Which Bed Liner is the Best?

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Which Bed Liner is the Best?
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A pickup truck without a bedliner feels like a foot without a sock or a cell phone without a case. For quite some time, a simple sheet of plywood was the unofficial bed protector of America, but modern day pickup trucks are almost all outfitted with the latest and greatest bedliners made from a variety of materials. So which one is best for you?

What are the Options?

Chevy-Silverado-Bed

A bed without a liner

There are many kinds of bedliners, ranging from rubber mats to outdoor carpet material, available from aftermarket manufacturers, but just two types are available directly from manufacturers: either a spray-in liner or a drop-in liner. These two have proven to be the most affective at the job of protecting the bed, although each has its own sets of advantages and disadvantages.

Pros and Cons

Drop-in liners are the cheaper option of the two. A drop-in bedliner is essentially a form fitted plastic sheet that is literally “dropped in” to the bed and then fastened with bolts. For the most part, a drop-in bedliner ordered directly from the factory will protect the entire bed, although there are other versions with that will only protect the floor. There is also a choice of under the rail or over the rail, which denotes whether or not the liner will wrap over or under the steel lip at the top of the bed.

So why would you want a drop-in liner? There are a variety of reasons and it comes down to how your truck is used. The hard plastic used to form this type of bedliner allows things to be slid across it easily, making loading large objects, especially with a forklift, much simpler. Besides that a drop-in bedliner can be replaced easily with little prep work and it can also hide current damage.

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Ford's BedRug option

Ford’s BedRug option

However, drop-in liners are generally regarded as less rugged than spray-in liners for a few reasons. Water can easily be trapped between the plastic and steel, which will cause your bed to rust. They can also break and become loose over time. This is aggravated because it is relatively easy to snag the edge of a drop-in liner and pull part of it up, which is almost impossible to fix. To top it off, the fact that things slide on these liners can also make them a pain when transporting large objects in the bed.

Spray-in liners address many of those issues right off the bat. First off, spay-in liners are permanent. They won’t shift, break or possibly fall out because the polyurethane elastomer used adheres directly to the bed. This offers protection for the bed as well, blocking water, dirt and damage that could potentially lead to rust.

Different types of spray-in liners can be purchased, but the majority use a gritty substance with a texture similar to sand paper that prevents things from sliding around. It’s nice to have grip in your bed to stop things from sliding. From a purely cosmetic stand point, a spray-in liner is also more aesthetically pleasing, as drop-in liner tend to start to look old and haggard.

Of course, there are some downsides associated with spay-in liners. First, this type of bed treatment will cost more than a drop-in liner. You can do it yourself to save some money, but having it installed at the factory is your safest bet. That is because spraying in a liner takes some prep work. You have to clean the bed thoroughly and then sand down the entire surface to make it course, which will help the liner adhere to the steel.

Finally, the fact that nothing likes to slide on a spray-in liner means that loading heavy items, especially those on pallets, will be a much bigger hassles because you can’t simply slide them into the bed.

So Who Sells What?

Spray-In liner close up

Spray-In liner close up

Each one of the five manufacturers that make half-ton pickups offers some sort of liner to protect your bed.

From the factory, the Toyota Tundra is only available with a drop-in bedliner and prices depend on the size of the bed. A short box costs $365 while a long box bedliner will cost $395. Aftermarket and dealer-installed options are also available, but pricing will vary from store to store.

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Ford offers plenty to choose from. Straight from the factory, it’s the only company that offers both a spray-in liner ($475) and a drop-in liner ($350). However, it offers a huge selection through its accessory program including drop-in rubber mats that sell for $140 and even a type of carpet that goes for $425.

GM will only sell you a spray-in bedliner from the factory for $475, while a drop-in liner has to be installed by a dealer. Unlike other dealer-installed options, GM sets the price at $385 for a dealer-installed drop-in liner. A rubber bed mat is also available through GM’s accessories program.

RAM's factory spray-in liner

RAM’s factory spray-in liner

Chrysler also offers a spray-in liner straight from the factory for $475, which can also be applied inside the optional Ram boxes. If you are looking for a Ram with a drop-in, the brand’s in-house aftermarket outfit Mopar can help you out. An under-the-rail bedliner goes for $347, and it can also be used in the truck’s Ram boxes as well.

Finally, for those interested in a Nissan Titan, getting a bedliner is a little trickier. Every other manufacturer will allow you to order the bedliner as a stand alone option, while Nissan will only apply a factory spray-in liner once you purchase the SV Utility Package which costs $1,090 and comes with other bed options including bedliners, lockable bedside storage compartments and a bed-mounted 120-volt outlet.

For drop-in liners, Nissan accessories offer a $302 option for short bed trucks and $324 for long beds, though that excludes the dealer charges for installation.

THE VERDICT

Like any purchase in the automotive world, the type of bedliner you buy has to be based on the specific uses you have in mind. If you need a liner that will allow things to be slid across it, won’t break the bank and is easily replaceable, a drop-in belongs in the back of your pickup.

But if longevity and overall protection are key and price is not an issue, a spray-in bedliner will stick with you for the life of your truck.

There is no one-size-fits-all option. Each has its own set of advantages and disadvantages, but one thing is certain: take care of your truck bed, and it will take care of you.

  • darkwolf9x

    2014 Tundras have a factory installed spray-in bedliner….

  • Stephen Elmer

    Tacomas have a factory installed spray-in option.

    Toyota told me directly that they only install a drop-in liner at the factory. The spray-in you’ve seen on a Tundra may have come from a dealership.

  • Alex

    You guys should do a story on the best ways to tie down a BBQ in a truck bed for tailgating. That would be BAD-ASS…

  • Rob

    A Bedrug is the best one. If you have to clibm up into the bed it doesn’t kill your knees. And it hoses down for cleanup. It doesn’t look chaulky after a few years like sprayed ones. I’ve had them in a few of my trucks and the bed looks brand new at resale.

  • http://www.sporkmarketing.com Jason Lancaster

    There’s a little more to it than just spray-in vs drop-in.

    DualLiner, BedRug, and BedTread offer component liners. The BedRug and BedTread use unique plastics (one that’s like carpet, one that’s like a spray-in), and DualLiner uses a combination of plastic for the sidewalls and rubber for the bed floor.

    There are also DIY bedliners that are like spray-in, but they’re painted on with a roller or brush.

    Finally, not every drop-in or component liner traps water and causes rust. If the liner is properly designed (as are the DualLiner, BedRug, etc), water isn’t trapped. It drains thru the bed’s existing drain holes.

  • Stephen Elmer

    Very true. There are tons of choices, and anyone looking to buy should explore them all. I was just exploring the bed liners that come straight out of the factory.

    And I’d argue that while not every single drop-in liner traps water, there is still a much bigger chance that moisture will build up in the wrong spots.

  • http://www.sporkmarketing.com Jason Lancaster

    It’s true that water can become trapped, but it’s mostly because of design. The bed is designed to drain water – the “trick” is for the plastic and component bedliner designers not to interfere with the built-in drainage system. Some do a better job of this than others.

  • http://www.sporkmarketing.com Jason Lancaster

    It may be that Southeast Toyota did the spray-in bedliner as a “factory” add. It would appear on the window sticker, but technically it’s a “port installed” option (SE Toyota is officially a distributor and can port install whatever they want). Consumers often can’t tell the difference between factory and port install when buying a vehicle in SE Toyota’s area.

  • Chris

    Drop in Liners provide way more impact protection than spray in. The raised ribs are the reason. Drop a 25-35 pound object in the bed of both a truck with drop in and one with spray in and see which has a big dent in the bed deck. Also many aftermarket spray in bed coatings deteriorate after just a few years and fade way worse than drop in…at least a good quality OE drop in. The rusty bed from a Drop in is a myth propagated by the spray in companies and was true to some extent way back before OE’s coated the deck metal. I’ve owned many Tundra’s with OE drop in liners and not one has rusted. Yes the bed paint gets a little scuffed but have you ever seen how most of the spray in coatings are installed? Completely remove the OE bed paint and any coatings under the paint therefore adding the chance for rust if the coating ever gets damaged…which they will if you use it like a truck. Spray in Coatings look phenomenal when you first install and if you don’t use the bed of your truck for anything more than your kids sports equipment it’s a great choice initially, but it will fade and degrade over time. I use my truck like it was supposed to be used so I always choose a drop in. If anything ever was to happen to it I can spend a few hundred dollars, replace it and have it look brand new again. Bed Rug is cool but not as durable as drop in for true truck use.

  • Fred Zimmermann

    My own experience with spray-in liner is: it’s just better. My first Tundra ,a 2000, never had any liner problems – period. My second Tundra ,a 2008, has no problems with the spray-in liner either. I used “RhinoLiner” done by a professional installer which is about 1/8″ thick. The notion about being less protective is simply “bull”. I have hauled everything from sand (needed to be shoveled out) to a generator to loose metal bars and things. NO DAMAGE visible.

  • Slim

    Installed a Toyota drop in liner myself under the bed rails which I also installed on my 2011 Tundra. Looks great with an added cross-bed tool box. Have used it to haul appliances, lumber, mulch, fire-wood, rocks. Easy to keep clean: sweep out and rinse with a garden hose. Had looked at spray-in liners and didn’t like the look, or the thought of prepping the new bed by scuffing the paint. I suspect it will enhance resale value also.

  • Steve 97 Dodge diesel

    Really, do you clean the bed to bare steel before spray-on liner? I doubt it.

  • Jerry Malek

    LINE-X Is the best. I have had both and worked for a GM dealership and installed slide in liners. I have seen boxes rot out under the liners if they were not removed once in a while and wash the box and treat it. Now I work for a fleet with 30 trucks, 6 are pickups with LINE-X and we haul everything including 80 lb concrete anchors and it holds up better than anything. I have spay on that was installed by the dealer on my Dodge Ram and it is pealing.

  • BryanfromTexas

    I bought and installed Raptor liner….turned out wonderful. Took longer to prep than it did to spray. Search Raptor liner on youtube. Its a easy product and has good reviews….haven’t found a bad one yet

  • Bill Boura

    the biggest problem with a drop in liner is it traps dust and dirt under the liner, which acts as sandpaper over time and once your down to bare metal it will rust. the drop ins sweat in the heat creating their own moisture. We use to take ours out every 6 months and coat the bed with a layer of grease. We always cleaned it of all the old grease before putting in new stuff. They work great but rust will always be an issue with them simply because they move and vibrate till the paint is worn off.

  • Maverick

    My 2011 Dodge 3500 has a Toff no skid spray in liner. This is the second truck I have had done with the liner after working with my son’s plastic drop in liner. While it looked nice cosmetically I found it totally non fuctional useage wise. When you hauled somethig in it it was like having a sheet of ice in the bed of the truck and the load, unless it was dirt rocks, etc. would slide all over the bed during the trip. Not conducive to keeping the load safe. As far as water trapped under the bed, the box drain holes always worked and we had no rust under the liner as I helped him check occasioannly AND we lived on the Gulf Coast of Texas where rust is always a problem.
    I had my ’99 D1500 sprayed with the Toff no skid liner. I kept this truck for 13 years and used it like a truck, heavy pallets loads, steel plates, lumber, dirts, gravel durable goods you name it I hauled it. As for not being able to slide pallets that is a myth, A fork lift will slide it and I am talking 500 – 1,000 lb loads AND no damage to the liner. Over the 13 years I had maybe 3-4 dime size digns where speel (1/2″ thick x 1-2 square ft) were trown in the back and a corner hit the liner and knock a small piece out or large pieces of broken concrete wrer throun in the back and knocked out a piece. As far as removng all the paint that is an installer issue my installed just skuffed of the top coat a bit to provide adhesion so if a small ding was made the piant underneath proteteced the bed material.
    My preference is a professionally done spray in (well worth the money to have someone do it) over a DIY spray/roll in. Each method has its pros and cons but I will never use a drop in liner. When I put something in my bed I don’t want it sliding around back there and a professionally done spray in by a reputable establishment (not Joe shade tree mechanic hat just slops it on) willl last the life of the truck and perform admirably. I am on my second Toff liner and am completely happy. I didn’t like the looks of the Dodge spray in liner, it was hard and slick and looked like loads would not stay in place when hauling so I went back to the vendor tha did my ’99 truck.

  • Peter

    I pulled out the factory liner in my 2003 Tundra right after buying it and got a BedRug (with a full leer cap). I’ll admit it won’t stop rust like a spray-in and have noticed some near one mounting bolt. But have no regrets and would buy one again if I every replace my truck. But I would also have the bed removed and coated inside and out with a rust-inhibitor.

  • Bob

    Here’s my solution. GET BOTH!!!!!!!!!

  • Andy Grewe

    This was the most useless article I’ve ever read

  • Todd

    All Tacomas have a composite bed made from plastic and fiberglass. Since 2005 when this change happened, no one has made a plastic drop in liner for the Tacoma because it would serve no purpose. I’ve spoken with several Tacoma owners who thought they had a plastic bed liner but was just the factory composite bed they were looking at.

  • Oh my

    The issue that I have with my 08 Tundra factory drop-in liner, and other truck drop-ins, is when trying to use the in-bed tie down hooks. The liner simply covers too much area around the tie down hooks. So, instead of simply hooking the ratchet strap’s hooks onto those in-bed hooks, I now must finagle going through the liner and having to twist it just right to get it to hook together. It rarely takes less than 10 seconds to do, but add up that time for each hook, each time and that time adds up. And at night, or in snow, rain etc., it is even worse. Often times I cannot reach over the bed rails easily to hook or unhook my straps or bungee cords. This is why I am considering and Rhino type spray-in liner.
    Before sending any negative reply, I know that I can trim the plastic liner around the hook areas to gain more access. I have done this in the past. But, I’d rather not give up any more protection of the bed since I haul so many different materials. Just giving my 2 cents. Thanks.

  • Daniel

    Speedliner is the best. The other major brands don’t even come close. Just look at the test data. Tensile and tear strength are more than double and you don’t need “extra” protection sprayed over Speedliner to keep its color. I’ll never choose anything different.

  • Jason Fistron

    Speedliner is a hard polyurea. That makes it strong but not as slip proof as Scorpion Coatings for example. I sprayed these along with Spray-Lining, Line-X (Standard and Pacxcon) and Rhino Linings TuffGrip and HardLine. Spray-Lining the company makes SLPV-100 which can be sprayed course, medium, low profile orange peel or smooth. All 5 companies make great spray on truck bedliner. Speedliner and Scorpion use a basic hopper gun to apply with manual mixing. Spray-Lining can be manual or sprayed through better equipment, mostly by Graco, required by Line-X and Rhino polyureas. The main reason why I’d choose Spray-Lining for a truck bed is their adjustable texture. For pickup trucks that require slip-proofing to prevent load shifts Spray-Lining can be soft or more flexible plus rougher bumps. For the back end of the bed and tail gate it can be harder and more of an orange peel. That’s because the tail gate is abused a lot but remains vertical when closed and the truck is in motion. I actually worked for 3 truck shops; 1 sprayed Rhino TuffGrip, 1 sprayed HardLine and 1 sprayed the other Line-X products (there are a few). At a welding fabricator (now) we used Speedliner for hard coating and Scorpion for soft requirements. When advised to research for lower cost alternatives to these I located Spray-Lining. The shop foreman and owners agreed it was the best solution so they stayed with SLPV-100 with manual mix + automated equipment called EXP-2 by Graco. It was less than half the price, was independent of specialized equipment and tinting was easiest. They make it clear and uv colors but we learned that clear tints with any high-grade 1-stage base coat. The shop is called Pya-Team in NYC but I work in Brooklyn, NY. Many truck beds come in with beat up drop in bedliners. If you’re hauling light stuff these work OK but for real protection any high-quality sprayed-on liner of polyurea hybrid is best.