Spray In Review: Line-X Bed Liner vs. Rhino Bed Liner
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If you have just bought a new truck, there’s a good chance that someone (a friend, a relative, or a salesperson) has told you to buy a certain brand of spray-in bed liner “because they’re the best”. If you’re like us, you don’t like making this decision without doing a little research first (Not sure you want a spray-in? See a full list of Bed Liner Options). Here’s our analysis of the two biggest names in spray-in truck bed liners.
7 Things To Know About Rhino and Line-X
- INSTALLATION IS EVERYTHING. If you have a good installer, you’ll get a good liner.
- All spray-in liners fade when exposed to a few years of sunlight.
- Be careful with color-matching. Unless you pay extra to protect the liner from UV, it will fade much faster than the factory paint and your liner and your truck won’t color-match after a couple of years. At least if you stick with black it will only fade to dark charcoal.
- The chemical mix used by Rhino, Line-X, or “brand X” are all basically the same. There are some differences to be sure, but the chemical mix really isn’t as important as the installer.
- Both Line-X and Rhino offer nation-wide lifetime warranties on their products, but many third parties are offering them as well now.
- Expect your installation to cost somewhere between $400 and $700 dollars. Prices at the higher end should include extras like color matching, additional surface spraying, or special UV protectants. Anything less than that could indicate the installer you’re using is making a shortcut somewhere.
- Inspect your installers spray booth and prep area. If it’s dirty or messy, find someone else.
Now, on to the comparison:
Line-x is applied “hot” (temperatures between 130-210 degrees) using a high pressure (500 psi) spray system. Because Line-X is applied at high pressure, it tends to be thin (about 1/4″ thick) and uniform. Most people believe that thinner is better when it comes to looks — a thin coating tends to follow every contour of your truck’s bed and preserves the factory appearance. One other aspect of the thin coating is that Line-X liners usually have a very rough surface that sparkles when new. Line-X also tends to be run-free because it mixes in the spray gun and “sets” in about 10 seconds.
Some people dislike the rough Line-x surface because it’s “harder”. It can be hard on the knees while moving around in the bed and it can damage your cargo (finished wood surfaces and Line-x liners don’t mix, for instance). While you can request that the installer reduce the roughness of the finish, this will also result in a surface that’s less glossy. Because Line-x is a harder material, it tends to be a little more suited to rough-and-tumble commercial applications than some competing liners.
It’s very important to understand that Rhino liners are applied differently from one installer to the next. If you find a Rhino liner installer that uses a hot, high-pressure system, the differences between Rhino and Line-X are very, very small…although the Rhino material tends to be a little more rubbery (even with hot application).
Many Rhino liner installers who use a cold low-pressure system, which while technically less sophisticated does has some advantages.
Cold System Characteristics: Because of the lower temperature and pressure, Rhino liners applied with a cold system are thicker (3/8″ of an inch+) than Line-X. The increased thickness of a Rhino gives it a softer “rubbery” feel, and the liner’s surface isn’t as rough as Line-X so it’s more gentle on knees and cargo. Rhino’s thicker coating also aids in sound deadening, and the surface seems to “grab” objects better than Line-X. But all of these cold application benefits don’t come without some sacrifice. Thicker material usually means a poorer finish – Rhino material doesn’t follow the contours of a truck bed nearly as well as Line-X. The cold application also means longer curing times (1-2 hours to set) and a greater possibility of “runs.” Finally, it’s not uncommon to see inconsistencies in cold-application Rhino liner thickness, meaning some parts of your truck bed are more protected than others.
Notes About Surface Preparation
If you really want to get the best spray-on bed liner possible, you need to ask your installer questions about their surface preparation procedure. There are four main surface preparation processes:
- Chemical etch. This is the lowest quality preparation method. It is inherently inconsistent, which means the liner material won’t adhere to the bed uniformly…and will scrape/peel off after the fact. If an installer says they use a chemical etch process exclusively, walk away.
- Scotchbrite scuff prep. This is the most common form of surface preparation, and most Line-X and Rhino installers rely upon this method. If done correctly, scuffing the original bed surface will help the the liner material bond completely. The quality of this prep process is dictated by the experience of the person doing the prep work…which is why you want to work with the best installer possible.
- Hand sand block. In some ways, this is a step above the scothbrite prep process, except that it’s still very much dependent on the experience of the person doing the sanding.
- Power sanding with dual action sander. This is the best prep process there is. However, it’s very time consuming. If you find an installer that uses power tools to prep your bed’s paint, expect to pay a slight premium.
Questions To Ask Your Installer
How do you prep the vehicles? The best answer is “power sanding” and the worst answer is “chemical etch.”
Do you use a cold application process or a hot application process? Unless you want a tacky, rubbery surface, a hot application process is the way to go. In fact, most Rhino liner installers have moved away from the cold application process.
How long does your prep process take? Longer is usually better. Many Line-X and Rhino dealers can scotchbrite a pickup bed in 15 mins…but power-sanding a bed takes the better part of an hour. There’s also the time needed to remove accessories installed in the bed, misc. bolts, etc., and then re-install. Most good installers need 2 hours minimum from beginning to end, and some will need 3 or 4.
How long have you been in business? Longer is better. Rhino and Line-X both require their installers to honor many aspects of the warranty, which means installers are financially responsible for their mistakes. Bad installers tend to go out of business after a few years because they can’t afford to fix all their mistakes.
What dealerships do you work with? Ford, GM, Toyota, and Dodge dealers sell lots and lots of spray-in bed liners in their new pick-ups. Therefore, they have a good idea of who knows what they’re doing and who doesn’t…if you can find an installer that works with some big names in your town, chances are you’ve found a good installer.
Can I see your shop? Good installers tend to have clean, well-organized shops. They can’t afford to have a lot of dust and dirt around because that will contaminate their sprays. A good spray-in liner shop will be proud to show off their facility.
The Best Liner Is…
In the past, the most obvious answer was Line-X. Line-X installers were using the hot application process from the very beginning (most Rhino installers started with a cold process), Line-x offered a national warranty on their product years before Rhino, and Line-X liners tended to be better looking that Rhino liners that often had runs, inconsistent thickness etc.
But that’s all changed. Today, many Rhino liner installers use the exact same process that Line-X installers use, meaning the difference between the two products will be minimal. While Rhino and Line-X dealers will both try and claim that they use the “better” mix of chemicals, that’s really not important. The most important factor is the quality of the surface prep, a clean spray environment, and experience. Therefore, the best liner you can buy is the one sold by the best installer.
Ask the questions we’ve outlined above, get some references, talk to your local truck dealer, and you will find the best liner…whether it’s Line-X, Rhino, or some brand you’ve never heard of.
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