Best Tonneau & Truck Bed Covers: Add Some Protection to Your Truck Bed
The best tonneau covers to protect your truck bed from the outside world.
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BY Heather Fishel / LAST UPDATED ON May 26, 2021
Your truck’s bed is likely one of the top reasons you bought your pickup. The expansive bed — even if it’s on the shorter size — allows you to haul just about anything and everything. But there’s one pretty significant problem with a truck’s bed. Whatever’s inside the bed is always exposed to the world. Whether you’re carrying a few tools or more important items, your truck bed is always vulnerable to problems like theft, unpredictable weather, and even the wear and tear that comes from driving along roads with no cover or protection. Fortunately, there’s an easy solution: Just add a tonneau cover to your truck.
A tonneau cover will offer more protection for your truck’s bed and whatever you’re carrying inside it. These covers come in an array of different styles, from soft and flexible fabrics to hard metal that perfectly matches your truck’s paint job. With increased security and protection from the outdoor elements, a tonneau cover can offer a ton of value. Find the perfect fit for your truck on our list of the best tonneau covers right here.
One of the best, low-profile, roll-up tonneau covers that offers more security and functionality than other options. Comes with everything needed to get set up quickly.
- Convenient soft roll-up cover with a low-profile design
- Twill weave cover, much like marine-grade vinyl folding covers, does a good job of repelling water
- Side rails are easy to position and mount to the side of the truck bed
- Cover must be positioned correctly across the side rails and the Velcro pads to get the best weatherproofing underneath in the truck bed
Saving money without sacrificing weather protection is no issue with this cover. The tri-fold tonneau cover makes it easy to quickly access the bed without undoing everything.
- Simple hard-folding design equals an easy installation when it comes to mounting the cover onto the top of a truck bed
- Folding tonneau cover sits flush with the bed rails so the overall profile of the truck isn't affected too much
- Cover can block access to the stake pockets on the bed rails, making it difficult or impossible to mount other truck accessories like racks
A heavy-duty, sturdy, retractable cover that's a fraction of the cost of most high-end retractable tonneau covers, this cover is the best to consider when you want the extra security of a hard barrier.
- Comes with a quick and convenient retractable design
- Included strap makes it easy to move the cover into the closed position
- Difficult installation process. The rails require some trial and error to get everything properly aligned for smooth operation
- Not compatible with many truck accessories like ladder racks
- Some rain can get in around the tailgate seals and corners
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Why Buy a Tonneau Cover
- Increased protection for your truck bed. While truck beds are certainly made to withstand exposure to the outdoors just like the rest of your pickup, all of that exposure can cause issues like paint fading, scratches, dents, dings, and other signs of visible wear. If you want to keep your truck bed looking its best, a tonneau cover will protect it from debris, sunlight, and all kinds of other outdoor issues.
- Security and theft protection. An exposed truck bed is like a gift to wannabe thieves. If you don’t have a cover over your bed, anyone can see what’s inside — and pick it up and walk away with it. Tonneau covers keep whatever you’re hauling out of sight and reach. Additionally, tonneaus can come with locks and other security measures that keep others from getting inside.
- Better gas mileage. An open truck bed can have an impact on your fuel economy, slowing you down with a bit of drag. A tonneau cover, however, has the opposite effect. One of these covers gives you better aerodynamics, turning your pickup into a sleek and streamlined vehicle — and that can make it use less fuel. As a result, you’ll notice slightly improved gas mileage when your cover is in place.
- Sleek, perfectly matched style. Worried a tonneau cover will stand out? It doesn’t have to — many of these truck bed covers are make- and model-specific, made to match your pickup perfectly. These covers can even flawlessly match your paint color so they blend in and look like they were made just for your vehicle. Want a more rugged look? With so many different styles available to choose from, you can find just the right fit.
- Convenience and Versatility. Tonneau covers keep your truck bed flexible and adaptable. These covers come in many different styles, including folding and roll-up, so you can always access your truck bed’s full capability. You can remove or fold up the cover when you need to haul big or bulky items, and you can even find products that allow you to half-open or remove the tonneau cover as needed. Some even allow you to attach accessories and will work with other options or custom products, like tool boxes or hauling and towing equipment.
Types of Tonneau Covers
Offering a lot in terms of flexibility and weather protection, soft tonneau covers also have the advantage of being budget-friendly in most cases. Made of tough fabrics like vinyl, most of these covers roll or fold. Weather-wise, soft fabrics are more effective at covering the little cracks and spaces water and debris can get into around the truck bed. On the opposite end, however, soft covers don't offer much security against thieves or tampering.
When it comes to the ultimate amount of protection a cover can offer, hard tonneau options are hard to beat. Using composites or metal panels, these covers create a rigid barrier between the truck bed and outside world. Many covers also roll or fold up like softcovers, but some models are a single piece that lifts up on one end. Unfortunately, the extra security comes with a higher price tag, more weight, and more challenging installation in most cases.
Both soft and hard tonneau covers are also available in another style: folding covers. Soft covers typically roll up, allowing you to secure them in place with straps or buckles when you don’t need the cover’s protection or overhead coverage. Hard folding covers tend to have panels that you can fold back and secure, via lock or latch mechanisms. Both kinds of folding covers give you the freedom to partially or completely open the cover for as much access as you need.
Retractable tonneau covers are different from folding covers. Typically made out of thin, flexible, and soft materials, retractable tonneau covers feature an automated (or electric) mechanism that pulls the cover open and rolls it out of your way as needed. These covers are incredibly convenient, as they make getting your cover off your truck’s bed simple and quick, and they allow you to have versatility in how much or how little of the cover you’d like to use.
Top Brands of Tonneau Covers
Gator is all about covers. From truck covers to accessory covers, the company specializes in soft and hard tonneau covers that fall below the price of most other high-end competitors. The ETX Soft Tri-Fold Cover is one example of an affordable, high-quality Gator tonneau cover you can buy.
Based in Washington, Tyger Auto specializes in aftermarket auto parts. Bringing together several experts in the industry, the company, founded in 2013, has a good selection of highly reviewed tonneau covers to consider. Tyger tonneau covers are easily some of the most durable and high quality covers on the market, so check out the T3 Tri-Fold Cover as an example of its build quality.
Tonneau Cover Pricing
- Under $200: The budget-friendly range of tonneau covers, options here tend to be basic softcovers that either fold or roll up to access the bed. These options don't offer much in terms of security but do a decent job protecting the bed from the weather.
- $200 to $1,000: The main range of tonneau covers, this range is full of soft and hard options that fold, roll, and lift up for access. Lower-end hardcovers are common here, but they often lack the convenience of their more expensive counterparts that have spring loaded rollers.
- $1,000 and up: In this upper range, tonneau covers are primarily hard shells that either roll up or lift up. Several covers have electric and remote rollers for more convenient access. Custom options that match the truck's paint are also available here.
Beyond the choice of a soft or hardcover, the specific type of material the cover uses is important when determining its overall durability and longevity. hardcovers typically use materials like aluminum and fiberglass for their rigidity. Soft materials like vinyl are more common when a high level of flexibility is required. Regardless of the material type, the exterior side should also be treated to resist the elements like UV rays, rain, snow, and small impacts/scratches.
Unless the cover has a single-piece design that lifts up on one end, it is likely to have some kind of way to retract the cover, opening up access to the truck bed. Budget-friendly covers, soft and hard, often have a folding frame with separate panels. More expensive options typically use some kind of rolling mechanism, with a soft fabric or metal segments, or individual panels that simply slide into some guiding rails.
Easy Bed Access
You don’t have to give up the free, constant access to your truck bed if you choose one of the best tonneau covers. However, in order to achieve this, you’ll want to make sure you choose a cover that offers you easy bed access. Folding or retractable covers are the most accessible, as you can get inside some or all of the bed in just a few seconds. Hard covers can be a bit trickier, as these often have to be lifted in order to get inside. Look for a tonneau cover that you can easily move or open at just a moment’s notice.
A tonneau cover needs to remain in place in order to offer the most protection possible. If someone can simply come up and remove it, it isn't much of a protective barrier. For enhanced security, most covers either have a dedicated lock or a design that keeps it in place when the tailgate is up. Both options offer a basic amount of protection, but dedicated locks often allow you to open the cover without messing with the tailgate. On the other hand, tailgates are more difficult to break open and tend to tie into the truck's security system.
One area that some covers excel in is weather protection. This means keeping the outside elements like water out of the truck bed. Beyond the cover itself, the cover should seal the corners and sides where water can get into the small cracks and spaces. Some covers do this by sitting above the bed rails, while others use weather stripping to seal in the cracks. A few high-end covers even have drainage systems that attempt to direct water away from the bed.
- Truck Size. The size of the truck bed width largely influence which tonneau covers you should consider. All truck makers have different sizes of pickup trucks. What works for an old Dodge Ram won’t work for the latest Ford F-150. If the cover doesn't have a good fit around the width and length of the cover, it won't do its job. Most cover manufacturers make several versions of a single model to fit different makes and models. Bed liners can also influence the final fit and ease of use, especially with hard folding tonneau covers.
- Accessories. Truck beds can hold a lot of different accessories like racks. Unfortunately, not all covers play well with other accessories. For example, many covers up the stack pockets that are required to mount different accessories. It's important to pay attention to the design of the cover to see what gets blocked in the bed.
- Installation Method. Some tonneau covers are easy to install, while others require more effort (and sometimes, a professional’s help). Look to see how the covers you’re interested in need to be installed. You may need to drill the cover’s components into the sides of your truck bed, or your installation process may be simpler and less permanent. Decide which is the best fit for you before you settle on a temporary or permanent kind of cover.
Best Tonneau Covers Reviews & Recommendations 2021
- Choose a tonneau cover with a minimal overhang over the bed rails to preserve access to the stake pockets.
- Some high-end covers offer electric and remote access to open and close the cover with the touch of a button.
- Installing a tonneau cover can be difficult alone. Work with a friend to get the job done faster.
- You can add your own weatherproofing for hardcovers if you want to control the amount of water that gets into the bed more.
Q: Will a tonneau cover keeps people from stealing stuff in the bed?
Hard covers offer a good amount of protection if they come with some kind of lock. No cover, however, is completely theft proof.
Q: How does a tonneau cover stay on the truck?
Most covers use clamps that latch onto the side of the bed rails. Some clamps are attached to the cover, while others are separate.
Q: Can I carry things on top of the cover?
In most cases, no. Some hardcovers are designed to carry a good amount of weight on top, but most can't support heavy items without compromising the structural integrity.
Q: Is a soft or hard tonneau cover better?
This depends on your preferences and needs. For some truck owners, a soft cover is the best choice, especially if you want an easy-to-remove cover that doesn’t need permanent installation on your vehicle. However, a hard cover offers more durability and increased security, which makes a hard tonneau a better choice for others.
Q: Do tonneau covers keep water out?
Many tonneau covers are able to block out water — but you’ll want to make sure you search for covers that are waterproof, not water-resistant, in order to keep your truck bed dry. Hard covers tend to offer the best waterproofing, as these covers are custom-fitted and completely close up your pickup’s bed off from the outdoor elements.
Our top pick for the best tonneau cover is the Lund 96893 Genesis Elite Roll Up Truck Bed Tonneau Cover. With a roll-up design, it's hard to beat the convenience this cover offers.
For something slightly more affordable, check out the Tyger Auto T3 Tri-Fold Truck Bed Tonneau Cover. It offers a convenient tri-fold design that does a decent job at protecting the truck bed.