Best tool chest 2019
Which is the best tool chest for keeping your tools organised and secure?
Work on cars for any length of time and your tool collection will grow. That means selecting the right spanner or screwdriver at the bottom of a tool box becomes increasingly difficult. The answer is a tool chest, with drawers and compartments to help separate spanners from sockets.
It can also be used to keep small items like tape, punches and blades together. And, as your kit grows, the chest can be combined with a roller cabinet and mid box to provide extra storage. So which is the best one for you? We packed eight to find out.
How we tested them
There's a common design for most tool chests, but it’s the small details that separate the best from the merely good.
We wanted a range of drawer sizes, as well as compartments for smaller items. The range was checked with a selection of common tools, such as sockets, pliers, ratchets, screwdrivers and a hammer, a mallet and boxed kit like a thread restorer and compression tester. Ideally, the various types could be stored separately.
We also assessed the build quality and looked for features like piano hinges, auto drawer locking, lined compartments and smooth runners. Finally, we worked out how much storage you got for your money using makers’ and online prices.
With the top two from our previous test absent, the Clarke HD Plus CBB209B (third last time) takes the victory here, combining versatility with great quality. Runner-up is the left-field Draper 19566, which provides a huge amount of storage for not much cash. Rounding out the top three is the Draper 14910.
- 1. Clarke HD Plus CBB209B
- 2. Draper Combined Roller Cabinet and Tool Chest 19566
- 3. Draper 9-drawer Tool Chest 14910
Clarke HD Plus CBB209B
Price: around £143.98Rating: 5/5
At first glance, this is a dead ringer for the third-placed Draper 14910, but there are key differences, not least the keener price. All of the chests in this test have ball bearing drawer runners, yet the Clarke’s are the smoothest. This is also a step ahead in quality and a fair bit heavier than the Draper. All of its drawers are lined, although the mat in the top is too small, plus they lock when the lid is closed. The Clarke also has the desired small drawers so we could keep our tools separate. Overall, a great box.
Draper Combined Roller Cabinet and Tool Chest 19566
Price: around £107.64Rating: 4.5/5
You have to ‘free’ the chest from behind a side panel in the cabinet, but when you’ve sorted the various fasteners and castors you have a huge amount of storage at a great price – less than half its nearest rivals’. It doesn’t have the small drawers we’d like, although there’s a good mix of deep and shallow storage, as well as space for boxed kit like power tools. You can see where costs have been trimmed – there’s no auto locking or lining for the drawers – but for light users this unit is a bargain.
Draper 9-drawer Tool Chest 14910
Price: around £164.09Rating: 4/5
This Draper has many of the same desirable features as our winner – not least the six small drawers – but it can’t match the Clarke on price. The lined drawers run smoothly, just not with quite the same ease as the Clarke’s. It also lacks the test winner’s tote tray, although some users may think that is a nuisance rather than an asset. The drawers are a little deeper than the Clarke’s, but our compression tester rubbed on the shallow ones. The chest is also around 6kg lighter, making it a better option for carrying around.
Halfords 5-drawer Tool Chest
Price: around £179
The two Halfords chests here are a step above their rivals, but there is a price to pay – this unit is currently discounted from £250. Still, you do get plenty for your money, not least deep drawers designed to take Halfords’ modular tool trays. There are three sizes of drawers, but we wish at least one of the five had been split up into smaller units. As it is, different tools have to share the same drawer. Overall, this is good, but if it had small drawers as well as the existing lining and drawer lock, it could be a winner.
Halfords Advanced 6-drawer Tool Chest
Price: around £235Rating: 3.5/5
This is one monster of a tool chest and one of the biggest in our test. No surprise, then, that it was also the most costly, even at this price, discounted from £350. Like the other Halfords chest, this gives you plenty for your money. Its features include soft-close drawers that are deep enough to take Halfords’ modular tool trays; under the lid is a large area ideal for cordless tools; and there are rubber-lined holes in the rear for power cables. As with the five-drawer version, narrower drawers would have been a great addition.
Sealey American Pro 6-drawer Topchest AP2201BB
Price: around £89.95Rating: 3/5
This is a dead ringer for the Hilka and the prices are so close that picking between them may come down to simply where you would rather shop. However, buyers may prefer the handles on this unit, as well as the crinkle finish enamel of its drawers, which look as if they’re tougher than the Hilka’s painted alternative. Neither has lined drawers, but both lock automatically when the lid closes; plus the Sealey has the same restricted storage, with just one drawer for bulky tools.
Hilka Heavy Duty 6-drawer Tool Chest 19308
Price: around £89.99Rating: 3/5Supplied for test by Screwfix
If you’re on a budget, then your choice is either this or the smaller Sealey (above). And that choice is likely to come down to whether you prefer black or aluminium handles on the drawers. Six-drawer units are always going to struggle against bigger designs, but they have the advantage of narrow compartments for small items. Sadly, the shallow drawers were too small for some of our bigger kit, leaving a lot to go in the deeper one, but this chest is ideal for smaller collections.
Sealey American Pro 5-drawer Topchest AP3505TB
Price: around £140.17Rating: 3/5
A bit of variety in the depth and width of its drawers would have seen this Sealey fare much better. In fact, all five are identical, as they are designed to take Sealey’s Siegen tool trays. Fine if you are planning to fill the chest with trays, but most users will want to accommodate other tools; and, if you have bulky kit, you’ll probably be restricted to storing it in the top. On the positive side, quality is good and it has the same triple-baked enamel finish as the 6-drawer model.