Budget-Friendly DIY Truck Bed Modifications

/ / Car Accessories
View into a silver pickup truck bed

Automakers build vehicles with styles and options to appeal to the masses, but only you can make it your own. Customizing your truck to fit your personality and needs to provide a sense of accomplishment you’ll enjoy every time you use it. Improving the functionality of your truck bed ranges from adding a simple truck bed toolbox to investing in a slide-in truck camper that costs as much as a house.

Fortunately, numerous budget-friendly DIY options exist for customizing your truck bed. While everyone’s idea of budget-friendly differs, the following five DIY truck bed modifications can easily stay under $200, with some equipment available for as little as $20. Of course, the sky is the limit for some versions of these projects.

Doing the work yourself is the key to saving money on truck bed mods. While shops generally get a discount when buying the equipment to modify a truck bed, they rarely pass those savings on to you. In addition, most shops charge labor rates that often exceed $100 per hour.

LED lighting

truck bed illuminated with LED lights

Adding LED lighting to your truck bed makes it much easier to use when it’s dark. Tasks like securing bikes, stacking firewood, and unloading groceries become much easier and safer with good lighting. Truck bed LED light kits range from $17 to almost $200, but even the lower end includes some highly rated kits.

The midrange-priced Oracle Lighting 60-inch LED Cargo Light features two LED light strips measuring 5 feet long and comes with a switch for $52. While other kits cost less, many require a separate switch to control them.

Installing the adhesive-backed LED light strips on the underside of the bed rails is simple. First, ensure the surface is clean, dry, and warm for maximum adhesion. The most challenging aspects of installing the LED light kit are cleanly running the wire harness and connecting it to a 12-volt power source. Options for installing the wires included hiding them within the truck bed body or behind a bedliner. If you’re uncomfortable with 12-volt DC wiring, you should seek assistance from someone with experience.

Tonneau cover

tonneau cover on red pickup with bicycle in back

Tonneau covers enclose the truck bed using various methods. While installing a tonneau cover on your truck could boost fuel economy, the most significant benefits include weatherproof storage and improved security for items in your truck bed. They can also make your truck stylish and refined.

These covers vary in style from simple roll-up cloth and foldable metal sections to single-section hardcovers. Prices range from under $100 on the low end to $3,000 for specialty applications. While a $100 tonneau cover will cover your truck bed, it likely won’t last long and probably won’t bring you joy.

Tonneau covers are not one-size-fits-all affairs. You’ll need to know your truck’s year, make, model, and bed length to get the proper cover. You’ll also have a choice between soft or hard tonneau cover construction.

Soft tonneau covers protect your truck bed from the elements and provide security in an out-of-sight-out-of-mind sort of way, as their latching mechanism is inaccessible behind your locked tailgate. Soft roll-up style covers provide easy access to the truck bed when needed to haul taller cargo.

Hard tonneau covers typically cost more but provide increased security and are designed to support some weight. This weight-bearing aspect could be an essential consideration if you live in an area with significant snowfall.

Bed liner

pickup truck bed with liner

Truck bed liners are a great way to protect your truck bed and improve its appearance. While many new trucks come with spayed-on bed liners, having a professionally installed aftermarket sprayed-on bed liner is another option. However, that process is expensive and outside our DIY theme.

Plastic drop-in truck bed liners start at under $200, and DIY installation is quick and easy. Buying and installing a drop-in bed liner has some advantages, but you’ll need to know your truck’s specifics to get the right one. If your truck bed is severely dented or damaged, a drop-in bed liner will hide those imperfections but could conceal corrosion until it’s too late to repair.

Paint-on bedliner materials cost less but require more effort to DIY. Bed liner kits come in various forms and application methods, from spray-on to brush and roller. While some kits include the required application method, others provide only the bedliner material. However, if you have unused paint supplies, you could already have everything you need.

Applying a paint-on bed liner requires some preparation, such as taping areas where you don’t want a bed liner, cleaning, and sanding the existing truck bed finish to ensure proper adhesion. After applying the material, it could take a couple of days to cure before you can use your truck bed, and if done inside a garage, it requires ventilation.

Cargo tie-down rack system

L-track cargo tie down system

Most pickup trucks come with a cargo tie-down point near each corner of the truck bed. While these basic tie-down points are functional, there are superior options. Some automakers equip their trucks with tie-down rack systems extending full length down each side of the truck bed. If your truck doesn’t have such a system, adding one is simple and inexpensive.

Depending on the anchor’s design, adding a few tie-down anchors at predetermined locations could cost $10 to $20 each. However, adding a tie-down rack system is just as easy and slightly more expensive. Harbor Freight carries a selection of E-track rails and accessories, and US Cargo Control features a line of L-track rails and fittings rated for loads up to 1,000 pounds.

The rails attach to the floor, sidewall, or top rail of your truck bed easily with self-tapping screws. You can use any metal-cutting saw to cut the rail sections to fit the space where you’d like additional tie-down points. Then, place the anchors associated with your chosen track system anywhere along the rails.

Cargo organizer

truck bed extender organizer

Truck bed cargo organizers make using your truck bed more manageable by keeping cargo where you want it. Those of us vertically challenged truck owners know the struggle of trying to reach something that slid to the geographical center of the truck bed while driving. This situation often requires awkwardly climbing on the tire or getting into the truck bed.

In their simplest form, truck bed cargo organizers consist of boxes or other barriers held in place by bungee straps to keep cargo from sliding out of reach. Other options range from inexpensive envelope-style nets to top-of-the-line cargo management systems.

The versatile truck bed extender, priced under $200 for most trucks, provides two options for securing cargo. When flipped inside the truck bed, it keeps cargo close to the tailgate, and when flipped onto the open tailgate, it extends the usable length of the truck bed. If you’re not concerned about cost, check out the Decked Drawer System to organize your cargo while maintaining usable truck bed floor space.

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