• Cab-chassis models aren’t constrained by the body lines of the ute
    • Custom tray fit-outs are easier to find now than ever
    • A tray is going to be better than a tub when it comes to carting tools and fitting toolboxes

    A lot of new ute buyers modify their vehicle to make it more suitable for their needs, and the most common modification in tradie-land seems to be dumping the tub and putting on a tray.

    That mentality is largely driven by the availability of cab-chassis versions of the utes that sell in big numbers. In other words, the best-spec utes aren’t available with trays on the back, you have to get them as a dual-cab pick-up truck with a styleside tub instead, then rip it off and get a new fit out sorted.

    Here’s a list of the current highest-grade 4x4 models from each of the ute makers that are available with a double-cab-chassis layout:

    • Toyota HiLux SR5 
    • Ford Ranger XLT V6
    • Isuzu D-Max LS-U 
    • Mazda BT-50 XTR 
    • Mitsubishi Triton GLX 
    • Nissan Navara SL
    • Toyota LandCruiser 79 GXL

    The 70 Series aside, that means there are higher-spec versions of each of those utes available but only with a tub. Here’s a list:

    • Toyota HiLux - Rogue, GR Sport 
    • Ford Ranger - Wildtrak, Raptor
    • Isuzu D-Max - LS-U+, X-Terrain
    • Mazda BT-50 - GT, SP, Thunder
    • Mitsubishi Triton - GLX+, GLX-R, GLS, GSR
    • Nissan Navara - ST, ST-X, SL Warrior, Pro-4X, Pro-4X Warrior
    • Toyota LandCruiser 79 GXL

    If you want a double-cab 4x4 cab-chassis version of the GWM Ute, SsangYong Rexton, Jeep Gladiator, LDV T60, RAM 1500, GMSV Silverado or Volkswagen Amarok, there’s nothing for you straight off the showroom floor (at the time of writing).

    I might also throw in a couple of cab-chassis options that you haven’t thought of - the van-based brigade. For instance, you can get a dual-cab 4x4 version of the large Volkswagen Crafter, or the mid-size VW Transporter, for less than some of those other utes. And guess what? The Crafter has seven seats! Three up front, four in the back. Crazy, right?

    You can probably tell that the brands don’t think there are that many buyers for more richly specified twin-cab 4x4 models, but there are huge benefits to getting a cab-chassis ute, particularly if you’re a tradie.

    Here are some of the most important benefits of cab-chassis vs pick-up:

    • Having a flatter tray means you have a more modular load space: you don’t have to worry about the wheel-arches eating into your load area.
    • You will be able to forklift bigger items on the back: lots of farmers love cab-chassis utes because they can cart a lot more - IBCs, bails of hay, cattle feed and more.
    • It’s easier to secure a load: have you ever tried to put a load cover on using the tie-down hooks in a double-cab pick-up tray area? It’s bloody near impossible - especially if your ute has a sports bar!
    • Fitting toolboxes is easier: you won’t need to have a custom made canopy box or completely new build tray to make better use of the space in the back. It means you have your load area set up for part-toolbox, part-open loadspace.
    • There are more options: when you buy a pick-up ute, you only get the choice of one tub, with the exception of liners, covers, canopies and such. If you have cab-chassis, you can choose from the dealer catalogue of options (some have more than half a dozen to choose from, including cheaper aluminium through to mine-spec heavy-duty steel with colour-coding). 
    • Build it how you want it: custom tray builds are big business, and there are some exceptional metalworking mobs across Australia that will help you make your ideal tray area become a reality. Start off with a sketch, watch it progress to a CAD drawing, and then see it come to reality and get fitted to your ute. It’s poetry in motion.
    • If you damage the tub of your pick-up, it’s a disaster and could cost thousands in repairs with paint-matching being a serious issue. But if you have a tray instead, it’s one less thing to think about.
    • Service body options: a lot of quality machinists offer premade, or made-to-order, service bodies for utes, which are ideal for those who just want an easy choice for their ute.
    • Jack-off kits make your ute a work and play truck: they might have one of the worst names for any ute accessory known to man, but a jack-off tray or jack-off canopy allows you to have a flat tray when you need it, and a service body or enclosed secure canopy when you don’t.   

    You’ll decide if a tray is better for you or not, but it is surprising that more brands aren’t catering to the demands of customers. And have you seen how many removed tubs there are at the back of major ute dealerships? It’s quite wasteful, if they don’t find a new life.

    If you do buy a ute and remove the tray, and you can’t decide what to do with it - Google “ute tub pool” and “ute tub sandpit”. You can leave your notes of thanks in the comments.

    Matt Campbell
    Matt Campbell is a Senior Contributor at CarExpert.