How to secure tools in a rented work space?

Hello all! After many years of waiting, I’m going to rent a two-car garage to use as a workshop. It’s about a quarter mile from my place, and I can’t be there every day.

My question is how do I store my tools so that nobody tries to steal them? The garage is locked, but I’ve had tools stolen from locked storage areas before. I have about twelve power tools, none stationary (though that might eventually change) and the usual assortment of chisels, clamps, planes, etc. Not much, but I can’t afford much else.

My first thought is to toss them all in a few storage bins like this one:
This one happens to be lockable. I like it because it doesn’t scream “Expensive tools inside!” And I could even label them “fertilizer” or something. But they aren’t very convenient to use. If I used two, I think I couldn’t stack them because the top one would be too heavy to move easily.

I’ve thought about building lockable front-opening plywood boxes that can stack or go on a shelf, but that’s a fair amount of trouble.

Thanks everybody!

Those Actionpacker bins are handy–I’ve used them in the past, I didn’t know you could still get them. They are good for organization but they are not very secure, it wouldn’t take much effort to break into one so I wouldn’t trust them to keep crooks out. I’d suggest looking at a “jobsite chest” aka “jobsite lock box”, they’re built for this exact purpose. Another thought would be a truck bed tool box.

Whatever you get make sure it’s either extremely large/heavy or it is anchored to the ground/walls, otherwise crooks will simply steal the whole container and then break into it at their leisure off-site.

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@MechaMan ,

Thanks for the tip. I didn’t know about jobsite boxes.

I have to say, though, I wonder if they’re overkill. Unlike with a construction site or the back of a pickup truck, thieves won’t expect my rented garage to have a lot of tools inside (it’s in the middle of the city.) Also, the cheapest box I can find is about $350, which is kind of high for me (why is the orange model cheaper than the black?) I wonder if there’s a something cheaper that provides less protection but more than those Actionpacker bins?


Mecha covered all but one of my suggestions. I would add an AirTag (or Tile) in an inconspicuous location to the box(es). I would then set the alert for the tag(s) to ignore the address of the rental property. In the event anyone tries to make off with them- you’d be able to track the location of the boxes and depending on how you configure the tracker an alert can be sent if the tag moves without you.

Using the information comes with its own risks and complications- but it could (I’m being optimistic) lead to you being able to confront and get the thief to return them. Also possible, Depending where you live, the police may or may not use that information.

Finally I’d be remiss not to warn of the risk and danger of confronting a thief. To be clear I’m not advising you to do so- and would recommend pursuing any theft through the police and legal channels.



That’s a good idea, thanks!

If you’re looking for a deal on a jobsite box or a truck tool box look around for ones that are marked down due to scratch-and-dent damage (they are often scraped up during shipping), or consider used ones. There are several truck tool boxes on my local Craiglist asking $200 or $250; a few jobsite boxes ranging from $100 to $250. I just learned that those are also called “gang boxes” so that’s another term to search under.

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I saw on reddit under a discussion someone who lives in a very bad for burglary neighborhood. He found tool insurance which is very affordable, maybe $10/month. The only catch is you need to document everything, I think pictures and serial numbers. I dont remember the provider name but its a consideration.
Other thoughts are storing the tools in a way that looks not valuable. One trick is storing under trash in a large trash can. Other thoughts are a loud motion sensitive alarm and maybe a game camera somewhere not obvious to document if something happens.

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@MechaMan That’s a good idea too. Thanks again!

Renter’s insurance is a good idea, bikefrog. It’s worth looking into.
Another idea I’ve come across for people looking for adding security to a garage is to get an old vending machine, remove the vending mechanism, and use that as a locker. Vending machines are strongly built so they provide quite good security on their own, and they also don’t look like a safe or a tool box or anything that someone might want to break into. A crook who sees a beat-up old soda machine will probably walk right by it while a tool chest or even a generic cabinet invites curiosity as to what’s inside it.


Excellent idea! I’ve heard renter’s insurance is cheap too.

I like the idea of hiding things so they don’t look valuable. That was behind my idea of using cheap but lockable plastic storage bins. I even considered buying a used garden hose to throw on top.

I like the idea of an alarm, but I’d want something that could notify me via wifi or something. Any suggestions?

Although I haven’t used them- You could add ring cameras. They send alerts when people approach

Like Mike_McFalls mentioned you could use “ring” cameras or similar meant for home security. Another option are “trail cameras” which are normally meant for outdoor use. Some of these just save photos or video to a memory card but many of them can use Wi-Fi or text you pics/video as it is taken.

Also, to take a step back: Make sure the garage door has a decent quality lock on it, many locks can be opened with minimal skill on the part of a crook or with a cheap tool that requires no skill to use. Also check with the landlord to make sure the lock has been changed or re-keyed. You want to make sure that only you and they have keys.

@MechaMan @Mike_McFalls

Thanks for the tips! I’ll look at Ring cameras. I’ll also look at the door again. I know there’s a master key, because a tenant of the house next door used it to show me the garage. I might have to add another lock or something.

arlo cams are also great

and your home insurnace provider might offer you a rider addition for cheap. but shop it around.

Thing is - if someone just has to have them - they can and will. so I wouldn’t get too deep in the protection.

box of some sort that is fairly strong - and chain it to the building. if you build cabinets or buy some - or even use filing cabinets - chain or bolt them to the walls. I like an old repurposed file cabinet personally.

when you get into stationary tools or some form - also make a rig so they are attached to the building when you aren’t there.

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All good tips, thanks.

I’m thinking my first line of defense is that it’s not a construction site or obvious workshop, so people won’t be expecting $2,000 worth of tools inside. Even if they do get in, I’m hoping they’ll overlook an inconspicuous box. If they do notice it, it’ll be hard to get into and hard to carry off. At least, that’s the plan!