Best Retractable Tonneau Covers: Secure Your Truck Bed
Secure your truck bed with these top retractable tonneau covers.
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BY Heather Fishel / LAST UPDATED ON June 6, 2021
Day in and day out, your truck sits outdoors, exposed to the world. While the interior of the cab is locked, secured, and well-protected, your truck’s bed is not. It faces everything from harsh weather shifts — like bright UV rays, freezing temperatures, and snow or rain — to potential theft, letting anyone who walks by reach into your bed and grab your belongings. If you’re tired of leaving your truck so vulnerable to chance, it’s time to cover up the bed. And a retractable tonneau cover is just the right accessory.
A retractable tonneau cover will give you coverage and protection without making it difficult to get inside your truck bed. You can retract, or open, the cover as much or as little as you’d like to reach whatever’s inside. These versatile and adaptable covers offer security and flexibility, and you can still haul large or oddly sized items whenever it’s needed. And there are plenty of different kinds and styles of tonneau covers to choose from. If you’re wondering where to begin, check out which products we consider to be the best retractable tonneau covers.
The best overall tonneau cover that balances good protection and weather and impact resistance with an affordable price.
- Smooth operation
- Cover rolls in and out of the housing quickly
- Housing itself doesn't take up too much space within the bed of the truck
- Installation is straightforward, but the included instructions are confusing
- Users may need to refer to video tutorials instead
One tonneau cover that offers more design features than other common retractable options.
- Features a low-profile design that blends with many truck styles and helps keep wind noise down at highway speeds
- Easy to open and use
- Installation requires extra time to align the guide rails correctly
A unique retractable tonneau cover with integrated accessory rails to mount weekend toys like bikes and cargo racks.
- Uses two rack tracks along the sides to hold crossbars for roof-mounted accessories
- Cover remains accessible and easy to use even with racks mounted above
- Installation can require extra people to mount the heavy sidebars correctly
- Expect some troublesome alignment before everything runs smoothly
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Why Buy a Retractable Truck Bed Tonneau Cover
- Protect the truck bed. An open truck bed is exposed to the elements and would-be thieves. Without a solid, rigid barrier to put over the top, there isn't much else you can do to protect the opening. Retractable tonneau covers offer some rigid protection to prevent or at least slow down thieves. Many hard tonneau covers also keep out most of the weather elements like rain and snow.
- Access the truck bed quickly. Retractable covers tend to offer a good balance between protection and bed access. You don't have to take them completely off, and you can retract them fully if you want to leave the bed open for larger items. Best of all, many have a simple locking mechanism so you can access the truck bed whenever you want, even without opening the tailgate in some cases.
- Improve fuel efficiency. The gains on the depend on the cover and the make and model of the truck, but in general, most tonneau cover owners notice a slight increase in fuel efficiency because of improved aerodynamics. An open truck bed creates a lot of wind resistance that can eat away at the fuel economy. The tonneau cover smooths out the lines for air to pass over the bed.
Top Brands of Retractable Tonneau Covers
With a background in sailing parts, Pace Edwards landed in the automotive truck industry in 1988 as one of the first companies to offer a retractable cover. Since that time, the company has expanded its line to include many manual and motorized options for different trucks. A good look at the Pace Edwards Switchblade will give you a great idea of the quality Pace Edwards upholds in its product line.
Founded in 1996, Retrax has been a well-known automotive accessories manufacturer due to its high standards of quality and versatility. Its bed covers, ranging from panels to retractable options, all offer a tight fit and some extra usefulness hidden in the design. The company's high-end cover, the RetraxPRO XR doubles as a bed rack for accessories. The RetraxOne MX is also a good contender.
Retractable Tonneau Cover Pricing
- Under $300: If you’re on a budget, it’s possible to find a number of retractable tonneau covers for as little as $300 or less. These covers don’t offer the highest level of durability or the most strength, but they’ll get the job done decently.
- $300 to $700: For a bit better quality and a more secure fit to your truck, covers priced between $300 and $700 give you more options. You’ll have a wider selection to shop, and there are more styles and material types to choose from within this price range.
- $700 to $1,000: Most tough retractable tonneau covers fall into this price range. You’ll find a wealth of different kinds of covers here, and you can choose just how customized you’d like to get. These covers offer better security and durability too.
- $1,000 to $2,000: For the most premium and hardiest covers, expect to spend upwards of $1,000. Within this range, however, you’ll get even more features and capabilities thanks to the premium design and materials.
When it comes to the utility of a tonneau cover, the cover itself determines how much protection it will offer. This is where the differences between many types of tonneau covers come into play. For example, soft covers do well with weather resistance but often fail to provide a decent amount of theft protection. For retractable bed covers, the materials are what matter most. Strong metals like steel and aluminum are the best, especially when combined with padding like vinyl for extra weather protection.
To keep people out when you don't want them in your truck bed, you will need a lock. Some covers come with a heavy-duty lock you can access from the top of the retractable section. Here, these tend to be the most convenient for accessing the bed quickly and still keeping it protected when needed. A few retractable designs lack a lock and, instead, opt for a latch that is concealed by the tailgate. This way, if you have a locking tailgate, you can keep the cover closed and locked without the extra hardware.
The one area many retractable truck bed covers suffer in is weather resistance. Most are resistant to the elements themselves, but they can have a difficult time keeping moisture out of the truck beds in bad weather conditions. Good weather sealing around the edges and corners is a must. In general, a cover that manages to keep most moisture out, except for out of the corners, is best.
- Truck Bed Size. For any tonneau cover to really work—retractable, roll-up, or otherwise—it needs to actually fit the top of the bed. This is why many manufacturers create different varieties of their cover models to fit different makes and models of trucks like Ford F-150s and Chevy Silverados. Make sure you know the exact size of your truck bed, including the width, before looking at major cover options. A bed liner can also interfere with the fit.
- Other Accessories. Many tonneau covers tend to not play well with other accessories like ladder racks in the bed of a truck. Anything that uses the stake pockets, in particular, may have compatibility issues that sit above the bed rails. Some, however, have a narrow profile to allow room. Others get around this issue by incorporating additional accessories or mounting parts, like roof rack rails, instead.
Best Retractable Tonneau Covers Reviews & Recommendations 2021
- Make sure you read the installation instructions before you begin to mount a tonneau cover to your truck bed. The installation process can go more quickly if you know what to expect and what tools you will need before.
- All retractable tonneau covers take up some room in the truck bed. When you are trying to determine how much space you'll have left in the bed when the cover is in the open position, measure the depth of the housing of the cover. The housing tends to take up the most space.
- To get a retractable cover aligned on the first try requires some correct measurements. The guide rails on the sides have to be perfectly perpendicular for smooth operation. So, take a few different measurements, have a second eye check it out, and take your time before fastening everything down.
Q. Are retractable covers better than other tonneau options?
If you value quick access to the bed and a good amount of protection from the weather and theft, this type of cover is your best bed. Single-lid and paneled tonneau covers offer the same, if not more, protection from thieves but are harder to access quickly. Soft covers are great for weather resistant but don't offer too much resistance against break-in attempts.
Q. What will I need to install a retractable cover?
This depends on the model and your vehicle. Most use a three-piece setup that includes the housing, cover, and two support rails. To install these, most kits simply require basic tools like a socket wrench for the fasteners. Few may require pre-drilling holes into the truck bed itself, but most use simple clamps that work with the bed without any modifications.
Q. Which is safer: a tonneau cover with a lock or one that works with the tailgate?
The amount of protection both offer depends on the materials used for the cover itself. Any cover made of metal will offer the most amount of protection with the right locking mechanism. An integrated lock is best for non-locking tailgates to offer some level of protection and can be convenient to access the bed without putting the gate down. If the tailgate does lock, you can choose one that can only be opened when the tailgate is down.
Q. Are retractable tonneau covers waterproof?
These types of covers are meant to be able to keep water and moisture out of your truck’s bed. Every retractable tonneau cover is different — some are merely water-resistant, while others are wholly waterproof — and the fit and installation method can affect whether or not your cover can block out water. Usually, though, these covers can withstand rain and snow. Just make sure the mechanics needed to retract the cover are working smoothly if exposed to water before trying to use it.
Q. Are tonneau covers easy to break into?
Tonneau covers are meant to cover up whatever’s inside your truck bed. They can offer good security, adding an extra layer and step that thieves have to bypass in order to steal your stuff. However, retractable covers may not be completely theft-proof. Some are soft and made of materials like vinyl that can be cut open. Others, however, like those with aluminum panels, are more secure. Look for a retractable cover that includes a lock if you’re worried about break-ins.
A true high-quality tonneau cover, the Roll-N-Lock M-Series delivers where it counts the most: protection and more protection. The best tonneau cover for value is the Pace Edwards Switchblade, which actually has a lot to offer with a price tag that is almost half of what some competitors charge.