Underbody tool boxes; a great option, or a waste of space?

Ute’s are pretty amazing vehicles for multiple purpose functionality. They can be used in a heap of different ways, and we are lucky to have a vast array of aftermarket accessories like Underbody Tool Boxes. These can be a great way to get extra storage space for different items, whilst making access easy and utilising dead space.

The most common location for these is behind the rear wheels, but you can get them in front of the rear wheels as well, depending on your Utes configuration and the space available. There’s a heap of different types, shapes and functions that these can perform, and they are very popular today because of it.

You won’t see these fitted to dual cab Utes running the well body tubs; they are only suited for trays, and chassis mount canopies.

If you are chasing the ultimate guide to buying a canopy, you can read our comprehensive post that covers all of the options here; 4WD Ute Canopy.

Underbody Tool Box
Underbody Tool Boxes are very popular, and they can be extremely useful

What are Underbody Tool boxes good for?

Underbody tool boxes are fantastic for light weight gear that you need to access on a regular basis, or for dirty gear, like wet clothes and rubbish. Some people use them to mount compressors or water pumps into, and can be used as an additional place for storage.

They are not suitable for a lot of different applications though, and you should think carefully about whether they are worth it for you, or not.

Underbody Tool Box
Underbody tool boxes can be used for lots of different applications

What’s the downsides of Underbody Toolboxes?

Sometimes, fitting underbody tool boxes are not a good idea, or simply not good value for money. When we purchased our Bull Motor Bodies Canopy, it came with two underbody tool boxes, and I decided to sell them instead of mounting them in place.

Here’s a few reasons why you might consider not fitting underbody tool boxes:

Departure angle

Underbody tool boxes come in a couple of different shapes and sizes. The normal rectangle shape tool boxes will hurt your departure angle very badly, as they hang down a fair bit, and right at the back of the vehicle.

It’s a case of looking at what it will do to the departure angle; sometimes the spare wheel and tow bar will still be lower, but if its the tool box that is going to cop the brunt of any force you are not in a good place. Not only do they bend easily, but they can cause damage to your tray and canopy above.

If you aren’t sure about what I mean, think about what happens when the back of your 4WD drops into a hole; is the tow bar going to hit first, or will you end up with 3 tonnes of vehicle sitting on your aluminium underbody tool boxes?

Swank Underbody Tool Box
When you drop down, what’s going to hit first?

Weight in a bad location

Most underbody tool boxes are made from aluminium, and they don’t weigh more than a couple of kg each. This is good. However, they are located right at the back of the vehicle, where you want to be careful not to add too much weight, and this is especially prevalent in dual cab Utes.

If you use them for dirty storage, and for keeping light weight gear that you need often, its perfect. I wouldn’t be loading them up with shackles and other heavy gear, or you will just add to the chances of a bent chassis. On top of this, the boxes themselves are generally not that strong, and lots of weight inside will cause the mounting brackets or metal itself to fatigue and fail.

Weight on the rear of a 4WD
Excess weight at the back of your 4WD isn’t a good thing

They can be mega expensive

You can buy cheap underbody tool boxes for about $150 each. On the other end of the scale, a custom built, waterproof and dust proof one that suits the contours of your tray can be up around $500 – $1000 each. If you need the storage, and they have a purpose it can be worth it, but you can do a fair bit with that sort of money, and if you already have enough storage in the canopy is there really any point?

Underbody Tool Box
You can get cheap, generic units, or super expensive custom ones

How useful are underbody tool boxes?

Only you can say how useful they are for your situation. If you have heaps of room inside the canopy, then perhaps they are a waste of time. If you can only use them every now and again, then you’ve got to way up whether they are worth the cost.

Tapered boxes

Any 4WD that is set up for serious 4WD tracks and that has underbody tool boxes will run the tapered ones behind the wheel. This is so you don’t reduce your departure angle, but it comes at the cost of less room.

Depending on the individual dimensions of your tray, you may find a tapered box is pretty useless in terms of usable space. I looked at a couple for my Dmax, and decided that for the cost, they weren’t going to add enough storage to be worth while fitting anyway.

PCOR tray and tool box
Most 4WD’s designed for off road work will fit tapered tool boxes or they get knocked

Water tanks and batteries

A lot of people fit 4WD water tanks in place of underbody tool boxes. If you are going to do this, I’d recommend only in front of the rear axle (which means you can’t do it for dual cab Utes). Having even 20L of water right at the back of your vehicle isn’t a good idea, unless you are very light overall.

Avoid getting aluminium tanks too (the plastic ones are the go), as they have a habit of cracking on corrugations. I’ve seen it happen a few times, and when you depend on the water, its a big problem.

I have seen people install batteries in these too, which is possible, but not always a good idea. The weight can be a problem, and they are also in a location that is likely to get wiped out in the event of an accident, or off road mishap.

Underbody water tank
You can fit a range of different tanks in place too

Do you need underbody tool boxes?

Underbody tool boxes are fantastic, if they are useful to you, and they don’t hinder your departure angle. Some of them look absolutely incredible, and finish off a 4WD to complete perfection.

I chose not to fit them on our Dmax as the gain vs cost just wasn’t there. However, I can see them as handy units for recovery gear, rubbish and dirty gear that you don’t want in your car or canopy.

Underbody tool box in front
Fitting these in front of the rear wheels is a very sensible location
Front and rear underbody toolbox
Do you need an underbody tool box?

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