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Even if you don’t consider yourself handy, you still likely have a hammer, screwdriver, and tape measure at home for tackling those simple tasks like hanging pictures and tightening loose knobs. And if you enjoy taking on more complex DIY projects, you probably have a much larger collection of tools, both hand and power.
But your tool collection doesn’t stop there. You also need a sturdy tool box to store and organize your tools, preferably one that makes it a cinch to find exactly what you need when you need it, and is easy to tote to wherever you need to work. That’s why we researched the top portable tool boxes available today, and then whittled down the many choices to those we feel deserve top billing in a variety of categories.
Here are our favorite portable tool boxes.
Best Overall: Keter Masterloader Portable Tool Box 241008
Room for larger tools
Multiple storage compartments
Few complaints about latch breaking
Pull-out handle can stick
The Keter Masterloader Portable Tool Box is about as close as you’ll come to having a tool workshop right at hand where you need it. This super-durable resin tool box won’t dent, peel, rust, or crack, even in harsh weather. And with two 7-inch rubber wheels, an extendable handle, and a central lock, it’s easy to tote it along with you while you work.
The lower portion of the box has plenty of room for your larger tools, such as power drills, hammers, flashlights, and handsaws. The upper part of the box has multiple compartments for smaller tools, including six removable bins for nails, screws, tape measures, and other small items. But best of all, the upper portion of the box is divided, so you can slide the two halves apart for easy access to every part of the box without lifting off the top shelves.
The tool box is 14.88 x 24.25 x 16.34 inches, and has a 66-pound weight capacity. The box itself weighs 13 pounds.
Best Heavy-Duty: DEWALT Tough System DWST08203
Only one tray
Don’t need all that extra space and just want something for your core set of tools? The DEWALT Tough System DS 300 will have you covered. Similar to the old style of tool boxes that give you a single compartment to work with, this tool box takes it up to the next level by offering extra protection. If you want something that will protect your tools no matter what is happening outside, this is the tool box for you.
The exterior is made of a durable, 4-millimeter thick foam wall. A water seal is sandwiched in between the lid and box to keep out moisture. Additionally, the box is compatible with DEWALT’s Tough System metal carrier. Just latch it onto the carrier and secure it using the central locking mechanism. The Tough System allows you to expand your storage space with modular components to fit your exact needs.
Best Budget: Plano Grab-N-Go 16-Inch Tool Box
Sturdy for the price
Not big enough for power tools
If you only use a tool box to hold the essentials needed for simple home repairs, hanging pictures, or tightening loose chair legs, there’s no reason to spend a lot of money. But that doesn’t mean you have to settle for an inferior product; while it’s not designed for rough use on a worksite, the Plano Grab-N-Go 16-Inch Tool Box is made of heavy plastic that holds up well in the average home.
The box measures 16 x 9.5 x 7.5 inches, which is adequate to hold a hammer, screwdriver, pliers, tape measure, and the other basics needed for around-the-home tasks. A lift-out tray and clear plastic organizer hold smaller items, such as nails, hooks, and screws.
This is also a great choice if you want an organizer to hold craft or art supplies, or even fishing tackle.
Best for the Car: Torin Big Red 16-Inch Tool Box TB102
Sturdy steel construction
Perfect for the car
No inner organizers
Some complaints of top sticking
Keep a small but rugged tool box stocked with the basics in your car, and you’ll always be ready to tackle unexpected repairs when out and about. The Torin Big Red 16-Inch Tool Box is perfect for the job; at 16.7 x 6.9 x 4.9 inches, it’s just big enough to hold your hammer, screwdriver set, pliers, and other often-needed-in-an-emergency tools, yet it's small enough to easily stash in the trunk and light enough–only 2.7 pounds–to lift without effort.
The tool box is made of heavy-duty gauge steel with a bright red corrosion resistant powder finish that gives it a retro look. The heavy metal latch keeps the box securely closed, so no need to fear your tools will scatter when you take a quick turn or stop, and the comfortable-to-hold handle makes it easy to fetch the box when needed. There are no inner compartments, so you can make full use of the space to hold larger tools.
Best Workshop: DEWALT Tool Box & Mobile Work Center DWST20800
Very versatile with multiple storage options
Few complaints about flimsy handle
True road warriors need more than just a basic tool box to get the job done. Whether you are a professional or just need to haul a lot of gear around with you, having a portable workshop by your side will keep you prepared and efficient while working. The DEWALT DWST20800 is like having four separate tool boxes with you at all times. The telescopic design folds out from a single rectangle into a four tier workstation with the push of a single latch.
Each storage space is easily accessible once everything is unfolded. The different tiers will allow you to organize different tools and parts while keeping everything in immediate reach as you work. When it’s closed up, the tool box is easy to transport and store. The heavy duty wheels are suitable for most common work terrains.
Best Stackable: Stalwart 75-4650 Oversized Portable Tool Chest
Plenty of space for larger tools
No small-parts organizer
Hard to pull up/down stairs
Stackable tool boxes give you the best of two worlds: Stack them up high like a tool chest for maximum storage in the smallest footprint, or separate them when needed to tote just the tools you need. And the Stalwart Oversized Portable Tool Chest performs both scenarios like a champ.
The system consists of three stackable sturdy plastic tool boxes: 19.5 x 9 x 7, 19.5 x 9 x 13 and 19 x 9 x 9 inches. The top two boxes have side handles so you can easily carry them when separated from the stack, while the bottom box is fixed into the steel rolling frame that supports the entire system. A double latch keeps the boxes securely shut when not in use, and a pull-up handle lets you comfortably roll the entire system on the two sturdy plastic wheels.
The entire system weighs 33 pounds and has a total weight capacity of 150 pounds.
Best Oversize: Milwaukee Packout 22-Inch Rolling Tool Box
Holds large tools
No small-parts organizer
If you have a big collection of hand and power tools, and are looking for a big box to tote them in, you’ve met your match with the Milwaukee Packout 22-Inch Rolling Tool Box. This bear of a box measures a whopping 22.1 x 18.6 x 25.6 inches, and has an impressive 250-pound weight capacity. The box itself weighs 23 pounds when empty.
The Packout is basically a big box; there are no included trays or organizers, so you can pack in even large or oddly shaped tools with ease. It’s made of heavy-duty red impact-resistant plastic with metal-reinforced corners, and is weather-sealed to keep your tools safe from the elements. Two 9-inch, all-terrain wheels and an industrial-strength extension handle make it a breeze to wheel the box wherever you want it, and the reinforced hinges keep the box from falling apart even under rigorous conditions.
Best for DIYers: GEARWRENCH 20-Inch Tool Box 83151
Versatile storage options
Not roomy for large power tools
No small-parts organizer
Here’s a tool box well suited to the DIY enthusiast whose tool set goes beyond the basics and who wants to keep them protected and well organized, yet not be overwhelmed by an oversize tool chest. The GEARWRENCH 20-Inch Tool Box is made of durable steel with a corrosion-resistant powder-finish black paint. There’s a keyed center lock to keep the box secured and an easy-grip handle so you can tote it where you need it.
The chest has three drawers with smooth ball-bearing slides, plus a top storage compartment for a total of four compartments to organize your tools. The weight capacity of the whole box is 75 pounds. The box itself weighs 20 pounds. At 20 inches wide x 8 inches deep x 12 inches tall, there’s plenty of room for all the basics plus quite a few extras, making this a good choice for home, garage, or workshop.
Durable, roomy, and plenty of compartments to keep your tools neatly organized—It’s no wonder we love the Keter Masterloader Portable Tool Box (view at Amazon). But if you are looking for something to house a really large tool collection, you’ll be happiest with the Milwaukee Packout Rolling Tool Box (view at Ace Hardware), which has a whopping 250-pound storage capacity.
What to Look for in a Portable Tool Box
When choosing the right-sized tool box, you’ll need to consider the size of your tool collection, where you plan on storing the box, and how often you’ll actually be toting it from place to place. Obviously, the more tools you want to keep in the box, the larger it needs to be, but keep in mind that as size grows, so does weight. That might be an issue if you’ll be lifting or moving the box frequently.
You’ll want to keep the tool box on the smaller side if it’s going to be kept in your car for emergencies, stashed on a closet shelf and brought out infrequently for household tasks, or serve as the tool cache for a student in a dorm or renter in a small apartment. Go larger if you’ll mostly keep the tool box in your garage or a set worksite, you need to carry a big selection of tools with you on a regular basis, or it’s going to serve as tool storage for a work truck or van.
Some portable tool boxes are just that—a basic box with a handle. Others have multiple inner compartments, drawers, dividers, or even pullout bins. Many small or inexpensive options have one larger compartment and a lift-out tray with small compartments for screws, nuts, and bolts. The right configuration of storage options for you depends mostly on what you’ll be keeping in the tool box; lots of larger tools plus multiple smaller components calls for a box with drawers, trays, and perhaps a pullout bin, whereas a tool collection that’s not much more than hammer, screwdriver, pliers, and a box of nails only requires a simple box with a lift-out tray.
There are two basic materials for portable tool boxes: plastic and steel. Plastic is lightweight and inexpensive, but not always very durable. Nor can plastic tool boxes hold as much weight as a steel box. Still, plastic is a good choice if budget is your main concern, you’re only buying a box to hold a small collection of tools for household tasks, or the box won’t be toted to rugged conditions. If, however, you need a portable tool box for outdoor worksites, busy shops, a large and heavy collection of tools, or professional use, steel is your best bet.
How do you organize a portable tool box?
There’s no “one-size-fits-all” organization method for portable tool boxes. The specifics depend on your particular collection of tools, the features of your tool box, and your preferences. But the following basic guidelines can help you turn a jumbled mess into a well-organized tool box that makes it easy to find what you need when you need it.
- Start by taking everything out of the box so you can easily sort through your tool collection.
- Next, get rid of tools that are broken or damaged beyond repair, that you no longer or never needed, or that are duplicates.
- Clean any tools that are greasy or dirty.
- Now, sort your remaining tools by type: screwdrivers together, sockets together, wrenches together, etc. Give each category a home inside your tool box, putting the most commonly used tools where they will be easiest to grab when needed.
- Alternate handles on larger tools such as hammers to make the most efficient use of the space.
- If you have tools with both standard and metric measuring systems—this is very common with sockets—separate the tools by measuring system to avoid frustration.
- If your toolbox has a tray with small compartments, this is the spot to organize fasteners by type and size: nails, screws, and bolts should each have their own spot.
- Heavier tools should be at the bottom of the box, not stacked on top of lighter tools.
How much do portable tool boxes weigh?
The weight range for portable tool boxes is a large one. You’ll find small plastic boxes that weigh less than 3 pounds, large, multi-drawer metal tool boxes that weigh over 40 pounds, and tool boxes that lie between those two extremes. As a very general rule, small and simple boxes usually weigh less than 5 pounds, large heavy-duty boxes can weigh between 10 and 20 pounds, and tool boxes on wheels and with multiple drawers top out the range at 30 to 40 pounds or more.
How do you clean a portable tool box?
Tool boxes can get quite grungy—grease, dust, and grit are common culprits. Keep your tool box in good condition by cleaning it when necessary.
- Remove everything from the box and use a rag to wipe up any dust or loose grime.
- Wipe down the outside of the box with a damp rag and a few drops of liquid dishwashing soap. Use a little extra force to remove any spots of grease or dried grime.
- Paint, grease, or other grime that refuses to budge requires an extra step. If the tool box is metal, a rag dampened with paint thinner usually does the trick. Use white vinegar for a plastic box.
- Give the tool box a final wipedown with a clean, dry rag, and you are ready to put your tools back in place.
Why Trust The Spruce?
This article was written by Michelle Ullman, the tool expert for The Spruce. She has extensive experience not only in writing about all things related to the home, but also in carrying out various DIY projects, including landscaping, painting, flooring, wallpapering, furniture makeovers, and simple repairs.