The Best Tool Boxes of 2021

Keep your tool collection organized with one of these top-notch tool box picks.

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The Best Tool Box Options

Photo: Tom Scalisi

Whether for home improvement, hobby projects, or simply making minor repairs, there’s not much you can accomplish without tools. And the more tools you accumulate, the more pressing the question: What’s the best way to store, organize, and transport your tools? For generations and to this day, the answer has always been a well-made tool box.

But tool boxes aren’t a one-size-fits-all solution. To choose the best tool box, consider type, material, size, weight, portability, security, organization, and more. While gaining information on these factors and features is important, hands-on testing that reveals how products perform in the real world can often help consumers make the best decision. So Tom put each of the following tool chests and boxes through their paces to offer the kind of feedback you just can’t get from product descriptions alone.

  1. BEST OVERALL: Trusco ST-350-B 2-Level Toolbox
  2. BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: DEWALT TSTAK Tool Storage Organizer
  3. BEST FOR ORGANIZING: Keter Masterloader Resin Rolling Tool Box
  4. BEST ROLLING: Milwaukee Packout, 22″ Rolling Tool Box
  5. BEST FOR POWER TOOLS: DEWALT TOUGHSYSTEM 22 inch. Mobile Tool Box
  6. BEST FOR SMALL PARTS: Keter 22 Inch Resin Cantilever Tool Box
  7. BEST BAG: Klein Tools 5109P Wide Straight Wall Bucket
The Best Tool Box Options

Photo: Tom Scalisi

Types of Tool Boxes

Before shopping for the best tool box, become familiar with the various types on the market, ranging from the classic metal box with a carry handle to full-blown workstations that can organize an entire workshop. This section explains the different types of tool boxes and what DIYers need to know about them.

Hand Carry

The classic metal tool box with a flip-open lid is a hand-carry tool box. Tough and durable, these sturdy boxes are excellent for pros and DIYers alike.

These boxes come in a range of lengths and depths. Old-school carpenters like long, tall boxes to fit their hand saws, while plumbers might prefer a more compact box for pipe wrenches and pump pliers. A DIYer might appreciate something in the middle: long enough to hold a box saw, but compact enough to not be too cumbersome.

Rolling

Rolling tool boxes help take the load off—literally. Instead of lugging a heavy tool box around, simply push a rolling unit where it needs to go.

The first type of rolling tool box is the kind in a mechanic’s shop or a building maintenance department. These tool boxes have several drawers, allowing tool storage in separate areas. They often have several thin drawers for wrenches, sockets, and pliers, but they also may have a large, open section with a lock for larger tools like drills and saws.

The other type of rolling tool box is the rolling workstation. These tool boxes organize tools and parts, but their plastic resin construction makes them lightweight, which often works well for DIYers. These boxes unfold or unstack, revealing all the tools and parts for easy use.

Truck Mounted

Truck-mounted tool boxes help transport tools. These large, lockable, heavy-duty boxes offer plenty of storage, security, and protection from the weather. Manufacturers generally make them from either aluminum (the less expensive option) or stainless steel.

Most truck-mounted tool boxes don’t offer much in the way of organization. They’re cavernous inside, and small hand tools can easily make their way to the bottom. They work best for large power tools.

Bag/Bucket

A bag or bucket is one of the best ways for DIYers to transport their tools. These lightweight tool storage options, typically made of canvas, provide quite a bit of organization, with built-in pockets, slots, and loops for specific tools. They often come as stand-alone bags that mimic the shape of a classic wooden tool box with a top handle and open-tray design. Other versions loop around the lid of a bucket.

Heavy-duty classic tool bags with plenty of storage also are available. These bags often have leather bottoms to make them more resistant to the sharp points of screwdrivers and other pointy tools.

What to Consider When Choosing the Best Tool Box

When shopping for the best tool box, keep the following factors and features in mind.

Size and Weight

One of the most important factors to consider when shopping for the best tool box is size. Most DIYers need a tool box large enough to carry the tools they will use most often. Carpenters, electricians, and plumbers have different needs in tool boxes, which means many different sizes are on the market.

Material

Manufacturers use different types of materials to build tool boxes, usually plastic or metal. Some plastic tool boxes are very durable, and they have many benefits: They don’t dent or rust, and they won’t dull sharp tools like chisels and saws. Look for a model made from a durable resin.

A metal tool box is an old-school tool storage option that can hold a lot of weight. Stainless steel and aluminum are rust-resistant but expensive, while steel is affordable but can rust when scratched.

Drawers and Dividers

Those looking for lots of organization need a toolbox with drawers and dividers. Many plastic models have removable compartments with snapping lids that help secure smaller bits, pieces, fasteners, and hardware. Some tool boxes have removable trays, which help keep smaller hand tools organized while leaving the bottom open for larger tools like hammers and saws.

For the ultimate in organization, consider a rolling workstation. These options often have tiered or modular boxes that divide tools into several smaller boxes, with power tool storage underneath.

Wheels

Almost all tools are made from durable steels or other metals, so adding even a few of these to a tool box can make toting it around difficult. Wheels can make a big difference.

For a mechanic’s tool chest, look for durable ball bearing-style casters that roll easily and swivel. These casters allow the tool box to roll and maneuver easily.

Rolling workstations often have large plastic resin wheels. These wheels are usually durable enough, and their large size makes it easier to pull them over a ledge or threshold.

Workbench

Rolling toolboxes sometimes include a flat surface on top to use for holding tools or small workpieces. Some even come with hardwood inserts to prevent sharper tools from getting dull.

While these tool boxes aren’t ideal for loading in and out of a truck or transporting to a job site, the added work surface can be a significant advantage over other boxes. For the best of both worlds, choose a rolling box with a work surface and a smaller portable tool box to transport tools.

Locking Mechanism

Most tradespeople know that tools have a tendency to “walk away” from the job site. Prevent this from happening by choosing a lockable tool box.

Locking mechanisms come in various shapes and forms. Some have built-in tumblers that lock and unlock with a key, just like an entry lock on a door, while others have a hasp to lock with a padlock. Some plastic tool boxes have simple holes to slip a lock through to shut the lid.

Waterproofing

While old-school metal boxes work well to store tools, new heavy-duty resin models also protect tools from the elements—an important consideration for those whose tool boxes will spend a lot of time in the bed of a truck.

These tool boxes have seals and sturdy latches that clamp down to prevent water, snow, or moisture from damaging valuable tools. This kind of tool box may be particularly attractive for craftspeople like carvers or woodworkers with expensive hand tools; the box won’t dull the tools but will help prevent them from oxidizing from the weather.

Our Top Picks

Now armed with ample information about tool boxes, it’s time to consider our hands-on reviews. We tested these tool boxes thoroughly to see what they’re capable of, and which purposes they serve best. One of the products we tested, the BIG RED TB101 Torin 19″ Hip Roof Style Tool Box, did not meet our standards for inclusion in this roundup. Between the top considerations and our tough testing, it should be fairly easy to choose the best tool box for your purposes.

Best Overall

The Best Toolbox Option: Trusco 2-Level Cantilever Toolbox
Photo: amazon.com

Finished in a spiffy blue enamel, the Trusco 2-Level Toolbox features side hinges that allow the top to open in two directions, revealing a tiered interior storage area you can customize with reconfigurable metal dividers. The entire box is metal, and the tiered compartments cantilever out of the way smoothly.

It isn’t often that a product surprises me enough to take the top spot during a hands-on review, but I really liked the Trusco. Compared to other boxes of its size, it’s made with much higher quality metal, and the fit and finish were spot on. With the box fully loaded, the metal handles were remarkably comfortable to hold. I was able to fit almost all of my typical hand tools in the box, save for a speed square, staple gun, and one screwdriver. The one issue I found was it doesn’t have a latch, which I would prefer for transport.

Product Specs

  • MATERIAL: Metal
  • DIMENSIONS: 13.5 inches long, 6.25 inches deep, and 7.25 inches high
  • TRANSPORT STYLE: Carry

Pros

  • Excellent handles
  • Smooth open and close design
  • A lot of storage for a smaller box

Cons

  • No latches


Best Bang for the Buck

The Best Tool Box Option: DEWALT TSTAK Tool Storage Organizer
Photo: amazon.com

The DEWALT TSTAK line of tool organizers includes a variety of tough, tried-and-true options for specialized needs, plus a few everyday tool boxes. This budget-friendly TSTAK model features a segmented upper compartment for small fasteners, bits, and parts, as well as a larger open bottom section for hand tools (or a drill and battery combo). It also has a hole for slipping a padlock through.

There was a lot to like about the TSTAK box during testing. In general, I just like the idea of the TSTAK system, so the fact that it has latches and connects to other boxes is appealing. I also like that the lid has a domed shape inside, which means bulkier items that stick up a bit won’t prevent the box from closing. Also, it feels like a steal at that price.

Two things I didn’t like, however: The plastic lid that holds parts and bits in place isn’t very secure, and there isn’t much storage underneath it for hand tools. Everything goes in the main compartment, and this can easily become jumbled.

Product Specs

  • MATERIAL: Plastic resin
  • DIMENSIONS: 17.5 inches wide, 13 inches deep, and 7.5 inches tall
  • TRANSPORT STYLE: Carrying handle

Pros

  • Works with T-Stak system
  • Domed lid allows for a lot of interior storage
  • Affordable price

Cons

  • Top lid isn’t terribly secure
  • Not a lot of tool storage in lid


Best for Organizing

The Best Tool Box Option: Keter Masterloader Resin Rolling Tool Box
Photo: amazon.com

Keep hefty tools organized while trucking them from project to project with the KETER Masterloader Resin Rolling Tool Box. This heavy-duty resin tool box provides up to 66 pounds of tool-hauling capacity, allowing for the transportation of hand tools, power tools, and hardware. The polypropylene resin is weather resistant to protect tools from the elements.

The Masterloader features a telescoping handle and two 7-inch heavy-duty wheels for easy pulling. The two top storage boxes slide out of the way, providing access to the tools below. One of those wings has a clear plastic lid and plenty of storage for odds and ends like screws and nails. The Masterloader also features a top-mounted latch for securing tools, though it doesn’t lock.

I found the Masterloader very easy to open one-handed, and the sliding storage provided all the access I could ask for. I also liked that smaller hand tools have a completely separate compartment from power tools and parts (each of which have their own section). If there’s room for improvement, the telescoping handle is low quality and the button stuck a few times.

Product Specs

  • MATERIAL: Plastic resin
  • DIMENSIONS: 24.25 inches long, 15 inches wide, and 16.5 inches tall
  • TRANSPORT STYLE: Wheels with telescoping handle

Pros

  • Easy one-handed opening
  • Separate hand tool and parts storage
  • Slide open compartment allow lots of access

Cons

  • Low-quality telescoping handle


Best Rolling

The Best Tool Box Option: Milwaukee Electric Tool Packout,
Photo: homedepot.com

Those looking to customize a rolling one-handed tool box system might find Milwaukee’s Packout Rolling Tool Box to be the right choice. This rolling tool box features an industrial-grade extension handle and 9-inch all-terrain wheels, allowing it to handle up to 250 pounds of tools and hardware.

While the Packout is the foundation for a completely customizable modular tool box system, it provides a lot of storage on its own. It has metal reinforced latches and corners to keep gear safe and secure. Its built-in hardware functions as a tie-down, and the IP65-rated seals keep water, dust, and dirt from getting in. It also has a hole for slipping a lock through, thwarting thieves as well.

In testing, the Packout proved to be a dream. This tool box has plenty of storage for my basic power tools and a deep removable tray that fits almost all my smaller hand tools. The handle telescoped up and down smoothly, and the 9-inch wheels rolled very well. I also like that this box is weather resistant and has a 250-pound maximum capacity, with metal reinforcement at important stress points. The only downside is that it is quite an investment.

Product Specs

  • MATERIAL: Plastic resin
  • DIMENSIONS: 22 inches wide, 19 inches deep, and 25 inches tall
  • TRANSPORT STYLE: Wheels with telescoping handle

Pros

  • Lots of storage
  • 250-pound maximum capacity
  • Handle telescopes nicely and wheels roll smoothly
  • Deep hand tool tray

Cons

  • Pricey!


Best for Power Tools

The Best Tool Box Option: DEWALT TOUGHSYSTEM
Photo: homedepot.com

When it comes to storing bulky power tools, size is everything. Dewalt’s 22-inch Mobile Tool box has the size, measuring 22 inches wide by 18 inches deep and 24 inches tall, providing plenty of storage for tools and their batteries. And this box features large wheels and a telescoping handle to roll up to the job with ease. To keep tools from walking away, there’s a hole for a padlock.

I found that the telescoping handle and wheels made it a breeze to move the box around, and the storage capacity was large enough for power tools and long-handle hand tools. The gasket around the lid really impressed me, providing quite a bit of water resistance. As a nice touch: If users unlatches the box, they can open the lid by simply pushing the handle backward. My sole complaint is, that while the removable tray is long and holds quite a bit, it’s a little shallow and difficult to organize.

Product Specs

  • MATERIAL: Plastic resin
  • DIMENSIONS: 22 inches wide by 18 inches deep and 24 inches tall
  • TRANSPORT STYLE: Wheels with telescoping handle

Pros

  • Lots of storage
  • Telescoping handle also opens lid
  • Long removable hand tray
  • Rubber gasket for waterproofing

Cons

  • Removable tray doesn’t offer much for organization


Best for Small Parts

The Best Tool Box Option: Keter 22 Inch Resin Cantilever Tool Box
Photo: amazon.com

Organizing the small bits and pieces for a DIY project can be quite a headache. Instead of throwing those pieces in a brown bag, organize them with the Resin Cantilever Tool Box from KETER. This two-tiered system has 27 removable bins in two different sizes to keep small pieces separate and easy to find.

While this KETER is plastic, it’s a durable resin. Its clear plastic lid reveals the items in the top tier, while the two lower-tier hasps grab onto it to ensure it doesn’t pop open in transport. It also has a durable top-mounted handle that folds flat, and folding legs keep this cantilever box from tipping backward when open.

In testing, I wasn’t sure how I would feel about this box, but it surprised me in the end. I removed several of the storage bins in the lid, and found that here was actually quite a bit of customizable storage for tools. The cantilever action was very smooth as well. I really liked that the see-through plastic lid stayed secure thanks to the metal latches. The cons I found were that it doesn’t attached to Keter rolling cart and it can be difficult to open one-handed.

Product Specs

  • MATERIAL: Plastic resin
  • DIMENSIONS: 22.32 inches wide, 12.36 inches deep, and 9.65 inches tall
  • TRANSPORT STYLE: Carrying handle

Pros

  • Totally customizable storage
  • Surprising amount of storage
  • See-through plastic lid stays shut with metal latches

Cons

  • Doesn’t attach to the Keter rolling cart
  • Can be difficult to open the main compartment with one hand


Best Bag

The Best Tool Box Option: Klein Tools 5109P Wide Straight Wall Bucket
Photo: amazon.com

Sometimes, the best tool box is actually a bag—and the Wide Straight Wall Bucket from Klein Tools may just fill the bill. This durable canvas bag can carry up to 75 pounds. A high-density polyethylene top ring offers additional strength and chemical resistance, and a strong, weather-resistant shoulder strap makes it easy to tote around. Use the inside pocket to store hardware and smaller hand tools.

The Klein bag feels virtually bombproof. The canvas is stitched to the plastic bottom, but the nylon handles do most of the lifting, so it will definitely hold up to its weight capacity. The reinforced rim keeps it wide open, which is a plus for one-handed use. I can see using this bag for taking a few tools from the shop to the house, or from a work truck to a customer’s home, as it collapses to need very little space. But its lack of organization hurts its bid for a permanent tool storage solution—there’s just one pocket inside.

Product Specs

  • MATERIAL: Canvas with plastic bottom and nylon handle
  • DIMENSIONS: 12 inches in diameter and 14 inches deep
  • TRANSPORT STYLE: Carry

Pros

  • Comfortable handle despite being simple nylon
  • Reinforced rim keeps the bag wide open
  • Collapses down when not in use

Cons

  • Not much organization inside


Our Verdict

If you’re looking for an overall high-quality metal tool box, the Trusco ST-350-B 2-Level Toolbox was really the surprise of the test. If you need more storage, check out the Milwaukee Electric Tool Packout, 22″ Rolling Tool Box and take advantage of its massive dimensions and weight capacity.

How We Tested the Best Tool Boxes

To judge how these tool boxes perform, we worked them hard—filling them up, organizing our gear, toting them around—to see what they could and couldn’t do.

With the smaller carry-style boxes, I loaded them with a standard set of hand tools that most DIYers would own: hammer, screwdrivers, pliers, adjustable wrenches, some marking tools, and a tape measure. Then I carried the box back and forth from the workbench to my vehicle several times to simulate walking to a job site. I assessed the way the box felt in hand and its quality.

For rolling boxes, I added power tools to the mix. I loaded all of the standard hand tools, as well as a circular saw, a reciprocating saw, a drill, and even some framing hammers and hatchets. I then closed them up, lifted them, and rolled them from the workbench to the vehicle several times.

By the end of testing, I was able to assess which boxes were of high-quality, and which didn’t even belong on the list.

FAQs

Even after learning about essential features to look for in a tool box and reviewing the best models available, you might still have some questions. So check out answers to frequently asked questions about tool boxes.

Q. What should I look for in a tool box?

Look for a tool box that’s large enough to hold everything you need, but still light and durable enough to hold up. Steel construction is great, but hard-working resins are also useful, and they’re usually much lighter.

Q. Why are most tool boxes red?

Tool boxes are red so they’re easy to see on a construction site. Workers carrying lumber or plywood can trip over a heavy box if they can’t see it.

Q. How do I organize a tool box?

If it’s a tool chest, separate your tools into drawers, with ratchets and sockets in one drawer, wrenches in another, screwdrivers in one drawer, and hammers and mallets in another. If using a portable tool box, put longer items in the bottom and use the removable tray to store screwdrivers, chisels, wrenches, utility knives, and other small items.

Q. How do you clean a tool box?

Clean your tool box with a degreaser or dishwashing detergent. Just make sure that the tool box is dry before restoring the tools to the box.