How to Choose the Best Tonneau Cover

With all of the different options available, choosing a tonneau cover can be a hard decision to make. It is important to remember that tonneau covers are made to fit specific year, make, model, and bed lengths, and they are not a universal fit type product. Knowing the features available on the covers designed to fit your truck is our expertise. We want to help take the confusion out of your tonneau cover decision.

Things to Consider:
Tonneau cover installed on pickup truck


Tonneau covers are offered in a wide variety of types and styles. The right style for you is largely personal preference.

Easy to Use
Easy to Use
Cost Effective
Cost Effective

Roll-Up Covers

A roll-up tonneau cover allows access to the truck bed by rolling up and out of the way in order to leave the truck bed open. Many roll-up covers are held in place by hook and loop fasteners or by snaps, though some covers secure inside a channel along the truck bed side rails. A tonneau cover that rolls up will offer virtually full bed access when it is rolled up.

Roll-up tonneau cover installed on pickup truck
Tonneau cover in rolled up position installed on pickup truck
Hard roll-up tonneau cover in rolled up position installed on pickup truck

Roll-up covers come in hard or soft-type styles. Hard roll-up covers, like the Truxedo Titanium and the BAK Revolver X2, combine the security and strength benefits of a hard cover with the traditional design and ease of use of a roll-up cover. The Titanium and Revolver X2 tonneau covers are made from an aluminum underside with a vinyl top.

Soft roll-up tonneau cover in rolled up position installed on pickup truck

Soft roll-up tonneau covers have a more traditional look and will typically come in at a more budget friendly price than hard tonneau covers. These are great covers for keeping your cargo out of sight and away from the elements, but they don't offer as much security as a hard cover.

Fold-Up Covers

Fold-up tonneau covers are designed to access the truck bed one section at a time. A benefit of folding covers is that the bed can be uncovered in increments depending on how much you need available at a given time. When fully folded up and stored, the entire truck bed is accessible and the panels will cover the rear window. Fold up covers are typically easier to operate. When rolling up a soft, roll-up cover, it can be difficult to roll the cover up without getting in the truck bed or having one person on each side of the truck. A fold-up cover is easier for one person to operate because of its structure, and it can be folded and unfolded from outside of the truck bed.

Fold-up tonneau cover installed on pickup truck
Tonneau cover in folded up position installed on pickup truck
Soft, fold-up tonneau cover in folded up position installed on pickup truck

Folding tonneau covers are available in both soft and hard-style covers. These covers are made from a wide variety of materials. Soft folding covers are commonly made of vinyl, but Extang does offer a cover, the Trifecta Signature, that is made of canvas for more rugged durability.

Hard fold-up tonneau cover in folded up position installed on pickup truck

Hard, folding tonneau covers are made from a couple of different types of material. Some covers have all aluminum panels, while others will use aluminum for the underside of the panel and a fiberglass-reinforced plastic or polymer for the top side of the cover. While the aluminum is stronger and more durable, the fiberglass polymer will stay cooler to the touch than the aluminum. Extang's Solid Fold 2.0 cover has panels made of automotive-grade polypropylene. BAK's BAKFlip VP tonneau cover is made with aluminum panels that have a vinyl cover. These different materials all offer different looks for the tonneau cover.

Retractable Covers

Retractable tonneau covers will allow access to the truck bed by rolling up from the tailgate into a container at the front of the truck bed. These covers don't add to the height of the truck bed even when retracted since the storage canister sits below the bed rails. Some of the retractable covers are even motorized to be able to retract them with just the push of a button. These covers allow you to customize the amount of truck bed that is uncovered because of how they slide along the bed side rails.

Retrax makes their covers from either aluminum or Lexan polycarbonate, while BAK's retractable cover is made from aluminum. For Retrax, the polycarbonate construction allows them to offer their covers at a slightly lower price point.

Retrax also offers their retractable covers in either a manually retractable style or a powered retractable tonneau cover. The powered cover will connect directly to your vehicle's battery and it features an electromagnetic brake that allows the cover to be locked at any position.

Retractable tonneau cover installed on pickup truck

Hatch-Style Covers

Hatch-style tonneau covers are a more traditional design that comes to mind when many people think of a tonneau cover. These covers lift up from the tailgate in a single piece to allow access to the truck bed. To have access to the full truck bed, such as when moving large cargo, the cover would need to be removed from the truck bed.

These hatch-style covers from Craftec and Extang are made of standard vinyl with an aluminum frame. This makes the cover lightweight and easy to open and close, while still protecting your cargo.

Hatch-style tonneau cover installed on pickup truck
Hatch-style tonneau cover in open position installed on pickup truck


Tonneau covers typically install on a rail system that is clamped to the inside edge of the truck bed side rails. The rails are normally clamped to the bed rails with no drilling required, and are a somewhat permanent installation.

Pickup truck tonneau cover installation procedure
Pickup truck tonneau cover installation procedure

Some covers don't use rails and attach directly to the bed side rails, making installation and removal of the cover easier.

Pickup truck tonneau cover installation procedure

Another difference among tonneau covers is how far above the truck bed the top of the cover sits. Some covers sit flush with the bed rails, while others can reach an inch or so above the bed rails.

Pickup truck tonneau cover installation procedure

If you use your truck bed's stake pockets often to help secure cargo, you'll also want to consider if the tonneau cover's rails will cover the stake pockets. This is more common in retractable covers.


Some tonneau cover manufactures are driven by offering the most budget friendly covers, while others shoot for using the highest quality materials. Our installers agree that when it comes to how well the covers fit, quality definitely fits better than the economic covers. We've ranked our tonneau cover manufactures from those shooting for the lowest prices to those who offer the highest quality products.


Access offers a number of options for soft, roll-up covers. With Access, we begin to see an increase in quality, features, and price. The covers from Access are designed for a more permanent-type installation, since they do include a frame and rails that need to be installed on the truck bed's sides. Covers come in either polyester or vinyl, come with either a standard profile or a low profile, and will mount inside your truck bed's side rails rather than on top of the rails.


Getting to the tonneau covers from BAK brings us to higher quality covers. BAK makes hard tonneau covers that fold-up, roll-up, or retract from materials like aluminum, aluminum and fiberglass, and aluminum and vinyl. These covers fall into a higher price budget because of the strong and durable construction and high quality of the covers.


Bestop offers their vinyl, soft, folding tonneau covers at a good entry-level price. They have also designed their covers to install without any additional rails being installed on the truck. A more unique product offered by Bestop is their soft shell camper top. This is a polyester cover that functions similarly to a cross between a vehicle soft top and a traditional camper shell. The windows will zip out and the top of the shell can be folded down to carry taller cargo.


Craftec offers hatch-style, soft tonneau covers made from standard vinyl. These covers are another entry-level, budget-friendly solution to cover the cargo in your truck bed. The hatch-style cover means that the cover must be removed in order to have full access to your truck bed. These covers do not require additional full-length side rails to be installed.


Extang works to bring a variety of tonneau covers in order to fit every style and budget. With both soft and hard-type covers, Extang offers roll-up, fold-up, and hatch-style tonneau covers. Their covers come in a selection of different constructions, such as fiberglass-reinforced plastic, polypropylene, premium canvas, or standard vinyl. Quality tonneau covers for every price range are available from Extang.


Lomax specializes in hard, folding, aluminum tonneau covers that are lightweight, strong, and easy to install. The covers clamp to the existing bed rails, so there are no additional rails that need to be installed and no need to drill into your truck bed. The tri-fold design allows you to open 2/3 of your truck bed when you have a need to carry something that won't fit under the tonneau cover. For full access to the truck bed, the cover must be removed. Lomax tonneau covers fall in the middle of the price spectrum and offer an easy-to-use, quality cover.

Pace Edwards

Pace Edwards makes high-quality tonneau covers designed for ease of use, security, and functionality. These high-end tonneau covers are all hard, retractable covers that don't require drilling for installation, are made from rigid aluminum panels, and offer full bed access when the cover is retracted. Pace Edwards offers a cover with integrated t-slots for a rail expansion system, making sure you can carry all of your gear when you need it most. Some covers are offered in powered models, meaning you can have an open truck bed with just the push of a button.


Retrax makes top of the line tonneau covers. They offer hard, retractable covers made from either aluminum or polycarbonate that are some of the strongest on the market. The tonneau covers come in manual or powered retracting options that can be stopped anywhere along the track to offer as much or as little bed access as needed. When not covering the truck bed, the tonneau cover will store in a canister at the front of the bed, under the cover. Retrax also features a lock built into the cover to provided added security to your cargo.

Tonno Pro

Tonno Pro is a great entry level brand tonneau cover. They offer their tonneau covers at a budget-friendly price, and the covers work well to keep your truck bed cargo away from prying eyes. Soft covers available in folding or rolling designs are available from Tonno Pro. These covers are made from tear-resistant, double-sided vinyl. Tonno Pro also offers a hard, folding cover made from an aluminum frame and aluminum panels with a vinyl cover. These covers install directly to the truck bed sides without any additional side rails.


Truxedo offers a variety of tonneau covers to fit a variety of needs. They offer styles such as hard, roll-up covers and roll-up or fold-up soft tonneau covers. Some covers are the traditional style, with a soft, vinyl, roll-up cover that secures with hook and loop fasteners. Other covers work to expand a tried and true design by offering new features, such as being able to fold a section of the cover back from the cab, or creating a hard tonneau cover that will roll up. Truxedo offers a cover for every budget.

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Written by: Victoria B
Updated on: 5/17/2018

Questions and Comments about this Article

Michel G.

I just bought a 2020 GMC Sierra 3500HD Denali DRW (8 ft box). I was thinking of buying a BAK Revolver x4 rollup tonneau cover. But will the rolled up cover interfere with the turning radius of my Grand Design Solitude Fifth Wheel with a B&W Companion hitch? 86049

Reply from Chris R.

The BAK Revolver X4 # BAK74FR is a fantastic choice for your Sierra 3500. The rolled up Revolver adds about 8" of height from the bed rails, but with an 8 foot bed I honestly don't see any potential clearance issues when making tighter turns. The type of cover is actually ideal for towing, because it won't block the back cab window when rolled up like a traditional hard fold-up cover would. 68062



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