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How to choose the right retractable tonneau covers (2020 edition)

Truck beds are incredibly versatile when it comes to hauling a plethora of different things. From bikes to dirt to furniture, it's hard to beat the carrying capacity modern day pickups offer. Unfortunately, the simple truck bed design isn't secure enough to haul loose items unattended. This is where a basic truck bed cover comes in handy for keeping things secure and giving you better peace of mind. You can look at some cheap tri fold tonneau covers, but while some heavy-duty truck covers are difficult to install or use, a basic retractable truck bed cover is one of the best ways to secure your bed without much hassle in setup or operation. Read on for our handy guide on some of the best roll-up covers today.


Why Buy a Retractable Tonneau Cover


  • Secure the truck bed. Since a truck bed lacks any lid, there is little preventing anyone from coming up and stealing something from the bed. A good roll-up cover, however, provides a basic barrier to hamper would-be thieves from taking what they want, even though the ultimate level of efficiency depends on the design and construction of the cover. Even a basic barrier is better than nothing.
  • Improve fuel efficiency. One thing most pickup trucks aren't known for is great fuel efficiency. While some are better than others, it is commonly accepted that you shouldn't expect too much from the fuel savings. A pickup truck cover can improve fuel efficiency to a small degree by making the bed more aerodynamic. This allows air to pass over the bed instead of into it, which normally creates more air resistance at highway speeds, making the engine work harder.
  • Stylize your truck. An often forgotten benefit of truck covers is the aesthetic appeal they can create. Although composite covers tend to be the most stylish in terms of customized looks and colors, a basic roll-up can add some unique visual flair to the mix. In fact, many hardcovers are perfect for adding some functionality without detracting from the overall looks. Many are designed with low-profile dimensions so they almost blend right into the truck bed itself.


Types of Roll-Up Tonneau Covers



The most basic type of truck cover is the soft cover. Typically made of some kind of vinyl fabric, soft covers tend to be budget-friendly and durable when it comes to the elements. Exterior fabrics, in particular, can be UV-resistant, waterproof, and do a decent job at keeping water and dirt out of the truck bed. On the negative side, most soft covers don't offer much theft protection since they are easier to cut into with a small knife.


For the ultimate level of protection, nothing beats a hard barrier. Made of either plastic or lightweight metals like aluminum, hard retractable covers strike a good balance between the convenience of soft fabrics and the protective nature of hard bed covers. With the advantages and security, they offer also comes some difficulty in installation. Hard rolling covers take up more room when they are retracted, meaning there will be less bed length available when everything is installed. Many designs also have support rails that attach to be the bed rails that require proper alignment so everything rolls up smoothly.


Top Brands of Roll-Up Tonneau Covers



Truck Covers USA is dedicated to building superior truck covers here in America using tomorrow’s technology and innovation while competing at today’s prices. They insist on a highly trained staff, cutting edge design, state of the art materials and undivided attention to the smallest details. Their success is measured by customer satisfaction, and they are driven by consumer feedback and passion for excellence.


If there is something that needs to be covered and protected, chances are Gator has something in its product lineup for it. Gator Covers are well-known in the automotive industry as a producer of high-quality tonneau covers that span the range of soft and hard designs. The ETX Soft Cover is a perfect example of the extra perks Gator often includes in its covers.


Lund International is a company that caters to larger vehicles like trucks, SUVs, CUVs, vans, and more. Founded in 1965, the company has a number of different brand names, like Rampage Products and Roll-N-Lock, that represent the vast range of products it makes. Check out the Genesis Elite for a great tonneau cover option.


Pace Edwards, owned by Leer, made its mark on tonneau covers nearly 30 years ago by developing a retractable bed cover that offered more protection than most soft designs. Since then, the company has expanded into several different hardcover designs, including several popular roll-ups and tri-fold options. One popular product offered by the company is the Switchblade Tonneau Cover.


Roll-Up Tonneau Cover Pricing


  • $300 and under: In the budget range of soft roll-up tonneau covers, you will find a good selection of budget-friendly options that offer the most basic level of theft and weather protection. Most of these options are soft tonneaus with basic fabric materials. Don't expect too much in terms of durability and longevity with these. With that said, most do a great job of keeping the elements out of the truck bed.
  • $300-$1000: In the midrange, there is a good mix of soft and hard roll-up covers to consider. The soft covers tend to be higher in quality and can come with extra security features like locks. The hardcovers, on the other hand, are on the low end of this range, so they are less likely to come with handy features that enhance the convenience and security truck covers can offer.
  • $1000 and above: At the upper end of the truck cover spectrum are the high-quality, hard roll-up covers. Beyond this mark, you will find a number of advanced designs that come with unique features like spring-loaded retracting mechanisms, electronic/remote controlled motors, tie downs, and more. If you want the most in terms of protection and security, this is definitely the range to consider.


Key Features



In order to really protect the truck bed, a truck cover needs to have a durable exterior surface that can resistant damage from the elements and attempts of theft. The choice of material is particularly important in this regard. Some basic materials only offer a small level of weather protection and may not last as long as more expensive, higher-quality options. Soft materials like vinyl fabric do a good job with basic weatherproofing, but if you want the best in terms of thief protection, hard material is a way to go.


The unique thing about roll-up truck covers is their rolling design. Unlike panel and single-body covers, the rolling design takes up less space and, sometimes, is more convenient to use if you have to open or close the cover quickly. The ultimate design of the rolling cover, however, will determine how easy it is to use and how much space the cover takes up in the bed. Basic soft covers roll up tightly, while hardcovers require more space in the bed for dedicated housing for the metal panels.


Different truck cover manufacturers have different ways of securing the cover when it's closed. At the most basic level, a cover will just clamp or Velcro down onto the edge of the bed. This design is convenient, but it doesn't offer much in terms of theft protection. Other covers have simple locks you can open with a key or are designed in a way where they can't be opened when the tailgate is up and locked. In most cases, these are the better choice for extra peace of mind for when your truck is unattended.


Other Considerations


  • Bed Size: More than anything else, for a truck cover to be effective, it has to fit the bed itself. If it doesn't have a perfect fit over the edges of the bed and tailgate, uninvited weather and people may be able to get in unexpectedly. This is why it's important to know the exact dimensions (width and length) of your bed so you can find the right model for that perfect fit. Thankfully, many manufacturers also make different versions of the same product for different makes and models of trucks.
  • Installation: Most roll-up truck covers are easy to use once everything is set up. Getting it mounted, however, can be a different story. Some covers, like most soft models, only take a few minutes to install using basic clamps and fasteners. Hard models, on the other hand, can be more challenging since there are extra pieces to mount, align, and secure.