The Best Tool Chests and Tool Boxes [year]: Reviews and Buying Guide
Do you like to work on your own vehicles and home repairs? If so, you surely have a stash of tools at home. If you’ve ever spent 45 minutes looking for that one wrench like I have, you probably understand that keeping tools organized makes these little projects much more manageable. And the best way to organize your equipment is to invest in a good tool chest. In this guide, we’ll go over the best tool chests of 2019, and also cover some smaller, portable tool box options.
Whether you’re a professional mechanic, a homeowner with household repairs to take care of, or just an average Joe looking to do some minor car maintenance, using a tool box is beneficial. In this guide, we’ll help you find the best tool box for the money.
Quick Picks for the Best Tool Chests of 2019
Our Guide to Tool Chests & Tool Boxes
There are many good tool boxes on the market. To narrow down our selection, we researched, read reviews, and tested products to find the best tool boxes in each category. To make things easier, we’ve narrowed down our recommendations into size groups. See below for our picks for the best tool chests of 2019!
Key Features: 16-inch, 4-drawer design; powder coated for durability; 100lb weight limit per drawer; lifetime warranty
Price Range: $$
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The Viper Tool Storage 16-inch tool chest is a fantastic, versatile option for most people. We picked this as one of the best tool chests overall as it’s a great size for most home mechanics and tinkerers. It’s big enough to store a lot of tools (5,825 cubic inches of storage total), but small enough to tuck away in a corner. It’s also on heavy-duty wheels, so it’s easy to move around your garage or workspace.
This is also a very heavy-duty tool chest. It’s made from 18-gauge steel, everything is powder-coated to improve durability, and each drawer is rated to hold an impressive 100lbs. The drawers are in various sizes, so there’s room for all your gear. One other feature we really like on this unit is the bulk storage space at the bottom. This compartment is large enough to fit in small tool boxes, utility trays, larger tools that don’t fit elsewhere, etc. To be honest, in our shop it’s mostly been used as a lunchbox and designated beer holding area – but you can choose to store whatever you like in this versatile tool chest!
This is also a unit from a very trusted company. While not necessarily a household name like Craftsman or DeWalt, Viper has built a reputation for high-quality, durable products and are a top choice among industry experts. They have a lifetime warranty on all their tool chests, including this unit. And despite the versatile design, heavy-duty construction and lifetime warranty, this unit is still surprisingly affordable. If you need a mid-size storage solution, this is the best tool chest on the market.
Key Features: Trusted Craftsman brand; 26″x 12″ x 15.25″; heavy duty construction; stackable design
Price Range: $$
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The Craftsman 6-drawer tool chest is designed to sit on top of a workspace table, or another tool chest (that’s at least 26″ wide). This is a good option for certain applications, albeit less portable than a box on wheels. It has an internal locking system, ball-bearing drawer slides, and other features of high-end tool boxes, yet it’s priced affordably.
This is a fairly durable and heavy-duty build, weighing in at around 45 lbs. It has a storage capacity of around 3,200 cubic inches, so definitely still a decent amount of space. This rig is best added to an existing tool chest, or placed on a table-top. On its own, we think it may be a bit in the awkward big-but-not-quite-big-enough, portable-but-still-really-heavy category.
Craftsman tools used to be the gold-standard of the industry, but recently their quality seems to have gone downhill as the company has sought to cut costs. That said, this particular product is well rated in tool box reviews. We have used the older version of this same setup, and it was well-made – however, we haven’t got our hands on this particular version yet.
Key Features: 11-drawer roller cabinet; durable work surface on top; professional grade construction; comes with drawer liners; 5-year warranty
Price Range: $$$
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For larger jobs, the Montezuma 41″ rolling tool chest is a great option. This is one of the best tool chests for home mechanics and anyone with a decent amount of tools. This setup has substantial storage space, with 11 large drawers, each rated to hold up to 100lbs of tools. The wheels are rated for 2,000lb, so you can store additional items on top of the chest – or use it as a workspace. If you need even more space, there’s also a 56″ version available on the same Amazon page.
This tool chest is professional-grade, so if you’re looking for a durable and heavy-duty option, this is a great choice. Just about everything about it is pro-grade, from the heavy-duty PVC coated MDF work top to the 2,000lb-capacity swivel casters to the full-extension pro-grade ball bearing drawers.
Like all Montezuma tool boxes, this unit comes with a 5-year limited warranty. Montezuma is a pro-grade tool storage brand that specializes in truck-mounted tool boxes, but also makes household tool storage solutions like this full size tool chest.
Price Range: $$
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For apartment-dwellers and folks with fewer tools, this compact mini tool chest from Viper is an excellent option. It’s halfway between a tool chest and a tool box – its 2-drawer design makes it great for stationary use, while its steel handles and relatively lightweight design make it decent for on-the-go use, as well.
Despite the small size and relatively small pricetag, this is a heavy duty small tool box. It’s made with thick 18-gauge steel that will hold up to a lot of use. The finish is powder-coated, which makes it very scratch resistant and keeps it looking good many years down the road. And although it’s small, the capacity is still quite good thanks to the intelligent design. Each drawer is on ball bearing slides and rated for up to 50 lbs.
Like all Viper storage products, this unit comes with an impressive lifetime limited warranty against manufacturer defects. Viper is known to stand behind their products, and are a trusted company in the industry. Of course you’ll pay a bit more for Viper tool boxes, but in our opinion the better build quality is well worth the price.
Key Features: Portable design; very affordable; great for on-the-go jobs; keyed lock; 3-drawer with decent storage space
Price Range: $
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Looking for a more portable solution? The JEGS 81400 is one of the best tool boxes for those on a budget. It’s affordable yet still surprisingly well made, and it’s perfect for those small on-the-go jobs. This is definitely the cheapest tool box on this list, but it still comes highly recommended.
The box weighs less than 20 lbs on its own, so it’s pretty portable. It’s not the smallest out there, but in our opinion this is a good size to go with for most people. For folks with a small amount of tools, this may be the best tool box for the money. And if you look at tool chest reviews for this box, you’ll find that they are quite positive.
The JEGS 81400 is relatively durable, but certainly not as strong as some higher-end models. It’s made with 16-gauge steel, and features full-extension drawers. The drawers don’t have a specific weight rating, so to play it safe we wouldn’t recommend putting more than 20-25lbs of tools in each drawer – which is probably about all that will fit, anyways.
Selecting the best tool chest for you depends on a number of factors. Here are some things to consider:
Storage Capacity: You’ll want to look at the physical dimensions of the chests you are considering, as well as the weight capacity ratings. Then, think about the amount of tools you’d like to store, and make a decision from there. For more help choosing a size, see the section below on tool chest sizing. Note: If you’re looking for a very large tool chest, you will be better off shopping in-person because it can be prohibitively expensive to ship a huge tool chest from an online purchase.
Durability: How hard are you on your tools, and how often do you use them? Consider how durable of a setup you want. Thicker 15-gauge steel and/or double walls will be recommended for professional use, while more affordable 18/20-gauge steel is more economical and should be adequate for the average person.
Slides/Drawers: How do the drawers work? There are two types; non-bearing slides, and ball bearing slides. We recommend ball bearing slides, as they are far smoother, quieter and efficient. That said, check the load bearing capacity on these slides, as you don’t want to overload them. Look for capacities of 50-100+ lbs for best results.
Intended Use: Are you using your tools on a daily basis, or just occasionally? You’ll want to consider this when deciding whether to go with a budget tool chest or a higher-end professional grade product.
Security: Most tool chests have some sort of locking functionality, but some are certainly more secure than others. There are some things to consider – if you’re using it while on-the-go, is it theft-proof? If it’s for home use, do you have children that should be restricted from accessing potentially dangerous tools?
Brand Reputation: Consider the company who makes the product(s) you are considering, and what their reputation is. Are they known for consistently producing durable, effective products? Are they immune to the general lowering of tool quality that the industry has been experiencing recently, or are they too cutting corners and pumping out poor-quality products?
Tool Chest Reviews: Once you’ve narrowed down your search, it’s worthwhile to look at tool box reviews from other customers to see how each product is rated. This will give you an idea of what real people think about these products, and how they might hold up over time.
Warranty: Does the product come with a warranty? If so, what are the terms of that warranty? Almost all will be “limited” warranties that will cover manufacturer defects, but won’t cover general wear and tear. Here are some examples of warranty details on products we recommend: Viper tools warranty (lifetime limited), Craftsman warranty (lifetime limited), Montezuma warranty (5-year limited).
There are lots of different sizes and styles of tool chests, so it can be challenging to find one that is perfect for your situation. We can’t give a blanket statement to tell you the exact size that will work for you, but here are some questions to ask yourself:
- How many tools do you have right now? Lay them out on the garage floor to get a feel for how much room they take up
- How many tools do you plan to buy in the next few years? You’ll want to think ahead to see if you’ll end up needing more space a few years down the road.
- Do you need quick access to all your tools, or just some? Many people choose to have a tool chest with “quick access”/commonly used tools, and other storage areas for tools that are used occasionally.
- Are the tool chests you’re considering stackable? Many good tool chests are designed to be stackable, meaning you could potentially buy another in the future and place it on top of your current setup.
- How organized do you need to be? Generally speaking, the more space you have, the easier it is to organize your tools in an orderly fashion. If you’re cramming stuff in, you’ll wind up with chaotic piles of tools that are difficult to sort through.
Tool chests will generally come partially assembled, and it shouldn’t take too long to set one up. You might need a few basic tools… which shouldn’t be a problem (if it is.. why are you buying a tool chest?!?)
One extra step we recommend when setting up a tool box is to install drawer liners. This helps to protect both the tool box and your tools themselves.
Drawer liners are inexpensive and easy to install. They can be picked up at your local hardware store or online on Amazon. We usually use this well-rated option from ModBox. You can either find the right size for your setup, or just buy a generic size and cut it to fit properly.
You can also thicker foam that you can cut to store tools in. These foam tool organizers on Amazon are a good option. This helps keep things more organized, but generally isn’t strictly necessary. If you want to get a little crafty, you can make your own foam tool inserts and save some money. The video below does a good job of going over the basics:
Okay, you’ve purchased and set up your tool box – now what?
For your sanity’s sake, we recommend investing some time into properly organizing your tool chest. This will save a lot of hassle and annoyance down the road. Knowing exactly where your tools are will help keep you focused on the job and cut down on unnecessary frustration that can derail any home project.
This guy has thought more about tool organization than we could ever hope for, so we’ll leave it to the pros:
For tool organization, here are some general tips:
- Think about your workflow. Are you constantly using a wide variety of tools, or is it usually concentrated in a specific category? You’ll want to place commonly used tools in easy reach, and less commonly used items towards the back of drawers.
- Think about tool types and standards. Do you have a set of metric sockets, and a set of standard (SAE) sockets? If so, you’ll want to keep those completely separate to avoid confusion.
- Think about tool placement. In the upper, easy-to-access drawers, you’ll want to keep commonly used tools, as well as sockets and other items with specific sizes. You’ll want to be able to easily see and find what you’re looking for without having to go digging.
- Think about stability. You know what’s NOT a good idea? Putting all your heavy tools in the top shelf and leaving your tool chest dangerously top-heavy. Anything that’s very heavy should go in the bottom few shelves/drawers for safety.
- Think about labels. Particularly if you have a chest with lots of drawers, you’ll probably want to label the outside of the drawers to help remember where things are located.
Hopefully this guide has answered your questions about tool boxes, and helped point you in the right direction towards the perfect setup for your needs. If you have any questions, leave a comment below!
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