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Selecting the Right Truck Rack for the Job

Auto Attitude blog car truckWhen you’re looking for the perfect truck rack to meet your equipment hauling needs, you want to find a reliable rack that works as hard as you do. There are a number of truck racks available, and it can be overwhelming to decide which one is right for you. Our product experts have highlighted some important considerations necessary for you to get the right ladder rack for the jobs you’ll throw at it.

Bed Extenders vs. Over Bed Racks

Both bed extenders and over bed racks significantly increase the carrying capacity of your vehicle, and choosing which one is right for you depends on not only personal preference, but also how much you’re hauling, and whether you want to be able to move your racks from one vehicle to another.

Truck bed extenders are extremely easy to install, don’t require any drilling, and typically attach to your truck hitch. Many models are adjustable to various heights, and some can be flipped vertically for roof rack loads. Bed extenders are easy to store when not in use, and can be quickly transferred from one vehicle to another. This is perfect if you want to be able to transfer the extender between vehicles. Bed extenders make it easy to load and unload drywall, lumber, ladders, piping, kayaks, canoes and other materials without having to lift anything over your head. 

There are a few disadvantages to truck bed extenders. While convenient, using a truck bed extender means you’re still taking up valuable cargo space in the bed of your truck. Because the extender is hitch mounted, you won’t be able to pull a trailer to make up for the lost storage room. Truck bed extenders also add length to already long vehicles, something to keep in mind if you’re going to be parking in a tight area.

If both parking space and cargo space are at a premium, you might want to look into an over bed rack. With an over bed rack you are able to add an extra level of storage to your truck for building materials or small boats, all while leaving space for coolers, tool boxes, gas cans and more in the bed of the truck.

Unfortunately, over bed racks have some downsides of their own. Over bed racks don’t have the flexibility of being moved from one vehicle to another as easily as bed extenders as most of them require drilling or some form of mounting hardware to be installed. In addition, over bed racks are typically more expensive and do require overhead lifting for loading and unloading.

Half Width Racks vs. Full Width Racks

For the most part, what you’re carrying will determine whether you need a half width or full width truck rack. Half width racks will only take up about half the space that a full width rack would. Attaching to one cab wall, half racks allow you to carry narrow cargo like a ladder, kayak, or a few pieces of lumber while allowing taller items, like ATVs, furniture, or oversized building supplies to remain in the truck bed. Half width racks also weigh less than their full width counterparts, something to take into consideration if you’re concerned about weight.

While half width racks can be extremely convenient, allowing for additional storage of taller items in the truck bed, sometimes a full width rack is necessary. Full width racks are ideal for carrying multiple kayaks, sheets of drywall, plywood, and other wide items. Full width racks will still let you make use of cargo space in your truck bed, but won’t allow for any extra tall items to be carried. For the best of both worlds, try using two half width racks with enough space in between to still allow for taller items in the truck bed.

Aluminum vs. Steel                                    

Most truck racks are made from either steel or aluminum. Both materials have their advantages and disadvantages, depending on what you’re going to be using the rack for. Steel racks are extremely strong and durable, and are often cheaper in price than aluminum racks. Because of the density of the material, steel racks have a greater resistance to fatigue and bending than aluminum, and will work well if you’re loading and unloading heavy materials multiple times a day. While many steel racks are powder coated to make them last longer, steel is still more susceptible to rust and corrosion than aluminum. Keep this in mind if you will be traveling in areas that use salt on the roads during the winter. If weight is a concern when choosing your truck rack, aluminum might be your best choice. Aluminum is not as dense as steel, and aluminum racks typically will weigh about 1/3 less than their steel counterparts, giving your truck better gas mileage.


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