Best Tool Chest: The Ultimate Buying Guide

Tool Chest Buying GuideEveryone who has a collection of tools will eventually need to buy a tool chest. The plastic cases that most tool sets come with are OK, but what happens when you buy single tools?

Plastic totes are not ideal for storing tools. Tools thrown in boxes is not well organized. You will be spending time searching for tools. Time you could spend working on projects. Having a tool chest cabinet will allow you to have your tools organized and stored in one place.




What Is The Best Type of Tool Chest For You?

Since your needs are unique to everyone else’s there is no one best tool box. It will depend on what you intend to store in the tool chest. Mechanics will need a different tool chest than a machinist or woodworker for example.

[su_box title=”Keep these important factors in mind when buying a tool chest:”]1: Are most of your tools small? If you don’t have a lot of power tools then you won’t need deep drawers.
2: Do you need to move it around? You will need a wheeled tool chest to move around the garage or shop.
3: If you need the extra workspace there are options for a workbench tool chest.
4: Buy the biggest tool chest you can afford. You will eventually need more space for tools. It won’t take long to fill up!
5: Don’t buy a cheap tool chest. The cheap models made of flimsy metal won’t last and the drawers are hard to open. [/su_box]

How Much Should You Pay For a Tool Chest?

Getting a good quality tool chest starts around $250 to $300. I wouldn’t go below that price point. Anything lower than that price will be shit quality.

The Types of Tool Chests to Consider

Finding a good tool chest depends on many variables. Do you want to move it around? Will it stay in one spot? What style of tool chest did you want?

This guide will help you narrow down your selection to what is best for your needs.

Stationary Tool Chest

Stationary Tool Chest Example

A stationary tool chest is usually too large to move about. Some of these tool chests have wheels on them but aren’t moved around a lot. The only time you would want to move a large tool chest like this is to clean under them.

The stationary tool chests can be found in repair shops used by mechanics. They are large and weigh a ton when filled with tools. Once you have them set up, they are hard to move. Keep that in mind when choosing a spot in your garage.

Stationary tool chests are an ideal solution for a mechanic who has lots of tools. These chests will take abuse but can still be scratched and dented.

These larger models are not ideal for the home handyman.

Rolling Tool Chest

rolling-tool-chest

A rolling tool chest is a smaller version of the stationary chest. They are small enough to move around the garage but big enough to hold a variety of tools. Available as a set and individual pieces with a bottom, intermediate and top tool chest. The three units stack on top of each other creating a tall storage chest.

These are an excellent choice for a home garage or small workshop.

Portable Tool Chest

Best Tool Chest

The portable tool chests are designed to be mobile. They can move to the jobsite with ease. The portable chests have a set of wheels and handle like rolling luggage. The design is great for contractors who move to several jobsites. The portable tool chests are usually made of rugged, hard molded plastic. Made to be used outdoors. These can take quite a bit of abuse and still hold their own.

A good choice for professional contractors.

Tool Chest Workbench

Tool Chest Workbench

Offers you the best of both worlds. A workbench with built in tool chest. Some of these models have built-in pegboard for hooks and hangers.

Good for those with limited space in their home garage or shop. Use in addition to other tool chests for more workspace.

Tool Carts

Tool Cart

Tool carts allow you to bring your tools to the work area instead of running back to find a tool. These are used by mechanics in larger repair shops.

Usually consisting of 4 wheels and 2 shelves for laying tools and parts. Some more advanced tool carts have drawers and cabinets on the bottom half for more storage.

Good to have if you have a larger garage. Don’t have to walk back and forth to the tool chest to get a tool.

Tool Storage Cabinet

Tool Storage Cabinet

A tool storage cabinet is an upright stationary storage unit. They usually have shelves for storing large bulky items. Perfect for larger power tools.

Storage cabinets aren’t wheeled. Keep that in mind when choosing its location in the garage. Once you set it up it is harder to move in the future.

Truck Box Tool Chest

Truck Box Tool Chest

A tool chest mounted to the bed of a pickup truck. They are usually mounted to the front and sometimes the sides of the truck bed. The truck tool chests mounted with bolts so they go wherever the vehicle goes.

Any decent truck mounted chest will have a lock, keep water out and made of durable metal. Most of them are diamond plate steel built for durability.

How Big of a Tool Chest Should You Buy?

You need to think of your future needs when buying a tool chest. Most people will try and buy the smallest tool chest they can get away with. This is a mistake. If you’re like me then your tool collection tends to grow a lot.

If you don’t buy a big enough tool chest then you will end up with overflow. You will have tools that won’t fit and they will end up in a box.

I bought three small tool chests years ago and they are now full. Now I wish I had bought a bigger chest for future growth.

Common Tool Chest Sizes

Tool chests come in a variety of sizes. They can be as small as 16 inches wide to larger than 70 inches wide. Measure out the area you plan on putting a tool chest. You don’t want to buy a chest that is too big and find out it won’t fit!

My recommendation is to buy the biggest tool chest you can without cheaping out on quality. If you are on a budget, choose the largest bottom tool chest you can afford. Later on down the road you can buy the top tool chest for that set.

Make sure you have enough capacity for the tools you have now, as well as any tools you will buy in the future. Just don’t go overboard and buy a behemoth!

Important Features to Look For in a Tool Chest

There are a few things to look for when buying a tool chest. If you cheap out and get a chest without these important features you will regret your choice.

The following list will ensure you get the best tool chest for the money.

Drawer Slides Can Make or Break a Tool Chest

When you choose a tool chest it should have ball bearing drawer slides. What are the advantages of ball bearings?

Simply put they make the drawers easy to open. They operate smoothly even when the drawer is packed full of tools. Most ball bearing drawer slides are rated for heavy duty use. Perfect for tool chest drawers.

tool-chest-drawer-slides

Tool chests are made with two varieties of drawer slides: ball bearing and simple rollers.

Ball Bearing Drawer Slides

The high quality tool chests will have ball bearing slides. They are much easier to operate. The difference is like night and day. Even when they are full of tools they operate smoothly. After I upgraded my piece of junk I was amazed. I kicked myself for not spending a bit more for a quality tool chest.

Simple Roller Drawer Slides

The cheaper built tool chests come with low quality slides. These slides don’t operate smoothly. Now imagine having that chest packed with tools. It will be harder to operate the drawers. Most of the time they jam up. That’s what my first tool chest was like. I didn’t know better at the time and bought a cheap model. It’s a choice I regretted.

Ball bearing drawer slides are the clear winner. Choose them over other options. You won’t regret the decision.

Choose Lockable Tool Chests

tool-box-lock

You can’t be too careful when it comes to your tools. A nice tool collection is worth a lot of money. Having a lock on your tool chest is very important. The three types of locks available on tool chests are: cylinder keyed, standard key and locking bar.

Cylinder Lock: The Best Choice

These locks are the most secure you can have for a tool chest. The keys are cylindrical in shape. This type of lock is harder to pick than a traditional key lock. If you are overly concerned with tool theft find a tool chest with this type of lock

Traditional Key Lock: A Better Choice

The same type of lock found on most houses. Not as secure as a cylinder lock but not the worst. They still prevent your tools from growing legs. Most quality tool chests have a single key lock that locks all drawers.

Locking Bar: A Not So Good Choice

This is basically a bar that slides in front of the drawers to prevent them from opening. My first tool chest had one. It was flimsy and wouldn’t take much to cut it. It was a pain in the arse to unlock to access my tools. I just left mine off.

So I would recommend staying away from the locking bar mechanism. It can be a hassle to access your tools. Instead, get a tool chest with one of the key locking types.

Thickness of Metal Used on Tool Chests

The sheet metal used to construct tool chests come in various thickness. This can vary by manufacturer and build quality. Any decent tool chest is made of at least 15 gauge sheet metal.

Beware the budget tool chests. They have thin metal construction and won’t hold much weight. Often the cheap models won’t list the metal gauge.

Types of Materials Used in Tool Chest Construction

Tool chests tend to take a lot of abuse. Tools get thrown in them. You jam your tools in the drawers. Chemicals spilt on the finish. That’s why it’s important to choose a strong tool chest. The amount of wear your tool chest faces should factor into the construction material.

Aluminium Tool Chests

Aluminium is a lightweight material. It is also strong and more durable than plastic. The aluminium tool chest is both light and durable, but not indestructible.

Pros:

  • Lightweight
  • Durable
  • Inexpensive

Cons:

  • Can dent easy depending on thickness
  • Aluminium can bed easier than steel

Steel Tool Chests

If you need a heavy duty tool chest, then steel is what you need. The steel chests design is very durable and long lasting. The steel options are more expensive but they will last a lifetime. These are good for professional and industrial use.

Pros:

  • Durable
  • Thick construction

Cons:

  • Heavy and hard to move
  • More expensive than aluminium

Consider The Warranty on Tool Chests

When you are looking at tool chests it is important to look at the warranty. Many of the cheap brands have short warranty periods. Some of the higher quality brands have two year warranties.

Do you want a tool chest from a brand that backs up its products? Of course you do!

Does Brand Matter?

Tool chests come in a variety of brands. Each of the makers have their own build style and quality. Some are better than others. So does the brand make a difference?

You’re damn right it matters!

You want to stick with the better known makers of tool chests. Don’t go buying a chest from some unknown manufacturer. You never know what you will get. Plus their warranties and customer support will most likely suck.

The better tool chest brands:

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  • Snap-on
  • Viper Tool Storage
  • International
  • Waterloo
  • Excel
  • WEN

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Some Features Are Nice to Have

There are a couple of features that are not necessary. Not having them won’t impact your purchase that much. I would call these “Nice to have” features.

Tool Chest Charging Station

The charging stations are built-in features of some tool chests. They are good for charging power tool batteries, phones, tablets, laptops and portable music players. Some have built-in USB ports for charging devices.

Work Light Built In

Having a work light integrated into a tool chest is a nice feature. Trying to find tools in a poorly lit area is not fun. An automatic light in every drawer? I’d go for that. Overkill? I don’t think so!

Anything you like to have in a tool chest? Let me know!



Conclusion

As you can see buying the right tool chest depends on many factors. Budget, tools, workspace and size determine what is a good tool chest for you.

Now you are equipped to find the best type of tool chest for your needs.

Find the best tool chest under 1000