The Better Design For Your Post-90’s Pickup Truck
Wheel Well Toolbox Or Crossover Style?
Every morning, you show up prepared in your trusty truck for whatever the day might bring. And whether you use your truck for leisure, or work, or because you’re a bonafide saint who offered to haul your mother-in-law’s new teak lawn furniture, a toolbox is usually the only way to keep your valuable parts and gear from turning your cargo hold into a complete black hole. You’ll minimize the chaos, lose less small gear, and keep your stuff more organized in the process, not to mention safe from theft and mother nature. Everyone knows that a toolbox is perfect for your contractor’s tools during the week and for your camping equipment, fishing rods, or firearms on the weekend, and the options are endless.
Given their versatility and the number of different truck makes and models from the past three decades that you regularly see on the road, it will come as no big surprise to any of us that there are a heck of a lot of choices when it comes to truck toolboxes. It’s not even just a simple question of whether this one or that one’s the right size for your truck bed, or how well it’s engineered to lock, to last, and keep pretty dry; you’ll also want to think about where the box will be positioned, what it can hold, and how, precisely, you’ll need to install it.
That’s why we’re taking a deeper look into two popular but hella different styles: the wheel well toolbox, with its more unusual design; and the universal, crossbody style. All the boxes in mentioned this article are secured in place in the back of your office –– er, your vehicle –– which maximizes the space available and offers better security than those that simply rest or slide around on your truck bed while you give your in-laws a hand, or whatever you’re up to on any day of the week.
First Thing’s First – What’s A Wheel Well Toolbox?
One of the more uncommonly-shaped and sized toolboxes is the wheel well toolbox, a compartment for smaller devices and other parts that sits –– yep, exactly the way it sounds –– nearly flush with your vehicle’s wheel well, meaning these cases go at the far end of the truck bed, between the wheel arch and the tailgate. Many wheel well tool boxes are mounted on a hinge so they can swing out across the bed for easy access.
And What Is It Really Good For?
Here’s the deal: they have smaller capacity than other designs of toolboxes, but the upside is they use space that might otherwise go to waste. Like side-mounted models for truck lovers who want to maximize their space in the back, these wheel well toolboxes retain the full bed length for carrying the longer stuff –– lumber, drywall… you name it.
One of the products in this wheel well toolbox style is the SwingCase boxes (manufactured by UnderCover). Boxes like the SwingCase models from Undercover have a load capacity of 75 pounds. But beware: you should be mindful that you don’t try to push past the weight limit, or you could risk unnecessary wear and tear on your wheel well toolbox. The same goes for the other, similar brands, such as the YHTAuto wheel well storage cases, which can also only hold a maximum of 75 pounds.
Can ANY Wheel Well Box Fit In Your Bed?
A whole slate of different wheel well toolbox products have been developed and are available in the truck aftermarket in a lot of different configurations. For example, some wheel well toolboxes that have similar designs are units made by LucaSng, Speedmotor, and YHTAuto. These work like UnderCover SwingCases, from the latches to the brackets. SwingCase box (manufactured by UnderCover) is one of the widely used products in this style. Like the other brands, this swinging wheel well toolbox is installed right on the pickup’s cargo area, near the tailgate. The measurements of each SwingCase come directly from the dimensions of the pickup it fits in, but that’s not true of every manufacturer. As always, it’s best to be extra careful in choosing which toolbox you’re investing in, especially the ones like SwingCase that are designed as a specific fit to each vehicle’s model and year. You don’t want to order the wrong one for your truck’s make, model, and year of manufacture. It can all be pretty confusing in that way.
There are, however, alternatives. One of these is the Dee Zee aluminum wheel well box. And then, of course, there’s the TruXedo TonneauMate, which has an entirely different design from most of the others. The TruXedo isn’t brand-specific, either, and it can be mounted on most full-size pickups on the road these days.
Compatibility With Tonneau Covers & Liners
If your vehicle has a tonneau cover, that’s not necessarily a deal-breaker when you’re looking at installing a wheel well box; tonneau covers can actually accommodate some wheel well toolboxes. Just make sure your box fits with your cover before you go with a wheel well design. And, while there are instances where it can be to your benefit to have a tonneau cover, not many tonneau covers actually provide a totally dry bed in inclement weather. Also, there’s no real security if the tailgate doesn't lock. The truth is, tonneaus are typically unusable as far as payload capacity and you have to open them to access your cargo.
And don’t forget, there are a couple of types of bedliners that are compatible with a wheel well toolbox. Spray-on liners accommodate the swinging wheel well tool boxes easily; you won’t need to make any adjustments. But remember, drop-in liners are a whole different ball of wax. Since they cover pre-existing holes and are thick, you’ll have to make a cut on a portion of the plastic liner for them to install flush to the sides. If you decide to go that route, it’s an extra DIY project, but probably nothing you can’t handle.
Wheel Well Tool Box Review
So here are some reviews of a few popular examples, so you can make the best choice of style for your day-to-day.
- Dee Zee DZ95B Gloss Black Wheel Well Tool Box –– For Most Trucks
Dee Zee’s version of the wheel well toolbox is made of aluminum – not plastic – but one drawback is it doesn’t swing out for easy cargo access.
- Piano hinge attaches the lid to the body of the box that almost spans its length
- Rubber gasket lining around the edges keeps moisture out and your stuff dry.
- A lock in the middle of the lid
- This wheel well tool box fits on all pickup cargo beds with a universal fit, the mounts are not model/make-specific
- Easy to install
- Powder-coated to resist scratches
- Less accessible; permanently secured to your truck with brackets that prevent it from swing from its mounts
- Lid opens from the outside of the fender, which means you have to reach in from the outside or from the bed for access
- Aluminum is thin quality
- Susceptible to frequent dents on the lid that can compromise the seal, which could lead to moisture seeping into the box and causing water damage or rust
UnderCover SwingCase –– For 2015 – 2021 Chevy/GMC Colorado/Canyon
The Undercover SwingCase SC103D installs on General Motors mid-size pickups, especially the Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon model years 2015 up to 2021. It swings out of the bed for easy access. Removable cargo area boxes like these are handy if you need the extra space. The SC103D also installs over a sprayed-on bed lining. Each SwingCase box is sold as a single unit; driver side models include a “D” at the end of the model number, while passenger side models are indicated with a “P”.
- For security reasons, the lid is lockable; there’s an included lock for the hinge to prevent theft
- The package includes all brackets and hardware, including the self-drilling screws to facilitate easy installation.
- Cracked lids and body
- You have to drill holes with the included screws
- Constructed of thin plastic
Undercover SwingCase SC300D
Made for the driver’s side of the cargo bed, it can store up to a maximum of 75 pounds and has a small removable tray made of plastic. The package has all the elements needed for installation. All that are needed for installation are the simple equipment you may already have.
- Easy to remove
- Installation typically ranges from less than 10 minutes to 15 minutes; brackets are included along with self-drilling screws
- Fastens securely on the latch, with a locking mechanism that prevents the tool bin from being lifted from its base.
- Works with a tonneau cover
- When both sides are installed, the width of the bed narrows to less than 48 inches
- Might develop cracks
- Tends to block the cargo area’s LED light
Undercover SwingCase SC205P
For 2017-2021 Ford F-250/350
Using pre-existing holes on the sides of the cargo hold, this box makes for an easy mount. No need for drilling or special equipment, and it works with a tonneau cover, too.
- Install takes up to 30 minutes
- Brackets are supposed to be bolted with existing holes, eliminating the need to drill
- The SwingCase SC205P is a bit small for the Ford; a gap between the actual wheel well and the wheel well cutout.
- Thin plastic construction
Undercover SwingCase SC104P
For 2019-2021 Chevy/GMC Silverado/Sierra 1500
This one gets high marks for its easy installation process that many describe as effortless.
- Locking mechanism that ensures the case stays in place
- The lock prevents the gear caddy from swaying
- Caddy blocks the cargo light and the power socket.
- Brackets that come with the package can break or bend easily from use.
- Gaps between wheel well and kit case make an imperfect design; not flush with well
Truck Wheel Well Tool Boxes – Our Final Thoughts
The good news is, you can get a wheel well truck toolbox for practically any pickup manufactured since the 1990s, but with this style’s smaller size and dimensions, it’s good for smaller, lighter parts and pieces –– not for the serious, heavy duty organization of ALL of your gear.
But don’t worry, if it doesn’t meet your needs, you can always do this popular conversion –– some users have decided that this design is too small for all of their gear, so they transformed their wheel well boxes into coolers for beer and other drinks. Perfect for your next tailgate party!
Crossover Tool Boxes
While you might lose a bit of space when you go with a crossover style, you’ll more than make up for it in versatility, capacity, organization, and countless more options for greater durability, engineering, and style. Crossover boxes are popular because of their ability to pack in bigger tools, parts, and gear, and more of them. Plus, you get a wider choice for organizing your stuff just the way you like it.
For Nearly Any Truck Since the 90s
The DECKED Tool box is made like a football helmet ––nearly indestructible, waterproof, tough enough to withstand anything you put it through, and it serves as a secure and weatherproof area to store your work tools and the whole gamut of your gear and cargo. It’s also the only toolbox on the market that's easy to access, won't ding, dent or rust, and looks like it came from this decade.
- Engineering: It doubles as its own Tonneau Cover, and fits most full-size and mid-size trucks; the final product with complete Drawer System has a 2,000-pound deck load capacity.
- Accessibility: Comes optional with an integrated ladder that nests underneath the lid, allowing you to access your storage without having to jump in the bed
- Durability: Heavy-Duty and built with anti-corrosion, galvanized steel hardware
- Storage space: 200-pound storage capacity per drawer
- Material: Made from 100% recycled High-Density Polyethylene (HDPE) and high-impact injection molded resins that rest on a sub frame consisting of 40 pounds of steel
- Installation: Easy to assemble, install, or remove; comes with installation instructions that don’t take long to complete. Free shipping
- Organization: Comes complete with a DECKED D-Box, a smaller modular tool and gear organization system
- You might lose a few inches in the overall available room of your truck bed
The Crossover Style Box - Final Thoughts
If you haul big loads, and you value organization, durability, and usability, crossover boxes are going to be your best bet for keeping your cargo hold from becoming that black hole –– you know the one. And hands down, the DECKED Tool Box and System will fit most trucks manufactured in the last three decades –– and will rise to every challenge at work, at play, and, of course, to keep your favorite mother-in-law sweet as molasses, and sing your praises at the next family BBQ.