What’s the Difference Between a Drop-In, Spray-In and Sectional Bedliner?

ford-f-150-hybrid-supercrew-limited-2021-17-bed-bed-liner-exterior DualLiner bedliner installation | photo by Christian Lantry

Although drop-in and spray-in bedliners have been the traditional choices for protecting the inside of your pickup’s cargo bed, there is now a third style: sectional bedliners. Which one is right for your truck?

Related: We Rejected Drop-In and Spray-In Bedliners for Our Ford F-150; See What We Installed

Drop-In Bedliners

Drop-in bedliners are made of plastic and are molded to match the inside of a specific pickup’s cargo bed. A separate panel is typically used to cover the inside of the tailgate. However, there may not be one available for your truck, particularly if it’s older and was sold in low volume.

Since a drop-in bedliner is about as big as your cargo bed and flimsy by itself, it is an ungainly (but not particularly heavy) piece to handle and ship. It’s relatively quick and simple to install, though you might have to drill some small holes for set screws. It’s also fairly quick and simple to remove if desired, such as to install in another, similar pickup. A downside is that the material can crack and even get holes in it, and repairs typically aren’t easy — or pretty.

One of the biggest names in drop-in bedliners is DuraLiner, though there are others. Regardless of brand, bedliners usually can’t be shipped by normal package delivery. Some can be picked up at a retail location — perhaps a truck-parts company, maybe even a regular auto-parts store — and while they can also be shipped (probably by truck freight), that will likely add $150 or more to the roughly $250 the bedliner costs.

Spray-In Bedliners

By contrast, a spray-in bedliner comes in a can — usually in liquid form, like house paint — and can often be found at traditional auto-parts stores. The liquid can be sprayed on, rolled on or painted on with a brush. A big part of the chore, however, is that most directions say to sand the bed’s paint to prep the surface, at least to the point of removing the gloss.

Cost and convenience are two big advantages to this type of bedliner. The material itself will cost around $50 to $150, with special rollers and spray guns adding another $20 to $65 or so. Especially with the surface-prep sanding involved, application can take some time — and be messy. But it can be applied to any truck bed, dries to a tough finish that’s quite resistant to damage (though you could bend the metal of the bed itself) and can be rather easily touched up if scratched.

The New Bed on the Block

A third type can be thought of as a sectional bedliner. This bedliner comes in separate panels that either bolt in or hold one another in place, and they may include a padded floor — which can keep objects from sliding around and add comfort if you have to kneel on it.

This type of bedliner is relatively new. As such, they may not yet be available for as many pickups as a drop-in bedliner, but they’re far easier to ship. They can be removed if needed — and sections can be replaced if damaged; they’re also quicker to install than a spray-in bedliner.

One manufacturer is DualLiner. Offered through its website, most beds cost about $460 ($490 for an 8-footer) and include shipping. On the downside, selection is limited; as of this writing, the company seems to be focusing only on full-size domestic pickups back to the early 2000s or so.

If it’s an option for your truck, this combination of advantages makes sectional bedliners a great alternative to the traditional choices and is what prompted editors to put a DualLiner in our new Ford F-150 long-term pickup truck.

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