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There’s a reason – make that dozens of reasons – why most truck owners avoid spray-on bedliners. But in a vast majority of cases, the primary issue is protection.

Protection, after all, is the bedliner’s primary job. And true protection of the truck bed begins with the installation of the bedliner itself:

Installation Issues
A spray-on bedliner requires the installer to destroy the truck bed’s factory-applied finish. That’s right, in order to ensure proper adhesion of the spray-on liner, the installer must first grind off the multiple layers of paint.

This damaging process can void the paint warranty provided by the truck manufacturer. GMAC considers the installation of a spray-on bedliner to be “excess wear” to a vehicle.

So before buying an expensive spray-on liner, ask yourself: Does it make sense to protect the truck bed by first destroying its appearance and built-in corrosion resistance?

By comparison, a drop-in bedliner is installed simply by inserting the liner into the bed. Today’s best liners provide a tight fit that eliminates the need for drilling of holes and ensures minimal liner movement/vibration

Once the bedliner is installed, you should expect it to provide maximum resistance to dents, scratches/scrapes, damage caused by caustic materials, ultra-violet fading and other potential problems.

Here’s how today’s liners compare:

Drop-in liners provide 2 times the impact (dent) resistance of spray-on liners. Drop-ins feature molded ridges and valleys that serve as “crush zones” which absorb the force of the impact before it touches the truck bed. When you drop a heavy object onto a spray-on liner, on the other hand, you are “crushing” the truck’s sheet metal itself.

Liner thickness also plays a key role in impact resistance. A recent study showed that sidewall thicknesses of today’s spray-ons are just 50% of those of leading drop-in liners. In addition, spray-on thicknesses can vary widely by installer – a lack of care or desire to make more money on the job can lead to potentially severe thinning in critical surface areas.

Drop-in liners provide 10 times the abrasion (scratch/scrape) resistance of spray-ons. Spray-ons are highly susceptible to abrasion damage. And keep in mind that when a scratch penetrates the spray-on liner, it exposes your truck’s bare sheet metal.

Spray-on liners fade quickly. One of the reasons a spray-on liner might be appealing is the “custom” look of a freshly sprayed finish. But spray-ons begin to show noticeable signs of fading after about 6 months of UV exposure. Some installers try to overcome this problem (and increase their profits) by offering a UV coating that must be applied – and paid for – on an annual basis. This coating has the unfortunate consequence of damaging the liners’ skid resistance, however.

The leading drop-in liners are more than 20 times as resistant to fading than spray-ons, and require no special coatings.

The skid resistant surface of a spray-on liner can wear off. Skid resistance helps keep cargo from sliding around in the bed while you’re driving. The more the cargo moves, the more likely it is that your truck could sustain impact and/or abrasion damage. The spray-on lining wears away throughout its life, leaving a progressively smoother – and less skid resistant – surface. In addition, the UV coatings now offered to reduce spray-on fading can severely reduce skid resistance.

Who pays if your bedliner fails? This is another important “protection” issue – protection of the truck owner if the bedliner fails to live up to expectations. Spray-on bedliners are not offered with a nationwide warranty, so you’ll have to negotiate with your original installer or pay for the repairs yourself. Leading drop-in liners are covered by nationwide warranties – all you’ll have to do to make a warranty claim is contact the nearest retailer who offers your brand.

Which bedliner will offer the best protection of your truck – and your pocketbook? The facts above “paint” a very clear picture.