Drop-side steel trays versus well bodies is a rivalry that continues to divide the tradies of Perth.
It is a widely discussed debate which often causes more tongue-wagging than actual work, especially when the boss steps in and gloats about how great his new Ford Ranger Raptor 4×4 is and it’s immaculate well body.
In all seriousness though, if we had a tinnie for every time we heard someone claim their well body is tougher and stronger than a steel tray, we’d be drunk before it hits 4pm Friday arvo.
At the end of the day, both have their positives and negatives and based on the work you do, one will perform better than the other in different environments.
To put an end to this madness, here are the pros and cons of each and their suitable applications.
Steel Trays: Overview
The advantages of steel ute trays
Increased storage capacity
Regardless of trade, whether you’re a plumber, sparky, builder or any other tradie, you’re always going to need a sturdy ute with ample storage space.
A drop-side steel ute tray gives you the much needed extra space to not only carry all your tools and supplies from job to job but also all your 4×4, camping and fishing gear on the weekends.
Being able to drop the sides down or remove them completely and turn it into a steel bed means you can carry larger items such as kayaks with ease, or any other activities your lifestyle demands, be it motorsports or mountain biking.
Strength and durability — Four times stronger than aluminium
Steel is a heck of a lot stronger and 3 times stiffer than aluminium. When it comes to carting around materials and supplies such as timber, piles of jagged rocks which roll around like marbles in the back, nothing can withstand it more than a heavy duty steel tray.
If your worksite involves carrying around steel pipes, jackhammer drill bits, rocks or timber, you can pretty much just chuck it in the ute.
On weekends, a steel tray works just as well, from helping a mate move all his furniture because his missus kicked him out, to carrying all your camping and fishing equipment, to surfboards and kayaks.
You can haul pretty much anything, just don’t forget to check the legal weight limit.
Highly customisable to suit your lifestyle
One of the biggest advantages of going with a steel ute tray is being able to customise it to suit your exact needs. From ladder racks, sliding drawers for organising your tools, to colour matching it to your vehicle, new lights, mudguards and a protective coating to make it last longer.
Steel trays also allow for the installation of canopies for additional protection against the elements and potential thieves, keeping your tools and belongings safe and clean.
Disadvantages of steel trays
Susceptible to corrosion
One of the biggest concerns with steel trays is corrosion. If it isn’t sealed properly, it will start to rust almost immediately when exposed to the elements, especially for those who live by the sea. This is why it’s important to ensure that if you do go for a steel tray, to properly seal with it with a highly protective powder coat, hot-dip galvanising or at least painted with a durable 2-pack coating.
Ute Well Bodies: Overview
Advantages of ute well bodies
If you’re an owner of a Toyota Hilux or Nissan Navara, you’ll understand just how good the OEM well body looks. From a mint paint job, to matching existing colour and shape of the vehicle, having the original well body shine completes the overall look. That’s not to say well bodies on LandCruisers 79 series aren’t great either, they are practically an OEM steel tray with the Toyota logo.
Highly customisable to suit your job
Bolt down a tool box, install a canopy, transform it into a service body or attach an awning for camping on the weekends, ute well bodies are highly customisable to suit your job and lifestyle.
Easy to protect
There are plenty of ways to keep the inside of your tub in good condition and looking great all year round. Installing a tub liner is the quickest way to protect the original paint from scratching as well as limit the amount of damage sustained from heavy objects or jagged materials.
There’s also spray-on liners which are an extremely durable coating that is UV resistant, does not vibrate or rub from movement, or prevents condensation from getting trapped underneath and causing rust.
Disadvantages of ute well bodies
Easily damaged if not protected
Without a protective layer, tubs sustain damage almost immediately. From loose tools rolling around in the back to jagged rocks, pieces of timber or any other item being thrown can scratch and dent the body work. Unlike a steel tray, well bodies aren’t as durable. We’ve seen so many Holden utes with massive dents at the back where they have clearly reversed into a bollard.
Space is limited
Unlike a drop-side steel tray, which can be transformed into a flatbed for easier storage, a well body is restricted to its original shape. Extra steps need to be taken if you plan on carrying larger items like a kayak or dirt bike. There’s also the wheel gaps to consider which protrude up into the storage space and make it harder to slide in items flat and sideways.
Get a tailored solution that’s suited to your needs
At Perth 4WD Centre we supply and fit new and reconditioned 4×4 steel ute trays and well bodies for most four-wheel drive / SUV makes and models.
Whether your job requires an enduring and durable steel tray or your lifestyle demands a stylish yet practical well body, Perth 4WD offers highly competitive prices on all new trays and great value for money on all reconditioned trays.
All of our trays and well bodies are manufactured and reconditioned in-house, from design, testing, painting and fitting, our team of experts can help you choose and install a tray suited to your needs and vehicle. We’re committed to bringing the highest quality service, and provide a superior finish reconditioning every time – view our gallery to see some of our work.
Some accessories can really transform your ute into a working beast. Read our article on 3 must-have accessories to upgrade your ute.