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Composite Beds On Pickup Trucks - Boon or Bane?

Toyota Tundra comes with a composite bed unlike the aluminum and steel ones from the big three, but are composite beds the future?

The 2022 Toyota Tundra came out with all guns blazing. It doesn’t offer a plethora of engine options like its American rivals, but it still has a strong and loyal fan base who swear by its reliability. No wonder the Tundra and the Tacoma have a high demand even in the pre-worshipped market. While the 2022 model’s highlight was the new hybrid engine, there’s one other thing that deserves attention – its composite bed. It is said to be more abuse-friendly, but is that true?

The Composite Truck Bed Is A Breath Of Fresh Air

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The Tundra’s truck bed is said to offer better protection against dents, dings, and rust, courtesy of the new Sheet-Molded Compound (SMC) construction.

It comes with further improvements, such as an aluminum-reinforced composite bed and fully redesigned multi-link rear suspension. The Tundra will be offered with three bed sizes – 5.5-foot, 6.5-foot, and 8.1-foot.

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While it is rugged and can be used roughly, the maximum payload capacity is “just” 1,940 pounds, which is far from the best (2021 F-150 can haul up to 3,325 pounds with the Heavy-Duty Payload Package). Now, not everyone uses the payload capacity to its limit, but on paper, this is a disadvantage for the truck.

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As for the beds on its rivals, the F-150’s is composed of high-strength, military-grade aluminum-alloy, whereas the Chevy Silverado and the Ram 1500’s beds are made up of high-strength steel.

A video was uploaded on YouTube wherein a 500-pound engine was dropped onto the bed from a crane, but it has been taken down. If only we could’ve known the condition of the bed after the load was dropped.

The GMC Sierra 1500 Denali Comes With A Composite Bed

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Advantages:
The biggest advantage is its excellent resistance to corrosion. They are also scratch and dent resistant. Not to mention, it is also lighter and will help improve fuel efficiency.

The Honda Ridgeline and the Toyota Tundra also come with composite beds, but let’s talk about the Tundra’s rival, the GMC Sierra 1500. The Silverado’s ‘twin-cousin’ (some incest sorcery this is), the Sierra 1500 was introduced with a carbon-fiber bed for the Denali and the AT4 trims. That seems to be even tougher than the Tundra’s bed because the company had claimed that it conducted tests to check the actual strength of the bed.

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GMC dropped cinder blocks, 450-pound steel drums, and 1800-pound gravel and water-filled steel barrels from various heights. To take things up a notch, the team even had a 250-pound man drive on a snowmobile into the bed full throttle. But, it survived everything thrown at it.

This bed doesn’t even need a spray-in bed liner or rear wheelhouse liners. It has led to further weight reduction, and even NVH levels are better.

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While we don’t have the manufacturing process of the Tundra’s bed, we do have it for Sierra CarbonPro. A flat sheet of thermoplastic carbon fiber is heated in a large oven and softened up before getting stamped by a 3,600-ton press. The smaller bits are shaped by a 1,000-ton press. After this, water jets are used to cut holes, create slots for hooks and lights, and trim off any rough edges. Once all this is set, the parts are joined with a heat-cured adhesive. There is no wastage here as the little carbon fiber bits are gathered, heated, and shaped into smaller pieces of the truck bed.

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As for the payload capacity, the CarbonPro can haul 59 pounds more than the non-CarbonPro Sierras. The maximum payload capacity on the Sierra is 2,240 pounds on the two-wheel-drive model in the Regular Cab form.

Are Composite Beds A Boon Or Bane?

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It boils down to how you would use your truck bed, but they have more advantages than disadvantages. The biggest advantage is its excellent resistance to corrosion. Rusting is one of the biggest issues of truck beds, so composite beds do sort this issue out to a huge extent. They are also scratch and dent resistant. Not to mention, it is also lighter and will help improve fuel efficiency.

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So, this begs the question; why don’t the Big Three move to composite beds? Well, the biggest reason is the cost.

Composite beds are comparatively expensive to build. Take the Sierra’s carbon-fiber bed, for instance. The carbon fiber composite bed on the Sierra AT4 and Denali costs approximately $12,500 and $11,000 more than the non-carbon fiber trims, respectively. Ford, GM, and Ram (Dodge, previously) have been building trucks for a very long time and have spent billions of dollars on the research and development of steel and aluminum beds. This includes stamping, grinding, welding, assembling, etc. To let that go to waste and spend more on building the manufacturing process for composite beds doesn’t seem very ideal from the cost point-of-view.

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There’s also no reason for them to move unless composite beds become mainstream or people don’t mind ponying up extra moolah for these beds. The American automakers would rather be happy giving spray-in bedliner complimentary if push comes to shove than add composite beds. Also, these three brands are the guiding force of the pickup truck segment in the U.S. market. If one of them streamlines composite beds into their trucks, expect others to follow suit. But, until then, expect steel and aluminum beds to rule.

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If you were in the market for a pickup truck, would you pay an extra amount for a composite bed, or would you be happy getting the steel or aluminum bed and equipping it with covers and spray-on bedliners? Share your thoughts with us in the comments section.

Sidd Dhimaan
Sidd Dhimaan
Senior Editor, Truck Expert, EV Expert - sidd@topspeed.com
Sidd joined the Topspeed.com team in 2017 as an intern and in less than a year he earned a full-time position as an associate editor and junior automotive expert. Fast forward to today, and he is currently serving as a senior editor, pickup truck expert, and EV expert.  Read full bio
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