If you’ve 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 me, 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 my analysis of the two biggest names in spray-in truck bed liners, Line-X and Rhino Linings.
Updated September 2013
Bed liners might be the most popular truck accessory of all time. Truck owners love them for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is their role in protecting the shiny factory finish inside the truck bed. If you’re a new truck owner thinking about getting a bed liner, here are 7 truck bed liner buying tips for you:
If you’re like most new Tundra owners, you’re seriously considering bed protection. Fortunately you have options — lots of them. Here are the highlights:
1) No Bed Liner. It’s cheap, it’s easy, and it could work out just fine. But while you may not ever intend to haul anything that would damage your truck’s bed, you never know when a situation will arise and you will be forced to put something back their that damages the paint job. If you’ve got scratches in your bed, your options for adding a bed liner later get more expensive. That’s because before you add any sort of removable liner you’ll need to re-protect the bed (i.e. re-paint) so that any moisture that gets caught between your bed and your liner won’t cause your bed to rust. If you’re leasing your truck, this might be your only option.
2) Rubber Bed Mat. It’s old-school but it certainly deserves consideration. There’s no disputing that a heavy piece of rubber will protect the bottom of your truck bed from gouges and scratcheswhile at the same time providing a surface that has more friction than the factory bed. If you’re considering adding a rubber mat, make sure you purchase one that is fairly thick. Thin rubber mats (anything less than 1/4″) tend to “roll-up” when you’re loading the bed, making them sort of hazardous. You should also make sure that the mat you buy has a knobby bottom surface so that moisture doesn’t get trapped under the mat and lead to premature bed rust. Finally, we like mats that are pre-cut to fit your truck. Those mats you have to trim yourself never fit right and they tend to be cheap anyways. The best feature of a nice rubber mat is that it will only cost you $75-$100.
3) Plastic Bed Liner. Plastic bed liners (or “drop-ins”) fit OK, install quickly and easily, and do a nice job of protecting the bed from most kinds of damage. Plastic bed liners are especially nice if you need to slide items in and out of your truck. Plastic also won’t scratch anything you put in your bed (like furniture), and it washes out quickly and easily. The biggest disadvantage to plastic drop-in liners is that whatever you have resting in your bed can slide around at any time. Plastic is slippery, especially when wet, and we’ve seen big loads shift (even when they were properly tied down). Also, it seems like a lot of moisture and gunk accumulates under the plastic liner, requiring you to remove it and clean the bed periodically. Plastic drop-in bed liners can cost as little as $250 or as much as $400.
4) Plastic Coatings. We’ve all seen the ads — send in $49.99 and they’ll send you a gallon of special “truck bed paint” just like the pros use. Get out your roller and paint brush and you can install your own “spray-in” like bed surface on a Saturday afternoon. Bulls#&t. Unless you have experience applying this stuff, you’re probably going to screw something up. Worse, it doesn’t always bond properly to the bed, meaning big hunks will flake off at the least helpful times. While we don’t want to condemn all of these products, we haven’t ever seen it work. Proceed at your own risk.
5) Spray-In. This is by far the most popular option, and for good reason. It’s the best looking and most durable bed liner there is. The bed is sprayed with a special polyurethane “paint” that protects the bed from scratches and chemicals. The coating is permanent, the texture is rough (which keeps things from sliding), and the material is nearly indestructible. In fact, unlike every other option listed here, a spray-in liner will last forever.
Lots of companies offer spray-in bed liners, but the top two are Line-X and Rhino. While you may hear lots of differing opinions about the two products, it’s fair to say that they’re basically the same stuff. However, the installers are not the same. In fact, any stories you hear about a bad Rhino or Line-X liner have more to do with the person that installed the liner than the product itself. The best way you can make sure you get a good spray-in liner is to find out how long the installer has been in business. If you have any doubts about them, get references and check them out. Your local Toyota dealer is also an excellent place to get a recommendation for a good installer. You should be able to get a quality spray-in liner with a lifetime warranty installed for $300-$400 (under rail). Over the rail should add about $50. There are other names out their in spray-ins, and we’re sure that some of them are just fine, but they’re not usually any cheaper than Line-X or Rhino so we don’t recommend them.
6) Carpet Liner. The carpet liner is usually a strong outdoor carpet with a thick rubber or vinyl backing. They’re surprisingly strong and they have the benefit of being soft. They’re especially popular with people that are going to add a camper shell to their truck. The biggest advantage to them, in addition to being plush, is that they’re removable. If you like the idea of being able to see your factory finish whenever you want to, this might be a good option for you. Cost is about the same as a good plastic bed-liner, about $350. The only thing we don’t like about these is that they don’t seem to stay attached, but that probably has to do with the way they’re installed.
You can also add plywood to your truck bed, and there are some cool commercial roll-up systems that literally unload your truck for you (like Load Handler).
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