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The Ultimate Tonneau Covers Buying Guide


Buying Guide For Tonneau Covers

A pickup truck bed's most useful feature is its open-air design. However, if you leave your cargo out in the open, it will be subjected to a variety of weather conditions and, if it is not secured, you will easily lose it. Truck bed covers are a viable solution to this issue. Although a long cloth can be used to cover the bed of your pickup truck, tonneau covers offer additional benefits. Tonneau covers seal your truck bed from various elements and keep your goods safe. They protect your truck bed while giving you a sharp look and are affordable. But before you choose your tonneau cover it’s important to have all the facts. Use this guide which will help you to buy the best tonneau cover for your pickup truck.

Table Of Contents

1. What Is A Tonneau Cover?

Tonneau covers are removable covers that secure the top of your truck bed to lock loads in place and protect your cargo and truck bed from weather like snow, rain, and wind. They are made of soft material like vinyl or hard material like fiberglass reinforced plastic panels. All tonneau covers secure your cargo while still providing convenient access to your truck bed when needed.

1.1 Why You Need A Tonneau Cover?

  • Tonneau covers reduce aerodynamic drag by smoothing out the surface over your truck bed, hence improving fuel economy. 
  • Hard Tonneau covers can provide security to your cargo.
  • These covers protect from sunlight and UV rays. If your cargo is left behind in your truck for a long period it can fade due to UV rays.
  • They shield your cargo from harsh weather conditions and are very durable.
  • When you are going at high speeds or over bumps, tonneau covers protect your cargo from rummaging about.
  • Tonneau covers can be used along with other bed accessories like bed toolbox, roll bars, etc.


2. What Are The Types Of Tonneau Covers?

There are two types of tonneau covers. They're classified based on how they're built and what materials they're made of. They are as follows:

2.1 Hard Tonneau Covers

Hardcovers are made of rigid structures similar to the body of the vehicle. These can be further categorized into three popular types:

A. Hard Folding Tonneau Covers

A. Hard Folding Tonneau Covers


Hard folding covers or Tri-Fold covers are paneled and fold into position to cover your cargo while providing easy, quick access to anything in your truck bed. Some of these covers come with a tri-fold design that folds in three different sections giving access to your bed in three individual parts.  These covers are made of a mixture of fiberglass reinforced panels along with aluminum paneling that increases strength and security.  Some hard-folding tonneau covers are made of aircraft-grade aluminum with a honeycomb core, black powder-coat frame, and textured matte finish that enhances strength and durability. Hard-folding covers feature high weight ratings and provide full truck bed access.

Pros

  • Hard folding covers or Tri-Fold covers can't be cut into, they offer more theft protection and are long-lasting.
  • These covers can withstand heavyweights.

Cons

  • These covers are expensive compared to soft folding covers. 
  • Because of the partially restricted access, tri-fold designs make hauling large and tall items more difficult.

B. Hard Roll-Up Tonneau Covers

B. Hard Roll-Up Tonneau Covers


Hard Roll-Up Tonneau covers are made of aluminum slats linked with leather-grain fabric, topped with a sleek vinyl cover. The slats roll up easily for easy cargo access and also roll back into place to secure the contents of your truck bed. Some other models of these covers have a “no profile” design which is a hard aluminum slatted cover with a marine-grade vinyl cover. Their latching system is very simple. All you have to do is one simple pull of a cable on either side which will unlatch it and allow you to roll it up to the bulkhead. Instead of using snaps, they have hard rubber loops and stainless steel hooks that will hook and secure them easily.  

Pros

  • Hard Roll-Up Tonneau covers latching system is extremely easy to use.
  • They can be easily installed, have no Velcro or stitching, and provide full bed access. 
  • These covers have excellent strength, security, and style.

Cons

  • These covers are costlier than soft roll-up tonneau due to their added aluminum slats.
  • These are heavy covers made with high-grade material so when installing you require two people for just carrying it.

C. Hard Retractable Covers

C. Hard Retractable Covers


Hard Retractable covers consist of a mechanized system that provides security and protection of a hardtop with the convenience of a soft top. This mechanized system unlocks it and retracts it back and also has a double lock and key. Even if your tailgate is shut, you can access your cargo as long as your locking mechanism is unlocked. Some of these covers use aluminum slats underneath the leather-grained texture of vinyl which makes them high-quality covers. These covers use weather stripping all around the bed rails and have a canister with a drainage system that protects from all-weather conditions all year round.

Pros

  • Their rigid design provides theft protection. 
  • If you want to leave the bed open for large items these covers retract fully and easily.

Cons

  • These covers have a canister that takes some part of the space so if you have long cargo it will be difficult to place in your truck bed space.
  • Retractable covers are more expensive than roll-up and tri-fold design covers.
  • These covers are difficult to install and remove from your truck because they have a lot of components.


2.2 Soft Tonneau Covers

Soft covers are made of flexible materials like rubber, vinyl tarp, or fabric. These are very flexible covers. These can be further categorized into three types:

A. Soft-folding Tonneau Covers

A. Soft-folding Tonneau Covers


Soft folding tonneau covers are paneled, lightweight, and have an aluminum frame for structure. They fold open for easy cargo access and fold back in place to secure the cover, or you can fold the cover-up against the cab for full bed utility in some models.

Pros

  • Soft-folding covers have an easy-to-use design.
  • These covers provide convenient access to the truck bed. 
  • These are lightweight covers.

Cons

  • With a soft-folding cover, your security is compromised.
  • These covers are prone to vibration while moving in the wind.


B. Soft Roll-Up Tonneau Covers

B. Soft Roll-Up Tonneau Covers


Soft roll-up covers are made of vinyl or fabric and aluminum side rails on the inside providing easy access to your truck bed. They have a simple latching system that disconnects for easy bed access. They protect from moisture, ice, snow, etc. by using weatherstripping all around the edges and velcro strips to snap into place. 

Pros

  • Soft Roll-up tonneau covers have a simple latching system so they are easy to use.
  • These covers are very budget-friendly tonneau covers. 
  • These covers can be installed using simple tools.

Cons

  • Soft Roll-up covers do not provide theft protection so you have to compromise on security.
  • If heavy bricks are piled on them these covers will not be able to withstand it.
  • These covers also fade away quickly.


C. Snap-Style Tonneau Covers

C. Snap-Style Tonneau Covers


Snap-style tonneau covers protect your cargo while providing easy access to the contents of your truck bed whenever you need it. These covers just snap open for small truck bed access or can be unsnapped completely for full truck bed access. You just need to snap the buttons back into place for safe and secure cargo protection. These covers are made with a sleek black vinyl tarp with an all-black powder-coat frame, anodized rails, and spring-lock bows that enhances its strength. The fiberglass snaps reinforced in snap-style cover hold up in even the most demanding weather conditions. The snaps have an adjustable setting for hot or cold weather, so you have guaranteed a secure hold no matter the climate.

Pros

  • The main benefit of snap covers is that you can unclamp any part of the truck bed to gain access to it. As a result, you can transport cargo of any height or size.

Cons

  • These are quite expensive covers among all the covers.


3. What To Look For In A Tonneau Cover?


3.1 Compatibility

Tonneau covers are designed for specific vehicle models. The tonneau cover cannot be installed if your vehicle already has other bed accessories like a headache rack, toolbox, or other such large bed accessories. So it is important to check whether your bed can accept the tonneau cover and what size it needs to be. The size of the cover is usually decided by the bed size - 5 feet, 6 feet, or more. When purchasing a tonneau cover, be sure to know the dimensions of your truck bed. This can be done by taking measurements using a tape measure. starting at the bulkhead and measuring till the inside of the tailgate.

3.2 Aesthetics

If aesthetics or looks value more to you then go for retractables, tri-folds, and vinyl roll-up tonneau covers. Each has its visual appeal. Retractables have a more metallic slot finish, while tri-folds can have anything from the glossy finish or matte black. Vinyl roll-up has sweet leather looks. You’ve got to choose what looks best on your truck.

3.3 Soft Vs Hard Covers

If you live in an area where there is a lot of snow in the winter, you should choose hardcovers over softcovers. Soft covers have braces that can withstand weight, but a lot of heavy snow will be too much for them to handle, which is why hardcovers are a good option. Hardcover is a better option if you want more security. Aluminum is used to make hardcovers, which increases their strength and security. Soft covers, on the other hand, are made of vinyl, which does not provide security. If you are using your bed with other accessories regularly you can choose soft covers. Soft covers are easy to install and remove while hardcovers require more effort to install. 

3.4 Cost

If you live in an area where there is a lot of snow in the winter, you should choose hardcovers over softcovers. Soft covers have braces that can withstand weight, but a lot of heavy snow will be too much for them to handle, which is why hardcovers are a good option. Hardcover is a better option if you want more security. Aluminum is used to make hardcovers, which increases their strength and security. Soft covers, on the other hand, are made of vinyl, which does not provide security. If you are using your bed with other accessories regularly you can choose soft covers. Soft covers are easy to install and remove while hardcovers require more effort to install. 

3.5 Brands

Tonneau covers are priced differently. Hardcovers are more expensive than softcovers because they are made with more expensive materials, such as aluminum, which raises the overall cost of production. So choose your cover depending on your requirements and your budget. Always settle for a moderate price. A high price cover could mean that you are buying a renowned brand while a low price cover could mean you are compromising on quality.

This is a matter of personal preference, but those with a limited understanding of the market can refer to the below brand section to learn about the features of the most popular tonneau covers manufacturers before deciding on a brand. The features listed below highlight the strengths of the corresponding brand, which can assist you in selecting the best tonneau covers for your specific application. The popular brands we carry are Access Tonneau Covers, Weathertech Tonneau Covers, Rugged Ridge Tonneau Covers, etc.


4. Which Brands Of Tonneau Covers To Choose From?

4.1. Access Tonneau Covers

4.1. Access Tonneau Covers


Key Features

  • Access tonneau covers can quickly be unlatched, you just have to simply pull the cord to release the latch.
  • Its fasten storage straps easily secure the cover.
  • These covers improve fuel economy by reducing aerodynamic drag.
  • These covers automatically latch when closed and consist of a locking tailgate that provides a complete security
  • They consist of weather seals that form a tight barrier between your truck and cover to prevent dirt, dust, etc. from entering the truck box.
  • The inside rail design leaves stake pockets open for other truck box accessories.


4.2. Weathertech Tonneau Covers

4.2. Weathertech Tonneau Covers


Key Features

  • Weathertech Tonneau cover consists of a low profile design that sits less than half an inch above the truck bed and incorporates a textured matte black finish that enhances its appearance.
  • These covers also consist of reinforced vinyl-coated hinges and a waterproof design that repels water without creating drains or gutter. 
  • They have a continuous seal along the entire length of the side rails that prevents dirt and dust from entering the truck bed.
  • They are made with aluminum channels that support panels and provide a high strength-to-weight ratio.
  • Retractable storage clips in their construction enhance security.
  • Rigid standoffs with rubber pads keep the panels spaced properly in the folded position.


4.3. Roll N Lock Tonneau Covers

4.3. Roll N Lock Tonneau Covers


A. M Series Retractable Tonneau Covers

Key Features

  • M Series Retractable Tonneau Covers are made with Vinyl-over-aluminum low-profile design with an aluminum undercarriage that enhances frictionless rotation and theft protection.
  • These covers consist of a torsion spring enclosed in a 76.2mm aluminum casing with a contoured hinge design that enables effortless & secure operation.
  • They also have a compact canister 184.15mm deep and feature an aerodynamic housing lid that provides more cargo space.
  • Their clamp-on track design makes it simple to install.

B. A Series Retractable Tonneau Covers

Key Features

  • A Series Retractable Tonneau Covers are made with powder-coated aluminum that provides UV, scratch, and water resistance.
  • These covers consist of a compact canister sitting just 184.15mm deep to give cargo space.
  • They are unique slot covers that prevent snow and rain from entering or freezing the lock.
  • They also feature a ratchet-style latching mechanism that provides the cover to lock in multiple open positions.

C. E- Series Tonneau Covers

Key Features

  • E- Series Tonneau Covers have an easy-to-use key fob remote with an electric motor that automatically unlocks and opens for easy access to your truck bed.
  • These covers are made with powder-coated aluminum which is a matte black that makes them UV and scratch-resistant.
  • They feature a compact canister sitting just 184.15mm deep with an aerodynamic housing lid to give cargo space.
  • They consist of patented hinge technology that brings an extra layer of security provides theft protection and can be used in extremely harsh weather conditions.


4.4. Rugged Ridge Tonneau Covers

4.4. Rugged Ridge Tonneau Covers


Key Features

  • Rugged Ridge Tonneau Covers are made with heavy-duty aluminum that improves durability.
  • These have a low-profile design that enhances theft protection.
  • They feature a dual-action tailgate seal that makes it easy to use and provides trouble-free sealing.
  • These covers have full-bed accessibility for the cargo area.