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 the contents to the elements. Cargo can become moisture damaged or corrode and rust if exposed to rain and snow, especially if water stays in the bed. Items not secured can be blown around or completely out of the bed on windy days. 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.

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, and keep strong winds from blowing debris into or items out of the bed. But if keeping cargo as dry as possible is important, you'll want a cover that has superior weather seals. Some covers offer sophisticated water draining systems that work similarly to the gutters on your house, directing rainwater in channels to a drain hose. 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 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 acertain measure of security if you have a locking tailgate. However, a determined thief can always just slice open the vinyl.

Tonneau Cover for Aerodynamics

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, the 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 beds on trucks that get used regularly usually get scratched and marked up from loading and unloading cargo. Now picture the bed and all that junk under a nice, smooth tonneau and I think you'll agree that 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. Consider one of the new low profile tonneau covers like the Access® TonnoSport™ for a sleek, custom look.

Besides the aforementioned 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 is a lot taller than the bed rails? The answer to these questions will also determine which style tonneau is right for you.

Roll-Up Tonneau Covers

Roll-Up Tonneau Cover
Roll-Up Bed Cover Roll-Up Truck Tonneau Cover Roll-Up Tonneau Cover Video

Folding Tonneau Covers

Folding Tonneau Cover
Folding Bed Cover Folding Truck Tonneau Cover Folding Tonneau Cover Video

Hinged Tonneau Covers

Hinged Tonneau Cover
Hinged Bed Cover Hinged Truck Tonneau Cover Hinged Tonneau Covers Video

If you regularly need access to all parts of your bed, a roll-up or folding cover will fill the bill. Roll-up covers like those from Access®, Lund® or Truxedo® are soft vinyl or vinyl covered fabric covers that can quickly be rolled up and secured behind the cab and just as quickly reinstalled over the bed. They're secured to the bed rails with snaps, Velcro, or tongue and groove seal. Folding covers come in soft and hard versions, and they may take a little longer to open and recover the bed. The latest styles like the Bak® BakFlip can be completely folded and stored behind the cab to provide complete bed access. Retractable covers like Bak's RollBak or Truck Covers USA's American Roll Cover are a relatively new type of cover and work similarly to window shades. When access to the bed is desired, a retractable cover consisting of aluminum slats rolls up into a canister at the front of the bed. Except for the space taken up by the canister, you have complete access to the bed.

A roll-up or folding cover is also a good selection if you regularly haul tall or oversize items like furniture, appliances or dirt bikes. A retractable cover can work if you don't need to secure the load at the very front of the bed, where the canister may be in the way. However, if you only occasionally need access to the front of your pickup bed, and don't usually carry oversize cargo, consider a 1-piece, tilting tonneau cover. These are available in soft and hard versions. The vinyl or vinyl covered fabric material on a soft tilting cover is stretched over an aluminum frame. Hard tonneaus are made of fiberglass or automotive-grade, impact resistant plastic. Both types are hinged at the front and supported by gas struts when open. Folding and retractable covers can also offer partial access to the bed. One or more sections of a folding cover can be folded back and locked in position. A retractable cover can be retracted and locked in incremental positions.

Tonneau 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 modify a standard tonneau cover to install it in your bed. So called "toolbox tonneaus" are specially made to work with standard size toolboxes, and many manufacturers offer an integrated toolbox/tonneau that is installed together. These covers come in tilt-back, folding and roll-up configuration. The Truxedo Deuce Hinged Roll-Up cover is unique in that it rolls up to a front section that folds back to expose a toolbox or gear that's in the front of the bed. Integrated toolbox/tonneaus offer added security for your valuable tools because the toolbox is either completely covered by the tonneau like the Truxedo TonneauMate, or the tool box lid is the folded up panels of the tonneau cover, like Bak's BakBox toolbox.

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.


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