Electricians and plumbers sometimes favor a tool bag, but auto enthusiasts may find that a tool chest makes better sense. For all-around DIYers and construction professionals, a portable tool box—one they can tote or wheel around a shop and onto a truck—is the most convenient, cost-effective option.
Some of today’s top tool manufacturers, such as DeWalt and Craftsman, make portable tool boxes designed to keep tools, cords, and accessories safely stowed but within reach. We wanted to know how durable—and how handy—these tool boxes really were. So we decided to test a wide array of sizes and types.
Ahead, learn what to look for when shopping for the best portable tool box and find out how the following models earned a spot in this lineup of the best tool boxes for a variety of situations.
Spoiler: Not all the tool boxes we tested made this list. The ones that didn’t meet our high standards can be found below under “Also Tested.”
- BEST OVERALL: DeWalt ToughSystem 2.0 Tool Box
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Big Red Torin 19-Inch Portable Steel Tool Box
- BEST VERSATILITY: Milwaukee Packout Deep Organizer
- BEST ROLLING: DeWalt DWST20880 Multi-Level Workshop
- BEST FOR MECHANICS: Craftsman 20-Inch 3 Drawer Metal Tool Box
- BEST FOR POWER TOOLS: Ridgid 22-Inch Pro Tool Box, Black
- MOST SECURE: Milwaukee Packout Rolling Tool Box
ALSO TESTED: Ganchun 17-Inch Three-Layer Plastic Tool Box
Finding the best portable tool box depends on the intended use. A DIYer may want an easy-to-carry compact model for the garage, but a builder might need a large wheeled unit for easy transport. Here, you’ll learn about the factors and features to remember when comparing portable tool boxes. We tested quite a few tool-box types to get a good idea of the best models in a variety of categories.
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 to support its weight when full. Traditional steel tool boxes often have thin handles that can get uncomfortable. Some modern models feature more ergonomic plastic and rubber handles—shoppers will want to make sure a thicker handle provides enough room to grab it with a gloved hand. Convenient foldable handles allow users to stack other items on top of the tool box when it’s 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. Solid plastic wheels are sometimes fragile and may be difficult to maneuver over uneven surfaces. Rubber tires are an upgrade—they help absorb impact and usually roll freely.
Material and Construction
Although a few wooden tool boxes are available, most sturdy tool boxes come in steel or some type of heavy-duty resin or plastic—materials that are strong enough to hold up to frequent home and jobsite use.
Steel is extremely tough and can withstand 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, the box can rust.
Plastic tool boxes vary widely in quality, and inexpensive versions may be fragile. However, those made of molded 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—all potential weak points—warrant close inspection. Occasional maintenance of the box should help prevent problems. If users will be keeping the tool boxes outdoors in all types of weather, they’ll want to look for waterproof or water-resistant models.
Size and Storage Options
Bigger often isn’t better when it comes to a portable tool box: The larger the tool box, the harder it is to store and transport, so consider a tool box’s overall exterior dimensions (to know how much room it will take up at the site and in a truck) as well as the internal space—and how that is divided.
Organization options vary widely. Lift-out trays and containers add versatility, but the base models may not include these optional extras. Consider not only how existing tools will fit into the box but also whether the tool box has enough space for additional equipment the user may acquire later.
Though manufacturers’ specs don’t always include weight (load) capacity, this metric warrants consideration when it’s available. Too much weight can break or loosen the handles. Loaded to full capacity, the box may be too heavy to carry. If users need to take a lot of tools with them, they’ll want to consider a rolling model.
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 plus a wheeled version for garage or project tools. Other situations, work styles, and tool collections might warrant one box for hand tools and another for power tools.
Although a lot depends on individual preferences and needs, portable tool box manufacturers also produce modular systems to meet various needs. For example, a wheeled tool box may have an extendable handle that allows space for smaller units to stack on top.
If owners don’t want thieves to break into or walk off with their tool collections, they’ll want to take security seriously. Some portable tool boxes offer no protection, and bolting down a tool box makes it far less portable, so look for a model with space between the handles or latches for a padlock or cable lock. Also, keep in mind that steel typically makes for a more secure portable tool box than plastic.
In addition, consider whether the design allows the user to lock the tool box to an immovable object. Cable locks make a good security solution in this case, and owners can combine these flexible locks for extended reach. They can also look into tool-box alarms or small trackers to conceal inside.
Our Top Picks
The following products represent the tool boxes that excelled in our hands-on testing and earned a spot in this lineup. Not all of the models we tested made the cut, and readers can find why in the “Also Tested” section. Though purposes and overall designs of portable tool boxes differ, shoppers should be able to find the best portable tool box for their transportation and tool-storage needs among our recommendations.
We’re familiar with the quality of tools and accessories DeWalt puts out, so we weren’t surprised that this three-in-one tool-box combo took top honors in our lineup. The three individual boxes are made of rugged molded plastic. The bottom tool box is the largest, and it’s spacious enough to hold bigger items—we put in two circular saws and a reciprocating saw, and we still had room to spare.
All three boxes are 20 inches wide and measure 13.5 inches from front to back. The large base box is 15.5 inches high, while the middle-size box is 12 inches high, and the smallest box is just 7 inches high. The base box boasts 8-inch all-terrain wheels. Side latches on the smaller boxes snap securely to the other boxes to transport them as a single unit.
We liked the way we could push the bottom of the side latches to separate the boxes—a speedy and easy process. Each smaller box has convenient side handles and another handle in front for carrying. Interestingly, our measurements disagree with the manufacturer’s measurements, but we measured carefully and are confident ours are accurate.
DeWalt lists the boxes as IP65 rated, which means the seals will keep dust and water out. We tested the seals by spraying the closed and latched boxes with the jet nozzle on our garden hose, aiming the spray directly at the seals. When we opened the boxes, we were impressed to find the interiors of each of the three boxes were bone-dry! Very impressive.
To test the load capacity, we filled the three boxes with free weights that totaled 250 pounds, stacked and secured the boxes together, and then used the telescoping handle to pull the boxes around. The thick molded plastic wheels held just fine, even when we pulled this heavy load up an incline and over sand and gravel. However, if we had our druthers, we would wish for solid rubber wheels that offered longer-term durability.
- Load capacity: 250 pounds
- Weight (empty): 39 pounds
- Material: Heavy-duty molded plastic, steel latches
- Quality construction
- Watertight seals
- Oversize 8-inch wheels
- Snap-in-place connection system
- Measurements are misstated as advertised
- Wheels are not solid rubber
Get the DeWalt ToughSystem portable tool box at ToolNut.
Metal tool boxes like the Big Red Torin rely on a simple, timeless design that works, proving that a good tool box doesn’t have to cost a lot of money. Despite its name, Big Red is a pretty small tool box. We measured it to be 19 inches from end to end, 7 inches high at the highest point of the lid, and 6 inches from front to back. It’s made of heavy-gauge metal with a bright-red baked-on finish and comes with a removable tray that fits inside. That’s a lot of value for a reasonable price.
The single steel latch on the front of the box is securely riveted and holds the lid snugly in place. The steel brackets for the top handle are also securely welded. Rather than one or two small lid hinges, the Big Red features a piano hinge that runs along the entire backside of the box—an upgrade that we felt added to its overall stability.
The manufacturer doesn’t list a maximum load capacity, but we filled the Big Red with 35 pounds of weight and were still able to lift it by its handle without the handle or latch failing. However, we noticed the latch was straining slightly, so we didn’t try to add more weight. Big Red is a well-made, affordable tool box for anyone who wants to store and carry smaller hand tools such as screwdrivers, socket wrenches, and the like.
- Load capacity: Not listed (it held 35 pounds in our testing)
- Weight (empty): 4.85 pounds
- Material: Steel, molded plastic inner tray
- Sturdy steel construction
- Durable bright-red enamel coating
- Piano hinge runs the entire length of the backside
- A second latch would have added more lid stability
Get the Big Red portable tool box on Amazon or at The Home Depot.
A tough box is great—but a tough one that keeps tools neat and easy to find is better. As with the company’s power tools, Milwaukee puts a lot of thoughtful design into its tool boxes, and we were impressed by the quality and usefulness of the Deep Organizer.
This shallow tool box—only 7 inches high—is made of heavy-duty molded plastic and comes with adjustable inner dividers that let us create various-size sections for storing small items. Additional measurements include box width at 19.7 inches and depth at 15.2 inches. The top lid features thick yet clear plastic, so we could easily see the various sections held before opening the lid.
The manufacturer lists the Deep Organizer as rated IP65, so we closed the box, latched it, and then sprayed it with the jet nozzle to test for leaks. The contents inside the tool box stayed dry. There was one downside, though: The way the individual compartments are sealed creates indentations on the clear box lid; this design flaw causes water to pool on the lid, so we had to tip the box over to dump the water before opening it.
The latches on the Deep Organizer are rugged, and they hold the lid on securely. Milwaukee says the tool box is designed to be impact-resistant, so we dropped it several times on concrete. Other than a few surface scuffs, it held firm—no cracks. Impressive.
The load capacity of this shallow tool box is 50 pounds, and it easily held that much weight. We’d guess it could probably hold even more, but keep in mind that this tool box is part of Milwaukee’s Packout series, so it can be connected to the larger Packout tool box we tested below. When combining tool boxes, it’s a good idea not to exceed load capacity to avoid putting undue weight on the lower box’s wheelbase.
- Load capacity: 50 pounds
- Weight (empty): 7.1 pounds
- Material: Heavy-duty, impact-resistant plastic, partial-steel latches
- Heavy-duty construction
- Adjustable inner dividers
- Combines with other Milwaukee Packout boxes
- Indentations on the lid hold water
- Pricey for the size
Get the Milwaukee Deep Organizer portable tool box at The Home Depot or Blain’s Farm & Fleet.
When we first inspected this DeWalt tool box, it took a few minutes to learn how to open it: The top lid lifts like any other tool box, but the bottom sections slide out. It took us even longer to figure out how to close it because it locks in the open position once open. Once we realized we needed to pull up the handle in the front while pushing the boxes together from the rear, we were in business. After that, opening and closing the box was a snap!
The thing that sets this multidrawer tool box apart from others is the ability to open all the boxes simultaneously without separating them and putting them in different spots. We liked the idea of having simultaneous access to larger tools in the base box, smaller tools in the middle box, and accessories in the top box.
The cantilever-style box is made of durable molded resin, but it isn’t quite as heavy-duty as the material on the DeWalt system that earned our Best Overall spot. This box weighs 21.4 pounds empty and comes with a load capacity of 88 pounds, making it well suited for stowing various hand tools, plumbing fittings, batteries, and more. The frame and wheels seem rugged, but we would recommend not overloading to keep from putting undue stress on the sliding cantilever mechanism.
This is not a watertight box, so we didn’t spray it with our hose. We did pull it over gravel, sand, and rough terrain, and it rolled smoothly, even when filled to its 88-pound capacity. We also pulled it up a flight of stairs, and it rolled up nicely, as a hand truck would. The steel latches, however, are just OK; they serve their purpose, but thicker metal would’ve been better. Though the sliding cantilever arms held up throughout our testing, we were concerned that if anything on this box broke, it would be them. We recommend this DeWalt to anyone who wants to transport a collection of lightweight tools and have access to all of them at once.
- Load capacity: 88 pounds
- Weight (empty): 21.4 pounds
- Material: Resin, metal latches, metal sliding arms
- All tool drawers accessible at the same time
- Adjustable dividers in the center section
- Rolls easily over rough terrain
- Must master the technique for opening and closing
- No watertight seal
- Lower weight capacity than competing models
Get the DeWalt Multi-Level portable tool box at The Home Depot or SupplyHouse.
Those who are looking for a handy portable tool box to stow a growing collection of sockets and wrenches need look no further than Craftsman’s chest-type model. It’s perfectly suited to the home mechanic. We consider the chest, which is 20.6 inches long by 9 inches wide by 13 inches high, to be a quality scaled-down version of the larger mechanic tool chests that often occupy a permanent spot in a garage.
It’s of similar quality, too, with a metal case and three smooth-sliding shallow drawers. Plus, the lid opens to reveal a fourth storage spot. Metal latches secure the top lid, and we found a place where we could use a padlock to thwart thieves. The bright-red enamel coating resists rust, and we were able to wipe off greasy fingerprints with a spritz of all-purpose cleaner and a soft rag.
The bottom three drawers kept sliding open while we carried the filled chest by its handle; some type of magnetic closure that kept them shut would have been great. Because this is a portable tool chest, we feel that users will most likely want to take it to a different location, so the drawers sliding open is a problem. The only other downside is the lack of nonslip drawer liners that come standard in many other mechanic tool boxes.
This is not a watertight tool chest, but most mechanic models aren’t, so we can’t fault it there. Craftsman doesn’t list a maximum load capacity, but we filled it with wrenches and sockets that weighed just over 30 pounds, and the handle held firm.
- Load capacity: Not listed (We tested it with 30 pounds.)
- Weight (empty): 19 pounds
- Material: Metal
- Smooth-sliding tool drawers
- Ability to lock top section
- Nonrust surface wipes clean
- Drawers tend to slide out when carrying
- No nonslip drawer liners
Get the Craftsman portable tool box at Lowe’s or Sears.
This Ridgid portable tool box is relatively lightweight at 17 pounds, and it offers ample storage space that we found perfect for holding cordless drills, nail guns, and other small power tools that don’t fit well in shallower tool boxes. It also has a removable bracket that fits along the inner backside to hold devices with handles such as screwdrivers, shears, and pliers.
Ridgid’s heavy-duty 22-inch polypropylene resin tool box resists impact, and a rubber seal in the lid protects the interior contents and keeps dust and dirt out. Though it’s not IP rated, the manufacturer deems it “weather-resistant,” so we sprayed it with a jet of water. A few drips leaked in on one side, but the box would probably keep tools dry through a moderate rain shower. The telescoping handle and wheels made it a breeze to pull the box along rough terrain and sidewalks, and we could lift the lid completely off the box, making it easy to access the contents from all sides.
Ridgid’s 22-inch tool box holds 50 pounds of weight, and we loaded it to the max to test its limits. The box held firm, even when we tested its impact resistance by pushing it off an elevated patio to the concrete 18 inches below. This is one tough tool box, and it can be used as a base for other Ridgid modular tool boxes in the same series.
- Load capacity: 50 pounds
- Weight (empty): 9.7 pounds
- Material: Resin, metal locks
- Secure side locks
- Wheeled for portability
- Large storage area
- Not completely watertight
Get the Ridgid portable tool box at The Home Depot or on Discount Today.
Let’s face it: Tools are expensive, so keeping them safe from the elements and sticky fingers is essential. This Milwaukee rolling tool box is part of the manufacturer’s Packout series, and it can be used individually or with other containers in the series, such as the Deep Organizer we reviewed above.
We were impressed with the rugged design of this portable tool box. It features reinforced steel corners to protect the contents from hard bumps or drops, it’s IP65 rated to resist water and dust, and it comes with a metal-reinforced padlock point that we feel would deter all but the most determined thieves.
A standout on this rolling tool box is the 9-inch rubber wheels that allowed us to easily pull it over various surfaces, including deep gravel, sand, bumpy terrain, and concrete. It comes with a rugged 250-pound load capacity, so we filled it with 250 pounds of weight, pulled it around, sprayed it with the jet nozzle on the hose, and then pushed it off the raised patio and let it fall 18 inches to the concrete below. We found one scuff on an upper corner of the box but no other damage. The contents inside remained completely dry.
We also connected the Deep Organizer to the top of this base box, and it fit snugly and securely. Those looking for a single protective box, or a set of boxes, may find this Milwaukee series a serious contender.
- Load capacity: 250 pounds
- Weight (empty): 23.37 pounds
- Material: Heavy-duty resin, metal latches, metal reinforcement bars
- Quality construction
- Holds 250 pounds of tools
- Metal reinforcement bars
Get the Milwaukee Rolling portable tool box at Amazon, Ace Hardware, or The Home Depot.
Ganchun 17-Inch Three-Layer Plastic Tool Box
We really wanted to like Ganchun’s Three-Layer Portable Storage Case. When we chose the box for testing, we expected it to be light duty, so we weren’t looking for top-of-the-line molded polyethylene construction or a watertight seal. We simply wanted a tool box that would securely hold multiple small items.
The front latches on the Ganchun fit snugly, and we liked that, but when we opened the box and extended its three drawers, the box tipped over backward. That was disappointing but not a deal breaker since we figured we could fill the bottom drawer with the heaviest items and it would keep the box from tipping, which is what we did.
We filled the drawers with quilting accessories, including spools of thread, scissors, pin cushions, and other sewing items. Once full, it was challenging to extend the drawers smoothly—the weight caused the hinges to stick, resulting in the need to pull harder, which jerked the drawers and caused some of the items to spill out.
We filled the small snap-open compartments on the top of the lid with various straight pins, bobbins, and seam rippers. When the case is opened, the lid moves to an upside-down position. When we closed the case, all the items in the top compartments were mixed together—we had to separate them. Then, the plastic latch broke when we snapped the cover back in place. At that point, we eliminated the Ganchun from consideration.
Though any of the portable tool boxes that earned a spot on our lineup are among the best options for storing and transporting a variety of tools, the DeWalt ToughSystem portable tool box is our top pick based on its overall usefulness, rugged design, and ample rolling storage space. Our budget pick, the Big Red portable tool box, although affordable, still features high-quality construction and an easy-to-clean exterior—we deem it just right for smaller jobs.
In our quest to find the best portable tool boxes available, we extensively researched nearly 50 models, analyzing their pros and cons, and from that list, we selected the above tool boxes to test.
We considered brand names—after all, who knows better what pros and DIYers need to care for their tools than a tool manufacturer, such as DeWalt or Milwaukee? Still, we didn’t automatically eliminate tool boxes from smaller or niche brands if they met our other criteria and came with good customer reviews.
In the actual testing phase, we examined each box to determine the quality of construction and design. We latched and unlatched the boxes repeatedly to see how smooth and secure they were. We noted problems and issues with how lids fit, and we added specific tests if the manufacturer made a claim. For example, when the tool-box manufacturer said the product was water-resistant, we closed it and sprayed it with our garden hose’s jet nozzle. If the manufacturer said the box was impact-resistant, we dropped it on concrete.
When maximum load capacity was listed, we filled the boxes with free weights to match the capacity and then carried it or rolled it around to see how well it functioned under the weight load. We analyzed the size and shape of the storage spaces so we could recommend the best usage.
During the tests, we awarded points for each tool box based on a rubric—the better they performed, the higher the scores they received. After testing, we added and averaged the points to create our lineup and to determine the best categories for each portable tool box.
The previous sections describe the important features of the best portable tool boxes for various needs, and our lineup lists the models that earned a spot in our lineup via their hands-on testing scores. Here, find additional answers to a few of 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 vary widely as well. A basic tool box might weigh 3 or 4 pounds, and the larger ones top out at 20 pounds or more. Also consider the probable contents of the tool box because they could add a lot of weight.
Q. How do I organize a portable tool box?
Large, heavy items generally go on the bottom because it has the most space, and storing them at a low level also adds stability if it’s a rolling box. Many portable tool boxes have convenient trays and upper compartments for smaller items.
Q. How do I clean a portable tool box?
Most models can be wiped down with a damp cloth and a little all-purpose cleaner. Beware of abrasive cream cleansers that can scratch the surface of a tool box.