When you’re shopping for a new truck, you have a thousand different decisions to make. If you’re shopping within the world of Fords, then another option gets thrown into the mix: the style of the truck bed. To help clear things up, I put together this expert guide.
The big difference is the outside geometry of the truck bed. A Flareside truck will step out and have the fenders outside of the bed. This translates to a wider frame, but it also means the bed is rectangular and has more storage space. Styleside beds are the modern option, with every Ford since 2014 only being offered as a Styleside.
I’ll be reviewing Flareside and Styleside pickup truck beds. More specifically, I’ll define both options, explain the differences, talk about their history, and help you pick the option that’s best for you.
Understanding Pickup Truck Beds
In another guide, I talked all about the different types of pickup truck cabs. In this piece, I’ll be focusing on two specific truck bed styles.
If you’re not a truck person, you might not understand why this distinction is so important. However, it’s one of those things that you can’t unsee once you learn about it. Next time you’re on the highway, you’ll point out every Flareside and Styleside you see on the road.
This comparison is only looking at the bed of the pickup. More specifically, the area where you throw cargo like lumber or tools.
Flareside and Styleside are both trademarked names by Ford, but you won’t just find them on a Ford. Other truck manufacturers have their own versions of these two pickup truck bed styles, namely Chevy. However, I’ll specifically talk about Fords moving forward since they own the namesake of Flareside and Styleside.
Introducing the Flareside Bed
The Flareside bed is the original bed option that Ford went with for their first-gen trucks way back in the late 40s. It was wildly successful and among the most popular bed option until the early 2000s.
The first difference with this bed is that it is visually separated from the cab of the truck. In some models, there is a step near the tire that gives access to the bed.
It’s called a “Flareside” because the sides of the bed have extra swoops and design features. The fenders are more rounded and stylized.
If you think about an early-model truck, specifically from the 50s or 60s, there’s a good chance you’re imagining a Flareside bed.
Explaining the Styleside Bed
The Styleside is a straightforward and simpler alternative to the Flareside. The Styleside features a lot more straight lines and a purposeful design.
Overall, this style of bed is boxier and typically considered more modern.
Another big difference is that the bed is flush with the cab of the truck, creating a uniform design. It also creates continual lines from the front grill to the rear tailgate.
Why Does the Bed Style Matter?
Before picking between these two styles, you should understand why the bed style even matters. While it ultimately boils down to personal preference, here are some considerations to think about:
At the end of the day, it’s largely an aesthetics-based decision. The styles of both bed options are different, so you’ll have to find a style that you like better.
In that regard, it’s like picking your favorite grille style in a modern luxury car.
Pricing is going to be another factor between both bed styles. The price difference has never been massive, especially considering the price of the truck as a whole, but it’s worth understanding.
If you don’t care for a Flareside bed, then you shouldn’t pay extra for it.
The overall bed shape and total volume is going to differ between these options as well. You’ll see more about this later. If hauling cargo in your bed is very important to you, then you’ll need to pay attention to this topic.
One bed style offers a rectangular area to load your cargo into, and the other has obstructions where the fenders are.
Aerodynamics (Sort of)
In theory, a truck bed can also affect your total aerodynamics which impacts your truck’s performance and fuel efficiency. In reality, the difference is so minuscule that you won’t notice the difference.
Comparison Between Flareside Vs Styleside
Even though I started by explaining the visual differences between Flareside and Styleside, the differences aren’t purely aesthetic. In this section, I’ll highlight some of the big differences between these two pickup truck bed styles.
As you might have guessed, there’s a price difference between these bed styles. In general, the Flareside is more expensive than a comparable Styleside truck. This is because the design is more niche, stylized, and sportier.
You could also argue that it requires more material and design work to make the Flareside, but I’m not sure that makes a big impact.
Regardless, you can save money by opting for the Styleside.
The fender is the lining in your truck that makes up the wheel wells. It stops your wheels from flinging dirt and debris in the air and adds some style to your truck.
Since Flareside truck beds are wider, they put the fenders outside of the bed. This results in a rectangular bed, and a wider outside dimension of your truck.
Stylistically, some people prefer having a fender outside of the truck bed. It makes for a more tapered look.
Next up, let’s talk about bed space. If you’re a contractor or someone who regularly fills the bed, every square inch matters.
With Flareside trucks, you have more real estate in your truck. On top of that, the truck is a perfect rectangle.
With Styleside trucks, you have fenders that you need to work around. There will be times when you want to lay down a sheet of plywood, but the fender cutouts prevent it from happening.
If you take that same sheet of plywood over to a Flareside truck, it will fit perfectly.
This small difference can completely change how you load your truck’s bed. For that reason, a Flareside style is preferred if you rely on your truck bed.
Exterior Design and Aesthetics
It’s been mentioned a few times before, but I should bring it up explicitly this time: A Flareside pickup truck has a different exterior design than a Styleside does. Just like any other vehicle, the opinion about the aesthetic style depends on who is looking at it.
Personally, I prefer the styling of a Flareside truck. I think it offers a nice mixture of retro, funky lines, and a nicer stance. I realize this opinion isn’t universal, and I’m okay with that — ultimately it’s up to you. You should look at the exterior styling of both truck options and decide for yourself.
I should also mention the availability of these truck styles. Today, it’s more common to find a Styleside pickup on the market.
In Ford’s lineup, the Flareside became extinct in 2014. Today, all you’ll be able to find is a modern Styleside pickup.
If you want an older truck, this won’t matter a ton to you. For people who only get newer trucks, then you’ll be stuck with a Styleside unless you know an auto fabricator who wants to custom-make a Flareside bed for you.
Since the Flareside offers a flare on both sides and fenders outside of the bed, it shouldn’t be a surprise that the outside dimension is larger. In most generations, the difference is only a few inches. In some, like the sixth or seventh gen, the difference is pretty notable.
Typically, the swoop on a Flareside truck bed is the widest part of the vehicle. This makes parking and maneuvering a little tougher, but it’s not the end of the world.
Can You Swap For a Flareside Truck Bed?
A second ago, I hinted that an auto fabricator can make a modern Flareside truck bed for you. Is it possible to swap from a Styleside truck bed to a Flareside? Unfortunately, it’s not as easy as you might think.
Ford doesn’t make a modern Flareside bed that you can drop onto a typical F-150 frame. The only way to get one is to make it yourself.
Without a full machine shop, I’m not sure how you swap to a Flareside truck bed. For that reason, I would say that it’s either not possible, or too expensive to make it worthwhile. You won’t be able to swap to a Flareside truck bed unless you buy a much older truck.
A Lot of F-150s Let You Choose the Bed Style
In my other article about pickup cabs, I mentioned that you might find different cab styles for the exact same truck. The same is true for certain cars: you can find one offered as a sedan, hatchback, or coupe.
With truck beds, the same story exists again. Looking back through Ford’s history of the F-150s, there are a few generations that stand out. Between the fourth and twelfth generations, only two generations didn’t offer an option between Flareside and Styleside (the fifth and eighth).
That means that for every other generation in that span, you could choose between the two.
I mention this for a few reasons. First off, it’s fun Ford trivia to know. But more importantly, it shows that the choice used to be a decision-maker for buyers. If people didn’t care about one option or the other, Ford would stop making both available for their trucks.
This is the same story that you’ll see for the generations before and after the span I just mentioned. Before the fourth generation, Ford only offered Flareside trucks. After the twelfth generation, Ford only makes Styleside trucks.
It’s a nice indicator of what people are looking for based on the year. It seems that the “retro” style is no longer coveted by the general public, hence the shift to Styleside only.
Should You Get a Flareside or Styleside Pickup Truck Bed?
The big question to answer is which pickup truck bed style is the best. If you have the choice, should you pick a Flareside or Styleside bed?
In my opinion, it’s all down to personal preference. If you need something with extra bed space, and a sportier look, then the Flareside is right for you. As I look through the old generations of F-150s, I’m always drawn to the Flareside version of each generation.
If you want a more modern option that’s slightly less expensive but more accessible and available, then the Styleside is your only choice. As I mentioned, Styleside Fords are the only option you have if you’re shopping for something newer than 2014.
Are There Other Truck Bed Options?
Within the truck market, there are a ton of different configuration options. I mentioned it earlier, but it’s often overwhelming to go through all the different options when you’re buying a truck. It can almost feel like hand-making a custom truck.
Looking outside of just Flareside vs Styleside, you’ll see many more configurations, styles, and choices to make. Chevy has their own version of this, and GMC has at least 5 different configuration choices.
On top of that, you can also pick the overall bed size, which adds yet another variable.
The bottom line is that you don’t have to settle on the truck bed if you don’t want to. If you’re not crazy about how it looks, then I’m sure there’s another manufacturer that makes a truck bed you’re more drawn to.
Another thing to look at is the tailgate options. One of the newer segments that truck manufacturers are focusing on is tailgates which open multiple different ways and have even more features.
To me, it’s interesting to see how many decisions you can make on your new truck.
You just learned a lot about Flareside and Styleside pickup truck beds. I explained the major differences, talked through the history, and showed you how to decide which option is right for you.
If you have other truck questions, feel free to explore my blog. You can also leave a comment below and I’ll get back to you. Check out my list of recommended truck products that might make your life a little easier.