Snap-On Sockets are Known to be High-Quality; Do Icon Compare?
One of the hottest tool companies on the planet is named Icon and it’s tools are sold exclusively at Harbor Freight retailers and online at the company’s website. Since launching, Icon has been going trying to go head-to-head with Snap-On as a professional alternative to tools normally sold exclusively on the tool truck.
I have already compared Icon’s wrenches and a pair of slip-joint pliers to Snap-On but in this post I want to look at one of the most important (and most frequently replaced) tools in any mechanics tool box. I want to compare Icon sockets to Snap-On sockets.
By the end of this post, I would like to have an idea (and give you one too) how the quality of Icon sockets compare to Snap-On, how the warranty’s compare versus one another and also, how much money could you save by replacing Snap-On tools with lower budget hand-tools like the ones Icon sells at Harbor Freight.
Quality is King. Are Icon Sockets as Good as or Better Than Snap-On?
If you read that and think I’m already implying Icon tools are better than Snap-On, that is not the case. I legitimately want to know if Icon sockets are close in quality to Snap-On. If they are not, is it because Harbor Freight’s brand is better, equal, worse or not even close to the quality offered by the Snap-On guy. With other quality competitors like Tekton tools emerging and Milwaukee tools innovating faster than most other tool companies, it’s now more important than ever that auto techs do proper research when buying tools.
So, with that being said- let’s look at some things like quality, price point, where Icon tools are made and also the warranty on the company’s sockets versus those sold by Snap-On.
Auto repair technicians literally can’t afford to buy junk tools, no matter the financial savings offered. Although I always encourage shopping around for tools and getting the best price, it’s important that quality is not completely sacrificed when doing so. If you save 30% on a junk tool, at the end of the day you still have a junk tool. It just cost you 30% less.
With automotive applications increasing in complexity every single day, it’s important that repair techs buy the most effective tool for the job. My point is, the most expensive tool isn’t always the highest quality or best tool for the job.
In order to determine whether Icon sockets were comparable to Snap-On, it was important that I talk about my personal review of the tools while also looking at other users’ opinions on Icon sockets. My opinion is far from the most important one. The consumer speaks and in this case, the consumer is the grease monkey like me.
My Personal Experience With Icon Sockets
When Icon was first released, I took a gamble on a set of the company’s 3/8” drive metric shallow sockets. An entire set from 10-19mm was somewhere around $100 and I had been seeing a pretty notable quality decrease with Snap-On sockets. I had broken several of my Snap-On chrome sockets during regular use, which wasn’t normal.
I wasn’t initially disappointed in the Icon socket set. All of the sockets were sized right, labeled right and felt pretty decent in the hand. I even noticed that Icon was using a similar alternative to Snap-On’s flank drive which is meant to grab better without ruining fasteners.
All this considered, I did notice fairly quickly that the “alternative” to flank drive by Snap-On was not a home run by any stretch. Not only did the sockets seem to lose their grip pretty quickly, but the Icon sockets also damaged fasteners at a bit worse magnitude than Snap-On sockets had in my experience.
User Reviews of Icon Sockets
If you want an opinion on a tool you’re looking to buy, it’s important that you read some reviews from real people that have used and abused Icon sockets. So in an attempt to find you another view than mine on Icon’s sockets, I looked around the internet and here’s what I have come up with.
One of the things I found that was encouraging was a YouTube “Icon Socket Review” but the tech also added a visual comparison to Snap-On sockets for reference. In his opinion, the Icon sockets were almost identical to Snap-On sockets. This is important because the auto tech is particularly… particular? About his or her tools.
Icon Socket Warranty and Return
It wasn’t always the case that hand tools came with a lifetime warranty. Craftsman made the practice of replacing broken or defective tools for life many decades ago and in 2023 it’s hard to find any known hand-tool brand that does not warranty its tools for life. So, with that being said- does Icon offer a lifetime warranty on its hand tools?
The answer is not surprisingly, yes and the best part about the company’s warranty is how easy it is to return Icon tools that are broken and damaged. Like Craftsman did with its Sears locations, Harbor Freight has over 1300 stores scattered all over the US, claiming to have served more than 20 million customers.
In the event that one of your Icon tools does break or come defective right from the store, Harbor Freight has a no questions asked return policy that is in my experience one of the best in the industry. I have replaced many tools at Harbor Freight under warranty and have never been given a hassle.
Can I warranty Icon tools online?
Aside from being able to warranty Icon tools in store at Harbor Freight, the company also offers an online return and refund service. Admittedly after looking into it’s online warranty process, it is not flawless. Instead of an easy warranty form like the ones used by Gearwrench, Tekton and most other hand tool brands, Harbor Freight uses a Customer Service line and mail-in service.
I have never returned a tool from Harbor Freight online, so I can not say for sure how easy the process is but not using an easy warranty form online is definitely a downside. If you do need to use the Harbor Freight customer service line, the number is 1-800-444-3353.
How Much do Icon Tools Cost?
It’s important when comparing any tool that the price is reviewed. Since Icon tools is claiming that it’s hand tools and tool storage options are professional quality, we need to find out how the price of Icon sockets, ratchets and wrenches compare to Snap-On and other competitors.
Although Icon tools are using the professional line in its marketing material, the company’s tools are not priced in the same category as Snap-On, Mac or even Gearwrench. One case in point is the Icon set of 1/2” Impact Metric sockets that sell on Harbor Freight’s website for $79.99 right now. In comparison, a set of Snap-On impact sockets of the same size and drive costs around $500 on the company’s website.
Is the difference in price between Icon and Snap-On a reflection of the difference in quality between the two or name recognition? At almost 5 times more expensive, the socket set from Snap-On needs to be at least 3-4 times better in quality and effectiveness for me to justify spending that much more when there is a cheaper, relatively similar product readily available.
Another set of Icon sockets that are worth a look are the 3/8 inch drive deep chrome sockets. At a $50 price point you would be foolish not to at least consider the Icon sockets, if not for professional use at least at home in the garage.
Conclusion- Icon Sockets are Worth the Cost
In concluding this post, I’ll say what we’re likely all thinking. Icon Tools are worth buying, but they are not the same quality as Snap-On sockets, wrenches and especially ratchets which I think are Snap-On’s best hand tool. Aside from the Tekton folding ratchet that I use pretty often, most of my ratchets are Snap-On because I like the superior quality and the Dual Drive technology the company uses.
For most other tools though, Icon would certainly be a good bargain and the tools are no doubt higher quality than the typical Harbor Freight stuff made by Pittsburgh and the like.
Are Icon sockets “professional grade?”
I would say the answer to whether Icon sockets are professional grade or not is this- yes but they are not for every mechanic. I say this because there are many techs out there that would happily use Icon tools daily in the repair shop, myself included. I like money and Icon tools do the job pretty well for a lot less of it than Snap-On, Mac or any of the other professional tool lines.
Instead of taking money out of my pocket and paying for a logo, I’ll keep my money and buy less expensive, but still great quality tools every day. I enjoy my Tekton tools. I enjoy my Icon tools. I enjoy my Milwaukee tools. I enjoy my Snap-On tools. In my mind, as long as the tool gets the job done the right way, I will use it and you should too.
Author- John Green
If you purchase through my website, I may earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. All posts are well researched and meant to find you better tools at a cheaper price.