How can you define what the best truck bed extender is? Should it be lightweight, or heavy duty? Fit just to the tailgate or run from the tow hitch receiver? Plastic or steel? There are many questions like these, so I’ve taken six different extenders and written down what I think.
Tow Hitch Mounted
Tow Hitch Mounted
Tow Hitch Mounted
First up, I’d like to point out that this isn’t necessarily about just trucks either – a bed extender that fits in your receiver hitch will work just as well for a car as it will a truck, which could mean that hauling around those longer items (like lumber for example) could still be possible in a regular car … you don’t need a truck.
There are a few things to think about when it comes to bed extenders, least of all, will it work with your tonneau cover? Added to that, we have to choose whether you want an extender that mounts in the trailer hitch receiver – these are particularly useful for extended loads that require more than just a couple feet that you’d get with an extender that allows you to have the tailgate open for example.
Or how about the ability to swap the extender around to make it upright, allowing you to support something at roof height? That’s a real neat feature. You also need to think about how much weight you want to place on the extender, if it’s not the tailgate variety – some of the extenders that fit to the hitch are capable of accepting a heavy weight – hundreds of pounds in fact, but can your vehicle take that extra weight, and there’s something more pressing …
Adding some seriously heavy weight at the rear will have an effect on the ride. Of course lowering the rear suspension, maybe raising the front, but … when you add that weight 3 or 4 feet further back from the rear of the vehicle, it will act like a pivot (simple physics) which could have an even greater effect – you really need to understand the weights & lengths involved before just going ahead and strapping it up.
These are some of the most popular truck bed extenders, it’s worth remembering that you’re really only getting a couple of extra feet in length – basically the size of the tailgate when it’s opened out. All it’s really doing is allowing you to open up the tailgate, and then fence it in to stop things just rolling out the back.
They can be a useful addition, however, they aren’t structural – if you want to haul an ATV or something, you’d still need to strap the ATV down because one of these truck extenders won’t hold it in, or you’d certainly be at risk of it not holding, that’s for sure.
The other neat thing about these extenders is that they can be used in reverse … effectively separating a smaller amount of the truck bed off if you want to carry smaller items without them rattling around.
Tow Hitch Mounted
The other type of bed extender is the towing hitch receiver mounted extender, and these offer a much great extension length – usually around four feet from the receiver.
These are great if you’re needing to haul something like a kayak (which seems to be a popular option for extenders!), or perhaps you’re a contractor that needs to lug larger pipes or lumber … these extenders work great for that sort of use. Because they can take some weight, are usually fully adjustable and when you’re done, you can store easily – some even pack flat and can be stored behind the vehicle seats.
The other great feature of some of these extenders, is that instead of sticking out from the receiver backwards, they can be made to fit upwards, so should you find yourself wanting to haul something at roof level, they’ll work for that too, providing you don’t need the tailgate open.
The Best Truck Bed Extender
1. AMP Research 74813-01A Max Truck Bed Extender
This is a tailgate mounted extender, it flips out with the tailgate, which gives you around 2 feet of extra space, or when you close the tailgate back up, it can act as a smaller section of the bed for putting those odd … things … in to.
It’s a U-shape design, so there’s no sharp corners, and that also means the design offers greater strength, although the weakest point (in terms of load capacity) is the fixings used to attach it to the tailgate.
It’s a torque resistant clamshell, which uses composite uprights to hold the 6063 T6 aluminum alloy tubes (which are like a round rectangle design – excellent strength) which have been powder coated for greater durability and corrosion resistance. Depending on the vehicle, you may find that the bed area has pre-marked (or even pre-drilled) holes for the extender.
It’s entirely designed and made in the USA, comes with a 3 year limited warranty, and all hardware and fixings are included in the kit.
Overall, the AMP Research 74813-01A offers great value, nice design and an impressive warranty – if you’re looking for a tailgate bed extender, this is definitely worth considering.
2. Lund 601021 Hitch Mounted Truck Bed Extender
This impressive hitch mounted extender has been rated safe with loads of up to 750lbs (provided it’s distributed properly), and can extend to around 56” from the receiver hitch opening, which is around 4’ 8” in total … which gives you around another 2’ from just opening the tailgate out.
The mounting platform has wings on the side of it to hold any cargo in place, and these can be adjusted from 27” right out to 49” (just over 4’). It even comes with a foldable side support to give an added dimension of rigidity, which should mean you can safely carry the weight without fear of it moving around, or collapsing. As I mentioned earlier though, any weight placed at the end of the extender will act as a pivot on the vehicle – just be careful with how much weight you place on it.
The whole setup has been DOT approved, and the square section steel tubing frame will fit any standard 2” receiver hitch. There’s also an adaptor included for a 1” hitch, just in case.
The only thing going against this extender from Lund that is the inability to offer roof top hauling height. If that’s your thing, you need to look at the others in the list.
3. Erickson 07605 Pick-Up bed Extender
This will extend the length of a truck bed by approximately 4’ and can hold up to 350lbs in weight. It’s not the most heavy duty extender on the market, but it’s well designed and features neat little touches like welded on tie down loops for your straps.
A powder coated black steel frame, that can be reversed for roof top hauling, although using it this way means that you can’t open the tailgate, hardly a disaster but it’s worth knowing. There’s lots of different adjustment available, including for bed height, so in theory, you’ll never get stuck with something that’s too tall or too low – even if you switch trucks.
Fits the standard 2” receiver, and is easily removable. It can sway a little when attached to the vehicle without a load, but as soon as the load is on and strapped down, it’s unmovable, totally solid. If you want something that can offer both length and height options, this is a great extension that gives you all you need – solid, well designed and reasonable cost.
4. Darby Industries 944 Extend-A-Truck
Another great ‘dual’ extender – extend the length of your truck bed or reverse for roof top carrying. It can be adjusted between 55 – 62.5” for height settings (4’ 6” to 5’ 2.5”), or it will reach an extra 53” from the hitch (4’ 5”). It’s also adjustable at hitch height (for the bed height) for between 15.5” through to 23” above the hitch … you’ll never find yourself with an incorrectly angled extension or load again.
The support part (where the load sits) is 4’ wide, giving you an excellent wide base for spreading the load across the platform. The square section steel tubing (which has been powder coated black for durability) can be broken down so that it all stores flat behind the seating in the vehicle … it’s simple, quick and easy.
Everything you need – including the red safety flag – has been included in the kit. For me, the Darby Industries extender offers a great mixture of adjustability, with easy removal or breaking down for storage, and the price is unbelievably cheap … definitely high on the list of best truck extenders.
5. Dodge Ram Aluminum Tailgate Bed Extender
OK … this is very model specific by Mopar, so it’s original equipment standard and status. I know that some of you don’t like aftermarket gear.
It is a tailgate mounted extension, and it has straps that latch on to the tailgate catches to ensure that the extension is securely mounted. Once it has been properly fitted, you’ll find the ability to pivot in and out makes for a great idea, it’s also able to split, which means you can easily have full access to the complete bed when needed.
Everything is included in the kit … all mounting hardware and fixings. Because it’s factory, you should find that all holes are pre-drilled or at least pre-marked for drilling, which makes mounting the extension just that little bit easier. One thing though … the factory supply rivets in the kit, you’ll need a rivet gun, or you could just swap out the rivets for fixing screws should you so wish.
6. Genuine Ford FL3Z-99286A40-C Bed Extender
This is another OEM or genuine part, where the price may not offer you the most value for your money … a few hundred bucks is a lot of money for what is essentially, a plastic construction. Another slightly minor fault – once attached, it can make accessing the bed light switch difficult, which seems like a poor design fault.
It will extend the bed length by around 2’ (the length / height of the tailgate), and it’s quite secure – the design and fitment means that it cannot be removed when the tailgate is up – it’s effectively locked into place. Adjustable strap latches on the extender makes sure that it’s properly secured.
Once fitted, you’re not stuck with it separating the bed area. It can be split and tucked away for full access to the bed, so really it’s three positions – tailgate open with the extension, tailgate closed and splitting the loading area, or tailgate closed and the extender opened up to offer normal cargo space.