A Guide to Ute Tool Boxes

The reason utes are selling in droves is that they can be dressed up or down and fit just about any purpose you like. These are Australia’s most accessorised vehicles, with a burgeoning aftermarket supplying anything from front-end protection to bespoke lighting kits. But utes also remain the mainstay of tradies, and here a canopy or ute tool box is often the first accessory to be fitted. These additions widen the scope of ‘utility’ in utility trucks and can be used outside traditional work purposes.

Why Have A Dedicated Ute Tool Box?

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Choosing a ute toolbox is often harder than choosing a ute that does the job. There are a lot of variables at play in both categories. Ultimately you’ll want something with the right amount of space to keep all your tools safe, secure and well organised, and a toolbox that’s well built, robust and durable. Like tools, consider ute boxes an investment for the long run. Boxes should be an extension to your trade, allowing for easy access to anything inside, while not budging when the weather turns bad. In a word, a toolbox protects expensive tools, prevents damage when tools or equipment is left lying on the tray or tub, and keeps them within arm’s reach and visible at all times. The wide variety of sizes, ute box shapes and designs, and specific features mean there’s a lot to choose from.

Ute Box Types

On-tray metal toolboxes are by far the most popular. They sit bolted onto the tray bed and are often a permanent fixture. They’re usually bigger than other ute toolbox types, often built to a better standard, with more thought in internal storage and external additions that extend beyond their main use. If you’re carrying bigger and more tools on a daily basis, this is the ute storage box for you.

Undertray boxes are meant for small odd bits and ends, like workwear and general-purpose tools or parts that you’d use regularly. They fit around the rear wheel arches and are ideal if you need all the space on the tray. Most tradies will also want a portable box, either metal or plastic, to take tools where they’re needed. Some of these can be fixed to the tray bed to prevent movement when driving. Lastly. consider larger metal tool chests with lockable sliding drawers if you need easy access to your tools while also having them protected.

What to Consider When Buying

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If you’re in the market for a ute tool box, then size, materials, quality build, and added features are what to go by.
This is the obvious factor that determines overall storage space, what you can fit inside, and how much of the tray space the box occupies. The majority of on-tray ute boxes are fitted across the tray deck (giving rise to ‘cross deck’ boxes), and generally extend to no more than 1800mm in length, and up to 850mm in height or just below the cab roof. Widths vary, again depending on your storage needs. Of course, there are also longer boxes meant to be fixed along the length of the tray, usually extending up to 2350mm in single cab ute variants. Tradies carrying larger and longer tools and equipment will attach one or two longer (and low-profile boxes) with just enough space in between for extras like ladders, shovels, or building materials.

Metal or Plastic?

Metal boxes, either in lighter aluminium or more durable stainless steel are praised for their strength and the fact that they’re harder to break into. Opting for aluminium means less weight on the rear axle, and prevents the likelihood of embarrassing ute squat. You also don’t have to think about rust when the weather turns sour. Stainless steel adds more weight but can accumulate rust over the long term and spoil the look of the ute. Lastly, powder-coated steel in thicker sheets is the material largely reserved for on-tray tool chests and cabinets. The quality of how everything is assembled will go a long way in how long the box lasts and whether it retains its looks and functionality in heavy-duty use.

Plastic box varieties are often meant to be portable and lightweight and usually come in smaller sizes. These are specified in litres rather than millimetres. And most have padded inserts to prevent tools from rattling and getting damaged in the process. The reinforced polyethylene that goes into their construction is still durable, resistant against heat, moisture and UV rays and a cheaper yet still viable alternative to heavier metal boxes.

Internal Storage

What’s inside goes a long way in tool organisation, and whether tools are easy to grab hold of without having to rummage through everything. Look for dedicated shelves and drawers in sizes that accommodate your gear and still allow for additional space for any extras. The number and placement of drawers also affect how and what you can fit. For quick access, look to sliding drawers and trays that don’t require you to unlock the whole box.

Doors and Locks

How doors are placed, and how many there are means quick and easy access to what you’ve got stored inside. Doors (and lids) can be top or side openings, in full or half sizes and usually fitted with gas struts for easy opening and closing with one hand. For metal boxes, look for recessed locks to prevent theft.

Additional Features

You can get toolboxes with any feature you like. Builders are more than happy to add things like jerry cans, gas bottles and spare tyre holders, ladders, dog cages, additional shelves and drawers, alarms, integrated mudguards for undertray boxes and more. Some additions come as standard while others can be had for an additional cost. A good idea is to get everything you need at once and save some cash and the hassle of additional work later on.