So you’ve decided to protect your truck bed and its contents and now you are wondering what your options are. There are several different types of truck bed covers, or tonneau covers, to choose from.
You want to make sure you get the one that’s right for your needs, your truck, and your budget. Tonneau covers aren’t cheap and are an investment in your truck. It’s definitely worth doing a little research before you pull the trigger on one, I know I did.
It had been a while since I purchased a bed cover for a truck so I researched all of available options and prices before I made a decision. I wanted to be sure I got one that did what I needed and fit my truck well so I looked into all of the below options before buying.
Different types of truck bed covers
Folding bed covers
The soft tri-fold bed cover is one of the most popular options available and is what I recently purchased for my 2012 Ram 1500 Big Horn Quad Cab. The exact one I purchased is the Tyger Auto T3 Tri-Fold and you can find it on Amazon. I’m very pleased with the purchase, it was inexpensive compared to other options, looks great on my truck, and keeps the contents of my bed safe and dry. It flaps a little bit in the wind because it is soft material but this is totally normal, when sitting still the material is very tight and is hard to tell apart from a hard cover.
The majority of these covers will also be tri-folding but some are bi-folding and even quad-folding. The price ranges vary on these but they are generally more expensive than soft tri-folds. Like the soft ones, they are easy to install and will probably use the same clips underneath to attach to your bed.
Roll-up bed covers
The soft roll-up is another inexpensive and popular truck bed cover option. I personally did not want to go this route because the tri-fold seemed more sturdy. Soft roll-ups generally cost less than the other options on this list with several under $200. One advantage of these though is that you can roll it up all the way to your cab and be able to utilize your entire bed. Most covers won’t let you use the last foot or so of your bed nearest the cab because of the way they function.
These function very similar to the soft roll-up covers using a waterproof vinyl material on top with a heavy duty but lightweight aluminum on the bottom for added stability. The added protection and style that the hard roll-up brings comes at a cost though as they are much more expensive than the soft roll-up tonneaus with most being in the $500- $1000 range.
The snap-on covers are probably overall the least expensive on this list. With most you begin by installing a frame along the outside of your bed and simply snap or unsnap the vinyl cover in place. Very simple and functional. Not what I would choose personally when for just another hundred dollars or so you can get a decent soft tri-fold.
The material of retractable bed covers is similar to the hard roll-up ones in that they have a vinyl top with metal, oftentimes aluminum, underneath. You may also find the price between the two types of bed covers is also comparable. The main difference is that the hard roll-up cover actually rolls on top and you can see the rolled up cover. With the retractable bed covers the retracted part of the cover disappears into a compartment in the bed making it look much cleaner.
You will also have to install guide tracks along your bed, I think of it like a roll up garage door for your truck bed. This is a very nice option if it’s in your budget. Some allow you to open your cover and lock it into any position you want which is a nice feature.
Hinged bed covers, or one piece bed covers, are all one piece and are either black or even painted to match the color of your truck. The hinges usually only allow the cover to be raised to about 45 degrees or so but these tonneau covers look really sharp in my opinion. If you can afford the best and don’t really haul oversized things in your truck then this might be a good choice. I have never owned one personally but I know that its not a simple task to remove it, usually a 2 man job, so keep that in mind.
Several different variations of hard covers may have locks. The most common types you will see with locks are one piece hinged bed covers and some retractable models like this one on Amazon.
As you may have guessed, these work with trucks that have toolboxes installed. You can get them in most of the variations above including roll-up, folding, and hinged tonneaus.
Which tonneau is best for you?
If you are still unsure then start with your budget, soft is going to be cheaper than hardcover but the quality of a hard tonneau is going to be superior. If you are wanting to spend under $500 then consider a tri-fold or a soft roll-up. If you have a bigger budget and want something a little nicer then I suggest a hard-folding, one piece hinged, or a nice retractable tonneau.
I’ve had several over the years but most recently went with a soft tri-fold bed cover. It was inexpensive and allows me to put luggage and groceries in the back of my truck without worrying about them going anywhere.