How to Choose the Right Tonneau Cover

A tonneau cover is one of the most useful accessories you can buy for your pickup truck. Tonneau covers provide protection from the weather, security, increased gas mileage, and improved styling. But with so many types and styles to choose from, which tonneau cover is right for your truck? Read on to find out.

An open pickup bed exposes its contents to the elements. Cargo can become moisture-damaged or corroded if exposed to rain and snow - especially when water lingers in the bed. Unsecured items can shift around and even larger items can be blown completely out of the bed on windy days. Even worse, articles left in the bed for long periods can become faded from the sun or damaged by UV rays. Without a doubt, having an open, exposed pickup bed negates your truck's usefulness in many ways.

Tonneau Cover Covered With Snow

Any tonneau cover will provide some protection from the forces of nature and increase your truck's versatility, but if protection is a top priority, select a cover with the weather conditions you most often encounter in mind. All cover types will provide protection from sunlight and UV rays, plus they'll keep strong winds from blowing debris into the bed - or items out of it. But if keeping cargo dry is important, you'll want a cover that has superior weather seals. Some covers offer sophisticated water drainage systems that work similarly to the gutters on a house, channeling rainwater into drain hoses. If you live in an area that receives many inches of snow every winter, particularly wet snows, consider a hard tonneau over a soft cover. Even though some soft covers have braces, a lot of heavy, wet snow may still be too much weight for a soft tonneau.

Even the most basic tonneau provides some degree of security based on the old adage "out of sight, out of mind", but if real security is a primary concern, you'll want a hard cover that can be locked. A soft tonneau cannot be opened unless the tailgate is down, so you have a certain measure of security if you have a locking tailgate. However, a determined thief can always just slice open the vinyl.

Aerodynamic Flow Of Truck With The Tonneau Cover Installed

The more air resistance a vehicle has to overcome as it rolls down the road, the harder the engine has to work, which of course requires more fuel. A vehicle's resistance to airflow can be expressed as a number known as drag coefficient, or Cd. Reducing a vehicle's aerodynamic drag (the Cd number) is a proven method of saving fuel. In an experiment reported on by SEMA (Specialty Equipment Market Association), it was found that adding a tonneau cover to a full size pickup truck reduced the Cd by 11.81%, with a resulting mileage increase of 1.18 mpg. If your truck gets 16 mpg and you drive the national average 15,000 miles per year, at $3.50 per gallon you're spending about $3281.00 per year on fuel. Installing a tonneau cover and raising your mileage to 17.18 would save you about $225.00. With that kind of savings a tonneau cover will pay for itself in no time!

Styling is subjective of course, but if you're like most truck owners you carry a lot of stuff in the bed of your truck. And truck beds that get used regularly usually get scratched and damaged from loading and unloading cargo. If that describes your pickup, imagine its bed, its scratch marks, and items you carry in it concealed under a smooth, clean-looking tonneau cover. The looks of your truck are instantly improved. There is a tremendous selection of covers available today, so you can get the exact style you want.

Scratched Truck Bed
Loaded Truck Bed

Besides the aforementioned weather protection, security, economy, and styling, another factor you'll have to consider when deciding on a tonneau is how you use your truck. How often do you need full access to the entire bed? How often do you carry cargo that's taller than your truck's bed rails? The answer to these questions will determine which style tonneau is right for you.

Roll-Up Tonneau Covers
Roll Up Tonneau Cover

If you regularly need access to all parts of your bed, roll-up tonneau covers make it easy by opening at the rear of the truck, then quickly rolling up to any partially-open position along the way where they can be secured. Or, leave them fully open just behind the cab. When closed, the cover piece is snugly secured onto included bed rails with snaps, Velcro, or tongue-and-groove seals. Some roll-up tonneau covers feature only a layer of vinyl while others offer additional support under the vinyl top layer. In our roll-up tonneau cover section, you'll find a great selection - we've even got the Truxedo Harley Davidson Rollup cover embossed with the iconic H-D licensed logo.

Truxedo Harley Davidson Rollup Tonneau Cover
The Truxedo Harley Davidson Rollup tonneau cover.

And if your needs dictate the use of a roll-up tonneau cover AND the presence of an overhead carrying rack, we've got you covered with two products from DeeZee. The Invis-A-Rack Tonneau Cover is specifically designed to fit and work with the DeeZee Invis-A-Rack Cargo Management System (sold separately). Prefer a roll-up cover that designed with rails that allow it to sit lower and flush with your truck's bed rails? Consider the Extang Revolution cover, Truxedo Lo Pro QT cover, or TonnoPro LoRoll cover.

DeeZee Invis-A-Rack Tonneau Cover
Should your needs dictate a roll-up tonneau cover and a rack over your pickup bed, DeeZee's Invis-A-Rack Tonneau Cover is specifically designed to fit and work with their Invis-A-Rack Cargo Management System (sold separately).
Extang Revolution Roll-Up Cover
We've got a selection of low-profile roll-up tonneau covers such as the Extang Revolution Roll-Up cover shown here.

Some roll-up covers feature curved cross braces that bolt in place underneath the cover layer. They run across the bed from left side to right side, and they serve as ideal support braces for regions where the weight of accumulating snow can stress soft covers without bracework. Best values can often be found on this type of roll-up, starting with the Lund Revelation cover, the Bestop Ziprail cover, Extang Black Max Snap cover, Lund Genesis cover (available in snap or tongue-in-groove form). If you prefer a cover with a lower height (low profile) and cross braces, Lund offers the Genesis Elite cover - also available in snap or tongue-in-groove form.

Bestop ZipRail Tonneau Cover
We offer a great selection of value-priced roll-up tonneau covers that feature cross braces to provide support for heavy snow accumulations found in colder climates. Here, the Bestop ZipRail Tonneau Cover is shown.
Bestop Duster Deck Cover
If you've got a Jeep Wrangler/CJ or Suzuki Samurai/Sidekick, take a look at the fitted tonneau covers we offer from Bestop, Smittybilt, and Pavement Ends.
Hard Roll-Up Covers

We also offer "hard roll-up" tonneau covers which feature a soft vinyl layer covering a wall of individual aluminum slats. In the fully closed position, these slats line up and lock in place to form a hard shell that can support a great deal of weight (up to 400 pounds in some cases). If you carry cargo that tends to shift or bounce around underneath a tonneau cover, hard roll-up tonneau covers are strong enough to serve as a barrier to keep things in place instead of falling out. Plus, they're highly theft-resistant. They may cost a little more but if you truly need the protection hard roll-up covers offer, the money spent on them may be well worth it. We've got the Truxedo Titanium Hard Rolling cover and the BAK Revolver X2 rolling cover.

Hard Roll Up Tonneau Cover Installed
We also offer "hard roll-up" tonneau covers which feature a soft vinyl layer covering a wall of individual aluminum slats that lock in place to form a hard shell that can support a great deal of weight.
Theft Resistant Hard Roll Up Tonneau Cover
Retractable Tonneau Covers
Retrax Powertrax PRO MX Retractable Tonneau Cover
We offer retractable tonneau covers that open manually, or with the assistance of electric motors controlled by remote. Here, the Retrax PowertraxPRO MX Retractable Tonneau Cover is shown.

Similar to hard roll-up covers, retractable covers also provide a uniform barrier made up of many aluminum slats placed in sequence next to each other. But instead of the cover rolling on top of itself similar to the way a sleeping bag rolls up, retractable covers roll neatly into a storage canister mounted inside the front of the bed area. Just as a window shade delivers privacy when drawn over the window, retractable tonneau covers provide complete, water resistant, and locking bed security when closed. Because the space taken up by the canister at the front of the bed is below the level of the tonneau cover, the canister is concealed. Keep in mind that it may restrict you from carrying items which extend to the very front of the bed.

For the ultimate in luxury, we've got power operated retracting covers from Retrax that come complete with a one-touch remote control. Choose the PowertraxPRO MX Retractable Tonneau Cover if you prefer aluminum slats with black matte powder coat finish, the PowertraxPRO Retractable Tonneau Cover with aluminum slats and gloss black powder coat, or the PowertraxONE Retractable Tonneau Cover with polycarbonate plastic slats and gloss black finish. Retrax offers each of these tonneau covers without electrical power at a lower cost, and you'll find all of them here. If you prefer a low-profile retractable cover, we've got the Truck Covers USA American Roll aluminum tonneau cover with black powder coat. And if you'd like a low-profile retracting cover that leaves your truck's stake pockets uncovered so that racks can be installed, BAK's RollBack cover and Roll-N-Lock's A-series cover have the designs you need. We've even got Roll-N-Lock's M-series cover for those that prefer a stylish smooth sheet of vinyl over the aluminum slats.

Roll-N-Lock A-Series Retractable Cover
We offer retractable covers with as Roll-N-Lock's A-Series that leave stake pockets exposed for installation of separate racks.
Roll-N-Lock's M-series Retractable Cover
Roll-N-Lock's M-series retracting cover comes with a single smooth sheet of vinyl over the aluminum slats.
Folding Tonneau Covers
Hard Folding Tonneau Cover
An example of a "hard" folding tonneau cover made of panels that are completely solid. These can typically support an evenly distributed load of 250-400 pounds.
Soft Folding Tonneau Cover
An example of a "soft" folding tonneau cover. These feature only a layer of vinyl stretched over aluminum framework.

Folding tonneau covers come in hard versions with panels that are completely solid, and in soft versions with a single sheet layer of vinyl stretched over aluminum framework. These types of covers typically fold up into three sections (some have four) and store just behind the cab area at the front of the bed. Folding covers are a good choice if you regularly haul tall or oversize items such as furniture, appliances, or even dirt bikes. Hard folding covers can typically support an evenly distributed load of 250-400 pounds on top of them as well.

Hard Folding Tonneau Covers
4-Fold BAK BakFlip G2 Hard Tonneau Cover
The 4-fold BAK BakFlip G2 hard tonneau cover.

When it comes to hard folding tonneau covers, best values start with BAK's 3-fold BakFlip VP Hard Folding Tonneau Cover that can support 250 pounds. A layer of textured vinyl covers insulated, heavy-duty aluminum panels, making it stylish-looking as well as lightweight. For those that prefer hard folding covers with a low sitting profile, we've got the 3-fold BAK Bakflip F1, the 4-fold BAK Bakflip G2, and the 3-fold Undercover Flex cover. If the convenience of 4 folding panels best serves your needs, we've also got the BAK Bakflip FiberMax cover. It's got an interesting fiberglass-reinforced top surface that's high gloss and stays cool to the touch.

Extang Encore Tonno Folding Hard Cover
The Extang Encore Tonno folding hard cover.
3-Fold TonnoPro HardFold Hard Folding Tonneau Cover
The 3-fold TonnoPro HardFold hard folding tonneau cover.

Extang's 3-fold Encore Tonno hard cover offers a rare feature not found on most hard or soft folding covers. It folds up from the rear in the same fashion others do, but it also allows its front-most panel to open upward for easy access. And if you like the look of a soft vinyl cover but want the protection of hard panels, we've got the 3-fold TonnoPro HardFold tonneau cover with a top layer that's a single smooth, unbroken expanse of vinyl.

Soft Folding Tonneau Covers

Soft folding tonneau covers offer advantages of lighter weight, a smooth-looking uniform expanse of vinyl, and reinforcement from folding framework underneath. Another advantage soft folding covers offer is their looks. This type of cover features an unbroken, uniform look from side to side because, on many models, it sits completely on top of your truck's bed rails - hiding any unsightly panel gaps and seams underneath. When the panel sections fold, the vinyl outer layer folds with them. All soft folding tonneau covers we offer have three folding sections with aluminum frames.

Lund Genesis Tri-Fold Soft Tonneau Cover
The Lund Genesis Tri-Fold soft tonneau cover.
Extang E-Max Soft Folding Cover
The Extang E-Max soft folding cover is designed to allow all sections to fold upward to provide more space for cargo in the front of the bed.

For best value in soft folding tonneau covers, take a look at the APG Tri-Fold cover and the Bully Tri-Fold cover. Both of them come with quality vinyl and aluminum framework. However, they don't fully extend to the outer edges of your truck's bed rails the way most soft folding covers do. For those that need to make full use of the cargo area nearest the cab, Extang's E-Max cover is designed to allow all sections to fold upward instead of down into the bed area. If you prefer a low-profile soft folding cover, we've got the LundGenesis cover. Extang also offers a version of the Trifecta soft folding cover that's designed to install in 5 minutes with 4 easy-to-use clamps - ideal for those who may findit necessary to completely remove their tonneau cover on a regular basis.

1-Piece Hinged Tonneau Covers

For those that need only occasional access to the front of their pickup bed area and don't carry oversize cargo, one-piece hinged tonneau covers can provide an attractive tonneau cover solution. They're hinged at the front and supported by gas struts when opened. We've got hard tonneau covers made of hard shell automotive-grade, impact-resistant plastic and we've got soft one-piece covers that consist of vinyl stretched over aluminum framework.

Undercover Elite Hinged Tonneau Cover
The Undercover Elite Hinged Tonneau Cover.
UnderCover LUX Hinged Tonneau Cover
The UnderCover LUX Hinged Tonneau Cover.

When it comes to hard shell one-piece hinged covers, we've got a great selection from specialist brand UnderCover. Choose best value with their no-frills SE Hinged Tonneau cover that comes in textured black plastic or the SE Smooth Hinged Tonneau cover which features a perfectly flat, smooth surface that comes ready to be painted by you. Moving up, UnderCover's Elite Hinged Tonneau cover comes unpainted but adds luxury features such as an OEM style handle, a lock that can be coded to match your existing ignition key, and a removable LED light to help you see inside a covered bed. The Elite LX Hinged Tonneau cover adds carpeting on the underside, and offers a choice of being painted before shipping to match a handful of factory colors for your make and model. Undercover's LUX Hinged Tonneau cover offers a wider range of factory paint colors to choose from.

If you prefer a soft one-piece hinged cover, Lund offers the Genesis Hinged Tonneau cover in standard or Elite low profile form. Extang also offers their FullTilt Hinged Snap Seals Tonneau cover with curved bows underneath for support. The Extang cover tilts up, or the vinyl cover section can be unbuttoned anywhere around its perimeter by loosening snaps which attach it. And if you prefer Extang's basic formula without snaps on the cover, we offer it in a standard snapless form.

Tonneau Covers Designed To Accommodate Tool Boxes

Many of you have a toolbox or would like to mount a toolbox in the bed behind the cab, but this doesn't mean you have to forego a tonneau cover. So called "toolbox tonneaus" are specially made to work with standard size toolboxes and come in tilt-back, folding, and roll-up configuration. The Truxedo Deuce Hinged Roll-Up cover is unique because the rear portion of it rolls up until it meets a hard front section that folds back to expose a toolbox or gear in the front of the bed. The perfect accessory for it is the Truxedo TonneauMate tool box - a low-profile toolbox that offers added security for valuables by fitting completely underneath any typical tonneau cover. BAK also builds the BakBox Folding Tool Box that's designed to conceal itself when used with BAK's own BakFlip folding hard tonneau cover or RollBak retractable tonneau cover.

Extang FullTilt Tool Box Hinged Snap Seals Tonneau Cover
The Extang FullTilt Tool Box Hinged Snap Seals Tonneau Cover.
Extang Soft Folding TriFecta Tool Box Cover
The Extang soft folding TriFecta Tool Box cover.
Truxedo TonneauMate Tool Box
The Truxedo TonneauMate tool box is a low-profile toolbox that conceals itself by fitting completely underneath any typical tonneau cover.

Prefer a straightforward roll-up cover for your tool box? Take a look at the Extang Express Tool Box roll-up cover that can accommodate most standard 20" boxes. And if you need a good value on a cross brace roll-up cover which can also accommodate most toolboxes, take a look at Extang's Classic Platinum Toolbox roll-up cover with snaps around the edges. If you prefer Extang's cross brace design without snaps on the cover, we offer their FullTilt Tool Box Hinged Snapless cover. Extang's Trifecta Tool Box soft folding cover comes with an L-shaped channel specially designed to bridge the gap between your 18-20"-wide tool box and the tonneau cover for effective drainage and sealing.

Tool Box Tonneau Covers that come WITH a Tool Box
Retracting Tonneau Cover Equipped With Steel Tool Box
Truck Covers USA offers several versions of their retracting tonneau covers that come with specially-designed galvanized steel tool boxes that sit on top of the tonneau.

Truck Covers USA offers several versions of their retracting tonneau covers that come with specially-designed galvanized steel tool boxes. Instead of mounting in the cargo bed area, shallow-depth boxes mount completely on top of the bed rails. This allows the tonneau cover to retract out of sight underneath the tool box. If you prefer a smaller box (10" x 5.5" dimensions), Truck Covers USA offers the American Work Jr. Tonneau Cover. The American Work Tonneau Cover features a similar aluminum-slat tonneau with black or white matte powder coat finish and a larger tool box with 20" x 15" dimensions. Should you prefer black urethane spray-on coating instead of powder coat, the American X Box Tonneau Cover comes with the 20" x 15" box.

Last but certainly not least, we know that whatever tonneau you choose, it has to fit within your budget. Rollback covers are generally the least expensive, starting between $300-400, while retractable models are more than $1,000. But even if you opt for a less expensive cover, you won't be getting any less quality. All of our tonneau covers are custom made for the application, come with quality hardware for easy installation, and are backed by extensive warranties.

While you're at it, don't forget to take a look at our complete line of tonneau cover cleaners and other accessories. Pickup truck bed items such as storage bags, bed pockets, locks, and cargo bars complement your tonneau cover and help you maximize the usefulness of your truck!

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