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Published Sep. 25, 2019

There is no denying the value of a durable and affordable truck rack. This versatile accessory is a must-have for adventurous souls and professionals who are constantly on the go. Racks make a great addition to work vans and help transport ladders and other equipment safely and securely. Traveling to your favorite kayaking or holiday destination with your bicycle or canoe in tow is also possible thanks to modern racks and their innovative design. The market has no shortage of quality racks that add more cargo space to your vehicle without breaking the bank. You will find the cream of the crop and the best truck racks in our helpful guide below.

The Best Truck Rack & Van Rack

Our top pick is one of the more popular truck racks, thanks to a universal design that complements trucks of all sizes. The TracOne is a great solution for transporting sizable cargo, such as ladders and plywood. Fans of fishing and kayaking can use it to load up their gear safely and securely. This durable ladder rack is made of aluminum with a dual-stage powder coating in order to resist rust and survive seasonal weather changes that bring wind, heat and moisture. The TracOne can support 800 pounds of cargo that is evenly distributed across two racks and is equipped with a T-track for additional stability.

Key Features
  • Aerodynamic design capable of supporting 800 lbs cargo
  • Made of powder coated aluminum for durability
  • Easily installed using 8 single axis mounting clamps
  • Lightweight and compatible with many hauling accessories
  • 4 adjustable crossbar loop tiedowns
Specification
  • Brand Thule
  • Weight 49 Pounds

The Overhaul HD rack from Yakima is another great option for truck owners who need a versatile truck rack where they can secure coolers and other bulky items instead of crowding the truck bed. Pickup truck racks need to be sturdy and easy to install, and the Overhaul HD is both. What is great about this rack is that its height can be adjusted from 19 inches up to 30 inches. This practical feature is accompanied by a key system that allows you to secure both racks to the truck bed using one key. Each rack can support up to 500 pounds of cargo, but this capacity drops down to 300 pounds during off-road excursions. You can secure your cargo using multiple tie down points and T-slot attachments to keep your gear in place, especially on uneven or bumpy terrain. The rack takes around one hour to assemble, and all the tools you need are included. This model is compatible with other Yakima mounts, eliminating the need for specialized racks.

Key Features
  • Durable Bedgrip clamp design with built in bottle openers
  • Made of powder coated aluminum to resist rust and wear
  • Height can be adjusted from 19 to 30 inches
  • Compatible with most truck beds except Nissan and Toyota
  • Cargo secured using T-slot attachments and tie down points
  • 500 lb. on-road carrying capacity and 200 lb. off-road
Specification
  • Brand Yakima
  • Model 8001151
  • Weight 60 pounds

This rack from AA Products is mounted onto the roof and has a carrying capacity of 350 pounds. The two bars can be extended from 35 inches up to 57 inches and have a heavy-duty steel mounting base. They are also available in white matte and sandy black. Installation is easy but not drill-free. The powder-coated steel is tough and resistant to rust and wear with a wide mounting base. The polyfoam gasket used to secure the bars also adds to the overall safety and stability of this accessory.

Key Features
  • 13-gauge steel roof rack with 11-gauge steel mounting base
  • Adjustable length can be extended from 35'' to 57''
  • Available in two colors: matte white and sandy black
  • 350 lb. carrying capacity 
Specification
  • Brand AA Products Inc.
  • Model DX36-BLK
  • Weight 17.6 pounds

AA Products Inc offers a variety of pickup truck racks, and its X35 design caters to kayak owners who need a durable and affordable accessory for their vehicles. This rack is sold as a bundle and is compatible with standard truck beds. The bundle consists of heavy-duty mounting hardware, C-clamps, and 16-feet-long ratchet straps. Drilling holes can be a headache, and luckily this model allows you to install and remove the four racks quickly and without permanently altering the bed of your truck.

Key Features
  • Four-rack bundle with mounting hardware steel set
  • Maximum carrying capacity – 2 kayaks
  • Includes 8 C-clamps and 16ft ratcheting straps
  • Includes 2 pairs of bow and stern tie down straps
  • Not compatible with utility track systems
  • Durable extended bolts for additional stability
Specification
  • Brand AA Products Inc.
  • Model KX-355-BLK
  • Weight 73.3 pounds

The Apex utility rack has a universal design that can be installed in small, medium and full-size pickup trucks with beds that are up to 66.5-inches wide. This design has an incredibly practical and hassle-free clamp system that erases the need for drilling and making alterations to the truck bed. Four ladder stoppers are also available to further secure large items, such as ladders and fishing poles. Each Apex rack can carry up to 800 pounds, and the rack is made of lightweight aluminum.

Key Features
  • Universal design compatible with different sized trucks
  • Made of lightweight aluminum for durability
  • Adjustable to accommodate trucks up to 66-1/2” wide
  • No drilling required thanks to easy clamp on installation
  • Carrying capacity of 800 lb. 
  • Includes four ladder stops to safely secure cargo
Specification
  • Brand Apex
  • Model ATR-RACK
  • Weight 38 pounds

The TMS rack is designed for heavier loads and can support up to 800 pounds. It has a maximum height of 30 inches, and its width can be adjusted to reach seven feet in order to accommodate different bed sizes. Ideal for both work and leisure, the bars can function as a lumber truck rack and can also transport kayaks and camping essentials safely and securely. This model requires drilling and comes with its own set of bolts and screws.

Key Features
  • Width can be adjusted from 5 ft. to 7ft.
  • Made of durable steel with a height of 30 inches
  • Includes 8 bolts and screws for bed installation
  • Carrying capacity up to 800 lbs evenly distributed
Specification
  • Brand TMS
  • Model PICK-UP-RACK
  • Weight 50 pounds

The MaxxHaul is another quality truck rack that can be used to transport 400-pound cargo. The bars are made of heavy-duty aluminum and can be easily adjusted to reach a length of 71 inches. This additional length makes transporting bulky items like plumbing gear and kayaks possible. This rack can be installed in most trucks but does not work with truck beds that have cleats with liners and railings. Those must be removed first since the bars are meant to be mounted onto the bed sides. The bars can be positioned anywhere along the rail, and installation is easy and does not require any drilling.

Key Features
  • Length can be extended to 71 inches
  • Adjustable steel mounting brackets for quick installation
  • 400 lb. carrying capacity if evenly distributed
  • Tough aluminum bars with fortified inner chambers
  • Equipped with adjustable cargo bumpers
Specification
  • Brand 70423
  • Model 70423
  • Weight 55 pounds

The Thule TracOne boasts an aerodynamic design and an 800-pound carrying capacity. The built-in deflectors help keep wind noises at bay while driving, and the aluminum load stops can be adjusted to accommodate truck width. This design is drill-free and is available in both black and silver. This is the ideal purchase for trucks with short beds that make it difficult to transport long cargo and adventure gear, including kayaks and surf boards.

Key Features
  • Built-in wind deflectors to reduce noise
  • Made of lightweight, sturdy aluminum
  • 800 lb. carrying capacity if evenly distributed
  • Includes adjustable aluminum stops for protection
  • Easy drill-free installation
Specification
  • Brand Thule
  • Model 27000XTB
  • Weight 46 Pounds

Backrack offers a wide variety of racks, and its stylish rack frame makes a great addition to any truck. The subtle yet versatile design has a cab guard that prevents bulky items and long equipment from colliding with the rear glass. This safety feature makes the frame an ideal alternative to roof and bed racks that add to the height of the truck. The welded crisscross center grid and durable steel construction add to the overall safety and durability of this accessory. Items that are at risk of shifting can be easily secured to the flat bar using a ratchet strap or bungee cord.

Key Features
  • Made of durable and wear resistant reinforced steel
  • Powder coated to resist rust and wear
  • Compatible with Toyota Tundra 200-2017 models
  • Can be installed in 1999-2017 Chevy/GMC Silverado, Sierra, Classic
  • Fits 2004-2017 Ford F-150
  • Installation kit sold separately
Specification
  • Brand Backrack
  • Model 48 pounds
  • Weight 15004

The Haul-Your-Might rack was designed for the Nissan Titan, Toyota Tundra and Tacoma bedrail systems. This vehicle-specific model is not compatible with tonneau covers, but it has a great feature that is not available in most truck racks. The crossbars can be fully locked to prevent theft and have a universal t-slot that is compatible with other Rola accessories. These anodized aluminum bars have equally tough powder-coated uprights and stainless-steel hardware. The rack can support 800 pounds of cargo, and the installation kit is included with every purchase.

Key Features
  • Durable and lightweight aluminum rack
  • Compatible with Toyota Tundra and Tacoma
  • Can be installed in Nissan Titan trucks
  • Crossbars can be locked to prevent theft
  • Set includes installation hardware 
  • 800 lb. carrying capacity
Specification
  • Brand Rola
  • Model 59799
  • Weight 30 pounds

The APX25 ladder rack from AA Products Inc. is made of lightweight and durable aluminum with equally sturdy C-clamps. This model can be extended and has a universal design that can be installed in most truck beds. However, it is not compatible with utility track systems and cannot be mounted in beds with toolboxes. The APX25 can support 800 pounds be it in the form of long, heavy ladders or lumber that needs to be transported to construction sites. It can also accommodate kayaks, leaving ample room in the truck bed for camping or adventure gear. There are three colors to choose from depending on your truck, including dark grey and sandy white. The unit is also equipped with four load stops to secure everything in place.

Key Features
  • Universal design made of reinforced aluminum
  • Includes 8 C-clamps for drill-free installation
  • Compatible with many truck models
  • Equipped with 4 load stops to secure cargo
  • Cannot be installed in trucks with utility track systems
  • 800 lb. carrying capacity 
Specification
  • Brand AA Products Inc.
  • Model APX25-BLK
  • Weight 40.1 pounds

The X202 rack is made of durable gauge steel and has a loading capacity of 300 pounds per bar. The rack is mounted onto the roof of any van and has a universal design with 72-inch-long cross bars and a durable mounting base to support heavy cargo and long ladders. This is the ideal purchase for 2015 Ford Transit vans and newer models as well. Stainless steel hardware is included with each purchase and consists of bolts, nuts and washers. Each bar set comes with its own pair of ladder stoppers to secure equipment in place.

Key Features
  • Powder coated steel roof rack with 10-gauge steel mounting base
  • 300 lb. maximum carrying capacity per bar
  • Compatible with 2015-present Ford Transit models
  • Includes stainless steel hardware
  • Available in 2 colors: gloss black and gloss white
Specification
  • Brand AA Products Inc.
  • Model X202-72(3)-BLK-TR

The MaxxHaul 70233 ladder rack for truck use has extendable arms that can support ladders, sports gear and other substantial items that are otherwise too large for truck beds. This model features mounting brackets that are bolted onto the sides with extended stops on each end. Adding more inches to carry sizable cargo is also possible and each bar can be extended from 19 inches all the way to 34 inches. MaxxHaul racks are made of tough steel with a powder-coated finish and can be installed in trucks beds with a maximum depth of 17-1/4 inches.

Key Features
  • Steel ladder rack with extendable arms
  • Can be extended from 19" to 34"
  • Built-in handle and tie down anchor points
  • Compatible with truck beds with a maximum depth of 17-1/4"
  • Mounted onto both the rail and truck bed for stability
Specification
  • Brand MaxxHaul
  • Model 70233
  • Weight 37.5 pounds

The Heininger sports rack offers a combination of great features that make transporting bikes onboard your truck easy and hassle free. The rack can accommodate up to four bicycles that are secured using rubberizes lateral stabilizers. Mounting hardware is included and features wingnut screws that are used to install the rack. This drill-free installation process is easy and so is assembling the rack. This Heininger accessory can hold bicycles with rim sizes up to 28 inches and can be extended from 54.5 to 66.5 inches. Using a spacer allows you to increase this number and add an extra 10 inches. The base of the rack has anti-slip feet for additional stability. Expensive bicycles are at risk of theft during transportation, and this model comes prepared with a 72-inch cable that can be locked.

Key Features
  • Can accommodate up to four bicycles
  • Compatible with many large and compact sized trucks
  • Can be extended laterally from 54.5" to 66.5” without a spacer
  • Quick assembly using rubberized stabilizers and no drills required
  • Includes soft padding to prevent scratching and lockable cable
  • Functions as a regular bike rack
Specification
  • Brand Heininger
  • Model 2025
  • Weight 8 ounces

Our final pick also comes from AA Products Inc. and features a special three-bolt lock design for van rain gutters. This design secures the cargo in place in vans with uneven roofs thanks to its middle bar. This universal bar can be adjusted depending on the width and has a range of 5/8 inches. This makes it the ideal rack for cargo vans both old and new. Each bar has a 300-pound carrying capacity and is made of tough 13-gauge steel. The clamps have a protective rubber cover in order to resist rust and prevent metal from rubbing against metal. In order to deal with wind noise and height restrictions, the unit is equipped with oval shaped uprights that also prevents water from entering the van.

Key Features
  • Three-bolt design to secure cargo in place
  • Middle bar can be adjusted up to 5/8''
  • Compatible with both old and new vans
  • Made of heavy duty 13-gauge steel bar with powder coated finish
  • Oval shaped uprights reduce height and wind noise
Specification
  • Brand AA Products Inc.
  • Model X37-T
  • Weight 50 pounds

Best Truck Racks & Van Racks Buying Guide

There are so many ladder racks for pickup trucks to choose from, with all kinds of features that cater to both adventurous souls and professionals. Installing the right rack means you can transport cargo of all shapes and sizes onboard your vehicle safely and securely. Taking your go-to adventure gear with you during road trips is made easy thanks to the wide variety of racks that can be installed above the truck bed or roof. Our guide below sheds more light on each type and offers helpful tips on how to install your newly purchased ladder rack.

Truck Bed Rack

Things to Consider When Buying a Truck Rack

  • Cargo

Racks are used to transport all kinds of work-related gear and they also make traveling with surf boards and kayaks possible. They make a great addition to small and mid-sized vans that have narrow or compact truck beds. The type of gear or sports equipment you want to transport dictates the kind of rack you need. Professionals who depend on long ladders for work can go for a narrow yet functional rack. Families who need their truck beds for coolers and other travel essentials can invest in a wide rack to transport their fishing poles or kayaks.

  • Loading Capacity

Tuck racks have different loading capacities so not all brands or models can support heavy cargo. This applies to trucks as well since there is a gross vehicle weight rating that must not be exceeded when traveling with sizable cargo. Locating this number is easy and you can typically find it either in the manual or plastered to the driver’s door inside your truck. Professionals who use their van or truck for work need to make sure that the combined weight of the rack, vehicle and cargo does not exceed the gross vehicle weight.

  • Steel vs. Aluminum

Steel and aluminum are both used in the manufacturing of quality truck racks and it is up to you to decide which material you prefer. Aluminum racks are rust resistant and not as heavy as steel. They are a bit pricey, but they help balance out the extra load that is added to your truck or van. Rain and snow will not affect them in the long run unlike steel that is prone to corrosion. However, steel is extremely tough and can support heavier loads without collapsing or losing its durability. Professionals who rely on their truck for work and for transporting their equipment will definitely benefit from a powder coated steel rack. Truck owners who live in areas where snow and rain are a common occurrence might want to invest in aluminum racks rather than steel.

  • Compatibility

You will find many manufacturers that sell universal racks that can be installed in trucks of all sizes. Most of these racks have crossbars that can be extended to fit most truck beds. This universal design is therefore compatible with trucks and vans no matter their make or model. Purchasing a universal rack is a great long-term investment since you can easily remove it and reinstall it in a brand-new truck. Many brands also sell racks that were designed for certain models like the Ford Transit and Nissan Titan. These specialty racks have different specifications and features that cater to each specific model and are typically more expensive and more stylish compared to universal racks.

  • Accessories

Many brands like the ones mentioned in our list offer more than just traditional racks. They also sell additional accessories packed with bonus features to help you make the most out of your purchase. Headache racks are one example of an accessory that was designed to protect the rear window. Anti-theft cables and locks are sometimes sold separately, and they help keep expensive cargo safe while your truck is parked. Bed nets, tie downs and anchors are also on offer to help keep bulky items secure during bumpy rides and adventurous off-road trips.

Why You Should Use Van Racks

  • Double Your Cargo

Nothing beats having ample space for coolers and camping gear especially if you own a small or medium size truck. Truck racks allow you to pack up everything you need for your trip without compromising on essentials and without leaving anything behind because you ran out of space. This accessory also allows hardworking truck owners to load up their daily supplies and tools for the day inside the truck bed before securing their utility ladder to their rack of choice. This two-in-one solution to compact or narrow truck bed problems is lightweight and affordable. The benefit of having additional space are endless especially if you use your truck or van on a daily basis to transport building materials and other supplies.

  • Protect Your Truck Bed

Ladders, pipes and other sizable pieces of equipment not only crowd your truck bed, but they also lead to scratches and dents over time. Loose or untied cargo will shift and collide with the sides of the truck, causing more damage that will cost you money in the long run. Installing one or even two racks will help preserve your truck bed since heavy items with a substantial length will remain suspended over the bed.

Aluminum Utility Rack

Different Kinds of Truck & Van Racks

  • Side-Mount Racks

These racks are the ideal accessory for transporting ladders since they are narrow in terms of width. They make a great addition to any truck. Many of these models have a 500-pound carrying capacity and are equipped with tie-downs and extendable uprights that cater to different sized trucks.

  • Over-Truck Bed Racks

Truck bed racks are a popular and practical choice thanks to their numerous features. There are so many options to choose from such as removable racks that are easy to assemble and install, and sports racks that can accommodate up to four bicycles. Some racks have an adjustable height feature that allows you to load tall or bulky gear while others have an extendable length and ample width to accommodate kayaks and surf boards.

  • Rain Gutter Racks

Those are mounted on the roof of vans and are connected to rain gutters. Rain gutter racks are typically installed in commercial vans and other vehicles to transport heavy loads. They are affordable and some models are equipped with oval shaped posts that reduce wind noise and reduce rack height as well.

  • Back Racks

Back racks or headache racks guard the rear window and are a great alternative to high ladder racks. Their design is simple and can be used for more than just shielding the cabin from shifting cargo. Back racks have uprights that can be used to secure equipment big and small such as ladders using bungee cords or tie down straps. Some have a stylish mesh design that complements most trucks while others have horizontal or vertical bars that help keep the cabin cool. Back racks will not get in the way of you parking in your own garage or in multi-level garages while traveling.

How to Install a Ladder Rack

DIY enthusiasts can install their newly purchased ladder rack by following the instruction manual. Each design comes with its own set of instructions and hardware kit. Below are some incredibly helpful tips that will help you install your newly purchased rack.

  • Make sure that the lumber rack truck is equipped with an adjustable handle system. This feature allows you to safely access your ladder from the side. The handle makes mounting equipment easy and hassle free.
  • The rack must be mounted correctly, and this involves tightly fastening the bolts or clamps. Each component must be correctly positioned and secured in place using the hardware supplied with each kit.
  • To prevent moisture from building up and causing issues down the line, telescoping tubes must be used to seal any moisture prone areas that can damage steel crossbars.
  • Locks are also a great accessory for truck and van owners who transport valuable cargo. These locks are also used to keep ladders in place and help keep your precious equipment safe in gas stations and parking lots. Make sure that the cables you use are compatible with these locks.
  • Invest in heavy duty bungee cords and ratchet straps.
  • Keep in mind that not all racks can be removed once installed. Therefore, it is not advised to remove bolted racks in the hopes of installing them in another vehicle. Those that come with a clamp system can be removed since the c-clamps do not require drilling.
Truck Ladder Rack

Our Top Pick

There are so many Thule roof bars out there, but the TracOne universal rack stands out in a myriad of ways. This model is packed with a ton of features with an aerodynamic design and durable aluminum construction. You can easily use your truck to transport 800 pounds of cargo and even adventure related gear like surf boards and kayaks in a safe and secure manner. The durable bars can be installed in less than an hour without resorting to drills and without making permanent changes to your truck bed. Moreover, the elongated crossbars help minimize wind resistance and the airfoil strips found within the crossbar slots prevent those grating whistling noises that can give you a headache while driving. What is also great about this rack is its one size fits all universal design that does not restrict it to one or two car models.

Source:

  1. How Cargo Carriers Work – How Stuff Works

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