Best Tool Set of 2021
If you're serious about DIY projects and home repairs and improvements, the Kobalt 230-Piece Household Tool Set has a huge range of tools to help you do it. The extensive collection covers all the basics and includes a number of handy extras like wire strippers, a 25' measuring tape, and stubby and precision screwdrivers. While they aren't the highest quality, most of the tools are well-made, and we didn't experience issues with any tool in this kit. The metric and SAE socket sets are chrome vanadium steel, which makes for strong, durable, and rust-resistant tools, and the ratchets have quick-release buttons for easy use. This is the only household kit we tested with such an extensive socket set. The hammer is among our favorites in the test. It's too heavy for our smaller testers' tastes, but those with larger hands and frames liked it. The tool tote case is pretty nice, too, providing more organizational pockets than most.
Full Set — 75 sockets (SAE and Metric), 2 quick-release ratchets, 3 extensions, 6 screwdrivers, 7 precision screwdrivers, magnetic bit driver, 52 bits, adjustable wrench, 3 pliers, hexes, scissors, measuring tape, level, box cutter, wire stripper, spackler, wire brush
We aren't as impressed with the plier options. The diagonal cutters struggled a bit to cut soft metal like copper. (In contrast, the Channellock pliers made short work of it.) The adjustable wrench has some play in it. You often have to adjust it between turns, and its lower jaw isn't perfectly parallel with the upper. The hex sets are fine, but their holders both arrived cracked. Luckily, we expect these tools to hold up to plenty of use for home improvement and DIY projects. Overall, this is the toolkit we recommend to our friends who are serious about home repair and looking for an all-in-one set.
The Craftsman 57-Piece Home Kit is a solid yet minimal tool set. If your projects don't get too elaborate, this kit offers the best mix of basic tools. Its fiberglass and rubber-handled hammer is one of the better options in the test, as are its slip joint pliers. They have an easy action and comfortable grip. The screwdrivers are pleasant to wield and work well. Instead of the magnetic bit driver that many of the other kits include, this one gives you a ratcheting screwdriver with a bit adapter. So you can use it for bolts or slap on a Torx, Phillips, or flathead to tackle an array of screws. We like it. The little socket set is a handy size. It's not the top of the line but works well enough. The two hex key sets seem fine in our tests, offering metric and SAE sizes. We like that the measuring tape is self-locking and marked with ¼ and ⅛ measurements, which are nice for taking measurements at a glance.
Full Set — 11 6-Point sockets, ratchet, slip joint pliers, bit driver and adapter, 22 bits, 2 screwdrivers, tape measure, hammer, snap off knife, 16 hex keys (SAE and metric)
The sockets are only okay; the Crescent and Kobalt sets are higher-quality. The snap-off knife isn't the most comfortable cutting device to hold. It works, though, and snapping off a dull end to reveal a fresh edge is easy enough with the included pliers. Be sure to bend the blade end away from the scoring mark for a clean snap. The plastic carrying case is alright, though the sockets fall out easily. You have to remember to leave that side of the briefcase down, or you might have ten sockets to place back in their spots. All told, we think this tool kit offers an impressive quality to value ratio and is a great starter tool set or option for less ambitious projectors.
The best features of the AmazonBasics 65-Piece tool set are its value and its hammer. Light and well-balanced, this nail-driving machine was a favorite among our testers, female and male. While there are no other standouts, the rest of the set is fine. The small socket set and ratchet come in surprisingly handy, tackling the little bolts in your life. The level is great for furniture construction and super convenient when you need to hang a picture. The snap-off blade is fine, and we like the screwdrivers and magnetic bit driver. The handles are comfortable and with rounded edges that help maintain your grip. The 30 extra Torx, Phillips, flathead, hex, and squarehead bits really expand the capability of the toolkit. The SAE and metric hex keys are a good thing to have around the house, especially if you bike.
Full Set — Hammer, tape measure, two 8-piece hex keys (SAE and metric), 9-inch level, snap off knife, 2 pliers, 2 screwdrivers, magnetic bit driver, 30 bits, ratchet, 8 SAE sockets
Neither of the pliers is impressive. Their grips are small and slick, making them hard to hold. And the action on the slip joint is the worst in the test. The tool tote bag isn't very well-designed or padded. Your tools are largely just jostling around on the bottom of the bag, but we still appreciate the bag over none. We're impressed with the value and utility of this little tool set. If you just need a starter tool kit for basic tasks and don't want to spend more than necessary, this is your best option.
We tested the tools against each other, and we tested against longtime family favorites, including Channellock pliers that have been around in one tester's garage for thirty years. The Channellock Tool Roll 5-Piece Plier Set gives every indication of keeping up the tradition. The large tongue and groove pliers, which a lot of us call channellocks, are the best of their kind in the test. They also have the widest size range, making them great for gripping pipes during plumbing projects. The slip joint pliers and diagonal cutters also top the list, with the latter cutting through plastic and wire quietly and efficiently without sending shrapnel across the room. The needle nose pliers have the narrowest tip in the lineup, making them great for tight spots and precision work. All offer smooth action with little to no play and long, solid grips that provide ample leverage.
Full Set — Tongue and groove pliers (9.5" and 10"), diagonal cutting plier (7"), needle nose (8') and slip joint (6.5") pliers
This is a great set of pliers. That's all you're getting, though, and you're paying for it. That cost covers tools that work better, make your life easier, and last longer, likely saving you money over time. You'll have to source other common and frequently-used tools elsewhere. If you need pliers, though, this is it. It's hard to imagine these failing, as each tool is of top quality. This plier set is a good option for those who already have some basic tools and are looking to build out their tool set to last a lifetime.
The Crescent 170 Piece General Purpose Set is more specialized than its title would suggest. It's a solid general socket set for cars, tractors, lawnmowers, and other motorized equipment. These sockets and ratchets are the highest-quality performers in the test, and there are a lot of them. You get three ratchets with four extenders for hard to reach spots and over 80 sockets in metric and SAE, including super handy spark plug sockets. The 12 combination wrenches (with one open and one box end) are also among the best in the test. We like the screwdrivers and the magnetic bit driver (a screwdriver body that drives one of 44 interchangeable bits like Philips, flathead, and hex). The needle-nose pliers have a spring opener that makes them great for repetitive wirework. The tongue and groove pliers work reasonably well, though we prefer the Channellock versions. The metric and SAE hex keys are fine and come in sturdy holders.
Full Set — 3 ratchets, 4 extenders, 35 12-point sockets, 22 6-pt sockets, 12 deep sockets, 12 spark plug sockets, 12 combination wrenches, 2 pliers, adjustable wrench, 4 magnetic screwdrivers, magnetic bit driver, 44 magnetic driver bits, 13 SAE and 13 Metric hex keys
This isn't a first timer's toolkit unless you want to jump straight to auto care, but the solid screwdriver set and functional pliers will get you through a lot of household chores. Just adding a hammer will extend the range of this kit's home repair and project capabilities. While the sockets, ratchets, and wrenches shine, the rest of the kit is closer to just okay. The screwdrivers are comfortable in hand when dry, but their edgeless handles are hard to hold if they get oily. Bottom line, it's a great socket set. We even like the case. It's among the sturdiest and easiest to use, and none of the pieces fall out when you open it, a rarity among plastic hardcases. This is an excellent selection if you want a starter kit for auto care or want to add a great set of sockets and wrenches to your tool bench.
The Black and Decker 20V Max 68-Piece kit is an easy favorite. If you've tackled many home repairs, you know how clutch a cordless electric drill is for any project requiring more than a few screws. For that reason, it's great to see one in a paired down tool set along with all the essentials. The drill comes with 10 bits, which will drill pilot holes to suit a reasonable range of screw sizes. We also appreciate the spade and hole saw bits. You don't always need to cut a big hole through wood, but if you do want to run some wires through the back of a desk or cut a finger pull in a cabinet, they are great to have around. The drill gives you 11 torque settings to amp up the power for those higher friction tasks. We also like the pliers, both the needle-nose and the slip joint. Their handles are a little short but have a pleasant grip, and they feel more solid than some.
Full Set — 20V MAX lithium-ion drill plus battery and charger, 10 drill bits, 5 spade, and 4 hole saw bits, hammer, 2 screwdrivers, ratcheting screwdriver, bit adapter, 32 driver bits, adjustable wrench, snap off knife, 2 pliers, measuring tape
While the drill is pretty good, it's not as powerful as a more expensive version and isn't meant for heavy use. The battery lasts a respectable 25 minutes or so of continuous use, which gives you time to blast through a couple of hundred pilot holes or a few full hole cuts. But for longer projects, we wish it came with an extra battery. This one took over three and a half hours to charge. At the end of the day, if you're going to be using a cordless drill more frequently than just assembling furniture occasionally, we think getting a better drill will be worth your money. The carrying case is just a bag, forcing you to pile the tools on top of one another. Drill bits aren't very durable in those circumstances. The rest of the tools are fair. Our test team has had bad luck in the past with narrow-necked hammers like the one in this kit, which makes us nervous about using it to pry out nails. The two screwdrivers, both the Phillips and the flathead, have oddly large bits. The flathead is a 5/16", and the Phillips works well for a #14 wood screw. The bit driver gives you smaller options; it just means your set screwdrivers are less versatile for daily tasks. The pliers and snap off blade are okay, but we don't love their grips or ergonomics. The adjustable wrench has some play in it, making your job harder. Still, this is a pretty good deal to get you going if you'd like to speed through your chore list with the help of a cordless drill.
The Dekopro 168-Piece Socket Set is a charming underdog. The tools are on the lower end of the quality spectrum but work reasonably well and should do so for a while. The grips and ergonomics are particularly well-suited to the small hands of our lead tester. For example, she really liked the molded grip on the smaller hammer. Larger testers did not. We all liked the squared-off screwdrivers. Including tools like stubby and precision screwdrivers and a light-duty hacksaw can get you through several household tasks like cutting a dowel rod to length or dealing with small screws on electronics. It's also great that the hacksaw comes with two replacement blades. The spring clamps come in handy when you need to hold super glue projects in place, and extras like a tape measure, level, and electric tape are always good to have on hand.
Full Set — 1 adjustable wrench, 6 double-sided wrenches, ratchet, extender, 22 metric sockets, magnetic bit driver, 30 bits, 2 screwdrivers, 2 stubby screwdrivers, 5 precision screwdrivers, 3 pliers, 9-piece metric hex key, hammer, tape measure, wire stripper, 4 spring clamps, hacksaw, replacement blades
The kit only includes metric-sized sockets and hex keys, and neither are the best quality. The pliers have comfortable handles, but they're not top-tier. Neither are the wrenches, which Dekopro says are stainless steel. They feel lighter duty than the Crescent versions. We really like the tool selection in this set. It gives you a little bit of everything and will get you through a number of home projects. We're just not that excited to recommend sub-par sockets, pliers, wrenches, and a minimally useful hacksaw.
The Cartman 148-Piece Set gets you a lot of tools for your money, and we like the screwdrivers, magnetic bit driver, and the bits just fine. They have textured handles that are easy to hold onto, and they don't need to be top-notch quality to work well. The precision screwdrivers are quite nice. Their ends spin easily, helping you hold pressure while you rotate them. We also appreciate extras like a little snap off, retractable utility knife, some electrical tape, and a 10-foot measuring tape. Perhaps our favorite thing about this set is that its case holds all the tools in place. Nothing comes crashing out when you open it, yet you can still pull out each tool relatively easily when you need it.
Full Set — 12-piece SAE hex key, 2 screwdrivers, 6 precision screwdrivers, magnetic bit driver with ratchet attachment, 30 bits, 9 sockets, 5 combination wrenches, snap off knife, electrical tape, hammer, pliers, measuring tape, assortment of screws and nails
The rest of the tools are less impressive. Having only five double-sided wrenches and no adjustable option limits your capabilities. The wrenches you do feel cheap, as does the socket set. There isn't much electrical tape on the roll. And the included hammer is among our least favorites in the test. The needle-nose pliers are okay and include clippers, which we appreciate. But their handles are quite small, making them harder to grip. They are also the only pair of pliers in the kit. Since they're meant for wire work and not for powerfully prying out objects like stubborn nails, this kit is more limiting than others. Still, this is a pretty good set of screwdrivers with some functional extras to get you started on your home projecting journey.
With enough elements to cover basic day-to-day tool kit needs, the Cartman Orange 39-Piece set is an appealing option at a low price point. It's got a hammer to knock in nails, enough screwdriver bits to keep Phillips, flat, Torx, and box screws tightened, pliers to pull out bent nails, hexes to keep your bike working, and a pair of scissors to boot. The case is sturdy and holds everything securely in place when you open it without forcing you to fight to extract a tool.
Full Set — Hammer, 4 precision screwdrivers, magnetic bit driver, 20 bits, slip joint pliers, 8-piece SAE hex keys, bit driver, snap-off knife, scissors, tape measure
We don't trust that hammer to last very long, though. We've ripped the heads of similar options while prying out nails. The narrow neck connection just doesn't inspire confidence. The precision screwdrivers are also mediocre. Their ends don't rotate smoothly, making them harder to use. You get a decent magnetic bit driver, measuring tape, pair of scissors, and hex wrenches, though, for a very low cost.
As we've said, electric drills are awesome to have around, and the 16.8-volt drill in the Dedeo Cordless Hammer Drill Kit works well for light tasks. It holds a charge for about 25 minutes of near-continuous use and has enough power to drive the included 20 mm spade bit through a board, though doing so drains the battery faster. We also really like that the kit comes with an extra battery for the drill, so you can recharge one while using the other. The batteries charge must faster than the Black and Decker drill. The screwdrivers in this kit are also fair, and the rest of the kit will work in a pinch.
Full Set — 16.8V 18-speed power drill, 2 spade bits, 6 drill bits, hammer, adjustable wrench, 2 screwdrivers, 4 precision screwdrivers, magnetic bit and socket driver, 10 bits, 9 sockets, hacksaw, electric tape, snap off knife, 2 pliers, measuring tape, level, digital voltage tester pen
The tools, aside from the drill and its bits, aren't as well-made as other options in the test. The adjustable wrench has trouble holding its size, the hammer is the worst in the test, the sockets seem cheap, and the pliers are sticky with cheap plastic grips. The hacksaw is okay for very small tasks, but the kit doesn't include extra blades. When this one dulls, you'll have to hunt a replacement down. Even the drill only comes with eight bits, two of which are seldom needed spades. There isn't much to recommend with this option.
Why You Should Trust Us
Clark Tate led our tool testing team. Clark grew up in a farming community known for its excellent middle and high school vocational programs. After several shop classes in middle school and a summer class in aerodynamics spent constructing model airplanes, Clark started taking advantage of her family's extensive tool set. She's also helped build barns, worked several roofing jobs, volunteered for Habitat for Humanity, and recently built out a van. She believes that high-quality tools should last a lifetime and work for you instead of against you. Clark also recruited her father, Glen Tate, to try out all the tools to get a larger person's perspective. They mostly agreed on preferences, though Clark liked smaller, lighter hammers better.
We tested these tool sets head-to-head, but not just against one another. We also compared them to our family favorites, like a Stanley hammer that's been around for nearly 40 years and Channellock pliers of approximately the same vintage. Our testers systematically worked through every tool included in each set for several weeks of testing. We rotated through the hammers, knocking nails in and prying them back out. Then we pulled more out with the pliers or worked on wire projects with the needle-nose options. We tackled rusty old bolts with the wrenches and ratchets and stripped old wires with the two wire strippers. We ran tests on the cordless drills for the battery life and charging time. We ran through every tool in every set, comparing it to the others to figure out which set offered the highest overall quality. Then we looked at their costs to compare value.
Analysis and Test Results
From inexpensive tools that work for light-duty and infrequent use to day-to-day staples, we looked at a wide range of tool sets. We break down how each performed in our test metrics below.
Quality and Function
High-quality tools work well, making your job easier. If a tool warps easily or lets its grip slip, you'll have to labor that much harder to get the task done. When they break, you'll be right back here, searching for another set. That's why we really focused on quality in our tests, and the Channellock Plier and Crescent 170-Piece General Purpose sets top our list. As we'll discuss below, both of these sets are built out for a more specific purpose than the other options in the test.
As we mentioned, our testers have a set of Channellock pliers that are nearly 40 years old and still holding steady. Our tests showed no difference between these ancestral pliers and the shiny new set, both made in America. They were hands down the sturdiest pliers in the test with the best action, hold, and grip. The needle-nose pliers have the narrowest point of any other option in the test, too. This makes them even more precise than most. Due to their thinness, not the quality of materials, we still recommend going easy on these thin needle-nose pliers. They seemed sturdy enough in our tests, but needle-nose pliers aren't that hard to break in general. We've done it a time or two. It's good to remember what they're intended for, which is detailed wire work.
Crescent is another big name tool brand, and their 170-Piece General Purpose kit is predictively impressive. The sockets and combo wrenches are the sturdiest and most extensive in the test. The adjustable wrench has less play than any of the rest, holding its shape between turns, so you don't have to adjust it constantly. The rest of the set isn't great but seems durable and more than holds its own with the other options in the test.
The Kobalt 230-Piece Household Tool Set and Craftsman 57-Piece Home Kit are a step down in quality but offer a good value for useful tools that cover all the basics. Their socket sets work well, though Kobalt's is of higher quality and much more extensive. Their hammers are two of the best we tested. (The Kobalt version felt too heavy to our lead tester, but those with larger frames liked it.) In fact, every tool in the smaller Craftsman set performs its task well. The larger Kobalt option is similar, though we don't love the precision screwdrivers. Their ends don't spin easily, which is important since you often need to brace them against the meat of your hand to hold pressure as you spin the handle.
The AmazonBasics and Black and Decker sets are pretty good, though both contain some disappointing tools. The pliers in the AmazonBasics set are sub-par, and we're not thrilled about the hammer's narrow neck since we've broken similar ones in the past. The Black and Decker pliers are okay, but the adjustable wrench has a lot of play, rendering it less effective. We do like every other tool in the Amazon option, though, and really appreciate the light and balanced hammer and its mini socket set.
The standalone cordless drill in the Black and Decker kit makes it a standout. A power drill can save a ton of time, and this is a decent one that comes with some pretty good screwdrivers, a measuring tape, a box cutter, a hammer, and pliers that work fine. While hole saws and spade bits are great for making large holes in wood, this drill struggled to power them through a board unless it was fully charged. The battery runs out after less than half an hour of continuous use. That's actually pretty impressive, but since you don't get a spare and it took over three hours to charge, you'll be limited to shorter projects.
The Dedeo Cordless Hammer Drill Kit does give you an extra battery, and it charges much faster, but it also comes with a stack of very low-quality tools. They are harder to use and may not stand the test of time. We suggest skipping this option and the Cartman Orange 39-Piece set, which is of similar low-quality.
The Cartman 148-Piece Set is a little better, as is the Dekopro option, but not by much. They'll work for a time and have a few nice additions each (the screwdrivers and wire strippers in the Dekopro and the precision screwdrivers, pliers, and regular screwdrivers in the Cartman), but we recommend just building your tool set over time if you can't afford one of the better kits.
Tool Selection for General Use
Though the Crescent and Channellock Pliers sets are the highest quality, neither of them include some of the necessary household basics, like a hammer. The Crescent General Purpose set is great if you need to work on cars, lawnmowers, tractors, or other engines, but won't do much to help you hang a picture frame.
The Kobalt Household Tool Set gives you the best combination of quality and variety to get you through most household chores and repairs. Thoughtful additions like squat and precise screwdrivers, a level, a wire brush, a wire stripper, and a great box cutter come in surprisingly handy. We do highly recommend shopping for a power drill separately if you go this route. They are worth their weight in gold if you need to do anything that involves more than three screws.
The Craftsman 57-Piece Set is a good paired down option, with all the basics solidly covered. We'd rather have a few good tools than a ton that are a pain to use. The AmazonBasics option offers similar functionality (at a lower cost) but with two bum pliers.
If you just look at tool types, the Dedo Cordless Hammer Drill Kit's selection slays the competition. A cordless drill with two batteries, a trim socket set, screw divers, precision drivers, a hammer, and a little hack saw for (very) small jobs. Unfortunately, the quality just isn't there, so we don't recommend this one. The Dekopro set is similar, though it doesn't have a drill, a number of its basic tools—like the hammer, screwdrivers, and wire stripper—are downright pleasant to use. The wrenches, sockets, and pliers aren't up to our standards, though, and are much less enjoyable to use.
We tip our hat to the Black and Decker 68-Piece for offering some reasonable basics with an okay cordless drill. The combination will get you going and keep you going for long enough to figure out if you like doing your own handy work. If you do, you can start building a higher quality tool set.
The Cartman 148-Piece Set is a reasonable buildout, half of it good enough to use often (skip the wrenches and the sockets). The 39-Piece is super paired down but covers the very basics. We don't expect that hammer to last long, and we don't recommend using it to pry out stubborn nails.
Some of these cases work far better than others. The top two options are the Kobalt tote bag and the Crescent molded plastic case. The tote bag offers a number of internal and external pockets to tuck tools away, but there aren't enough of the proper dimensions to have a place for every tool. The socket set, hammer, and wrench just tumble together in the bottom. Luckily, the floor of the case is sturdy enough to keep them from jostling too much.
The plastic molded Crescent case is the exact opposite. It has a little cubby for every socket and wrench, holding them in place. None drop out when you open the case, yet you don't need a crowbar to remove them. (This is rare.) The case may not function perfectly forever, though; the plastic flexes to let you pull each tool out and could weaken over time. The two Cartman cases work similarly well, though their plastic feels a little lighter and may wear out faster.
Most plastic cases are less pleasant. The sockets fall out of the Craftsman's case every time you open it unless you remember to leave the socket side down. Quite annoying. The Dedeo and Dekopro cases are similar, with the drill, extra battery, and level all knocking around when you open the Dedeo kit.
The bags work better in general. At least tools don't fall on you. The AmazonBasics option doesn't have pockets big enough for many of its tools, so they just pile at the bottom. It works, but organization lovers won't like it. The small, single pocket Black and Decker case requires care to pack since the tools are truly stacked, even the drill bits. Drill bits aren't particularly durable, and you'll probably need to wrap yours in something to help them survive this case. The simple Channellock roll case works well.
We hope we've helped you find the right tool set for your home improvement aspirations. The right mix of tools should get you through the vast majority of DIY projects and home repairs without sending you running back to the store again. They should also be durable and reliable enough that you rarely need to replace one. We urge you to choose quality over quantity to reduce your personal frustrations and your footprint on the planet.
— Clark Tate