There are no shortage of truck racks out there, and if you own a truck you’re probably already aware of this. There are all kinds of racks available from bike racks to motorcycle racks and job site or contractor racks.

All the choices can be a bit overwhelming and leave you asking “Do I really need this?!” After all, a truck is a near-perfect vehicle already.

The right accessories can make your truck better suited to haul the specific gear and material you need.

So how do pick a rack for your truck? Which ones are the most useful and why?

Types of Truck Racks

Purchasing a rack for your truck is a big decision, you want something that not only does what’s advertised but also enhancing the look of your vehicle too.

Truck racks come in all shapes, sizes and functions. Their main function, however, is to carry cargo from here to there and do so safely. So what are your options when it comes to truck racks?

Headache Racks

Headache racks can be a very functional accessory for your truck. Though the name can be misleading, the rack isn’t designed to give you a headache, but actually to prevent one. This type of rack consists of a metal grate attached to a frame mounted behind your cab. It is designed to keep cargo from shifting through the back glass.

Headache racks can also protect your truck itself because who wants to deal with cracked or broken glass due to a piece of cargo?

Some advantages of owning a headache rack include:

Protect You & Your Vehicle – if you have to make a short stop or avoid a collision, a headache rack can protect you from the moving cargo.

Shade the Cab – a headache rack acts as an extra barrier between the sun and your cab, making it cooler on hot days

Attachment Points – headache racks allow for the attachment of tie-down straps or mounting of lights

Ladder Racks

Ladder racks are made to carry loads that are longer, like a ladder, as the name implies. They can also be useful for carrying a variety of long or awkward cargo.

These racks are made from either steel or aluminium. They have a tube or angle construction, sometimes a combination of both.

Ladder racks put the load above your head, freeing up the space in your truck bed. They can be either a full rack that goes over the entire truck bed or a half or side rack.

Some benefits of owning a ladder rack include:

Hauling Long or Awkward Cargo – have options for carrying a piece of cargo that may not fit in your bed otherwise.

Increases Cargo & Payload Area – takes your cargo and puts it overhead, this frees up more space for other items and actually increases your payload area.

Safe & Secure – Gives you the ability to haul cargo safely. The rack system itself allows for items to lay flat while giving you multiple points to tie off or strap things down.

Contractor Racks

Contractor racks are made to be the workhorse of the truck rack world. They are built tough and can handle a lot of cargo. In fact, if you routinely haul a lot of materials or cargo that doesn’t fit in your bed, try a contractor rack.

The contractor rack consists of a metal frame that is either tubular or angle steel or sometimes a combination of both. The rack can be simply a frame that outlines the truck bed or it can incorporate a full gate in the middle. Models with full grates or full racks can be very useful for carrying a lot of different cargo of varying sizes.

In fact, if you’re thinking about a ladder rack or a canoe rack but you also have professional requirements, you should consider the contractor option. It has all the features of a ladder rack or canoe rack and then some. It will meet your recreational and professional needs well.

Some advantages of owning a contractor rack include:

Hauling Cargo – Have the ability to haul cargo that may not fit in your bed. It also allows you to put longer items overhead and keeps the truck bed free for additional gear.

Versatility– Allows you the freedom to haul whatever you need to the job site or to the cabin for the weekend. It is a very flexible option and one of the best overall racks on this list simple because it’s so versatile.

Increases Cargo & Payload Area –  free up your bed space by putting cargo overhead. The means you don’t sacrifice any payload just so you can take a load of lumber somewhere. It also means you’ll have more room for smaller stuff, just throw it in the truck bed and go!

Safe & Secure – a rack is by far the safest way to haul cargo when you have a lot of items to carry or if those items don’t fit within your truck bed itself. Contractor racks have places to securely tie down your cargo, too.

Gun Racks

Gun racks are a common accessory in a truck, especially in rural areas. They are the perfect way to keep your shotgun or rifle where you need it.

A gun rack also keeps your gun safely stowed until you need to use it. You will always know where it is too, no more fumbling under the bench seat!

They can attach to either the back glass or to the top of the cab itself. Gun racks that attach to the headliner are somewhat new but have the same handy features as a traditional mount.

Some benefits of owning a gun rack include:

Safely Stow Your Gun – allows you to carry your gun in your truck safely, without worrying about it rolling around on the floor or sliding under the seat.

Secure – keep your gun stowed securely without worry for your safety

Discrete – some gun racks can store your weapon discretely overhead. You get the benefit of a gun rack without advertising the fact that you’re carrying a weapon in your vehicle.

Bike Racks

When you have to load a bike up in the back of your truck, you know that it will usually lay down at an awkward angle and possibly slide around the back of the truck during your journey.

Hauling a bike in the middle of your truck bed isn’t the most ideal situation. Moving cargo can cause damage to your truck or even bounce out of your truck altogether. You may even damage your bike if you let it move around too much.

Some benefits of owning a truck bike rack include:

Secure Hauling – a stray pothole or sharp turn can cause items to fly out of the back if they’re not tied down. A bike rack in your truck bed can do wonders for keeping your cargo secure.

Prevent Damage – keeping a bike tied down also keeps it from causing damage to your vehicle or to the bike itself.

Safe & Secure – hauling your bike will pose some risks if not done properly. A loose bike can cause distractions or even pose a problem to other drivers if it falls out of the truck. Truck bike racks keep your bike in place. It can also help prevent theft through locking or secure features.

Canoe & Kayak Racks

Canoe and kayak racks work very much like a ladder rack, they distribute the load across the rack and carry your canoe above the truck bed.

These racks are designed to fully support your canoe while freeing up space for other storage. Truck canoe racks are usually made out of metal and they can be either square or tube frame.

Canoe or kayak racks usually install over the truck cab and extend over the bed or have a rail at the end of the bed to support the boat. This takes the weight off of your truck and also lifts the boat the bed which reduces the risk of damage. The weight is distributed more evenly too.

Some benefits of owning a canoe/kayak rack include:

Extra Payload Space – canoe and kayak rack frees up the space for other cargo. The rack brings the boat up and over your cab, allowing you to carry more stuff in the bed of your truck.

Carrying Ability – carry a variety of items that don’t fit into your truck bed

Safe & Secure – carry cargo safely without having to prop it up on the tailgate or over the side of your truck. A canoe or kayak rack gives you secure attachment points for your cargo and keep it from shifting as you drive.

Rack Installation & Options

Installation for the truck racks discussed in this article will vary. Some will be a simple, no-drill installation while others will have more to them and be a little more challenging. Installation, in general, is easy if you have the time to commit to doing it.

Research the options available to you by searching for the racks that fit your make and model of vehicle. If you have an older model or classic truck, you may have to do some more detailed searching or look for specialty items. Newer trucks will have more options and be easier to both find and install.

Each truck rack will have options, customizations or features specific to your vehicle. Be sure to check all the specifications and that they will work for your specific situation before purchase.

How To Pick The Right Rack For Your Truck

So now you have an idea of the types of truck racks available on the market today, but how do you pick the right one for you?

The simple answer is that maybe you don’t pick just one. Of course, some of the racks on this list will perform multiple functions, for example, the ladder rack overlaps some of the duties of a canoe or kayak rack. However, you probably won’t find a one-size-fits-all rack just from this list.

Buying the perfect rack for your truck may mean you purchase a combination of racks and accessories to fit all your needs. With a little research, you’ll have the perfect set-up to help make your life easier and improve your truck’s value!