How to build low profile storage boxes in your SUV

by Contributor

Ever wish that you could find an inexpensive way to organize stuff that clutters the back of your SUV? Do you want to be able to haul bigger cargo without unloading all the smaller stuff? Do you hunt or shoot and need a way to cary firearms and gear securely and out of the way?
If you answered yes to any of these questions then this article is for you!
You can follow the instructions precisely, or it may inspire you to come up with your very own storage solution! Anyone with basic wood working skills can do this in a weekend. This idea will work in the back of almost any SUV, truck or even in the trunk of a car.

Measure length from the back side of the rear seats to the rear door.

Before you jump right in and stat cutting you need to make a simple plan. Get a piece of paper, a pencil, and a tape measure. Measure the area in the back of your SUV, truck, or car, that you want the storage box to fit into. First measure how long you want the box to be. Measure from the back of the rear seats to the back door or hatch.

Measure the width at the narrowest point.

Measure from side to side at the narrowest place. Leave just a little space, about 1/8"-1/4" on both sides so the box will slide in and still fit securely.

My box is wider in the rear (optional), so I measured for that part.

If you are good at this sort of thing, then you can make the box any size or shape to fit precisely in the back of your SUV. It is much faster and easier to simply make a rectangular shaped box. It is totally up to you. If you choose this option, measure other areas as needed.

A simple rectangle shaped box with measurements. Remember to write your own measurements, DO NOT use this diagram.

Once you are satisfied with your measurements and have them all written down on paper, you need to sketch a rough diagram. Draw a box on the paper in the shape that you measured for and write the measurements on your diagram.

An example of a rough sketch of the box I made.

Here is another diagram example. This is like the box I made. It is wider in the back. Remember to use to measurements that you took and the ones on the picture.

4

Decide how deep you want the box. I made mine 4" deep. I measured the height of the gear that I planned to put inside the box. I wanted it to be as low profile as possible while still big enough to hold my gear. Once you determine how deep you want the box to be you are ready to start building the storage box.

5

Remember that the outside measurement will be larger. Mine is 4" deep inside so the outside height measurement is 5".

Once you determine how deep you want the box to be you are ready to start building the storage box. First cut the sides. Since my box is 4" deep, I cut strips of plywood that were 4" wide, then cut the strips to the proper length. If you cut the plywood with the grain then it will not splinter as bad (I learned his from experience). Use a finish/plywood blade on your saw.

Sides glued together then reinforced with screws.

Once you get the sides cut to width and length, glue them together to form the box or boxes. You can use the long wood clamps to clamp them until the glue sets up (about 30 min). Once the glue is set up take off the clamps and use 2" drywall screws to reinforce the glue and hold the box sides together securely. It is a good idea to pre-drill the screw holes with a small 1/8" drill bit to prevent the plywood from cracking.

Once the sides are securely together and the glue is dry, now is the time to stain or paint the sides. I used Ebony oil based wood stain on mine to make them water resistant. After the stain dried I roughed up the edges and corners with a wood rasp to make it look antique and rugged (manly).

I used pegboard for the bottoms.

Measure and cut the bottom of the box or boxes out of the 1/4" pegboard. I used pegboard because I had some left over from another project. It is lightweight and sturdy, but it has holes in it... If you want you can use 1/4" plywood or a similar thin material.

Pre-drill holes with a 1/8" drill bit, then attach the bottom with 2" drywall screws. Make sure the boxes are squared up when you attach the bottom.

Securing three smaller boxes together with bolts.

Since I made 3 smaller boxes I had to clamp them together then drill holes and put bolts in them. In retrospect, it is much easier to make one large box and put dividers where you want them.

After the bottom is on, slide your box into the back of the SUV and decide how you want the lid or lids to open. I made 2 hinged lids and one lift off lid.

Measure the boxes or flip them over and trace them onto a piece of 3/4" plywood. Carefully cut out the lid and then make sure it fits. Stain or paint the lid however you want it to look.

My lids open on hinges

Attach the lids with long piano hinges. It may be necessary to cut the piano hinges to length with a hack saw or angle grinder. Use the screws that come with the hinges to attach them.

Storage box in my 4Runner.

Slide the finished boxes into your SUV and stand back to admire your work.

I used small metal angle brackets to secure my box to the floor of my SUV.

When you finish, you can cover the box with carpet and still use the cargo area for hauling bigger things.

Tips

  • check Measure twice, cut once
  • check Be creative, build the storage box that works best for you
  • check Use cardboard to make a template for angles or curves

Warning

  • close Wear safety glasses when cutting or grinding

Items you will need

About the Author

This article was written by the It Still Runs team, copy edited and fact checked through a multi-point auditing system, in efforts to ensure our readers only receive the best information. To submit your questions or ideas, or to simply learn more about It Still Runs, contact us.