Tool box – how to choose what you really need

I have a lot of tools. Nevertheless, my business from time to time requires even more of them. All sorts of metalwork, woodworking, flooring, plumbing, etc. In such circumstances organization and ordering are quite important. I’ve always liked toolboxes, all sizes of them and I just get a new box when the last one gets full.

Tool box - how to choose what you really needThere are two boxes in my van and many of them in the garage. Pulling out the toolbox after toolbox finally bothered me, as did finding the tool, which is in some other one.

Walking through local tool store I saw and bought one of Stanley open top tool caddies. But even it sometimes becomes full and I can never find anything! In the end, my choice was separate boxes for specific types of work.

But in your case my way may be inconvenient, so in this article we will discuss all the pros and cons of the main tool boxes types.

Tool box for everyday use


If a tool box is a thing that you should carry every day, it is especially important to make it as convenient and light as possible. You shouldn’t put unnecessary parts and tools there. Create a separate box just for the task. If it does not require a 1″ socket, there is no reason to bring it. You can bring your usual large universal tool box to work and leave every piece you use laying on the floor. When the work is done, those are the only tools you need to take. That system will drop quite a few pounds out of the trailer or tool box.

I have a variety of the plastic tool boxes, they are usually pretty cheap. But I’m not much of a fan of that stuff. Had some plastic Stanley Tool boxes. Sure, they are OK if you watch out but if you are constantly moving tools, they break quite easily.

During the hot summer they also get hot if something gets on top, they tend to deform. Tool boxes that come with for example cord drill, are much better, and if I have spare one, I use it for my common tools. These are great for garage, they are cheap and light, if they are broken, you just buy another. My advice here is to stop buying the expensive ones considering the result was the same.

Metal boxes are much more reliable, especially the bigger ones. I have two tool boxes – Gearwrench 20″ three-drawer Black Steel Tool Box. And Kennedy Manufacturing K24B 24″ Tool Box. I carry the bigger tools in the 24″, the smaller stuff in the 20″. But I also have my DIY wood carry all about 24″ long with thick plywood to bring just the tools I need to the area I am working as well as sand cloth, gloves, glues, whatever else. Works great.

Tool bag works great going into a finished home, and I don’t have to worry about the bag getting wet from rain. But if I’m outdoor, on a build or doing a siding job or whatever, my choice is plastic or metal tool box. But to be able to place the tool box on a wet ground and not have to worry that water is seeping in from a seam, is a load off of my mind.


Tool box for garage

For small parts, tools and stuff


We’ve been using great Plano tool boxes for small parts two years or so. I’ve bought about ten of them, and replaced as they start to suffer various indignities due to heavy exploitation (broken latches, handles, etc.) Here is what I’ve learned in few years:

  1. Make sure the hinges are robust and the top doesn’t fall off every time it is opened. Not good. There should be either metal hinges, or stout plastic hinges with a metal wire hinge pin.
  2. The top of the box cannot just flop over backwards. It must rest at some upright angle.
  3. The biggest weakness of the tool boxes is that their lids aren’t hold MUCH weight that has stuff which accumulates over time. So, the handles sometimes pull out.
  4. The best solution would have a flat top that could be used as work surface if needed and an embossed ruler would be extra helpful.
  5. Choose the length right, for example, 17.5″ tools well suits in at least 18″ box.

I also have a Plano 1374-02 3700 tackle box. It holds all my small parts, nuts and bolts, etc. Large metal parts are stored in a big metal toolbox. It works out well, and can put four boxes in the back of my car.


For professional mechanics


If you are professional repairman, lugging seriously overloaded boxes around all the day long is very difficult, and very worth it to clear the space for a proper box. Something mobile in this case is very convenient.

My requirements for large mobile tool box are: positioning all of my sockets / ratchets / extensions in the top. The next drawers are for pliers, then screwdrivers, the bottom drawer has end wrenches, etc. I also use fat drawer on the bottom for power tools. The big drawer for pneumatic tools is not required, I store them on the wall. Such a box I can roll to the car easily for most jobs. My choice is Husky.

The Milwaukee and Dewalt boxes are decent for the garage but not for hard everyday use. Especially getting moved around a big shop. In a year of use the Milwaukee drawer slides got all gritty sounding and slide bad.  I would not purchase it again. The Dewalt box seems to me in the same class.

I think, you can’t beat Husky for cost value for a home owner. Boxes like Mac and Snap on worth the ten times the price for the value you would get. And some of the older Craftsman boxes were built very well.

Once you get established in a shop and start earning more money as you progress in your career you can buy more tools and maybe pick up the more expensive stuff as you go. Then one day after you are certain this is the career you want you might buy a nicer box from Snappy or the Mac Man and move that first box to your garage at home.


For DIYer


As for DIYer my advice is save money on the box. If you feel strongly that you’ll be wrenching more than 5 years, a box is probably worth the investment, but I still wouldn’t buy new. Buy it from someone retiring or giving up on wrenching off the internet. Run a good, cheap (reasonable) box, you don’t need to buy expensive sharp looking box to make a good impression on customers. Buy it for function.

Get yourself something at least 20″ deep. Push on the bottom of the drawers, that tells you all you need to know…sockets, wrenches are heavy. You can choose a Milwaukee or a Husky box. They are cheaply built but do work, if it’s light duty use they will be OK. They are made of thin metal, but it’s not a bad deal for a homeowner who will leave it in one place.

For working on things around the house, usually better to have larger tools in their own carriers on the shelf. And you can take them as additional to “job box” for specific tasks, for example, a tune up box with screw drivers, pliers, oil filter wrench, etc. If you’re mobile, then smaller boxes for specific jobs may make sense.


Tool boxes for trucks


Betterbuilt, Lowes Kobalt boxes, Delta or Weatherguard – all of the above brands are good. I have a husky full size, it has plenty of storage space and for the price, it is exceptionally sturdy. I’ve had several buddies sitting on it at once and there was no flex in the lid at all. The sidewalls are also strong for the price range.

Betterbuilt, Lowes Kobalt truck tool boxes, Delta or Weatherguard - All are good
Check truck toll boxes here

Weathergaurd are very heavy duty, GM automotive locks and never leaked, they seals like a US Military ammo box, perfect lid, sealing, and locking system.

Tractor Supply box is good for holding larder tools, like saws and nail guns, when you need to max out secure storage for extended weekend work trips.

Some important tips

  • I’d suggest going to the nearest lock shop RIGHT after you buy truck tool box and replace the lock. The toolbox companies usually to have three or four different locks. I replaced mine with one of the circular keys (think coke machine). Not too many people have those on their tool boxes.
  • If the dealer installs your tool box, they will use the cheapest sheet metal screws that they can find, and eventually, they will pull out. The solution is 1/4″ bolts, fender washers, and nylon locking nuts. If you can pull it down tight, it cannot move, therefore it cannot crack the aluminum, or the top of the bed. Although the plastic tray looks cheap, I have not had one crack, and I prefer the 2-door style.
  • Keep it locked but don’t put there anything really valuable. If someone wants to break in, they should find a couple old shovels, ratchet straps and rope, and other stuff like that. More valuable tools should be kept inside the cab and go in the garage at night.



Your work, your hands and all the tools in the box earn your living, but not the tool box itself. Buy the best tools you can afford, put them away every day, and be very careful about loaning them out.

Choose a good tool box that costs less but fits your needs NOW and in the immediate future. Middle-priced toolboxes hold up every bit as well as the top-of-the-notch Snap-On and Mac tools. And you can buy them with sales deals.

Wall hanging and shadow boards in my opinion are for production environments, nothing more. Plus your tools gets dirty all the time and it can’t be locked up.

For professional use I like the drawer type but need to be able to move it around easily and also don’t have a garage. Larger, rolling toolboxes have deeper trays, so you can store larger, commonly used items in those trays, as well flatter tools in the shallower trays. Nice. Although larger rolling toolboxes have one BIG flaw – they are BIG and heavy.

And, it’s not number of drawers that matters. It’s usefulness of drawers. I’d rather have one good sized drawer than three smaller ones that are only good for holding pens and pencils.

For every day outdoor use tool bags and light metal tool boxes are great. The most important thing here is to have only necessary tools there.

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