When selecting a toolbox, the intended use is arguably the most important factor.
A mechanic will not need the same toolbox that an electrician does, and a general contractor will require an altogether separate toolbox than either of the first two. Still, one thing that most toolboxes need is the option of portability.
Because a job, whether professional or at home, often requires you to move around, the portability of a toolbox is not only convenient but often vital. However, with all of the specialized fields out there, it can be difficult to determine which toolbox is right for you.
That is why we have put together a list of the ten best portable tool boxes drawn from different fields. Then we provide a thorough buyer’s guide, so you can figure out which toolbox will suit your needs.
Best Portable Tool Box of 2018
|Stanley 020800R FatMax|
|12.7 x 2.6 x 1.4 inches||Plastic||$$$|
|Stanley 028001L||28 x 12.6 x 11.6 inches||Heat molded plastic||$|
|Excel TB133A||24 x 14 x 11 inches||Steel||$$|
|Excel TB122B||21.9 x 13.2 x 9.3 inches||Cold rolled steel||$$|
|Stanley 023001W||22.6 x 12.1 x 10.5 inches||Plastic||$$|
|Trademark Tools 75-4650||21 x 30 x 13 inches||Plastic||$$$|
|Excel TB109||15 x 6.7 x 5.7 inches||Steel||$|
|Excel TB102||16.1 x 6.1 x 3.7 inches||Steel||$|
|VonHaus Utility Tool||7.7 x 11.5 x 11.6 inches||Plastic||$$|
|Cat Premium Toolbox||20 x 9.2 x 9 inches||Plastic||$$|
Stanley 020800R FatMax 4-in1 Mobile Work Station – Best Portable Rolling Workstation Toolbox
Stanley is known as one of the more reliable manufacturers of hand tools. In fact, their steel measuring tape is arguably the standard by which all other measuring tapes are compared.
However, Stanley has a bit of a more spotty reputation when it comes to tool containment.
That is due in a large part because most Stanley toolboxes use a molded foam material for their housing. While this foam is incredibly resistant to water and extremely lightweight, it is not the most durable material you could use. Granted, the structural foam is stronger than most types of plastic, but even a decent resin is stronger and similarly weighted.
Stanley 028001L 28-Inch Structural Foam Toolbox – Largest Hand Toolbox
Following up the FatMax, the next Stanley toolbox is far more conventional in design and intended use. Unfortunately, this toolbox is also made out of the same structural foam that the FatMax uses. This means that when laden with heavy tools, this toolbox will potentially fail along a number of structural points.
For one, whatever bowing the FatMax may have suffered will only be amplified by this toolbox. In fact, if you put too many heavy tools in this Stanley, the top will strain against its latches. Thankfully the latches are made out of metal, so they generally will not fail on their own. However, it is far more likely that the handle or latches will simply separate from the foam mold altogether over time and extended abuse.
Excel TB133A-Red 21-Inch Portable Steel Tool Box – Best Mechanic’s Toolbox
The Excel TB133A is the first toolbox on our list to feature a full suite of the conventional tool cabinet drawers.
However, it is much smaller than a traditional tool cabinet and comes with a handle to aid in portability. Granted, its design combined with its weight will carry some of the balance issues larger toolboxes can have, but this is about as good as it gets when it comes to a portable mechanic’s toolbox.
Moreover, while this toolbox offers both an external and the less common internal locking mechanism to ensure nothing spills out, the internal lock is liable to lock in place and not open when prompted. This can leave you struggling to open the toolbox until the internal lock comes undone.
Excel TB122B – One of the Best Cantilever Toolbox
This is the only cantilever toolbox we reviewed, and while it does offer a few attractive features, it is by no means the best cantilever toolbox on the market.
That being said, it does provide an adequate amount of space at a relatively reasonable price for a cantilever toolbox. Of course, that comparison goes out the window when you compare it to a hinge hand toolbox.
First, this toolbox follows the Excel standard by using steel over plastic. However, unlike the mechanic’s toolbox, the cantilever toolbox does not make use of aluminum. As such, this toolbox is far heavier than even many that are larger than it–certainly more than any other hand toolbox we reviewed–at a hefty twelve pounds.
Stanley 023001W 23-Inch Structural Foam Toolbox – Best Portable Tool Box for Home Depot
Stanley toolboxes often make the mistake of trying to be all things to all buyers. Rather than manufacturing specialized toolboxes for different markets, they end up truly satisfying few. However, one of those few markets that get everything they need is the homeowner.
This toolbox is fairly large for a hand toolbox, but not so large that its size makes it awkward to carry. Moreover, the structural foam that Stanley uses is minimized in this model due to it not being able to house quite as many heavy tools. In this regard, the hand tools used by a homeowner for general maintenance are not quite enough not cause the dreaded bowing this brand is known for among professionals.
Unfortunately, the tray inside this toolbox is only three quarters, which means that unless you fill it up evenly or entirely it is liable to spill its contents onto the main compartment. However, a homeowner is less likely to truly need to make use of this feature.
Trademark Tools 75-4650 Stalwart Oversized Portable Tool Chest – Best Portable Roolbox on Wheels
Trademark Tools is a relatively unknown brand, likely due to originating in Canada–a country that, unlike Germany, Japan, or the United State, is not really known for manufacturing tools.
Moreover, Trademark Tools does not actually specialize in anything and instead offers a little bit of everything from pet supplies to camping supplies to automotive parts.
That being said, the brand did produce a decent, if not great, workstation toolbox. Unlike most other workstations, the Stalwart actually blends the use of steel and plastic so that it is both fairly durable while remaining relatively lightweight.
Unfortunately, the wheels are not that large which can create a dragging effect when it is heavily laden.
Excel TB109-Black 14-Inch Portable Steel Tool Box – Most Portable Toolbox
Excel does not have the name recognition that Stanley may, but the brand has made a name for itself over the last decade or so by manufacturing a wide number of hardware containment options for OEM and ODM customers. As such, Excel’s products must be made to withstand the expected rigors of a professional jobsite.
In this regard, the fourteen inch toolbox performs admirably if not perfectly. The toolbox is constructed from cold rolled steel, making more durable than plastic or structural foam. Moreover, the powder coat finish helps protect the steel from water or other chemicals.
Excel TB102-Red 16-Inch Portable Steel Tool Box – Best Small Space Toolbox
While not exactly the smallest toolbox we reviewed, this sixteen inch Excel is fairly close. However, that additional storage is about right when you need to fit into a tight space.
Anyone who regularly finds their self in a crawlspace or under the frame of a house will appreciate the compact size of this toolbox that is also large enough to carry more than a couple hand tools.
Like the other Excel toolboxes, this model is made from cold rolled steel, making it more durable than plastic or structural foam. The steel is then layered with a powder coat to help prevent rusting from water or corrosion from other chemicals.
Thankfully, its small profile prevents the steel from weighing too much as this toolbox comes in at just over two and half pounds.
Unfortunately, the connecting parts of the toolbox do not share the same durability as the body.
VonHaus Very Small Utility Tool Storage Box – Best Fastener Toolbox with Drawers
VonHaus is definitely not a well-known brand in the tool market, though it does not position itself to be. Instead, the brand is designed to appeal more to the homeowner than the professional. While this may hold true for their tools, they make a surprisingly capable storage unit for fasteners and other small components.
It all begins with the VonHaus toolbox design. This toolbox blends the design of drawers with organizers. This creates a toolbox that can not only store a large number of fasteners and assorted bits, but do so more conveniently than most other toolboxes. Moreover, these organizers can both be removed individually as well as customized with arrangeable dividers.
However, this is not at all a toolbox actually designed to house tool except for fairly small ones. Granted, since it specializes more in fasteners than anything else, a few wrenches and screwdrivers should be all you need with this arrangement.
Cat Premium Plastic Portable Toolbox – Best Electrician’s Toolbox
Cat tool storage is one of the offshoots from the Caterpillar brand of industrial vehicles, tools, and equipment.
Because of this background and a history stretching back eighty five years, you would expect this toolbox to be top of the line, ready for an industrial setting. Unfortunately, that is not the case as the Cat toolbox is more similar to a Stanley than Caterpiller.
For one, the Cat toolbox uses plastic–and not the structural foam of Stanley, just plain plastic. This creates some of the same issues where the toolbox will bow when heavily laden with tools. However, unlike the structural plastic, the Cat toolbox is more likely than a Stanley to have the hinges and handle separate from the frame rendering the toolbox useless.
Best portable & rolling tool box organizers – Buyer’s Guide
While toolboxes as a broad category come in a wide variety of forms, the portable type of toolboxes generally come in one of two profiles: hand toolboxes and workstations. Both of these profiles are technically portable, though they are often used for very different purposes. Moreover, even products within the same profile will demonstrate different design features to accommodate the needs of various professions or jobs.
Hand Toolbox – This is the most common type of toolbox that comes to mind when people say the word “toolbox.” These toolboxes are generally anywhere from one to three feet in length. Their height and depth can vary, but both dimensions rarely exceed more than one foot. What often distinguishes one hand toolbox from the next is the way that it opens. The three different types of hand toolboxes are generally hinge, piano hinge, and cantilever.
A hinge toolbox will generally have two or three hinge points that allow the toolbox lid to open 180 degrees. While this style of toolbox may be the most convenient for quickly retrieving tools, it is also the least durable type of opening. A piano hinge is similar to a basic hinge except the hinge threads the entire side of the opening. While this provides significantly more durability it also often limits the degree to which the lid can open.
Finally, cantilever hand toolboxes are an altogether unique type of opening. Rather than opening along a single edge, cantilever toolboxes open from the middle and glide along rivets set into struts that slide more than hinge. This type of toolbox has the benefit of being able to contain numerous shelves that automatically unfurl as you open the toolbox. Unfortunately, this toolbox is also prone to a smaller main compartment, making it suitable only for had tools or a single power drill.
Workstation – Were it not for the wheels, workstations would not actually be portable toolboxes at all. In fact, a workstation is far more similar to a large tool chest or tool cabinet than it is to a toolbox. However, its purpose generally far exceeds what you would expect from a standard toolbox.
Quite often a workstation is used for professional jobsite where the workers share tools owned by the contractor. In this instance, the workstation allows you to carry pretty much every basic hand and power tool you might need for a given job.
This is where the wheels come in handy, because all of those tools would otherwise be prohibitively heavy to carry in a single container. Moreover, the workstation is often so large that even if it were not heavily laden with a variety of heavy tools, it would be too bulky to move from place to place. Generally, a workstation will have at least three main compartments with numerous other smaller compartments scattered throughout.
The material your toolbox is made out of will determine a fair number of qualities about the toolbox. One of the most important qualities the material will influence is its durability. While the more structurally sound material is inherently more durable, it also poses some specific issues when also balancing against portability. Specifically, the most durable materials are also the heaviest, making the most durable toolbox of an equal size to a less durable one also less portable.
Plastic – This is the least durable material used for toolboxes. Depending on the thickness of the plastic, a heavily laden toolbox will bend and warp when carried. If the plastic toolbox is allowed to remain with this load over a long period of time, it is liable to develop a permanent deformation that will decrease its structural integrity and make it more difficult to close and use. However, plastic is also the cheapest and the lightest material, so a smaller plastic toolbox designed to carry a few hand tools may be more convenient than a similarly sized metal counterpart.
Aluminum – Pure aluminum is fairly weak, but most of the products made with aluminum actually use an aluminum alloy that includes significant amounts of iron. While pure aluminum is exceptionally light, aluminum alloy is less so. Still, the alloys will be lighter than many other metals used while still providing a decent amount of durability. Unlike plastic, aluminum is more liable to dent that crack or break, allowing a damaged aluminum toolbox to generally maintain its function after suffering minor damage. Unfortunately, aluminum alloys are also more expensive than plastic and often more expensive than other metals used for toolboxes.
Steel – Steel is the most common metal used for toolboxes. It is fairly strong, which increases the toolbox’s durability, and dents like aluminum rather than cracking or breaking like plastic. Moreover, steel is fairly inexpensive. In fact, steel is generally on par with plastic in terms of cost and significantly less expensive than aluminum alloys. However, steel is also one of the heaviest materials commonly used for toolboxes which makes steel toolboxes far less portable unless smaller in profile.
Most toolboxes will have one large main compartment. Some toolboxes may only have one large main compartment. However, most jobs that require tools often include a wide range tools that will need to be used–tools that come in a variety of shapes and sizes. This is why most toolboxes that are larger than a foot and a half or more will often contain some form of additional compartment. These compartments allow you to keep different sized tools and tool accessories separated from one another so that they are easier to find and retrieve when you need them.
Drawers – Drawers have a bit of an odd position as a compartment. On one hand, drawers are often larger than all the other compartments except the main one. Moreover, drawers are also easier to keep settled than a tray. However, drawers are generally set directly into the toolbox, unable to be removed or easily transported on their own. Drawers also take up considerably more room than either trays or organizers. As such, drawers are best suited when you anticipate using a large number of different, low-profile hand tools.
Trays – For a hand toolbox, trays are the most common type of additional component. They generally sit at the top of the toolbox, providing an additional layer of protection to ensure the tools in the main compartment stay where they are. Moreover, trays can be taken out of the toolbox which allows them and their contents to be transported around a jobsite as necessary without having to lug the entire toolbox with it. Unfortunately, trays may or may not sit flush in the toolbox, and even if they do, the tray can often slip and slip its contents into the main compartment.
Organizers – Organizers are often an indispensable type of compartment, but they are also exceedingly narrow in what they can carry. Unless the dividers of the organizer can be switched out, the individual sections of an organizer are unlikely to be large enough to hold an actual tool–hand or otherwise. Instead, organizers are most commonly used to hold fasteners and other assorted parts. Nails, screws, nuts, and bolts are all common items that are found in organizers. However, in this regard, there is no substitute for a solid organizer.
The portability of a toolbox is actually determined by a couple of factors–mostly physical dimensions but some features may come into play as well. Ultimately, the trick is to find the right balance of factors so that your toolbox remains portable without also lacking something of need. In this regard, it is often advised for professionals to sacrifice a bit of portability for overall function, while homeowners likely do not require as functional a toolbox and can focus more on portability instead.
Weight – Considering a toolbox generally holds numerous metal tools and accessories, the weight of the toolbox itself will greatly influence how portable the toolbox is. This brings us back to the material that the toolbox is made out of and strikes at the crux of the durability vs portability battle. If you plan to carry more than forty pounds of tools and accessories with you, an additional ten pounds or more is a significant weight.
Size – While the size of a toolbox can ultimately influence its weight, one of the primary aspects of a toolbox’s size involves is balance. The larger a toolbox is in a single direction, the more unbalanced it will be. Moreover, toolboxes that are rectangular shape and heavily laden with tools are more liable to bow if you are made out of plastic and have handles break off regardless their material. Of course, a squarish shaped toolbox carries its own issues being bulky in form and awkward to carry by a handle altogether.
Wheels – Wheels are generally reserved for toolboxes that are simply too large to carry by hand. Tool chests and tool cabinets fall into this category, but those tool containers are often limited to a single workshop. Workstations on the other hand, are designed to both carry a large number of tools and accessories as well as be transported from jobsite to jobsite. As such, these types of toolboxes require wheels to even function. In this regard, the larger the wheels generally the easier it is to move the workstation–though wheels over one foot in diameter start to suffer from top heaviness and risk falling over.
AS we can see, the nuances of use ultimately designate a number of similar and disparate toolboxes as suited for specific purposes. Even a hinge hand toolbox will be best suited for a specific use based on a number of standard qualities like size and weight.
However, workstations are an altogether different beast, best suited for large jobsites with numerous workers. In this regard, the Trademark Tools Stalwart offers not only a solid storage capacity, but the convenience of being able to separate its different compartments into individual toolboxes.
For the mechanic, the Excel TB133A offers a steel construction with a full set of drawers and an adequate top compartment for socket wrenches and other commonly used hand tools. For the electrician, the Cat’s plastic construction is less of an issue considering meters are weigh less than tools, while the full tray and fastener organizers keep everything needed in one place.
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