Pickup Bed Liners: 2013 Buyer’s Guide
The Complete Guide to Pickup Bed Protection
Slide-in, drop-in, and spray-on liners are the working man’s bests friends when it comes to protecting the pickup bed
By Steve Campbell (Photos by Bruce W. Smith)
Bedliners protect one of the working man’s biggest investments yet they are often one of the last items we think about adding in our quest to make our pickups better. They should be the first.
For professionals who depend on a pickup as a tool of the trade, a properly installed liner — whether it’s a mat, a drop-in, a spray-on or a hybrid product — can prevent scuffs, gouges and chemical damage that may lead to corrosion and rust.
Some liners also provide a buffer against dents caused by heavy or shifting loads, and maintaining a pickup’s appearance undoubtedly adds to its value at resale or trade-in time.
In fact, many original-equipment manufacturers (OEMs) now place a residual value on original bedliners and vehicle valuators such as Kelly Blue Book add value to trucks that are outfitted with liners.
(See the gallery of 2013 bedliner products at the end of this article.)
The least-expensive option is the simple mat type, such as the ProTecta mat by Koneta, Inc.
The ProTecta is manufactured from a fiber-impregnated rubber called Nyracord® that is finished in either a ribbed pebble grain or a diamond-plate pattern to help keep cargo from slipping. The 3/8-inch-thick mats are custom-molded to fit each make and model of pickup and are impervious to weather while a knobby underside promotes aeration and drainage, helping to prevent rust and mildew.
Mats are simply unrolled onto the bed floor to install, so no prep is required other than a thorough bed cleaning.
Some OEMs offer ProTecta mats that are identical to the aftermarket version but with the truck maker’s logo embossed on the product.
The downside to a mat is that it offers no protection to the bed walls, though a tailgate protector is also available in the ProTecta line.
Drop-in Bed Liners
Drop-in liners are also easily installed, removed and replaced.
They are manufactured either as one-piece or multiple-piece molded materials that cover the floor, sides and forward bulkhead and another section to protect the tailgate.
The drop-in bedliner industry covers more than 50% of the bed-protection market, so the products maintain an obvious popularity with consumers.
Penda Corporation, manufacturer of the Pendaliner and Duraliner brands, fabricates its liners from up to ¼-inch-thick sheets of extremely durable high-density polyethylene, which also withstands extreme weather conditions.
Drop-ins come in two versions that fit either under or over the bed rails. Penda says that its under-rail liners are the more popular of the two and quickly snap into position.
Drop-in liners only prep required for installation is a thorough cleaning of the bed to remove dirt and debris.
A long-standing knock on drop-ins is that dirt and moisture may be trapped under the liner, abrading the paint as the liner vibrates. In extreme cases, the bared metal can then rust.
The benefit of buying a liner with a new-truck purchase is that the product is covered by the factory warranty and can be financed as part of the vehicle purchase price.
There are also some very inexpensive drop-in liners, but the old adage that you get what you pay for holds true. The type, thickness and design of the material used to fabricate the liner dictate how well it fits. A snug fit produces less vibration and may eliminate abrasion to the bed’s paint.
Mat-Type Bed Liners
Other removable options include modular liners such as the DualLiner, the BedRug and the BedTred. These products include a rubber or composite mat-type floor along with separate pieces for the bed sides and the tailgate.
The DualLiner combines a 3/8-inch-thick rubber mat with rigid, fitted polyethylene pieces that snap into place over the front bulkhead and under the bed rails and bolt to the tailgate.
The bottom of the rubber mat includes raised beads to allow for air flow and water drainage, and the various pieces can be quickly removed for cleaning or to restore the bed to unlined condition for resale. As with the drop-in units, the DualLiner is available in black only.
The BedRug and BedTred products, both from BedRug, Inc., are made from composite material that uses an extruded-foam base.
In the BedRug version, the base is matted to a carpet-like covering made from polypropylene; it’s impervious to acids, dirt, petroleum products and the like. In the BedTred, the foam is covered with a thermal plastic composite.
The floor and the various pieces for the bulkhead, sides and tailgate are held in place by hook-and-loop fasteners in both models.
Both DualLiner and BedRug, Inc. modular liners tout a tight, custom fit that is said to prevent chaffing, and both offer softer, impact-cushioning floor protection that is easier on the knees than either a drop-in or a spray-type liner.
As with the simple rubber mat, these liners also offer some protection to the cargo itself, preventing scuffs to items such as furniture, appliances and electronics.
Spray-On Bed Liners
On the other hand, spray-on liner brands such as Bullet, Line-X, Rhino, Scorpion and Toff tend to be rugged, with a decidedly granular surface. As the name implies, a spray-on liner is applied as a liquid and then cures to a seamless coating.
Most spray-on liners are composed of polyurethanes and polyureas, which are also used to formulate many high-performance adhesives and sealants. These polymers are blended with granules of rubber or other additives to create a slip-resistant texture.
About two hours of prep work must be performed on a truck bed in order for the coating to adhere properly. Poor prep means a poor result.
The prep begins with a thoroughly scuffing of the factory clearcoat paint to remove the gloss where the liner will be applied. The substrate is then cleaned with a solvent such as xylene or acetone to remove any residual grease, oil or rust.
The bed and body are papered and masked-off to prevent overspray, and any bare-metal surfaces are painted with an etching primer to ensure proper bonding.
The spraying itself generally takes less than half an hour once the prep is completed, and most spray-on products set quickly – some in as little as seconds.
For a full cure, however, it’s best to wait about 24 hours before using the truck bed after it has been sprayed.
While most spray-on installations are best left to professional applicators who may utilize a paint booth and a “hot” method for products such as Line-X, Diamond Liners and others (which are applied at temperatures upward of 130 degrees Fahrenheit), there are do-it-yourself products available such as Al’s Liner and Grizzly Grip.
The obvious advantage to DIY liners is price.
At least one product, Herculiner, is applied with rollers rather than as a spray, and Al’s Liner can be rolled, brushed or sprayed.
The same prep work is required, but do-it-yourselfers can also control the thickness of the material through repeated applications with either spray or rollers.
Thicker applications require more material, so the under-$100 price for some DIY products can quickly rise if you’re looking for a more substantial coating.
Spray products can also be applied to other areas of a truck such as fender flares, bumpers and lower rocker panels, which can be shot at the same time as the bed.
It’s also quite common to see tool boxes, hard tonneau covers, refueling tanks, truck frames, and trailers covered with spray-on liner material.
The price for any spray-on liner will vary depending on the size of the vehicle and how much of the bed (including under or over the rail) will be coated, but spray-on liners can be added to virtually any type of truck, including pickups fitted with utility beds.
Installed prices for a standard pickup generally run between $300 and $700 dollars but may increase if a color-matched top coat (such as Line-X Xtra) or special UV protectants are required.
The Long Haul
In recent years, some dealerships and even OEMs have begun to offer spray-on liners as an option.
As with drop-ins, the benefits include factory warranty and financing.
While most spray-on liners include a UV component, nearly all fade over time unless the more expensive special coatings and UV-inhibiitng products are applied.
Line-X worked closely with Dupont to develope a highly UV-resistant color-coat similar to automotive paint/clear. It’s color-mixed using the vehicle’s VIN paint code and sprayed over the Line-X base to give a near-perfect body color match.
Many spray-on manufacturers also offer a myriad of color choices, but installers point out that black is the least expensive coating and goes with anything.
Spray-on liners may be “repaired” with an overcoat if they should be marred during their working life, which is another long-haul benefit.
Each type of liner offers unique benefits. Selecting the one that’s right for a given pickup is dependent upon how the truck is used – and what return on your investment you want when it’s time to sell or trade-in.- Pro