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Comparing Pickup Truck Bed Extenders

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If you own a pickup truck with a relatively short bed, then there are probably times when you wish you had a little more length to work with. Having a few extra inches could mean a world of difference when hauling a wide variety of goods, including furniture and lumber.

Pickup truck bed extenders make it possible to add those extra inches onto your truck bed whenever you need them. These extenders come in several popular forms, each with their own benefits and drawbacks. The following takes a look at three popular options for extending your pickup truck bed.

Standard Truck Bed Extenders

The vast majority of standard truck bed extenders come in the form of a U-shaped, cage-like enclosure that sits on top of the open tailgate. This helps give your payload a few extra inches of room without the risk of having your load fall out. Some designs allow you to completely remove the extender and place it at the head of the truck bed when not in use. Others are permanently bolted to the end of the bed, but flip inward to allow the tailgate to close.

Standard truck bed extenders are the most common and, in most cases, affordable type of pickup truck bed extenders available. Unfortunately, their bulky design often takes up space when they're not in use. In addition, some standard truck bed extenders require some drilling in order to properly mount the extender to the truck bed.

Hitch-Mounted Extenders

Unlike their standard counterparts, hitch-mounted truck bed extenders take advantage of unoccupied trailer hitches in order to add extra length. Most hitch mounts consist of a long bar that connects to the truck's trailer hitch and extends several inches beyond the tailgate. A T-shaped bar provides support for the truck's payload. On some models, the bar can be adjusted to accommodate a variety of loads.

While hitch-mounted truck bed extenders excel at hauling long loads like pipes, ladders and lumber, they won't work for most other types of payloads due to their design. It may be possible to build a flat platform for longer, heavier items to rest on, but it creates a stability risk for payloads when the truck is in motion.

Slide-Out Extenders

Slide-out truck bed extenders are ideal if you're looking for a more integrated approach. Unlike the previous two truck bed extension options, slide-out extenders are built into the bed of the truck for a discreet appearance and added strength when carrying heavy payloads. In addition to providing extra length for long loads, these truck bed extenders also allow you to grab tools and materials without having to climb into the bed.

The downside to this approach can easily be seen if your truck has a tonneau cover. Most slide-out mechanisms take up a significant amount of space within the bed, making it nearly impossible to store some items in the bed with the tonneau cover in place. The raised deck also prevents tall items from being stored in trucks fitted with camper shells. Slide-out decks also make it impossible to install or use a gooseneck fifth-wheel trailer.

Tailgate-Mounted Extenders

Tailgate-mounted truck bed extenders are mounted onto the truck's tailgate, instead of within the bed or as an externally-mounted device. This allows you to have a low-profile bed extender that doesn't interfere with tonneau covers or take up large amounts of space like a conventional truck bed extender would.

On the downside, a tailgate-mounted bed extender might not be able to carry as much weight as other bed extenders would. Tailgate thefts are also another thing to worry about. Not only could your tailgate disappear, so could the extender that's bolted on or integrated into the tailgate itself.