Best starter tool set

One of the pleasures of renting a home is having the freedom to leave all of the repairs to a landlord. If you’re a homeowner, you’re on the hook for any issues that may come up, such as a broken faucet or a hole in your drywall. You might dread having to do these basic repairs, but I can promise you that few things can match the satisfaction that comes from completing a repair with your own two hands. To do a job well, you’ll need good tools: not necessarily power tools like an electric screwdriver or cordless drill, but rather, the sort of basic toolkit full of good-quality hand tools that every homeowner or even a good tenant should own. So what is the Best starter tool set, the best tool set 2019, best mini tool kit, and the best tool kit brands you can get?

Best starter tool set

Our Favorite Starter Toolkits of 2020

BEST OVERALLStanley 94-248 65-Piece Homeowner’s Tool KitPros

High quality tools at a reasonable price

All tools lock into case for easy storageCons

Handle of interchangeable head screwdriver uncomfortable to use$56.99 from AmazonSkip to the full review below

BEST VALUECartman 148-Piece Tool SetPros

Gets all of the basics right

Includes thoughtful extrasCons

Box cutter feels flimsy

Pliers felt sticky/stiff when used$32.99 from AmazonSkip to the full review below

The Best Starter Toolkits
The 65-piece Stanley 94-248 is the best starter toolkit on the market today.

BEST OVERALLStanley 94-248 65-Piece Homeowner’s Tool Kit

The quality of each individual tool was the best in this Stanley kit. While its molded case does not have space for additional tools, it held the tools that the kit comes with, relatively well. This kit includes all of the tools that you’ll need for many basic and intermediate home repairs, and the limited one-year warranty provided for the kit is among the best we were able to find.

I never felt strongly about hammers before writing this guide. However, the one included in the Stanley kit convinced me that a good hammer can make a big difference when you’re working on a repair or building something new. The grip on the Stanley hammer was the most comfortable out of all the hammers tested for this guide—I felt like the force of my strikes were actually being directed onto the nail, rather than bouncing off of it. While it isn’t one of Stanley’s popular FATMAX tape measures, the one that comes in the kit is good quality. The Stanely’s level, with its magnet and fine build quality, was one of the best I encountered while writing this guide.

One of my favorite features of the Stanley 94-248 kit was its interchangeable head screwdriver, which comes with 30 bits. This is in addition to the two dedicated screwdrivers—a slot-head and a #2 Phillips—that the kit ships with. My only real complaint about this kit is that the handle of the interchangeable head screwdriver wasn’t as comfortable to use as the ones built into the kit’s dedicated screwdrivers.

In total, this kit includes a 13-ounce hammer, a 16-foot tape rule, 18mm snap-off knife, one torpedo level, a set of needle-nose pliers one set of slip joint pliers, a Phillips screwdriver and slot-head screwdriver, eight SAE and eight metric hex keys, an 1/4-inch round-head ratchet and eight SAE 1/4-inch sockets, one 1/4-inch spinner handle as well as the aforementioned 30 screwdriver bits and an interchangeable screwdriver handle to use them with.

If you wanted to buy each of the tools in this kit separately, it would cost you significantly more, making the Stanley 94-248 an incredible value. If you need a trustworthy set of tools to get started on home repairs, the Stanley 94-248 is an excellent value, boasting quality that will last.

Pros

  • High quality tools at a reasonable price
  • All tools lock into case for easy storage

Cons

  • Handle of interchangeable head screwdriver uncomfortable to use

$56.99 from Amazon$56.99 from Walmart$50.99 from Home DepotADVERTISEMENT

The Best Starter Toolkits
This kit from Cartman might not contain the best tools that we tested but, for the price, it’s more than adequate to meet your basic repair needs.

BEST VALUECartman 148-Piece Tool Set

Editor’s Note: This kit proved very popular over the holidays. As such, it’s currently sold out. We’ll let you know just as soon as it comes back into stock.

This set came with everything we were looking for, with the exception of a level. In addition to nailing all but one of the basics, the Cartman kit comes with a nice bonus: nine sockets designed to work with the kit’s interchangeable screwdriver handle. The handles on the two dedicated screwdrivers—a slot-head and a Philips—were just as comfortable to hold as the interchangeable screwdriver. The grip on the Cartman hammer felt comfortable and, in use, the hammer made me feel that the force of each blow was being directed downward instead of vibrating up into my arm. Additionally, the small roll of electrical tape and a box full of nails and screws included in the kit allows you to start working right away, avoiding an extra trip to the store for supplies.

The tool quality in this kit was slightly lower than that of the others tested for this guide. The needle-nose pliers, for example, were sticky to open and the box cutter felt flimsy. However, considering that this kit can be found at almost half the price of the others in this roundup, the lower quality of tools, which are still highly functional, feels like a reasonable compromise. The price of the Cartman tends to fluctuate, often. So, keep an eye out as it can sometimes be had for as low as $25. The Apollo DT9408-53 is comparable to the Cartman in price but lacks a number of the tools that the Cartman comes with.

This kit includes a 10-foot tape measure, an eight-ounce claw hammer, a set of six-inch needle nose pliers, a selection of five wrenches, a bit driver and bit connector, a nine-piece socket set, a snap-off utility knife, five precision screwdrivers, 12 hex keys, a small roll of insulated tape, a box with screws and nails, and 30 screwdriver bits.

Pros

  • Gets all of the basics right
  • Includes thoughtful extras

Cons

  • Box cutter feels flimsy
  • Pliers felt sticky/stiff when used

$32.99 from Amazon

Tested

Workpro W009036A 156-Piece Home Repair Tool Set

One of my biggest complaints about pre-assembled toolkits doesn’t always concern the tools included in the kit. Rather, it’s the plastic cases that the kits sometimes come packed in. Many cases can be aggravating to snap tools into and, even once the tools have been returned to their spot, I’m often infuriated when I try to close the kit, only to have a number of seemingly secure tools, fall out of their designated spots. The Workpro W009036A avoids all of this by packaging its tools in a tool bag. This ensures that your tools are secure and, as a bonus, that you’ll have the extra space in the bag to store new tools in you may buy over time, as required. Unfortunately, the quality of the tools in the W009036A aren’t as high a quality as those in our main pick. However, the W009036A does come with some thoughtful additions that the Stanley kit lacks.

The W009036A’ interchangeable head screwdriver, for example, comes with a large variety of common screwdriver heads, such as Robertson, slotted and Philips, along with less common tips designed for working with security screws, in various sizes. Some of the common heads come with multiples of the same type and size: a generous bonus should they become stripped from frequent use. The kit’s box cutter comes with 10 extra blades, and the tool bag feels durable.

You should know that when I emailed the company for information regarding the warranty, I received no response.

The toolkit contains a 16-inch zippered tool bag with outside pockets and a carrying strap, a nine-inch torpedo level, a set of 16 hex keys, a three-meter tape measure, a mini hacksaw, three pairs of pliers, six precision screwdriver set, a utility knife with 10 replacement blades, 40 black cable ties, a 16-ounce claw hammer, a combination wrench with clamp, an adjustable wrench and replaceable head screwdriver with 60 bits.

Pros

  • Spacious bag with room for other tools
  • Comes with useful extras

Cons

  • Low quality tools
  • Company unresponsive to warranty questions

$59.99 from Amazon$9,999.00 from WalmartADVERTISEMENT

Deko 168 Piece Tool Set

If my toolkit recommendations were based solely on the number of pieces in a kit, this would have been our main pick. With a whopping 168 pieces (not including each of the zip ties in the kit: I’m looking at you, WORKPRO,) the Deko B0723914V1 has everything you didn’t know you needed. Most of the kit’s tools were good, but not great, with nothing standing out as being particularly low quality. However, the warranty for this kit is a suspiciously short 30 days.

The hammer included in the B0723914V1 wasn’t my favorite—my heart belongs to Stanley. It had a fairly comfortable handle, however, the rubber was softer and the grip was not as secure as the Stanley. The pliers and screwdrivers in this kit, however, really shone, with a ratchet on the interchangeable head screwdriver and magnetic tips on the dedicated flathead and Roberts screwdrivers. Most of the extra pieces in this kit looked useful, including some clips that were stronger than expected. However, all those extra tools pushed up the kit’s price.

If you know how you’d use most of the extra tools, the B0723914V1 might be worth your consideration. Otherwise, stick with a smaller kit of higher quality and purchase individual tools as needed.

This toolkit contains a set of nine hex keys, 22 drive sockets with a ratchet and socket adapters, 28 screwdriver bits, three pliers, a set of six combination wrenches, a set of five precision screwdrivers, four screwdrivers, one adjustable wrench, one hammer, a utility knife, a hacksaw, a level, a 10-foot tape measure, four spring clamps, a box with an assortment of wood screws, a 16-foot roll of insulating tape and a wire stripper.

Pros

  • Excellent quality pliers and screwdrivers

Cons

  • Suspiciously short 30-day warranty
  • Additional, unnecessary tools increase this kit’s price
  • rubber grip on hammer is of poor quality

$79.99 from AmazonADVERTISEMENT

AmazonBasics 65 Piece Home Basic Repair Tool Kit

The quality of the tools in the AmazonBasics kit was merely passable, with the exception of the tape measure: it was one of my favorite tested for this guide as it comes with an auto-lock.

I was unimpressed with the thin handle on the pliers, which made them uncomfortable to use. Additionally, the bag fabric on the inside felt like tissue paper. Given its price, you’d be better served by our main or budget pick.

The kit includes a tool bag with a carrying strap, a 16-piece Allen wrench set, a 13-ounce hammer, an auto-locking 16-foot tape measure, a torpedo level, utility knife, two sets of pliers, a Phillips screwdriver, a slot-head screwdriver, an interchangeable head screwdriver with a 30-piece bit set and a ratchet with eight sockets.

Pros

  • Most tools are of merely passable quality
  • Tape measure comes equipped with an auto lock

Cons

  • Low quality tool bag
  • Thin, uncomfortable handle on pliers

$38.11 from Amazon

Workpro W009021A 100-Piece Kitchen Drawer Home Tool Kit

This set from Workpro gives the impression that the designer intended it to be tucked away in a kitchen junk drawer and ignored until it’s needed. The zippered case that comes with the kit uses elastics to tuck each tool away in a soft-sided case.

Unfortunately, the tools are of poorer quality than the other Workpro set featured in this guide. The hammer is quite light—I needed more strikes to drive in a nail than I did with the Stanley kit’s hammer. I also disliked that the kit’s screwdriver had a handle with a flat bottom, making it hard to push down on and turn.

This toolkit is contained in a tool bag and includes two sets of pliers, an adjustable wrench, an eight-ounce claw hammer, four precision screwdrivers, a 10-foot tape measure, 40 cable ties, a snap-off knife with 10 replacement blades, a torpedo level, an eight-piece set of hex keys, a interchangeable head screwdriver with 20 bits and nine sockets.

Pros

  • Small tool case makes it easy to store

Cons

  • Low quality tools
  • Hammer too light to be effective
  • Screwdriver handle’s flat bottom uncomfortable to use

$28.96 from Amazon$42.31 from Walmart

Apollo Precision Tools DT9408 53 Piece Tool Kit

On the plus side, the tools were very secure in this kit’s case and included most of the must-haves we expect (with the exception of a box cutter) in an entry-level toolkit. While the screwdriver, level, and tape measure were all of average quality—which, given the DT9408-53’s price, is impressive—the hammer was easily one of the worst tools we tested for this guide. During testing, the hammer tended to bounce rather than direct force downward into the nails I was attempting to drive.

This toolkit contains one set of needle-nosed pliers, an adjustable wrench, an eight-ounce claw hammer, a digital voltage tester, a 12-foot tape measure, a torpedo level, six precision screwdrivers, an interchangeable head screwdriver with 20 bits, a set of four wrenches and a set of 16 Hex keys.

Pros

  • Voltage meter is a nice extra
  • tools stayed secure in case

Cons

  • Lacks a box cutter
  • Contains worst hammer we tested

Before You Shop

Don’t feel like you need to buy everything at once. Invest in a few essential tools or a basic set, and then purchase additional tools as you need them for projects.

Think about how often you will use your tools when deciding what quality to purchase. For example, if you only need to pound in the occasional nail, a cost-effective hammer will meet your needs while leaving room in your budget to purchase other tools. However, if you know that a big home renovation project is in your future, consider investing in something more durable.

If you’re looking for an easy and economical way to stock your tool box without the hassle of buying all the components separately, consider purchasing a tool set. These sets contain the most essential tools and often include a convenient storage case.

Essential Tools

Claw Hammer

Claw Hammer

A durable claw hammer is useful for a variety of different projects. The head is used to drive nails, while the claw back can be used to pull them out. These hammers are available in a variety of sizes. A 16-ounce claw hammer is the right size for many household tasks while a 7- to 8-ounce claw hammer is best for work in small, confined areas.

Screwdriver

Screwdriver

Your toolbox should include two different types of screwdrivers: a Philips-head screwdriver and a flat-head screwdriver. A Philips-head screwdriver features two blades in the shape of a cross, while a flat-head screwdriver has one flat blade. Certain screw heads are designed to work with Philips-head screwdrivers, while others are designed for flat-head screwdrivers, so it’s good to have both options in your toolbox. You should also have them in several different sizes for different jobs.

Pliers

Pliers

A set of pliers is a versatile tool that can be used for a variety of tasks. A standard set of adjustable pliers can be used for gripping and adjusting nuts and bolts. A set of long-nose pliers is also a useful tool to have. The long nose allows you to grip small items and reach awkward places. A standard 5-10W size set of pliers will work for most household tasks.

Tape Measure

Tape Measure

Getting accurate measurements is important for any project. A tape measure can be used to measure windows, furniture, lumber, pipe, and much more. Most tape measures are spring loaded, so the tape will retract after you release it. They are available in several different sizes, but a 3/4″ wide by 16′ long tape measure can be used for most household tasks.

Level

Level

A level is used to determine if a surface is straight. Torpedo levels feature a glass tube filled with liquid. A bubble is formed inside the liquid and will appear in the center of the tube if the surface is level.

Level

Laser Level

Laser levels are also available. These levels use a laser to project a straight line, making them especially useful for hanging pictures and shelves or mounting TVs.

Sockets, Wrenches & Ratchets

SocketsWrenches & Ratchets

There are several types of wrenches that you should have in your toolbox. A socket wrench can be used to quickly tighten or loosen bolts. Most socket wrenches have a 90° handle. Another type of wrench that should be included in your tool box is an adjustable wrench. In addition to tightening or loosening bolts, an adjustable wrench can be used for a variety of plumbing tasks. This wrench features an adjustable jaw, so it can fit a variety of different fastener sizes.

UtilityKnife

Utility Knife

A utility knife allows you to cut through a variety of objects, including corrugated cardboard and other packaging materials. Consider purchasing a replacement blade pack so you never have to attempt cuts with a dull knife.

Headlamp

Headlamp

Including a headlamp in your tool box can help you work in situations without a lot of light. Whether the power’s gone out or you’re working in a naturally dark space, having a headlamp allows you to keep your hands free and your workspace illuminated.

Cordless Drills and Bits

Cordless Drill and Bits

Not only do cordless drills provide you with additional strength to drive screws, but they also allow you freedom of movement without being limited by an electrical cord, allowing you to take your cordless drill virtually anywhere! Cordless drills can be used to drive screws and drill holes. They can also be used for a variety of tasks with drywall and concrete.

Personal Protective Equipment

Personal Protective Equipment

Having the proper personal protective equipment will help keep you safe during any task. You can protect your eyes and face from flying debris with eye and face protection like safety glasses or safety goggles. Work gloves can keep your hands safe and protected during tough jobs.

Tool Bag

Tool Bag or Tool Box

As your tool collection grows, investing in storage can help you stay organized. Having a tool bag or tool box is a great way to keep your tools readily available and easily accessible in one place. Check out our tool storage buying guide to learn more about the different options available.

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