How to Choose a Box
Most contractors couldn't live without their truck-bed toolbox. But you don't have to be a contractor to justify owning one. In fact, with some models ringing in at just under $300, you too can clear out your cab and carry your gear in a weather-tight toolbox. We chose five widely available boxes and put them on trial. We examined their stats and inspected them inside and out. We also slammed them and used and abused them to judge their real-world toughness. We limited our testing to full-size boxes, but all the same factors apply to boxes for smaller trucks.
Select the Style
Toolboxes come in two main styles: cross box (also called a saddle box) and chest. We're focusing on cross boxes because they're the most popular and the easiest to install. Plus, you can slide sheet goods under it and access your tools from the side of the truck.
Answer the Security Question First
If you'll keep valuables in your toolbox, your best choice is a top-of-the-line box with strong latches, a reinforced lid and beefy sidewalls. But if you just want to protect your tools from the elements, you have lots of choices.
Check for Weather Resistance
Most toolboxes do a pretty good job of sealing out rainwater. But you'll need better hinges and latches and high-quality weather stripping to keep out blowing snow and sand.
Any box can hold your tools. But it's the ease of opening and closing that makes you love it or hate it. We're lumping all the operational factors like opening, closing and lock and latch performance into the (subjective) convenience category. Here's how we rated convenience:
- A quality lock should operate smoothly. If we had to exert extra force to operate the lock, or saw the need for periodic adjustment, we lowered the convenience rating.
- Gas lifts should open the lid quickly. If they needed help or felt weak, we lowered the rating.
- Closing force: If we had to push hard to latch the lid, we lowered the rating.
Select the Material
Nothing beats a steel box for strength and 'break-in' security. But beware if you live in a northern or coastal area with road salt or salt spray. Once the paint scratches, you'll be fighting a never-ending battle against rust. That's why aluminum is so popular—it doesn't rust. An aluminum box weighs almost 50 lbs. less than a comparable steel unit. So it's easier to remove when you need the full bed. Of course, if you just want an inexpensive box to store things like jumper cables and tiedowns, you could opt for a plastic box.
A Chest Might be Best
Cross boxes are popular. But if your truck has a tonneau cover or you're considering adding one, a chest box is the only style that'll fit under the cover. And since a chest box sits at or near the height of the bed rail, it doesn't obscure your vision through the cab's rear window. This style box bolts to the bed floor, so you won't be able to slide sheet goods or lumber under it. On the plus side, a chest box generally holds more tools than a cross box.
Weather Guard No. 117-0-02 Extra-Wide Aluminum Saddle Box
This is a great box in every way. We loved the solid feel of the lid and latching hardware. The push-button has a smooth 'machined' feel and depresses easily. The lid seals with a triple-ribbed formed rubber gasket. The gas lifts are heavy duty and protected by aluminum shields. The anchor rings on the front of the box are a great feature. The mounting brackets are much easier to use than standard J-hooks.
Delta Champion No. 351-002 Black Aluminum Cross Box
This is a basic toolbox with a three-layer, foam-filled rigid lid and reinforced body sidewalls. So it's a bit sturdier than other consumer-priced boxes. However, you sacrifice capacity to get the added strength. The latches and gas lifts work smoothly and the top closes with a solid feel.
Kobalt Deep Hawkbill Truck Box
A consumer-grade box with pull-lever latches and an adjustable strike. This medium-security box is well built and includes a lifetime warranty—which is a real plus. However, it doesn't come with mounting hardware, so pick up some J-hooks, nuts and washers (about $2) before you leave the store. If you don't need a high-security box, this one offers reasonable storage capacity for a reasonable price.
Husky Full-Size Deepwell Cross-Bed Truck Box, No. HSKALF591BK
A consumer-grade box with paddle latches and an adjustable strike. Sure, the aluminum is thin, making it a low-security box. But if you need lots of space, this box provides the most capacity of any box in this price range.
Delta 203000 DI Structural Foam
This all-plastic box is equipped with gull-wing doors for side access. The push-button locks and spring-loaded lid are consumer grade. The plastic latch doesn't give us much confidence against break-ins. But if you're looking for a lightweight box to store nonvaluables like jumper cables and tie-downs, this one fits the bill.