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DIY Cargo Step Box

DIY Cargo Step Box

I like to tinker, which means I’m always happy to fix or build something.  When all of my projects are finished, I start looking for a problem that needs a unique solution.  You may be looking at the picture at the top of this page wondering, “what problem is he trying to address here?”  Glad you asked!

What’s the Problem Here?

If you have an SUV (or a vehicle with a large cargo area), you likely have issues with smaller items rolling around the back of your vehicle–maybe it is some bags of groceries or small parts from the local hardware store.  Not only is this irritating, but you risk damaging those items if left uncontrolled.  Imagine a bottle of wine getting loose and ruining a good evening planned.

Also, today’s taller vehicles are harder to reach the roof–whether you are trying to wash it, wax it or tie some cargo to the roof rack.

Wouldn’t it be great if you had a cargo box that doubled as a step?  Aha…a problem to be solved!

Introducing the Cargo Step Box

My mind works in mysterious ways, and this little project is a great example of that.  I had one of those days where I made a Costco run and needed to wax the roof of my truck.  I felt a burning need to fix that issue AND I had a ton of scrap plywood in my shop, so decided to build the Cargo Step Box with this leftover material.

Material and Process

As I thought through the design of the box, I wanted it to accomplish the following things:

  • Carry cargo enclosed in a container (this means it needs a lid)
  • Restrain grocery bags from rolling around (hooks to keep them in place)
  • Act as a step to stand on (needs to be sturdy–even for me!)

 The lid and the base needed the most strength, so I used ¾” plywood for those two pieces.  I still wanted this to be portable, so weight is a concern.  I used ½” plywood for the sides.  Plywood by its nature is strong, so proper assembly was all that it needed to ensure strength.

Once I cut the wood, assembly was easy.  I used wood glue and a nail gun (you can use finish nails if you do not have a nail gun).  I made four grocery “hooks” from leftover trim molding.  I placed them in a spot where they also help keep the lid in position when closed.

After assembly, I gave the box a quick sanding to prep for paint.

I used a latex primer (Kilz) to seal the wood surface.  Once dry, I painted the box using Rustoleum oil based paint with a 4” foam roller.  Two coats of paint did the trick.

Lastly, I glued a vinyl mat to the lid to give it some traction when used as a step (I had a cool diamond plate patterned vinyl left from another project).  I also added some door pulls to the sides (optional, but they make it easy to move it around).

This Cargo Step Box measures 25”w x 15”d x 6”h, but you can make it any size that works for you.  This size fits in any of my three vehicles–everything from a MINI to a Honda CRV.

Possible Uses

As you will see below, the box is unassuming in the back of my truck.  You can see it in its various operating positions in the cargo area and as a step outside of the vehicle.

Important safety tip:  the lid is the perfect height to restrain wine bottles that are in plastic grocery bags!  I once lost a wine bottle as it rolled out of the back of another vehicle.  It was a sad moment and killed the buzz for my evening’s activities!

Other DIY BuildsDIY Roof Rack;  DIY Rolling Shop Stool

Final Thoughts & Questions

I hope this information proves useful for you, whether you want to make a box like mine or are looking for inspiration for something more specific to your needs.  Either way, it is way more fun (and cheaper) to solve your problems with home made solutions.  That’s the intent of Vehicle Nanny–there is no need to spend big money on small problems (or on fun cars!).

Please let me know your thoughts or if you have any questions. You may email me at, or message me through the Vehicle Nanny Instagram or Facebook pages. 

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