Wherever you park your vehicle, a car cover protects it from a constant onslaught. If parked inside, it blocks dust and humidity as well as accidental scratches, spills, and dings. If it's outside, bird droppings, tree sap, pollen, falling branches, and a variety of extreme weather conditions can cause permanent damage. The sun's UV rays can oxidize the clearcoat and fade the base color layer.
Car covers also protect your interior from UV damage and fading. By keeping your interior cooler, car covers prevent a greenhouse effect inside the cabin, with intense heat drying out vinyl and dehydrating leather, causing oxidation and cracking.
A covered car stored outside also gains theft protection. A joyrider isn't going to waste time trying to get a car cover off. And unless your cover advertises what's underneath, the make and model of your vehicle are concealed - making it less of a target for thieves seeking a certain car.
A car cover keeps items inside the car away from prying eyes, discouraging opportunistic thieves from making an impromptu break-in to steal a stereo or other valuables. Most car covers also have grommets where cables and locks can be attached for even more security.
In this guide, we'll highlight the five most important things to consider when buying a car cover. To assist in your product search, the criteria we discuss here is designed to reflect the categories and search criteria you'll see along the left-hand side of your screen when you visit our car covers website section. Check boxes under various headings allow you to narrow your search to reflect specific needs YOU feel are most important. While many covers will excel at providing protection in multiple categories, using the check boxes ensures your final choice will be exactly what you need in a car cover.
Universal, Or Custom-Fit Cover?
Deciding between "universal-fit" or "custom-fit" designs is the first order of business. It's important to note that more custom-fit choices exist, especially if you've got a pickup or SUV.
A certain-sized universal-fit cover is made to fit a number of similar vehicles - not just yours. Because of economies of scale, universal covers typically sell for less than custom-fit ones made of the exact same material.
Because universal covers are made for an "average car" that's approximately the same size as yours, it won't have pockets positioned exactly where your mirrors or antenna are. Elastic ribbing along all bottom edges will help keep a universal cover snugly attached, but there's no guarantee it won't blow off the vehicle completely unless additional means are used to lash it down. It may also fit too tightly or too loosely.
A cover that's too tight may put undue stress on parts such as mirrors or spoilers, damaging them or body areas where they're attached. A too-tight cover may also be more difficult to remove and install. If used outdoors, a cover that's too loose can actually cause damage to paint and trim by flapping against the body when wind gets underneath it. If sand and dirt blow underneath a loose cover also, abrasive paint damage occurs.
A custom-fit cover is specially made to match all contours of your make and model, fitting like a glove over mirrors and other items. With a custom-fit cover, accommodations for things like hood scoops, mirrors, and spoilers can be provided easily.
A custom-fit cover will usually cost more than a universal cover. But depending on how and where you plan to use your cover, any upfront savings may turn into false economy if a universal cover ends up damaging vehicle's finish. A custom-fit car cover that's well-suited to your particular use will provide the most protection.
How Will You Use The Cover?
Under our USAGE heading, you'll see "Outdoor", "Indoor Only", and "Outdoor + Indoor" covers. For the purposes of this guide, we'll refer to outdoor/indoor covers simply as "outdoor" covers. This is an important factor to consider.
An outdoor cover is designed to provide protection against grueling conditions not found indoors. While an outdoor cover also provides effective protection inside, an indoor cover should be limited to indoor use only. Indoor covers typically have the advantages of being lighter and easier to store.
If you're lucky enough to have a garage, barn, or other covered area to store your car, you're ahead of most automotive enthusiasts. However, do NOT presume that your car's finish is protected from the elements just because it's inside.
No matter how pristine the storage area, dust and dirt still float in the air, and will settle onto your car just as they will on any other surface. If you also happen to use this locale as a work area, then residue from sanding, polishing, drilling and painting can drift toward the stored vehicle. An indoor cover provides the final barrier between indoor airborne hazards and your car's finish.
For many, the garage is home not only to cars, but to bikes, ladders, and lawn furniture. A good indoor car cover protects a vehicle from potential dings, whether they emanate from bicycle handlebars or patio chairs.
Indoor & Outdoor
Car covers rated for outdoor use are designed with stronger resistance to water penetration from precipitation. However, they won't completely prevent water from getting through. If they were truly waterproof, moisture coming up from the ground would be trapped beneath the cover - causing mildew and, ultimately, body panel corrosion.
The fact is - all outdoor covers must be able to breathe. Any water will evaporate quickly thanks to perforated cover designs that release moisture, not trap it. Consequentially, outdoor car covers will begin to dry virtually as soon as precipitation ends. Vehicle surfaces underneath will be left dry as well.
What does not get through outdoor covers is dirt and other debris, thanks to multiple layered construction. Should grime begin to accumulate on top of the cover as time passes, most of the covers we sell are washable: either by machine (commercial duty) or by hand (while on the car). Check for specifics in the details for each cover.
Wherever you live, outdoor covers keep your car clean and protected from tree sap as well as seeds/buds that are notorious for causing water leaks by clogging drain tubes. And you won't have to deal with a mass of dirty leaves in your engine compartment!
In especially warm environments, outdoor covers offer protection against scorching sun that fades paint and cracks interior panels. In particularly wet regions, they'll prevent acid rain damage on paint, chrome, plastic trim, and rubber seals. And in cold winter climates, you've got protection against snow and icy rain that freezes doors shut and forms a hard glaze on glass surfaces.
What Kind Of Protection Is Most Important To You?
If you're considering the purchase of a car cover, then this is likely the single most important factor in your decision-making. While color and cost are worthy of your consideration, the TYPE of protection you need should drive the purchase decision.
If we consider outdoor covers for a moment: almost all of them provide some form of protection from all hazards. But given your location, which ONE factor is most important? If you live in Florida, it may be UV rays. Seattle? Rain. Maine? Possibly snow.
How will you be using the cover? If it will stay on the car for weeks at a time, then a heavier cover may be OK. If you're removing and installing it on a daily basis, a lightweight and easily washed cover is what you'll want.
Let's review some of the specific hazards that covers protect your car from.
If you have no choice but to park under the blazing sun in extreme hot weather climates, a cover designed to reflect the maximum amount of sunlight will do the most to keep your interior cool and protected from UV damage. These typically feature some kind of aluminized polyurethane acrylic coating for maximum sun reflection. Under UV protection, check "Best" if you need to maximize that protection.
For those who don't also need a high level of ding and scratch protection, you may prefer a thinner, 2-layer cover that takes less room to store. Naturally, thicker sun-oriented covers provide more effective protection against dings and scratches.
If an extremely rainy climate is what you must deal with, selecting "Best" under RAIN PROTECTION will narrow your search to densely woven microfiber covers that provide solid protection from rain or extreme weather. Typically, these have 3, 4, or even 5 layers - giving excellent protection against dings and falling debris.
Extreme rain/weather covers are designed with "encapsulated fiber" fabrics which are more resistant to water permeation. As a result, their absorption factor is a fraction of other types of fabrics. Because of this, light or medium rain falling on top of the cover is shed quickly, and what's left can be shaken off quite easily. However, as precipitation increases, wetness will soak through the cover, but to a lesser extent.
If you have snowfall on a regular basis, we also recommend a "Rain/Snow" cover designed for extreme weather conditions (see above paragraph). Thicker construction means snow will not work its way through the cover and form ice underneath - even after numerous thaw/freeze cycles. A cover that isn't frozen to the vehicle won't cause damage to paint or the cover itself upon removal.
Dust & Dirt
Dust protection is not limited to indoor covers. If you need an outdoor cover, and you live in a dusty area, a cover highly-rated for dust and dirt protection can save your paint. Whether you're searching for an indoor or an outdoor cover, select "Best" under DIRT/DUST PROTECTION.
This is where a custom-fit becomes critical. A cover which is custom-designed to fit over the curves of your car will do the best job to keep swirling dust and sand from working their way under the cover. An outdoor cover highly rated for dust protection will have the fabric and the layering needed to stop the finest dirt particles from penetrating through the material, while still allowing it to "breathe".
Dings & Scratches
Falling acorns and branches can leave dimples and chipped paint. So can bouncing basketballs if you've got a hoop set up nearby in your driveway. But even inside, a vehicle is subject to impacts from bicycles, lawnmowers, and other objects when space gets crowded. If these risks are your priority, select "Best" under DING PROTECTION.
If you've got pets (especially cats) whose turf includes areas where your vehicle is parked, you know they're likely to hop on top of it. And because body panels that are cooler or warmer create a more comfortable place for them to rest, their claws can do a number on a car's paint. A thicker cover that provides maximum ding protection is your best bet in this case.
While all the covers we sell feature high levels of breathability, if this is a critical factor, then select "Best" under BREATHABILITY. There are circumstances when the amount of breathability a cover has should be a most important consideration. It's important to note that better breathability does not necessarily translate to higher dust intrusion.
For example, if you face high levels of dampness indoors because of overall climate or a basement-level garage, a car cover with best breathability will keep condensation moisture from settling on the paint. It will also prevent the trapping of moisture during humid conditions by allowing it to evaporate.
If stored outside in a humid area, a cover rated highly for breathability will help evaporate any moisture which ends up on the paint. Keep in mind that there is a difference between heavy rain and high humidity. As we stated earlier, most covers, especially outdoor ones, are highly rated in more than one category, so look through all the choices before making your final selection.
How Important Is Inner Lining Softness?
If you've got a classic show car or a newer vehicle you want to keep in cherry condition, a cover's softness against your paint should be a prime concern. Under our "Inner Lining Softness" heading, you can view covers with inner layers of varying softness to suit your needs. Covers that excel in this category can also vary when it comes to overall thickness and protection against dust permeation, dings, and other hazards. Read below to learn more about the different levels of inner lining softness.
"Best" Inner Softness
If your vehicle's paint is new or like-new, you may want to consider a cover designed specifically to provide the highest level of inner softness. While most covers rated "best" in this category are indoor covers, you'll find a limited number designed for outdoor use as well. These typically feature 3- or 4-layer construction, with a thick inner layer of fleece, flannel, quilted fabric, or softly-woven polypropylene that's similar to material found in diapers.
"Better" Inner Softness
These are mostly outdoor-rated covers with 3 to 4 layers of fabric, that include a special soft innermost layer made of fleece, polypropylene fabric, microfiber, or woven nylon. These also provide excellent softness against fine paint. As outdoor covers, these are geared toward protection against heavier rain, bird droppings, and tree sap, while still providing very good inner softness.
"Good" Inner Softness
These tend to be mostly outdoor covers with 2 to 3 layers designed for light or medium weather, high UV/sun conditions, or value-priced indoor covers made of woven fabrics such as polycotton. While "good" rated covers are designed to protect paint from abrasion damage, inner softness is not as high a priority as it is with "best" and "excellent" covers. A soft inner layer of woven fabric may or may not be included with the cover - and if it is, it's thinner than covers in the two previous categories.
"Minimal" Inner Softness
These are single-layer covers with an economy price designed for basic protection against dirt and/or outdoor falling debris. They're not meant to protect against heavy weather or sun conditions, and typically, the material that touches your vehicle is the same as the outer shell that deflects leaves, seeds, and twigs. These are better for cars and trucks where the inner lining softness is not a concern - such as fleet vehicles or older daily drivers.
How Much Of The Vehicle Are You Covering?
All of It
If you're looking to protect your entire vehicle, select the "Full Cover" check box under the TYPE heading to eliminate various partial covers that will also be displayed. This is what most customers are envisioning when they are shopping for "car covers".
If your pickup has a cargo cap or commercial chassis box with an irregular shape, we've got covers that fit over your truck's hood and cab only (select "Truck Cab Cover" checkbox under the TYPE heading). While cab covers don't cover the pickup bed, they are a cost-effective solution for your needs.
We've also got covers for pickups that cover only the windows and roof, leaving lower doors and hood exposed. And if you've got a 2- or 4-door Jeep Wrangler, you'll love the available selection shaped to cover roof areas, or roofs plus door areas when doors have been removed.
If your main interest is protecting items in your pickup bed from the elements, select the Truck Bed Cover checkbox under the TYPE heading. You may want to consider Rain/Snow covers designed to repel heavy-duty amounts of water while allowing moisture underneath to escape. In Product Options, universal-fit dimension choices will reflect standard bed sizes.
Selecting Convertible Covers displays a choice of products designed for popular convertible models. These protect the windshield and interior when the vehicle is parked with the top down. Choose covers designed to optimize protection from UV rays, dirt and grime, or basic value-priced covers. These typically secure to your vehicle with wheel well straps, and many feature a theft-deterrent tab which locks inside the trunk lid.
Hardtop Covers are custom shaped to fit over removable hard tops found on select convertibles. Once a hardtop has been removed from the vehicle, these covers surround and protect all sides of it. Most are even compatible with hoists used to remove the hardtops. In Product Options, you'll see available fabric choices for outdoor all-weather use or indoor use.
Under our Snow Shield category, we have universal-fit waterproof covers with left- and right-side sections which fit over the windshield, windows, roof, mirrors and door handles; in other words, areas which are priority spots for snow removal. Both sections join together along a middle seam via fasteners.
When it's time to clear the snow and get going, simply disconnect the tie-downs, grasp side handles, then pull the two sections off your vehicle. Snow and ice on top will fall to the ground as the sections are removed. Because these types of waterproof covers are not designed to breathe, they should only see outdoor short-term use for their intended purpose.
Other/Optional Factors To Consider:
Weight/Ease of Storage
One factor to consider when purchasing a car cover is weight and ease of storage, especially if you'll be taking it on and off regularly. Under our WEIGHT heading, you'll see "heavyweight", "middleweight", and "lightweight" covers.
Thicker covers (usually designed for outdoor use) with 4+ layers will be somewhat heavy and bulky when you've got the whole thing balled up in your arms. Packing them into a storage bag will also take a little more work. Conversely, light weight ones (usually with fewer layers) will be easier to put on, remove, and store.
Car covers should be washed on some regular basis. The heaviest and bulkiest ones may require a large or commercial washing machine to accommodate them. Thinner covers may be able to be washed in any standard household machine. Some manufacturers recommend washing the cover while it's on the car and then allowing it to dry in place.
Single or Multiple Colors
Since we've got covers with 2-tone color schemes and other pattern designs, we make it easy to narrow your selection with checkboxes listed under the COLOR heading. Checking "multicolor" will display covers with printed patterns as well as 2-tone covers that are available in a large number of color combinations. On 2-tone covers, horizontal top sections will often be one color and the vertical sides will be another. Some covers offer reflective edging as well.
Selecting "racing stripes" will narrow your search to covers with a variety of striped patterns. If the main product picture doesn't show a cover with stripes on it, such versions may be in the Product Options field. Also under the COLOR heading are check boxes for solid color choices. Keep in mind that not every cover is available in multiple colors.
Some, but not all, covers come with an included storage bag. In other cases, a storage bag is offered in the Product Options menu. Some manufacturers allow you to purchase storage bags made from the exact same material and color as the cover itself. Storage bags are worth your consideration if you don't plan to use the cover for a while. They also help keep the cover clean while it's off the car. "Storage Bag" is a choice under TYPE, visible before you enter a specific year, make, and model car.
Lock & Cable
If you face extremely high winds or need to leave your vehicle in areas where theft or vandalism are a problem, look for covers that are available with an optional cable and lock. Most covers feature reinforced grommet holes around their base designed to slip cables through. Once attached, cables are run across the underside of the vehicle to keep the cover secure.
"Lock & Cable" is a choice under TYPE, visible before you enter a specific year, make, and model car.
This Car Covers Shopping Guide is intended to provide you with all the necessary information to make an informed purchase decision. We purposely have not provided any specific brand or model recommendations, as we believe it is first, most important for you, the vehicle owner, to understand which factors are most important to you.
Once you have done that, you can use the menus on the left side of the screen to prioritize your choices. All of the car covers on our site serve their intended purpose; but depending on price point, they each have their performance strengths.
Once you understand what's important to you, we invite you to peruse the Car Covers store on our website. If you would like some input from our trained staff, please feel free to reach out to us via phone, email, or chat. We would be happy to help you narrow down the selections to the one that best suits your needs.