Tonneau Covers: Protection, Aerodynamics, & Character
So you’re in the market for a tonneau cover or pickup bed cover? You’ve come to the right place. Here at Midwest Aftermarket we stock all major brands and styles: from Roll Up Soft Truck Bed Covers to Tri-Fold Hard Pickup Bed Covers. But with so many styles to choose from, how do you pick the right bed cover for your truck? Don’t worry. We’ve got you covered--pun intended!
The Purpose of the Tonneau Cover
What the the primary reasons to purchase a tonneau cover?
What are the most common reasons for installing a truck bed cover?
- Protect cargo from the elements: rain, snow, sun, and sleet
- Hide expensive equipment from the casual passerby
- Store groceries & tools safely within your truck bed while on the go
- Increases aerodynamics, reducing drag & improving fuel economy
Many consumers think the primary reason to get a pickup bed cover is to protect heavy duty tools, expensive equipment, collectible life-size Harry Potter memorabilia, or whatever it is you typically haul around in the back of your own pickup--no judgements here.
And certainly these products do offer protection both from prying eyes (and hands) of potential thieves as well as the elements--rain, snow, even sun damage. You also won’t have to fear anything flying out the back of your pickup when you're cruising down a country road well within the legal speed limit, hittin’ hills like they’re off-road ramps. Good times. Good times.
Additionally, a little known function of pickup bed covers is that they cut down on wind resistance and drag, hence making your truck more aerodynamic. Trying to talk the wife or girlfriend into why you need this super sweet metal retractable tonneau cover or a top-of-the-line full tilt bed lid? Try telling her that your new tonneau cover is going to add .5 to 1.35 miles per gallon to your fuel economy.
In other words, you’ll make back your investment over time, saving a little cash every time you take your pickup for a spin. Couldn’t hurt, right? Tell her your new Ford F150 Bed Cover is going to save you money. That'll do it.
Also, truck bed cover protect your truck bed from damage caused by the sun or extreme weather events like hail. A Tonneau cover is going to increase the resale value of your vehicle. Simply installing the product improves the value, but the added protection will help your truck bed last even longer, whether steel or aluminum.
Selecting the Right Cover
Choosing the right cover for your pickup will depend on how you use your truck. All our tonneau covers offer protection and cut down on drag. So the question is: which is right for you? Consider what the primary reason for your cover is and what level of peace of mind and security you want. Also, how often do you need full access to the entire length of your truck bed? What is the best F150 Bed Cover on the market? Which tonneau cover is most popular among Silverado owners? All tough questions. Let's try to answer them each in turn.
What factors should you consider when buying a tonneau cover?
Which features are most important when selecting a truck bed cover?
- Security: Consider a Hard Cover
- Cost: Check Out the Vinyl Roll Up Covers
- Full Bed Access: Tri-Fold for Hard, Vinyl Roll Up for Soft
- Fuel Economy: All provide added MPGs
- Weather Protection: All also seal your truck bed against rain, sleek, and sun
This list will help you decide where to start your search. If one of these items is more important than all the others, start there.
What’s your biggest factor?
If Looks or aesthetic value is what’s most important, check out the covers you think look cool. If you don’t know, I suggest retractables, tri-folds, and vinyl roll ups. Each has their own visual appeal. Retractables tend to have more of a metallic slotted finish, while tri-folds can be anything from gloss finish to matte black to fiberglass. Vinyls have that sweet leather look. You’ve gotta select which one you think looks the best on your truck.
If Security really is the most important thing for you, go check out the various Harc Covers we stock. Personally, I lean more towards hard retractables for security, but if you don’t like how much of your bed is taken up by the canister near the front of the bed, then a hard tri-folding cover is a great option to consider too.
If cost is the biggest factor, vinyl roll up covers are the most cost effective. They will get the job done concerning sealing your truck bed against the elements. Many truck drivers like the leather like finish as well. However, where vinyls fall in the rankings is security and durability. So if you are very concerned about someone trying to break into your truck bed or are worried about potential hail or dropping hazards that could damage a vinyl cover, you might look elsewhere. But if you store your truck in a garage at home or don’t live in an area that has high crime rates or risk of hail, a vinyl roll up is still a great choice.
Full Bed Access
By full bed access, I mean the ability to roll up, retract, or remove your tonneau cover so you can haul something large that takes up the whole bed, like furniture or heavy equipment. This really depends on how often you need to carry something that won’t fit under your cover. So ask yourself that question. If you often need full bed access, steer clear of truck bed lids for certain.
If you haul large items, but most of the time they don’t run the full length of your bed, most other covers will do just fine. But if these large pieces of cargo often are as long as your bed, you should also avoid retractables because they involve having a canister installed under the cover at the front end of your truck bed. While this canister rarely takes up more space that a foot or so, some customers must have full bed access. If you are that guy, try a tri-fold or roll up cover that allows for quick full truck bed access.
If MPGs are what’s most important, the good news is you can select from any number of tonneau covers and see improvement to your fuel economy. Some critics claim that vinyls give a bit more MPG improvement than heavier covers like truck bed lids, but the difference is likely negligible, especially if you ever carry anything heavy in your truck bed. All tonneau covers will reduce drag and improve your MPGs over time by upwards of .5 to 1.35 MPGs when the truck bed cover is closed.
If protecting your tools and truck bed from the elements is what’s most important, again you have plenty of choices. All of the tonneau covers we sell are sealed and provide great protection against rain and shine. Furthermore, if you are looking to protect your truck bed itself and the pain job, all our tonneaux will do that too.
How to Pick the Right Tonneau Cover for your Pickup Truck
Which Truck Bed Cover is best for my Pickup?
First decide what the primary reason for purchasing your cover is. Which of these is most important:
- Security against Thieves and Damage
- Protection Against Weather Elements
- The Look of the Cover
- The Price of the Tonneau
- The MPG Increase
Once you know the main reason for getting a truck bed cover, then you can consider the specific types.
How many types of truck bed covers are there?
What are the different types of tonneau covers?
While there are a number of truck bed covers on the market, the main categories include:
- Soft Vinyl Roll Up Cover
- Hard Roll Up Cover
- Solid Folding Tonneau Covers (including Tri-Folding and Quad-Folding)
- Retractable Tonneaux
- Truck Bed Lids
Each type of cover has its own benefits and appeals. First you should likely decide whether to go with a soft vinyl cover or one of various hard covers.
Here’s the quick and dirty version, if you don’t feel like reading the whole article:
What are the primary differentiating factors between truck bed covers?
What are the benefits of each type of tonneau?
- Soft RollUp: Affordability, Full Bed Access, & Style
- Hard RollUp: More Secure, Full Bed Access, still Affordable
- Solid Tri-Fold: Even More Secure & Durable, Nearly Full Bed Access, Usability
- Retractables: Very Secure, Easy Usability, Very Durable
- Bed Lids: Very Secure & Durable, NO Full Bed Access, Cargo Size Limited
Cost vs. Security & Durability
While some of these factors vary depending on the manufacturer and the specific tonneau, in general as we move down the list above the tonneau covers get more expensive while also becoming more secure and durable. So you should weigh how much security or durability you need compared to the cost you want to spend.
Full Bed Access
If Full Bed Access is king, then you should definitely avoid Truck Bed Lids, and you should carefully consider Retractables that might cut down your cargo room by a foot or a bit more even, and you should double check which Folding tonneau you are looking at because while many of them do offer Full Bed Access, some do not.
If you need more help deciding that that, consider how the tonneau looks as well as all these other factors. Most types of tonneau covers are very easy to use and install. The big exception is the Truck Bed Lid, which is often very heavy and hard to remove if you ever need to haul something taller than your truck bed rails. So make sure you really just want to cover what you’ll be hauling almost all the time before you invest in a Bed Lid. Removing a Truck Bed Lid solo is also NOT recommended. My knees and back still are complaining to me about trying that years ago. Trust me.
Beyond all this, we will examine the pros and cons of each in more depth below, but if you’re ready to order or browse or if you just have specific questions, hit us up in the Live Chat or via email or just give us a call at our 800 number listed below. Our parts experts will help you get the custom tonneau that’s just right for your pickup truck and for your needs.
Hard or Soft?
Generally, a soft cover will cost a bit less with the tradeoff of less security. Hard covers are harder to break into and more durable but tend to cost a little more. Concerned about someone breaking into your truck bed: hard is probably the way to go. More worried about shelter from the elements: a soft cover may provide more than enough protection.
To Retract or to Roll Up?
While it would be an oversimplification to say a retractable is a hard cover while a roll up is a soft cover, that is typically the case. Both styles are very easy to use, and both soft and hard roll up covers can be rolled up nearly completely so you can haul items too big to store below the cover. While retractable covers do roll up as well, they are stored in a canister that does take up some part of your truck bed, limiting cargo some. If you don’t have a need to often fill your entire bed with large items, this shouldn’t be a problem. But if you do require complete Full Bed Access regularly, then you should carefully consider whether a Retractable is right for you.
Why not try Fold?
A third and highly popular style is the folding cover (sometimes called bi-fold, tri-folding, or even quad-fold for really long beds, as they are often divided into two, three, or even four sections, though tri-folds are the most common). These are a cross between the two in a sense, providing a hard frame covered by vinyl or canvas. Some Tri-folds are hard top for added security and durability, while others are covered in vinyl, so make sure you consider both the look of these tonneau covers as well as the security and durability. Hard covers are almost always more secure and more durable.
Some customers prefer these vinyl topped tri-fold hybrids since they provide some added security while offering ease of access and the flexibility of partial coverage when you need to protect something at the front of the bed from the elements, but need the back end open to haul something larger.
Want to Put a Lid on it?
If you rarely haul anything that won’t lay flat below the top of your truck bed, a bed lid may be perfect for you. Bed Lids are typically all one piece and some models come with hinges that allow the lid to easily be raised at an angle so you can quickly access items stored closer to the cab. Soft bed lids can often be installed/removed by a single person, while hard lids may require a helper but offer superior protection. Some truck bed lids can even be painted to match the color of your vehicle.
Have a Toolbox on your pickup? Check out our Toolbox ready covers! We separate Toolbox editions from the rest, so if you have a toolbox installed at the front end of your truck bed, start browsing here. There are a number of styles still available even if you have a toolbox installed.
Finally, a note on RamBox: most of the covers we sell are designed to fit standard size beds. This means that the average tonneau cover will NOT work if you have a RamBox. There are still a number of tonneau covers out there that are compatible with RamBox, but you need to make sure that you are looking at the correct cover before making a purchase. We would hate for you to order a tonneau for your Dodge Ram only to find out you got the non-RamBox edition when you needed the RamBox one. So double check your purchase before submitting or just give us a call and we’ll help make sure you get exactly what you need the first time.
Looking for an F150 Bed Cover? Want to put a Lid on your Chevy Silverado? We've got all the best pickup bed covers in stock for these makes and models too.
Ready to Order!
Midwest Aftermarket is the best place to buy tonneau covers, specifically a Ford F150 bed cover, a Ram tonneau cover, or a Silverado pickup bed cover for that matter, offering free shipping in the U.S., a 30-day money back guarantee, and a wide variety of styles and top-of-the-line brands. Whether you are looking for a hard or soft cover, a retractable tonneau cover or a solid one-piece bed lid, we’ve got the products you need. Pickup bed covers add character to your truck, provide added security, and cut down on fuel consumption. What are you waiting for?! Order your brand new tonneau cover today!