2022-08-20 13:07:47 By : Mr. Wansheng He

It’s been seven months since we purchased a 2021 Ford F-150 Limited SuperCrew, winner of our Best of 2021 award, and we waited this long to install a bedliner. We don’t recommend delaying this step, but we had a pretty good reason. We didn’t like the usual options: a drop-in or a spray-in bedliner, and our first choice was taking a while for its manufacturer to develop due to the complexities of our truck’s new Pro Power Onboard outlets, lights and other features — along with pandemic-related obstacles.

Related: Owning the 2021 Ford F-150

To rewind a bit, a bedliner’s job is to protect the bed from being scratched and dented by its payload, which is especially important because paint scratches usually lead to rust. (I say usually because the F-150’s body has been constructed of aluminum alloy since the 2015 model year — a fact that came into play in our saga.) A bedliner can make the bed surface less slippery, and as someone who nearly wiped out a couple of times walking on it when it was wet, I assure you ours was like an ice rink.

To be safe, and to prevent damage to the cargo and the truck, you should always secure your load, but it’s nice if something you put in the bed near the tailgate for a short trip doesn’t end up all the way in front because the bed surface has no grip. This would require you to climb into the bed to retrieve it, and possibly to crawl around. You will probably have to crawl around or kneel in the bed at some point if you’re tying down your load, which leads to this public service announcement: Kneeling in an unlined bed is uncomfortable, and your choice of bedliner can either improve or degrade this experience. Yes, it’s a personal campaign of mine, and you don’t realize how much you’ll thank me, but you will.

We considered a drop-in bedliner, which has undeniable advantages, primarily being affordable and installing in minutes. They’re made of plastic that’s molded to fit the sides, and the floor is corrugated to allow air to get in, and water to get out and to absorb impacts. But even drop-in bedliners customized for specific models don’t always fit tightly and tend to leave big holes around the cleats, which are really crude. The bed also ends up being almost as slippery as it is when it’s unlined.

As for kneeling on a drop-in bedliner, you can’t imagine the horror. Forced kneeling on a drop-in bedliner hasn’t overtaken waterboarding as a torture technique only because no one’s thought of it yet.

We also considered a spray-in bedliner, which is much neater, durable and unquestionably the choice for people who are going to put their truck to hard work. Our use for the F-150 is more casual, which didn’t make the spray-in approach a necessity, especially in light of its downsides, which start with higher price. This bedliner type — a durable, textured paint — is sprayed in only after the entire inner box surface is prepped, which is to say sanded down to the primer or bare metal if done properly. It’s a time and labor-intensive process worthy of the higher price.

But it has downsides apart from the higher price. One is that the surface is so rough, it can feel like 60-grit sandpaper. So it might keep cargo from sliding around, but it also can, well, sand anything that slides on it. If you’re carting a load of gravel, a spray-in bedliner can’t be beat. But if you’re helping friends move their furniture, you might spend a lot of time padding it to protect it from the truck — or apologizing afterward.

Because you’re dying to know how it does in the kneeling test, it’s exactly like an unlined bed — but with sandpaper.

We went with a hybrid of sorts that combines the best aspects of a drop-in bedliner — though much better executed — with a 3/8-inch-thick rubber mat for the floor. Similar aftermarket mats are available on their own, but the beauty of the DualLiner is how the two elements work together. Note that DualLiner isn’t a sponsor: We paid full price for our product, in accordance with our editorial ethics policy (call us old-fashioned).

The DualLiner’s front and side panels have the benefits of a custom-molded drop-in liner’s, but instead of gaping holes surrounding the tie-down points, this product is secured by them. The front load guard panel snapped into place, managing to fit underneath our existing tonneau cover, installed in March. We removed the D-rings (two screws apiece) and the cleat plates (four screws) from the box sides, and the DualLiner side panels took their place with minimal coaxing before we replaced the hardware using hand tools to be safe, given the truck’s aluminum construction. Once again, though, we thought we might have to notch the panels to allow for the Tyger Auto tonneau cover’s aluminum C-clamps, but they tucked underneath unmolested.

The panels are designed, and the tie-downs distributed, well enough that the side panels hold the front one in place, and the D-rings and cleat plates hold the side ones tight to the box walls. The unrolled rubber mat fits into a channel molded into the panels along the floor, so all parts of the system hold each other in place.

We were impressed with how neat everything looked, and how well the various apertures fit the box features like the LED lights and Pro Power Onboard outlet panel. Will this fitment last? We shall see. Our particular installation was slowed by having to work around the existing cover, but sped by removing much hardware with power drivers. One person could probably do this whole installation in an hour or less.

The best part of that process, and the ownership thereafter, is kneeling on a rubber mat that provides comfort along with grip.

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The DualLiner for our truck, which has a 5-foot, 6-inch bed, cost $419 with free shipping in one large but not unreasonably heavy box. It would have been $429, but our truck has the optional, integrated tailgate work surface, which provides its own protection, so we received one less panel and $10 off. DualLiner manufactures its panels in Wisconsin and its mats in Ohio.

The same week we made the purchase, an original Ford bedliner for our truck listed for $270 plus $75 for installation at our local Ford dealership. That dealer was also selling another drop-in bedliner for $450 and a spray-in bedliner for $550, both installed.

We didn’t want to wait, and the scratches in our bedliner show why. But we had an “aha” moment when we realized two things: One, our aluminum truck wouldn’t rust even if scratched (it hasn’t). Two, our second choice was a spray-in bedliner, and if ever we lost patience (or the next buyer wants a spray-in), the paint will be sanded down as a first step anyway. So long as we didn’t gouge or dent the bed, we’d be fine, and it appears we haven’t.

All told, we’re feeling like we made the right calls on this one. We’ll continue covering our F-150 and its new DualLiner bedliner in the months to come.’s Editorial department is your source for automotive news and reviews. In line with’s long-standing ethics policy, editors and reviewers don’t accept gifts or free trips from automakers. The Editorial department is independent of’s advertising, sales and sponsored content departments.

By Fred Meier and Brian Normile