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    A Comprehensive Guide to Ute Canopies

    By on Last modified: July 4, 2024

    Utes aren’t by chance the best-selling vehicles Down Under. They’re built tough, can go just about anywhere, have heaps of loading and interior space, and come decently specced, even in basic trims. Newer cars aren’t anywhere near the cheap and cheerful vehicles from a decade ago, and all utes now come with plush interiors, a good suite of safety tech and infotainment features to keep the whole family happy. What’s also increasing is the available factory and aftermarket options and accessories

    While most vehicles come with a standard tub, tray options, either from the dealer or added later on, offer more versatility in the back. Canopies and toolboxes are some of the most popular ute accessories, regardless if you’re using the vehicle for work or play. Both tradies and off-roading buffs see canopies as a necessity when there’s the need to maximise space, security and overall convenience. But, with all that’s currently sold, which canopy is the best fit?  

    Why Choose an Aluminium Canopy? 


    Speccing any ute with a custom-built aluminium ute canopy offers owners several advantages: 

    • Strength and durability – aluminium is a strong and durable option, comparable to steel, but with added rust resistance. Go for thicker aluminium gauges and grades to ensure that you’re canopy is fool and theft-proof. 
    • Low weight – aluminium comes at a fraction of the weight of steel, meaning it won’t impact your GVM (gross vehicle mass), overall payload capacity or fuel use. It’s also easier on rear axles. 
    • Improved handling- the lower weight also means fewer handling or safety issues, like rear axle squat, uneven tyre wear or loss of traction.  
    • Weather resistance – if you’re constantly up against harsh weather or road conditions, the material limits damage from rust and road debris, with no staining. 
    • Style – most aluminium ute canopies come ready with applied coatings in any colour you like and matched with a range of surface finishes. Milled, polished and checker-plate finishes are some of the most popular choices. You can mix or match looks with the rest of the vehicle. 
    • Low maintenance – this added layer of protection additionally provides lower maintenance needs, easier cleaning and more respectable looks. 

    Designs, Styles and Sizes 

    Canopies get the best convenience and most space by using all the available space the tray provides. Here too, owners have multiple options to best suit individual needs and tastes. 
    The basic distinction is between permanent bolt-on and temporary lift-off canopies. The first are affixed to the chassis or tray bed in multiple locations, use all available bed space, offer the sturdiness you’d come to expect on harsher roads, and are generally cheaper to buy.

    Downsides are that they take some time to install, and are also a pain to get off. Lift-off versions provide more versatility, as they can be removed off the tray using four canopy legs(one at each corner) paired with 4 sets of support rails hidden behind latches to ensure safety. They have reinforced floors with thicker aluminium sheeting to support the weight of anything inside. The option lets owners get the best of trays and canopies with a single vehicle, allowing them to store larger items (say dirt bikes or bulky building materials) with less fuss. More flexibility though means higher prices. 
    There’s also a variety of shapes, from popular gullwing canopies with tapered left and right sides and easier access, boxy square and rectangular types for the most space, and smaller cross-deck canopies if you also need some of the tray space for other gear. 

    When going with a full-sized aluminium ute canopy, make sure to choose lengths and widths that suit the cab type. Single-cab canopies are naturally the largest, with lengths reaching 2400mm, extra cabs go for 2100mm, and dual cabs round out at 1800mm. Widths are limited by the tray, usually averaging 1800 to 1900mm for most ute models, while heights top up at 800-900mm, and are in line with the cab roof. 

    Features and Build 


    Details matter, and small and often overlooked features extend canopy usability, security and flexibility for different tasks. Choose wide-access doors with fitted gas struts to get things in and out faster and easier, secure recessed and tamper-proof steel locks for peace of mind, and rubber seals to wick away water and keep contents dry and dust-free. 
    Also consider overall build quality, with clean, seamless welds giving off a better look and more strength. Buyers also get to choose surface finishes, for instance non-slip checker-plate flooring when loading the ute with smaller items like tools or camping gear, and a range of internal shelving, bins, pantries, drawers and compartment trays in customisable configurations. 

    There’s no shortage of external extras either. Get more space with a welded, full-length canopy rack, opt for jerry cans and gas-bottle holders for longer trips, spare tyre holders when hitting the trails, or a canopy ladder for easier access to loaded gear. These should pair well with other off-roading necessities. But possibly the most important thing is finding a respectable canopy builder that can meet all your needs while offering sane prices. Before parting with your cash consider where and how you use your ute, the benefits that a canopy brings, and the features you can’t do without.