot, and Walmart.

Best Value

The Best Socket Set Option: WORKPRO 39-Piece Socket Set
Photo: amazon.com

The WorkPro 39-Piece Socket Set ratchet has a drive size of ⅜ inch, but the set includes an adapter so that it can be used with ¼-inch sockets. This affordable socket set also includes a 3-inch extension bar, a spin disk for quickly removing nuts that have already been loosened, and a socket spinner that is shaped like a screwdriver but adapts to sockets.

The socket set has a rust-resistant chrome finish and has sockets with drive sizes of ¼ inch and ⅜ inch. Twenty-eight sockets are a drive size of ¼ inch, with 15 being SAE and 13 being metric, and six sockets are a drive size of ⅜ inch, separated into three SAE and three metric. The plastic case protects the sockets, and its small size makes it convenient to carry around.

Product Specs

  • Pieces: 51
  • Finish: Chrome
  • Drive Size: ¼ and ⅜ inches

Pros

  • Includes adapter for ¼-inch sockets
  • Both metric and SAE sizes
  • Extension bar for hard-to-reach fasteners

Cons

  • Not suitable for impact drivers

Get the WORKPRO socket set on Amazon and at Walmart.

Upgrade Pick

Best Socket Set Options: Sunex 3580
Photo: amazon.com

The Sunex Drive Master Socket Set comes with a black oxide finish and is rigorously tested for function and durability with impact tools. The six-point, ⅜-inch socket set comes in a durable red plastic storage case for easy transport. It comes with a universal swivel joint; 3-inch, 5-inch, 10-inch, and 15-inch extension bars; nine Torx bits; and nine external Torx sockets, making the socket set well worth the price.

The set also includes 23 SAE sockets divided into eight standard sockets; six deep sockets, nine swivel-joint sockets, and 34 metric sockets, with 12 standard, 12 deep, and 10 universal sockets in the most common sizes.

Product Specs

  • Pieces: 80
  • Finish: Black oxide
  • Drive Size: ⅜ inches

Pros

  • Durable design made for impact drivers
  • Contains both SAE and metric sockets
  • Multiple extension bars and a universal joint
  • Standard and deep sockets included

Cons

  • High price

Get the Sunex Tools socket set on Amazon and at Walmart.

Best for Spark Plugs

Best Socket Set Options: Sunex 8845
Photo: amazon.com

The Sunex ⅜-Inch Drive Spark Plug Socket Set has a high-quality chrome vanadium finish, which makes the sockets more resistant to cracking. The six-point, ⅜-inch socket set comes with only seven sockets, but each has a rubber retaining ring to help protect spark plugs during the removal and installation process.

The seven sockets are separated into three standard SAE, with sizes of 9/16 inch, ⅝ inch, and 13/16 inch; one standard 16-mm metric socket; and three extra-deep 6-inch-long SAE sockets, with sizes of 9/16 inch, ⅝ inch, and 13/16 inch. According to the manufacturer, these seven sockets will cover most applications, unless you have a specialized spark plug that can be found in some German cars and Ford trucks.

The ⅝-inch sockets will see the most use for vehicles, but the others can be used on a chainsaw, trimmer, or leaf blower. The set comes with a quality case for safe storage.

Product Specs

  • Pieces: 7
  • Finish: Chrome
  • Drive Size: ⅜ inches

Pros

  • Specifically made for spark plugs
  • Can be used on chainsaws, trimmers, cars, or leaf blowers
  • Rubber retaining ring to protect spark plugs
  • Both standard and deep sockets

Cons

  • Only seven sockets in the set
  • Does not come with a wrench

Get the Sunex Tools socket set on Amazon and at The Home Depot.

Best for Mechanics

The Best Socket Set Option: Milwaukee 3 8 in. Drive Socket Mechanics Tool Set
Photo: homedepot.com

One of the best reasons to invest in a socket set is to start completing basic automotive repairs at home, especially when an experienced DIYer can use this high-quality mechanics socket set to work on a vehicle. The set comes with a ⅜-inch socket wrench that has a slim design, enabling it to fit in tight spaces inside the engine or under the car. It also includes multiple extension bars and a universal joint for accessing hard-to-reach fittings.

This chrome socket set includes 13 shallow SAE sockets, 11 deep SAE sockets, 14 shallow metric sockets, and 14 deep metric sockets. These four-sided sockets won’t roll away, and they can be used with a traditional wrench, due to the flat sides. Users can keep the whole set right beside them as they work with the removable storage tray, and when the job is done they can put the tray back and close the case to keep the sockets safe and secure.

Product Specs

  • Pieces: 56
  • Finish: Chrome
  • Drive Size: ⅜ inches

Pros

  • Slim wrench design to fit in tight spaces
  • Anti-roll sides help prevent lost sockets
  • Four-sided sockets can be used with traditional wrenches
  • Metric and SAE sockets included

Cons

  • Not intended for impact drivers

Get the Milwaukee socket set at The Home Depot.

Best Torx Bit Set

Best Socket Set Options: Neiko 10083A Master
Photo: amazon.com

The chrome-plated Torx socket set can be used with ratchets that have a drive size of ½ inch, ⅜ inch, and ¼ inch, including Torx sockets and bits for all three drive sizes. The set comes in a durable case for organized transportation.

Included in the case are 14 external Torx sockets with five ¼-inch, five ⅜-inch, and four ½-inch. These sockets are used with Torx-style fasteners, common on motorcycles. Also in the set are 17 Torx bits, with ten ¼-inch, five ⅜-inch, and two ½-inch, and 17 security Torx bits, which are used on Torx screws and have a raised security pin.

The security Torx bits can be broken down into ten ¼-inch, five ⅜-inch, and two ½-inch bits. For high-torque applications, this socket set also includes 12 Torx Plus bits, with seven ¼-inch, four ⅜-inch, and one ½-inch bit. You will have to purchase a ratchet separately, but beyond this minor inconvenience, this is an impressive Torx socket set.

Product Specs

  • Pieces: 60
  • Finish: Chrome
  • Drive Size: ¼, ⅜, and ½ inches

Pros

  • Suited for multiple drive sizes
  • Designed for a variety of Torx fasteners
  • Labeled case helps keep the sockets neatly organized

Cons

  • Doesn’t come with a wrench
  • Only useful for Torx fasteners

Get the Neiko socket set on Amazon and at Walmart.

Best Complete Set

The Best Socket Set Option: Stanley 3 8 in. and 1 4 in. Drive Socket Set
Photo: homedepot.com

Keep the sockets neatly organized with the included plastic carrying case. Each socket is labeled so the user knows exactly where the socket needs to go after the job is done. There are 37 SAE sockets and 41 metric sockets including both shallow and deep sockets, ensuring that users can tackle a wide variety of jobs around the home and in the garage.

This kit also comes with two sets of hex keys, which are incredibly useful for putting together prefabricated furniture, like bookshelves and desks. You can choose the ¼-inch socket wrench or the ½-inch socket wrench, depending on the job, and equip one of two extension bars to help reach fasteners in tight spaces.

Keep in mind that while 123 pieces sounds amazing, especially for the low price of this product, this count includes every individual hex key, as well as every individual screwdriver bit. The actual count should be closer to 80, which is still a large number of pieces for a set.

Product Specs

  • Pieces: 123
  • Finish: Chrome
  • Drive Size: ¼ and ⅜ inches

Pros

  • Extensive set
  • Comes with multiple socket wrenches
  • Includes extension bars and screwdriver bits
  • Protective case keeps the sockets safe

Cons

  • Misleading piece count includes every individual screwdriver bit
  • Not suitable for impact drivers

Get the Stanley socket set at The Home Depot.

Our Verdict

The heavy-duty storage case and strong, durable construction of the Sunex Tools 3/8 Inch Impact Socket Set make this product an ideal option for a busy job site or for a home workshop. Those seeking an affordable socket set for home projects should consider the quality WORKPRO 39-Piece Socket Set.

How We Chose the Best Socket Sets

Before attempting to select the top socket sets, it was important to research and review each individual product from over 30 possible choices. This extensive research helped us determine the products that stood out based on the number of pieces in the set, finish, drive size, versatility, and any special features that made a product stand out from similar options.

When examining the number of pieces in a set, a key consideration was the quality or value of each piece. Some sets were dropped from the selection because they had a large number of miscellaneous parts and a small number of actual sockets. The chrome or black oxide finish was used to help differentiate the regular sockets from impact sockets, while ⅜ inch was the most important drive size for a set to have due to the commonality of this size.

However, if a socket set had more than one drive size or if it had a variety of sockets, including SAE, metric, shallow, or deep sockets, then these factors counted toward overall versatility. The last component of the selection process was the special features or accessories. Socket sets with specialized tools or parts were typically preferred over similar products that lacked these accessories.

FAQs

It’s important to know how to use and maintain a socket set in order to ensure that your new tools last as long as possible, so take a look below at the answers to some of the most commonly asked questions about socket sets.

Q: What is in a regular socket set?

A traditional socket set will usually have two different ratcheting socket wrenches, one or two extension bars, a variety of basic sockets and specialty sockets for each wrench, and screwdriver bits that fit the smaller of the two wrenches.

Q: Can you use regular sockets with an impact wrench?

You should never use regular sockets with an impact wrench because regular sockets have a thinner wall that is susceptible to shattering when used with an impact wrench.

Q: What is the difference between black and chrome sockets?

Chrome sockets tend to be regular sockets that should be used with a standard socket wrench, while black sockets are usually made for impact wrenches. However, even if the socket is black, you should always check the product information or manufacturer’s information to ensure that it is rated for use with an impact wrench. Sockets that are not made for impact wrenches may shatter while in use.

Q: Do sockets rust?

Even quality tools will rust if they aren’t properly stored in a tool kit, and sockets are not an exception. That’s why it’s a good idea to look for socket sets that come in water-resistant plastic cases that can help to prevent the tools from getting damaged, even if you get caught in the rain.