Tom Zizzo, a journalist, has also spent many years selling truck and SUV accessories.
A lot of contractors, whether self-employed or working for a larger company, depend on good lumber racks for their trucks. For some, their truck is completely useless without it. But the newer Toyota Tacoma, if that happens to be your truck of choice, has a unique bed that really isn't designed for the use of a lumber rack.
What is it about a 2005 to current year Tacoma that is so unique? The entire bed, believe it or not, is plastic. Think of the bed on these trucks as being like a really thick bed liner. The whole bed is actually a plastic/composite insert. So for obvious reasons you can't install just any rack on these trucks. This poses a dilemma to anyone who buys one of these trucks and plans to use it for contracting work.
Lumber Racks for New Toyota Tacomas Must Be Specifically Made for That Truck
Simply bolting any rack to the bed will not work, I repeat, DO NOT just bolt a rack to the bed of these trucks. You're just waiting for an accident to happen and then the inevitable lawsuit. But what do you do if you bought a Tacoma that you want to use for both work and recreation?
Well, there is hope. Although when the new Tacoma first hit the market, there was nothing available, a couple of manufacturers have actually designed specific racks for these trucks. Just to remind anyone reading this, I used to sell truck accessories. So I remember new Tacoma owners being very upset to find out racks were not only not available, but as it seemed initially, might not ever become available given the unique nature of the bed. Fortunately, Toyota trucks are very popular, so taking on the design challenge for a good rack was worth it for manufacturers.
How Rack-It Lumber Racks Fit With Tacomas
Racks by Rack-It, predominantly available on the west coast and some Midwest states, are arguably the best you can get. They came up with a good design to meet the new Tacoma challenge. (I will include pictures here, but unfortunately, I don't have pictures of the actual rack installed to give a complete view of how it works. Rack-It makes great racks, but their marketing sucks. So most of their pictures are old.)
Rack-It racks are all one-piece welded series 40 steel, supposedly black-powder coated—though I have never believed these racks are truly powder-coated because the finish seems to chip too easily. What they did differently in their design was to make small bracket-like extrusions on the side rails where a long arm bolts on that then extends down to the bottom of the bed where the actual body bolt is removed and used as the central mounting point. (See pictures.) This allows the rack to use the support of the frame; can't go wrong there.
Normally racks are simply bolted to the bed rails. This is done at two points in the front of the bed, one on each side. Toward the rear, they use a similar technique but actually use the only metal in the bed, which are two pillars that you will notice behind the rear taillights. Though most of the bed is plastic, some of it is not.
To mount this part of the rack, you will have to pop the taillight housings out. Don't worry, it's not nearly as complicated as it sounds. The end result is a very sturdy rack that will allow full use of the truck's load capacity.
Rack-It racks are also one of the few racks specific to these trucks that extend out over the cab (even for the double cabs, but they cost more). The standard Rack-It racks (called the 1000 series) for Tacomas cost about $650. Though I'm not sure, I don't think they make a forklift loadable rack. And I do know that they don't make a camper shell rack, which is a rack that would allow for a shell to be installed on the bed, as it literally wraps around the shell.
The other thing to remember about these special racks is they generally don't interfere with tool boxes. Because that arm in the front is angled (see the pictures), a low-profile toolbox should be able to mount without the arm being in the way. I know that Weatherguard makes a box that will fit, and there is a Dee Zee brand box as well. If your accessory dealer says no box will fit, just ask to actually set a box in the bed. They may be surprised that they do in fact fit.
If your local dealer does not have these racks available, I know Rack-it will ship a bolt-together version of the rack. It's not the same as the welded version obviously, but you can still get one. I apologize to readers on the East Coast since I have never lived there and do not know if there are some good local brands that are only available there. I would love to hear about more, since in the truck accessory business there tend to be some really great products that most people never know about because they aren't available everywhere.
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Other Options for Lumber Racks
Here are a few other lumber rack options you can consider for your Tacoma.
I know these racks are typically for recreational use, but that doesn't mean they can't be used for carrying light loads of lumber or ladders. There are two basic versions. I believe both are made out of aluminum, so they won't rust.
One is called the Xsporter and you will need a special adapter kit for the Tacoma (2005-08). This rack clamps on, and the height can be adjusted. There is no extension out over the cab, and they can only hold about 450 lbs.
The other rack they offer looks very similar. It is called the Professional Version and requires the same adapter kit. But it is not adjustable and it can carry about 700 lbs.
Either one of these racks will cost almost $600, but they should be available just about anywhere in the US, even in sporting goods stores. For all of you made-in-the-USA fanatics out there (I'm one of them), remember that despite Thule saying they are a Swedish company, most of the stuff you see on the shelves was made here in the US.
Yakima's stuff is made in Mexico and the company is supposedly owned by a Middle Eastern bank, which is why I didn't even mention them here. It's too bad because I like Yakima's racks, and a lot of their old designs are still good, but the company just isn't what it used to be, and most of their engineers went to work for Thule anyway.
Trac Rac is like Thule's rack. They say it is "removable," but it is no more removable than Thule's rack. They simply mean that it is clamped on. OK, so it may be a little easier to remove than the Thule rack. But let's face it, if you use a rack a lot, how often are you removing it? These racks in my opinion are too expensive, which is why I won't go into too many details about them. I think they offer an option for the extension out over the cab as an add-on, which only bumps the price up even more. You have to price the rails and the rack, which together are about $800. You're paying for the aluminum and the whole removable feature. But like I said, how many truck owners that need a rack would really use that?
Don't Trust the Truck Dealer
The new Tacomas are great trucks, and I don't think Toyota has any plans on discontinuing the use of the plastic/composite bed. So if you're considering buying one of these trucks and you need a lumber rack, keep this information in mind.
Don't listen to the truck dealer. No offense, but they usually have no clue when it comes to accessories. Especially with the Tacoma, these dealers will tell the customer how great it is that they don't have to buy a plastic bed liner or shell out more cash for a spray-in liner, but fail to mention how it affects the installation of certain accessories. It always pays to compare the truck dealer's price for an accessory to an aftermarket dealer's price. Of course, the truck dealer will almost always have the higher price. Sometimes they are the same stuff, just branded differently. And when it comes to accessories like lumber racks and tool boxes, most salespeople at truck dealers won't have a clue and try to sell you crap products.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.