A tonneau cover is a soft canvas or hard lid that overlays your pickup truck bed spanning from the back of the cab to the tailgate.
The main uses of a tonneau cover are to protect the bed from weather and possible thieves, improve appearance, and improve aerodynamics for better fuel economy.
While there are multiple kinds of tonneau covers available on Amazon, this article will focus on the 3 most common covers you’ll see on the road today.
What Trucks Do Tonneau Covers Fit?
Most of the tonneau covers you find on Amazon are made to fit your most common makes and models. Although you can also probably find a cover for your Datsun truck if you look hard enough.
The products on this list have options to fit your best-selling Ford F-150 to any Chevy Silverado, Chevy Colorado, GMC, Toyota Tundra and Tacoma, or Dodge Ram 1500. They also have an option for every bed size, so you don’t have to worry about any fitment issues.
Folding and retractable tonneau covers can be made with either a soft or hard material while roll-up tonneau covers are almost always a soft vinyl material.
Folding Tonneau Covers
A folding cover is usually a tri-fold, meaning the cover is split into 3 sections with each section folding over the next. You will see these as a soft tri-fold and hard tri-fold.
Some folding covers only expose ⅔ of the truck bed while other products expose the entire bed.
I have a soft tri-fold on my personal pickup, and I have no intention of changing that anytime soon.
Roll-Up Tonneau Covers
A roll-up tonneau cover is made of a soft flexible material that rolls from the tailgate to the back of the cab, exposing the entire truck bed.
This option is usually the most inexpensive option to protect your truck bed and improve gas mileage.
Retractable Tonneau Covers
Lastly, retractable tonneau covers are similar to roll-up covers in that they usually roll up to expose the entire truck bed, but they usually roll up into a discrete enclosure.
These covers come in both manual and electric products, so the electric covers can extend and retract with the push of a button.
How Do Tonneau Covers Work?
Tonneau covers are generally made with an aluminum frame, heavy-duty vinyl material, fiberglass, and durable plastic polymers.
The aluminum frame is attached on top of or in between the bed rails with clamps or by drilling and mounting fasteners.
Roll-up covers have velcro or buttons to attach the cover to the frame, folding covers have built-in hinges, and retractable covers are usually on a bearing system.
Most products have a built in latch at the tailgate end of the truck to easily unlock or unlatch the cover.
What Do You Look For In The Best Tonneau Covers?
With a wide price range and option selection in the tonneau cover market, the “best” product is the one that serves your particular needs the best. Although some indisputable attributes will make one product better than a similar product.
The main factors I take into consideration when determining what makes a good cover are materials used, installation requirements, functionality, and weather resistance.
Materials are important. Strong aluminum and marine-grade vinyl help ensure your friend who has never touched a tonneau cover doesn’t bend or rip the cover, and they ensure durability.
It’s nice to not have to drill holes in your truck bed the day after buying it. Easy installation is preferred over a complex installation, but you need to ensure the easy installation is still dependable.
Functionality encompasses a few aspects. You want to have a good latching system, a locking mechanism, easy opening and closing, and maximum bed exposure.
Lastly, weatherproof or weather resistant covers are very important. There’s really no use in having a tonneau cover if a little bit of rain will ruin everything underneath of it.
Best Tonneau Covers Reviewed
1. Gator Truck Bed Tonneau Cover (Our Top Pick)
Proudly made in the USA, Gator makes everything from a $200 soft roll-up tonneau cover to a $850 high-quality hard retractable cover, pretty much covering all your functionality needs, compatibility needs, and specific budgets.
The Gator tonneau covers can provide 100% bed access, no drill installation, and superior protection for your truck bed with its heavy duty aluminum frame and industrial strength vinyl.
One of their most popular products, the Gator ETX Soft Tri-Fold, is a great tonneau cover if you’re unsure what would be best for your needs but know you want some truck bed protection.
2. MaxMate Soft Roll Up Truck Bed Tonneau Cover (Best Budget)
The best tonneau cover for the budget is the MaxMate soft roll up cover. Made out of heavy duty 24oz. marine-grade vinyl, this product is sure to protect your cargo from the elements.
Available in all bed sizes and providing full bed access, you’ll get the most functionality for the price with this tonneau cover. If not, it comes with a 10-year warranty, so you’re guaranteed to be satisfied one way or the other.
3. BAK BAKFlip G2 Hard Folding Truck Bed Tonneau Cover (Best High End)
With raving reviews across Amazon and pickup truck forums alike, the BAK BAKFlip G2 hard folding tonneau cover is one of the best tonneau covers on the market.
The durable aluminum panels combined with tight seals all the way around the bed allow you, the truck owner, to be confident in the fact that nothing is getting inside the bed of your truck.
This hard folding tonneau cover also provides superior functionality with an automatic latching system, quick-release cables, and 100% bed access with its innovative fold design. Also, the low profile design doesn’t even interfere with your bed rails or an existing bed liner.
Tonno Pro provides 3 options with a soft roll-up, soft tri-fold, and hard tri-fold tonneau cover.
All options compare similarly to the products at #1 on our list, but Tonno Pro doesn’t offer as many tonneau cover options. What they do offer is a simple product line with the ease of use being a large design factor, similar to Extang products.
The tear resistant vinyl and water resistant seals will keep your truck bed dry and safe, and the easy installation will ensure these tonneau covers give you zero headaches from the time you open the package.
5. TruXedo Truxport Soft Roll Up Truck Bed Tonneau Cover
The TruXedo Truxport soft roll up tonneau cover provides everything you could want with a roll up cover, but the reason it is lower on the list is solely due to its price.
High quality leather embossed vinyl with a matte finish combined with a pre-tension control system gives this cover a sleek look. This soft tonneau cover with multiple crossbars has the durability to go up against any of its competitors.
Stainless steel clamps, a dual-latching system, and a velcro-lined aluminum frame give this soft vinyl cover its maximum functionality.
All of these tonneau covers will meet your automotive needs. They provide all the necessary durability and protection, allow for easy installation, and are much better than having an open truck bed all the time.
You can easily spend over $1000 on Amazon on a tonneau cover, but why do that when you can get a perfectly functional tonneau cover for less. Then you can spend that money saved on more truck accessories.
Your specific needs will ultimately determine the product you buy, but I would be happy to put any of these tonneau covers on my truck.