10 Questions To Ask When Buying A Tonneau Cover
Roll Up Tonneau Cover
One of the more popular pickup truck accessory upgrades or enhancements is a tonneau cover (also commonly referred to as a truck bed cover.) Whether you are using your truck for work or leisure, a truck is not as functional or complete unless it has a tonneau. However, a tonneau cover can be an expensive purchase and there are some important questions you should ask yourself when you are considering buying a tonneau.
Questions to Ask When Buying a Tonneau Cover
- What is your main purpose of adding a tonneau to your pickup truck? Are you looking for function, security, looks, versatility or easy removal?
- Hard or Soft, that is the question? Hard tonneau covers traditionally cost more and offer more security. Soft tonneau covers generally are less expensive but are more versatile.
- How often do you need access to your truck bed and to what extent? Do you need quick access to the entire truck bed on a daily basis or just occasional access? Both hard and soft tonneau’s are available in folding, retracting and hinging designs. Most offer easy tailgate access and select hard tonneau covers also lock the tailgate when the cover is locked. A hard retracting or soft roll-up cover can quickly be opened for virtually full truck bed access, without needing to remove the cover. Soft and hard hinging tonneau covers can be lifted open but require some extra effort if you need to fully remove them. Soft folding tonneau covers can easily be totally removed or folded forward for bed access. Whereas hard folding tonneau covers can be folded forward for bed access but are more difficult to fully remove.
- What’s your budget for a tonneau cover? Soft covers generally cost $150 to $550 where as hard covers start at about $500 and go up to over $2,000.
- Who is installing the tonneau cover? Most soft tonneau covers can be installed in 30 minutes to 1 hour by someone with limited mechanical skills. Hard tonneau’s generally can be installed in 30 minutes to 2 hours by someone with limited mechanical skills. However, most covers work best only if they are properly installed. If you don’t line up a rail correctly on a roll-up tonneau if may be more difficult to close. If you missed the correct seal placement on a hard tonneau it may not be as water tight. Soft tonneau covers tend to be more forgiving on the installation than a hard tonneau.
- Do you want to have the tonneau on your truck all the time or just occasionally? Most tonneau covers are a clamp on style installation. This generally requires a hand tool or two. However, soft tri-fold tonneau covers install with hand clamps which allows this style of tonneau to be installed or completely removed in seconds.
- How tall is your truck? If you have a lifted pickup, a roll-up, snap, folding or hinging cover will be harder to use since your truck is so tall. A hard tonneau, which is heavier, compounds the situation more. If your truck is lifted you may need to get onto the tailgate to operate the cover.
- The Bed Liner dilemma. Do you have this issue? There are 2 basic designs of bed liners; under the rail and over the rail. A pickup truck equipped with a under the rail bed liner will not have any issues installing a tonneau cover. A pickup truck with an over the rail bed liner, (this bed liner is wrapped over the bed rails of the truck bed on each side and protect the top of the truck bed), can be very difficult to install. Especially if it’s an inside the bed mounted tonneau, it squeezes the width of the tonneau. If you have an over the rail bedliner, than most over the rail mounted tonneau covers will work, but the installation will be trickier. If you have an over the rail bed liner, its best to check with the tonneau cover you want to buy to make sure it will can be installed with an over the rail bedliner.
- Are you planning to use the top of the bed rails? Will factory or aftermarket bed rail caps limit your choices? Some tonneau covers are mounted inside the bed and some are mounted on the top of the bed rail. Most roll-up covers mount on the inside of the truck bed and this allows you have access to the top of truck bed rail to add tie downs or bed rails (provide your truck has stake pockets). Other tonneau covers mount to the top of the truck bed rails and cover your stake covers if you have them. As for bed caps, all tonneau covers will work with factory bed caps and most aftermarket bed caps. For aftermarket bed caps, if they are smooth stainless steel or molded abs you won’t have too many issues. However, diamond plate bed caps can make it harder to install any style of tonneau whether it’s an over or inside the rail mount. As this kind of bed cap is generally thicker and effects the tonneau seals and tonneau cover fit. If you have bed rails, bed caps or tie downs installed in your truck bed its best to check to make sure the tonneau you are looking to buy with work for you.
- Tonneau cover maintenance. How much are you willing to do? Every tonneau cover generally has maintenance instructions. However, the more mechanical the tonneau, the more maintenance is required to extend the life of the tonneau cover. Soft tonneau covers should have the vinyl cover cleaned. Each soft tonneau manufacturer suggests various cleaning products and time period. Hard tonneau covers, depending on the style, generally have cleaning instructions for the top of the cover. Retracting tonneau covers have cleaning instructions for the rails and canister.
Author: Scott Bintz
Scott Bintz is the CEO of RealTruck.Com Car and Truck Accessories. He has had a tonneau cover of one kind or another on his truck since 1993.
More Information about tonneau covers can be found in the Research Guide for tonneau covers.