The Purpose of Ute Trays: What to Consider When Buying a Tray for Your Ute

Buying a ute puts forward a lot of questions. Do you get a single or dual cab? Or maybe an extra cab chassis is a good compromise. And a tub or a tray fitted to a cab chassis? Whichever you choose, the configuration needs to meet your needs in terms of the loads you’ll be carrying and where you’ll be using the ute. The majority of new utes are bought as dual cab variants with a factory-fitted tub. Trays are often reserved for vehicles in lower trim levels and often in a single cab design. 

So, if you want the benefits of those extra seats, as well as a more sturdy foundation to carry more than a few types of gear and equipment, your best bet is to do a tray conversion. Shopping for dual cab trays brings up a lot of different options from the swathe of tray builders dotting Australia. Most offer a decent build and a tray that’s custom-built for your ute model. 

ute trays

Why Opt for a Tray Conversion? 

Trays have a few advantages over well-tub bodies. They have more space, can carry larger and heavier loads, are built to a tougher standard, and have more leeway in customisation to get exactly what you want. An added bonus is that they’re higher up, so off-roading will be better considering the increased departure angles at the back. 

Space and More Options with Different Sizes

Factory tubs won’t do anyone favours when it comes to space. They’re fitted lower down, and in between the wheel arches, so most struggle even with basic things like a standard-sized pallet. And the fact they eat into the available realty in all directions limits your ability in carrying larger and longer loads (building materials, ladders etc) without having to resort to roof racks as a viable alternative. This though ups costs and downplays the reason why you got a ute in the first place. 

Single cab trays straight out of the factory are the longest, often rounding out at 2500mm, extra cab offerings are 300mm shorter, and if you’re happy with a stock tray on a dual cab, this will give you roughly 1800 by 1800mm of usable space to play with. Going with a tray conversion though lets you add a few centimetres in all directions, and tailor your tray to your load. In most cases you can add a 2100mm long tray to a dual cab design without affecting safety when driving, or strict ADR rules in terms of what’s legal and what’s not. 

Wider Range of Materials

Here you have four options. Aluminium alloy trays in standard thicknesses and finishes will be good for most people, ranging from tradies, fleet operators and off-roaders. The build is lightweight, doesn’t affect your loading capacity, and won’t up fuel use or be hard on the tyres. High sides are also easier to manage when getting up or down. For most uses, and most types of loads, this is the dual cab tray to get. Best of all it’s durable, doesn’t collect rust and is the cheapest to buy. 

premium aluminium tray

Move up to a heavy-duty aluminium and top rust-coated steel tray combo to get the best balance between durability and weight. This adds longevity when you’re abusing your ute harder than usual, and is the starting point for fitting a full-sized canopy. You’ll see less wear on the tray floor and can load extra heavy stuff without second thoughts.

 Standard steel trays come in a mild steel option, often with an anti-rust coating. A good choice if you need the durability of steel and the benefit of stronger welds, especially in chassis fitment and tie-down points. There are also colour-coded options if you want to match the look of the tray with the rest of the ute. 

Lastly, go with heavy-duty steel dual cab trays if you want the least wear and a tray that’s suited to hard work. Have in mind though that this will impact your loading capacity, as there’s up to 60 per cent more weight than a standard aluminium tray, so rear axle squat is almost guaranteed if you don’t also have the suspension upgraded. It’s also the costliest choice, but one that will last the longest. 

Getting Features that You Want and Need

Customising the tray to your needs is why you’ll be considering a tray conversion. Besides the added space, and toughness with different materials, add-ons to dual cab trays go a long way in giving you more of everything. Extras like under tray tool boxes in the same aluminium or mild steel, mudguards to keep the ute spotless, lockable trundle doors, integrated headboards for safety and when carrying large and long loads, included drop-down sides, checker plate non-slip surfaces, LED tail and brake lights and provisions for the number plates. Some of these are standard kits, while others are paid options. You can add your choice of features and accessories and talk to builders if you need anything else. 

trays for ute

Summing Up

Tray conversions are the logical step when you want more from your dual cab with a factory tub. Ute owners benefit by having more space to work with, meaning carrying more goods in a single go, or heavier items on further trips. Better materials than ABS plastic in tubs means more durability, less chance of damage, and more variety in loads. You get a purpose-built addition that not only looks good but also ups the usability of your ute with different features without costing an arm or leg.