What is a Truck Bed Extender?
Your Toyota Tacoma is a big, powerful machine, but there are times when that average five-foot bed can seem a little short. Even their 6’1” truck bed might not cut it.
Tools and supplies take up a lot of room, so extra length is often a trip-saver. This is especially true for us campers, hunters, and field workers out there who need to make the most out of our truck bed.
Point is: If you find yourself struggling to fit everything inside your factory Tacoma truck bed on a regular basis, a bed extender might be exactly what you need.
A Toyota Tacoma bed extender is an attached gate that sits on top of the open tailgate to form a new barrier to the world outside your truck. It allows you to add a couple feet of space when your tailgate is down and flips back inward when the tailgate is closed.
To help you decide whether you need one, let’s talk about the benefits, installation, different types of pickup truck bed extenders, and other options designed to make your life a lot easier. Here’s what comes next:
Benefits of Truck Bed Extender
You know what they say—the bigger the better. The most obvious benefit to a truck bed extender is the extra length. With the added feet, you can squeeze in extra camping gear, perhaps another bike, and the most important thing of all: a fully-stocked cooler. But an extra two feet or more is not the only perk you can expect. Here are some other benefits of installing a bed extender on your Tacoma:
- Pickup bed extenders can be installed and removed easily, so there’s no real commitment to the thing if you decide to take it off one day. They’re attached to the sides of your truck for security, but can detach or swing easily out of the way when not needed.
- They offer a little extra versatility. When they’re flipped inside and secured, they gate off a small area and create a nest that can be used to stop gear you need to access easily or other loose items from skidding around in the bed.
- They keep your cargo safe. Their cage-like structure helps keep everything inside your truck bed. They’re safer than hunkering everything down with bungee cords or your kid’s old jump ropes and hoping you don’t drive over a pothole.
- They’re cost-effective. Of the different possible solutions, a bed extender is a pretty cheap and effective solution. Most options will swim around the $100 price tag, but you can find some more robust options for $200-$300. You don’t need to and probably shouldn’t spend much more than that for a standard bed extender.
Installing a Bed Extender for Your Toyota Tacoma
Installing a Toyota Tacoma truck bed extender isn’t exactly rocket science. If you’re good with tools and know your way around a truck bed, you’ll be just fine. The steps will work for the Toyota Tundra and most other pickups, too.
While the details will vary depending on the brand of extender you choose, most will come complete with a bracket kit and instructions, and it will install in a similar way. Let’s break down some of the basics of installing a bed extender for your Tacoma.
The Stuff You’ll Need
Like we mentioned, most extenders will come packaged with the kit to install them. Below are just some of the items that might not come as standard as part of the extender package. So, make sure you have all these basics before you start dreaming of what to put in your extended truck bed. You don’t want to get stuck halfway through the installation process because the manufacturer didn’t send you a power drill. Double check you have the following:
- Masking tape to mark measurements
- Measuring tape
- Phillips head screwdriver
- T25 Torx driver
- That power drill we talked about
The Steps You’ll Take
Again. Not rocket science here. But just in case we got some newbies on board, we have you covered. Here’s what to do when installing a standard truck bed extender:
- Step 1: Attach the center tubes to one set of side tubes by sliding the pieces together. Center tubes are straight. Side tubes bend or have a slight curve or angle. If it’s a tight fit and the tubes aren’t sliding into each other easily, lubricate gently with a squirt of dishwashing liquid and water to loosen. Sometimes, the tubes can be stiff right out of the box and might require some coaxing.
- Step 2: Attach the clamshell assembly vertical supports. Those are what keep the tubes in position and support the entire infrastructure. Secure or fasten the clamshell clamps or supports with six T25 torque screws, starting with the center screw and working outwards in an alternate pattern.
- Step 3: Repeat with the other side of the bed extender.
- Step 4: Use the small drill template included in the instructions or kit to mark where you need to drill. Tape the template in place. Before you get all drill-happy, put the bed extender in place and make sure everything lines up. Make sure it’s exactly aligned and provides enough clearance. Bed extender installation 101: You cannot un-drill holes, alright?
- Step 5: Now, flip the extender over to the inside to make sure the tailgate will close. If you have a bed mat/rug, you’ll have to figure out how to accommodate the bed mat.
- Step 6: Drill holes using the right size drill bit as defined in your instructions, and install the mount brackets on each side of the bed.
- Step 7: Attach one side of the extender to a bracket and check the fit. You may need to slide the side bars a bit farther into the center to provide a little give or slack. Work it a little at a time until it fits perfectly.
That should do it! You just created about two feet of extra enclosed space in the bed of your Toyota truck.
Types of Truck Bed Extenders and Alternatives
You can find plenty of options (including a cargo net) on Amazon or genuine Toyota parts on their truck accessories website to help maximize your bed space. Or, you might want to go with the popular BedXtender or BedXtender HD from AMP Research. The possibilities are endless.
These days, you can find just about any DIY hack, OEM Toyota accessory, or ingenious solution to extend your truck bed. However, you might as well understand the lay of the land and get familiar with the basic types before you hit that checkout button or commit to a DIY project. Let’s review your choices:
- Hitch mount truck bed extenders: A hitch extender is attached to the hitch under your bumper and looks kinda like football goal posts. If you’re carrying a load of long, bundled items (like wood planks or piping), an adjustable hitch mounted extender gives you extra support and a final tie down point to secure your load. Here’s a great example from Lund.
- The truck cap alternative: While these aren’t exactly extenders, they still do the job of giving you some extra height and space for your cargo. If classic truck bed extenders are horizontal extenders, think of truck caps as a vertical one. These can add about a couple of feet worth of height and provide decent durability.
- The tonneau cover alternative: Tonneau covers are a good alternative in terms of providing basic protection and security for your gear. However, they don’t always expand your truck bed storage space. Still, tonneau covers have a special place in truck drivers’ hearts and look damn good with a powder coat finish, don’t they?
The best alternative: The best option for getting the most out of your truck bed is obviously the DECKED Drawer System. With DECKED drawers, you: 1) cover the wheel wells to give yourself a bigger load platform, 2) bring all your gear to you by pulling out the drawers whenever you want, and 3) keep everything organized, secure, and dry. When you’ve filled your drawers and organized your gear using our modular storage options (such as the Crossbox, D-Box, Drawerganizers, and dividers), you can then put up to a whopping 2,000 lb load right on top. And better yet, it’s a no-drill installation. It’s a no-brainer solution to organize a mountain of gear into your truck bed, while keeping everything secure, weatherproof, and easily accessible.
Get the Most Out of Your Truck Bed with DECKED
If you need to carry a lot of gear in your truck bed and still keep all of it organized and secure, a standard bed extender might not check all the boxes—especially if you plan on going off-road.
So what do you do? Choose DECKED instead.
The DECKED Drawer System organizes and secures all of your gear inside the drawers; then, whenever you need to access them easily, everything will slide out to you. Combine drawers with our modular D-Boxes, Crossboxes, D-bags, and Drawerganizers to maximize your truck bed even more. It’s no wonder why DECKED is the ultimate truck bed storage solution in the USA (at least that’s what our moms tell us…).
With all your basic gear locked and secure inside the drawers, you’ve still got plenty of room on top for whatever you need to haul today—up to 2,000 lbs worth, in fact. So go ahead. Get DECKED and get on your way!