Tool cabinets are not the easiest things to buy with confidence, not least because of the sheer variety of materials, components, and additional features. Another confusing factor is that, to the first-time or beginner buyer, two seemingly similar tool cabinets can vary massively in price. Simply put, it is not the best idea to either go cheap and hope for the best, or simply expect a more expensive model to be reflect its price tag in quality.
With tool cabinets, differences can be subtle but significant, so it is best to learn what makes a good toolbox – be it design, materials, brand – before heading to buy one. Read on then for a run-down of what to look for in a tool cabinet and how to choose the best one for you, as well as a list of eight of the best ones on the market right. Forewarned is forearmed.
What to Consider When Buying a Tool Cabinet
1. What Type of User are You?
Or, to put it another way, what are you actually looking for? If you are looking for a tool cabinet, as opposed to a simple smaller toolbox, chances are you are looking to do a bit more than casual DIY. Even so, there is a great deal of variety among tool cabinets, and it’s best not spend extra for something you don’t really need.
By far the most important question to ask yourself is, “am I a professional or not?” If you serve customers with your tools, image suddenly becomes an important factor, and you don’t want to look out of place in a repair shop or garage full of high-end equipment.
Other key factors involve mobility and whether your work comes to you or whether you need to schlep your tools back and forth from job to job. In the latter case, you will certainly want to prioritize durability of materials and a firm structure with good wheels (more on this below).
Further considerations are volume and space (self-explanatory), and configuration (less so). Often, tool cabinets can be configured ahead of purchase, allowing you to mix and match smaller and larger drawers and provide for the attachment of a vise or another tool. There are tool cabinets across the budget spectrum that can satisfy your individual needs and wants, so have them straight in your head before buying.
Paying attention to the brand of your tool cabinet can actually tell you a lot about the quality you can expect (although purchasing purely on the strength of the brand is unwise). This is simply because, as with so many products, there are two or three top brands that have built up a reputation and market themselves as the professional choice. Naturally then, whether or not you are a professional is important here as a well-known brand (especially one known to be high-end) is a sure way to impress customers.
But of course, a brand isn’t everything. And while – generally speaking – a high-end famous brand tool cabinet is hardly going to fall apart, simply making a beeline for the flashiest tool cabinet with the biggest name could be ignoring some more specific needs that you have.
When it comes to the actual composition of your tool cabinet, it is all about the components and the finish. A tool cabinet that appears sturdy when new could be held together by components that are not built to last. For that reason, it is important to remember that durability here is key. A tool cabinet is generally a big investment and day one performance does not mean performance months or years down the line.
Generally, heavier gauge metal in both the main body of the tool cabinet and the components is what you are looking for. Remember however that a price tag is no guarantee of this, so be sure to ask for specs. You never know where there might be a composition weak link in your tool cabinet.
The importance of image comes back around when it comes to the overall finish of the tool cabinet. Again, if you are a professional, this is certainly something to consider. Yet by far the most important issue is the underlying composition. Tool cabinets do not, after all, come cheap.
Naturally, design overlaps somewhat with materials and good quality components are certainly a precondition of a reliable design. However, what you should be looking out for here is the design aspects, which tend to change between high-end tool cabinet and the cheaper options.
Balance here is vital. If you find yourself with a tall tool cabinet, fully loaded with tools and with many of the top drawers open (as is an entirely common situation for many users), then suddenly the peril of drawers sliding off or the whole thing toppling becomes very real. A well-designed tool cabinet will have design features to offer contingencies in these situations. A good rule of thumb is to think of a fairly rare situation that could nevertheless pose a problem, and check if there are any design features included to prevent it. The better the tool cabinet, the more bases will be covered.
5. Owner Support
By owner support, I mean things like guarantees and maintenance included in the price of your tool cabinet. However well advised you may be on the type of tool cabinet for you, there is always the risk of unforeseen circumstances. An attractive guarantee or maintenance scheme is one of the surest indicators that you are buying a reliable product, so much so in fact that if there isn’t anything like this offered it should be something of a red flag.
Credit schemes for payment are also commonly offered and are something that many people looking to invest in tool cabinet take advantage of. Indeed, this can be one of the surest ways of guaranteeing quality without the having to pay over the odds all at once.
With these general pointers in mind then, it is time to look at the best tool cabinets on the market right now. Forearmed with knowledge of the general indicators of quality – as well as a clear idea of what you want – you should be set to pick the right tool cabinet for you.
The first tool cabinet on my list is a sturdy, versatile and U.S. made model from Craftsman. The Montana brand comes with a solid reputation (if not in proportion to their fame) and so from the off this is a model that makes promises. But does it live up to them?
The 26-inch model certainly covers all of the most obvious bases. The main frame is doubled and made of between 18-20-gauge metal and the whole cabinet has a 1,500lb load rating. This is certainly sturdy enough for reasonable and expected use of this medium-sized tool cabinet. The wheels are also durable and wieldy – you will not find this cabinet jamming and coming to a sudden halt as you whisk it across the shop floor. It comes in red (which seems to be the most popular color for tool cabinets) and loudly proclaims its U.S.-made credentials with a stylish plaque. In short, it will not fall apart, and it looks good.
Coming to the drawers (always a good metric of the overall quality), there are five as wide as the cabinet itself and decreasing in depth with height. This will ensure a certain stability provided it isn’t ridiculously top loaded. The drawers are mounted on ball bearings, boast a fairly smooth action, and feature a soft-close mechanism, which stops them slamming shut.
Save an embossed protective mat on the top and a paper towel holder, there isn’t much more to this cabinet in the way of extra features. Yet it is unlikely to let the common user down and, importantly, comes with a nice long ten-year warranty.
The next tool cabinet on the list is a much larger model and therefore highly likely to be of interest mainly to garage- or workshop-based professionals. Available in black, red, and orange, this cabinet comes with a wide and spacious cabinet compartment at the bottom with the set of drawers stacked on top. Naturally, this will pose a stability issue if you fill those drawers with heavy tools and leave the bottom empty!
Nevertheless, if you are considering this model, then you will already have a use for all of the extra space. The cabinet is composed primarily of cold-rolled steel and comes with a handle and secure, detachable wheels for safe movement and stability in one place.
For a cabinet of this size, it is also very reasonably priced. That said, it is perhaps not as elegant as some other models and does not come with a big-name impressive brand. If image is important for you, therefore, you might want to bear this in mind. Nevertheless, this is a great cabinet for those who need the space but are put off with the price tags often attached to models of this size.
Number six on my list is yet another large rolling tool cabinet that typically sells for a very reasonable price. This tool chest has eight drawers and, with that, eight different sizes of drawers. Tool chests will normally feature a variety of drawer sizes, but rarely will every drawer be a different size. This means that this is the tool cabinet to go for if you value rigorous organization of your tools.
Beyond this clear bonus, the tool cabinet also checks the important boxes when it comes to durability and sturdiness. The finish of this tool cabinet boasts an anti-rust and corrosion coating and the whole thing is nice and easy to clean. This is undoubtedly a model for those valuing a well-kept workspace. The wheels are not removeable but do lock securely in place.
For the price, this is another bargain for those perhaps young in their trade but meaning serious business.
Number five is another offering from On Shine, a small company that will not impress any customers with big brand prestige, but which undoubtedly makes high-quality and affordable tool cabinets. This model is slightly more compact than number seven, and with this comes an improved stability.
Wisely making the most of this aspect, this model also boasts a set of secure, lockable drawers and an ample number of exterior hooks for hanging larger tools. With an alloy steel frame and generally more body to the drawers, it is a heavy model, yet the wide pull handle and the secure omni-directional wheels will offset any problems this may cause.
This is another fairly inexpensive tool cabinet, and this may show a little in that the rails upon which the drawers slide are a little thin and probably won’t withstand years of heavy and careless use. This little Achilles heel aside though, this is another great tool cabinet, as secure as it is versatile.
On Shine again – and for good reason. This model represents a greater priority placed on style and presentation, coming with a sleek red paintjob and an anti-rust “powder coat” finish. This makes it the ideal choice for a workshop or garage tool cabinet that will look good long into the future. And not only that, but the dent- and scratch-proof finish and sturdy steel frame means that, as a very happy side effect, this is also the most weather resistant and durable model thus far.
The drawers are lined with a non-slip material and are mounted on smooth ball bearing rails. They also feature a soft-close mechanism to avoid slamming shut. Without tools slipping around inside or drawers which fall open, this is also a very stable tool cabinet. And to complete that stability, the lockable wheels are durable and smooth moving.
With a good-sized toolbox on top and a spacious cabinet area at the bottom, this is a versatile model. Should we wish to deal with a smaller cabinet or the upper toolbox by itself, these can be detached from one another. This also makes this a highly portable tool cabinet, despite its size. You can carry the toolbox wherever you need to go and still have the lower cabinet set up at wherever your base of operations may be. This is an attractive, versatile, and sturdy tool cabinet.
Returning to smaller, single piece, tool cabinets, this offering from Craftsman is, appropriately enough, all about craftsmanship. Compact, unimposing, and coming in black, this tool cabinet is truly built to last and boasts an impressive 20-24-gauge steel construction. Put another way, this model is rock solid.
It is, however, for those that do not require the space offered by the larger tool cabinets on my list. With a 500lb load rating, it is strictly for medium-to-smaller tools. Within this area, however, the performance is exemplary with smooth-action sturdy drawers and lockable durable wheels. It also comes with a roll of drawer liner, which not only keeps your tools from slipping around but also makes cleaning out the drawers a piece of cake.
As with all Craftsman products, it is U.S.-made and comes with a three-year limited warranty.
This tool cabinet makes my list for many of the same reasons as the previous entry; it is another compact, attractive-looking, and highly sturdy tool cabinet. Composed of stainless steel with a coated steel finish and a wooden top, this stylish looking cabinet looks great in the home and blends well with home furniture.
For that reason, it perhaps isn’t for the more professional garage- or workshop-based tool aficionados among us, although it will more than do the job in any setting. Being smaller and of a single piece, it naturally won’t house your largest tools but is more than appropriate for the majority of applications.
At 90lb weight and a 300lb load rating, this cabinet is compact, yet still has six spacious nonslip drawers mounted on ball bearing rails. This makes it great for tidy organization of tools and is another reason why it is particularly popular with home-DIY enthusiasts.
For sure, the most serious mechanics and workers will need something larger, but for most of us this tool cabinet is an excellent and stylish choice.
I conclude my list with another larger two-part tool cabinet. This offering from Best Choice features the familiar lower-doored compartment with drawers mounted on top. However, in the top section of this tool cabinet, we have no less than twelve smaller drawers and a top opening into a wide storage space. Not only is this genuinely useful (both for the security and organization of your tools) but it looks mighty impressive in a garage too.
In fact, this a stylish model all over. Available in bright red and featuring a scratch-, rust-, and dent-proof finish, this tool cabinet is designed to impress. And when it comes to the less obvious area of actual sturdiness and durability, it doesn’t let down either. Composed of durable, high grade steel, it also boasts lockable drawers with non-slip lining and a very smooth action.
Although sold as being “portable,” this isn’t really case when the tool cabinet is assembled as one large piece. But with the top section easily detachable and wieldy, it is easy to get your tools to precisely where you need them. Back in the workshop too, the lockable and smooth-running wheels allow you to whisk the whole thing across the shop floor at a moment’s notice, before locking it securely in place.
Ultimately, this tool cabinet looks great and performs even better. A winning choice for my money.