3. Husky 149-piece Chrome Mechanic's Tool Set
PN: 69027 $149.99
www.homedepot.com

Using black powdercoat with laser etching for quick size identification, the Husky 149-piece tool set is a great-looking, well-rounded tool set that doesn't break the bank. With socket sizes ranging from SAE 3⁄16-inch to 1-inch and metric 4 mm to 27 mm, the Husky includes several large sockets that really come in handy. A good mix of adapters, extensions, and U-joints make this a good automotive set, though we did break one of the U-joints during our testing. A highlight for the Husky 149-piece tool set is the included SAE ratcheting wrenches, making this set ideal for classic truck owners using mostly SAE fasteners. You'll notice we didn't mention metric wrenches, that's because there aren't any, but the Husky did provide a bit driver with 10 popular bits. Taking apart an F-150's front suspension with only this tool set, the black finish held up pretty well, though on the ⅜-drive ratchet the coating was wearing thin. We also got our fingers pinched quite often when trying to pry up and insert tools into their secured position. It may sound trivial, but it was annoying. For $150, the Husky is a nice set, however, it couldn't match the quality, quantity, and included case that Kobalt delivered.


4. Craftsman 182-piece Mechanic's Tool Set with Three-Drawer Chest
PN: 33182 $199.99
www.craftsman.com

A quick poll was taken around the office and the majority of us all agreed we started our knuckle-busting with a Craftsman tool set. Whereas this kit is often on sale for $149.99, the everyday price varied from $199.99 to $219.99, so we felt confident this would be the most appropriate kit to evaluate. Right off the bat, we liked the included three-drawer chest, though it is plastic, it's made well and the drawers themselves are metal. Also included in the kit, plastic drawer liners organize the tools and help keep them from sliding around the box. The classic Craftsman ¼-, ⅜-, and ½-inch ratchets included in the kit were equipped with 36-gear teeth and proved to be the least desirable in the test. We also weren't big fans of the large number of ¼-drive sockets, yet small number of ½-inch-drive sockets. For instance, when we attempted to use the Craftsman set to remove our wheel with a flat tire, the ½-inch-drive sockets maxed out at ¾-inch, but there was a ⅜-inch-drive ⅞-inch socket. Have you ever tried to remove a lugnut with a small ⅜ ratchet? It's darn near impossible. If this toolkit were the only thing you had in your truck, you would have to call AAA. The absence of socket adapters and U-joints was also a big letdown for the Craftsman kit. At $1.15 per tool (after factoring in duplicated tools), the Craftsman set had the highest cost per tool. We know Craftsman makes some of the best tool sets on the market, but for under $200, this wasn't one of them.


5. Stanley 201-piece Mechanic's Tool Set
PN: 91-988 $102.30
(at www.amazon.com) www.stanleytools.com

We had high hopes for the Stanley kit. At first glance, the Stanley tool set seems to pack a big punch. With 201 pieces for around $100, the bang for the buck is out of this world, but once you realize that 67 pieces are either duplicated or tiny driver bits and Allen wrenches, the feeling of joy quickly turns to frustration. Doing the math, that takes the Stanley set down to 134 valuable pieces. Add to that Stanley doesn't include a bit driver for the aforementioned bits, and things start going downhill. Overall, the ratchets are nice, the wrench sizes are common, and the sockets have decent coverage (though the ½-inch-drive sockets max out at ¾-inch and 19 mm), but Stanley left out a ½-inch-drive extension and U-joints for any drive. For the average home mechanic who isn't doing anything too serious, this kit may work just fine, but for the genuine enthusiast, there are too many gaps. Looking at the steep competition, it's no wonder this kit ended up in last place.