What’s best – An aluminium or a steel 4WD Ute tray?

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Do you want an aluminium or steel 4WD Ute tray? That’s the million dollar question and there are people who are firmly in one camp or the other. So if you are in the market for a Ute tray for your one-tonner, let’s shed some light on this debate! We’ll look at some of the pros and cons of each type of tray, so you can focus on your priorities.

Weight of an aluminium vs steel 4WD Ute tray

If your main priority is weight, then aluminium is much lighter than steel. This can be important if you regularly carry heavy loads, because the additional weight of a steel tray will reduce the weight of the loads your Ute can carry. So the lighter the tray, the heavier the loads you can carry. On the other hand, you might want a heavy steel tray to give your rear end a good grip on the road. This extra weight can be useful when you regularly carry light loads, compressing the rear springs enough to keep you in your seat. So the heavier the tray, the lighter the load, but the smoother the ride!

Strength of aluminium vs steel Ute trays

Steel is up to four times stronger than aluminium, so if you regularly carry steel loads or your loads move around a lot in the tray, steel is the better option. So for someone who carries sledgehammers, star pickets or jack hammers in their tray, a steel 4WD Ute tray will last a lot longer than an aluminium tray and stand up to a bigger battering. Steel is also better for anyone who regularly carries large rocks, pebbles or gravel in their trays, as these can demolish an aluminium tray very quickly. Of course, the strength of the Ute tray needs to be tempered with the fact that steel trays will reduce your payload, so you need to decide which you will prioritise – weight or strength?  

Which tray is better for corrosive environments?

If you live near the coast in a heavily salt environment, then your best option is an aluminium 4WD Ute tray. This is because aluminium is resistant to corrosion, while thin steel corrodes very quickly in almost all environments, particularly when it’s salt laden. This means that rust shouldn’t be a problem for an aluminium tray, whilst it’s an old friend for steel trays. Powder coating or hot-dip galvanising are two methods to prevent steel corroding, but who’s going to do this to their tray? Anyway, the smallest scratch will allow salt or moisture to take hold and the rust will quickly start in thin steel, regardless of any coating. On the other hand, the thickness of the steel used in Ute trays generally means that it takes quite a while for rust to take a determined hold, so if you need the added weight of steel, it usually wins out over aluminium.

A few other factors might influence your decision, one of which is cost. Trays that are fitted at the dealership are usually a similar price, whether it’s steel or aluminium, although aluminium generally costs more than steel. It’s when you want a custom made tray that you really notice this price differential, as custom aluminium trays cost much more than steel. Finally, steel is magnetic and can create sparks, so this may play a factor in deciding which type of 4WD Ute tray you want to install on your vehicle.

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