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Types of Truck Bedliners – Which Is Best?

Bed Liner Thumb


For working trucks, truck bedliners are a vital piece of equipment. Bedliners are products that “shield the inner-side of a truck bed from damage and also can create a skid-resistant surface allowing cargo to stay in place, depending on circumstances,” according to Wikipedia. Bed liners protect the truck’s bed, so you can use it without fear of damage to your truck’s paint. For most truck owners, a bed liner is simply part of the package. In fact, some have said that a truck without a bed liner “feels like a foot without a sock.” If your truck does not yet have a bed liner, here are some considerations to make.

Bed liner
Photo Credit: https://www.pickupspecialties.com

Know the Options

Bed liners can be as simple as a couple of two-by-fours you lay down in the truck to protect the bed to a complicated drop-in design. When buying a liner, you must first decide if you are going to buy an aftermarket liner or one directly from the manufacturer.

Aftermarket liners include everything from rubber mats to outdoor carpeting. These can be affordable and effective, but they can also be ineffective. A better option is to choose one from the manufacturer, as this ensures a good fit and great protection.

Manufacturers offer two main options: spray-in liners and drop-in liners. Both provide their own set of benefits and drawbacks that you should consider. In short, drop-in bedliners are a less permanent and more affordable option for your truck bed. They require no preparation and can be easily removed when necessary. In contrast, spray-in bedliners adhere to your truck bed meaning they can’t easily be taken out once installed. They provide more protection for a truck bed but are also more costly.

Pros and Cons of Drop-in Liners

Drop-in Liner
Photo Credit: AutoAnything

Drop-in liners are typically made from a form fitted plastic sheet that is placed (dropped in) the bed and bolted into place. Because they come directly from the manufacturer, they should provide an exact fit for your specific truck.

Drop-in liners come with several options. You can decide, for instance, if you want the liner to cover just the floor of the bed or the sides as well. Liners can be under the rail or over the rail, depending on what other things you will add to the truck. An advantage to a drop-in liner is that they’re much more affordable than spray-in liners. After-market drop-in liners range from $100-$400+.

According to AutoTrader.com, “spray-on liners are extremely tough, but they tend to be thinner than drop-in options. Heavy or sharp objects can cause gouges or scratches in your liner that might be better protected by the thicker drop-in option. Keep in mind, it’s possible to break a drop-in bed liner, but the force required is significant.”

The hard plastic of a drop-in liner makes it easy to load large objects. Also, they are easy to replace if needed, and can hide current damage to the truck bed. Drop-in liners do allow water to get trapped between the plastic and the truck, which can cause rust. Over time, they may also become loose and will need to be replaced.

Pros and Cons of Spray-in Liners

Spray-in liners are permanent liners because they are created by spraying polyurethane elastomer directly onto the bed. “Spray-on bedliners can be applied by roller, low pressure, cartridge driven by an air compressor or high pressure machine” (Wikipedia). This means that these liners do not allow any water, dirt or other damaging items to get trapped between the liner and the bed. They also can’t break or fall out, as can drop-in liners. The durability and overall performance of a spray-in liner is dependent on the truck bed’s initial surface preparation.

Spray-on bedliner
Photo Credit: Mechanical Caveman

Spray-in liners typically have a gritty texture. This means that items in the bed of the truck will not slide around, because the bed itself has traction. A spray-in liner is also more aesthetically appealing, because it does not add bulk to the truck. That said, these are more expensive than drop-in liners. While you can do it yourself, it’s best to have the factory install this liner to ensure it is done right. Loading heavy items can be difficult, because these liners are designed with built-in traction, so the items don’t slide in easily.

Also, it’s important to note that “environmental conditions such as humidity, temperature, wind, and elevation can affect the cure process of a spray-in bedliner. Nozzle aperture, thinners, and spray pressure can be modified to allow proper distribution of the spray lining chemicals” (Wikipedia).


“At some point, virtually every truck owner stands at a crossroads — whether to drop in or spray on a bed liner. This seemingly small decision will determine how your truck ages, how you are able to use the bed and how the vehicle will look for years to come.” (AutoTrader.com)

So which type of liner is best? The answer depends on what you will do with the truck. If you are looking for longevity and the best overall protection, you want a spray-in liner. If you want ease of loading, are happy to replace the liner sometimes and need the more affordable option, then you want a drop-in liner.

Regardless of the one you choose, a liner is an important protection for your truck. Install one today, and protect the paint while enjoying the full working capabilities of your pickup.