Without tools, you can’t finish (or even begin) many projects. So, what’s the best way to store, organize, and transport your tools?
For generations of tradespeople, the answer has always been the same. Once you accumulate more tools than you can comfortably fit on your belt and in your pockets, it’s time to invest in a well-made tool box.
But tool boxes aren’t a one-size-fits-all solution. When choosing the best tool box, consider several factors, including type, material, size, weight, portability, security, organization, and more. Read on to decide which tool box is the right one for you.
- BEST OVERALL: DEWALT TSTAK Tool Storage Organizer
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: BIG RED TB101 Torin 19″ Hip Roof Style Tool Box
- BEST FOR SMALL PARTS: Keter 22 Inch Resin Cantilever Tool Box
- BEST FOR ORGANIZING: Keter Masterloader Resin Rolling Tool Box
- BEST ROLLING: Milwaukee Electric Tool Packout, 22″ Rolling Tool Box
- BEST METAL: Homak 32-Inch Industrial Steel Toolbox
- BEST BAG: Klein Tools 5109P Wide Straight Wall Bucket
- HONORABLE MENTION: Trusco ST-350-B 2-Level Toolbox
Before shopping for the best tool box, become familiar with the various types on the market, ranging from the classic red metal box to full-blown workstations that can organize an entire workshop. This section will explain the different types of tool boxes and what DIYers need to know about them.
The classic metal tool box with a flip-open lid is a hand-carry tool box. Tough, durable, and classic, these sturdy boxes are excellent for pros and homeowners 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 prefer a box in the middle: long enough to hold a box saw, but compact enough to not be too cumbersome.
Rolling tool boxes help take the load off—literally. Instead of lugging a heavy tool box around, simply push a rolling tool box back and forth.
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 of the box. 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 light, making them work well for DIYers. These boxes unfold or unstack, revealing all the tools and parts for easy use.
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 aluminum, the least expensive option, or from 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.
A bag or bucket is one of the best ways for DIYers to transport their tools. These lightweight tool storage options provide quite a bit of organization, with built-in pockets, slots, and loops for specific tools. They come in 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.
When choosing the best tool box, keep a few things in mind. The following section outlines all the important factors to consider when shopping for a new tool box.
Size and Weight
Two of the most important factors to consider when shopping for the best tool box are size and weight. 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. Weight is an important part of the selection. Even when empty, some tool boxes are unwieldy and heavy.
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 come with 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.
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.
Rolling toolboxes sometimes include a flat surface on top to use for holding tools or small pieces. 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.
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 many 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 hasps to lock with a padlock. Some plastic tool boxes have simple holes to slip a lock through to shut the lid.
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 with expensive hand tools (like carvers or woodworkers); the box won’t dull the tools but will help prevent them from oxidizing from the weather.
Our Top Picks
The following is a list of some of the best tool boxes on today’s market. Keep all of these important considerations in mind while comparing products to find the right storage option for your tools.
The DEWALT TSTAK line of tool organizers includes a variety of tough, tried-and-true options for specialized needs, plus at least a few everyday tool boxes.
The TSTAK Tool Storage Organizer is a standout. With a deep central storage bin, the Tool Storage Organizer accommodates larger tools, including some power tools, while its segmented top tray accommodates small parts. Added bonus details include rust-resistant metal latches and a long, easy-carry handle.
For a traditional approach to store tools and parts, the Torin 19-inch Hip Roof Style Tool Box from Big Red is worth a look. This steel tool box features a durable powder coat finish for longevity and durability. The Torin has a large removable tray for organizing smaller hand tools, with plenty of storage for larger hand tools underneath.
The Torin has a top-mounted, riveted handle, as well as two integrated handles on each end. It features a lockable hasp in the center to keep tools safe and secure.
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.
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 lock for securing tools.
Those looking to customize a rolling tool box system might find Milwaukee Tool’s Packout Rolling Tool Box is 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 locks and corners to keep gear safe and secure. Its built-in hardware functions as a tie-down, and the IP-65-rated seals keep water, dust, and dirt from getting in.
For a tried-and-true tool box design, check out Homak’s 32-Inch Industrial Steel Toolbox. This all-steel tool box is the style used by hardworking tradespeople for generations. It comes in a 20-inch size as well, but this version provides plenty of storage. Users can fit a 30-inch saw, framing hammer, pry bar, and other typically-hard-to-store tools in this box.
The Homak’s construction is all-steel, making it tough and durable. It also features three hasps, one of which locks. It comes with a removable tray for screwdrivers, wrenches, and smaller tools. The top-mounted handle helps carry the weight, and it also has two handles, one on each end.
Sometimes, the best tool box isn’t technically a box. Consider the Wide Straight Wall Bucket from Klein Tools. 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.
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. If there’s a downside, it’s the relatively light-gauge metal the tool box is made of. You may not mind if you’re a casual DIYer. However, if want a tool box you can toss around and still rely on for years, look elsewhere.
Even after learning about these essential features to look for in a tool box and reviewing the best tool boxes available, you might still have some questions. The following is a list of the most 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. Who makes the best mechanic’s tool box?
One of the best manufacturers of mechanic’s tool boxes is CRAFTSMAN. Check out the CRAFTSMAN Tool Chest CMST82764BK for a quality option.
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.