Take advantage of this resource guide to find advice, hints and tips on picking the right truck toolbox for your vehicle
Why should I buy a truck toolbox?
Sure, letting the tools of your trade roam freely in your truck bed seems budget-friendly. But consider what you may lose by leaving your gear loose in the bed. Tools can crash into the walls and break. Thieves can make off with your best stuff. Or, nasty weather can rust-out your tools and render them useless.
Good truck toolboxes can make your tool-carrying life much better. Consider your truck toolbox a sturdy sidekick that looks nice ‘n burly, and provides these three big benefits:
- Storage that keeps all of your gear in one central, contained spot
- Security that ensures your tools stay where you left them
- Protection that safeguards your pricey automotive tools and automotive hardware from damage
The storage advantage of a truck bed toolbox: a fast guide
Thanks to substantial size and smart trays, a truck toolbox gives you nearly infinite storage options. Most notably, the ability to keep the equipment you need for your life and livelihood right at hand. Those days of scrambling all over your bed for the tool you need are long over.
There are plenty of other things you can secure in a truck toolbox besides your tools, too. As most true pickups lack a trunk or similar storage area, a good number of truck toolboxes are used simply as locking, confined storage areas for a wide variety of items. Everything from shopping bags to groceries and emergency supplies like jumper cables can make their home in your truck toolbox.
Best yet, as you’ll find out when we cover truck toolbox styles later, the options for toolbox storage are almost limitless. There are toolboxes for the front, sides, rear, and even underside of your truck bed.
Truck bed toolboxes and security: a key reference
Ever had your Sawzall or nail gun ripped-off by some faceless punk? It’s not only costly, it’s infuriating. What’s even worse, you have to haul yourself down to the home mega store and plunk down for a new one. This is where a truck toolbox can pay for itself, with sturdy metal walls that keep your gear out if sight, and rugged locks to keep things where you leave ’em.
Truck toolbox employ a variety of keyed lock styles, most notably rotary latch lock mechanisms with spring-loaded paddles or push button assemblies for opening the lid. Most boxes also feature adjustable or self-adjusting lid strikers for the tightest possible seal. Unless a thief has polished lock picking skills or a cutting torch, there’s no getting into your toolbox. Truck bed toolbox locks are often built flush with the side of the lid to keep moisture from entering the lock and freezing. Select models even feature a cap over the lock.
Another key security feature of a truck toolbox is that the box itself is difficult to steal. Aside from the sheer weight of a full truck toolbox, the drilled-in or clamped installation makes the task of making off with your entire toolbox extremely difficult. If a thief wants your gear that bad, they’ll have to hotwire your truck to get it.
A guide to truck toolboxes and protection
Rain, extreme sun, snow and random debris. None of these are good for your tools. A truck toolbox keeps each of these enemies from doing their worst to your gear. And, your tools are guarded from busting in the bed when you make screeching stops, sharp turns and quick starts.
Not only does a truck toolbox keep your gear in a protective box that shields the weather out, each typically employs a weather seal between the lid and the box. Running or seeping water is prevented from getting into the seams of your box by rubber or foam tape seals that channel moisture away. In any situation short of driving into a lake, your tools will stay dry.
A guide to toolbox materials and construction
Truck bed toolboxes come in a variety of materials, each with their own virtues for tool storage. In our department of truck toolboxes, you’ll find three familiar metals employed in the toolbox walls: aluminum, steel, and stainless steel.
The bulk of truck bed toolboxes are made from bent sheet aluminum. Typically, the aluminum sheet also features a rugged diamond plate pattern. Not only is diamond plate aluminum durable, lightweight and tough-looking, this sheet material will not rust or deteriorate.
Steel is the old-school truck toolbox material. A steel truck toolbox is heavier than an aluminum one, but that weight isn’t necessarily a drawback. Fans of steel toolboxes like the more traditional truck box material because it’s tougher and resists more dings/dents caused by shifting tools. Steel truck toolboxes are topped by a powder coated finish to protect the walls from corrosion. However, any chip or gouge in the paint will invite corrosion right in – a drawback that aluminum and stainless steel boxes don’t have.
A few of our truck bed toolboxes are made of stainless steel. This more expensive truck box material is reserved for premium toolboxes. Thanks to the composition of stainless steel, it provides superior corrosion resistance and can be polished to a much more brilliant shine than an aluminum box. And, it doesn’t require the same powder coated protection a steel toolbox does.
Beyond the wall and lid construction, many other components are key to the life and quality of a truck toolbox. A heavy-duty hinge or set of hinges links the lid with the box itself. Basic boxes have twin modest-sized hinges; deluxe boxes employ one long piano-style hinge. The hinges are typically forged from a corrosion-resistant alloy for years of smooth opening and closing. Both styles perform well, but the continuous hinge design puts less stress on individual points of the lid, and evenly distributes the weight of the hinge. That’s why you’ll find the continuous hinge on better boxes.
Basic struts assist in lifting the lid with ease and closing smoothly. More budget-friendly toolboxes use only one shock at the middle of the lid, while the vast majority of toolboxes have a shock on each side for effortless lid operation. Premium toolboxes generally have integrated guards around the base of each strut to protect the assembly from blunt force damage, like getting whacked by a pry bar carelessly tossed into the box.
A QUICK REFERENCE ON TOOLBOX STYLES
Truck bed toolboxes come in a number of shapes, sizes and varieties for the many places you can use them on your truck bed. Here’s a look at the common types:
Quick tip: overhead clearance and toolboxesWatch your overhead clearance if you’re adding a toolbox to a truck with a lumber rack. Some toolboxes, such as gull wing boxes, won’t be able to open fully without hitting your rack.
These are the most common truck bed toolboxes you see on the road; they’re named as “crossover” toolboxes because they cross over from one side of your bed rails to the other. These toolboxes typically have a single lid, opening up and back toward your rear window. Crossover toolboxes are also known as cross-bed toolboxes.
Among crossover toolboxes, there are several variations on the basic design, including:
much like a standard crossover toolbox, except low profile toolboxes have a slim lid that allows better rear visibility.
alternative to a single-lid crossover toolbox, a double-lid toolbox features two smaller lids that open toward your rear window, effectively splitting your toolbox in two equal halves.
Gull wing toolboxes:
much like a DeLorean’s doors, gull wing toolboxes feature two lids that open toward each other at the center of the box.
The gull wing hall of fame
(from left to right): the DeLorean DMC-12, the Mercedes-Benz 300SL, an actual seagull, and our Ultima Gull Wing Toolbox.
When a single crossover toolbox at the cab is too much or isn’t enough storage, side-mounted toolboxes give your truck just the right amount of extra secure space for tools. Ready to mount to each side of the bed rails, these trusty toolboxes are great for longer gear and are available in a style that matches other truck bed toolboxes. Side-mount toolboxes are also known as “innerside toolboxes.”
Truck bed tool chests are big on capacity and versatility. These beefy boxes mount directly to the floor of your truck bed instead of wrapping over the bed rails. This design has some major advantages, and a few drawbacks. On the upside, a tool chest doesn’t impair your rear vision, looks smoother, and can be teamed with most tonneau covers without modification. On the downside, a truck tool chest effectively cuts the length of your truck bed. Long materials and supplies, like lumber, won’t fit inside most short-bed trucks with a tool chest.
Different storage needs have brought about a flood of new truck toolbox styles. Here’s a few of the prominent specialty toolboxes you’ll see:
Wheel well toolboxes– filling the dead space between your wheel wells and the tailgate, a set of these clever boxes outfits your truck bed without hogging hauling space.
Fifth-wheel toolboxes– the best way to secure your tools and gear if you have a fifth-wheel hitch planted in your truck bed.
Underbed toolboxes– popular for flatbed utility trucks, underbed toolboxes add secure storage to a place that’s out of the way.
Dog boxes– like a mini pokey for canines, these boxes keep your dogs contained and out of trouble. These toolboxes are ideal for animal control agents, hunters and dog enthusiasts alike.
A fast word on truck toolbox finishes
A truck toolbox usually offers you a choice of finishes to complement the look of your rig. Most models give you a choice between two basic finishes: black and bright.
a generous powder coating not only gives your toolbox a semi-gloss black look, it offers further sealing against corrosion.
white powder coating is the finish of choice for most steel toolboxes. Applied in abundance to the surface of the steel walls, the smooth white paint looks sharp and locks rust and other corrosion out.
Bed caps Tonneau covers Tailgate protectors Contractor racks Bed rails WinchesAuxiliary lights Tailgates
Installing your toolbox: a basic overview
Mounting a truck bed toolbox to your rig is a straightforward job. Each box includes all of the clamps and hardware you’ll need to secure it to the bed rails. And, most toolboxes require only simple hand tools you probably have in your truck right now.
For example, most crossover toolboxes can mount to your bed rails with a basic J-bolt, a nut and a washer. The J-bolt wraps underneath your bed rail, tightening to your truck with just a few turns of a ratchet.
Minor drilling may be required to install your toolbox, but it’s no big chore to do on your own. Just a few simple holes through the inside of the bed rails may be needed to securely mount your box. This isn’t needed for all toolboxes and trucks, but should be a cinch for a regular tool hauler like yourself to handle if it’s required at all.
How to measure your bed for adding the right toolbox
Before you buy a truck bed toolbox, it’s important to measure your truck bed to make sure the box you want will fit right. Follow these steps to get all of the measurements you’ll need.
Measure the distance between your bed rails
Having this measurement determines how wide your toolbox can be. Also, measure the distance from the outside of one bed rail to the outside of the other rail. When you’re shopping for toolboxes, you’ll see two measurements for length: the wider top that sits on the bed rails, and the narrower base that fits between the rails. Pick a toolbox that’s reasonably close to the measurements of your truck.
Note the height of your bed walls
Basically, measure how tall your truck bed is from the floor to the top of the rail. This measurement will let you know the maximum height of your toolbox. Most standard boxes won’t drop all the way to the floor. But, some oversized tool chests might be taller than your bed, and won’t fit properly.
Measure the distance between the base of your wheel wells and the bulkhead
Know how much clearance your box will have from the bulkhead to the base of the wheel wells on each side. Full size truck beds, both long and short, shouldn’t have clearance issues. Shorter mid-size pickup beds might, however.
Truck toolbox sizes
Because many truck bed sizes are similar across all makes and models, most truck toolboxes come in semi-custom sizes that fit trucks of the same class. Here are the typical size names you’ll see when shopping for a truck bed tool box:
Quick tip:if you have a flairside/stepside truck, you’ll need a narrower toolbox.
Fits down-size trucks:this size is meant for the beds of mid-size and compact pickups, including Rangers, S10s, Colorados, Canyons, Dakotas, Tacomas, Frontiers and more.
Fits full-size trucks:as the name indicates, these toolboxes are for the big boys like Rams, F150s, Silverados, Sierras, Tundras and Titans. Again, a flairside bed fits a narrower toolbox.
Other sizes:a few special truck toolbox sizes are made, usually to meet demand for a specific truck model. They’re typically a more custom fit – especially if a quirk in the shape of the bed or bed rails prevents a universal box from fitting correctly.
WHICH TOOLBOX IS RIGHT FOR ME?
Picking the right toolbox for your truck is a cinch thanks in part to a wide selection of toolboxes available at AutoAnything. When picking your box, consider these:
- Which truck bed toolbox style best fits your needs
- What toolbox lid and opening style works best with how you will use your toolbox
- Which toolbox finish style will look best in your truck bed
- What your budget is for a truck bed toolbox
Which truck bed toolbox style best fits my needs?
Much of what makes a toolbox right for you and your truck depends on what you need your toolbox for. Not to mention, exactly how much toolbox space you need on your bed.
A truck toolbox and a tonneau cover: the ultimate combination
Nothing keeps all of your gear safe and secure like a truck toolbox and tonneau cover combo. That’s why AutoAnything carries not only the toolboxes, but also the custom tonneau covers to fit your toolbox size.
If a specialty tonneau cover is out of the picture, or if you already have a tonneau, a truck bed tool chest is your best bet. Many tool chests will mount to the floor of your bed without conflicting with a standard tonneau. Simple measurements are usually enough to determine if your tonneau and tool chest are compatible.
- If you need a basic toolbox for storage and security, pick an economical crossover toolbox
- For maximum toolbox storage space, pick a crossover toolbox with matching side toolboxes
- For the biggest single place to store all of your tools – both large and small – take a truck tool chest
- If you need a modest amount of space with minimal intrusion on your rearview vision and bed space, go with a low-profile truck bed toolbox
- If your storage needs require more uncommon solutions, like a dog box, wheel well toolbox or other style, browse our specialty toolboxes
What toolbox lid and opening style works best with how I will use my toolbox?
For such a simple concept, there’s a mind-boggling number of toolbox opening styles. Picking one is mostly a matter of personal preference, but there are a few deciding factors that can help in making your choice.
- When you want the most complete access to all corners and sides of your toolbox for loading and unloading large items, go with a single lid truck bed toolbox
- For more divided storage and easier access from the side of your truck bed, stick with a double lid truck toolbox
- To get the easiest side access to your toolbox without having to climb into your payload, grab a gull wing lid toolbox
What is my budget for a truck bed toolbox?
Truck toolboxes range from basic, no-nonsense utility to fancy confines for the tools of your trade. A basic box just won’t do for some truck owners; a premium toolbox is over the top for the rest. Gauge what you need and measure your budget for a box.
- If you want the most basic toolbox storage that will save some hard-earned cash on your purchase, go with a crossover toolbox with a single lid supported by a single strut
- Solid all-around toolbox utility hails from our mid-range toolboxes, utilizing twin struts and durable weather seals for great performance
- For a deluxe feel and premium construction, the most capacity, high-end weather seal material and many more features that protect your tools to the highest, go with a stainless steel truck toolbox