We've completely overhauled our guide to The Best Starter Toolkits with new research, new products and a new pick for Best Overall: the Stanley 94-248 65-Piece Homeowner's Tool Kit.
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.
After rigorously testing eight different basic toolkits designed for homeowners, we discovered the Stanley 94-248(available at Amazon for $57.40) is the best toolkit for anyone interested in doing their own home repairs. If you’re on a tight budget or feel that the type of repairs you’ll need to make are both minor and infrequent, check out the Cartman B01NCJTSW7 (available at Amazon).
Here are the best toolkits we tested ranked, in order:
AmazonBasics Home Repair Kit
Apollo Toolkit DT9408
Apollo Toolkit with Tool Box (DT9773-53)
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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.
High quality tools at a reasonable price
All tools lock into case for easy storage
Handle of interchangeable head screwdriver uncomfortable to use
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.
My name is Rebecca Boniface. As I live full-time, in a 40-foot long motorhome, my path to homeownership might not be the same as yours, but much of the maintenance I do inside of our RV is similar to the repairs you might encounter in your house or apartment.
When my partner and I moved into our RV, one of our first purchases was a starter toolkit. We anticipated plenty of small repairs and adjustments we would need to do on the move. Four years later, while many of the tools are still functional, the toolkit’s case split at the hinge within weeks of buying it. Most of the tools from the kit have some rust on them now. Recently, the kit’s socket wrench adapter snapped in two while I attempted to remove a stubborn oil pan plug. I’ve invested in many new, high-quality tools over the years, but I still resent the poor quality of the first kit I purchased. I’d love to save you from that pain.
We designed the tests for this guide based on the sorts of common tasks a handy person, like you, might encounter: hammering or pulling nails, putting screws into a board, as well as using a pair of pliers to remove nails or bend wire, to name a few. After I assessed how well the tools from each kit completed these do-it-yourself-related activities, I evaluated how comfortable it was to use each tool and whether the quality of each tool was such that I’d feel comfortable recommending it to you.
In order to test how resilient each tool was, I dropped them onto a laminate floor, while standing on the third rung of a ladder. Additionally, I left a tool from each kit (typically, the adjustable wrench) in a basin of tap water, overnight, to see if it showed any signs of corrosion. Not all steel is created equal. Tools made of metal with a large amount of carbon in it can rust easily.
After completing these tests, I took the four highest-scoring toolkits and used them to complete one final test: hanging a shelf on a wall and then removing it.
What Tools Should be in a Starter Toolkit?
It’s always best to fix minor issues in your home before they turn into major emergencies. If you’ve got a leaking tap, the right tools, a few materials and a lesson found on the internet can sort it out in short order. Beyond this, small repairs, like adjusting hinges on a cupboard door or tightening the loose bolts on the legs of a footstool, result in your home working better. No matter which of these scenarios you run into, you’ll need to have the right tools for the job, on hand.
Which tools you’ll need depends on who you ask and what repairs you feel comfortable doing yourself. I follow one general rule: I don’t buy tools that do mysterious things. If I don’t know what I would use it for, I don’t purchase it. By sticking to this principle, you’ll find that you’ll save money and, perhaps more importantly, won’t wind up with a room full of tools that are only useful for one task, or worse, aren’t well suited for fixing anything in your home.
When thinking about the sort of tools that should be found in a starter toolkit, I considered my own most common repairs in my home, as well as looking at sources like This Old House. Here’s what I recommend:
Hammer: A good hammer will allow you to both build and break things. You can hammer in nails or bang a peg into a piece of furniture. With a claw hammer, like those featured in these toolkits, you can use its little built-in crowbar to pop a lock, rip off a baseboard or lever open a stuck window. Ideally, a good hammer is constructed to direct the force from your swing into the object that you’re striking. The difference between a good hammer and a poor one becomes apparent when you strike a nail: A good one will drive a nail into a board with little effort on your part. A bad one requires more effort to do the same job. Comfort is another consideration. Generally, hammer handles that are ergonomically designed, sporting with handles with a soft rubber sheath are more comfortable to use than ones sheathed in hard rubber.
Tape measure: a useful tape measure is designed to be readable when extended to your left while being held in your right hand. If you’re left-handed, you might want to check out a tape measure that reads right to left as a separate purchase if you plan on doing a significant amount of measuring.
Level: generally, the longer a level is, the more accurate it will be. A torpedo level (also known as a nine-inch bubble level) help you make sure that the shelves you install and the photos you hang are, well, on the level. Additionally, their short length makes them ideal for use in confined spaces.
Utility knife: a good utility knife is a more versatile pick than a hack saw in most situations. It allows for precision in cuts and scoring as well as being usable in a tight space.
Screwdriver set: for the sake of saving space, I favor screwdrivers with interchangeable heads that use the same handle. The trade-off for this adaptability is a noticeable loss in the strength of the tool. I typically use dedicated head screwdrivers to pry and lever off parts that I can’t with a removable head screwdriver.
Adjustable wrench: while socket sets are lovely, odds are, around the house, you’ll only need to wrench the occasional bolt. Until the time comes when investing in a full socket and wrench set makes sense, an adjustable wrench will serve you well.
Pliers: for when your meathooks are simply too big to get into a tight space or to clamp onto a tiny bolt or wire, pliers—particularly needle-nose pliers—allow you to apply force in a small, concentrated area to bend or strip wire and pick up or hold small things. Look for a comfortable grip and a corrugated contact surface.
Other Toolkits We 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.
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.
Excellent quality pliers and screwdrivers
Suspiciously short 30-day warranty
Additional, unnecessary tools increase this kit's price
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.
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.
Small tool case makes it easy to store
Low quality tools
Hammer too light to be effective
Screwdriver handle's flat bottom uncomfortable to use
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.
Starter toolkits that come in a container with space for additional tools you may buy down the road should get some sort of recognition. But not this kit. The Apollo DT9773-53’s toolbox had very specific cutouts for tools it did not include—there was a space designed for a socket set in the lid. However, no socket set is included in this kit. I checked to see if this was a mistake: perhaps the sockets were accidentally excluded when the kit was assembled by Apollo. Nope. The tools that are in this kit are identical to Apollo’s DT9408-53 kit. The only difference between these two Apollo kits is the case that they ship in.
This toolkit comes with a hard-sided plastic toolbox, one set of needle-nose 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.
Hard-sided toolbox provides additional space for tools, as-needed
Case comes with a cut-out for a socket set that is not included
Same awful hammer as found in other WorkPro toolkit
We use standardized and scientific testing methods to scrutinize every product and provide you with objectively accurate results. If you’ve found different results in your own research, email us and we’ll compare notes. If it looks substantial, we’ll gladly re-test a product to try and reproduce these results. After all, peer reviews are a critical part of any scientific process.