Solid steel with no spot welding. Secure storage during rough travel. Box can be reconfigured for different tools.
Extremely heavy when packed with tools. Designed for commercial use, not for casual repairs.
Relatively lightweight with great durability. Useful organizer included for small items. Comfortable handle. Stackable design can be combined with other TSTAK units.
Some distortion under heavy load.
Easy-grip, waterproof bag that can accommodate multiple tools of various sizes. Ideal for specialized repairs.
Zippers have durability issues. Outer pockets not very useful.
Classic DIY/ mechanic’s toolbox offers quick, easy access and plenty of space. Durable powder coating. Good weight capacity.
Riveting could be better. Steel is thinner than that of some competing tool boxes.
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“Which is the best toolbox?” is one of those impossible questions, like “How long is a piece of string?” The right toolbox for an electrician is different from the one an auto mechanic would choose, or a carpenter or DIY enthusiast. Each individual has to make their own decision.
This can be extremely difficult given the huge choice of toolboxes currently available. How can BestReviews help? While we can’t point out a single model that’s right for your particular requirements, we can look at the benefits and drawbacks of certain materials, discuss the construction options, and showcase some of the best toolboxes in different categories.
And that is exactly what we’ve done. After lots of research and testing, we’ve made a few suggestions that underline the numerous alternatives on offer in terms of size, capacity, flexibility, and price. Our comprehensive buying guide focuses on the key aspects you’ll need to think about as you shop.
Where you use your toolbox has as much of an impact on your choice as the kinds of tools you need to carry. Is your toolbox for use at home? in the garage? in a factory? on a jobsite? Some materials are more suitable than others for particular environments. There’s also the question of how much protection the contents need. Rigid toolboxes are usually made of steel or blow-molded plastic, though some are wooden. Tool bags are made of various types of polyester/PVC fabric, sometimes reinforced with leather.
Plastic: These toolboxes are often the cheapest option because they’re easier to manufacture. They come in a vast range of configurations. If a mold can be designed for it, it can be made. Plastic toolboxes are lighter than steel alternatives, and they don’t rust. It’s also easy to add compartments with clear lids, so you can identify the contents quickly.
On the downside, while some plastic toolboxes can carry substantial weight, they might also distort under load. The hinges and closures are frequently made of metal, and the way they attach to the plastic can be a weak point. Plastic can melt if exposed to heat (when you’re welding, for example), and they can split under impact.
Steel: These toolboxes can be tremendously durable and are highly resistant to damage. They are also largely unaffected by heat.
On the downside, steel is difficult to form into complex shapes, therefore providing less flexible storage. Steel is heavy compared to other materials. Even powder-coated and galvanized models will rust if the surface is damaged. Stainless steel toolboxes do not rust but are very expensive.
Wood: This material is ideal for carrying tools like chisels, whose cutting edges need protection, and for measuring instruments. Wood toolboxes can also be very attractive pieces of furniture.
On the downside, the toolbox probably needs as much care as the tools inside it!
Fabric: Tool bags are light and easy to carry, either using a handle or worn as a backpack. Many offer very flexible storage options, and they keep most tools upright for easy identification and access.
On the downside, fabric is less durable than plastic or steel. Look for a material thickness of at least 1,000 denier (D). A tool bag provides little protection against water and even less against heat, and zippers can be a weakness.
The size, shape, and variety of tools you use go a long way toward determining the configuration of the toolbox you need. Plastic toolboxes usually offer a great variety of storage options. Cantilever models are the classic general-purpose solution. Mechanics often have tool chests with numerous drawers for keeping wrenches and sockets, perhaps with a larger storage section underneath. The variety on offer is almost endless, so you need to spend some time thinking about the tools you have now and whether your collection is likely to grow over time.
Mobility is another important factor, and it means different things to different people. For some, it’s being able to throw a tool bag over their shoulder (these are often popular with electricians and cable installers). For many, it’s just having a toolbox of a modest weight with a comfortable handle to lift it. Wheeled carts allow for greater capacity while still being reasonably easy to move around. Even very large and heavy tool chests might have sturdy casters. They aren’t designed to be moved often, but they can be if necessary.
You’ll also want to think about how you’re going to carry your tools from place to place. Is your toolbox going into the trunk of your car or will it get thrown in the back of a work truck? With that in mind, is a fixed truck toolbox what you need?
It may not stop someone from stealing your toolbox, but a mini GPS tracker tucked in a corner might help you find it again quickly.
Hinges: Any part of the toolbox that hinges: lid, closure, or handle, for example, is a potential weakness, so look for substantial components and durable fixings.
Drawers: If the toolbox has metal drawers, they’ll run more smoothly on ball bearing slides.
Weight: Don’t just think about the weight of the toolbox when it’s empty; think about how much it needs to carry when full. Does the box have the structural strength to carry everything you need it to? Can you lift it, or do you need a toolbox with wheels?
Think about security. How will you prevent unauthorized access to your toolbox? Does it lock? Do you need to be able to secure it to a vehicle?
If the tools you need to take with you vary quite often, is it worth buying two small toolboxes rather than one large one? Would stackable toolboxes suit you better (some can lock together for transportation)?
Never leave your toolbox in your vehicle overnight. It might be a nuisance to remove it, but in the event of theft, it may not be covered by insurance.
Socket organizer: Ares 30-Piece Magnetic Socket Holder
There’s nothing worse than a bunch of loose sockets rattling around in your toolbox, and finding the right one can get real frustrating. A magnetic holder like this can fit inside your toolbox (or stick to the outside if it’s metal) and gives you quick access to the right tool.
Tool box liner: B&C Home Goods Professional Liner
This 16-foot roll of tough, nonslip, textured liner reduces noise and helps stop tools from banging into each other and causing damage. This liner cuts easily to size with household scissors.
Mini GPS tracker: Tractive GPS Dog Tracker
No, we’re not going crazy. A large toolbox might easily hold over a thousand dollars’ worth of tools and is a prime target for thieves, particularly if it’s portable. Slipping a small tracking unit inside gives you at least some chance of recovering it if you discover the theft soon enough. Bluetooth devices are cheaper but have limited range.
Inexpensive: You can buy a cheap toolbox to hold a few DIY items for around $15. If you live in a small apartment, it might be all you need. Low-cost steel toolboxes start at around $25.
Mid-range: Many keen amateurs and quite a few professionals will find the toolboxes they need for between $30 and $100. The choice is vast. Larger tool chests, those frequently used by auto engineers and mechanics, can run from $200 to $400.
Expensive: Top prices go to large steel cabinets designed for professional shops. Depending on the configuration, these can be anywhere from $800 to over $10,000.
Cantilever toolboxes can be plastic or metal. Plastic models are popular for fishing gear, but hinges and handles don’t usually have the strength for heavy tools.
You might not see what you need in our matrix, so we found a few other products for you. The Sharper Image Rolling Toolbox Stool is a great idea if you need to sit down while you’re working. There is lots of flexible storage both in and on the box and rubber wheels for smooth motion, plus it will support up to 450 pounds.
If you’ve got fine tools and measuring instruments to store, the Gerstner International Red Oak Tool Chest could be the answer. The hardwood construction and felt-lined drawers keep things in prime condition, and it also makes a nice display piece.
There are few toolboxes tougher than the 60-inch Jobox Piano Box. Designed for jobsite tool storage, it looks like you could hit it with a truck and the truck would come off the worse.
Q. When a toolbox is described as 20-inch (for example), what does that mean?
A. It’s the overall length. Not all manufacturers use it. You’ll usually find it on descriptions of cantilever types and tool chests. It’s a useful place to start, but you need to be careful. Two toolboxes of the same length might have vastly different heights and depths, as well as different interior layouts, so it’s important to check all dimensions.
Q. What is powder coating, and why is it used so often on steel toolboxes?
A. Powder coating is a spray-on plastic or polymer that’s cured by heating. It provides a tough, protective layer that prevents rust. Its popularity is due to its superior performance when compared to paint, ease of application compared to galvanizing, and cost saving compared to stainless steel.
Q. Is there a difference between a toolbox and a tool chest?
A. At the risk of being called picky, we would say that “toolbox” covers the whole range of different containers, and “tool chest” is a type within that category. Tool chests have pull-out drawers and often an upper, lidded section for larger items. A few have a roller or slide-out cover that conceals the drawers and offers additional security.
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