Hello Remodelaholics! Sarah here with The Created Home, and today I’m bringing you a DIY build that will improve your life immeasurably. Okay, it will at least help a little. There is nothing like a long car trip with small children. No, nothing at all quite like it. I would love to tell you that I have found the solution to making it a breeze, to ensure your children never fight and hardly notice the passing time. That may be the impossible dream, but this simple build is a DIY to the rescue that can at least help make the road a bit smoother.
This custom car organizer can be fit to any size car, is strapped into the vehicle’s latch system for safety, keeps their drinks and toys within reach, and features a drawer for car snacks so that you don’t have to have everything crammed at your feet or theirs. Want to build one? Here’s how!
How to Build a Backseat Car Organizer
(with hidden snack storage!)
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- 2- 2×4′ 1/2″ plywood OR 1- 2×4′ 1/2″ ply and 1- 1x8x6 dimensional board
- 2 – 2×4 scraps at about 2 1/2″
- Car latch strap
- paint or stain
- wood glue
- drawer pull
- Kreg Pocket Hole Jig (you can make this without it if you don’t have one but we highly recommend it)
- brad nailer
- spade or other large bit
- tape measure
- trim router and round over bit (optional)
- circular saw or table saw
For the main box:
*All cut from 1/2″ ply unless using 1×8 boards, in which case cut the first four boards – the box sides – using the 1×8 ripped to 6 1/2″
- 2 – 20 x 6 1/2″ (front and back sides of box)
- 2 – 13 1/2 x 6 1/2″ (left and right sides of box)
- 1 – 19 x 13 1/2″ (box base)
- 2 – 3 3/4 x 13 1/2″ (left and right side divider)
- 1 – 10 x 13 1/2″ (middle divider)
- 2 – 3 3/4 x 3″ (cup divider)
- 2 – 2 1/2 x 14″ (bottom support)
Cut from 2×4:
- 2 – 2 1/2″ x about 1 1/2″
For the drawer:
*All cut from plywood
- 1 – 18 3/4 x 13 1/2″ (base)
- 2 – 13 1/2 x 1 3/8″ (sides)
- 1 – 17 3/4″ x 1 3/8″ (back)
- 1 – 18 3/4 x 1 7/8″ (front)
How to make a DIY car organizer
From Remodelaholic: Please remember, this blog is for entertainment purposes only. As with ALL of our free DIY projects and tutorials, be certain to read over the complete tutorial before starting a project. Build at your own risk and be smart, be safe. We will not be responsible for any injury or damage incurred while following a tutorial from our site. None of our posts should be considered expert advice; please consult a professional when needed, read all safety and instruction manuals, and take all safety precautions. All projects performed following instructions found on this site are done at your own risk.
Step 1: Measure your vehicle and cut out pieces
This organizer is made to fit our truck and is designed to compliment the car seats on either side of it. I wanted the organizer to sit close to the height of the Diono car seats we use, which have a lower profile than most. Make any adjustments necessary before continuing, then cut out all of the pieces. I used a table saw, but a circular saw is great for this.
Step 2: Cut holes for the strap and carry handle
Cut the holes for the strap in the back panel (20 x 6 1/2″ piece). The holes should be 2″ high and 3/4″ wide. Place them about 4 inches from the sides of the box. Cut a notch in the back of the middle divider (10 x 13 1/2″), about half inch from the bottom, using the same dimensions. If you would like to have a carry handle you can also cut a long hole in the top of the middle divider. Place it down about 1″, and about 1″ wide so fingers can fit through easily.
Here is a look at how the strap fits through the finished organizer.
Step 3: Assemble the main box
You can join the box via pocket hole screws if you like. I used glue and brad nails, and it went together quickly. if you have them, clamps are helpful here to hold the pieces in place while nailing.
Step 4: Attach the base
The base piece fits down in the box, just over 2″ from the bottom so the drawer can fit easily. The best way I know how to do this is to stack some material underneath to the correct height and then fasten it in place with pocket holes.
If you use pocket holes be aware that 1/2″ plywood is actually 7/16″, which messes with the holes. I adjusted for this by lowering the collar on the Kreg bit just slightly and making a few practice holes in a scrap piece of ply.
When the exit hole looked like the correct size and pocket hole attached to another 1/2″ piece correctly, I knew it was good to go. That sounds like a lot, but the whole thing only took a few extra minutes. I attached the base piece via Spax screws, since I didn’t have an 3/4″ Kreg screws on hand. They worked great!
Step 5: Add the dividers
I attached the dividers (13 1/2″ x 3 3/4″ pieces) three inches in from the edges.
My reasoning was that my kids’ water bottles fit nicely in that space. You can measure this precisely, but I believe this size should work for most beverage containers. Attach the 3 3/4 x 3″ pieces three inches back to create a 3″ square space for the drinks. I glued them in pace and added a couple brad nails where I could, but glue does the heavy lifting here.
The middle divider fits between the two outside dividers and is also glued and nailed in place. Be sure the notch is to the back.
You can run the strap through at this point to ensure it fits.
Step 6: Build the drawer
The sides of the drawer sit on top of the base, with the exception of the front piece.
Glue and nail them from the bottom.
Attach the pull to the front piece, and then glue and nail the piece to the rest of the drawer.
Step 7: Attach the bottom supports and lifters
The 2 1/2″ x 14″ pieces serve as the base and as drawer supports.
They are attached via glue and brad nails.
Vehicle seats tip back slightly for comfort. The organizer will not sit evenly unless you add a couple pieces as feet to the back of the divider. I had 1 1/4″ thick pieces that worked perfectly. You’ll want to test this out in your car to make sure they are the correct thickness. Then glue and attach.
Your car organizer is now constructed!
If you wish you can use a trim router to round the edges for a smoother look. Or leave it as is if you prefer. I painted mine black to match the truck.
If you are painting, and you want a smoother edge than plywood allows, simply grab some Bondo filler and smooth over the edges. It dries fast, and is easy to sand.
You can see how smooth it looks once painted. This only works if painting, as the Bondo does not take stain.
Attach the strap to your vehicle’s latch system. This feature ensures that the organizer doesn’t fly around the vehicle in the event of an accident, but keeps it from flying forward during sudden stops, as well. The strap is only a few bucks on Amazon and is well worth it.
The final step is to go for a drive!
We used this organizer for the first time on a recent trip, and it worked great. I love that the trip food is so accessible now – but the kids cannot reach it. It always gets so cluttered in there during long drives, and I don’t like having to unstrap and turn around to reach food in the back seat. This drawer is not reachable by the kids in their seats, but it is easy for an adult in the passenger seat to grab.
The kids love being able to reach their stuff, and I love not having to hand them something every two seconds. I mean, I really, really love that part.
Remember, this is a custom organizer, so make it any way you like it! I kept it simple with just a few compartments, but you build this in any configuration that works for you.
If you build one be sure to share your version, and happy road tripping!
More kid-friendly DIY ideas:
cottage style bunkbed playhouse — and it’s an IKEA hack!