Cargo Barriers; an absolute must for a wagon 4WD

If you have a wagon 4WD, and you carry anything in the rear of the vehicle, a cargo barrier is one of the most important modifications that you should consider fitting. Primarily, they’re life savers, but also open up a world of possibilities for mounting other items, and attaching your gear.

Now, you might think a lot of 4WD accessories are unnecessary, and you’d be right, but after seeing a good mates vehicle roll and things go everywhere, it was a real eye opener.

What is a cargo barrier?

A cargo barrier is a fabricated barrier which mounts behind the rear (and sometimes the front) seat of a wagon and stops anything getting past it. They are usually made of mesh with square hollow section, and bolted to the floor as well as the handles near the roof.

80 Series drawer system
A cargo barrier stops anything flying forwards

If you’ve got a Ute, then you usually don’t need anything as there’s physical separation between the Ute (or tub) and the vehicle anyway. That said, we have a ripper guide to buying a Ute Canopy, if that’s what you want to know more about.

Are they worth getting?

Have you ever driven with something heavy in the rear of your vehicle that was not tied down? If you had to slam the brakes on for one reason or another, what would happen to that object? There’s a good chance that it would come forward faster than you can blink.

It may hit you, or it may miss you. However, like most of us, when you have several items in the back there is a good chance something will hit you, resulting in serious injury or more likely death. From a safety perspective a cargo barrier is invaluable, and one of the best 4WD accessories you can fit.

Cargo barrier required?
After seeing this, there’s no way I’d not have a cargo barrier

I mentioned above that we saw first hand what a cargo barrier can do, when we were out with a few mates 4WDing, and he unfortunately rolled his vehicle. We got to the wreck first, and found bottles of tomato sauce (a 2L one), a jaffle iron and all sorts of other gear strewn throughout the vehicle. It’s a miracle no one copped something heavy to the head and was badly hurt!

However, there are many practical benefits too. How often have you tried to pack efficiently, and on the first corner half of your gear shifts and falls onto the rear occupants? By having a cargo barrier, you can pack everything up against it and make maximum use of the space, without having to worry about it coming forward.

Types of cargo barriers

The most common cargo barrier mounts behind the rear seats, and runs from the floor to the roof, close to the boundaries of the vehicle all the way around. However, if you have 4WD drawers, you probably won’t be able to fit a full length cargo barrier. You can get half height cargo barriers, that bolt to just under the back of the seat, or barriers that bolt to your rear drawers.

For those who don’t need the extra seats, having a cargo barrier behind the front seat is a great idea as your room for packing doubles. Cargo barriers can be purchased with divisions (both horizontally and vertically) to meet different needs. Be aware of what you really want from the barrier, and go from there.

You can also purchase cargo barriers made of net, which tie to the seats. These are cheaper, but I don’t believe they would suit the purposes of many people; the steel ones are a more permanent solution.

Cargo barrier in our 80
The cargo barrier in our 80 series, in front of the drawers

Who makes cargo barriers, and what should you be paying?

A lot of different companies make cargo barriers. Some include Milford, Hayman Reese, Ausguard, Black Widow, Autosafe, 4WD interiors and you can even get genuine car manufacturer cargo barriers. Most cargo barriers start off at around $300, and work their way up to around $650.

I picked up my Milford Cargo barrier for $50 second hand, and it is in extremely good condition. I would be looking for second hand ones if possible! Be aware that cargo barriers can be similar from vehicle to vehicle. For example, the 100 series Land Cruiser Cargo barrier will also fit in an 80 series, providing you change the mounting brackets (which is just two new pieces of flat bar with holes drilled).

Making a cargo barrier

Unless you have some pretty good fabrication skills, I would give this a miss. The time it will take to knock something up that is safe, looks good and is going to function properly will outweigh the cost of buying one (even a new one!). However, a good alternative is to buy something that is close to fitting (from Gumtree or Marketplace etc) and modify it how you need.

Australian standards for cargo barriers

There are Australian standards that need to be met for cargo barriers. You won’t find any that are rated beyond 60kg, but don’t buy something that is cheaper if it doesn’t meet the right standards! Safety first.

Fitting a cargo barrier

If you have the right cargo barrier for your vehicle, fitting it should be easy. A lot of the better brands can be removed and re-fitted extremely quickly. However, if you have to do modifications be prepared for a bit of work! I had to cut my cargo barrier so it bolted to the rear drawers, and then make up brackets for the top and bottom. In total it probably took around 6 hours, but most cargo barriers are simpler to mount than that.

I would highly recommend a cargo barrier, especially if you are an avid four wheel driver. There is nothing more unsafe than gear flying around in the back of the car, which it most certainly does when you are off road!

Get one

The bottom line is pretty simple. If you have a wagon that carries loose items around often, a cargo barrier is a very clever idea. We had one on our 80 Series Land Cruiser, and after personal experience I’d never have a wagon 4WD without one. 

Our Isuzu Dmax obviously voids the need because its a dual cab Ute, with a nice Bull Motor Bodies Canopy on the rear that keeps everything secure and safe.

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  1. Hey David,

    Nice work, and all makes sense. Good idea with the Unistrut – that makes life very easy

    Take care

  2. I have a fibreglass canopy fitted, so having a cargo barrier in there allows me to load stuff up higher then the ute tub without the risk of breaking windows.
    I fitted a length of Unistrut to the ute tub ( running left to right) under the canopy sliding front windows and fitted the barrier with brackets to that. The Unistrut ( similar to roof bars) allows fitting of various eye bolts etc to secure cargo, so is a big advantage for me. Hopefully that explains the set up, and gives your readers an idea for their set up too. Cheers

  3. Hey David,

    Interesting comment, although I need to clarify exactly what you mean by its positioning. Are you saying its mounted just behind the rear cab window, like a headboard on a ute would be?

    If so, yep, I hadn’t really thought about that. Ours is a solid wall anyway due to the canopy, but if you had a tray or even potentially a canopy with a window there it would be a good idea

    All the best

  4. Hi Aaron
    Just a note for all the ute owners.
    In my opinion Cargo barriers for Ute’s are a must have, but I don’t know of any available.
    I was able to get a freebie barrier from a Falcon wagon and cut it down to fit behind the rear window, it may not meet standards, but would surely protect the occupants in the event of a crash, or at the very least prevent a broken, (expensive) rear window. The only downside is that its near impossible to clean the window without removal.