In this article, we are going to be breaking down the most popular styles of bed covers for a truck. We will be talking about the pros and cons of each type and even go through the basic operation of each.
Now, hardcovers, bedcovers, tonneau covers, softcovers, no matter what you guys call them, all of them exist to serve that one common purpose, and that is to protect your valuables in the truck, whether it be wannabe thieves or the elements. It may even be a combination of the two.
When it comes to all-out protection, some tonneau covers are going to be more protective, more functional, and offer more value than others. When you first encounter the tonneau cover category, you’re going to get confused because there are a ton of options out there.
So, we’ve boiled them down to the five most popular ones that are widely used by truck owners. Here are the most popular types of tonneau cover on the market.
- Soft Folding Covers
- Hard Folding Covers
- Soft Roll-Up Covers
- Hard Roll-Up Covers
- Trifold Tonneau Covers
- One-Piece Solid Covers
- Retractable Covers
There are many styles and types of tonneau truck bed covers, but these are the most commonly used ones. However, I’m going to go through the types based on affordability, ease of use and installation, and value.
Different Tonneau Cover Types Explained
I’ll be mostly focusing on the truck bed covers that are mostly used by Ford F150 owners, including a snapping cover, a folding cover, a rolling hardcover, a retractable cover, and yes, even a hinged option.
Snapping Soft Cover
So, with all that said, what do you say we get into our first pick, and that is going to be the most affordable and the most basic – snapping softcover.
Snapping soft covers have a very thick vinyl with aluminum rails and aluminum bows to keep some tension on the top to protect from external weight and weather elements.
Snapping covers are kind of like the OG’s in the tonneau or bed cover world. They have been around forever and continue to be popular today because it’s a quick and easy way to cover the bed and best of all, doesn’t cost you a lot of money to do so.
For example, the BlackMax Snap Tonneau Cover is kind of the Cadillac in the category thanks to the adjustable snaps, and it’s still just only 200 bucks, give or take. So, very affordable given the product.
As for the cons, they are kind of twofold here. If you live in a climate first and foremost that sees big swings in temperature, such as the Northeast, for instance, you know these snapping covers can be a bit tricky. Why?
Well, in the summer, when the sun is beating down on that vinyl, it tends to stretch out a little bit more. They also become a little bit baggy. And in the winter, the opposite can occur.
That vinyl tends to shrink up on you a little bit when things get cold, and that can make getting these snaps an absolute pain.
Who Is It For?
If you’re the type of truck owner who needs frequent access to the entire bed at a moment’s notice, there might be better uses for your time and better covers to consider.
The security issue can be said for all soft tonneau covers. Now, don’t get me wrong. A softcover like this is going to be a great first line of defense against things like bad weather and prying eyes. However, all it takes is one little knife, and you’re going to be losing your precious cargo.
So, if you want to dramatically increase the odds of saving your cargo from a wannabe theft attempt, you might want to consider a hardcover instead. On the other hand, if you’re simply looking to cover the bed, a cheap softcover like this is a great way to go.
Trifold/Hard Folding Cover
Up next, we have what I would argue is probably the most popular style currently in the category, and that is a trifold or hard folding cover design. The best ones are going to land right around that mid $800 price point, so obviously, a healthy increase over our first option.
It’s kind of expected whenever you make the switch from a budget-friendly soft cover to something with a little bit more security. If you want to look at the best one out there, go ahead, check out the Undercover Flex Hard Folding Truck Bed Tonneau Cover.
Now most hardcovers like this are either going to utilize aluminum for the panel. The Undercover Flex uses what’s called FRP or fiberglass reinforced plastic. This cover is strong enough to pass the knife test. So, a nice step up not only in quality but also security as well.
Another big thing I like about this type of cover is that if you look at it from basically eye level, you can hardly tell it’s installed. But as the name implies, this cover is all about that folding operation.
It’s very easy to fold up. Simply release the cable, and at that point, you can simply start folding this guy up and out of the way. You can also keep it folded while you are driving.
Who Is It For?
If you do need full access to the bed at a moment’s notice and also better security.
There is a con here. When you fold it up completely, you won’t be able to see via the rear window of your truck. Personally, I don’t think it’s a huge deal, especially when you factor in the side-view mirrors.
Also, most of these modern trucks have a backup camera anyway, but if it is a big deal to you, you might want to consider our next option instead. However, If I were you, these covers are really hard to beat when it comes to popularity and just overall ease of use.
Rolling Hard Covers
Up next, we have another heavy hitter in the category, and that is the rolling hardcover. For this type of demonstration, I will be going with the BAK Revolver X2, which is one of the best roll up hard tonneau covers on the market.
Yes, again, this is a hardcover, although it might appear a little bit different because technically, it’s going to be more of a hybrid. You are getting a durable aluminum slat underneath as a base with a thick, durable vinyl material on top.
So, yes, it’s still going to pass a knife test, but it will deliver a slightly different. As for the price point of this type of tonneau cover, it is around or maybe even above $900. So, you’re getting up there in the price range, but overall, you’re also getting a very solid product in return.
This type of cover can support up to 400 pounds, which is a lot. You are also getting that very flush look with the bed rail, which is something I really dig once these guys are installed.
As the name implies, this type of truck bed cover is all about the rolling design. When you release the cable, it becomes much like the trifold option, and at that point, you can simply roll it up and out of the way.
This mechanism kind of brings us to our first con with this. Unlike those folding covers where you can kind of leave your bed half covered and maybe half-open, for example, when you have to haul something smaller, you can’t do that with this type of truck cover.
So, just something to keep in mind there. It’s either all the way closed or all the way open. There is really no in-between.
However, with the cover fully open, you will see no impairment out of that rear window.
Who Is This For?
The rolling cover operation really couldn’t be any easier. I would say the rolling covers are probably number two in popularity behind those folding tri covers. It’s another solid way to cover your bed, add a lot of security, and provide a very sleek look.
Up next, we have the relatively new kid on the block in the land of bed covers. One of the best retractable tonneaus covers out there is the RetraxPRO XR Retractable Bed Cover.
This type of truck bed cover is really cool because, as the name implies, it simply retracts into the base located near the c-cab, and they do so in a very easy way. The price point is right around the top two most popular truck bed cover types, which is about 800–900-dollar range.
You are also going to get a ton of security here with this type of truck bed cover. Some of the key points of this type of cover are burly polycarbonate material, textured matte black finish, so obviously, no knife test is needed.
Besides the durable build quality of this cover, you are getting one of the coolest looking bed covers for trucks. This type of cover also maintains that very flush finish with the bed rails, like we’ve been pointing out earlier in this article.
Let’s talk operation here. To open this cover, first open the tailgate, release the latch, and at that point, you simply slide in this guy out of the way. Now, one big thing I do really like about retractable covers is that there are adjustable stops along the way. However, you can also stop at any point.
If you are the type of person that cares a lot about your semi-truck and wants the very best tonneau cover, this type of cover is for you.
For example, you only need access to half of your bed. The other half stays covered. You can easily do that with a retractable tonneau cover. It will stay where you stop it and won’t go anywhere.
However, that wasn’t the case with the Revolver because, as you remember, it was kind of all or nothing. And the trifold cover, well, you have to kind of roll that out of the way enough or get it all the way up against the rear window. However, that’s not the case here with this type of truck bed cover.
Yes, even this retractable cover has its own drawback. There could possibly be only one con with a retractable cover, and that is the fact that the base takes up, I’d say, about a good foot or foot and a half of your bed. It’s not just from the cab back but also into the bed itself.
Who Is This For?
If you’re the type of owner who does haul a lot of big stuff frequently and you can’t sacrifice any real estate in your truck bed, a retractable cover like this might not be the best bet for you.
However, if you’re like most other truck owners out there and can live with little bed space being occupied by a very cool cover, there’s really not a lot to dislike about the retractable.
One-Piece Solid Hardcover For Truck Beds
Last but not least, we got the old standby. This is a timeless design that continues to be popular even with the addition of the more modern, more complicated designs like the ones we just talked about, and that is the one-piece hinged tonneau or bed cover.
Have a look at the Undercover SE Tonneau Cover. It is a one-piece solid cover that goes for about eight to nine hundred bucks. In all honesty, nothing beats a cover like this when it comes to all-out protection both from the elements and from wannabe thieves.
Now, first and foremost, let’s talk about water protection. Well, listen, unlike those rolling covers or those folding covers, there’s no flex spots, there are no channels, there’s no points for failure or water entry.
Instead, it is all one-piece and solid that is covering your bed rails and even the rail gates. You can even tuck it up really nicely to the cab so, you are not going to get any water in your bed with this type of cover properly installed.
Also, you are getting protection from petty thieves. A cover like this is obviously going to pass some knife tests. But again, since there’s no flex spots or weak spots, there’s no points for entry, it’s going to be very hard to defeat this thing even with this thing fully locked up.
Who Is This For?
I really dig it from a protection aspect. Secondly, they also look very cool. A very clean looking cover that is designed to look great, fits the bed well, and protects your cargo is something that is really hard to beat.
It also has a very basic operation, and honestly, it couldn’t get any easier. I know I said that about a lot of our covers in this article, but all you have to do is lift it up, and the included stretch will do the rest for you. What you see is what you get.
It also brings us to our one big con with a one-piece hinge cover like this. Now, sure, you do get full use of your bed underneath the cover itself, but if you need to haul something big like a couch or a table or something like that, it’s going to sit above the bed rails.
And as you can already guess, your space is kind of limited. You could pop the cover off, but when you really need to use the full space of the car bed, or you spot something that you need to have right then and there, well, you are kind of out of luck.
However, if you get into something like this and you kind of know your limitations well, you’re going to enjoy years of security and years of dry use with a one-piece hinge cover like this.
Are Tonneau Covers Worth It?
Yes, in fact, I would recommend it to any truck owners out there. Tonneau covers, aka truck bed covers, oftentimes vary between costs, features, and looks. But one thing most people forget is the security aspect.
As you can see, there are certainly a lot of different tonneau cover types on the market. If you are looking for the best tonneau cover, you will have a tough time finding the best because each type has its own advantages and disadvantages.
In short, you will just have to stick to the type that you think will fit your needs. In the end, it’s your truck, your money, and you know what you can afford. Just make sure not to overspend and get the most expensive ones out there. They are not cheap, but that doesn’t mean you will have to break your bank for them.