What’s the best mechanic tool set for beginners? Well, we decided to find out by putting some of the best options to the test.
Many of us remember our first toolkit with fond memories and recall the times we struggled and made-do with what we had, but still managed to replace a spark plug or fit a new pair of brake rotors. Years later, you often wonder how you managed, especially if you now have a huge range of tools and wrench sets at your fingertips. It was these issues that spurred us to think about the budding mechanics and modifiers of today, and what tools they would buy to get started.
So, if you’re looking to take your first steps into a more hands-on form of car ownership and maintenance, we’ve picked several toolkits for you to choose from to get started. The following toolkits were put through their paces by our tools expert Rob Hawkins, who has decades of experience working on cars both classic and modern.
At a glance:
- Best Buy: Sealey Premier 136-Piece Toolkit, RRP: $439.99 / £359.94 – buy it now!
- Best Budget Buy: Blackline 99-Piece Tool Set, RRP: $82.00 / £67.08 – buy it now!
- Apprentice’s Choice: Siegen 90-piece tool chest, RRP: $439.99 / £359.94 – buy it now!
- Mechanic’s Choice: Teng Tools 48-piece Tool Kit, RRP: $649.68 / £531.48 – buy it now!
- Teenager’s Choice: Draper workshop toolkit, RRP: $508.92 / £416.33 – buy it now!
- Recommended: Clarke PRO394 Professional 90-Piece Toolkit, RRP: £131.98 – buy it now!
Best Mechanic Tool Set For Beginners
Sealey Premier 136-Piece Toolkit
Award: Best Buy
RRP: $439.99 / £359.94 – buy it now!
Full-time mechanic Mike Smith at MJ Motors chose this toolkit as his favorite. It’s easy to see why. The sturdy storage case securely holds all 136 tools inside with labelled locations. The sockets range from 4mm-32mm, with ¼- and ½-inch drive ratchets, and there’s a comprehensive range of E-Torx sockets – but only one 16mm spark plug socket, whereas most other kits also include a 21mm socket.
Disappointingly, the metric sockets up to 14mm are ¼-inch drive, which is a little inadequate for fittings requiring a 12-14mm socket that maybe need a stronger ½-inch drive ratchet. In fact, our ¼-inch drive ratchet broke. Luckily, Sealey offers a lifetime replacement warranty on this and the other toolkit we tested from them. Otherwise, there’s a good range of screwdrivers and bits, pliers, Allen keys, spanners and extension bars. There’s also a folding knife, something that our apprentice pointed out is essential in every toolkit.
We liked the storage box, which is better than them being stored loosely or in an open holder. However, the best aspect of this toolkit has got to be the 3/8 -inch bits, which fit inside a ½-inch adaptor. There are Torx bits up to T55, and multi-splined and Allen keys up to 12mm. All this makes for a sound investment with a good range of tools
Clarke PRO394 Professional 90-Piece Toolkit
Price: £131.98 from MachineMart – buy it now!
A stunning-looking cantilever toolbox that opens to reveal a neatly stored and usefully labelled assortment of tools. With metric sizes only, there are ½- and ¼-inch drive ratchets and an assortment of sockets from 4mm-24mm, including 16mm and 21mm spark plug sockets. The Allen keys range from 1.5mm-10mm and include a 7mm, which can be useful for undoing brake caliper slider bolts. The spanners are in sizes from 6mm-17mm. There’s a selection of reasonable quality screwdrivers, plus an assortment of bits and a separate universal screwdriver handle. Plus a wide range of pliers, including vice grips and water pump pliers. Compared with the other Clarke toolkit on test, the extra cash for this kit is well worth it. Also, this one comes with a lifetime warranty, whereas the other one (scroll down to find it) is just a year.
This toolkit looks impressive and the tools are easy to find and put away. While the carry-case types are arguably even easier to transport, they don’t keep all the tools as secure. It was a close call between this toolkit and Sealey’s Premier, so it will come down to personal choice.
Blackline 99-Piece Tool Set
Award: Best Budget Buy
RRP: $82.00 / £67.08 – buy it now!
Siegen 90-piece tool chest
Award: Apprentice’s Choice
RRP: $439.99 / £359.94 – buy it now!
This is one of the more expensive multi-drawer tool chests on test, but the higher price is reflected in the quality of the tools – and there are no gimmicks to make up the number of pieces, such as drawing pins, picture hooks or screws. Instead, you get the basics of what an entry level mechanic needs: metric sockets from 4mm-32mm, 16mm and 21mm spark plug sockets, ¼- and ½-inch ratchet drives, spanners from 6mm-22mm, a selection of Allen keys (but no 7mm), screwdrivers, pliers and lots of bits (Allen keys, Torx up to T30 and screwdriver bits). Plus, all of the tools come with a lifetime warranty.
Stored in a two-drawer tool chest with a lockable lid, there’s a place for everything with clear labelling to help locate the right tool. We also liked how many of the tools could be used together – the screwdriver-style handle for using the bits can be equipped with a ¼-inch socket on one end and a ¼-inch drive ratchet at the other, helping to create more leverage when undoing stubborn fastenings.
This toolkit is certainly a good investment and starting point for a would-be mechanic. There are less tools than some of the cheaper kits we tested but, in this case, less appears to be more when it comes to the quality. Our apprentice chose this starter kit as his favorite
Teng Tools 48-piece Tool Kit
Award: Mechanic’s Choice
RRP: $649.68 / £531.48 – buy it now!
Favored by full-time mechanic Dan Smith, this compact but comprehensive toolkit contains a mixture of 3/8-inch metric and AF sockets from 8mm-18mm, so it offers one of the most limited ranges when compared with many of the kits on test. Also included is a couple of spark plug sockets, a range of spanners (8-19mm with some AF sizes), with several pliers and screwdrivers. There are no Allen keys or Torx bits. The sturdy carry-case isn’t lockable, but it has two substantial clips to keep it closed. And inside, there’s a separate hinged panel to prevent the screwdrivers and spanners from falling out, although they also click into the plastic-molded and labelled lining.
At this price point, this is the most expensive toolkit on test and many of the other kits offer more for your money, but Teng Tools has a reputation for top-quality products. If all you need is a socket set with spanners, pliers and screwdrivers, then this is a good investment that seems built to last, and includes a warranty that offers to repair or replace the tools should they break during normal usage due to manufacturing or material faults.
Draper workshop toolkit
Award: Teenager’s Choice
RRP: $508.92 / £416.33 – buy it now!
One of the most comprehensive toolkits, but unlike all the competitors where the tools are neatly stored and labelled inside a toolbox, Draper seem to have collected an assortment of their tools together and put them inside a suitable six-drawer tool chest. Ranging from pliers, screwdrivers, spanners and Allen keys (including a useful 7mm for brake caliper slider bolts) to pry bars, a rubber mallet and cutting tools (knife, hacksaws, side cutters and tin snips). And there’s room inside to add more tools, making this the only toolkit that can be expanded.
A separate ½-inch socket set is included. It includes the widest range of spark plug sockets: 14mm, 16mm and 21mm. Some of our testers wondered why the socket set was separate to the toolbox but, on reflection, a socket set is often all you need for a job, which is a lot easier to carry around than an entire toolbox. Dan Smith’s son, Jacob, and his cousin, William, both chose this toolbox as their favorite. We can see why, because there’s a good range of useful tools. Plus, they all come with a lifetime warranty, except for the hacksaw and knife blades.
At the current asking price, it’s a lot cheaper than buying the included tools individually, and there’s room to grow your collection without having to buy more toolboxes.
Clarke 235-piece mechanic’s toolkit
RRP: $176.00 / £143.98 – buy it now!
A fully-loaded two-drawer lockable tool chest. There’s an extensive range of metric and AF-sized ¼- and 3/8-inch drive sockets, along with spanners, Allen keys and a 21mm spark plug socket, but no 16mm. It’s good to see that both AF and metric have been catered for, which is useful for anyone working on older vehicles, but it does feel like overkill in such a compact tool chest. Extending the range of Allen key bits beyond 6mm may have been more beneficial, and putting labels on the plastic storage trays would help with selecting individual tools.
The range of screwdrivers feels cheap and cheerful, so we tested the screwdriver bits with the screwdriver attachment to undo a stubborn screw holding the corner of a front bumper. The end of the bit couldn’t withstand the pressure and broke off. At this price, you could argue that you can’t expect everything in a starter toolkit. In reality, you do get just about everything, but the quality isn’t the best and our testers felt it performed poorly. Less is maybe more but, for an entry-level kit, this one looks good and will cover most jobs.