The Best Portable Tool Boxes of 2022

With the best portable tool box, you can organize your gear and keep it accessible, even on the go.

By Bob Beacham | Updated Mar 31, 2022 12:43 PM

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Best Portable Tool Box Options

Photo: amazon.com

For home auto enthusiasts, a workshop tool chest makes a lot of sense. Electricians and plumbers sometimes favor a tool bag. Yet, for most DIYers and many professionals, a portable tool box—one you can tote or wheel around the shop and to the truck—makes the most convenient, cost-effective choice.

Today’s market includes many different types of tool boxes. While you might lean toward a budget tool box, a slightly pricier option could last longer and meet a variety of needs. This guide explains what to look for when shopping for the best portable tool box and reviews some of the best tool boxes for a variety of situations.

  1. BEST STEEL: BIG RED Torin 19″ Portable Steel Tool Box
  2. BEST VERSATILITY: WORKPRO 17-inch Plastic Tool Box
  3. BEST ROLLING: DEWALT 16 in. 4-in-1 Cantilever Tool Box
  4. BEST FOR MECHANICS: Craftsman 3-Drawer Metal Portable Chest Toolbox
  5. BEST LIGHT-DUTY: GANCHUN 17-Inch Three-Layer Plastic Storage Box
  6. BEST HEAVY-DUTY: RIDGID 22 in. Pro Tool Box
  7. BEST OVERSIZE: Milwaukee 22 in. Rolling Tool Box
Best Portable Tool Box Options

Photo: amazon.com

What to Consider When Choosing the Best Portable Tool Box

What makes the best portable tool box depends on the intended use. While one DIYer may want an easy-to-carry compact model for the garage, another might need a large wheeled unit for easy transport. Here you’ll learn about the different factors and features to keep in mind when comparing portable tool boxes.

Type

Generally, portable tool boxes come in two types: those with carrying handles and those with wheels.

On a carrying box, the handle must attach securely to the body of the tool box to support its weight when full. Traditional steel tool boxes often have thin handles that can get uncomfortable. Some modern tool boxes feature more ergonomic plastic and rubber handles, but make sure the handle provides enough room to grab it with a gloved hand. Convenient foldable handles allow users to stack other items on the tool box when not in use.

Rolling tool boxes generally have a larger capacity, which makes their wheels the most important feature. The wheels must support the full weight of the tool box when loaded. Sometimes-fragile solid plastic wheels may roll unpredictably over uneven surfaces. Rubber tires help absorb impact and usually roll quite freely.

Material and Construction

Although a few wooden tool boxes exist on the market, most portable tool boxes come in steel or some type of plastic, materials strong enough to hold up to regular home and job site use.

Extremely tough, steel withstands a lot of impact. It might dent, but it’s unlikely to break. Of course, steel weighs a lot more than other materials. Also, if the surface finish (typically, a powder coat) gets damaged, it can rust.

Plastic tool boxes vary widely in quality, and cheap portable tool boxes may be fragile. However, those made of polypropylene or structural foam (an injection-molded plastic) can rival steel in strength and durability. Some of these models also have metal reinforcement.

Seams, joints, and hinges—potential weak points—warrant close inspection. Occasional maintenance should help prevent problems. If you want to keep the tool box outdoors in all types of weather, look for a waterproof or water-resistant model.

Size and Storage Options

Also consider physical size, including overall external dimensions as well as internal space and how it’s divided up.

Don’t get a bigger tool box than you need. The bigger the tool box, the harder to store and transport.

Organization options vary widely. Lift-out trays and containers add versatility, but the base price may not include these optional extras. Consider not only how your existing tools will fit into the box but also whether the tool box has enough space for additional equipment you may acquire over time.

Though manufacturers’ specs don’t always include weight capacity, when you can find it, this metric warrants consideration. Too much weight can break or loosen the tool box handles. Loaded to full capacity, the box may be too heavy to carry. If you need to carry a lot of tools with you, consider a rolling tool box.

Compatibility

Sometimes, two or more portable tool boxes make a better setup than a single large one. Users may need a compact model for DIY essentials, for example, plus a wheeled version for garage and yard tools. Other situations, work styles, and tool collections might warrant one box for hand tools and another for power tools.

While a lot depends on individual preferences and needs, portable tool box manufacturers also produce modular systems to meet a variety of needs. For example, a wheeled tool box may have an extendable handle that allows space for smaller units to stack on top.

Security

Some portable tool boxes offer no security. A thief could simply walk off with an unattended smaller tool box. Of course, bolting down a tool box makes it far less portable. But that’s not the only solution. Some models allow space between their handles or latches for a padlock or cable lock.

Steel typically makes for a more secure portable tool box than plastic.

Also consider whether the design would allow you to lock the tool box to an immovable object. Cable locks make a good security solution. You can combine these flexible locks for extended reach. You may also look into a tool box alarm or a small tracker to conceal inside.

Our Top Picks

Armed with an understanding of portable tool box structure and configuration, you can apply that knowledge to find the ideal product. The following tool boxes represent the best in versatility and durability. The following award designations should help you identify the best portable tool box for your needs.

Best Steel

Best Portable Tool Box Options: BIG RED TB101 Torin 19 Hip Roof Style Portable Steel Tool Box
Photo: amazon.com

Metal tool boxes like the BIG RED Torin rely on a simple, timeless design that works. A heavy-duty steel shell provides durability, and a powder-coated finish combats rust. Full-length piano hinges add to the strong and effective construction.

Often associated with mechanics, BIG RED can take all kinds of hand tools in its spacious 19-inch compartment. A lift-out tray offers convenient organization. The metal latch ensures it stays closed. A loop for an optional padlock helps thwart thieves.

Product Specs

  • Material: Steel
  • Dimensions: 19.1 by 6.1 by 6.5 inches
  • Weight: 4.85 pounds

Pros

  • Durable steel construction
  • Corrosion-resistant coating
  • Latch can be padlocked

Cons

  • Tray is thin plastic
  • Riveting occasionally poor

Get the BIG RED tool box on Amazon and at Walmart.

Best Versatility

Best Portable Tool Box Options: WORKPRO 17-inch Plastic Tool Box
Photo: amazon.com

WORKPRO’s tool box keeps everyday hand tools, hardware, and fasteners organized. It’s made of polypropylene, and the tool box’s lower level contains six compartments, while the upper layer boasts 12. Users can remove and rearrange the compartments to configure the box to their precise needs or the demands of a particular task. A large handle makes for easy transport.

Metal catches keep the contents securely inside the box. While not large enough for a full range of tools, the WORKPRO may work for home users and provide an extra storage solution for pros.

Product Specs

  • Material: Plastic
  • Dimensions: 16.93 by 9.45 by 5.51 inches
  • Weight: 5.66 pounds

Pros

  • Clever sliding top layer
  • Lots of storage options
  • Reinforced construction

Cons

  • Important to keep slide clean
    Not for heavy-duty use

Get the WORKPRO tool box on Amazon and at Walmart.

Best Rolling

The Best Portable Tool Box Option: DEWALT 16 in. 4-in-1 Cantilever Tool Box
Photo: homedepot.com

The DEWALT name means high quality and innovative solutions. Their cantilever tool box offers ample space and flexible storage. Three sections fold out to allow easy access. The upper compartment holds hand tools. A second tray includes removable dividers ideal for fixings and other consumables. The lower bin provides space for several power tools or other bulky items.

DEWALT’s Cantilever carries 88 pounds of equipment in all. The box features a smooth but tough opening and closing mechanism and a single latch to keep the three compartments locked together when on the move. A steel support frame includes an extendable handle, and the wheels roll easily over uneven surfaces.

Product Specs

  • Material: Plastic resin & steel
  • Dimensions: 15.1 by 28.8 by 21.5 inches
  • Weight: 21.4 pounds

Pros

  • High load capacity
  • Heavy-duty mechanism
  • All-terrain wheels

Cons

  • Some reports of faulty handles
  • Heavy impacts can crack bins

Get the DEWALT tool box at Amazon, The Home Depot, and Walmart.

Best for Mechanics

The Best Portable Tool Box Option: Craftsman 3-Drawer Metal Portable Chest Toolbox Red
Photo: amazon.com

Craftsman’s high-quality tool box offers ample space for the mechanic on the move.
Three drawers for sockets, wrenches, and the like all run on smooth ball-bearing guides. Metal latches secure a lidded upper area for slightly larger tools. Closing the lid locks the drawers automatically, and users may add a padlock to the strong central loop. Dirt and oily fingerprints wipe easily from the rust-resistant, powder-coated steel surface.

Craftsman’s tool box weighs 19 pounds empty and considerably more when loaded. For some, the central handle may not allow for comfortable carry of a tool box of this weight.

Product Specs

  • Material: Steel
  • Dimensions: 9 by 20.6 by 13 inches
  • Weight: 19.35 pounds

Pros

  • Durable construction
  • Ball-bearing slides
  • Automatic drawer locks

Cons

  • A little heavy
  • Central handle

Get the Craftsman tool box on Amazon and at Walmart.

Best Light-Duty

Best Portable Tool Box Options: GANCHUN 17-Inch Three-Layer Plastic Storage Box
Photo: amazon.com

Lightweight but versatile, GANCHUN’s cantilever tool box weighs just 3.5 pounds. Its durable polypropylene construction resists cracking and splitting, and a ribbed underside strengthens the box and helps it hold its shape when full.

The box opens wide for easy access. The base provides space for larger tools. Two inner trays provide storage for smaller ones. The top offers compartments with clear lids for screws, screwdriver bits, and the like. Metal clasps hold it closed.

While the sturdy GANCHUN tool box offers good capacity, don’t overload it. This box stands up to light-duty household use, not use in workshops or on job sites.

Product Specs

  • Material: Plastic
  • Dimensions: 17 by 7 by 7 inches
  • Weight: 3.5 pounds

Pros

  • Light and easy to carry
  • Impressive capacity
  • Opens flat for easy access

Cons

  • Lightweight tools only
  • Flimsy clasps

Get the GANCHUN tool box on Amazon and at Walmart.

Best Heavy-Duty

The Best Portable Tool Box Option: Ridgid 22 in. Pro Tool Box
Photo: homedepot.com

RIDGID’s heavy-duty, 22-inch, polypropylene resin tool box resists impact without excessive weight. A rubber seal in the lid protects the interior contents and keeps dirt and water out. An internal tray offers useful organization of smaller items, and lid catches include loops for padlocks.

RIDGID’s 22-inch tool box holds 50 pounds of equipment. For those who need more capacity, the modular unit builds into RIDGID’s Pro stacking system that includes a wheeled cart. This makes it a great choice for job sites and other outdoor occupations.

Product Specs

  • Material: Polypropylene resin
  • Dimensions: 22.2 by 12.2 by 13.78 inches
  • Weight: 10.6 pounds

Pros

  • Built for tough environments
  • Lid seal protects contents
  • Competitive price

Cons

  • Lock loops are small
  • Some are critical of RIDGID customer service

Get the RIDGID tool box at The Home Depot and Walmart.

Best Oversize

The Best Portable Tool Box Option: Milwaukee 22 in. Rolling Tool Box
Photo: homedepot.com

Some gear—a bulky circular saw, for example—demands a lot of space. Those with large tools or equipment to move will appreciate this rolling tool box. With a 250-pound capacity, this 22-inch tool box can haul a serious tool collection.

Metal reinforcements at the corners of the plastic box and a weather-sealed lid help protect the contents. A lift-out tray and a range of interlocking tool boxes of various sizes available for separate purchase can expand storage capacity as a tool collection grows. A set of 9-inch all-terrain rubber and nylon wheels and an industrial telescoping handle make transport a cinch.

Product Specs

  • Material: Plastic with metal reinforcement
  • Dimensions: 25 by 21 by 20 inches
  • Weight: 23.37 pounds

Pros

  • Durable, reinforced construction
  • All-terrain wheels
  • Part of modular system

Cons

  • Considerable investment
  • Heavy

Get the Milwaukee tool box at The Home Depot and Walmart.

Our Verdict

For the ultimate portability, we recommend the durable DEWALT 16 in. 4-in-1 Cantilever tool box with all-terrain wheels. If you’re looking for a more heavy-duty model, consider the RIDGID 22 in. Pro tool box.

How We Chose the Best Portable Tool Boxes

I am an engineer by profession, and in addition to large, work-related tool boxes, I have had several more compact models at home. To supplement my own experience, the Bob Vila team conducted extensive market research ensuring we have up-to-date information on portable tool box developments.

The task was to find portable tool boxes that offer a wide variety of solutions. Sometimes a portable tool box will suit both DIYers and professionals, but often their needs are different. Whatever the size or style of a portable tool box, everyone is looking for value, and for us that was a key issue. That doesn’t mean a budget model is always the right solution. Sometimes spending a little more is the better long-term option.

FAQs

The previous sections describe the important features of the best portable tool boxes for different needs and discuss a range of current products. Read on for answers to the most common questions.

Q: How much do portable tool boxes weigh?

With so much variety in the types and sizes of portable tool boxes, weights range widely as well. A basic tool box might weigh 3 or 4 pounds, while the largest ones top out at 20 pounds. Also consider the probable contents of the tool box since they could add a lot of weight to the tool box.

Q: How do I organize a portable tool box?

Large, heavy items generally go on the bottom because it has the most space. In taller portable tool boxes, storing them below also helps add stability. Also consider keeping the tools or accessories you use most often readily at hand. Many portable tool boxes have convenient trays and compartments for smaller items, or you can add them. Socket and wrench organizers also make a good addition.

Q: How do I clean a portable tool box?

Most models can be wiped down with a damp cloth and a little dish soap. Add a little white vinegar if desired. Beware of abrasive cream cleansers that can scratch the surface of a tool box.