Tool belts carry the essential items for a project while you’re working, and tool boxes transport more than just the essentials from home or the workshop to a worksite. But the grandfather of all these tool storage systems is the tool chest.
A tool chest is the best way to store your full tool kit at home or wherever your workshop may be. These large storage systems offer far more space than tool boxes, in the form of multidrawer tool storage, but that usually makes them heavier and harder to transport. That’s why they often come with wheels so you can move gear around the work area.
With those distinctions in mind, learn about the important factors that go into shopping for the best tool chest, and read why the following picks are among the best tool chest options available.
- BEST OVERALL: CRAFTSMAN Tool Chest 26-inch 4 Drawer
- BEST BUDGET: Stalwart Rolling Toolbox with Wheels
- BEST STOOL: WEN 73015 Garage Glider Rolling Tool Chest Seat
- BEST WORKSTATION: Olympia Tools Multi-Purpose Workbench With Light
- BEST WALL MOUNTED: Homak 2 Door Wall Cabinet with 2 Shelves, Steel
- BEST LARGE CAPACITY: On Shine High Capacity Rolling Tool Chest with Wheels
- BEST TRADITIONAL: Winsor Eight Drawer Wood Tool Chest
- BEST FOR SMALL TOOLS: Festool 200119 SYS 4 Sortainer
The tool chest market includes designs to suit anyone from the general DIYer to home mechanics, woodworkers, and welders. They come in just about every imaginable shape, size, and material. They offer space for hand tools, power tools, and all manner of accessories. The challenge in picking the best tool chest comes in striking the right balance between storage, portability, durability, and price. The following sections will help.
If a tool chest can stay in one place, it can be larger and hold much more than one that needs to move around. Generally speaking, stationary tool chests employ steel construction for added strength and durability, but be sure to check the thickness of the material in the manufacturer’s specifications. Just because the product description says “heavy-duty” doesn’t necessarily make it so.
Those who need lots of space for bulky tools should consider garage cabinets as an option. Though they are a spacious, flexible, and affordable storage solution, they don’t offer the high level of organization of the best tool chests. That said, many home engineers, mechanics and woodworkers often acquire both eventually.
Another option for some people may be stationary tool storage combined with a workbench; read on below for further information.
A rolling tool bag is great on the jobsite, while the best rolling tool box offers more stability and capacity. But the best rolling tool chests will hold all necessary tools and equipment, and move easily around the workshop or garage.
Rolling tool chests come in numerous designs, from two-wheeled models that maximize mobility to the tall, four-wheeled models with multiple drawers that many mechanics prefer. Some include large open areas at the base for power tools or other bulky items. They may also have convenient removable top sections that can travel to a jobsite. Larger rolling tool chests often include a useful bar across the side to help push them around.
It’s important to consider the wheels. Small, flimsy ones may not support the full weight of the tool chest when filled to capacity—a collapse could be disastrous. Plastic might be OK for lightweight tool chests, but steel casters with rubber or synthetic wheels offer better support. Foot-operated brake levers on the wheels help ensure the chest doesn’t move until needed.
Wall-mounted tool chests maximize limited space. Positioned above a workbench, they keep tools readily available for the tasks performed there—much more convenient than storing tools beneath the bench.
Though convenient and easily accessible, wall-mounted cabinets tend not to provide as much storage and organization as their floor-standing counterparts. Often they’ll offer just a shelf or two. But that makes sense, as it’s rarely convenient to have lots of small tools at or above eye level. That said, several models offer more versatility. Some are designed specifically for cordless power-tool storage. Others include small drawers for screws, electrical connectors, or other small components. They make great choices for modelers or other hobbyists.
Key considerations include the chest’s maximum weight capacity and the material and condition of the wall on which it will hang. Look for a load rating. Sourcing appropriate wall anchors separately may also be necessary.
Multipurpose tool chests rank among the best tool chests for their flexibility. Those that double as a stool, for example, don’t just provide a spot for the weary worker to take five, they provide a convenient working height for some tasks as well. These chests usually have wheels to make them easy to move around. Important features are the seat material, which needs to withstand workshop treatment, and the weight capacity.
Workstations, which incorporate tool storage with a workbench, come in many shapes and sizes. Some have drawers or cabinets underneath a basic work surface; others have backboards for tool hanging or other storage systems. Some remain stationary; others include locking wheels that move when needed and stay put when needed.
Looking at the types of tool chests available is a good starting point. Now it’s time to refine the search by looking at the structure in more detail. This will provide greater focus to help pinpoint the best storage option for a range of different users.
Size, Capacity and Weight
Most people don’t have too much unused space in their workshop, so the physical size of the tool chest is an important consideration. Pictures can be misleading, so check actual dimensions. One common mistake—particularly in small, cramped workshops—is failure to leave sufficient space for tool chest drawers and doors to open. Mobile tool chests seem like a great idea, but in a workshop that already has, for example, a workbench and fixed machinery like a table saw, there may not actually be room to maneuver it. Consider making a quick mock-up of the floor space the chest needs to make sure it works with the existing stationary equipment.
Capacity is equally important, of course. Generally speaking, the greater the capacity, the more the chest will weigh. It might make a large, rolling tool chest difficult to manage despite having wheels. In some cases it may be better to buy two smaller tool chests—one stationary and one rolling—rather than a single large one.
Drawers and Shelving
Multidrawer tool storage is what sets tool chests apart from tool boxes, bags and belts. Drawers provide a convenient place to arrange tools for easy access and protect them from workshop grime. The drawers of the best tool chests often have ball-bearing slides for smooth opening and closing.
Make sure to check the dimensions: Does the drawer provide enough room for all the tools? Does the workshop provide enough space to fully open the drawer? Also be sure that the drawer handles are easy to grasp but not so large and prominent that they get in the way.
Shelving comes in handy for storing power tools and other large items that won’t fit in drawers. Tool chests sometimes include adjustable shelves. While most tool chest designs place shelves in the lower half, some might also have an open box at the top. This is handy for switching between tools frequently.
Wooden tool chests vary from small, bench-top models to large, freestanding cabinets. They offer plenty of versatility and, oftentimes, superb craftsmanship. Perhaps unsurprisingly, woodworkers, artists, and other fine craftspeople often prefer wooden chests. However, they do require a degree of care and wouldn’t be considered “heavy-duty” tool chests.
Plastic tool chests make an affordable option and offer a wide variety of choices. Most oils and chemicals found in the workshop pose no threat to plastic surfaces and wipe off easily. While more common in portable tool boxes, plastic figures into a number of tough tool chests, too. But not all plastic is tough—some will put up with the rigors of the workshop or jobsite, while other plastics only withstand light-duty, DIY uses.
Large tool chests fixed into truck beds often come in aluminum. This material seldom goes into workshop tool chests. Steel—heavier, considerably stronger, and less expensive—makes up most metal tool chests. While they may rust, steel tool chests usually come painted or powder-coated, which prevents this problem.
A steel tool chest with a locking mechanism offers a strong level of security. Although wooden and plastic chests often include locks, they offer limited protection of these easily compromised materials.
Our Top Picks
These tool chests make the list for their quality and value. Size, weight, material, mobility, storage capacity, and multifunctionality also figured into these rankings.
This U.S.-made Craftsman tool chest offers over 3,500 cubic inches of space across its five drawers and open top section. Each draw supports up to 50 pounds of tools, and opens and closes smoothly on ball-bearing slides. Strong 20- and 24-gauge, powder-coated steel and a keyed lock provide both strength and security.
This stationary tool chest can sit on a cabinet, workbench, or the top of a rolling tool chest. Recessed handles on the side facilitate short moves from point to point.
Thanks to its lightweight plastic construction, built-in wheels, and pull-out handle, the Stalwart Heavy Duty Rolling Toolbox moves with ease from one site to the next. The two-piece unit has a tool box with a handle on top and a wheeled tool chest on the bottom. Easy to separate, they provide quick access to tools in either section.
Stalwart’s substantial storage includes a drawer with 24 compartments for small parts, two removable tool trays, and a deep compartment for storing larger power tools. Cable hooks on the backside of the tool chest offer a convenient way to keep extension cords organized and out of the way.
This tool chest includes three large drawers to store an entire tool collection. Two foldable magnetic side trays keep fasteners and other small parts organized and available. Sixteen storage slots on the back of the chest offer easy access to frequently used tools like wrenches and screwdrivers.
Thick padding on the top of the tool chest provides a comfortable place for DIYers to sit for jobs that require a lower height. Four swivel caster wheels make the WEN easy to reposition.
Those looking for tool storage and a workspace will find both in this Olympia Tools workstation. Its ample storage includes two drawers with ball-bearing slides, a spacious lower shelf, and a large peg board that accepts tools of all shapes and sizes. The workbench supports up to 220 pounds and comes complete with a built-in 13-watt fluorescent lamp and a three-outlet power strip.
A steel frame with enamel finish stands up to heavy use. Rubber caps on the legs protect flooring and dampen noise. The bench requires relatively easy assembly.
Homak’s robust, wall-mounted cabinet saves valuable floor space. Two adjustable shelves that fit into a variety of positions can hold up to 22 pounds of tools each. The floor of the cabinet supports an additional 22 pounds.
Powder-coated steel construction resists rust and withstands wear and tear. The lock’s pins fit into the top and bottom of the frame to maximize security.
This cabinet comes predrilled and includes all necessary mounting hardware for a quick installation. Homak also produces a range of wheeled cabinets and workbenches in this line for creation of a larger modular storage system as needed.
On Shine’s high-capacity unit offers everything most people need in a tool chest. Made of 20- and 24-gauge powder-coated steel, it resists rust and withstands heavy-duty use. Ample storage includes eight EVA foam-lined drawers of different depths, an open top section, a lower storage area for larger tools, and side panel of hooks and hangers for quick and easy access to the most frequently used tools.
Four casters (two with brakes) and a large handle on the main body make for smooth transport around the workshop. The five-drawer section on top lifts off and doubles as a separate tool box for travel to job sites or work around the house. Both it and the lower section include individual locks for added security.
On Shine’s tool chest offers tremendous quality and versatility at an affordable price. It would make a valuable addition to any garage or workshop.
Made of high-quality wood, the sturdy Winsor Eight Drawer Wood Tool Chest keeps tools safe and secure. The chest comes with walnut stain, chrome-plated handles, and a machinist’s mirror mounted inside the lid.
Two full-width and six half-width drawers plus a top tray provide storage for large and small tools, parts, and fasteners. Felt lining in each drawer keeps rust away. To move the chest, lock the drawers with the single-key system, grab the rubber handle on top, and carry it wherever it’s needed.
The Festool SYS 4 Sortainer makes an excellent choice for storing and organizing smaller tools and fasteners. Its three large drawers come with adjustable dividers to accommodate most tools.
While it doesn’t include wheels, Festool’s Sortainer has a useful carrying handle. The manufacturer also sells a wheeled cart for this chest separately. Combine the unit with other pieces of the Festool system to create a personalized and expandable tool storage cabinet to fit changing needs.
Before making a final selection, check out the answers to some common questions about the best tool chests.
Q. What’s the best way to store tools in a tool chest?
There are no hard and fast rules, but in general it’s better to have heavier tools at the bottom to provide stability. That aside, think about the tools you use most often—they probably need to be near the top.
Q. How do I keep my tools from moving around in the drawers?
EVA foam liners and/or sectional dividers and tool racks help keep tools organized and in their place. You can also buy sheets of thicker foam, which you can then cut out to form custom-fit tool holders and dividers.
Q. How can I save my tools from rust when stored in the tool chest?
First, never put tools away dirty. This introduces moisture to the space and can contaminate other items. Take a clean rag and some light machine oil to the metal parts of hand tools that might rust before you put them away. Do not use silicon spray, which is sticky and can trap dirt. Silica gel packs are a good way to absorb moisture within the tool chest. They are widely available, small, and inexpensive. Add a few to each section.
A well-organized tool chest is a pleasure to own. Every tool has its proper place, where DIYers can find them without even thinking about it.
Don’t rush to find the best tool chest. Take the time to think carefully about the intended use, how many tools it will hold, and whether you’ll need to move it around much. Those buying their first tool chest ought to consider whether they are likely to expand their tool collection. If so, allow adequate room for more tools later.