Three Questions To Ask When Buying A Utility Rack For Your Truck

A good truck utility rack can help you greatly expand the carrying capacity of your pick-up truck both easily and safely.

Guy sitting on the back of a pick-up truck with surfboard on rack.
Utility racks are great aids for carrying long stuff that won't fit into your truck bed.Nate Simmons

Called “ladder racks” by some, those who haul lots of hunting, fishing or work equipment in their pickup know that truck utility racks are useful for hauling a lot more than just ladders. They are frequently used to haul camping equipment, hunting gear, fishing items and other equipment needed for a week in the wilderness or a weekend on the lake. All truck utility racks are not created equal, however. To make a good selection when shopping for a truck utility rack, ask yourself three questions—how strong the rack needs to be, how long it needs to be and how it will mount to your truck.

How Does It Mount?

Thule Xsporter Pro Aluminum Truck Rack with Load Stops
This truck utility rack can be mounted with no cutting or drilling, and only minimal assembly.Thule

Some racks are mounted to the side of the truck’s bed by drilling holes and attaching the rack securely with strong screws and lock nuts. That makes for a mostly permanent attachment, although they can be removed if you really need to do so. Others are made to clamp on to the bed and even include the hardware required to attach them. Of course, those are much easier to remove, so are less permanent. Many clamp-on racks have built-in locks to deter thieves from stealing your rack. If you have a camper shell on your truck, you’ll need a specialized utility rack made for that purpose that will mount without interfering with the shell’s contact with the bed side.

How Strong?

Apex ATR Heavy Duty Universal Aluminum Utility Rack
This lightweight aluminum rack has a weight capacity of 800 pounds.Apex

How strong of rack you’ll need will depend on how heavy of equipment you intend to haul on it. The strength will largely be determined by the material from which the rack is made. Steel racks are very strong and easily handle very heavy loads. Most are powder-coated to avoid rust and other weathering when spending lots of time outside in the elements. Aluminum racks are much lighter and have grown a lot in popularity in recent years. Many aluminum racks cost even more than steel racks, but their longevity often makes up for the difference. Many aluminum utility racks are also very strong and can carry loads as heavy as some steel racks.

How Long?

ECOTRIC Pick Up Truck Bed Hitch Extender
This specialized rack is designed to help haul canoes and other long objects.ECOTRIC

Some utility racks are made for mounting on long-bed trucks, some on short-bed trucks and others can easily adjust to accommodate both truck types. If you are hauling extremely long objects, you’ll likely need to shop around a little more to find one that will fit your needs. Some models extend out over the cab to protect it from long objects to be hauled overhead. Still others extend further in the back to accommodate long items that will be protruding out that direction. Other more specialized models are made specifically for hauling canoes or small boats that would be hanging out of the bed unsupported if the racks were not used.