The area of a car or truck that’s open at the top is called the tonneau. The space can be used to transport people, such as in a convertible, or cargo, such as in a pickup truck bed.
You don’t get a pickup truck because your main concerns are style and fuel efficiency. You get one because you need to haul stuff around. Big stuff. And whatever that stuff is, from tools to treasures, you want to keep it protected from the elements as best as you can — no sun beating down on your load or rain drenching your cargo. You also want to keep items from becoming airborne and falling onto the road while you’re driving. That’s why you need a cover for your truck bed.
There are several types of truck bed covers to choose from, categorized by the type of material and how they open and close. Before you decide which one you need, you should do a little research.
Don’t worry, BestReviews has already done the investigative work for you. All you need to do is read our guide. We’ve even picked three of our favorites to help you narrow your options.
Types of truck bed covers
For the purpose of this guide, we’ll categorize truck bed covers by type of material and how they operate.
Soft: Soft covers for truck beds are typically constructed using a heavy-duty vinyl. These covers are light in weight and easy to install. Most provide decent protection against the elements. Since these covers are vinyl, they look sleek and secure, but they don’t provide adequate protection against theft. Price: The average cost of a soft truck bed cover runs between $170 and $300.
Hard: When you want serious protection from the elements and security from theft, a hard cover is the way to go. Like soft covers, hard truck bed covers come in many designs and can even be custom painted to look like part of your original equipment. Price: The cost of a hard truck bed cover ranges from $700 to $2,000.
Hybrid: A hybrid cover looks like a vinyl cover but has hard cover security panels beneath to keep vandals from cutting through to your gear. Price: The cost of a hybrid truck bed cover ranges from $200 to $700.
Snap-on: A snap-on cover is a basic cover made of two parts: a frame and the cover. The frame is secured to the rails of your truck bed and also covers the bulkhead and tailgate. The durable vinyl cover snaps into the frame. This cover does not lock, so it isn’t an effective theft deterrent. It’s designed to provide protection from the elements while giving your truck a neater appearance.
Roll-up: Roll-up covers are similar to snap-on covers. A heavy-duty vinyl cover is fastened to a frame that is secured to the rails of your truck bed to provide protection from the elements. The major difference between a roll-up cover and a snap-on cover is the quick release at the tailgate, which enables you to roll up the cover for instant access to the contents of your truck.
Tri-fold: These covers can be soft, hard, or hybrid. They enable you to quickly fold them back in sections, granting access to the bed without needing to fully remove the cover. Tri-fold covers are ideal for drivers who haul a wide variety of loads. Depending on the design, the tri-fold cover either sits on the rails or fits flush to give the truck a sleeker appearance.
Retractable: A retractable cover is built like an industrial garage door. Instead of retracting upward, however, the cover rolls into a canister at the bulkhead of your truck bed. These models enable you to access the bed without opening the cover, and they offer a decent amount of security against theft. Additionally, there are no snaps, straps, or other fasteners to worry about. Retractable covers sit flush with the truck side rails to provide a sleek, clean appearance.
Hinged: Hinged covers function like a lid for your truck bed. They either rest on top of your rails or fit over the edges to provide a clean look. This type of cover raises up from a hinge located along the bulkhead. These covers can either have their own lock or rely on the tailgate lock for security. If you like, a hinged cover can be painted to match your vehicle, making it look like original equipment.
Truck bed cover sizes
These are the simple steps for determining the proper size cover you’ll need for your truck bed.
Measure from the inside of the bulkhead, along the rail, to the inside of the tailgate.
Record that number as feet and inches.
Round the number to the nearest inch. (Most truck bed manufacturers round to the nearest inch, so it’s safe for you to do the same when measuring.)
If you have a RamBox, flared sides, side step, or any other accessory or configuration affecting the truck bed width, keep that in mind when looking for a cover that fits properly.
Q. Does using a truck bed cover really save on gas?
A. Unfortunately, no. While there are accessories designed to make a truck more aerodynamic, the two benefits you get from a cover are protection from the elements and protection against theft, not increased mileage. In fact, some studies reveal the addition of a truck bed cover can negatively impact fuel efficiency.
Q. How hard is it to install a truck bed cover?
A. If you’re mechanically inclined and proficient with basic hand tools, you’ve got this. Installation of most covers can be done in less than an hour. If this is your first cover installation, take the time to familiarize yourself with the directions before beginning. Remember, care must be taken to be sure that your rails are properly aligned or your cover will wobble and leak. If you aren’t comfortable with tasks such as clamping and ratcheting, you can always hire a professional to do the work.
Q. How do I clean my truck bed cover?
A. Like most items, warm water and a mild detergent applied with a soft cloth or sponge will do the trick. If you want to do more to protect your cover, determine what it is made of and use a cleaner specific to that material. For instance, a vinyl cleaner contains protectants that can extend the life of a vinyl truck bed cover.
Best of the best: Tyger Auto Tri-Fold Truck Bed Cover
Our take: A no-drill, easy to install, tri-fold cover for vehicles with a 5’8” bed. (Confirm year/make/model and take care when measuring to ensure a proper fit.)
What we like: The frame is made from aircraft-grade aluminum alloy that’s covered by UV-resistant, weatherproof, marine-grade vinyl. It’s durable, opens and closes quickly, and comes with a limited lifetime warranty.
What we dislike: If your tailgate locks, your cover is secure, making it a crime deterrent, but since it’s a soft cover, it isn’t theft-proof.
Best bang for your buck: Tyger Auto Roll-up Truck Bed Cover
Our take: A leak-resistant roll-up cover designed for trucks with a 5’5” bed. (Confirm year/make/model and take care when measuring to ensure a proper fit.)
What we like: This cover is affordable and fairly easy to install. It’s made of durable marine-grade vinyl and comes with an adjustable tension system and Velcro straps, which, when assembled properly, do an incredible job of keeping the bed dry.
What we dislike: The instructions might lead you to believe that the weatherstripping isn’t a necessity. It is.
Choice 3: MaxMate Tri-Fold Truck Bed Cover
Our take: A highly rated, durable tri-fold truck bed cover that works for trucks with a 5’8” bed. (Confirm year/make/model and take care when measuring to ensure a proper fit.)
What we like: This cover comes preassembled, which makes installation a breeze. The marine-grade vinyl used in construction is saltproof, UV resistant, mildew resistant, and weatherproof. The easy operation allows you to fully open or close this cover in seconds.
What we dislike: Vinyl isn’t tear- or puncture-resistant. Be cautious with sharp objects so you don’t damage your investment.