Best Ladder Racks: Get Your Heavy Stuff on the Road in Style

These ladder racks will help you move more cargo with your truck at a go

Best Overall

AA-Racks X31 Truck Rack

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Best Value

MaxxHaul 70233 Heavy Duty Ladder Rack

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Honorable Mention

TMS 800 Adjustable Utility Ladder Rack

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Ladder racks are valuable accessories that can enhance your truck’s cargo capacity. They make it more convenient to put heavier equipment like a kayak or canoe on your pickup truck before you head out on an adventure. Also, you can readily dedicate your truck bed to less bulky equipment. Read our comprehensive buying guide to see the top ladder rack systems on the market.

Benefits of Ladder Racks

  • Extra space. The whole point of a ladder rack is that it gives you extra space for transporting large or bulky items that might not necessarily fit safely in the truck bed or inside your vehicle.
  • Convenience. Once the racking is fitted, it’s there for you to use whenever you need it, whether that’s at the last minute or late at night. 
  • Efficiency. A ladder rack is often the difference between one trip and multiple trips. You’ll soon make back the cost of the rack in fuel and time saved.
  • Better organization. Putting the big stuff on the roof rack leaves you more storage room in the truck bed for smaller items, which can then be better organized and more safely stored.
  • Cost-effective. Installing a ladder rack is more cost-effective than hiring or buying a new vehicle, or renting kayaks and surfboards when you could take your own.
  • Adds value. If you’ve affixed a permanent rack to your van and you decide to sell it, the extra storage can potentially add a few more dollars to your sale price.

Types of Ladder Racks

Over-Bed

As the name suggests, this type of rack system is designed to sit right over the bed of your truck. You can mount them to the wall of the truck bed with C-clamps, or drill holes to bolt them into the bed. They’re convenient for carrying larger items while keeping the truck bed clear and offer effective and usable storage at an accessible height.

Over-Cab

This sensibly-named over-cab style of truck rack sits on the cab roof so you can carry cargo that measures as long as your truck. Most need to be permanently fixed in place, so they’re difficult to adjust and offer a somewhat more limited scope of use than an over-bed truck rack. For the greatest amount of flexibility, get an over-cab rack with an adjustable or removable extension.

Side Mount

Side mount racks fit onto the side of your truck or van and are great for carrying narrow, long items, like ladders or rolls of carpet. For safety reasons, they can only cope with a maximum of 500 pounds, depending on the size and weight of your vehicle, and the shape makes it difficult to tie down awkward cargo.

Top Brands

Thule

Swedish brand Thule is the market leader when it comes to cargo transportation for vehicles. It was founded in 1947, records annual profits of around $60 million, and operates in 136 countries. Its range of roof racks includes the Xsporter Pro and the TracRac Sliding Overhead Rack.

Automobile Association

The Automobile Association (AA) was born when four driving enthusiasts banded together in London in 1905. It is the largest motoring organization in the world with more than 150 million members and it offers those customers a massive range of services and products in addition to the more traditional roadside repair service. You can find the X316 and the APX2502 models amongst its ladder rack systems.

ROLA

ROLA was established 30 years ago by a windsurfer who needed a way of carrying his surfboard and it’s now Australia’s top name in roof racks and cargo management solutions. The brand is owned by the Horizon Global Corporation, which is based in Plymouth, Mich. ROLA makes these Universal CrossBars and the trademarked Haul-Your-Might Removable Rack.

Ladder Rack Pricing

  • Budget (Under $200): You can pick up a basic utility rack for under $70, with prices mainly increasing in line with construction material, load capacity, and extra features like adjustable cargo bumpers.
  • Mid-range ($200-$700): This is where you’ll find top-end utility racks and most lock-down ladder racks. Expect high maximum weight capacities, extra crossbars, and some degree of adjustability.
  • Premium ($700 and up): Ladder racks in this price range will mostly be the mechanical drop-down type. 

Key Features

Cargo Capacity

There’s no point in buying a rack system with a lower maximum weight capacity. Think about what you’re likely to be transporting and consider how much it weighs, how wide it is, and how often you’ll need to move it. The maximum width and cargo capacity, as well as usage limitations, will be listed in the rack’s specifications.

Installation Requirements

Some rack systems will require you to drill holes in your truck bed so it can be bolted down, while other models use C-clamps that won’t cause any lasting alterations. Check whether the ladder rack you’ve chosen comes with all the mounting brackets, or if it includes extra fittings you don’t want or need, and always follow the instructions provided.

Construction Material

Steel is stronger than aluminum, but also heavier. A steel ladder rack will likely be more durable and sturdier than ones made out of aluminum, which is more rust-resistant. Also, there’s a lot to be said for having a lightweight truck rack, as less weight can often mean better mileage performance.

Other Considerations

  • Accessibility. Once you’ve fitted the ladder rack, how are you going to get at it? Some van racks are mechanically operated and slide down the side of the vehicle. With others, you’ll need you to have a step ladder on hand.
  • Compatibility. Make sure the ladder rack is compatible with your vehicle in terms of length, width, height, and the fixings used to attach it.
  • Adjustability. Is the size and height of the rack you’re looking at fixed, or can you move it around depending on what you need to carry?

Best Ladder Racks Reviews & Recommendations 2021

Best Overall

AA-Racks X31 Truck Rack

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Best Value

MaxxHaul 70233 Heavy Duty Ladder Rack

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Easiest To Install

TMS 800 Adjustable Utility Ladder Rack

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Premium Pick

ECOTRIC Adjustable Full Size Truck Contractor Ladder Rack

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Best Aluminum

AA-Racks Model APX25 Extendable Aluminum Pick-Up Truck Ladder Rack

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Tips

  • Buy a versatile ladder rack that allows you to easily transport a wide range of heavy cargo. This could be longer or heavier cargo. The safety of the ladder rack also matters; hence, you should buy a ladder rack with secure attachments.
  • Buy ladder racks with the right design and material makeup. Poorly designed ladder racks are hazardous with an increased possibility of falling off (or getting loose) while you are on the road.
  • Buy a ladder rack that is not difficult to install. Follow the installation manual from the manufacturer and procure the stipulated accessories needed for the complete installation of the ladder rack. Missing some of these accessories will make the rack insecure.
  • When loading your ladder rack, distribute the load across the rack. With the weight evenly spread out, the chances of shifting when you drive your truck are reduced.

FAQs

Q: Should I buy a half-width rack or a full-width rack?

A full-width rack takes up twice as much space as a half-width rack. Half-width racks are more suited for thinner cargos like kayaks, pipes, and ladders, still leaving space for tall items like ATVs. Full-width racks are more suitable for wider cargos like plywood, enhancing the accessibility of your truck bed.

Q: Should I buy aluminum racks or steel racks?

Steel ladder racks have better durability and sturdiness than aluminum racks. They also have superior resilience against fatigue. Nonetheless, compared to steel ladder racks, aluminum racks are more resistant to corrosion and rust. Also, being less dense than steel, aluminum racks allow for better gas mileage.

Q: What carrying capacity do I need with a ladder rack?

If you are using your ladder rack for light-duty functions like carrying pipes, you need lightweight ladder racks that can hold up to 500 pounds. However, for heavy-duty use, you need ladder racks capable with a load of 1,200 pounds.

Q: Should I choose a custom model or a universal ladder rack?

Universal ladder racks are more versatile and can fit more than one type of truck. Custom ladder racks are not versatile and are designed to perfectly fit a particular model of truck. Custom ladder racks are prettier than universal racks but may not be ideal for you if you will be upgrading your trucks frequently as the years roll by.

Final Thoughts

Our top choice is the heavy-duty AA-Racks X31 Truck Rack which has a maximum cargo capacity of 2200 pounds.

Our best value pick is the budget-friendly, side-mounted MaxxHaul 70233 Heavy Duty Ladder Rack.