There’s nothing quite like the practicality of a pickup truck, until you start trying to carry something too long to sit comfortably in its bed. You can lash down kayaks, canoes, and long pieces of lumber that stick out too far past the end of your tailgate with lots of creative strapping, but that’s a temporary solution and a very bad day if your lashings fail. If you plan to cart extra-long stuff around with your truck often, you should invest in a hitch-mounted bed extender. These attach to your truck’s hitch to provide a stable crossbar at just the right height to support the long stuff you want to carry, making it easier to load your truck and giving you peace of mind when you’re cruising down the highway.

Not all hitch mounted bed extenders are created the same. They vary based on the load they can carry, their clearance off the ground, the number of positions they can adjust to, and the amount of money you’ll have to pay for one. Here are three things to consider before you purchase yours.

This hitch-mounted bed extender is made from heavy steel tubing and can carry loads up to 750 pounds. Amazon

1. You need to carry a lot of weight. Canoes and kayaks are relatively light ( the heaviest kayaks rarely weigh more than 120 pounds). But if you think you might use your truck to haul lumber up to deer camp, or carry heavy metal beams, poles, or other long heavy objects, you should look for a bed extender that’s rated for the load.

A curved bed extender gives you more clearance off the ground, which helps you avoid scraping it on the pavement when you’re driving over sidewalks or up and down very steep roads and driveways. Amazon

2. You’re planning to drive over rough, uneven terrain. Hitch-mounted bed extenders stick out pretty far back from the end of your truck. This can become a problem if you’re planning to use them while driving over rough and uneven terrain, especially steep hills or deep ditches. You can avoid dragging your bed extender on the rocks by purchasing one that extends out at an upward angle from the back of your truck.

If you want to carry multiple kayaks in the bed of your truck, look for a bed extender with a very wide crossbar. This one is 60 inches long. Amazon

3. You need to support stuff in non-standard positions. Some bars come rigged to accept accessories like RAM mounts, rod holders, and other gear that’s useful to attach to the back of your truck. Others allow you to adjust the angle of the extension arm so that you can support gear that’s sitting in the bed of your truck, on top of your truck bed cover, or even on top of the cargo rack you have mounted to your truck bed. If you’re planning to carry different gear at different heights off the bed of your pickup, look for an extender with lots of flexibility.