Despite having a truck, certain items cannot fit and stay secure on a truck bed, especially when we have to carry coolers, a tent, and other things as well. Have you ever wanted to load a kayak, surfboard, or ladder but couldn’t due to logistics? I get it. A good ladder goes a long way to take that issue out of the way.
They are an essential accessory that you can bolt to your vehicle. Their use transcends outdoor activities; you can use them on a daily, especially if you deal with heavy-duty stuff. A ladder rack frees up your bed space for the smaller equipment while securing bigger items.
Types of Ladder Racks
Over-bed racks are the common types you would see for trucks. They provide an easy solution to lift weight right above your truck with some of them exceeding 1000 lbs in weight capacity. You can either mount them using bolts in drilled holes or clamps.
Over-cab racks provide ample space and protection for your truck. With them, you can carry multiple long items without contact with your vehicle. However, they bring certain issues in terms of flexibility.
Although a few of them come as extensions that can be removed, most of them come fixed. That also affects adjusting the rack bars in most models. Assembling them also takes more time than the average over-bed rack
Side-mount ladder racks are great for carrying long items. Your items perch on one end or both ends if you prefer. However, you can’t use them to carry much due to their build. Some items cannot be fixed on them as well. The things you can carry with them are carpet rolls, ladders, and pipes. Few accept lumber. They can shoulder up to 500 pounds of that weight.
Van racks are for vans. If the inner space of your van isn’t sufficient, you can fit them on your rain-gutter and be on your way. Your wagon supports the weight of your load with roof strength. Like truck racks, you can tie-down your luggage. Most models are adjustable to fit the width of your van.
If you often haul long and oversized items, like ladders, lumbers, or pipes, the TMS 800 Truck Pickup Rack might be right for you.
The TMS 800 is two robust and adjustable steel racks that are lightweight but very sturdy. To fit your truck bed, you can slide the bars to a width of between 5 feet and 7 feet. This is a lot of space, so compact trucks may not be compatible.
Also, the frames are pretty strong; they can carry 800 pounds of heavyweight. Its design allows for moving long items as well.
Both the bars and the base are made of durable steel that is painted to prevent rust. Although the steel is a very sturdy heavy-duty, I wouldn’t rely so much on the paint. It is of poor quality and comes off quickly. You will need extra protection against rust if you decide to buy this ladder rack for your truck. You can paint the frames with good grade paint before installing it on your vehicle. Repainting is necessary at intervals.
That said, the TMS 800 Truck Pickup Rack is one of the most straightforward ladder racks to install. Although the overall weight of 50 pounds may not be easy for every person to lift, anyone with a drill and basic hand tools can fit it in a short time.
It is installed by drilling two holes in your truck and using two of the eight screws that come with the package to secure it in place on each side. Some users use clamps instead if you don’t want to drill holes; however, neither the manufacturer nor I recommend that. Just purchase another one of the truck ladder racks on this list instead.
On the downside, many users reported that some threaded frame parts on the adjustable crossbar weren’t appropriately chained. This can easily be taken care of with another screw through the crossbar.
The TMS 800 Truck Pickup Rack stands up to a maximum height of 30 inches (including the truck bed). It measures a dimension of 51 x 26.2 x 1.5 inches.
If you don’t want to carry hefty cargo or you prefer to stick with a straightforward design, the Erickson 07706 Steel Truck Rack might be perfect for you. It can easily hold up to 800 pounds with its heavy-duty steel frames and base. The Erickson 07706 is an excellent ladder rack for trucks whether you want to carry outdoor or construction equipment.
This is one rack that balances durability, performance, and price value; it is one of the most affordable on the market but still offers a sweet spot in performance. You can install it in 45 minutes or less, even if you are a novice. All you need do is drill holes on your bed rails and bolt them down. It might need two to install due to its 88 pounds.
This system comes as one of the most secure as drilling and bolting down remains the best way to secure the rack for a long ride with heavy cargo.
You should note that the nuts and bolts are not rust-resistant if you are bolting them down. The bolts seem to have missed out on proper treatment. You can either coat them yourself or get rust-resistant bolts to replace the ones that come in the package.
If you need to turn the roof of your van into a storage/cargo solution, the Highland 2006200 Bar Carrier is one of the best ladder racks for Vans on the market. This ladder rack is high-quality, heavy-duty gauge steel that fits most vans with rain gutters.
All the equipment you’ll need to mount this carrier comes with the package. About that, this model contains more sets of bolts than what you’ll usually find in van racks. That is good, and it follows Highland’s mission of ensuring a safe way to carry cargo.
The Highland 2006200 is very straightforward to install, even for a simple DIY person. If you choose to go for this model, you should have in mind when installing that you may need to tighten the telescopic bars with an extra bolt or stuff the gap with insulation of sorts. Otherwise, you might deal with rattling; it seems to be a prevalent problem.
Nevertheless, the ladder rack is great for its price. This is one of the least expensive items on this list, yet its functionality and extra value for money blow me away. It is light too, at only 22.1 pounds.
This rack can carry a load of up to 400 pounds, be it your ladder, kayak, or cargo bag. Before you set your cargo, you can adjust the bars from 37 inches to 62 inches wide to fit your vehicle appropriately. This should fit most rain-gutter roof vans.
Concerning weather resistance, the bars are coated to resist rust and corrosion. They are also scratch-resistant. I wouldn’t bank so much on its scratch resistance for a long time because the clamps were left out of the protection. Some reviewers recommended placing a rubber gasket material between the clamps and roof gutters or using the strips of an old inner tube of a bike between the clamps and roof rails. That shouldn’t cost much at all. With the rack’s affordable price, this is quite a steal.
MaxxHaul is known for durable and sturdy outdoor and vehicle accessories. For years, they have given us some sweet goodies, and the MaxxHaul 70386 does not fall short. This ladder rack is a combination of stable and robust.
It is made of heavy-duty steel, powder-coated with durable black powder to resist rust and corrosion. This truck ladder rack connects to trucks using the bolt and nut system. The bolts and nuts you will need come with the package.
It is easy to assemble by just glancing at the picture. All you have to do is drill holes into your truck’s rail system and use the bolts and nuts to secure the racks to your vehicle.
MaxxHaul used Gusset reinforcements at each joint end of the steel bars to ensure stability as you drive. Still working with its solid design, the bolts follow the 3-bolt mount bracket. It also has a sturdy tubular construction that provides plenty of tie-down points for your equipment.
All ladder racks do not fit every truck despite some having adjustable bars. Nevertheless, MaxxHaul tried in this regard by offering a wide adjustable width. Although it still doesn’t fit every truck, the 70386 provides a decent fit for most due to its adjustable bars that can go from 52 inches to 71 inches wide.
You would have to replace the black powder coat from time to time, but the good thing is you wouldn’t have to bother yourself about the supports. Plastic end caps cover the ends to prevent water and debris from coming in.
All of that weighs 53 pounds which you can use to carry a load of up to 500 pounds. Like most racks, it’s 30 inches tall.
If you are ready to invest in a ladder rack that lasts on the long haul, then the TracRac 37002 T-Rac Pro2 might meet your needs. It is not the least priced ladder rack on the market; quite far from that. However, it gives the best bang for your buck, especially if you are loading substantial weight.
This ladder rack can easily lift to 1000 pounds. Check your vehicle owner’s manual before you excitedly load all of that. Some trucks can hold 1000 lbs; others might not. Nevertheless, this weight capacity goes to show how sturdy the rack is.
It is made of aluminum, so you can relax knowing it is more resistant to rust and corrosion than steel racks. There’s also a durable powder-coat finish for better resilience, and the corner brace design helps it keep maximum stability and performance irrespective of wind and load.
There are also two load stop bars on each side of both racks and loops for tie-down hooks. They can slide to the end or the middle of the top bar to fit the size of your load. With this, you wouldn’t have any issues with the width of your kayaks, canoes, paddle oars, or ladders.
Another tie-down point is at the side of both racks, with aluminum cleats. You can also tie your items to the routed entry holes on the top and bottom of the crossbars.
One feature that makes this ladder rack standout is the wind deflectors. This aerodynamic design reduces noise as you go faster. You shouldn’t drive so fast if you are carrying 1000 pounds anyway.
Installation is not so easy. Each rack weighs between 25 pounds or a little above that (depending on the size you choose). That may or may not be too hard to lift by yourself.
You get to the good part after getting past lifting it; no holes are needed. Instead, you use single-axis universal mounting clamps. This is great, but TracRac failed to understand a straightforward manual.
There are some errors in the manual that TracRac didn’t see fit to correct. Fortunately, reviewers have a few recommendations to get you through the installation process. After that, subsequent installations and use are easy.
Unlike most ladder racks, the bars of the T-Rac Pro2 can’t be adjustable. Nevertheless, there are many sizes to choose from before you purchase. Each size has different width and height, including compact, Tacoma, and super tall. You can also select based on your truck. If no size on the list fits your vehicle, consider the other great ladder racks on this list.
Aluminum ladder racks that can carry lots of weight are good ones in my book. If you are looking for something more resistant, fully adjustable, lightweight, and can be fixed without bolts, the Apex ATR-RACK Heavy Duty Universal Rack might fit your needs.
This truck ladder rack is made of heavy-duty aluminum that can support up to 800 pounds of weight capacity. Despite this large capacity, it is lightweight, at just 38 pounds. This makes installation much easier because one person can easily lift each part.
If you purchase this ladder rack, your truck can stay the same without holes. That’s because the rack comes with quick and easy no-drill clamps that you can set in just minutes. However, if you are going to carry anything above 600 pounds, you may need to look towards drilling holes. The clamps may not hold a higher weight, especially if you would be driving fast.
The crossbars are adjustable; they shouldn’t give problems regardless of the size of your truck – compact, mid or full-size. They can stretch out to 66.5 inches wide. If your truck is above that – heading towards the 70s – consider other options. The TracRac 37002 or the AA-Racks X3502 are great alternatives.
There are four ladder stops in total, two on each rack. They are also adjustable, and keep you, your cargo, and your truck safe while on the move, especially when you use them as tie-down points.
The only gripe is the finishing. It is raw aluminum with lots of sharp edges. If finishing isn’t your top priority, this shouldn’t be an issue because it excels in functionality.
A lot of attention is paid on how much weight ladder racks, cargo carriers (and any other thing that is used to carry a load) can handle; the bigger, the better. However, not everyone needs a ladder rack that can carry 1000 pounds or above. So, I have also checked out a lesser capacity carrier and it qualifies to be on the best ladder carrier list.
The MaxxHaul 70423 can only carry up to 400 pounds of cargo weight. However, do not be deceived by its lighter weight capacity. It may be the lightest in weight capacity on this list, but it tops a lot of the other carriers here in terms of durability. Before I get into that, let’s look at the installation process.
It is easy to mount. You can also choose how you want to install it. If you wish to drill holes, you can. It can also be fixed without drilling holes in your truck bed rails, because of adjustable mounting brackets.
You need access to pickup bed sides to install it, so cleats, railings, and liners cannot be on the pickup bed if you want to use this truck ladder rack. Either you take them out, or you cut slots in your bed cover. All this information is also provided on the user manual; good thing it is very easy to read.
When have the racks fixed on your truck, you can use them for years without rust or corrosion. That is because they are made of aluminum that is powder-coated with a durable finish to resist rust and years of heavy use and wear.
Although it is aluminum, the inner chamber of the crossbars is reinforced for increased structural strength. As a result, it doesn’t bend or change shape when a load within its capacity is evenly placed on it. Also, the base brackets are made from heavy-duty steel with powder coat finish. This sturdy design is the reason for its higher weight than most aluminum ladder racks; it weighs 55 pounds.
On both sides of each rack, there are adjustable cargo bumpers. You can adjust these anywhere along the length of the crossbars to fit the width of what you are carrying. They prevent cargo from sliding off the side of the racks during transit. Like every other ladder rack, you will still need to tie down your load with bungee cords or any other strong material.
The MaxxHaul 70423 is 26 inches tall for upright support. Its crossbars are adjustable. They are on a sliding rack that extends up to 71 inches. This should fit most trucks.
If you don’t deal with construction equipment, or you don’t need the ladder rack to carry cumbersome items like lumber, then purchase the AA-Racks APX25. Although it is made to carry up to 800 pounds of weight, its installation/mounting process decreases that capacity. This is because it doesn’t use bolts or need drilling at all.
The lack of bolts in this design is an advantage in the sense that there are no holes to your truck and you don’t have to leave the ladder rack mounted on your truck permanently. However, clamps are not as secure as bolts and nuts. If you want it tighter than the average clamp, ensure you have direct access to your truck bed.
This design is excellent for us – outdoor enthusiast. Your surfboards, canoe, and most outdoor equipment can stay on top of your truck bed during the trip. These items can be held secure with the four stops on the rack. You can use the stops as tie them points. That said, the rack is made of durable reinforced heavy-duty aluminum construction that is powder-coated with weather resistant paint. Both materials will help you enjoy this product for a long time.
One boost of this model is the upgraded accessory option. There is a headache rack provided in that option for both standard-sized trucks and Toyota Tacoma. With that, your rear window is protected from damage when transporting cargo. This is an investment you shouldn’t let go of.
Many racks use the slide-in method to adjust the crossbars for increased width; this is not the case here. The width is fixed and the inches you get depends on the size you choose during purchase. However, you can lessen it through the post slides. The post rails can be slid backward or forward to adjust for bed width.
Ladder Rack Buyers Guide
Ladder racks, like every other product, are not designed equally. Some are more suitable for certain needs and trucks than others. Looking at the numerous models on the market may leave you overwhelmed and unsure of which to go for. It’s more than knowing a dimension fits your car. I have put together a guide with factors that you need to consider before you decide to purchase any.
If you will transport cargoes weighing about 800 pounds at once, it makes no sense to buy a ladder rack that can only take 600 pounds. Consider the weight of the items you plan on transporting as well as their width. Also, the frequency of load movement is very important. Some racks can carry a heavy load but are not built for frequent long-term use.
Your Truck/Van Type
Truck ladder racks and van ladder racks are designed differently. Also, not all racks in both categories fit vehicles in the category they fall in. Some trucks need smaller racks; other trucks need something bigger.
For some trucks/vans, manufacturers have made specialized racks. Amazon has also helped with that. On your rack product pages, you can choose your truck/van from the car list to find out if it is compatible with the ladder rack.
Ease of Installation
No one loves to install equipment for hours. That is frustrating. Go for a ladder rack that is easy to install. You can know that from the review above, reviews from verified purchases on Amazon, as well as comments on the user manual or the manual itself if you can access it.
Secondly, you need to consider if you want to drill holes in your truck bed rails or not. If you don’t, go for racks that come with clamps or are verified by manufacturers to be used with clamps.
Also, some racks require additional accessories and equipment to set up, if you don’t have them or don’t want to buy them, please purchase a model that comes with every necessary accessory. Bypassing accessories is dangerous. That leads us to the next point.
Even if the rack can handle above 1000 lbs, and it looks good on a truck, stay away if it’s not safe. It would be best if you looked out for stops or anything similar. Secondly, check online reviews to ensure that the rack doesn’t lead to injuries from sharp edges or unsteady parts that bend or come off.
Other essential features to look out for include attachment style, how well it secures to trucks (without rattling or shaking), locking mechanism, and sturdiness.
Steel and aluminum are the common choices for ladder rack materials. If you want something very light, easy to lift, and rustproof, go for aluminum racks. They are lightweight, except for a few that are strengthened with steel. A mix of aluminum and steel is also great; these are strong to carry a heavy load and still keep their rust and corrosion-proof capacity, for most.
If your priority is strength, steel racks may suit you. Few steel racks are not strong, the majority of them are. Good ones are coated with black powder to protect against rust. Nevertheless, they will rust over time. If you prefer them, get paint in hand to re-coat frequently.
Every ladder rack is exposed to the elements when in use. You get rain, snow, wind, dirt, and all sort of things coming in contact with them. Therefore, durability is important. The most efficient racks are weather resistant, sturdy, and durable.
Aluminum racks are better for water/rain; steel is better for strength. A mix of both is great. Also, check out bar strength. Any rack that bends under well-distributed and manufacturer-recommended weight is a no-no.
Product Price and Warranty
Always buy a ladder rack that you can afford. Although a higher price may indicate better materials and construction, there’s no use salivating if you can’t afford it. A cheaper model may not last longer than two to three years due to rusting and heavy corrosion, but you should get some good time out of them before that.
There are exceptions though; some cheaper models end up lasting longer than more expensive ones. Regardless, I believe this factor comes first in things to consider before choosing a ladder rack.
Product warranty is another feature. Most people ignore it, but you know this now, so don’t. Rola offers up to five years warranty on most of their products. You may not get this from other manufacturers, but a warranty of one year and above is good to have. That way, if you face an issue with the rack during the warranty period, you are covered.
Now that you know the important factors that should guide your purchase decision, you need to know the types of ladder racks in the market.
Your van and truck tick good boxes for cargo carrying already, but we both know that they are not sufficient in every case. Fitting them with the right ladder rack makes our trips easier. I have explained the factors you should look out for and why. You also know the best racks on the market as well as the types.
As you get and install them, pay attention to laws in your country; for example, in Australia, you can’t have them on your vehicle when you’re not using them. Check out what your government says about that.
If you have any questions, let me know.