Choosing the best truck bed liner might seem pretty simple at first, but there are some important considerations to keep in mind before making a final decision. If you don’t consider every aspect of your truck and your needs, then you can end up with something that fails to do what you want. This can be either a minor inconvenience or a serious waste of money, depending on the choice you make.
By asking yourself a few questions and coming up with the answers, however, you can avoid wasting time and money. Consider the kinds of tasks you usually perform and how you use your truck bed. Think about the kind of material that might be best for your work, and how much protection you want the liner to provide. While cost can factor into it, you should typically ask yourself about long-term costs and value, rather than the immediate expense of any particular truck bed liner.
What is a Truck Bed Liner?
A truck bed liner is a cover that goes over the metal bed of the box in your truck, directly onto the painted metal. Your truck may already have a liner, but if the bed is just metal, then it most likely does not. Truck bed liners can help protect the surface of the truck bed from damage, make getting things into and out of the box easier, and even provide some cushioning if you are often in and out of the box of your truck.
Truck bed liners are usually made from plastic or similar materials, but that depends a bit on the type of liner. They can range quite a bit in price, from only about $100 at the low end, to up to $800 for high-end liners. There are also different types of liners available, and choosing the right one really depends on how you use your truck bed and what you move in and out of it.
What are Different Types of Truck Bed Liners?
There are generally four basic types of truck bed liners, though two of them are quite similar and sometimes considered variations of the same type. These are: mats, rugs, drop-in, and spray-on liners. In order to choose the right one, it’s important to understand the differences between each.
Bed Mats: These are the simplest and least expensive truck bed liners on the market. They consist of a simple mat, usually made from recycled rubber, which goes into the back of a truck and lays flat on the bed. They are easy to roll in and out of the truck, so they can be easily installed and replaced without tools.
Bed Rugs: Similar to simple mats, rugs are usually made from plastic or rubber and topped with polyester fibers. They can lay flat on the bed like a mat or may be stretched up the sides and onto the tailgate – but they are molded tightly to the surface of the bed to stay in place.
Drop-In Liners: These are among the most popular truck bed liners and consist of a plastic liner that is molded to fit securely in the bed of a truck, and fastened to the bed using bolts. These liners are often in place in pickup trucks when they are first sold, though that can depend on trim options.
Spray-On Liners: The most expensive and permanent option is a spray-on liner that starts off liquid and is sprayed or rolled onto the truck bed. Once it dries, it forms a strong, permanent liner on the surface of the bed and protects from all other damage. Professional installation is usually required for spray-on liners to ensure a strong, smooth coating.
Ask Yourself: How Permanent a Liner Do I Want?
One of the first things to decide is if you want a permanent liner or not. If you don’t care about removing the liner, then a spray-on option might be a good choice, but keep in mind spray-on liners are permanent. Otherwise, a drop-in liner is not permanent, but quite secure and certainly more difficult to remove than some other options.
A bed rug is fairly easy to remove and replace, but if stretched to fit a bed, then installation back into the box of the truck can be difficult. A bed mat is by far the easiest liner to remove or replace since it can simply be lifted out and rolled up. If you know you want a very temporary solution for a bed liner, then a mat is the best way to go.
Ask Yourself: What do I Put in My Truck?
A truck bed liner is often used to protect the bed of your truck, so it’s important to decide what you need to protect it from. If you often slide tool boxes and building materials in and out of your truck, then something like a rug or mat might be a great choice. Drop-in liners are usually smooth and easy to slide items on.
If you tend to have harsh chemicals in your truck bed, like pool cleaning supplies or paint and thinners, then a spray-on liner might be best. Since these liners are sprayed directly onto the surface of the bed, there is no chance for chemicals that spill to get between the liner and the bed’s surface. With something like a mat or rug, liquids can potentially get between the liner and the truck itself.
Ask Yourself: How do I Use my Truck Bed?
It’s important to think about your truck use when choosing a liner, especially in terms of smoothness or texture. Smooth liners are great if you tend to slide things into and out of your truck a lot and want them to be able to move easily. If you need items to stay in place, however and don’t want them to move around, then choose a truck bed liner with some texture to help keep things in place.
Ask Yourself: Do I Need Weather Protection?
If you don’t have a cover over your truck bed, then a liner is often a great way to help protect your truck from the elements. Spray-on liners provide the best overall protection since moisture cannot get under the liner. This is especially useful in areas that get a lot of rain, snow, and other wet weather.
In climates where a lot of rain is not much of an issue, then a bed mat or rug can be a great solution. A bed rug is particularly good for protecting against heat and sun since you can easily remove and replace it if necessary due to fading or cracking in the sun. Drop-in liners provide a good amount of protection in just about any type of weather.
Ask Yourself: How Much Do I Want to Spend?
As with any other truck accessory, when choosing a truck bed liner there is always the question of cost. Truck rugs and mats are much less expensive than drop-in and spray-on liners, but are also temporary solutions with little long-term protection. Spray-on liners are the most expensive and should be applied by professionals to ensure a smooth, strong, even coat and a great liner, but cannot be replaced. Drop-in liners provide a middle ground – they are not permanent, but are more secure and usually provide more protection than mats or rugs, are less expensive than spray-on liners, and can be replaced if necessary.