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9 best tool boxes to store all your DIY essentials

Whether you just do odd jobs or are tackling a full home renovation, these holders will keep you organised

Les Steed
Monday 21 March 2022 14:28
<p>They’re ideal for anyone who owns so much as a screwdriver</p>

They’re ideal for anyone who owns so much as a screwdriver

Tool boxes are important to anyone who so much as owns a hammer or a screwdriver, so it’s important to keep your tools well maintained, secure, and easy to access.

However, finding the right box for the job can be a bit of a minefield. Do you want one that rolls? A complex kit that can hold powertools as well as tiny nuts and bolts? Or something more basic so you can get to all your kit with ease?

Ultimately, it will come down to which type of DIY-er you are and how frequently you’ll be needing to use it. Until recently our own need for tools has been strictly limited to small jobs around the house, but, with the biggest DIY task of our lives coming up, we knew our tools would be going rogue a lot. So, we decided we should put some tool boxes to the test.

How we tested

Having recently moved to a beautiful fixer-upper, there were plenty of jobs that needed our attention. Over the course of two weeks, we did everything from tear up carpet to assemble flat-pack furniture, as well as re-fit lights and electrics, and take our washing machine apart. We. Are. Exhausted.

We used a range of tool boxes – with prices stretching from a very affordable £2 option from Wilko, to a more spenny £400 by Makita – to keep us organised and on track. Some could be rolled, stacked or even came with tools, but ultimately we were looking for a sturdy box that had plenty of storage space for all our items and could withstand all our DIY jobs to come, no matter how big or small.

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Each one featured in our list is decent in its own way, and none of them are a rip-off, but we did have a few favourites. Read on to see which came out on top and why.

The best tool boxes for 2022 are:

  • Best overall – DeWalt TSTAK VI tool storage system: £37.99, Screwfix.com
  • Best for screwdrivers and small hand tools – Wilko toolbox 12.5in: £1.70, Wilko.com
  • Best for general DIY – Wilko cantilever toolbox with tray organiser 17in: £9, Wilko.com
  • Best for thinking outside of the box – Vonhaus roller tool box: £34.99, Vonhaus.com
  • Best for taking up high places – Vonhaus tool bag organiser: £14.99, Vonhaus.com
  • Best for engineers and mechanics – Vonhaus rolling tool bag: £59.99, Vonhaus.com
  • Best for compartmentalising – Makita P-84137 makpac stackable cantilever tool box: £59, Powertoolworld.co.uk
  • Best for powertools – Makita DLX2134TJ 18V LXT 2pc combo kit: £388.70, Amazon.co.uk
  • Best for picking your bits – Makpac B-43044 66pc drill and bit set: £55.95, Powertoolworld.co.uk

DeWalt TSTAK VI tool storage system

Best: Overall

Rating: 9/10

The DeWalt is impressive, solid and simple. An industry favourite, the insert tray is handy for doing up your windows – ie, holding the scrapers well. The metal releases are solid and at 17¾in it’s a medium-sized box that’s also lightweight. Due to the lack of wheels and it being a bit chunky we found ourselves using it as static chest storage that we went to and from in the room, rather than something we carried around with us. It also only has one tray and it’s lacking in the compartment department.

While it is basically plastic (polypropylene), we’re confident that it won’t shatter if you drop a hammer on it. It’s got enough room in the chest to store pretty much all of our bigger basic and electric tools, including hammers, a crowbar, a power drill and sheets of sandpaper. We’ve had it in the corner of the living room for most of the project and instinctively used it for tool storage most nights as it feels secure. It’s also stackable with other units in the range, is water-resistant, carries 30kg, and you can whack a padlock on it too for extra security.

Wilko 12.5in toolbox

Best: For screwdrivers and small hand tools

Rating: 8/10

This little number from Wilko is, well, little. At 12.5in (28cm) long with a simple, lightweight design and less-than-sturdy fastening clips, we weren’t expecting much from it. We’ve mostly used it to take our screwdrivers, scrapers and pliers between rooms, and it’ll fit a good set in there with a little room to spare. But as the renovations went on, we found that it was the one we used daily for almost every job.

The reason we like it so much is that it’s reasonably deep and about the same width (and price – £1.70) as a mug of tea, so it fits on a small space like a bedside table easily. The lid makes it really portable, unlike the more open broad trays that come as part of other models, which leave you shuffling stuff off your tables to make space. Its lightness made it really handy when we were passing it around and up a step ladder for jobs like changing the light fixings. It’s not a bad idea to get one for general maintenance or to protect your smaller tools when storing them in a bigger box.

Wilko cantilever toolbox with tray organiser, 17in

Best: For general DIY

Rating: 7/10

The bigger brother of the Wilko 12in, the cantilever is pretty much the same thing, but for a hammer and a crowbar instead of screwdrivers, though it’ll hold a few of those too in the cantilever.

It’s lightweight too, but it’s now about the same size as some of the other tool boxes, which makes the build quality matter a lot more. The cantilever extends all the way back when you open it, which gives easy access, and the clips are much better than we thought. Not bad for a basic hand kit – but be warned that it won’t hold your power tools.

Vonhaus roller tool box

Best: For thinking outside the box

Rating: 6/10

While the two-part roller system is a good idea, in practise the box and bucket fit together like a bin. When taking it out of the van the bottom kept slipping out so we just used the wheels as a van-bin until we noticed it doing laps around the back while we were driving. The upper section does, however, have a pair of handy compartments and the tray is good, if a little large. The box itself is alright, but the build quality of the clips just lets it down. It’s good to be innovative, and the potential for the concept is there and it’s roomy, but it just feels like it needs to be simplified to be more practical.

Vonhaus tool bag organiser

Best: For taking up to high places

Rating: 7/10

This toolbag organiser is compact for empty storage and ideal for small apartments. It’s basically the love child of a tough little duffle bag and the kind of combat trousers a Trump supporter would wear on a date. That said, it’s great for keeping things organised and we found that the strap made it handy up a ladder when a tool belt wouldn’t cut it. It holds more than a large handbag (we tested that too), and for £15 you’re not being ripped off for quality. It’s a decent little package and it sits snugly in transit too.

Vonhaus rolling tool bag

Best: For engineers and mechanics

Rating: 8/10

This was our electrical engineer’s box of choice. No sooner had we taken it out of the packaging and he’d got his ampermetre tucked snugly in there along with all his wires and pliers. It feels like VonHaus took the best of their other two entries on our list and put them together, which works surprisingly well. It’s got that nice mix of cushioning and frame – it’s flexible, but the base is sturdy and we weren’t worried when it accidentally fell down a small flight of stairs (well, our engineer nearly cried because he thought he’d left his ampermetre in there), and there was no damage to our tools.

However, we don’t really know how we feel about leaving our hammers out in the pockets like they suggest - it just seems like once it teeters over your tools are going to be going everywhere. Also it looks a bit like cabin baggage, and we can’t shake that.

Makita makpac P-84137 stackable cantilever tool box

Best: For compartmentalising

Rating: 8/10

Makita has been working on making its units stackable, with each box the same width and breadth as the rest so you can separate them according to your needs and stack them up to wheel them away together. This made taking them in and out of the van really easy, though getting the stack up the stairs was quite awkward when fully loaded and the box edges made a mess of our shins. The clips, while sturdy, were confusing and fiddly as it’s not really intuitive as to how they lock in properly, or which ones are really meant to connect to what for that matter, so it takes a few goes of flipping and sliding them into position. We also kept accidentally opening lids that weren’t supposed to open when we picked the unit up and you have to un-hook and un-stack it all when you want something little that’s sat in a lower box, which is annoying. Moving the fully stacked unit around the flat was awkward too, because it has no wheels and kept bashing our ankles.

The P-84137 fits a hammer and the basics as you’d expect. It’s lightweight, well built, and the cantilever works well. The removable trays are good for storage, though they look like posh sandwich boxes. It’s actually the most practical of the three Makita products we tested too. It’s roomy, functional, and the compartments are well thought out. It feels secure and sturdy, and it’s easy to keep organised. It locks in well too when you close and clip it. It just gets on with doing the job.

However, the rigid handle pokes out quite stubbornly in the middle, unlike the other models on this list, which, while giving better balance while carrying it, made it a little impractical for storing the box itself.

Makita DLX2134TJ 18V LXT 2pc combo kit

Best: For powertools

Rating: 8/10

Makita were kind enough to supply us with their 18V LXT 2 piece combo kit, which included a drill and a jigsaw. We initially totally forgot about the box because we got so excited about the toys, which are awesome! The box itself is a good build, but the aforementioned tools do take up much of the space and we didn’t want to damage them by putting all our other ones in there because they’re beautiful (and Makita wants them back in saleable condition). The fitted display-tray makes your tools look good and keep things in order, but we feel that they waste a fair bit of space in practice if you want to put other tools in with them too.

Makita B-43044 makpac 66pc drill and bit set

Best: For picking your bits

Rating: 7/10

The Makita drill bit set is a dream, but as with the other Makita pre-packed tool kits, it’s got a spacing issue. We love the mini-bit sets that come with it, and the even-mini-er mini case, which is about the size of a clutch bag when closed. It feels executive – it would just be nice if they had somewhere other than the display section to put the parts in once you get going. If you take out the plastic holding tray then the bits just end up rolling around the space. The tray beneath the main briefcase isn’t really going to hold anything thicker than a couple of small wrenches,  so you’re going to be carrying it around along with another bag for your drill. It feels like it’s more of a display case than a practical tool kit.

That being said, we felt like we were putting a sniper rifle together every time we opened it to select a different bit, so it gets two bonus points for making us feel cool.

Tool boxes FAQs

How do you organise a portable tool box?

Little tools, like screwdrivers, screws, and pliers, go in the little trays at the top, and bigger or longer ones, like hammers (and in one case, our cat), tend to go underneath in the bigger spaces lower down.

It’s important to maintain order and make sure that the tools you use the most are easiest to find. You should also keep tools well maintained and group similar ones together so you don’t have to go ferreting through everything every time - sharp tools tend to be the best hiders.

How much do portable tool boxes weigh?

Depending on the size and the material it’s made from, a good tool box can weigh anything up to 20kgs, plus tools. You don’t want to be lugging around more weight than you need to though, so there’s a fine balance between security, durability, storage options and manoeuvrability to be considered.

The bags and boxes on our list generally take a max load of around 25kg.

The verdict: Tool boxes

For basic needs at a reasonable price, we’d go for the DeWalt. Fact is, you can’t beat a classic, though it could do with a few compartments. It just does the job and looks the part. However, we would pick up either the Wilko 12.5in (£1.70, Wilko.com) or its slightly larger cousin (£9, Wilko.com) for smaller projects without hesitation as they were surprisingly versatile for the price.

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