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Choosing Between a Tray and keeping the standard Tub

Is it worth investing in a tray and how should you choose what's best for your work or lifestyle.

Ute Trays And Why You Should Get One

When the need to load anything on a car arose, the ute was born. Utes first came out in the first quarter of the 20th century, and now, they rule the roads. You can’t spend 5 minutes outside without seeing one. Their popularity is a testament to the practicality and versatility utes provide. 

Utes come in different configurations and can be modified to suit any job. If you’re a tradie and have been considering purchasing a ute, but you’re not quite sure what kind of ute configuration to get, we’ve got you covered. In this article, we’ll discuss the two primary setups ute beds come in and which one is the better choice.

We’ll examine the differences between utes with tubs and utes with trays. We’ll look at a few use cases, discuss which configuration suits a particular situation, and find out which ute matches your needs.

Ute Tubs and Trays Compared

Utes usually come with a tub from the factory. These tubs add tremendous versatility to the vehicle, but some utility workers find the OEM tubs limiting in a few aspects. Trays offer better practicality than tubs. The former can provide more space, is more cost-effective in the long run, arguably looks better, and adds a ton of versatility. Let’s take a look at some areas where trays have tubs beat.

Space

The main reason why people get utes is the added space for loading. With tubs, you can be limited by the thick walls that lose space thanks to the wheel arches. A ute tray sits higher and wider over the wheels and loses no space to wheel arches. You can easily strap in wider loads the tub walls would have restricted.

Versatility

Utes are already pretty versatile from the showroom, but replacing the OEM tub with a tray will give you heaps more practicality. Trays can be customized to fit your needs. Since they sit higher, toolboxes and drawers can be added under the tray. Trays can also add security and peace of mind as you can always be sure your expensive equipment is adequately stowed and locked.

Customizable

With a tub, you only get one option. Some utes offer longer beds, but that’s just about it. Trays can be customized to meet your exact requirements. A farmer or gardener who frequents the market may opt for a tray with taller side walls and compartments for different produce. Utility personnel can have shallower trays with unique drawers and toolboxes for various equipment. Trays can even be fitted with removable sides for a flatbed. If you’re in construction, you’d have a mobile office.

Secure

OEM truck beds are basically big open trunks that everybody can access. Though you can add a cover, this greatly restricts the type of loads you can carry. With the amount of customization you can do with trays, you can even make all the compartments, toolboxes, and drawers lockable. This removes the need to constantly load and unload all your expensive equipment each time you need to leave for work.

Practical

Ute tubs have tall, thick walls and backdoors that sometimes make it a pain to reach over and grab things. Tray walls can be as shallow as you want them, so it would make reaching in much more accessible. Trays can also be designed for straps, making tying down loads easier.


Trays sit higher, so off-roading may also improve. Tubs, on the other hand, often get in the way of departure angles because they sit low. Trays are lighter and more durable, and you can easily strap on off-road equipment.

Carry Heavier Loads

Because trays are much lighter than the OEM steel tubs, you have more overhead on the weight of the load you can carry before reaching the limit. Towing may also get additional wiggle room, as aluminium trays on sale allow you to eliminate a lot of weight.

Friendlier to Sensitive Equipment

Some instruments used in various fields have technologies based on magnets. Steel tubs have magnetic properties. Stowing these pieces of equipment in steel boxes might mess up their magnetic calibration. Aluminium, on the other hand, has no magnetic properties.

Cost-effectiveness

Tubs come with the truck off the assembly line, but trays must be bought and installed, which will cost you money. This makes trays more expensive, right? Not exactly. While you have to shell out some money to install a tray, they will be more cost-effective in the long run.

Increased Productivity

Trays can increase productivity by organizing all your equipment into toolboxes and drawers, reducing clutter. Less clutter means faster work. Fast work leads to overall better productivity. Having all your gear with you also saves you on gas and tire wear, which means you’ll be making fewer trips.

Durability

Trays are mainly built from either aluminium or steel. Steel trays for utes for sale are more robust and generally come cheaper. Aluminium trays are pricier, but they’re also much lighter and can be easier to work with.

Tax Write-off

If you’re a tradesman and get a tray for business, you can write it off as business costs. This may depend on tax laws in your area, but this is usually the case. We highly recommend double-checking with your local accountant firm.

High Resale Value

If you have plans to sell your ute, a well-maintained ute tray will sell better than a tub. Due to a tray’s benefits, they are always in high demand. Trays also add a lot of commercial value to your ute. Once you decide to sell it, you may get calls the next day! If this isn’t enough to convince you to get a tray, maybe the dozens of removed tubs listed on sale will. 

Lighter Maintenance Costs

Trays are also more durable and easier to maintain compared to tubs. Trays are commonly made from aluminium, and aluminium is rust-proof. If you live in a coastal region, this is a significant consideration. Aluminium is also less than half the weight of steel. It will save you a lot on gas. This also translates to longevity for your tires. Aluminium is also resistant to scratching, while the OEM shiny paint on tubs is a scratch magnet.

Looks

We can’t end the discussion without considering looks. Style and appearances are subjective, but we can’t deny that trays add a lot of personality to a ute. Some people even think about changing their tubs to trays solely because of self-expression. If you’re a professional, a good-looking tray may also give a prospective client a good impression. Finally, you can add a shiny aluminium tray to any old ute, and it instantly looks brand new.

Downside for Ute Trays

Expensive Up Front Cost

Brand-new customized trays may cost $10,000, but the second-hand market is always a viable option. A decent second-hand tray costs $3,000 - $5,000. Second-hand tubs, on the other hand, can sell for as low as $200. Trays may be expensive, but many tradies would argue that the value they get is worth much more than the price.

Less Aerodynamic

Engineers designed tubs to reduce overall drag, keeping airflow in mind. Trays, on the other hand, prioritize ease of use, practicality, and a broader, more usable bed. Depending on the configuration, trays may result in lower mileage than tubs, but many tradies would tell you they don’t mind the extra fuel used for the amount of practicality they get.

More Difficult to Waterproof

Keeping things dry in a tub is much easier as you can purchase roller shutters or hard lids specifically made for tubs. But these lids can significantly reduce a tub’s usability and practicality. Canvas covers and tarps can add waterproofing to utes with trays, but you may have to deal with securing the tarp every time you need to put it on.

FAQs

Can drawers be fitted without losing the spare tire?

Yes, but the configuration may vary. Some utes improvise and mount the spare tire on the headboard.

Can reverse sensors, radar, and cameras be relocated?

Most common reverse cameras and sensors on utes can be relocated. A word of warning: they may not operate at the optimum level when not installed in the same way as the OEM setup.

What are the pros and cons of steel vs. aluminium trays?

Steel trays are cheap and known for their strength, while aluminium trays are lightweight, customizable, and corrosion-resistant​​.

Final Thoughts: Are Trays Better?

Yes, trays are better overall for practicality, versatility, and cost. The value you get from a tray outweighs the cost of installation. Some may find that OEM tubs provide the right amount of practicality for their needs. However, for those who require more loading space, secure storage options, and a beefier utilitarian look, trays are the way to go.


What are your experiences with ute trays? Would you consider replacing your tub with a ute tray? Tell us what you think in the comments below!


Damien Bell November 13, 2023
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