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How To Choose A Tonneau Cover For Your Truck

How To Choose A Tonneau Cover For Your Truck

6 minute read

A tonneau cover is a must-have accessory if you aren’t capping youroff-road truck, but the cover market has changed in recent years. The days of only having a cloth or a hard shell are over, as the automotive industry pushes to give truck owners more options as they live, work, and play in their vehicles. With so many options, it can be difficult to decide what’s right for your needs. All covers are not created equal, and your tonneau needs to do more than just fit your truck’s bed. It has to fit your lifestyle too.

Have You Covered Your Tonneau Today?

Early cars featured an open rear passenger compartment referred to as a tonneau, French for cask, due to their open, rounded barrel shape. These rear passenger areas were often covered when not in use, and motorsports drivers of the time soon found that a cover could help improve aerodynamics and, in turn, fuel economy. Truck and utility vehicle drivers soon realized the same thing, adopting the existing nomenclature and making it their own. Now, most truck drivers (who don’t know they should be reading theOffroad Alliance blog) only recognize them from truck beds and haven’t got a clue why we don’t just call them bed covers.

The Basics

Your tonneau cover rests in line with or above the edge of your truck bed, serving as a roof that protects your gear and cargo. This also helps prevent air that is rushing over your cab as you drive down the road from impacting the vertical surface of your tailgate where it can increase the drag on your truck, increasing wear as your engine works harder and lowering your gas mileage. Traditionally, these covers were either made of a soft, flexible material, such as cloth or vinyl, supported by a few evenly spaced ribs, or a hardcover made from inflexible metal or plastic that hinges up. Hardcovers offered more protection for cargo but made it harder to use your bed. Meanwhile, soft covers offered little real protection but gave you maximum flexibility for bed use.

Not Your Parents’ Tonneau Cover

While the core concepts of a Tonneau cover–protecting your cargo and covering your bed–haven’t changed, the quality, durability, and engineering certainly have. Off-roading has evolved, and the companies producing aftermarket truck accessories have kept up by designing products that fit modern needs and revamping traditional off-road vehicle systems to apply new technology to tried-and-true ideas. The four most popular tonneau styles on the market are built to help you find the perfect balance between utility, convenience, and protection for your off-road lifestyle.

Traditional Excellence

It takes seconds to roll up a traditional soft Tonneau cover, andACCESS Cover’s Originalfalls firmly into the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” camp. After 20 years of tonneau cover supremacy, it’s hard to fault their logic. This cover sets the bar when it comes to bed covers. The vinyl rolls up cleanly where it can be secured with straps directly behind the rear window of your cab. Rolled back down, it secures easily for a stretched, taut appearance.
ACCESS Cover original tonneau installed on a black pickup truckACCESS Cover original tonneau installed on a red pickup truck, close up showing the cover rolled up and fastened
BAKFlip Revolver X4S tonneau cover installed on a red pickup truck, rolled up and fastened for truck bed use BAKFlip Revolver X4S vinyl roll up tonneau cover installed on a silver pickup truck

Hard To Turn Down But Easy To Roll Up

Hard roll-up covers offer a step up in protection while still getting your tonneau cover out of your way when you need to use your bed. TheBAKFlip Revolver X4Sis a great example. Heavy-grade aluminum slats encased in durable vinyl create a strong cover that rolls up to sit behind your cab, but offers plenty of impact protection for your bed’s contents. The vinyl backing gives you a smooth, neat appearance, but it’s there for more than looks. It helps seal water, mud, dust, and other debris out, protecting your gear and keeping it ready for action.

Easy Open, Easy Close

Retractable tonneau covers offer good protection, plenty of utility, and they keep your cover stowed nicely and ready for action.Retraxretractable tonneau covers give you the security and sealing of a hard roll-up cover, but instead of rolling it to sit behind your cab window, it retracts into a storage cylinder at the front of your truck bed.

The cover can be easily slid along the installed rail system and locked in place, leaving it open, closed, or somewhere in between. The rails prevent both horizontal and vertical movement, and both aluminum and polycarbonate slats are available to let you tailor protection to your needs. Powered models even let you adjust your cover with the touch of a button, upping the convenience and cool factor of your cover.

Know When To Fold ‘Em

If you want protection for your gear and know you plan to put a cover through the wringer, a fold-up tonneau cover may be your best bet. Rather than slats, fold-up covers use large panels for better protection. TheBAKFlip MX4uses heavy-duty aluminum panels to seal your bed and keep the contents secure. The cover is rated for up to 400 pounds of evenly distributed weight, making it plenty strong enough to shrug off anything the field throws at it. The panels fold up to allow full access to your bed, then are easily laid flat again for travel.

What To Consider When Choosing A Tonneau Cover

We’ve talked about some of the best covers on the market, but how can you choose the right one for your truck? It starts with looking at what you want from a cover. Do you need more security for your gear? Do you use your bed to haul oversized objects regularly or need to uncover it periodically for fifth-wheel use?

Fold-up covers restrict your uncovered bed use the most, but they’re absolute workhorses when it comes to protection. Traditional roll-up covers offer the least protection to your bed but move neatly out of the way to allow the use of your full bed. In the middle, offering a balance between the two that is a good fit for most off-roaders, are hard roll-up covers and retractable covers.

Top-Of-The-Line Parts And Old-School Service

Whatever style is right for you, we’ll help you get a fit you can count on. Enter your vehicle information at the top of the page when searching, and we can filter results to fit your make and model. If you have any questions,give us a call. One of our off-road specialists is ready to take your call anytime–days, nights, or weekends. Order the right tonneau cover for your truck from Offroad Alliance today.

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