Tonneau covers offer style and aerodynamics to any truck, but before purchasing one, its important to look at what you really need from your truck. There are three main questions to ask yourself before beginning your search for a new tonneau cover.
1. How severe is your weather?
2. How worried are you about security?
3. How frequently do you need to access all portions of the bed?
4. How often do you carry large loads?
5. How much are you looking to spend?
All tonneau covers offer protection from the elements, but hard or retractable covers offer the most protection from rain and heavy snow. If your truck spends long periods of time outside in the snow, the weight of melting snow on a soft tonneau and stretch and tear the tarp. If you live somewhere that doesn’t see snow and doesn’t get much rain, a soft tonneau could be ideal for you.
When you have a tonneau cover on your truck, it impedes a possible thief’s ability to see if you have anything worth stealing, but hard and retractable covers offer locking mechanisms to take the security one step further. If you want to make sure that no one can just pop open your tonneau and walk away with whatever he or she finds, then a locking tonneau is a must, but if you just want to keep your items out of sight, then the soft cover should suffice.
Hard and retractable tonneau covers provide more protection from theft and the elements, but if you find that you are often taking things from the front of your bed, a soft cover may be your best bet. Retractable covers require you to fully open the tonneau to get to the front of the bed, and the hard tops (especially the hinged one piece units) require you to lift the tonneau all the way up to access the front of the bed. If full bed access is a major concern of yours, then the soft cover which just pops open or a tri-fold style tonneau should be your best bet.
Hard tonneau covers look great and are very secure, but if you have a one piece hinged tonneau hauling tall loads is completely impossible. Soft tonneau covers afford you the option of snapping them completely off to give full access to the bed for tall objects, and retractable tonneau covers can quickly be retracted to the needed size. The folding hard covers can be folded to access a portion of the bed, but this is not ideal for hauling, especially at highway speeds. If you need to haul tall items, look at soft or retractable tonneau covers.
Finally, and most importantly, is how much do you want to spend? Soft covers are by far the least expensive and the most common, with some options starting around $200.00. The folding variation of the hard tonneau is the next least expensive, starting around $400.00, and the single piece hard tonneau will run you anywhere from $600.00 to $1000.00. Due to the number of moving pieces, the retractable tonneau cover, while being the most functional, is the most expensive with prices ranging from $800.00 all the way up to $3000.00.