14 High-Quality First-Time Tool Kit Essentials for Under $100

We’ve put together a collection of durable, high-performance equipment you can purchase without breaking the bank.

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There’s plenty of choice when it comes to first-time tool kits. In fact, we took an in-depth look at the subject in the best home tools. We found numerous budget-friendly sets designed for those who hope to take on those minor DIY jobs that crop up from time to time.

One thing to keep in mind with these basic tool kits is that they aren’t intended for people who will be taking on more challenging tasks around the home and yard. Therefore, we set out to put together a first-time tool kit that not only comes with a reasonable price tag but also provides the quality and durability to make it a valuable long-term investment. 

Let’s get to it.

1. DeWalt Cordless Drill/Driver Kit

First-Time Tool Kit DeWalt Cordless Drill Driver Kit
Photo: amazon.com

A cordless drill/driver is a first-time tool-kit essential, and this model from DeWalt nabbed the top spot in our article on the best drills for DIYers. It’s a professional-quality tool at a remarkably competitive price.

Unlike many rivals that are sold as bare tools, the value-for-money DeWalt 20V Cordless Drill/Driver Kit includes two batteries, a charger, and a useful contractor bag. This is a proven, powerful tool with a ½-inch chuck, two speeds, 16 clutch settings, and an LED work light.

Get the DeWalt cordless drill/driver kit at Amazon for $99.

2. Black+Decker Jigsaw

First-Time Tool Kit Black+Decker Jigsaw
Photo: amazon.com

If you can only afford one power saw, then a jigsaw would be our choice for the first-time tool kit. While circular saws are rightly popular, they can only cut straight lines. The jigsaw offers greater versatility because it can also cut curves.

The Black+Decker 5-Amp Jigsaw was our top pick for beginners in our test of the best jigsaws. It offers variable speeds and can cut wood, composites, plastics, and even sheet aluminum. The tool is light and easy to handle with efficient orbital action plus four-stage curve control. It comes with tool-free blade changing and an adjustable shoe that can be angled for cuts at up to 45 degrees.

Get the Black+Decker jigsaw at Amazon for $49.

3. Estwing Rip Claw Hammer

First-Time Tool Kit Estwing Rip Claw Hammer
Photo: amazon.com

Every first-time tool kit needs a good hammer, and while there may be cheaper options, they lack the balance, strength, and durability of those made by Estwing.

The Estwing 16-Ounce Rip Claw Hammer took the top spot in our best hammers tested guide for good reason. It will remove nails as easily as it knocks them in, and its extended handle adds leverage so it can double as a pry bar or lightweight demolition tool. The high-quality, one-piece forging means there is nothing to break or come apart, and the patented nonslip, shock-reducing grip makes it comfortable to use all day long.

Get the Estwing rip claw hammer at Amazon for $24.98.

4. Irwin Vise-Grip Adjustable Wrench Set

First-Time Tool Kit Irwin Vise-Grip Adjustable Wrench SetFirst-Time Tool Kit Irwin Vise-Grip Adjustable Wrench Set
Photo: amazon.com

Wrench sets and socket sets are must-haves for engineers and home auto enthusiasts, but an adjustable wrench can tackle dozens of ordinary, everyday household tasks without the need to invest a lot of money.

The Irwin Vise-Grip Adjustable Wrench Set was our best bang for the buck pick in our adjustable wrench guide. The larger of the two is great for applying maximum pressure, while the smaller is ideal for working in tight spaces. Both are made from tough, chrome vanadium steel with ProTouch-grip handles for a secure hold. Engraved SAE (imperial) and metric scales make for fast and easy setting.

Get the Irwin adjustable wrench set at Amazon for $31.59.

5. Black+Decker Pliers Set

First-Time Tool Kit Black+Decker Pliers Set
Photo: amazon.com

Pliers are among the most basic yet versatile tools in a first-time tool kit. We chose this four-piece Black+Decker Pliers Set because it offers solutions for a host of DIY challenges, and it’s a great value for the money.

These are pliers that can grip, twist, cut, splice, tighten, undo, and bend. Drop-forged steel construction provides durability, and each pair has double-dipped handles that make them comfortable to hold. Cutting edges are hardened to ensure they stay sharp.

Get the Black+Decker pliers set at Amazon for $16.88.

6. Stanley PowerLock Tape Measure

First-Time Tool Kit Stanley PowerLock Tape Measure
Photo: amazon.com

Accurate, repeatable measurement is often vital for DIY and remodeling tasks, which is why it’s worth spending a few extra bucks on a really good tape measure. The Stanley 25-Foot PowerLock Tape Measure has a number of features that make it better than rivals, as we describe in our best tape measure review.

The tape itself is stiff and locks securely, both of which are vital when you’re working on your own. The tang at the end is triple riveted so it won’t come loose—a common problem with cheap tape measures. It has 16-inch and 19.2-inch divisions clearly marked (common for stud and framing spacing), and there’s a useful belt clip.

Get the Stanley tape measure at Amazon for $13.85.

7. Craftsman 24-Inch Box Beam Level

First-Time Tool Kit Craftsman 24-Inch Box Beam Level
Photo: amazon.com

Levels are invaluable for jobs such as putting up shelves, hanging cabinets, building stud walls, and laying floors. The 48-inch version of this tool took top honors in our best levels review, but the Craftsman 24-Inch Box Beam Level is a better general-purpose choice for the first-time tool kit.

Both are made to the same high standard. The aluminum construction is lightweight, and the box beam design eliminates flex. Green vials are easy to read, and there’s a convenient handhold as well as hanging holes. Shock-absorbing end caps reduce the risk of damage if it’s dropped—something that’s almost inevitable with these tools.

Get the Craftsman box beam level at Amazon for $19.98.

8. Gerber Gear Folding Utility Knife

First-Time Tool Kit Gerber Gear Folding Utility Knife
Photo: amazon.com

Gerber has an outstanding reputation when it comes to pocket knives and other cutting tools. The convenience built into the Gerber Gear Folding Utility Knife is one of the reasons it came out on top in our utility knife review, and it makes a great addition to the first-time tool kit.

Utility knives (or box cutters) are usually fixed, whereas this one folds so it’s as easy to carry in a pocket as in a tool box. The one-handed liner lock mechanism keeps it rigid when in use. Stainless steel construction means it won’t rust, and there’s a pocket clip that could also hold bills.

Get the Gerber Gear folding utility knife at Amazon for $13.98.

9. Titggi Professional Drill Bit Set

First-Time Tool Kit Titggi Professional Drill Bit Set
Photo: amazon.com

Every DIYer needs a good set of drill bits. With thousands to choose from, however, it can be difficult to pick a single pack for your first-time tool kit. Part of the problem is that masonry drill bits can’t be used for wood or plastic; conversely, general-purpose drill bits don’t work well in concrete or brick.

The 10-piece Titggi Professional Drill Bit Set is unusual in that the bits are capable of tackling multiple materials. Not only will they drill masonry and wood, but they are also able to drill plastic, tile, glass, and ceramics. A double-U groove clears waste quickly to help prevent overheating, and carbide tips provide long life.

Get the Titggi professional drill bit set at Amazon for $11.24.

10. DeWalt Screwdriver Bit Set

First-Time Tool Kit DeWalt Screwdriver Bit Set
Photo: amazon.com

It’s easy to think that any cheap screwdriver bit set will do. They all wear out eventually, so why pay extra? We found the answer to that question when we put together our best screwdriver bit review.

Because low-cost sets can wear out rapidly, they are often a poor value in the long run. Inaccurate fit also means they can damage screw heads, leaving an ugly finish or making removal almost impossible. By contrast, the 45-piece DeWalt Screwdriver Bit Set has the brand’s legendary quality. It includes quick-change adapters and extensions, and it comes in a tough case.

Get the DeWalt screwdriver bit set at Amazon for $14.99.

11. Craftsman Hex Key Allen Wrench Set

First-Time Tool Kit Craftsman Hex Key Allen Wrench Set
Photo: amazon.com

Although this particular set didn’t appear in our review of best Allen wrench sets, that article is quite tightly focused. We are happy to recommend the Craftsman Hex Key Allen Wrench Set here because they are the ideal general-purpose choice for a first-time tool kit.

There are 20 pieces in all: 10 SAE and 10 metric. The tools are made of alloy steel with black oxide coating to resist rust, and each has one plain and one ball end. The latter allows hard-to-reach Allen head screws to be accessed at different angles. Each set is in its own storage case that’s clearly marked with sizes for quick identification.

Get the Craftsman Allen wrench set at Amazon for $23.45.

12. DeWalt Dominator Safety Glasses

First-Time Tool Kit DeWalt Dominator Safety Glasses
Photo: amazon.com

Every time you pick up a tool, it’s wise to also put on a pair of safety glasses. Even small tasks can result in flying debris, which can cause serious injury or even blindness.

The DeWalt Dominator Safety Glasses are an effective, low-cost solution that earned the best bang for the buck spot in our best anti-fog safety glasses article. They meet the important ANSI Z87.1 standard and offer 99 percent UV protection. The wraparound design provides good coverage, and the rubber-coated nosepiece keeps them in place while adding comfort.

Get the DeWalt safety glasses at Amazon for $5.69.

13. Zircon Multiscanner A200 Electronic Wall Scanner

First-Time Tool Kit Zircon Multiscanner A200 Electronic Wall Scanner
Photo: amazon.com

One of the key tools for enthusiastic DIYers and home remodelers is a stud finder. Using an electronic device to find where supports are hiding behind drywall saves time and unnecessary damage.

We tested a wide range of these devices in our stud finder review. The Zircon Multiscanner A200 Electronic Wall Scanner was the overall winner for its efficiency and versatility. It can identify both wooden and metal studs, and it’s able to accurately find edges or centers. Where many stud finders stop there, the Zircon goes further. It can also find nonferrous metal pipework and live electrical cables.

Get the Zircon electronic wall scanner at Amazon for $52.99.

14. Big Red Steel Tool Box

First-Time Tool Kit Big Red Steel Tool Box
Photo: amazon.com

It seems appropriate that we finish our look at first-time tool kits with a tool box. While there are all manner of these available, and in a bewildering range of shapes and sizes, we like the Big Red Steel Tool Box for its traditional strength and durability.

While the design is straightforward, there are a few features worth mentioning. The finish is powder-coated, resulting in a tough skin that gives excellent rust resistance. There’s a contoured handle for comfortable carrying, and a strong metal catch with a loop can take a padlock. There’s also a useful full-length, lift-out tray. While other tool boxes might provide more flexibility or capacity, this is a solid and very affordable choice.

Get the Big Red steel tool box at Amazon for $20.99.

Bob Beacham Avatar

Bob Beacham

Contributing Writer

Bob Beacham is an engineer by trade and has spent 35 years working on everything from auto parts to oil rigs. He is also an avid DIY enthusiast. Bob started writing for the Bob Vila team in 2020 and covers tools, outdoor equipment, and home improvement projects.