Why You Need a Truck Tool Box
Truck tool boxes are an incredibly useful addition to your truck. Leaving your tools in the back seat can ruin your truck’s interior, and makes it difficult when transporting colleagues or family members. But, leaving your tools in the bed of your truck isn’t much better. In the back of your truck, your tools are exposed to the elements acquiring rust and water damage, or left vulnerable to theft. Truck tool boxes may seem expensive at first, but considering the cost of replacing stolen or damaged tools, it is a worthwhile investment. A well chosen and cared-for truck tool box can last a lifetime, and relieve the headache of tool storage and organization. There are quite a few options of truck tool boxes available and choices to make. Size, style, material and price are just a few of the options you will need to consider. We cover them all in this guide, and by the end of it you should have a full understanding of truck tool boxes and be able to make the right choice for you and your truck.
Main Advantages of a Truck Tool Box
Chances are, your work truck doesn’t have a canopy or a designated and covered storage space for your tools. Whether you’re a part-time handyman or work in a trade, your tools are valuable possessions and possibly your livelihood. Using a truck tool box keeps your tools safe from theft using secure locks. Many thieves will turn away and find a new target and won’t bother trying to break in or even try to take the whole thing. Almost every single truck tool box features a rubber or foam weather seal that will prevent moisture and dust from entering the box keeping your tools dry and rust-free, and free of dust and other residue. They are also a great way to keep your tools organized with many featuring customizable internal shelving. Also, who says you can only keep tools in your box? Truck tool boxes are a great secure way to store groceries, jumper cables and other emergency supplies, and even camping gear like your tent and camp stove. Truck tool boxes are a versatile addition to your rig that will have you wondering how you ever lived without it.
Obviously simply keeping your tools in a box in the bed of your truck doesn’t make them more secure. Being the victim of theft doesn’t just cost you money. Stolen tools cost you needless time, effort and stress in order to replace the stolen tool, and the inconvenience of not having it until you can replace it. Truck tool boxes are essentially sturdy, thick-walled metal safes, keeping your favourite tools secure while you’re not around. A crowbar doesn’t produce enough force to get in, and these tool boxes are so heavy and awkward to detach and carry away that a thief just won’t bother. Let alone the fact that most are mounted to your truck through the floor of the box that you can only access from unlocking it. Most boxes feature rotary latch mechanisms. As long as the tool box closes securely and the lid sits flush with the body (most do) it is difficult for a crowbar to get in and produce any leverage. Truck tool boxes protect you from almost everything except maybe an extremely skilled lock picker or a cutting torch. However, both of these techniques would require a lot of time and produce noise, and many thieves won’t bother or have the know-how so you can rest easy knowing your tools are safe and sound.
Truck tool boxes are typically manufactured from three main materials: aluminum, steel and stainless steel. Each of these materials has their own unique benefits and drawbacks.
The majority of truck bed tool boxes are made from bent sheet aluminum with a diamond plate pattern. Diamond plate aluminum is tough, non-slip and affordable. It also looks great in the back of your rig as an added bonus. Aluminum metal is lightweight and actually has a higher strength to weight ratio than steel and so is very attractive for a truck bed tool box, adding security and toughness without unnecessary weight. Aluminum does not rust and will not deteriorate over time so you won’t have to worry about replacing your tool box due to rust damage.
Steel is a less common material used for truck tool boxes than aluminum. It is much heavier than aluminum, which comes with it’s own set of pros and cons. Although you’re constantly hauling around more weight in your truck, a steel tool box is harder than aluminum and will stand up to any damage from shifting tools or dropping something on it. They are typically covered in a powder coated finish to protect the steel from rust – but any sort of scratch in the coat will compromise the protective coating and leave your box susceptible to rust and corrosion.
Stainless steel is also less common than aluminum as a material for truck bed tool boxes, but for different reasons than steel. Stainless steel tool boxes combine the toughness and rigidity of steel, with the corrosion resistance of aluminum. As a result, stainless steel boxes are typically the most expensive models and you will pay a premium for them. They don’t require the powder coating that steel does, and while impressively corrosion resistant, it can still be susceptible, especially in highly corrosive environments such as coastal areas, areas with lots of de-icing salts or job sites with lots of chemical salts. It would just require a bit of maintenance if you it develops any corrosion. Just something to keep in mind!
Powder coated tool boxes often come in two colours, black or white. The choice is purely aesthetic and is up to you and how you want your rig to look. The semi-glossy black look is pretty sleek, especially if you have already fitted your truck with any simple mods like black plasti-dip, or have all-black tire rims. A smooth white coat also looks good on many trucks, it’s just up to you and your style.
The diamond plate aluminum finish of aluminum truck tool boxes is already corrosion resistant and so doesn’t need a powder coat. They buff aluminum tool boxes that produces a nice bright shiny finish. Stainless steel tool boxes also get a shiny buff finish since they do not need the powder coat, that gives a shinier polished look when compared to an aluminum box.
Once you have an idea of what material you want your truck tool box to be made of, it’s time to pick what style of tool box you want mounted in your truck. The style of your tool box will dictate how the box sits in your truck and where you can access your tools from, so it is very important to consider when and where you will be using it, and for what.
Crossover Tool boxes:
Crossover (or cross-bed) tool boxes are undoubtedly the most common type of truck bed tool box you will see, named so because they “cross over” your truck bed from one side to the other, resting on the bed rails. Typically, they have a single lid that opens towards the back window, however you may always find double-lid models as well, that open towards the back window, lock separately and split your box into two halves. Gull wing crossover tool boxes have two lids, that open towards the center of the tool box rather than towards the back window. Some people find these more accessible, since you can reach in over the side and don’t necessarily need to get in the bed of the truck, while others thing it’s more of a hindrance. A low-profile crossover box has a slimmer lid that doesn’t restrict visibility through the back window as much. Crossover boxes, since they mount on the bed rails, don’t actually touch the bed of your truck allowing a space between box and bed for hauling goods like lumber.
Side-mount Tool Boxes:
Side-mounted truck bed tool boxes eliminate that need to get into the bed of your truck to access your tools. Or, they can be used in tandem with a crossover style tool box to add extra storage if you need. These tool boxes mount on either side of the bed rail, facing outwards. You can find longer side-mounted boxes since they can span the length of the bed rather than the width of it (like a crossover box) so they’re ideal for longer tools, and often provide more space overall. If you are going in and out of your truck all day switching tools it may be the best option for you since you don’t have to hop in and out of the bed, or reach over the side of the truck to access it. You may also see these referred to as innerside tool boxes.
A truck bed tool chest sit right in the bed of your truck, on the floor rather than being mounted on the bed rails. They are versatile, and typically have a larger capacity than crossover boxes, but have drawbacks as well. Because they do not mount on the bed rails, chest style truck tool boxes are an attractive option to be used in combination with tonneau covers, and truck canopies which need to be mounted on the bed rails.
However, because they sit directly on the floor, you are essentially reducing the length of the truck bed. Long-box trucks probably won’t be phased, but you may be reducing your ability to transport certain supplies.
Other Tool Boxes:
There are a few more types of truck tool boxes that don’t fit in the categories we’ve set out above. Wheel well tool boxes are roughly L-shaped boxes that fill the empty space that is inbetween the wheel well and tailgate of a truck. They aren’t typically very large, but they’re a handy space-saving storage option for smaller tools. Fifth-wheel tool boxes are specially designed to be used if you have a fifth-wheel hitch mounted in the bed of your truck. Underbed toolboxes are a common choice for those using flatbed work trucks, mounting underneath the flat bed. You will reduce your clearance, but keep all the valuable space of your bed free and clear.
What Size Do You Need?
Before you commit to buying a truck bed tool box, you’re definitely going to want to make sure you pick one that will fit! In general, boxes will be labelled as either “fits down-size” or “fits full-size”. Down-size trucks include smaller pickups and mid-sizes like Tacomas, Frontiers, Colorado, Canyon and Rangers. Full-size trucks include those like Tundras, Titans, Silverados, Sierras, Rams and F150s. When looking at different models, you’ll notice that truck tool boxes have several measurements, one for the longer top that sits on the bed rails, one for the body of the box that lies in your truck bed, one for the depth, and one for the height of the box. Some boxes may also be asymmetrical and may include more measurements. In general, you want to focus on the width, depth and height of the tool box, and then pick a truck bed tool boxes whose measurements most closely match your truck bed, although some boxes will be tailor made to a certain model for a custom fit. Autoanything has a great tool on their website that allows you to input your make and model as a filter when searching for a tool box. Buying from other sites like Amazon will require you to know your measurements.
How to Measure Your Truck Bed
Here’s how to find out those measurements of your truck bed. First, measure the the distance spanning from the inside of one bed rail to the inside of the other. This measurement will correspond to the shorter measurement of the tool box since it is the distance inside the bed of the truck. Then measure the distance between the outside of the bed rails and compare that to the larger measurement of the truck tool box you are considering. If the truck tool box is significantly wider than your truck bed, it will stick out and won’t sit properly.
There are two other measurements to consider. You will want to measure the height of you truck bed – from the highest point of the floor of the bed (for grooved beds) to the top of the bed rail. Some larger toolboxes may be too tall to fit properly in your bed if your bed
rails aren’t high enough. The measurement of your bed rails typically corresponds to the height advertised on some truck bed tool boxes. You will also want to measure the distance between the wheel wells and the bulkhead (the part of the bed underneath the back window). You will see this measurement advertised on truck bed tool boxes as the depth. In this image it is marked with the arrows. If you pick a larger box for a short bed truck, it may span too great a distance and hit the wheel wells and won’t sit properly. One other thing to consider is that if you own a flairside or stepside truck, you’ll likely need a narrower box than others.
Installation for a truck tool box is very straightforward. If you’re handy enough that you need a truck tool box, you should be able to figure it out. Any box you buy will come with any hardware you need in order to mount it properly in your truck bed, but you will likely have all the tools you need already. Each model will have a slightly different method of attachment, but in general, a typical crossover tool box mounts easily to your bed rail with a simple J-bolt, a washer and a nut. The J-bolt reaches up through the bottom of the tool box floor, and hooks underneath your bed rail. It then just takes a couple quick turns with a ratchet to securely fasten the box down. Some toolboxes may require minor drilling into the inside of the bed rails to be securely fastened. Now some of you are probably wincing at the thought, so if you are looking for a better way, and J-bolts won’t cut it for your setup, try something like the Better Built Grip Rites.
Budgeting a Truck Bed Tool Box
Price is arguably the most important factor to consider when buying something like a truck tool box. Thankfully, these tool boxes have a wide range of prices available for any budget. It also depends what you will be using it for, and how often. For some, the bare minimum box will do. If you’re after a basic bare minimum box, look for an aluminum, single lid and strut tool box. For others, the tools they need stored and organized may require a more expensive and higher quality tool box. It all depends on your uses. Stainless Steel tool boxes typically are built with the highest quality materials, and weather seals and will offer better protection for your tools, however there are some very nice higher end aluminum models available too. Another think to consider is what tools you will be storing in your tool box. Then you can decide whether or not the price of the tool box – the price to protect your tools and gear – is more than the value of everything inside. Whatever tool box you choose, you really can’t go wrong.
Truck Tool Box Brands We Recommend
There are a number of brands that make truck tool boxes. Having this much choice is great since you have so many options to choose from. However, it can be hard knowing which brand to buy from. You can check out our individual reviews of each of these trusted brand to find the best one for you. And make sure to check out our list of the best truck bed tool boxes of 2017.