Pickup Bed Cover Buyers Guide

Pickup trucks now make up over 20% of the vehicles on the road today.  It is no wonder why adding a pickup truck bed cover is one of the most common upgrades.  Trucks can be used for work, daily drivers, or recreation.  They can be spacious and luxurious or small and basic.  

There are a countless number of factory options available from heated and cooled massaging seats to lane control and smart cruise control.   Aside from what the factory offers, there are literally thousands of add on and upgrades available.  One of the more popular add ons is the addition of a bed cover to protect the items you carry in the back.  It is important to understand the following 8 points when deciding which truck bed cover is the right one for you.

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1. The Price

One of the main deciding factors for many that are selecting a pickup truck bed cover is the price.  Due to the fact that there are a wide range of designs, there are also a wide range of prices. 

The price largely depends on the material that the cover is made of.  Soft tonneau covers tend to be more economically priced than hard covers.  Soft tonneau covers whether they are folding or roll up designs tend to range from $200 to $400 dollars.  Hard top covers, which provide a higher level of security range from $400 to $1200 dollars. 

2. Pickup Truck Bed Cover Security

One of the main reasons for purchasing a bed cover for your pickup truck is to protect your valuables that you leave in the bed.  Whether you carry tools, sports equipment, or just everyday items that you do not have space for in the cab of your truck, keeping them out of sight and locked is a big concern.  A lot has to do with who you are trying to keep out.  

Obviously if you park your truck in the garage and need a cover on the bed for when you go shopping at the grocery store or if you need a cover that you put on for road trips or vacations, a soft cover will do.  However, if you are looking for a cover that will always be on the truck whether you are leaving it on the street overnight, parked at the jobsite, or leaving your truck at the airport, you will definitely be in the market for a hard truck bed cover.  One-piece hard covers have locks on each side of the tailgate end of the cover.  Folding hard covers are secured by locking the tailgate itself.  To open the cover, first lower the tailgate, then pull on the cord underneath to release the panel.  No extra keys are needed.

3. Ease of install

Pickup truck bed covers today are much easier to install than the tonneau from 20 years ago.  Back then even the soft tonneau covers that used snaps to secure them to the outer part of the bed required precise drilling to ensure that that cover could be stretched to reach all the snaps. 

With the development of clamp on rail designs, not only is install quick and easy but, there is no damage done to the truck to complete the install.  No drilling, no measuring, and no cutting is required.  Most truck bed covers can be installed by one person in a matter of 20 to 30 minutes using only a couple general tools.  A Philips head screwdriver and an adjustable wrench are generally all that is needed to complete the install.

4. Measurements of your truck bed

Not all truck beds are the same length.  Each truck manufacturer has designed its beds differently.  Generally, for each type of truck, the manufacturer has given 2 or 3 bed length options.  Short bed, standard bed, and a long bed are the most common.  The Ford F-150 for example, comes in a 5.5’ bed, a 6.5’ bed, and an 8’ bed.  You will need to confirm which length bed you have before being able to purchase the correct truck bed cover. 

As long as you know the make, model, year, and bed length, you are ready to order your truck bed cover.  The width of the bed cover will be determined automatically when you enter the make, model, and year of the truck into the seller’s website.

Learn how to verify the length of your bed.

5. Use of a bed covers effects on gas mileage

Unfortunately, as much as we want to believe that installing a bed cover or driving with the tailgate down will improve our gas mileage, it does not.  Having a bed cover on your truck basically gives the same miles per gallon as not having a bed cover.  In addition to that, many people think that driving with the tailgate open will help increase your gas mileage.  In fact, just the opposite is true.  Driving with the tailgate open reduces your gas mileage by as much as two miles per gallon.

To ensure that you are getting the most out of your truck in regards to gas mileage, there are a few other items that you can keep an eye that will help.

  1. Maintain the correct tire pressure as specified by the manufacturer of your truck. You should check the pressure of your tires monthly as tire pressure can fluctuate with the outside temperature.
  2. Make sure your wheels are properly aligned.
  3. Remove items from your truck that make it heavier than it needs to be. Every 10 pounds of additional weight in your truck can reduce your fuel efficiency by 1 to 2 percent.
  4. Reduce your driving speed. Lower driving speed uses less fuel. Drive the speed limit.
  5. Use the cruise control on the highway.
  6. Braking and acceleration. If you brake excessively and then have to make up your speed, you unnecessarily waste fuel.
  7. Watch how you accelerate. Accelerating quickly from a stop sign or traffic light can drastically reduce your fuel efficiency.

6. Appearance

Obviously, you have a lot invested in your truck and want it to look its best.  Therefore, you need a cover that will look great and have all the functionality that you need.  Some of the one-piece hard covers have built in spoilers and can be painted to match the paint of your truck.  Other folding hard covers are designed to sit right at the bed level so that you can barely even tell there is a cover installed.  The appearance is all personal preference and what you find attractive.

7. Ease of access and how they open

Each type of truck bed cover gives you a different type of access.  One-piece hard covers allow access only by lifting at the tailgate end and raising the cover up to access your valuables.  While most folding hard covers give you complete access to the bed of the truck, some allow you to start opening from either end of the bed.  While others require you to start opening by first opening the tailgate and then opening the first panel of the folding bed cover.  Some soft covers allow you unsnap them at any area around the perimeter of the bed while others function much like the folding hard covers in that you need to open entire panels at a time.

8. Weather Proofing

One of the most important attributes of a pickup truck bed cover is its ability to keep your gear and valuables clean and dry while they are in the bed of your truck.  Each type of truck bed cover has its only ability and limitations when it comes to keeping water out.  One-piece hard covers provide complete coverage and do not allow water in.  However, in my experience, there is always a corner that lets in a little bit of water when driving on the highway in the rain.  

I have never had a one-piece bed cover that completely sealed out 100% of the water.  The amount of water that drips in is minimal and it is also very repeatable.  The water always leaks in at the same point.  Hard folding bed covers controllably let water in.  The water is channel into the rails that mount the bed cover to the truck and then runs into tubes near the bulkhead of the bed and then drains out under the truck.  The only water I have seen enter the bed of the truck during heavy storms is near the tailgate.  Again, the amount of water that gets into the bed is minimal and it is always in the same place.       

BAK Industries BakFlip MX4 Hard Folding tonneau cover

This hard-folding truck bed cover comes in both matte and glossy finishes, and the durable aluminum panels automatically latch when the cover is opened or closed, providing for a nice and secure fit every time. In fact, this tonneau cover provides a tight fit as soon as the tailgate is closed, making it both easy to install and easy to use. You still get 100% access whenever you need it and you can use it as you need it without covering up your third tail light, which keeps you much safer as you drive.

Not only does the cover protect your truck against dents, scratches, and other defects, but it keeps the truck from becoming damaged due to the UV rays of the sun. The cover itself is also slow to fade and very sturdy, making it something that you can use year after year without worrying about how it’s holding up or how it looks. This is a high-quality truck bed cover that you can use with confidence for a very long time.

Some of the pros and cons of this truck bed cover include the following:


        Cover is rated to hold up to 400 pounds of evenly distributed weight

        Is super easy to install and to use

        Comes with a full five-year warranty

        Fully locks once the tailgate is closed


        Some people might find it a bit pricey

        Hard covers can be more difficult to remove completely

BAK Industries BakFlip G2 Hard Folding tonneau cover

Made to fit beds from 5’7” to 8’2”, this tonneau cover is available in both matte and glossy finishes, and it is a low-profile cover that gives you 100% access any time you need it. You can drive around with the cover fully closed, covered, or flipped without covering up the third brake light, which means that you are much safer as you drive. Furthermore, it comes with a great two-year warranty and is rated up to 300 pounds, meaning that you can use it with confidence for many years to come.

The cover also has an automatic latching system that ensures the bed is covered completely so that no leaks or air get into the bed itself. While open, the cover is upright and therefore convenient for you, and the durable aluminum panels mean that it automatically snaps into place with ease, giving you a lot less worry as you drive. Some of the pros and cons associated with this truck bed include:


        Low-profile cover that is easy to install and easy to use

        Sizes available to fit different bed lengths

        Both glossy and matte finish available

        Sturdy, high-quality materials


     ●        Some complaints about it not completely sealing up


Gator ETX Soft Roll up Truck Bed Tonneau Cover

Available in two different types — roll-up and trifold — this truck bed cover comes in three different sizes and is both easy to install and easy to use. The company that makes it is so confident about the product that they offer a limited lifetime warranty on the frame and a full 10-year warranty on the tarp. With this bed cover, you get 100% access for easy maneuverability, as well as a storage strap which guarantees that everything in your truck bed will be safe and secure the entire time it’s in there.

If you want full access to your belongings, all you have to do is roll it towards the cab and then secure it with the enclosed strap. The installation is so easy that you can do it quickly and without having to drill any holes in your truck, and it is also one of the least-expensive truck bed covers on the market today. Here are some of the pros and cons of this truck bed cover:


        Comes in two different types and three different sizes

        Comes with a limited lifetime warranty on the frame

        Made with pride in the USA

        Made with high-quality materials and parts


        Some complaints about it making a flapping noise when it’s windy

        Some complaints that the cover leaks in the corners

        Some complaints about the brackets loosening when the truck is in motion

Xcover Low Profile Hard Folding Cover

Available in two different sizes, this hard-folding tonneau cover is low-profile and sits inside of the truck bed. It does a great job of protecting your belongings, thanks to its high-quality parts, and it is designed to protect the vehicle from harmful UV rays, resist inclement weather, and protect your belongings from dirt, moisture, and any type of leak. The unique latch design and clamping system will make sure that all of your items are extra secure, and it even locks automatically every time that you close the cover, keeping all of your items safe.

With this truck bed cover, you get solid hardcore panels and a rating of 500 pounds of evenly distributed weight, not to mention a scratch-resistant surface that allows you to put your truck through a lot of abuse and still keep it functional and looking good. Whether it’s snowing, raining, or super windy, this cover is perfect for keeping your truck bed in great shape. Some of the pros and cons of the cover include:


        Automatically locks whenever you close it

        Is very reasonably priced and available in two different sizes

        Is super easy to install without drilling holes in the bed

        Is super easy to open and close


        Some complaints about the overall quality of the cover

        Some complaints that it came with missing parts

        Some complaints about shoddy fasteners