Tonneau Covers Buyer's Guide

Tonneau Covers: A Guide

The contractor’s guide to tonneau covers

By Larry D. Walton

Associate Editor, ProPickup

If you have multiple pickups on the job site, you have the option of setting each bed up differently.

For example, my brother’s pickup has a bed cap with everything he uses on a jobsite safely stored and organized inside.

My pickup, however, has a tonneau cover over the bed because I pull a trailer with tools for the crew.

There are times that I also remove the cover to have an open bed, such as hauling taller equipment or ATVs.

Bed caps, or “toppers” as they are called in some parts of the country, and tonneau covers both provide a measure of security and protection for the contents within the bed.

The choice as to which one is best for your application can be tough as there are a lot to choose from in both camps.

But for now, let’s focus on the covers and leave the toppers for another time.


Tonneau cover designs have seen tremendous changes in the last few years.  The choice is no longer just hard or soft.  Many of today’s tonneaus can be rolled up, folded in half, hinged side-to-side or front-to-back.

Some are designed to work with cross-bed tool boxes and fuel-transfer tanks while others offer the structural strength necessary to carry heavy cargo on top as well as underneath, adding another level of cargo management and utility to your pickup

Several manufacturers offer covers that lock, unlock, open and close with the touch of a key fob remote control.

Hard tonneau covers can be ordered to match your pickup’s OEM paint color while soft covers have limited colors. Roll-up covers offer versatility when you need to haul a pallet of sod or slide a 1-yard bucket in the bed

Tonneau covers provide security for equipment and aid in fuel economy.

Beware, however, that many of the hard roll-up covers need to store somewhere and the required storage area often takes away precious cargo space.

Apply a little common sense when making your selection:

  • A one-piece cover that extends over the bed walls is probably going to keep things drier than models with folding or roll-up surfaces.
  • Fewer moving parts mean fewer things to go wrong. Soft covers, like the one on Project Bedrock, may not offer enough security from theft for the situations in which you need to park your pickup.
  • Tonneaus that open at the front may not be as desirable to the owner of a lifted pickup who can’t reach over the bed walls from the outside.

However, this type of access for a pickup that rides at stock height can present real advantages for accessing gear in the front of the bed.

Regardless of what type of tonneau cover you decide to go with, adding one to your pickup will bring with it many benefits including improving fuel economy along with the protection from the elements. Tonneaus are a sound upgrade.

Click here to see our selection of the newest tonneau covers, hard and soft that would work well on heavy-duty pickups.


BedTred bed liner is a textured, knee-friendly drop-in mat perfect for heavy-duty use.

Bedrug’s BedTred liner offers the look and feel of a spray-in liner but with quick and easy installation. The kit includes a 5-piece liner that installs with hook and loop fasteners. No drilling, no sanding, no prepping, and no damage to the pickup bed.

The textured, knee-friendly surface, which is form-fit to the bed contours, is UV resistant and comes with a lifetime warranty.

The non-skid surface prevents cargo from sliding while the thick foam backing protects the pickup bed from impact damage.; (800) 462-8435

Paint Codes

Having a hard tonneau built to match the original color of your vehicle means you’ll need to track down the paint code for your pickup.

A Google search of specific vehicle paint code location should help in finding your pickup’s numbers, which can be in one of twenty or so locations on the vehicle.

One such helpful site is

To read our 2011 Tonneau Cover Buyer’s Guide, click here.