How to Choose a Tonneau Cover
There are so many different types of tonneau covers available that choosing the right one can be a daunting task. I recently bought a bed cover for my truck and I think I spent a couple of weeks looking at all of the different options trying to decide which was going to be the best choice. I ended up going with the Tyger Auto T3 Soft Tri-Fold Tonneau Cover on Amazon for my 2012 Ram 1500 and it has been great so far.
I think one of my main worries was that I was going to spend hundreds of dollars on a bed cover for my truck and then it wasn’t going to fit my bed properly. Yes Amazon has a great, no questions asked return policy but it’s still a hassle that I didn’t want to deal with. You probably don’t either.
After I made my purchase, installed it, and used it for a while I realized a helpful buying guide like this one would have been really nice. So in this article I’m going to go over step by step everything you can do and should consider before buying a truck bed cover. I purchased my bed cover from Amazon so parts of this guide are Amazon specific.
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1. Choose hard or soft
This is where I started and I feel that others should as well. It’s really a matter of preference what you choose as they both will accomplish the same overall goal. Some of the high-end hard covers are going to have more features like locks and be more durable. The soft covers will generally be more lightweight and easier to remove if you aren’t going to use yours full time. For the most part though, soft covers are less inexpensive and hard covers and more expensive.
Soft tonneau covers are great if you are on a budget and wanting to spend less than $500. Most recently I got a soft tri-fold cover in this price range and I’m very pleased with it. I actually just drove about 2000 miles with it on and didn’t have one problem out of it. See the link at the top for the exact model.
You have a variety of options in this category and the prices are anywhere from about $200 up to maybe $800 or so, it just depends on the type and brand you go with. Just make sure they will provide the function and look you are going for and don’t settle. This is a long-term investment in your truck and it may be worth a few hundred more to get the one you REALLY want (see hard covers).
Common styles of soft bed covers:
- Tool box
- Lower cost than hard covers
- Lightweight and easy to install yourself
- Still gives your truck that sleek look that bed covers offer, but at a fraction of the price
- The function is still there which is to protect your truck bed and its contents
- Less durable than hard covers
- Some flapping may occur at interstate speeds
- The overall fit will not be as tight as a high end hard cover
Hard tonneau covers are going to be more high end are a great option if you don’t mind spending anywhere from $1000 to $2500 to get the best. I’m already considering a hard retractable bed cover for my next one. Not that there’s anything wrong with the one I have, but some of these hard covers just have an assortment of bonus features that really make them extra nice.
Common styles of hard bed covers:
- Highly durable, some you can stand on
- Some can be painted to match your truck
- An overall better fit
- They just look better to me, you can tell they’re higher quality
- Higher price point compared to soft covers
- May require professional installation or more than one person
- Not as easy to remove, may be a 2 man job depending on the style of tonneau you got
2. Choose your bed cover style
Next you need decide what style of bed cover you’d like to have on your truck. Many of the different types of bed covers will come in both hard and soft material while others will just be one or the other.
Each one has it’s own advantages and disadvantages and the price ranges are all over the board based on some of the factors I’ve already touched on. I mentioned some of the different styles above and wrote another article about the different types of bed covers, but I’ll provide some examples from Amazon in this section.
Hinged bed covers
When it comes to one-piece hinged tonneaus, hard ones are much more common but these can be found if you look around. Here is an example of one if you want to take a look at one. They will likely have a price range similar to soft tri-fold and soft roll-up bed covers.
Folding bed covers
Roll-up bed covers
Retractable bed covers
Snap-on bed covers
Honestly these are not a very popular option. They are probably the cheapest option out there in terms of price and function about like a soft roll-up, but snap into place. Even if you are going for the cheapest possible option I would suggest paying just a little more for a soft roll-up or tri-fold rather than a snap on. The metal snaps can rust and it takes much longer to open and close the cover.
3. Determine your budget
The composition (hard or soft) and type of tonneau cover you want is going to heavily dictate what price range you are going to be in. If you don’t have a budget and are willing to spend whatever it takes to get you the best tonneau cover for your truck and your needs, then this section doesn’t really affect you. The price ranges mentioned in this article are just estimates and are based on what I’ve seen when researching bed covers, prices are always subject to change.
To get a decent low-end soft tonneau you are probably looking at a minimum of $200 – $500. For this amount you can get a nice tri-fold, roll-up, or snap on on Amazon.
$500 to $1000
In this price range your options open up some more to things like retractable bed covers or hard folding bed covers.
In this price range you’ll find the nicest ones available ranging all the way up to $2500 or even $3000. You can find even nicer retractable bed covers with locking mechanisms, remotes and other such features or hinged one piece bed covers that can be matched to your trucks paint.
4. Tell Amazon what type of truck you have to aid your search
Doing this allows Amazon to help you choose a bed cover that will fit your truck. Yes, you can just search “best hard tonneau cover F150” and get some relevant results, but I find this way better.
The steps below show you how to easily add your vehicle to your Amazon account:
1. The first thing you want to do is log in to your Amazon account.
2. Next, under Your Account look for Your Garage and click on it.
3. This will take you to a page where you can add vehicles to your account allowing Amazon to let you know which automotive parts and accessories are compatible with your specific vehicle.
4. Once you have completed this you should see a bar at the top of the page when you are in automotive categories telling you if something fits your vehicle. It will also give you the option to filter out products that do not fit your vehicle. This will make your search much easier.
You don’t have to do this step if you don’t want to but I find having your vehicles in Amazon to be very helpful, especially if you purchase other automotive accessories on Amazon. Every time I get a new car or truck I enter it into Amazon for times just like this, it only takes a couple of minutes.
5. Filter out some more
Now that you know pretty well what you are looking for you can filter out some more of the options. On the sidebar on desktop, or the filter button on the app, you can filter out all of the bed covers that you are sure you do not want. Then go on to filter out anything below 4 stars… well you know how it works. This will narrow your options down even further helping you to choose not only a tonneau cover that will fit your truck but the style that you are looking for as well as any other requirements you have.
6. Start reading comments and specs
I like to scour through Amazon comments, especially when I am buying something that must be size specific to work for my needs whether it be shoes or truck bed covers. Once I had it narrowed down to the bed cover that fit all of my criteria I went straight into the comments and FAQ section and simply typed my make model and year to see the results.
So in my case I typed 2012 Ram 1500 in the search field. If you are lucky you will get some results from people who have installed the bed cover on the same year model as yours giving you some extra piece of mind. That or you may find out that it didn’t quite fit, or tips and tricks to get it to fit more snug.
7. Measure your truck bed
Manually measuring your truck bed is not a bad idea. Personally I did not take measurements when I bought my most recent bed cover but I did some in-depth googling of my exact truck model and made sure that the measurements matched up with the variation I had chosen.
Based on the product specifications, user reviews and FAQ on the product page, and measurements for my bed on my truck manufacturer website, I was pretty confident that I had chosen a bed cover that was sure to fit my truck. It did end up fitting perfectly too.
Tonneau covers are not universal so making sure that you buy the right size is crucial. The prospect of having to repackage and mail back such an oversized package did not sound enticing so I’m glad I was able to avoid the hassle.
8. Make your final selection and order it
Once you’ve done your due diligence by choosing the best type of tonneau cover for your needs, chosen the style and size for your truck, and triple checked that it will in fact fit your exact truck bed, you can go ahead and pull the trigger.