Pickup Truck Tonneau Cover Buyer’s Guide
Photography by Harry Wagner and courtesy of the manufacturers
The bed is the defining feature that makes a pickup truck a truck. They can be filled with everything from a load of firewood to motorcycles and even help your friends move (friends always seem to call the guy with the truck when they need help). The flipside is that an open truck bed, while convenient, doesn’t protect your cargo from the elements, be it rain and snow or the criminal element. A camper shell is the right solution for some people, but they are expensive and can be heavy, and they limit the ability to reach in for items over the rail of the truck bed or carry large items (like your friend’s refrigerator). Removable tonneau covers are an alternative that address all of these issues and may be the right choice for your pickup truck.
BAK Industries BAKFlip G2 Tonneau Cover
There are pros and cons to both hard and soft tonneau covers. Which one is right for you will depend on a variety of factors, including product availability for your truck, your budget, intended use, and more. Both styles keep your valuables out of site and out of the elements and can even provide a modest increase in fuel economy due to improved aerodynamics.
Price: Starts at $899.88
Hard Tonneau Covers
Hard tonneau covers can be one piece, but more common today are hinged, multi piece covers. One-piece tonneau covers are typically fiberglass and they look great, but they greatly limit the ability to put large items into the bed of your truck. Folding tonneau covers like the BAKFlip and Extang Solid Fold make less compromises, they are available in flush mount on the bed rail or models that sit on top of the bed rail. Hard tonneau covers are made from materials such as aluminum, polypropylene, and fiberglass that cannot be easily cut or pried from the side rails.
Smittybilt Smart Tonneau Cover
Smittybilt’s Smart Cover Tonneau Covers use a 6061 aircraft-grade aluminum frame with reinforced corners and are completely covered in rich, leather-grain vinyl. The covers come completely assembled and feature a cammed Speed Lock system that makes installation and removal fast and easy. Smittybilt Smart Covers use a truss bow design to prevent water/snow accumulation, ballistic nylon straps, nylon-reinforced plastic buckles, an all-weather sealing system, and a fulcrum hinge system.
Price: Starts at $269.99
Soft Tonneau Covers
Soft tonneau like the Bestop EZ-Roll and Smittybilt Smart Cover roll up, allowing for easy access to the bed when not in use. Soft tonneau covers generally cost and weigh less than hard tonneau covers, but the tradeoff is that they are not as secure. Soft tonneau covers still keep your belongings out of sight, but even with a locking tailgate it doesn’t take anything more than a razor blade for someone to access the contents of the bed. Higher end rollup covers like the BAK Industries Revolver use aluminum slats for added security and can even hold up to 400 pounds on top of them, and they hardly take up any room when rolled up.
Roll N Lock E Series Tonneau Cover
Roll-N-Lock’s E-Series are electric-powered, retractable truck bed covers that offers quick and easy operation with reinforced durability and added protection. With a push of a button, the cover automatically opens and closes with its commercial-grade electric motor and convenient key fob, providing hands-free access to your bed and gear in the matter of seconds. Make carrying tall gear easier as the E-Series can lock in five different positions along your truck bed to suit your unique hauling needs at every turn. They aren’t cheap, but the Roll-N-Lock E-Series retractable cover is made in the USA and backed by a three year warranty.
Retractable Tonneau Covers
Retractable tonneau covers can be manually operated or powered like the RetraxPRO and Roll-N-Lock E Series. They are typically made of metal or a hardened composite material and sit flush with the bed rail for a clean appearance. Retractable tonneau covers are usually the most expensive option, but they also offer maximum security against theft. One consideration with retractable covers is that the housing where the cover retracts into does take up space at the front of the bed. It is not a huge amount, but if you are starting with a shortbed it could make the difference between being able to carry something like a motorcycle in the bed.
BAK Industries BAKBox2 Tonneau Cover Toolbox
The BAKBox2 is convenient storage solution designed to work with the Revolver and BAKFlip tonneau covers. The BAKBox2 can be positioned anywhere on the rails and organizes your valuables underneath your locked tonneau. Best of all, the BAKBox2 folds out of the way quickly to give you back your entire truck bed cargo space when you need it. The BAKBox2 measures 10 inches long and ten inches deep and uses 1/2-inch thick panels.
Price: Starts at $299
Features To Look For
Cost, weight, durability, and ease of installation are all factors to be considered when shopping for a tonneau cover. Most covers install easily with hand tools, or in some cases no tools at all. Durability and cost are closely related, with the higher priced products offering features such as powder coated finishes, stainless steel hardware, and better warranties. Weight is inversely proportional to durability and security in many cases, but aluminum construction from models like the BAKFlip MX4 helps offset some of the weight penalty.
Most tonneau covers will clamp to the inside edge of the truck bed side rail, making them incompatible with crossover tool boxes and ladder racks that bolt to the rail (but not racks that mount in the stake pockets). If you plan to use your tonneau cover with a tool box or roof top tent, your best bet is to get everything as an integrated system from the same manufacturer. Both BAK and TruXedo offer toolboxes designed to work with their tonneau covers, and TruXedo offers ladder racks as well that can carry awnings, roof top tents, fishing poles, and more.
BAK Industries BAKflip Tonneau Cover
BAKFlip makes a variety of models, which can be somewhat overwhelming if you don’t know the differences.
• BAKFlip G2 – Features aluminum panels and a 300-pound weight rating, with full access to the truck bed and stake pockets.
• BAKFlip HD – All-aluminum design that offers extreme durability for heavy-duty use. The components are powder coated and the core is thicker than that of the BAKFlip G2.
• BAKFlip CS – Added functionality of a removable, sliding ladder rack.
• BAKFlip F1 – Made of fiberglass-reinforced polymer for extreme climates. It stays cool, resists water, and remains unblemished even in heavy hailstorms.
Bestop ES-Roll Soft Tonneau Cover
Bestop offers the EZ-Roll Soft Tonneau Cover for a variety of pickups, including the Jeep Gladiator. The low-profile cover is made from high-quality leather-grain textured vinyl material that is waterproof, mildew and UV resistant for long-lasting performance. The tonneau cover features no drill clamp system with bed rails that installs quickly and easily onto the bed of the JT Gladiator. Reinforced corners add additional strength where it is needed the most.
Price: Starts at $354.99
Truxedo Pro X15 Tonneau Cover
The TruXedo Pro X15 includes many of the same great features as their bestselling cover, the Lo Pro, but with added style and performance. 15-degree rails deliver a low-profile, flush-mount look on the truck bed, and superior-grade woven fabric provides a stylish matte-black appearance. The cover can be installed or removed in minutes, with no drilling required, and the unique self-leveling design feature allows for a more accurate installation. And the Pro X15 is even made in the USA!
Price: Starts at $499
Extang Solid Fold 2.0 Tonneau Cover
Extang’s Solid Fold 2.0 installs in a matter of minutes with no tools required. It ships completely assembled and is strong, yet lightweight, thanks to the one-inch thick EnduraShield panels. The frame is made from powdercoated aluminum and the panels have a matte black textured finish that looks perfect with spray-in bedliners. The patented EZ-Lock Clamp requires minimal effort to operate and self-locks into position, but you do need to have the tailgate down and have room to reach them.
Price: Starts at $875
Retrax XR Series Tonneau Cover
The Retrax XR Series combines the retractable ONE MX with their integrated Trax Rail System to allow for customization above your truck bed cover. The XR Series optimizes cargo capacity with the cover open or closed, providing the ultimate versatility in cargo management. The Trax Rail System will work with most T-slot accessories from Yakima, Thule, Rhino-Rack, and many more ¬– offering endless possibilities. The RetraxONE XR combines strong, durable polycarbonate with a powerful and incredible scratch resistant matte finish.
Price: Starts at $1,429