Tonneau covers offer safety, style, and improved aerodynamics to every truck, and come in a variety of styles to help you make your truck work better for you. The three main styles of tonneau covers are soft tonneau covers, hard tonneau covers, and retractable tonneau covers.
Soft tonneau covers typically consist of a framework and a top covering or tarp. Made from leather or vinyl, the tarp portion of the soft tonneau cover pulled over an aluminum framework. The aluminum framework of the tonneau is fixed to the bedside and tailgate and the tarp fastens down with snaps or slide rails. Some soft tonneau covers are relatively flat across the bed, such as the Truxedo Truxport, while others use frame bows to give the center of the tonneau an arc, such as the Extang Black Max Tonneau, helping to channel away water and snow. Soft tonneau covers are generally the least expensive, but they also provide the least amount of security, as many of them are unable to be locked. Also, due to the material used, soft tonneau covers are more likely to show wear and tear than are hard tonneau covers. Some companies have taken the look of the soft tonneau and applied that to a folding framework, allowing for the versatility and access abilities of a retractable tonneau with less cost. There are also smaller soft tonneau covers made to work with bed mounted tool boxes.
Hard tonneau covers are usually made of fiberglass, and cover the entire bed in one large sheet or a series of folding panels. Models such as the Extang Solid Fold Tonneau offer easier access than a one piece tonneau, but one piece units like the Gaylord TL Series Tonneau give the truck a far cleaner look. Along with the ability to lock, hard tonneau covers often cater to painting to match the truck, and the fiberglass holds up to the elements better than do the soft tonneau covers. The downside is the price and the weight, as the hard covers often cost quite a bit more than the soft covers, and the construction adds a great deal more weight, both in the tonneau itself as well as the hinge and strut system used to support the tonneau in its “open” position.
Retractable tonneau covers are the most advanced, and often the most expensive. These vary in construction materials, with the cover itself being made of a hinged system of panels riding in a bed-mounted track system. The cover ‘rolls’ into a spool of sorts mounted in the front of the bed. Many of these types allow you to not only lock the tonneau closed, but also at intervals to allow for different amounts of the bed to be left open for hauling taller items. For the truck owner who needs security and storage, models like the Truck Covers USA American Work Tonneau integrate the retractable cover design into a truck tool box for maximum security and storage.