Ute canopies: The different types & how they're installed
Updated 25 Mar 2021
What is a canopy?
Utes are an excellent all-in-one vehicle. You get the luxuries of air-conditioned comfort and car-like interior while also having that extra separate space behind the cabin to store work gear, leisure gear, and the dog. One drawback is that a ute’s tray, while great for storing stuff, is open to the elements and you can’t park anywhere without worrying that someone might steal whatever prized possessions you have stored there. Enter the canopy.
A canopy is a structure with a roof, walls, windows and door that covers the ute tray. They attach to the tray walls or sit on the tray floor. In some cases, they can replace the tray itself. Canopies can be constructed from polymers, aluminium and/or fibreglass; can be specifically moulded for particular vehicle models or be custom made.
There are various types of canopies but what they all provide is a secure space where items can be stored out of the elements and away from opportunists with sticky fingers. The downside to canopies is that you can’t just throw things into the tray and go. However, since road regulations now mean that loads must be covered, the canopy can be a better option over securing a cover every time you add or remove an item.
Types of canopies
Fibreglass canopies: This is the most popular option and can be attached to a well or flat tray. They typically have sliding or lift up windows on each side and a door at the rear. Fibreglass doesn’t support much weight so roof racks may need extra support installed to carry roof cargo. These canopies have been known to fade and become brittle over time.
Canvas canopies: These are basically a steel frame with canvas cover. They often have zips on the sides and rear for access. They will come with an alloy hardtop or canvas all around. This canopy style is a cheaper, more flexible alternative but is not overly secure, can be easily damaged and will deteriorate over time.
Steel and aluminium canopies: An attractive choice for people who want the option to install shelving and carry weight above. Ideal for the working ute. In some cases, the tray is removed completely and a fully kitted canopy is installed. These can be custom made to suit individual needs. Other types can be fitted directly onto the tray and will have lockable side and/or rear doors or shelves. Weight can become a factor with these types of canopies.
Some canopies can have felt lining, central locking and lighting. Most canopies come with at least a two-year warranty or more, while price will depend on the type of canopy selected. Canopies can be found through the usual 4x4 outlets like ARB, Ironman 4x4, Opposite Lock and TJM. There are also independent retailers that sell and install canopies and some brands you will see are Rhino, RSi SmartCanopy, PJS 4x4, AWL and Flexiglass.
Reasons for installing a canopy
- Secure and protect equipment
- Vehicle styling
- Preserve ute tray
Who installs canopies?
There are independent specialist retailers that supply and install canopies. If you are after a custom-built canopy then they would probably be your first call. If you have a fairly common ute and are looking for a standard factory fitment canopy then the usual 4WD retailers will be able to source and supply fitment options for you.
Things to consider
- Not all canopies are dust and waterproof and some extra sealing may be required to keep the elements out
- Take into consideration the extra weight that a canopy will add to the vehicle and the effect it may have on handling and storage capacity
- Fibreglass canopies can become brittle and fade with exposure to the elements
- Not all canopies support roof weight. Be prepared to fit roof racks to support extra cargo
- Can the canopy be easily removed if required?
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Rachel spent her early adult life around cars, motorsport and hands-on with her own cars. This interest moved into various careers within the Automotive industry. Joined with her passion for writing, Rachel loves putting the two together to share her experience, so we can all become AutoGuru’s.