There are a number of benefits to installing an aftermarket headache rack:
- Protection: A headache rack will guard the rear cab window and any occupants from items sliding around in the truck bed.
- Appearance: Many like the look that a headache rack gives their trucks.
- Haul long objects: With a headache rack and some straps, you can haul objects that are longer than your truck bed by securing them against the top of the headache rack.
- Accessories: Other useful accessories such as a truck bed toolbox or lights can be easily attached to most headache racks.
If you’re in the market for a headache rack, in addition to cost you’ll want to consider design, fit, and material.
There are a very wide variety of headache rack designs. In some cases, differences in design are simply visual, while other design elements may confer practical advantages. For example, headache racks with louvered windows can keep your cab cool by blocking direct sunlight.
If you plan to fit additional truck accessories to your headache rack (such as lights or a trunk box), look for a headache rack that has places to mount these add-ons.
Some headache racks come in one or a few sizes that will accommodate many vehicles, while others are model-specific. Model-specific racks are likely to cost a little more but will fit your truck better.
Hunter Gill, owner of aftermarket truck accessory retailer TEQ Customs, said while a universal rack may fit your vehicle, model-specific options usually offer greater protection and are easier to install.
“There’s a whole lot of difference in [truck] bed widths… a rack that works well on your Toyota Tacoma is probably not going to work too well on your F-250,” Gill remarked. “Just for ease of install and good protection, and just making the rack do what you need, I would definitely recommend a model-specific one.”
Most headache racks are made from either steel or aluminum alloy. Steel is heavier than an aluminum alloy and will eventually corrode over time. Aluminum alloys resist oxidation but may be less durable than steel. This depends on the particular alloy. Some aluminum alloys are more durable than steel.
Gill says that consumers should look for higher-quality materials for increased safety.
“[Lower quality headache racks] can even cause more damage because now instead of just having something in your [truck] bed flying through your window you also have pieces of cheap metal also flying through your window,” Gill stated.
The quality of the protecting coating is also important, according to Gill. He said a cheap powder coating will wear down quickly, leading to rust and deterioration of the headache rack.
“Generally, you want to see some high-strength steel with pretty thick walls on the tubing [and] the square tube, and a good quality coating on the headache rack,” Gill said.