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
The Drive and its partners may earn a commission if you purchase a product through one of our links.Read more.
PUBLISHED ON December 23, 2019
Ladder racks are valuable accessories to enhance your truck’s cargo capacity. They make it more convenient to put heavier equipment like a kayak or canoe on your truck before you head out on a memorable adventure. Also, you can readily dedicate your truck bed to less bulky equipment. Below are our top three ladder racks.
- Best OverallMaxxHaul 70423 Universal Aluminum Truck RackSummarySummaryThis ladder rack has a crossbar that extends up to a length of 70 inches. It can, at best, hold up to distributed weights of 400 pounds. The posts (vertical and horizontal) are made from no-rust, heavy-duty aluminum material, while the base brackets are designed from sturdy steel enhanced with a powdered-coated finish.ProsProsEach crossbar has ends equipped with adjustable cargo bumpers. This reduces the risk of your cargo sliding off en route. The crossbar has high strength as it is internally reinforced. This ladder rack is easily mounted on a bed rail system with no need for drilling due to its adjustable mounting brackets.ConsConsThis rack doesn’t work with truck beds with cleats outfitted with railings and liners as pickup bedsides are mandatory for installation. It can be noisy when you are driving.
- Best ValueMaxxHaul 70233 Heavy Duty Ladder RackSummarySummaryThis ladder rack is made from heavy-duty steel enhanced with a powder-coated finish for more longevity. It has extendable arms, which can be extended from 19 to 34 inches. It can be installed on trucks beds with at most a 17-¼-inch depth.ProsProsThis ladder rack has good stability as it bolts into the rail and bed of your truck. The sturdiness makes it appropriate for moving long loads like lumber, rebar, piping, and ladders. It has a versatile design, featuring multiple tie-down anchor points to better secure the load and extended stops on each end.ConsConsThe installation process is relatively technical. The mounting system could need rigorous modifications for it to fit your truck properly. The welding could be poor in some instances.
- Honorable MentionAA Products Model X35 Truck RackSummarySummaryThis ladder rack is outfitted with eight non-drilling c-clamps, which improves its stability and flexibility. The two bars have an adjustable length of 35 to 57 inches. This ladder rack has a double pair of Kayak J-Racks.ProsProsThe heavy-duty extended bolts improve the security of this ladder rack. It is flexible and easy to install or take off. The polyfoam gasket securing the bars makes this ladder more stable.ConsConsIt doesn’t work with utility track systems in trucks. The drilling can be challenging. The installation bolts might be too short.
Why Trust Us
All of our reviews are based on market research, expert input, and practical experience with each product we include. This way, we offer genuine, accurate guides to help you find the best picks.
- 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.
Q: Should I buy a half-width rack or a full-width rack?
A: 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?
A: 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?
A: If you are using your ladder rack for light-duty functions like carrying pipes, you need lightweight ladder racks of barely 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?
A: 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.
Our top choice is the MaxxHaul 70423 Universal Aluminum Truck Rack. It is versatile and strong with each crossbar having adjustable cargo bumpers, making it more secure in transition.
Our budget-friendly option is the MaxxHaul 70233 Heavy Duty Ladder Rack.