Types of Truck Bed Covers (How to choose the right one!)

Truck bed covers come in many shapes and sizes. Well not really, there are 10 options when you want to add a truck bed cover.

You may choose to go with a truck cap, simple and light with a soft cover, or durable with a one-piece.

But what are the different types of truck bed covers?

  1. Soft Rolling
  2. Soft Folding
  3. Soft Truck Caps
  4. Seal & Peal Covers
  5. Snap softcover
  6. Hard folding
  7. Hard Rolling
  8. Retractable
  9. Truck Caps
  10. One-piece

It can be confusing so I break down the different types of truck bed and tonneau covers you can get for your truck, some easier than others.

We will help you choose the right one by sharing the pros and cons of each type so you can make the most informed decision.

types of truck bed covers

Things to consider before buying a truck bed cover

There are many factors that you need to consider when choosing the right cover for your truck bed. Depending on your needs there are different types of covers that will suit you. Here are some of the important things you need to take into account when you buy a truck bed cover or tonneau cover.

Installation and Attachments

Most truck bed covers are fairly easy to install, but there are some that are more intense than others.

For example, some truck beds require bolting to install. These usually come with the appropriate accessories to attach the truck bed, but not the necessary tools.

Because this is less desirable nowadays, there are more covers coming out with no drilling installation.

Some also are compatible with the truck bed track systems. The way in which the bed cover closes is also a consideration. Some use velcro, some use snap buttons, some use rails, and others just use a tight fit.

Bed access

The different types of truck bed covers provide various amounts of access to the truck bed. If you plan to use your bed frequently, you’ll want to consider a 100% access cover, as some don’t open completely.

Bed protection

Depending on your needs and weather conditions, you may need a heavy-duty cover, or you may just need something to keep the leaves out.

Though truck bed covers will protect the bed of the truck to some degree, there are some that are stronger than others. Of course, truck bed covers by themselves cannot protect the actual bed of the truck from cargo damage, they can protect from external forces.

Security

Most bed covers provide some level of security, but many soft covers do not have added protection.

You need to consider whether or not you plan to use this bed cover to protect and secure items. Hard covers seem to be the most reliable in this category.

Of course there are many lockable toolboxes that can be secured in the bed as a second option and there are some covers that will be able to accommodate these.

Price

From my research, there are some bed covers as low as $150 and some as high as $1,500 and more. If you go with fancier covers and high-end covers, you can look to spend upwards of $5,000.

Durability and material

Similar to protection, you will need to keep in my the durability of the material. Some materials will do more protection and last longer than others. The cheaper ones will tend to rip or dent easier than the harder materials.

The most common materials are vinyl, aluminum, and polycarbonate covers.

Size and compatibility

Due to the slightly different measurements of truck beds, you will need to make sure your cover fits your bed perfectly. There is no one size fits all. There is one size fits many, and oftentimes manufacturers make multiple covers to fit many models and years for a specific truck.

Functionality

Will you frequently add large cargo to your truck? Will you add a rack on top? Will you have a toolbox underneath?

All of these factors will determine the type of cover you will want. Any cargo that you plan to add which is higher than the bed height will require a cap or simple cargo nets/bags. But if you don’t require your cargo to be protected by the cap, you can get some kind of retractable, rolling, or folding cover to access the truck bed.

There are some covers that can hold significant weight on them as well. Like thousands of pounds!

Warranty

Because trucks go through a lot, any cover will also be tested by external forces. Many of these covers, especially the more expensive ones come with some type of warranty.

If you plan to keep your truck for an extended period of time, we recommend you buy a cover with excellent warranty programs to ensure your cover lasts as long as possible.

Tonneau cover vs truck bed covers

A tonneau cover is a type of truck bed cover, but not all truck bed covers are tonneau covers.

“Tonneau” comes from the French language translating to the term cask or barrel (Offroadxtreme.com).

In my opinion tonneau covers refer to the type of covers that are flat in the back of a truck and a truck bed cover is anything that can cover the bed of the truck, no matter the shape or material.

styleside truck bed ford

Tonneau Cover Features

For the flat style tonneau covers, there are three main features to assist in your decision.

Hard vs Soft

This is probably one of the toughest decisions to make. This choice has a significant impact on other features offered.

Soft covers are typically much cheaper than hard covers, and the ways in which they open are more versatile without significant cost additions.

Hard covers have more protection and durability of higher security. Many hard covers lock when the tailgate is closed.

Folding vs Rolling

Believe it or not both hard and soft covers come in either folding or rolling options. The rolling hard covers are built with small aluminum slats that can roll-up.

The folding option in hard cover are much cheaper than the rolling hard covers, but the rolling covers are cheaper for soft covers.

There is a third option here which is non-folding. These are only available with the hard covers and hinge at the back of the cab/the front of the bed.

Manual vs Electronic

The last main feature on truck bed covers is the way in which they open. There are some motorized or remote-operated truck bed covers.

Not all types of covers are compatible with automatic and manual options, but there are some options that are solely available in one.

Why you need a truck bed cover

I truly believe that most truck owners for regular use should have a truck bed cover. Those with some type of business or operation which requires frequent, large cargo transportation.

The main benefits of a cover are:

  • improved aerodynamics
  • improved fuel efficiency
  • bed protection
  • cargo protection
  • weather protection
  • cargo security

Types of Truck Bed Covers

Soft Rolling

Soft rolling beds are typically the most basic type of cover. They are the cheapest, least intrusive, and easiest to handle.

Sometimes these types of covers come with support bars, but sometimes they don’t so I wouldn’t rely on them to have much support for weight.

Gator ETX Soft Roll up Truck bed tonneau cover dodge ram 1500
Gator ETX Soft Roll up Truck bed tonneau cover dodge ram 1500

Soft Folding

Soft folding beds are a step up from rolling beds because they have a better structure. Since they are folding, there are support bars at each of the folds.

Tyger Auto T3 Soft Tri-Fold Truck Bed Tonneau Cover folding mechanism

Soft Truck Caps

There are not many soft truck caps on the market from my research. I think these are great options for people looking for a truck cap but don’t quite need a full truck cap. They are lighter covers to the truck bed that add more cargo space than regular tonneau covers.

There is only one brand on Amazon that sells this type of cover, but it has multiple model options.

ProsCons
Extended cargo spaceLess durable
Increased fuel efficiencyNot high weight-bearing
Visibility to bedLess security/easier to break-in
Cheaper than truck capsLimited cargo space when installed
Lighter alternative to hard truck caps
Bestop Black Diamond Supertop Truck Bed Cover

bestop black diamond supertop truck bed cover

Amazon Affiliate Link

Available for:

  • Ram 1500/2500/3500
  • Chevy Silverado
  • GMC Sierra
  • Ford F150/F250/F350
  • Toyota Tacoma
  • Nissan Titan

Seal & Peel Soft Cover

This type of cover is a form of soft roll-up cover with a specialized locking mechanism for a better, more water and weather-resistant seal.

Some soft covers have velcro, but the seal and peel covers have additional seal components.

ProsCons
CheapPoor durability
Roll UpNot high weight-bearing
Increased fuel efficiencyLess security/easier to break-in
Improved sealLimited cargo space when installed
Structure bars
lund 99015 Genesis Seal & Peel Truck Bed Tonneau Cover for Ford Ranger seal mechanism-min
lund 99015 Genesis Seal & Peel Truck Bed Tonneau Cover for Ford Ranger bars
lund 99015 Genesis Seal & Peel Truck Bed Tonneau Cover for Ford Ranger

lundgenesis seal $ peel truck bed tonneau cover for ford ranger

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Snap Soft Cover

This is another type of soft cover, but is a cheaper option due to the decreased seal that is made by the snapping buttons.

This is essentially a tarp cover for the back of a truck bed with a snap button securing. They are not very secure since most don’t come with any kind of locking mechanism.

ProsCons
CheapPoor durability
Roll UpNot high weight-bearing
Increased fuel efficiencyLess security/easier to break-in
Structure barsLimited cargo space when installed
Creates gaps in cover

Hard Folding

The most common form of hard tonneau cover is the hard folding cover. These are the cheapest of the hard covers.

They typically come in trifold versions.

They are better than soft covers because they can be locked, provide greater protection, and have better durability.

ProsCons
Typically lockableExpensive
Durable (often aluminum)May of may not have full bed access
Weight-bearingLimited cargo space when installed
Increased fuel efficiency

Two of the most popular hard folding tonneau covers are the BAKFlip G2 and MX4. Read here if you are interested in learning about them! BAKFlip G2 vs MX4 (Full Comparison)

UnderCover Flex Hard Folding Truck Bed Tonneau Cover F150 bed access
UnderCover Flex Hard Folding Truck Bed Tonneau Cover F150-min

undercover flex hard folding truck bed tonneau cover

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Hard Rolling

Hard rolling covers are a mix between soft and hard covers. They are not quite solid.

Rather than having larger, hard sections, it has multiple hard, skinny slats that can roll up.

It is sort of the best of both worlds to have the convenience of a roll-up, but the sturdiness of a regular hard cover.

ProsCons
Typically lockableExpensive
More durableFormed with multiple hard slats in sequence
Usually have full bed accessLimited cargo space when installed
BAK Revolver X4 Hard Rolling Truck Bed Tonneau Cover

baK REVOLVER X4 HARD ROLLING TRUCK BED TONNEAU COVER

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Retractable

Retractable truck bed covers to me seem very fancy. They are usually either remote-operated and/or electronic.

What makes this type of bed cover unique is that when rolled up, you cannot see the roll. The roll system is secured under the truck bed itself creating a more sleek and clean look.

ProsCons
Typically lockableMost expensive flat cover
More durableFormed with multiple hard slats in sequence
Usually have full bed accessLimited cargo space when installed
Electronically powered
Rolled up bed is hidden
Gator Recoil Retractable Truck Bed Tonneau Cover

gator recoil retractable truck bed tonneau cover

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Truck Caps

Truck caps to some are not considered truck bed covers, but they do exactly that. They essentially turn a truck into a large SUV. Rather than adding more seating space, it adds covered cargo space.

Truck caps are quite heavy and reduce the amount of additional weight that can be added and are not great if you plan to tow. These are great, however, for those interested in sleeping in a truck bed or using the truck bed as normal trunk space (such as more personal items that need protection while driving).

They are the most durable form of cover you can get.

ProsCons
LockableMost expensive option
Very durableRemove pickup truck look
Full bed accessHeavy
Most protectionNot easily removable
Non-restricted bed space
Can match truck paint color

The most well-known brand for truck bed covers are the LEER covers.

toyota tacoma with truck cap in snow

One-piece lid/Hinged

The next best thing to truck caps are the one-piece covers. These are very durable and sturdy. The open on a single hinge and with proper paint can match the factory color of the truck.

ProsCons
LockableLimited truck bed space when installed
Very durableSingle hinge that may open higher than truck height
Full bed accessLarge
Most protectionNot easily removable
Non-restricted bed space
Can match truck paint color
UnderCover Elite LX One-Piece Truck Bed Tonneau Cover UC4118L-040 tundra open
UnderCover Elite LX One-Piece Truck Bed Tonneau Cover UC4118L-040

undercover elite one-piece truck bed tonneau cover

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Alternatives to truck bed covers

If after all these options, you still don’t ‘think there is a bed cover that fits your needs, there are two options to help protect and secure your cargo and truck bed.

Bed Tarp Cover

A very cheap and easy option to create a waterproof cover for your truck bed is to use a tarp cover. Thes come with bungee cords to secure the tarp cover.

The benefit of using this type of bed cover is that it is adjustable and can work for multiple models if the sizes are comparable.

Truck Bed Tarp Cover with Bungee Cords for Standard Bed Oxford Waterproof Fabric for f150

truck bed tarp cover with bungee cords

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Cargo Bag

Cargo bags are great ways that mostly protect your cargo in the back of the truck. Though they cover the floor of the truck bed, they are not designed to do any protection in that area.

They are convenient because they can be packed before being put into the truck bed and will keep the cargo secure and clean.

alltoauto heavy duty truck bed cargo bag

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FAQ

Can I install a toolbox with a tonneau cover?

Yes you can. There are two options to install a toolbox with a tonneau cover. The first is this specifically designed truck bed cover that is compatible with some toolboxes. Unfortunately, these are widely accessible.

extang Solid Fold 2.0 Toolbox Hard Folding Truck Bed Tonneau Cover 84450-min

extang solid fold 2.0 toolbox hard folding truck bed tonneau cover

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20 inch toolbox and 6′ 6″ bed

If you haven’t yet installed a toolbox into your truck, you can get a toolbox that is designed to fit under a tonneau cover. (See TruXedo below).

The other kind of toolbox that can fit under a tonneau cover is a cover that fits over the wheel well (See UnderCover SwingCase below).

TruXedo TL TonneauMate 1117416 Toolbox

truxedo tl tonneaumate toolbox

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UnderCover SwingCase Truck Bed Storage Box SC300D Dodge Ram

undercover swingcase storage box

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Best type of truck bed cover for snow

The best type of truck bed cover for snow is the one-piece. This type of cover can support a bit of weight, will be easiest to clean, and will be the most water-resistant.

Best type of truck bed cover for camping

Truck caps are the best covers for camping because they maximize the amount of space available to pack for camping. This also creates a safe space to actually sleep in a truck bed if preferred.

If you are towing a camper, however, you need to keep in mind that the weight of the cap will reduce the towing capacity of your truck.

Read How to Calculate Towing Capacity

Best type of truck bed cover for security

Hard cover tonneau covers of all kinds are best for security because they are harder to break and allow you to lock them with the locking of the truck bed tailgate.

Can you put a rack on a tonneau cover?

Depending on the mechanism, yes racks can be placed above tonneau covers.

Here’s an example. Since the racks sit on the outer edge of the cover, they do not interfere.

retraxpro xr retractable truck bed tonneau cover with rack

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Find the right truck bed cover for you

To make your search extra easy, Amazon allows a compatibility confirmed fit for your truck. If you follow the link below, you should see the option to filter the results by your vehicle.

https://amzn.to/3KV0vai

truck bed covers amazon search model filter

Hopefully, you learned everything you can about truck bed and tonneau covers and can now pick the best one to fit your needs!

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