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When buying a ute, you are going to have to think about custom ute tray ideas. Any ute is only as good as the tray on its back. Therefore, the order of importance in buying a ute is the engine, wheels, and tray. But then, come the weekend, you might want to take it out and take it off road.

Things to consider when creating the ideal ute tray set-up

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When buying a ute, you are going to have to think about custom ute tray ideas. Any ute is only as good as the tray on its back. Therefore, the order of importance in buying a ute is the engine, wheels, and tray.

So you want a custom ute tray that fits the ute’s purpose. For example, the ute has been a proven workhorse in farms across Australia for more than half a century, from moving stock feed to carrying a portable fencing workshop. 

The most popular tray on farm vehicles is a wide flatbed because you can carry bulky loads, and in a paddock, you don’t have to worry about narrow car parks or laneways.

The ute’s versatility has meant that it has evolved from the farmyard and is now a popular option for all sorts of uses. The trays have evolved along with it, and there are now dozens of custom options and accessories to make your ute your own.

So what are some custom ute tray ideas?

It starts with how you will use the tray and what features and characteristics are best for that purpose. With so many options available, there is no storage of choices, but not all are suitable.

Ute Trays

Work or play

The first question that needs to be answered before getting a fully customised ute tray is – what is the reason for buying a ute? Is it for work or play?

The tray is the same for any valuable tool in your toolbox. There is a perfect tool, and there are tools that will do in a pinch, such as the choice between a hard drill or a power drill. Either drill will get the job done, but it’s best to have the power tool when you’re trying to make a living.

It’s the same for custom ute trays; you can get all sorts of added accessories, such as a canopy, reversing cameras, welded-in toolboxes, ladder racks and tray liners, to name a few. But some accessories can be more of a hindrance than a help, mainly when the ute trays are designed for a purpose.

Weight of the trays

Weight should be front of mind when choosing ute trays for a few reasons. Firstly, the weight of the tray changes the handling of the vehicle. Secondly, the weight of a customised ute tray will impact how much you can put on the back. Thirdly, and probably the most noticeable, will be fuel consumption.

A ute is designed to carry all its weight on its back. So ute handling and road grip are affected by the tray’s weight. However, the handling is probably not so noticeable on long-wheelbase vehicles compared to short-wheelbase cars.

Aluminium trays are much lighter than steel-based trays, so that they can carry heavier loads. For example, an aluminium tray might weigh 150kg so a one-tonne ute can carry heavy loads up to 850kg. While a steel ute tray might weigh 250kg (seriously on the lighter side) which means you can only carry an additional 750kg.

The weight also affects fuel efficiency, but less than the wind resistance that a tray creates, particularly a tray with a canopy. Weight and wind resistance will increase the rate your ute will burn through fuel. However, more aerodynamic options for canopies save you considerable fuel. So when selecting a ute tray, consider its fuel efficiency.

If you want to know more about weight and wind resistance, give us a call at Cobra Industries for all your custom ute tray information.

Aluminium trays versus steel trays

As we have already discussed, aluminium alloy trays are lighter than steel trays, and more lightweight trays offer more flexibility. So why would anyone choose steel trays?

Steel trays are more rigid and tougher than their aluminium cousins. This is important if your ute is more of a workhorse than a pony. However, steel ute trays can take a beating. It is also cheaper than aluminium. So why would anyone choose aluminium ute trays?

Alloy ute trays are lighter, and we have discussed that benefit. But they are also corrosion resistant so that they can handle the outdoors. Aluminium ute trays also do not give off sparks, and they are not magnetic. This can be very relevant depending on what you carry in the back.

The corrosion problem of steel can be overcome with a powder-coated finish. Still, the exposed steel will start corroding almost immediately, and the process gets turbocharged with an added bit of saltwater.

That’s the basics, but you’re here to read what accessories are available in custom ute trays.

Accessories on ute trays

Swing Out Jerry Can


You can go down the rabbit hole when looking at a canopy. Firstly, just like with trays, you can get alloy and steel canopies, but there are also plastic and fibreglass options. A canopy can also have in-built shelving to replace the use of toolboxes.

While canopies limit the use of ute trays, they also offer security for your expensive tools and camping gear.


The headboard is a safety feature as much as it’s handy to secure loads. For example, the headboard helps prevent loads from hitting you in the back of the head when braking hard. So a robust and durable headboard is essential, but it should be clear of your view of the load and the road behind.


Build-in toolboxes and storage boxes are handy features that help you to secure small items onto ute trays. One thing to consider is the configuration of your toolboxes on the tray because against the headboard might seem an obvious choice, but it makes things challenging to reach.

Tie-down rings and rails

All loads on ute trays need to be secured. If you regularly use the tray, consider rigs or rails to help tie down loads. Think about where you want a rail to tie down a load because when you have them underneath a tray with alloy siding, the rope pressure can warp and bend the siding – another point for steel trays.

Ladder rack

A rear bracket near the headboard’s height is known as a ladder rack because it is mainly used to transport ladders. However, it’s more flexible than that and is great for hauling long items that don’t fit in the ute tray, such as timber and fishing rods.

Ute tray mats

Mats are a great addition when you want to protect the ute tray like a rug protects a carpet or if you’re going to stop loads from slipping, like a shower mat. Consider installing a plastic protector if you want permanent protection for your ute tray. A protector is a good option when the ute tray is part of the ute body.

Reverse camera

A reverse camera is another safety device and can be a godsend when you have a bulky load that obstructs the driver’s vision.

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Ideas for ute trays

When you buy a ute, you probably have a good idea why you want it. It could be for weekends away in the bush, transporting pets, towing a boat for fishing trips, or bringing your mobile workshop to a work site.

Here are some custom ute tray ideas for:

The tradie…

Utes are almost a required piece of equipment for any tradie. Many ute trays and accessories are designed for tradies, so there are no limits on options. Most tradies would want a strong canopy with shelving to protect their tools. A tradie would also benefit from a ladder rack for – well…. ladders – pipes and timber.

The farmer...

The farmer prefers a flatbed ute tray with tie-down rings and rails because of the variety of things that will be carried. The farmer ute should also have a side step on the tray to help them get on the back of the ute quickly.

The recreational 4x4 adventurer…

A half canopy might be a good idea for the recreational adventurer to secure small camping gear. While also having room to toss in those outdoor toys that might be messy. A ute for play might also want rod holders and a roof bar for extra carrying capacity for those long weekends with the family.

The traveller...

The traveller might want a canopy as a shell, so there is plenty of storage and even somewhere to sleep, although sleeping in a canopy is not recommended. You should want an aerodynamic shell and a lightweight ute tray, so it’s more fuel efficient.

There is an option for everyone. Contact us at Cobra industries to discover how we can make a custom ute tray just for you.

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