Cross-bed toolboxes fit for a contractor’s pickup; high-quality and long-lasting cargo protection
By Stuart Bourdon
If there’s one accessory that nearly every contractor has on their pickups, it’s the good ol’ crossbed toolbox.
As basic as it is, the traditional toolbox fills as much of a need as the bed itself.
A cross-bed toolbox is practical; it keeps gear and tools from sliding around loose on the bed exposed to the weather and also out of sight and secure from the bad elements walking around on two legs.
Toolboxes have come a long way from the days when your options consisted of one padlock hasp or two.
Today’s toolboxes can be found designed shallow or deep with single, split or gull-wing-style lids sporting push-button, T-, D- or paddle-style latches finished with powder-coat, paint or polished surfaces.
If those options aren’t enough, there are a number of local manufacturers around the country that can custom build toolboxes to suit your need.
There are probably more types of crossbed toolboxes than aftermarket wheels.
The key to making the best purchase decision is to think through all of the different makes and models so you select the crossbed toolbox best suited for your truck and specific work needs.
The type of the box determines how much room is left open in the bed. For instance, some toolboxes extend all the way to the floor, which is great for storing a lot of tools and gear.
But they make it difficult to reach smaller items on the bottom of the toolbox. These deep boxes also limit the useable portion of the bed floor; where a 4×8 sheet of plywood once fit is now limited to a 4×6 sheet.
Single-lid toolboxes are great for keeping longer items like shovels and levels.
But at the same time, when the lid is opened it exposes everything in the box to the weather. That’s where split-lid or gull-wing boxes have an advantage.
Then, again, the more hinges and lid splits there are, the more chances for rain and snow to work their way into the box. (Weather-tightness is a critical issue in selecting a good toolbox.)
The type and number of latches also play a role in the buying process.
Push-button latches on the ends of the toolbox are very convenient and work well with gloved hands. They are also less prone to break-in, can be code-button locked and seem to last longer under hard use.
Twist-to-open latches are generally less expensive, they can be easily replaced when they wear out, and they can be easily upgraded with internal locks keyed to your truck’s ignition key.
MATERIALS & FINISHES
Today aluminum and steel are the materials of choice for the majority of toolboxes. High-end versions are showing up in stainless steel, while poly-formed plastics are coming in at the opposite end of the toolbox spectrum.
Steel is less expensive, and, in some brands, stronger than aluminum. The key to a good steel box is the finish: If it’s poor, there’ll be rust issues in short order.
What most contractors are going to find the best value are the heavy-duty aluminum models. They are much more expensive than entry-level or consumer-level toolboxes. But they will last for years without issue.
When it comes to finishes, that’s generally a matter of personal taste. Black looks nice, but in the heat of summer it will bake whatever is inside the toolbox.
Aluminum, polished or brushed, keeps summer heat at bay better than black. But it will show signs of light corrosion if not kept maintained. Diamond-pattern aluminum is sturdier, but a lot harder to keep polished.
Powder-coated surfaces are only as good as the prep work done before the coating is sprayed on and baked. Good powder-coatings are hard to beat when done right.
Also pay attention to the toolbox’s height above the bed.
Yes, high-top toolboxes allow you to store the same amount as a toolbox that may sit on the floor, while leaving more under-box space to carry longer items in the bed.
But they do block some of the view out the rear window.
Other items to consider are how the box is mounted, the type of lid supports used, and the type of internal cargo management.
Toolboxes that use “J”-hooks to mount it to the bed rail are the most common and least expensive. They allow the box to be installed without drilling holes in the bedrails (an important consideration if the truck is being leased or you are worried about resale value.)
Clamp-style installations are also popular. They don’t take much more time in the installation process, but are easier on the bed rails.
Whatever you do, don’t use self-tapping lag bolts or screws to mount the toolbox. They are more likely to tear loose from the bed rails that either “J”-hooks or clamps in severe use.
Lid support is also an item to think about. You don’t want to hold up the lid with one hand while you rummage around in the box or try to store tools and gear.
Good toolboxes have strong pneumatic struts holding up the lid(s). Looks for the mounting design and check how strong the mounting brackets are and how they are attached.
Sealing from the weather is an even bigger concern. Look for boxes that have channels to drain moisture away form the interior – and double-sealed gaskets around the lids.
Make sure the latches are sealed as well. Water inside a toolbox is the last thing you want to find.
Think about toolbox lighting, too. A good toolbox design will accept interior lighting.
Remember, choose a toolbox by considering how the bed is going to be used and what you’ll be storing inside the toolbox. They should complement, not compete against, each other.
And if you have – or are going to add – a tonneau cover or bed cap, get a toolbox that is designed for such use.
The Eclipse XPL Series toolboxes from Owens Products are made from heavy-duty diamond tread aluminum with the company’s patented curved lid that it claims to be one of the strongest on the market. The boxes are available in low-profile and standard-height models, and premium closed cell PVC gaskets keep moisture and dirt out of the box and protect your tools. Single-lid models feature protected latching systems allowing for easy opening from either side of the box, and removable tool trays are made from composite material and won’t sag.
owensproducts.com; (800) 942-9877
The heavy-duty Ranch Hand Cross Box toolbox is made from diamond plate steel, and features anti-theft recessed lock receivers and is designed with a triple-hinged oversized lid to keep your tools and gear safe and secure. The Ranch Hand Cross Box is available for a wide range of full size pickups.
ranchhand.com; (800) 366-9712
Westin Automotive Products
HDX Series Commercial Grade CrossOver ToolBoxes are now available from Westin in full size, extra deep and lo profile 70-inch lengths (aluminum or black finish). They feature folding locking T-handles with built in anti-theft blind stud fastening. These new boxes include a heavy-duty injection molded organizing tray, and the CrossOver and Westin Low Sider boxes feature “J-Hook” no-drill installation.
westinautomotive.com; (800) 345-8476
The Cargo Buddy from Cattleman Heavy Duty Truck Accessories will give you more space in the bed of your truck. Built from custom expanded steel, the steel rack base and solid-bead-welded frame basket can carry cargo, tools and gear while mounted in the two-inch receiver hitch off the back end of your truck, leaving the truck bed free for other equipment.
UWS Truck Accessories
UWS’s most popular toolbox box, the TBS-69, features stainless steel locks for security and a fully foamed lid that creates a rigid wall between outer aluminum layers to help prevent bending or warping. The 0.063-inch aluminum one-piece tub supports heavy loads and prevents leakage. The company also offers its ProGrade PGS-S70 Aluminum Truck Box, built extra tough with a 14-ga steel tub. A quick-pull handle for easy one-hand access and key lock protection is also offered.
uswta.com; (800) 432-4685
Highway Products offers a multitude of storage products for tools and gear including the new “Leopard” Gull Wing Toolboxes. They are built using 1/8-inch aluminum and use theft-resistant T-handle stainless steel locks. These boxes also feature black powder-coat, shaved diamonds and welded rope loops on the front for cargo ties downs.
800toolbox.com; (800) 866-5269
Hagerstown Metal Fabricators
The sliding bed boxes from Hagerstown Metal Fabricators come with a 10-year warranty and are made in the U.S. of all-aluminum material. They come in standard and heavy-duty models, ranging from 48- to 96-inches long and custom sizes are available. The sliders can fit pickups as well as utility trucks.
truck-tool-box.com; (866) 790-1815)
Northern Tool + Equipment
Among the many tool storage products from Northern perfect for the contractor are the Ultra-Tow aluminum rear hitch cargo carriers with a built in ramp. It’s designed to haul a variety of cargo such as lawn care equipment and has a 500-pound capacity. The built-in, folding ramp makes it easy to load and its aluminum construction resists corrosion.
northerntool.com; (800) 221-0516
TOPS has two new additions to its family of toolboxes: the 61-inch Pro Box Aluminum Cross Bed Truck Box and the 70-inch Black Steel Box with an aluminum lid. The new 61-inch Pro Box offers a 90-degree opening foam-filled lid with gas-lift cylinders for easy access, stainless D-ring tied-downs, and 30-percent thicker walls than standard boxes. Choose from white, black or bright finishes. The 70-inch Black Steel Box delivers an all steel body with an aluminum lid, a double-latch system and larger 5/16-inch striker pin head for added security. The 70-inch Black Steel Box fits most full size trucks.
topsequipment.com; (877) 230-2736
DeeZee offers styles including single-lid cross boxes, side mounts, utility chests and deep chests, all made from durable Brite-Tread aluminum for its Red Label line of truck-bed storage products. Each offers full pan lid support, damped gas shocks and other features.
deezee.com; (800) 779-2102
Offering a complete line of toolboxes for pickup trucks available in aluminum, steel and polymer, Buyers Products designs cross boxes, lo-side boxes, pork chop boxes and top side boxes to use truck bed space efficiently while keeping tools safe with secure locking mechanisms. Its most popular cross boxes offer 6.8 to 19.1 cubic feet in storage space, come in two gull-wing or single-lid styles and need no drilling to install.
www.buyersproducts.com; (800) 841-8003
Looking for a low-profile toolbox? Check out the Low-Pro from Pro-Tech. It offers the same high-quality build and materials as the company’s other products, but in a sleek, lower design allowing for better visibility through the rear window. The 3.25-inch above-bed rail height is 3 inches lower than standard boxes and also allows easier access to tools and gear. It’s available in full size, single lid models.
pro-tech.net; (888) 784-4854