Without a doubt, a pickup truck is one of the most practical vehicle types you can buy thanks to its wide open, easy-to-clean cargo area. And yet, even the best pickup truck design has its limitations. The longest cargo bed available on a truck is eight-feet long, and while that is a useful size, you won’t have trouble finding items that are still too long to fit inside with the tailgate closed.

Practicality takes another hit thanks to the four-door crew cab configuration that’s popular in modern trucks. While this body type turns your pickup into a useful family vehicle, it is usually only offered with a shorter cargo bed that sacrifices a lot of utility.

The solution is to fit an aftermarket truck bed extender that allows you to leave the tailgate down, so you can load longer items while making sure they are secure and well-supported. Thankfully, you have a lot of choices in that regard. There are two common types of pickup truck bed extenders. One is a U-shaped design that rests on the open tailgate to add a couple of feet to your truck’s carrying capacity. The other is a hitch-mounted type that installs in your truck’s hitch receiver and extends rearward from the back bumper to support the trailing end of extra-long cargo, from lumber for a fence or deck to kayaks and canoes for a weekend in the woods.

If those two popular options don’t fit your needs, there are also net-style products that can be used to extend your truck’s cargo capacity or to help keep smaller cargo organized in the bed. Finally, regardless of what kind of bed extender you choose, you’ll need a way to tie your cargo down.

Read on for more information on the best truck bed extenders to help you carry extra-long cargo in your truck and keep it secure en route to your destination.

1. Editor’s Pick: AMP Research BedXtender

amp research black bedxtender truck bed extender

Here’s an example of the most common type of bed extender from the pickup truck accessory experts at AMP Research. This tubular bed extender is made of 6063-T6 aluminum and glass-reinforced nylon composite, a great combination for providing durable utility without adding a lot of weight to your truck.

AMP Research’s BedXtender products are flip-out designs: when you need to extend your pickup’s cargo area, simply open the tailgate and flip the extender over so that it rests on the tailgate to add two feet of length to your cargo bed. When you’re done, flip it back into the bed. An added benefit to this type of design is that when the extender is flipped up into the bed, you can use it as a cargo organizer to keep smaller items secured between the extender and the closed tailgate.

Installing the BedXtender on your truck requires some minor modifications to place the product’s hardware in the bed, and the kit comes with instructions for how to do so. Choose from silver or black finish.

2. Best Hitch-Mount Bed Extender: MaxxHaul Hitch-Mount Truck Bed Extender

maxxhaul hitch mount truck bed extender

Here’s our top pick for a hitch-mount bed extender designed to help you transport long cargo in your pickup truck. This product features an innovative convertible design. You can turn the main support bar around and install it so that it points up, which lets you match its height to that of your vehicle’s roof, whether you drive a pickup truck, an SUV, or even a car with a trailer hitch receiver.

Regardless of how you install this extender, the main support reaches 53-1/2 inches from the hitch receiver. The width is adjustable, too, between 28-1/4 inches and 48-3/4 inches, giving you plenty of flexibility to transport a wide range of different cargo. You can adjust the height from four inches to 10 inches.

MaxxHaul says its product will support up to 300 pounds, which is enough for recreational items like kayaks and canoes, ladders, or lengths of pipe. However, this bed extender won’t be as useful if you need to move larger quantities of heavier building materials.

This cargo box extender fits two-inch hitch receivers and uses quick-release clevis pins for its height and width adjustments.

3. Lund Hitch-Mounted Bed Extender

lund hitch-mounted truck bed extender

From Lund comes another hitch-mount bed extender that not only lets you carry longer items than your truck’s bed will accommodate, but also ensures adequate ground clearance to avoid damaging your cargo while driving. Lund accomplishes that with a main support bar that you can set an upward angle to create an extra seven inches of clearance. The company says you can also use this bed extender to create a portable sawhorse.

Along with that useful design cue is its 750-pound weight capacity, which should be plenty even if you’re a contractor who plans to use this extender on a regular basis for moving quantities of building materials. Like the other hitch-mount products that made our list, Lund’s design allows you to adjust the height of the cargo support bar, and it has side wings you can set to any width between 27 inches and 49 inches. The main bar extends 56 inches from the hitch.

Lund says this model will fit any two-inch hitch receiver, but you will have to buy a hitch pin separately. However, Lund does include a red visibility flag to attach to your cargo.

4. TKMAUTO Pickup Truck Bed Extender

tkmauto pickup truck bed extender

While many pickup truck bed extenders of this type come in different versions each designed to fit a specific make and model of truck, TKMAUTO’s universal design is made to work in any full-size pickup by giving you the ability to adjust the extender’s width from 59 inches to 69 inches. The company describes its product as a classic U-shaped bed extender, which you can rest on the open tailgate for an extra 26 inches of cargo space, or you can flip it inside the bed where you can use it as a cargo divider.

This bed extender is constructed from black powder coated 6063-T6 aluminum crossbars that promise to wear well and resist corrosion. They’re tied together by PA6 nylon uprights, the middle two of which rest on your truck’s bed surface.

As with most such truck bed extenders, you have to drill into your truck to create mounting points for the extender’s pivot points. TKMAUTO includes step-by-step instructions along with all the hardware you’ll need, such as brackets and screws. The company also includes tie-down straps to keep the extender secure when you’re using it.

5. Mockins Hitch-Mount Truck Bed Extender

mockins truck bed extender

Here’s another example of a pickup truck bed extender that you mount to your truck’s trailer hitch instead of installing it in the bed itself. Mockins makes a number of impressive claims about its pickup box extender. For one, it’s rated to support up to 750 pounds, which means it will easily hold a kayak or two for weekends on the water, or a large load of lumber if your plans involve a home improvement or contracting project.

Mockins’ design is also adjustable for width and height. You can move the two side wings in and out to set the width anywhere between 28.8 inches and 47.7 inches, and you can set the whole assembly’s height anywhere between 20.7 inches and 28.6 inches. All of the movable parts use quick-release pins for easy adjustments and disassembly.

You can use this bed extender with any two-inch hitch receiver, and Mockins says you can also mount it to a 1.25-inch receiver with an adapter that’s sold separately. Red reflective tape adds visibility when you’re using your extender at night. Your purchase also includes ratchet straps to keep your cargo secure while in transit.

6. Moto-Gate Generation-2 Nylon Net

moto-gate nylon net

This innovative product puts a unique spin on helping you get more stuff into—and more utility out of—your pickup truck’s bed. This tailgate net is Moto-Gate’s premier product. While it’s designed primarily to make it easier for you to transport motorcycles and all-terrain vehicles in your pickup’s bed, it can also be utilized for securing other types of cargo.

One of our favorite things about Moto-Gate’s design is that you don’t have to modify your truck to use it. Instead of forcing you to drill holes to install bolts, the Moto-Gate simply hooks onto your truck’s existing tie-downs. This net also has width-adjustable straps that let you tighten it to any effective measurement between 74 inches and 132 inches. That widest dimension works out to 11 feet, which creates plenty of slack to stretch around the back wheels of your motorbikes or ATV.

That stretch means you could also use it to secure one end of a canoe or kayak. Other uses include keeping smaller cargo from moving around in your truck’s bed, or even in the cargo area of an SUV or car.

7. TMS Pickup Rack

tms adjustable fit utility ladder

Here’s a product that allows you to carry cargo longer than your pickup truck’s bed while also leaving the bed free to accommodate other items. Instead of mounting an extender to your truck’s bed or trailer hitch, TMS’s design consists of two bars that hold your cargo aloft above the truck. TMS says the bars can support up to 800 pounds when used in tandem, which is the highest weight rating of any of the products on our list.

This is a universal fit rack whose width you can adjust to fit virtually any pickup truck whose bed rails are between five and seven feet apart. To install these racks, you will have to drill into the top of your truck’s bed rails in order to bolt them in place. TMS includes eight hold-down bolts, as well as adjustment pins for the rack’s width. The kit does not include ropes or straps, but there are tie-down points on either side of both racks.

We like these racks because they don’t interfere with the regular use of your truck’s cargo area, and they stand high enough to let you extend long cargo over the roof of your pickup’s cab.

8. Yakima Outpost HD Mid-Height Truck Bed Rack

yakima outpost hd truck bed rack

Yakima is known for its vehicle rack technology, and this Outpost truck bed unit appears to live up to that hype. One of the best things about the Outpost kit is that this rack clamps onto the top of your truck bed’s walls, so no drilling or modifications are necessary. And because the crossbars—which are installed separately—come in different lengths, the Outpost can be used on truck beds of varying widths.

With the crossbars in place, you can attach a variety of other Yakima accessories to them, like racks for bikes, skis, kayaks, and surfboards. This rack stands just 13 inches off the top of the truck bed, which means two things: there’s not as much room to pack stuff under it, and you may not have clearance to sling long items over the truck’s cab. However, it does reduce your truck’s overall height when loaded.

Yakima says the Outpost can support up to 500 pounds in an on-road environment, and 300 pounds in off-road driving. The kit includes all the hardware you’ll need to install the clamps on your truck, which Yakima suggests will take about an hour.

9. Rhino USA Ratchet Straps

rhino usa ratchet straps

Regardless of what kind of truck bed extender you use, you will need some way to keep cargo secure while it’s in your truck. For that purpose, we recommend ratchet straps, like these ones from Rhino USA. This set of straps is designed to help you secure a motorcycle or ATV to your pickup’s bed, but you can also use them to tie a car down to a transport trailer.

While this kit seems pricey for a set of straps, we think that cost is more than justified. Inside Rhino USA’s box are a total of eight straps: four eight-foot ratchet tie-downs and four 17-inch soft-loop tie-downs. The ratchet straps have rubber-coated S-hooks with safety clips.

Rhino USA says the straps’ poly/silk blend webbing will stand up to more than 5,200 pounds of force and uses diamond stitching for extra strength where it attaches to the ratchet handles. That fabric blend is also soft enough to avoid scratching painted surfaces. The ratchets have large, rubberized handles to make it easier to apply maximum strength without injuring your hands.

Rhino USA’s basic kit includes gray straps, but you can also choose from blue, green, orange, and red.

What kind of bed extender is best for your needs?

You can answer this question quite easily by considering what kind of oversized cargo you think you will most frequently load into your truck. If your primary need is to transport motorcycles or all-terrain vehicles, we would recommend putting a rigid U-shaped bed extender at the top of your shopping list. We like that they serve the dual purpose of providing a solid rear mounting point for your cargo and then turn into an organizer for smaller items when flipped up into the bed with the tailgate closed.

A hitch-mount bed extender is a good option if your main requirement is to move cargo that’s significantly longer than your pickup truck’s bed, like lumber or kayaks and canoes. This type of product is also a solid choice because installing one requires very little effort and no modifications to your truck.

The weight rating is an important consideration here because a hitch-mounted bed extender’s ability to support weight when the truck is parked is different from when the truck is moving: the up-and-down motions of rough roads will alternately increase and decrease the effective load, and that oscillation could weaken the structure over time and cause it to fail. Our suggestion is to choose a hitch-mounted product with a weight rating more generous than you think you need to avoid an embarrassing and possibly dangerous accident.

A net-style product is a good option if you want the practicality of a truck bed extender and the ability to install and remove it in just a few seconds without tools.

When is an overhead truck bed rack preferable to a bed extender?

A truck rack is great for letting you carry long items while leaving your truck’s cargo bed free for other items. If a high-reach design appeals to you, bear in mind that because it’s bolted to the bed rails, it will take some work to remove and reinstall it any time it might get in the way. This is particularly important if you plan to load motorbikes or an ATV into the bed.

Some options may not provide as much height, but they’ll be easier to remove when you don’t need it. Take into consideration the effort to install and uninstall a truck bed rack if you prefer that over a traditional bed extender.

When buying a U-shaped bed extender, should you choose one designed specifically for your model of truck?

Ideally, yes. A product designed specifically for your make and model of truck will probably fit better than a universal design. However, if you think you might trade your current truck in for a different model—or even a newer version of the same model—then a universal bed extender would be the better choice because you can re-use it instead of buying a new one.

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Main photo credit: AMP Research