Are you looking for a way to cap off the bed of your truck? If so, you really can’t go wrong with a tonneau cover. Designed to fit over the bed of a pickup truck, a tonneau cover will protect your gear from theft and the elements, plus, it will also make your truck more aerodynamic, which can help to cut down on your fuel consumption. There are a variety of tonneau covers available that come in different styles to suit your specific needs and your taste. With so many options, finding the right tonneau cover can be a bit tricking if you don’t know where to get started. To help you find the best cover for your needs, we’ve assembled this buyer’s guide, which will provide you with some valuable information that you can use to help you select the best tonneau cover.
Type of Tonneau Covers
Tonneau covers can be either soft or hard, and there are several types of each.
Soft Tonneu Covers
Typically less expensive than hard tonneau covers, soft covers are comprised of an aluminum frame and a vinyl cover. There are six basic types of soft tonneau covers:
- Folding and Tri-Folding Bed Covers: The sections of the aluminum frame are linked together so that the fold over one top of one another. The benefit of the folding and the tri-folding cover is that it allows you to adjust the cover in seconds so that it will easily fit over your cargo and they are pretty straightforward and simple to install.
- Hinged Bed Covers: This type of cover operates in a similar fashion of a trunk of a car, as it features shocks that help to raise and lower the cover. The shocks make it easy to use the cover with one hand, but can limit the height of the cargo that you can haul.
- Roll Up Bed Covers: Roll up covers are very easy to use and fit much more tightly than the folding variety. These covers are usually made of a very sturdy material, which makes the product longer lasting and gives it a better fit so that you can be sure that the items in the bed of your truck are well protected. They also last longer than folding and hinged soft covers.
- Snap and Snapless Bed Covers: Snap down or snalpless vinyl tonneau covers are the least expensive option; however, they can be difficult to operate, especially when temperatures drop. Snap models are outfitted with built in snaps that usually adjust, while snapless models boast a j-lip style attachment. Another downside of these types of tonneau covers is that they are highly prone to tearing.
Hard Tonneau Covers
Hard tonneau covers, also known as hard truck bed covers or rigid bed covers, are usually constructed of molded ABS plastic, fiberglass and aluminum. Hard covers offer more security and convenience than soft models. They not only offer better protection from theft because they boast security locks, but they can also feature a water tight seal, which will keep the elements out; however, they are more expensive and they tend to be more complicated to install. There are three types of hard tonneau covers:
- Retractable Hard Truck Bed Covers: These bed covers are the ultimate in function and style. The cover retracts into a canister, which makes these bed covers super easy to use. They are usually made of rigid aluminum or a mixture of rigid aluminum and vinyl laminate. These covers offer a secure shield for your truck bed, provide maximum security for your cargo and can lower your profile. The only thing to bear in mind is that there is a risk that the cover can freeze in cold weather conditions.
- Hinged Hard Bed Covers: Hinged hard tonneau covers are usually made out of rigid ABS plastic or fiberglass, and they often boast 1 or 2 keyed locks. They also have hinges on the side, which allows for easy access.
- Folding Hard Bed Covers: Folding hard tonneau bed covers are available in both multi-panel and tri-fold options and are usually constructed of rigid ABS plastic. Both styles fold up, which allows for easy access to the bed of the truck; however, the tri-fold style allows for faster installation and removal.
Tonneau Cover Considerations
With so many different types of tonneau covers, and each type offering a different advantage, you are going to want to take some factors into consideration before you go out and by one. Here’s a look at some of the factors that we think are of paramount importance to consider before you purchase a tonneau cover.
Why are you purchasing a tonneau cover? Is it for security purposes? Functionality? For weather resistance? These are the most common reasons why people purchase tonneau covers, and the reason why you are purchasing one will play a key role in choosing which one is the right one for you.
The Bed Liner
There are two basic types of bed liners, and the type of liner your truck has will play a key part in determining which type of tonneau liner will fit it. A liner that tucks under the bed rail usually doesn’t present any issue when it comes to installing a tonneau cover. Liners that go over the bed rail are less common and they can be much more challenging to install a tonneau cover on.
Impact on Bed Accessories
If you use accessories with your bed, such as tie downs or a truck rack, you are going to want to know how the tonneau cover will impact your ability to access the stake pocket holes that allow you to use bed accessories. Some tonneua covers sit on top of the stake pockets, which make it impossible to use extra bed accessories. If you do plan on using accessories, make sure you purchase a cover that won’t block the stake pocket holes.
On average, it takes about 30 to 40 minutes to install a tonneau cover, and they can usually be installed with average tools; however, some tonneau covers are more complicated to install and require slight modifications; a retractable cover with a plastic bed liner, for example.
What is the size of your truck bed? You want to make sure that the tonneau cover is going to fit over the bed of your truck, otherwise it will be rendered useless. Make sure that you take exact measurements so that you can purchase a bed cover that fits precisely.
Tonneau covers come in a wide range of prices. Hard covers tend to be more expensive than soft covers, as do covers that offer more features. Make sure you know how much you can afford to spend before you start shopping, as you don’t want to spend more than you can comfortably afford.
Tonneau Cover Features
The features that a tonneau cover offers tend to be directly related to the type of tonneau cover you opt for. However, there are some added features that can improve your experience with your truck bed cover and make this accessory even more beneficial.
If security is a top priority for you, make sure that you choose a tonneau cover that is outfitted with locks. Once the cover is closed, you will be able to lock it, securing all of your cargo in your truck from the dangers of theft.
If your top priority is protecting your cargo from the elements, a truck bed cover that features a waterproof seal is an excellent option for you. The seal will prevent water from getting into the bed of the truck, which will prevent your items from being exposed to and damaged by water.
If you want to ensure that you will be satisfied with your tonneau cover, look for one that features a warranty. Should anything happen to the tonneau cover or should you find that you are unsatisfied with it for any reason during the span of the warranty, you will be able to have it replaced, or receive a refund. A warranty can definitely give you added peace of mind.
Best Tonneau Cover Brands
There are several companies that manufacture tonneau covers, so how can you be certain that you will find the best brand to meet your needs? To help you on your quest, we have done some extensive research and tested out several types of tonneau covers to determine which brands offer the best features and are the most durable. After our assessment, we determined that the following tonneau cover brands are the best of the best.
TruXedo manufactures a variety of tonneau covers that are constructed of the highest quality materials. They use the most cutting edge designs and the most advanced techniques to ensure that they provide truck bed covers that deliver exceptional results. We really enjoyed how easy the TruXedo bed covers were to install, and how easy they were to operate after they were installed.
BAKFlip is known for producing some of the most durable truck bed covers on the market. In fact, their truck bed covers are as durable as the trucks they are installed on themselves. The BAKFlip covers we checked out provided outstanding protection for the truck beds we used them on, keeping cargo dry and secure.
TonnoPro makes very high quality tonneau covers, which is, of course, important; however, what we particularly liked about this company’s truck bed covers was how easy they were to install. They really were a no-muss, no-fuss installation process and we have our truck beds covered within minutes.