Gladiator cabinets are a really good low-cost option if you’re looking to add a little more storage space to your garage. But they have two different lineups of cabinets and it can get a little confusing to try to decide between the two.
I’ve got a few cabinets from each lineup so I thought it might be useful to do a comparison between the Gladiator Premier vs RTA (Ready-To-Assemble) cabinet lines.
Let me be clear about one thing right off the bat: Gladiator is not a top-of-the-line garage cabinet. Don’t go looking for me to say they’re “the best” because it’s not going to happen.
If you’re looking for top-of-the-line, and you’re prepared to shell out a lot of money to get it, I recommend something like Vault Garage or BaldHead Cabinets. Once I make my millions, a garage full of Vault cabinets is high on my wish list.
For now, I have better things to spend my money on.
I wanted great looking garage storage but can’t justify thousands of dollars for each cabinet. That’s a big reason why I went with Gladiator GarageWorks.
Gladiator costs about a third as much as Vault or BaldHead and gives you a great value for the money.
Even when you look at Craftsman or other “tool-guy” cabinets that you can buy at Lowe’s or Home Depot, the Gladiator cabinets cost several hundred dollars less.
You also get a cohesive look for your entire garage instead of buying this cabinet from Company A and this other cabinet from Company B.
They’ve got a good, all-around lineup that you can be happy with, without paying a fortune for it.
Still with me?
Gladiator makes two distinct lines of cabinets, so let’s get to the differences between the Gladiator Premier vs RTA cabinets.
My Gladiator cabinets
To give you a little background, I’ve got several different Gladiator cabinets from both the Premier and Ready To Assemble lineup.
For large cabinets, I’ll be comparing my Gladiator Ready-to-Assemble Large Gearbox (GALG36KDYG) to my Premier Tall-Gearbox (GATB302DRG). This is a straightforward comparison because both cabinets fill essentially the same slot in each lineup.
The RTA Large GearBox is noticeably bigger. It’s 72″ tall by 36″ wide whereas the Premier Tall GearBox is shorter and narrower (65″ tall by 30″ wide). Both cabinets are 18″ deep.
On the smaller side, things are a little different. I’ll be comparing my 28″ Ready-to-Assemble 3/4 Wall GearBox (GAWG28KDYG) to my Premier 30″ Wall GearBox (GAWG302DRG).
The Premier GearBox has a door that runs the full height height of the cabinet. By contrast, the door on the RTA 3/4 GearBox only covers the top three quarters of the cabinet – hence the name. Below that is an exposed shelf for smaller items as well as an opening for an electrical cord.
There were some glaring differences between these two cabinets right out of the box. Some of them, honestly, I wish I knew before I bought them.
In a nutshell, that’s why I wanted to write this article.
Gap (and screws) or no gap?
The Gladiator RTA cabinets obviously aren’t going to fit together as well as the Premier cabinet that’s professionally welded from the factory.
I wanted to know if it’s really noticeable.
The Gladiator RTA cabinets have two matte-black screws on each corner, which stand out against the hammered-steel finish. Each side is connected by eight total screws and there aren’t any other connections on the side panel other than that.
I had about a 1 mm gap along the side panels in some places, but nothing that was obvious from more than a few inches away. It’s big enough that water could leak inside so you couldn’t use the RTA cabinets outside and you’d need to be careful when cleaning them.
The Premier cabinet isn’t seamless, but it’s much harder to see where the bottom piece meets the side panel unless you’re looking for it. There’s no gap where the side panels meet either the top or the bottom panels. Everything is sealed all the way along the edge, except for a little gap right at the corner.
Still not watertight, but a whole lot closer than the RTA cabinet is.
Both the Premier and Ready-to-Assemble cabinets have movable shelves that attach using tabs tabs on each side. You can slide the shelf up and down as long as there’s a slot for the tabs to go in.
The Premier cabinet has six connection tabs, two on each side and two in the back. The RTA cabinet only has the four tabs (two on each side) that connect to the side panels.
Those extra tabs on the Premier cabinets help give it a higher weight capacity on each shelf: 50 lbs. compared to only 40 lbs. for the RTA cabinet.
I’ve hit on the major differences between the Gladiator Premier and RTA cabinets, but there are some other differences as well.
I’ll highlight a few of them here.
Every double-door Premier cabinet from the smallest Wall GearBox to the free-standing Tall GearBox comes with a circular key lock and two keys.
The single door 24″ Premiere cabinet doesn’t have a lock.
Many of the Ready-to-Assemble cabinets have locks, but some of the cheaper ones like my 3/4 door GearBox do not.
If you’re into peghooks, the doors of the Premier lineup have slots built-in that you can add peghooks or ringhooks for extra storage.
Bigger door magnets
It’s a little thing, but it makes a big difference.
The door magnets in the Gladiator Premier line run all the way along the top and bottom of the door. The entire length metal is one big connection point so when the door closes, it stays closed.
No wiggling or vibrating.
The RTA cabinets only have a small magnet in the middle of one shelf so it doesn’t feel as solid when you’re opening or closing the door.
Finally, the Premier cabinets come with a lifetime warranty. The warranty for the RTA cabinets is ten years. That’s still pretty impressive, but the Premier gives you a little extra piece of mind.
What gauge steel are Gladiator cabinets?
Gladiator is pretty up-front in telling us that the Premier line is made with a thicker grade steel than the Ready To Assemble (RTA) lineup. But they don’t tell you how much thicker it is.
So, the first thing I did was get a digital micrometer and measured them. Then I compared it to the US Code Title 15, Section 206 which is the Standard Gauge for sheet and plate iron and steel (link here).
Now before somebody comments that I’m not being exact enough in my measurements, take a breath. I’m trying to get a rough idea of what gauge steel they use so I’m only going to the hundredth of a millimeter as a margin of error.
First up was my Gladiator Premier Wall GearBox. At 0.94 mm thickness, that puts it right about 20 gauge steel.
Next was my Gladiator Ready-To-Assemble 3/4 Wall GearBox. At 0.76 mm thick, that’s somewhere between 22 gauge and 23 gauge steel.
Since I rounded up slightly for the Premier cabinet, let’s call the RTA 22 gauge steel.
The thicker gauge steel of the Premier cabinet increases the amount of weight it can take.
The Premier is rated for 200 lbs total weight and up to 50 lbs per shelf. The RTA cabinet is only rated for 150 lbs overall and 40 lbs per shelf.
How much do Gladiator cabinets cost?
The Gladiator Premier cabinets have between a $30 and $100 premium to the closest equivalent Ready-To-Assemble cabinet. Your mileage may vary because you can usually find them on sale through Amazon or one of your local big-box stores.
My 30″ Premier Wall GearBox lists for $249 while the 28″ RTA Full-Door Wall GearBox retails for $215. When they’re on sale, those prices normally drop to around $220 for the Premier and $160 for the RTA.
The Premier Tall GearBox normally retails for $449 while the Ready-to-Assemble Large Gearbox lists for $319. I ended up paying $380 for my Premier Tall Gearbox and $299 for my RTA Large GearBox.
I seem to have gotten my Gladiator Premier cabinets at the right time because they’re a bit hard to find right now.
Lowe’s, Home Depot, Amazon and even Gladiator’s own online store have all sold out. I reached out to the company and they said that they’re having production shortages. If you find a Premier cabinet at a decent price, I’d recommend snatching it up.
Gladiator RTA cabinets are pretty easy to find. I see them all the time at my local Lowe’s and they’re also available on Amazon and at Gladiator’s website.
I wouldn’t ever recommend buying them directly through Gladiator though. They’ll occasionally run a sale around holidays, but it’s usually still higher than everybody else’s prices.
In my opinion, the extra cost for the wall cabinets is pretty fair considering you get a much heavier-duty cabinet that you don’t have to assemble. I’ll gladly but more of them if I end up needing more space.
Looking back, I’m not sure I’d go with the Premier Tall GearBox again. It’s a smaller unit. Sure the heavy duty shelves can hold more weight, but the heavy stuff can just as easily be put on steel racks instead.
Instead I’d opt for another RTA Large GearBox which has more storage space inside.
All things being equal, I’d prefer to have all my cabinets be the Premier line. The build quality is excellent for the cost and I love not having to assemble them myself.
But all things aren’t equal and some cabinets are only available in the RTA line. The important thing for me was to pick and choose what I was going to put in them before I decided which cabinet to buy.
Gladiator Premier and RTA cabinets aren’t perfect by any means, but they’re a great, low-cost option to add a little style to your garage organization.