As with many car and truck accessories, there are many different ladder racks to choose from. A ladder rack can vary from one brand to another, and each model or style has subtle differences.
The reason for all these differences is, of course, that people need ladder racks for different reasons. So what ladder rack will fit your needs best? Here are some factors to consider.
Heavy Duty Construction vs. Lightweight Construction
A ladder rack may be light enough to facilitate quick, on-the-spot setup, or it might be of a more heavy-duty construction in order to bear the greatest possible load. Ladder racks that feature lightweight construction are not necessarily less strong, however — technology has enabled manufacturers to produce lighter-weight racks with comparable load capacities in order to facilitate easier setup, particularly on quick-setup racks.
The type of construction you should choose depends on how you intend to use your ladder rack. If you plan to buy a rack system that can be dismantled when you don’t need it, and you anticipate setting up and taking down the rack frequently, you will probably benefit most from a lightweight rack that is easier to handle. However, if you intend to set your rack up once and never take it down, and you plan on carrying heavy loads, you will want to ignore the rack’s weight altogether and focus your attention instead at the load capacity for each rack you are considering.
No matter what other features you are looking at, it is important to make sure that your ladder rack is protected against corrosion and rust.
Rust can be quite sneaky and hit when you least expect it. Even a rack that is only used for short periods and is taken down afterward is susceptible to rust — if it rains while you are using it or while the rack is stored in the bed, water can get trapped in the little joints and crevices, and over time cause the rack to rust.
If your rack starts to rust, its ability to bear a load is compromised, and you will have to get a new one. This is why homemade racks can be dangerous — they usually do not have any protection against corrosion, and may not be structurally sound enough to bear a load.
Permanent vs. Temporary or Quick Installation
Ladder racks now offer a variety of choices for setup. Racks were traditionally bolted down, so once they were installed they were left there permanently. However, more temporary — yet still secure — methods of installation are now used.
If you don’t plan on taking down your ladder rack once it has been installed, a permanent installation will be ideal for you. Permanent installations are more secure, and may offer greater load bearing capacity and reliability than temporary or quick installation racks. However, they also require drilling and therefore may need to be professionally installed, which generates more expense. Additionally, drilling holes for installation cuts through the truck’s painted finish and exposes the metal underneath, making the bed susceptible to rust.
Temporary or quick installation racks are stronger than you might think, though of course they will never be infallible. The biggest advantage to these is that you can set them up quickly for one-time uses, and then take them down again when you no longer need them. Typically these racks fold down for storage, enabling them to take up as little room as possible. However, if you intend to use your ladder rack regularly, or if you need it to carry heavy loads, a more secure, permanent rack is probably the best choice for you.
Overhead vs. Side Ladder Racks
There are many different models of ladder racks, but there are two basic kinds of styles: overhead racks, which enable you to carry a ladder or lumber horizontally above the truck’s cab and bed, and side racks, which are ideal for smaller loads.
Overhead racks can carry the largest loads, but they are also heavier, more cumbersome, and often require a more permanent installation. Side ladder racks can be installed more quickly, often feature quick installation to allow you to dismantle them when you no longer need them, and are lighter and easier to carry and set up.
Choosing the Best Ladder Rack
When shopping for a ladder rack for your truck or van, it is important to consider all of your options carefully. Think about how you will be using it, and make a selection that makes sense for you. When an appropriate choice is made, a ladder rack can give you many years of good use!