With so many pickup truck tool boxes to choose from it’s difficult (and time-consuming) to figure out which is the best truck tool box for your particular needs. If you’re a contractor, you want your pickup truck tool box to have different features compared to what a weekend do-it-yourselfer might need.
Why You Need a Pickup Truck Tool Box
Truck tool boxes are one of the most logical purchases for anyone that works away from home. Whether you’re in construction, a repairman, a landscaper or a volunteer handyman, your tools, and transporting them, are part of the job.
Tools are a huge investment and protecting them from thieves and the elements is an essential task. Throwing them on the floor of your truck or worse, in the bed of your truck is a surefire way to ruin or lose them.
You might experience “sticker shock” the first time you start shopping for truck tool boxes. They can be a little expensive. However, think of the cost of replacing your tools due to theft, loss or damage and you can see the investment is well worth it.
A high-quality tool box will last a lifetime. Additionally, think of the time you’ve taken in the past looking for a much-needed tool to do a job. That time spent looking for a tool could have been used earning money. Being able to find what you’re looking for saves time and saving time is preventing lost income.
When it comes to selecting the best pickup truck tool box for you, there are quite a few options. You’ll want to consider size, style, material and price. In this guide, we will do our best to help you make the best decision for your particular needs and requirements. If you have any questions please contact us and we will help as quickly as we can.
Advantages of a Pickup Truck Toolbox
- Prevents theft of tools
- Prevents breakage of tools
- Prevents loss of tools
- Prevents “borrowing” of tools
- Prevents tools from rusting
Keep in mind that even though we focus on protecting your tools, truck tool boxes can also protect other valuables that might not fit in your truck cab. Groceries, camping equipment, fishing gear, golf clubs you name it. A truck tool box keeps those things locked away.
What To Consider When Choosing a Pickup Truck Tool Box
Truck tool boxes are more or less a thick metal safe. A crowbar isn’t going to get it open. A thief can’t just pick it up and carry it away, it’s way too heavy for that. Additionally, most truck tool boxes are attached to your truck. A thief is going to avoid your truck. It’s too much work.
Truck tool boxes are typically made out of 4 materials. Aluminum, steel, stainless steel and heavy-duty plastic.
Aluminum - Most truck tool boxes are made out of aluminum with a diamond plate patterned surface. This material is tough, won’t rust, is durable and has a non-slip surface. Aluminum is lightweight and has a higher strength to weight ratio than steel. Aluminum is an excellent choice of materials to use for a truck tool box because it’s tough, lightweight and does not rust.
Steel - Less common than aluminum for truck tool boxes. It’s heavier so, on the one hand, it’s more difficult to walk away with one but on the other hand, your gas mileage will be worse. It’s more resistant to dents than aluminum. Typically they are powder coated to prevent rust but if it gets scratched that spot is left unprotected and can rust.
Stainless Steel - Also less common than aluminum but for different reasons than steel truck tool boxes. Stainless steel tool boxes are tough like steel and less likely to rust like aluminum. With these two qualities, it’s no surprise that stainless steel truck tool boxes are more expensive. It’s not necessary for them to be powder coated like steel is. Keep in mind that if you live in an area with an abundance of salt, either from the ocean, on the job site or from salt trucks, you’ll want to maintain your tool box with regular cleaning.
Coating - Powder coating is common with truck tool boxes. You’ll typically find them in neutral colors like black, gray or white. They can have a glossy or matte finish. Another popular style is the diamond plate aluminum finish. It is not necessary for these to be powder coated. They are usually buffed up to make them a little shiny finish and stainless steel truck tool boxes also have a shinier polished look when compared to an aluminum tool box.
Shapes and Styles of Pickup Truck Tool Boxes
The next thing to consider is what type of shape you want your tool box to be. This decision will be based on how you plan to access your tool box. This is an important decision because if you choose the wrong one you’ll regret it every time you get a tool out of the truck.
Crossover aka Cross Bed or Saddle Box
This type is pretty common. We can safely say this is the most common type we sell. This style rests on the bed rails and does not touch the truck bed. It’s positioned at the front of the truck bed closest to the cab. Typically these have 1 long lid that lifts up towards the back window of the truck. Crossover tool boxes do not touch the truck bed since they mount on the bed rails. This allows space under the truck tool box for when you’re hauling lumber or other long items.
There are also truck tool boxes that have 2 lids that lift up in a similar fashion. These are called double-lids. The lids lock separately and divide your tool box into 2 halves.
The third type of lid configuration is known as the gull wing. Gull wing crossover tool boxes also have two lids but they open from the side of the truck and the lid lifts up towards the center of the truck. An advantage of this style is that you don’t necessarily have to get in the bed of the truck to open it.
And lastly, you have the low-profile crossover truck tool box. It has a slimmer lid and is not quite as deep as a full-size tool box. This one doesn’t have as much storage room but it is better as far as visibility goes and it’s more lightweight.
Side-mount Pickup Truck Tool Boxes
Side-mount truck tool boxes do away with the inconvenience of getting into your truck bed to access your tools. They are also able to be used in conjunction with a crossover tool box to give you even more storage space. As the name implies, these tool boxes mount on the side bed rail of your truck bed and face outwards. The length of the tool box needs to be less than the length of the bed of the truck and even shorter if you are using a crossover tool box too. If you are going back and forth to your truck all day when you’re at the job site this may be the best option. It will be easier on the body to not have to jump in and out of the truck bed numerous times throughout the day. These are also referred to as innerside tool boxes.
Another style of the side mount truck tool box has higher sides to allow for more storage. These are good for storing larger tools or any of your taller pieces of equipment or liquids that need to remain upright.
Underbed Truck Tool Boxes
If you have a heavy-duty truck or semi with a lot of ground clearance, this is a tool box you want to look into. As you may have guessed, the tool box mounts under the bed. It fits under flatbed, platform or dump truck bodies.
This type of truck tool box sits right on the bottom of the bed of your truck as opposed to being mounted on the truck bed rails. They have a large capacity so they can protect your bigger sized power tools.
Another advantage is since they do not sit above your bed rails you are able to use a truck chest in combination with a tonneau cover or truck canopy. A drawback, since they sit on the bed of the truck you are decreasing the length of the truck bed. If it’s a long bed truck there isn’t a need to be concerned, if it’s a short bed you need to consider that shortcoming.
Truck Fender / Pork Chop / Wheel Well Tool Box
These are called many things but they all go in the same spot in the bed of your truck.
They are designed to mount in your truck bed with the thinner part going over the wheel well fender hump. The wheel well tool box allows you room for storage but maximizes the space to haul other cargo.
What Size Pickup Truck Tool Box Do You Need?
Before you decide which tool box you need, you want to make sure of 3 things:
- Will it fit in my pickup
- Will everything I need to store fit in the tool box
- Will everything I need to haul fit in my truck bed once the truck tool box is installed
Generally, pickup truck tool boxes are designated as “Fits Down-size” or “Fits Full-size”. Down-size trucks trucks are your smaller and mid-size pick up trucks like the Tacoma, Ranger, Frontier and Colorado. A full-size pickup would be the Tundra, Sierra, Ram 1500, F150s, Titan, Silverado and Sierra.
When looking at the different tool boxes, look at the measurement specs either in the photo on the web site or in the information section. Specifically, look for the dimensions information. You’ll see a diagram or a list of the height and width measurements. Below are the dimensions for a crossover style truck tool box.
You’ll want to pay close attention to the height, width and depth of the tool box. Measure the dimensions of your truck bed and write them down or put them in your phone. You’ll want to buy the tool box that most closely matches your truck’s measurements. To be absolutely sure it fits your truck, you can use our vehicle selector tool on the product page of the pickup truck tool box to verify its compatibility.
Measuring Your Truck Bed
- Measure the width from the inside truck bed rail to the inside of the truck bed rail on the other side of the bed. This measurement needs to be the same or slightly shorter than the smallest width of the tool box. In our image example above, that would be 60” or a little less.
- Next measure the distance between the outside rail of one side of the truck bed to the outside rail of the other side of the bed. Compare that to the longer width of the tool box, (71 ½” in image of tool box from our example above). If the tool box is a lot wider than your truck bed it won’t sit properly and it will stick out over the edge.
- Next measurement is to the height of your pickup truck bed. Measure from the highest point of the floor to the top of the bed rail. So if you have a grooved bed, measure from the top of the groove, not from the bottom low spot of the groove. A larger tool box may be too tall to fit correctly If your truck bed is not high enough. For this dimension, you want to look at the height measurement of your tool box.
- Finally, the last dimension you want to measure is the distance between the wheel well and the bulkhead. That is the space underneath the rear window. This is where you need to consider the “depth” measurement. If you have a short bed truck this is an especially important measurement for you as there is not a lot of room.
One other thing to consider. If you use a tonneau cover you will want to take that into account when measuring the height of the truck bed. You’ll want to give yourself some room between the tonneau cover and the top of the pickup truck tool box. Action Truck has specially designed tonneau covers that accommodate a truck tool box.
How to Install a Pickup Truck Tool Box
Installing a truck tool box is not very complex. If you’re the type of person that needs a truck tool box you probably have the skills and tools needed to install one. All of the pickup truck tool boxes come with the mounting hardware you’ll need to install it properly in your truck bed.
Each tool box has a slightly different method for installation so be sure to refer to the instructions that came with it. Crossover tool boxes come with foam strips that you place on the underside of the tool box where it comes in contact with the bed rail. The foam padding protects the bed rail from being damaged and provides some vibration/noise dampening properties.
Generally, a traditional crossover tool box will mount to your bed rail with a J-bolt, a washer and a nut. The J-bolt goes up through the bottom of the tool box floor and hooks under the bed rail. Tighten the bolts with a ratchet and you’re done.
There are some tool boxes that require drilling into the bed rails to be fastened. If you want to avoid that, look for the installation instructions on the web or on the product page to see if the tool box you’re considering is one of them.
What Does a Pickup Truck Tool Box Cost?
Price is another consideration when deciding on which tool box is best for you. Prices cover a wide range of budgets. It really depends on what you will be using it for. For some people, the lowest priced tool box will be perfect for what they need. A basic aluminum single lid crossover tool box will do the job. Other pickup truck owners are looking for a tool box with several compartments and storage sections to stay better organized.
Stainless steel tool boxes have the highest quality of materials, weather seals to keep out the elements and offer better protection for your tools. There are also some aluminum models that are on the high end of quality too.
One other rule of thumb is the more your tools are worth, the higher you should pay to protect them. Whether from damage or theft, it not only cost to replace them, your time is also lost when you can’t do your job.