The Better Built Tool Box: Does Its Reputation Hold Out?
Better Built has been making truck boxes, jobsite chests, and transfer tanks for more than 30 years. They are owned by WernerCo, a company better known for making aluminum ladders, based in Illinois. Better Built branded truck boxes can be found at Lowes, and you can buy a Better Built tool box online – just make sure it survives delivery.
Better Built’s reputation is that of a budget brand with aspirations towards mid-market quality. The general consensus is that a Better Built tool box will generally be worth what you paid for it, but mainly because you didn’t pay very much. But is that really fair? Are they really a budget brand, or a mid-market offering professionals something they can be proud to own?
We’ve looked into that question ourselves, and researched the experiences of Better Built truck tool box buyers all over America to answer that question. Here is where we ended up:
Better Built Makes Three Main Categories of products:
Better Built Truck Tool Box
This category includes a few types of Better Built wheel well tool box, several different Better Built side mount tool box models, and even a Better Built utility trailer tongue tool box. Most of these (and all of the ones we’ll be looking at in detail below) are designed to mount to or inside the bed of a pick-up, work truck, or SUV.
Almost all Better Built truck tool box options come only in diamond plate aluminum, and this isn’t surprising coming from a parent company known for aluminum fabrication. We’ve written before about the problems inherent in putting an aluminum tool box on a truck, and we’ll explore it in more detail below.
However, there are some advantages to building a truck tool box out of aluminum. Mainly, aluminum tool boxes like a Better Built tool box are light and inexpensive. They might not stand up to heavy use, but they certainly do look good until they start to get banged up. And if they’re only ever going to see light use, that should be fine.
Jobsite chests, sometimes called jobsite boxes, are just what they sound like. The modern equivalent of a treasure chest. A Better Built tool box of this type will be large and rectangular for the most part, with a sturdy lifting handle on each side and a top that hinges up. Unlike your typical Better Built truck tool box, their jobsite boxes are made of 16 gauge steel.
Because many of these jobsite boxes measure in the 5-foot by 4-foot by 3-foot range, they are barely man-portable when empty. To move them when full of up to a ton of tools and equipment, you’ll need a forklift. Thankfully, Better Built jobsite boxes feature stout steel skids to lift them off the ground and make loading via forklift or other machines easier.
We won’t be reviewing any jobsite boxes in detail, but we can say that the decent quality steel you’ll find in a typical Better Built tool box of this kind stands up to a great deal more heavy use than the thin diamond plate aluminum you’ll find in a Better Built truck tool box.
Steel Transfer Tanks
The last category of Better Built tool box products aren’t tool boxes at all. A transfer tank is mounted in the back of a truck in much the same way a Better Built tool box would be, but is designed to hold and transport non-flammable liquids safely and cleanly.
I admit I raised my eyebrow at Better Built including Diesel fuel in its list of approved “non-flammable liquids,” but from a practical standpoint, it doesn’t require many special safety procedures to transport.
Since our main goal here is to compare and contrast Better Built products to DECKED truck tool boxes and tool organizers, we won’t be looking much more closely at these either.
Better Built Tool Boxes: What You Need To Know
First, a Better Built tool box isn’t built better than all that much. There is nothing technically wrong with their fabrication techniques or the quality of their aluminum on a chemical level. They just sheet it out too thin and fail to properly reinforce it. Every Better Built tool box we’ve seen was professionally welded and well-assembled. Everything was put together properly. But the aluminum was so thin you could bend it with your hands. The tread pattern on the lid is purely decorative. It would be incredibly unsafe to stand on a Better Built truck tool box.
Second, the company doesn’t handle shipping products well. That isn’t to say every Better Built tool box will arrive dented, but when as many as 25% of the reviews on Amazon for certain Better Built tool box products say, “arrived damaged,” you know there is a problem. These are not sturdy enough to ship without special precautions, and many customers would be reluctant to pay extra for more careful shipping on what is, let’s face it, one of the cheapest options for a metal truck tool box out there.
Third, expect to get nickel-and-dimed a little. Probably 9 out of 10 truck tool box installations require some kind of a mounting kit. Don’t be surprised if one isn’t included with your Better Built truck tool box. They aren’t expensive, and you can probably pick up everything you need for less than $10. But not including that in the package seems cheap. Not “budget” but actually cheap.
Would A Working Professional Be Happy With A Better Built Tool Box?
Not really, no. These aren’t meant for professionals or to be installed on actual working trucks. Not only are they too fragile to hold up to what a lot of people would think of as “real” use, they aren’t strong enough to offer any kind of security.
By many accounts, all you have to do is pull very hard on the locked latch, and some types of Better Built tool box will open anyway. And yes, they’ll be all bent afterwards. We can’t advise keeping anything expensive in a Better Built truck tool box, nor leaving your vehicle unattended. This is one of those “I leave my old beater unlocked at night so thieves don’t have to break my windows” situations.
A Detailed Look At A Few Better Built Tool Box Products
Better Built Deluxe Tool Box Tray
The Better Built Deluxe Tool Box Tray 23512470 is a black plastic tool box organizer tray. It measures 20 inches in its longest dimension, and is designed to fit in several different types of Better Built truck tool boxes. The tray has 5 sections and does a reasonable job at keeping your small fasteners or other bits and pieces from getting lost at the bottom of a saddle-style truck box.
I’d love to say more, but there isn’t much to say. Unlike DECKED options like the DECKED D-Box, DECKED Snack Tray, or the entire DECKED Drawer System, the tool box tray above is the state of the art in Better Built small tool organization technology.
Better Built Wheel Well Tool Box
There are three models of Better Built truck tool box intended to be mounted above and behind the wheel wells of a pick-up, SUV, or work truck. A large 60-inch model, a smaller 48-inch model for shorter bed trucks, and a 48-inch model with two internal drawers (pictured).
All three are designed to mount below the level of the bed rails, allowing you to mount a tonneau cover. A single hatch (of the same un-reinforced thin aluminum) grants access to both drawers, and the main top hatch lifts on a gas-filled piston. The actual drawers are quite narrow.
The brite aluminum finish pictured is the only one available. The manufacturer’s product warranty is only good for a single year.
Better Built Low Profile Tool Box
The Better Built low profile tool box line, also called chest truck boxes, are similar to the “saddle” style tool boxes that you see more commonly. However, because the chest style box mounts directly to your truck bed, it doesn’t have to have the “wings” that saddle-style truck boxes use to attach to the rails.
One advantage of this “low profile” arrangement is that (depending on the height of your truck bed), you can still mount a tonneau cover. Most saddle-style truck tool boxes prevent using a tonneau.
There are more than 30 products in the Better Built low profile tool box range, in sizes from 48-inch to 72 inch, and in gloss black, matte black, or brite aluminum finishes. Almost all of them provide features like weatherstripping at the main hatch, gas piston lid shocks, and stainless steel locking latches. All are made of essentially the same thin aluminum diamond treadplate pattern.
Better Built Side Mount Tool Box
There are versions of the Better Built side mounted tool box in 48-inch, 60-inch, and 72-inch sizes. They are also available in a number of different finishes, such as textured matte black, gloss black, and of course, brite aluminum.
A Better Built Lo-Side truck tool box like this mounts both on top of and inside the truck bed rails. This leaves the majority of the bed space accessible, and lets you store wider items on top of the rails. Like many aluminum side-mounted truck boxes, these Better Built truck tool boxes come with legs that attach between the bottom corners of the box to the bed. These are necessary to help the box maintain its shape when loaded with heavy tools and gear, and makes it less likely to spontaneously dismount.
Better Built Crossover Tool Box
Better Built also offers crossover tool boxes like the Better Built 77213014 Deep Shotgun Tool Box pictured here. This unit is named not after its capacity for storing firearms (though I suppose you could), but after its shotgun-style quick-pull latches. These are designed to make it easier to open the box from one side of the truck and without climbing up onto the bed.
This is one of Better Built’s more expensive truck tool boxes, and it comes with a few “bells and whistles”. In addition to the quick-pull latches, it features an interior light which turns on automatically when the box is opened, and a cargo dividing system. D-rings are mounted at several points inside to further secure our load.
This model also has a 3-year warranty, unlike the 1-year typical for Better Built’s more budget-friendly truck tool boxes.
The DECKED Drawer System – More Storage, More Security, More Bed Space
The DECKED Drawer System lets you store up to 1,000 pounds of tools, gear, or equipment in each of 2 heavy duty, securely lockable drawers. Better still, all of that gear is accessible at bed height.
The DECKED Drawer System is not just weatherproof, secure, and convenient, though. It actually increases the usable cargo area of most work trucks or pickups. It achieves this by mounting a second, more durable truck bed over the wheel wells. It even lets you use the cavity space created with a pair of lift-out ammo box-style storage compartments.
The DECKED Drawer System is made of high-impact poly resin. It is reinforced with steel and aluminum as well, making it strong enough to carry everything your original truck bed could, and more.
The DECKED Tool Box – The Most Durable and Secure Saddle-Style Truck Tool Box Yet
DECKED Tool Boxes mount behind the cab, just like most crossover truck boxes. What is different is the easy access they give in even the tallest truck bed, using the optional fold-away ladder.
The DECKED Tool Box is constructed in the USA of ultra-sturdy polymer resin as well as steel and aluminum reinforcing. As for security, the lock is literally armored and the watertight lid can’t be forced with anything less than heavy power tools.
We’re glad you could take the time to explore the design and build quality of the typical Better Built tool box with us, and to compare that to a few alternatives from DECKED. We know you’ll make the right choice.