At some point, virtually every truck owner stands at a crossroads — whether to drop in or spray on a bed liner. This seemingly small decision will determine how your truck ages, how you are able to use the bed and how the vehicle will look for years to come.

A spray-on liner is a watertight, airtight sealant (often made of urethane) that is applied to the truck bed. A drop-in liner is like a protective case for an MP3 player. It is typically a strong, rigid cover that attaches to the truck bed. You can add each of the two types of liners to a truck yourself, or have them professionally installed.

The Internet is full of articles that dissect the pros and cons of each option, but it's much more difficult to find a piece that helps you choose by lifestyle. That's why we created a list of five "I" statements to help you think about what you really need. Read through them to learn which option might best fit your truck and your life.

1. "I plan to sell my truck in a few years."

Consider: Drop-In

A spray-on liner is a bigger commitment than a drop-in. The person you sell the truck to might want the freedom to make up his own mind about the bed liner. If you use a drop-in, you can remove it when you're ready to sell the vehicle.

2. "I go to the beach all the time."

Consider: Spray-On

Sand and water can get into the tiny gap between your truck and the drop-in liner. Sand may grind away the paint underneath. Water can gather and possibly lead to corrosion. A spray-on liner prevents this problem by forming a virtually impenetrable bond with your truck. Sand and water won't have anywhere to hide.

 3. "I often transport heavy or sharp objects in my truck."

Consider: Drop-In

Spray-on liners are extremely tough, but they tend to be thinner than drop-in options. Heavy or sharp objects can cause gouges or scratches in your liner that might be better protected by the thicker drop-in option. Keep in mind, it's possible to break a drop-in bed liner, but the force required is significant.

4. "I want to add a liner without adding extra weight or noise to my truck."

Consider: Spray-On

Spray-on bed liners tend to be lighter than drop-ins, especially models that are thick. And, since a drop-in is something you attach, it's possible to hear it vibrate against the truck body when you drive. It's a minimal amount of potential noise, but it will be louder than a spray-on bed liner.

5. "I want something that's easy to install."

Consider: Drop-In

Although "easy" is a subjective term, opponents of spray-on bed liners make a good case against this option. Although it can be sprayed, brushed or rolled on, it takes longer to prepare the surface of the truck for spray-on versions. If you apply it incorrectly, it might peel. And, if you spill it in the wrong area, the spray-on liner's ability to firmly stick to your truck can turn into a negative. Although they require some manual labor, drop-ins don't have the same issues and can be easier to install.

Ultimately, you're the best judge of what works for you. With the advances in spray-on technology, the playing field is pretty level when it comes to truck bed liners, and we encourage you to research both options. One easy way to take a look at the different options is to search for a truck using "bed liner" as a keyword. And if a bed liner is only one of the ways you want to upgrade your truck, check out "Truck Tips for the Do-It-Yourselfer."


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Jon Acuff is a staff writer for

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