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Which filing cabinets are best?

Though the world may be going digital, many people and businesses still need to store many physical files. If you want to do that in a neat and organized manner, a dedicated file cabinet is the way to go. Unlike shelves, they don’t keep your files on full display, which can quickly make an office look cluttered. Plus, many can be locked for document security if needed.

Along with the storage capacity and additional features, such as locks or wheels, the aesthetics of a cabinet should impact your purchase. This is especially true for the many people putting together home offices these days. If you fall into this group, you’ll be happy to know there are many options like the Bush Furniture Key West 2 Drawer Lateral File Cabinet that are attractive enough to be placed in any room in a home. Of course, businesses that need a lot of capacity and care little for aesthetics will most likely prefer a standard four or five-drawer metal model.

What to know before you buy a filing cabinet

Types of filing cabinets

Filing cabinets come in vertical and lateral types.

  • Vertical file cabinets hold their files in a front-to-back organization, which means they usually have deep drawers. This also means they don’t take up too much wall space, making them ideal for personal workspaces that may not be very large. That said, they do require a lot of clearance in the front to pull the drawers out.
  • Lateral file cabinets hold their files in a side-to-side organization, having wide but often shallow drawers. These take up more wall space but don’t require a lot of clearance in front to fully pull out the drawers. Some lateral file cabinets allow you to arrange their hangers in a front-to-back organization if you prefer, but the opposite is not true for vertical file cabinets.

There are also flat file cabinets, which hold your files lying completely flat. These are less common and generally only found in companies and offices that store blueprints, diagrams, artwork and other large, oversized documents.


File cabinets may be wood, plastic, metal or a combination of these materials.

  • Of these, metal is the most durable option, especially models made from galvanized steel. You can also find fireproof and floodproof metal file cabinets. Because of this, most offices that need to store important files for long periods do so in metal file cabinets. 
  • Wood file cabinets may be particleboard, medium-density fiberboard or solid wood. Solid wood models are the most durable but are also the most expensive. Particleboard and medium-density fiberboard are less durable but more affordable. A common issue with both of these materials is swelling if exposed to water or a lot of humidity.
  • Plastic is the most affordable of all the filing cabinet construction materials, but it is also the least attractive and unsuitable for most professional settings. That said, if you just need to store some personal files at home and you want something lightweight and easy to move if needed, a plastic model might be the perfect option.

What to look for in a quality filing cabinet

Locking drawers

Some filing cabinets feature lockable drawers. These will often have a single keyhole that locks and unlocks all of the drawers at once. These are ideal for storing files with sensitive information, such as clients’ financial or health records. 

Label holders

While not necessary for the average home office or somewhere that only has a single file cabinet with one or two drawers, label holders can be very helpful for businesses that need to store many files. It makes it easy to identify what files are in a particular drawer without opening all of them. The labels are temporary, and you can switch them whenever needed in the future.


Some small file cabinets sit on wheels, so you can move them around as needed. People with small home offices may appreciate the ability to roll their file cabinets underneath their desks at the end of the day, so it doesn’t leave the area looking cluttered. 

Anti-tip mechanism

Drawers loaded up with a lot of files can get very heavy, leading to a file cabinet tipping over if more than one drawer is opened simultaneously. To eliminate this risk, some models have an anti-tipping mechanism that prevents users from opening more than one drawer at a time.

How much can you expect to spend on a filing cabinet

Filing cabinets vary greatly in price depending on the size, aesthetics and build materials. Small, one or two-drawer plastic and particle board models may cost anywhere from $50-$150. Metal and solid wood filing cabinets, as well as highly decorative ones designed to look like home furniture, may cost anywhere from $150-$1,000.

Filing cabinet FAQ

Do filing cabinets require assembly?

A. Some filing cabinets require assembly and some do not. Often plastic and metal options don’t require any user assembly, while most wood models do. You can usually determine if a particular model requires assembly by reading the product details or previous buyer reviews.

Can I remove the hangers from a file cabinet so I can use the drawers for all-purpose storage?

A. On most, but not all, filing cabinets, the metal hangers are removable so that you can use them as general all-purpose drawers.

What’s the best filing cabinet to buy?

Top filing cabinet

Bush Furniture Key West 2 Drawer Lateral File Cabinet

Bush Furniture Key West 2 Drawer Lateral File Cabinet

What you need to know: Decorative enough to be placed in any high-visibility space, the Key West 2 is the ideal choice for home offices and any companies looking to foster a more charming aesthetic.

What you’ll love: Its drawers are lateral, but the hangers are adjustable so that it allows for side-to-side or front-to-back storage. It comes in three stylish finishes, making it easy to blend in with various decors.

What you should consider: It lacks a lock for file security.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Top filing cabinet for the money

Scranton & Co 4 Drawer Letter File Cabinet

Scranton & Co 4 Drawer Letter File Cabinet

What you need to know: This standard, four-drawer file cabinet features a heavy-duty galvanized steel construction that can stand up to high-volume use in busy offices.

What you’ll love: It features label holders for efficient file retrieval, and it has a lock to keep the contents safe. Plus, it is made with partially recycled materials, making it an eco-friendly choice.

What you should consider: Some users have received cabinets that were dented during shipping.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Worth checking out

Stockpile 3-Drawer File Cabinet

Stockpile 3-Drawer File Cabinet

What you need to know: This small file cabinet has a fun modern look and can be wheeled underneath a desk at the end of the day to hide it out of sight.

What you’ll love: It comes in a wide range of unusual colors, including bright yellow, vibrant green and rich deep red. It is also lockable and features a pencil tray and divider for its small upper drawers.

What you should consider: Its limited capacity may not be enough for some users.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon


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Brett Dvoretz writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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