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Drop-In Vs. Spray-In Truck Bedliner

Which Is Right For You?

Mike McGlothlin
Jul 1, 2011
Behind all the glory we give the modern diesel engine sits one of the most underappreciated pieces of steel bolted to our trucks: the bed. Statistics show most buyers purchase diesel trucks to work them—be it on the weekends or every day of the week. And with maximum payload ratings perpetually increasing, owners are able to work their trucks harder than ever before. It’s a known fact that truck beds suffer a lot of abuse, and everything you can think of will scratch the paint. So why not protect it?
Photo 2/6   |   drop In Vs Spray In line X Bed Liner
It’s relatively cheap to add a bedliner, so the question becomes: Which one is right for you? The type of payload you haul, how serious you are about preventing corrosion, how much you’re willing to spend, and even the current condition of the bed can reflect how well you want to take care of it. We’ve outlined the strong points and the weak points of the age-old drop-in bedliner and spray-in coatings, as well as which one suits the type of truck owner you are. You can use our guide to help you choose which one is best for you.

Drop-in Bedliners


Rubber Cost: $50 to $200
Plastic Cost: $140 to $400
Strong points:
Photo 3/6   |   In our case, we don’t haul something in the bed of our ’97 F-350 crew cab every day of the week. The rubber drop-in bedliner that came with the truck serves its purpose and keeps objects from sliding around when we do haul. However, we now have a couple of dents in our bed that might’ve been prevented had we installed a tougher material (plastic drop-in or spray-in liner).
  • Easy to replace
  • Typically cheaper than spray-in
  • Can be a custom fit for your specific truck
  • Aftermarket units often come with a warranty
  • Although typically sealed by the cab, most plastic liners feature ribbed floor patterns for water drainage
  • Ribbed flooring also guards against dents in the bed
  • Require little to no drilling to install
  • No prep work required
  • Rubber liners are great for skid resistance
  • Conceals all past bed dents and damage
  • You can install it yourself
  • Some drop-ins add attachment points that are molded into the plastic liner
Weak Points:
  • Older rubber units don’t protect the inner bedsides (they just lay flat on the bed floor)
  • Plastic liners are known to trap water between the liner and the bed, leading to rust or corrosion if the truck sits for long periods of time
  • Plastic liners can become noisy at highway speeds due to vibration and wind
  • Plastic units can vibrate and may come loose over time
  • Once loose, plastic units can wear through paint on the bed floor, exposing bare metal, and eventually leading to rust where the paint was worn through if the vehicle remains unused for long periods of time
You’re A Drop-In Guy If…
  • Cost is a concern yet you still need some bed floor protection
  • The drop-in came with the truck and it suits you just fine
  • Skid resistance is priority one, and your rubber liner doesn’t let smooth-surfaced objects slide around
  • You want to add another layer of structure to your bed for the utmost impact protection
  • Dent protection is important to you

Spray-in Bedliners


Cost: $350 to $700
Strong Points:
  • Very durable and corrosion-resistant
  • Can reduce the road noise that would otherwise be transmitted through the bed
  • Used in the heavy-equipment industry and the military
  • Will typically last longer than a rubber or plastic drop-in
  • Watertight seal—no trapped condensation leading to rust or corrosion
  • Excellent adhesion to steel with proper surface prep
  • Some brands offer a nationwide warranty, so repairs can be made free or cheap
  • Various textures are available, from hard to grippy
  • You can cover your bedrails to protect them, too
  • Your tailgate can be sprayed as well—a major point of scratches, nicks, and missing paint
  • Most spray-in liners dry instantly, so there’s no waiting around to use your bed after it’s applied
  • Very versatile—it can be used to protect rocker panels and fenderwells and in place of interior floor mats
  • Can even increase the resale value of your truck
  • Conceals minor bed dents and damage
Photo 4/6   |   Looking at a spray-in liner versus a drop-in, you get the idea that spray-in liners are the preferred method of bed protection. Ford even jumped on the bandwagon in 2008 when it began offering Tough Bed bedliner (similar to Line-X, Rhino Lining, and the like) on its Super Dutys. It was even included in its 36,000-mile limited warranty.
Weak Points:
  • Permanent (your best bet may just be to have it repaired rather than removed)
  • Stains easily (paint or chemical spills could be there permanently)
  • Can be hard on your knees if you spend time maneuvering tools or boxes around in the bed
  • Requires the factory paint finish to be sanded off
  • Color fades in time and with exposure to sunlight (but UV-protection options are available)
  • The hardness of the chemical you choose can affect your cargo (harder surfaces can scratch wood finishes and furniture easier than softer floor surfaces)
  • It’s all up to the installer: Poor prep work and careless application can lead to a sub-standard finish
  • Thickness of the application (and ultimately the protection it provides) is up to the installer
Photo 5/6   |   Prep work is key in the spray-in bedliner process and more vital than the application process. Make sure your technician removes tie-downs, hooks, and bed bolts before applying it. Also, have him disassemble and spray your tailgate’s access panel separately. If you don’t, it will be sealed shut.
You’re A Spray-In Guy If…
  • Your truck is a work truck, but one that you care about— hauling rock, sand, gravel, and firewood shouldn’t damage the tough nature of a spray-in liner (but if it is damaged, you most likely have a warranty)
  • Keeping rust and corrosion out of the equation is a major concern—especially if the vehicle sits for long periods of time
  • Dent protection is important to you
  • You like a finished look for your bed
Photo 6/6   |   The two most common national brands of spray-in bedliners are Line-X and Rhino Linings. Line-X uses a product made from a blend of a polyurethane and polyurea (which is why it cures so quickly) that has proven itself over the years for its great durability and long lifespan. Rhino Linings’ material is said to contain no volatiles or organic compounds in its epoxy mixture, and it too has been praised for its great adhesion to steel, durability, and protective qualities.

Sources

Line-X
877-330-1331
www.linex.com
Rhino Linings
San Diego, CA 92121
858-450-0441
www.rhinolinings.com
Penda Corporation
800-356-7704
http://www.penda.com

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