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Minivan Storage

HomeFinishers's picture

I am a general handyman in Baltimore and I don't always  know what tasks a client will have for me when I show up.  Even when I get a list ahead of time, there are always those"while you're here" items.  So I like to bring everything I think I'll need to a job.  

That's fine for all of you guys with E-series vans, or big pick ups, but I'm working out of a minivan.  It started as a necessity, because that's what I owned, but I've come to realize that it's as close to ideal as I can get for my many different, sometimes competing, needs.  It's the right size for most of what I do, it fits my gear (now that I've added a few things) and I still have room for the morning grade-school carpool.  If I need extra space I can pull out the bench seat in a snap.  As a bonus, I think the minivan flies under the radar of those with prying eyes because it looks like a thousand other family minivans.


My original setup had most of my tools in buckets with those nylon pocketed sleeves and a tool bag with the items I most commonly used.  That got old after a while because the buckets were hard to reach and some tools got buried.  I also saw the space above the buckets as wasted because it's hard to stack things on top of overflowing buckets.

I looked in the forums here and on other sites to see what other storage options folks have come up with.  There were some for vans, and some for pickups, but I didn't see anything for minivans other than on factory sites.

So over winter break this past year I finally broke down and built the drawers and boxes shown here.  Everything is 1/2-inch birch ply.  I figured 3/4 was overkill and I wanted to save a little weight.  No fancy joinery; just glue and 16-gauge brads.  The drawer boxes are waxed on all sides for easy sliding, even with about 45 pounds of gear in each.  I added simple D-ring pulls and drilled the back of the case for air vents to make opening and closing easier.  The sliding trays rest on strips of 1/2 inch ply tacked to the inside of the drawers.

The "cargo boxes" are the same construction with cutout handles on four sides. They have drop-in shelves that rest on 3/4-by-3/4 blocks.  The boxes hold larger and loose tools like my circ saw, recip saw, drain auger and some 12-inch clamps.  Tools with multiple accessories, like a corded drill with hole saws and wire wheels, stay in their factory cases and slot in on the side.  I also keep all of my chargers and spare batteries in the case that my cordless drill came in.  (I used a Dremel to remove all of the interior gussets and dividers to get more space.)

I left all of the plywood unfinished as sort of an experiment to see what kind of "patina" would develop, though I added a scrap of very nice carpet to the top deck of the drawers to keep things from sliding around.

Over this spring break I organized the loose items I carry with me into clear plastic bins, and I finally got the bright idea to hang my step ladder from the small built-in clothes hooks with bungees.

It all takes about 30 minutes to empty out and everything totaled up weighs about 425 pounds.  I get about 14 mpg loaded, vs 20 on a recent tool-less family trip.

I'd love to know what you guys think about this setup.  Any suggestions?  Anything you would have done differently?


Rich Dowd

I like it (post #201451, reply #1 of 4)

Simple and effective.

I like what you've done with (post #201451, reply #2 of 4)

I like what you've done with your Minivan!

I'm a DIY who uses his 2003 Kia Sedona as his "work truck".  I like the way you've set up your tools fot nead and easy transport, but my question for you is:

"How do you transport materials with a Minivan?"

This is what I do, and I can't see how you could do the same with your setup

Sheet Goods:

With my vehical, the rear door opening is exactly 4' wide... about 6" off the floor!  That means any sheet good cannot simply be placed on the floor and shoved in.  When this happens, I need to bring along a bucket or two.  This allows the sheet good to rest on the folded down middle seats in the front, and on the buckets in the rear.

Long goods (Lumber/pipe):

There is a path directly down the center of my vehical where I can place about a dozen 2x4x8' boards.  The will wedge between the seats, but I have to stack them carefully otherwise they will not allow me to shift into drive!  Along the passenger side, between the seats and the door, there is a narrow area where I can get in thin but long pieces, such as 10' lengths of threaded rod or conduit.

For transporting longer pieces, I have a bed extender.  It looks like a goal post attached to a 4' tube coming out my hitch point.  It's not really used to carry weight - it's used to keep loads from shifting side to side and keep stuff from tilting back out.  With this I can easily transport 16' long boards (10' of the span rests on the floor of the minivan), I've even used it to transport 20' long pieces... very very carefully!

I think in the future I'd like to build a "roof rack" that would mount to the front tow hook points and the rear trailer hitch, keeing a load securly suspended overhead - or possibly a side carry system that would allow me to carry the long boards beside the passenger side.

YAY!  I love WYSISYG editing!  And Spellcheck!


I like it. (post #201451, reply #3 of 4)

I like it.  Of course, I'm biased since my van looks like this:

rear.jpg56.88 KB

Van pics (post #201451, reply #4 of 4)


  I really like the drawers you built.  How much shorter are the trays in the drawers than the drawers themselves.

I would like to build something like it if you don't mind me copying you.