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How to choose a hard truck bed cover in 2024?

by Rachel Smith 01 Mar 2024 0 Comments


Before getting into the specifics, it’s vital to understand exactly what a hard bed cover is and its benefits over comparable soft covers.

The primary purpose of a tonneau cover is, of course, cargo protection. No one wants to get caught in a rainstorm with a full bed or to be at the mercy of potential thieves! Truck bed covers help to prevent cargo damage and theft, ensuring your valuables remain safe and secure until you reach your destination.

Hard bed covers are merely a style of tonneau cover featuring exceptional strength, durability, security, and weather resistance. Hard truck bed covers are engineered to withstand rigorous use and abuse, typically constructed from heavy-duty materials like fiberglass, ABS plastic, aluminum, composite plastic, and polycarbonate.

Styles of Hard Truck Bed Cover

Within the umbrella category of “hard truck bed covers,” several sub-styles exist. Let’s discuss these variances!

Hinged (One-Piece) Covers

Hinged truck bed covers are ideal for those that don’t routinely haul cargo that extends above the bed rails. These covers feature a rugged, one-piece fiberglass or ABS plastic construction with a single pair of hinges fixed to the bulkhead.

Opening the cover is simple; unlock the twist handle, actuate the latch, and step back as it opens upwards with its integrated struts! Due to the cover’s clamshell design, loading oversized cargo is nearly impossible; however, security is next level! Without the key, a locked hinged tonneau cover is practically impossible to open, as is your pickup's tailgate. As a result, your cargo in the bed remains safe and secure.

Hinged covers are relatively pricey, ranging from $1,000 to $2,000. They’re also relatively difficult to install, requiring an additional set of hands to help position the cover into place and support it during mounting.

Hard Folding Covers

Next are hard folding tonneau covers—a popular offering in the hard tonneau cover space. These bed covers feature a series of two, three, or four impact-resistant aluminum, composite, or polycarbonate panels joined together by hinges.

RAM Proven Ground Low Profile Hard Tri Fold Tonneau Cover

Hard-folding tonneau covers feature slam latches at the rear by the tailgate; once released, fold the cover onto itself towards the bulkhead as many times as allowed, granting either partial or full bed access. While some hard covers limit cargo access to ⅔ or ¾ of the bed, others feature an additional clamshell-style hinge at the bulkhead, allowing the folded cover to pivot upwards against the rear window. Using the integrated prop rods, secure the cover upright and enjoy uninhibited bed access!

Regarding hard bed covers, hard folding covers feature a mid-range price point, typically averaging between $400 and $1,000. Most models offer simple installations you can perform at home with conventional hand tools.

Hard Roll-Up Covers

 Roll-up tonneau covers come in two configurations; however, for the sake of this article, we’re limited to hard roll-up covers exclusively. These hybrid bed covers feature a rugged, interlocking aluminum, composite, or polycarbonate slat construction topped with marine-grade vinyl or canvas. While hard and soft roll-up bed covers may look similar, hard covers are far more durable and secure.

F150 Barricade Low Profile Hard Rolling Aluminum Tonneau Cover

Using a hard roll-up tonneau cover is quick and intuitive. When full bed access is required, undo the rear latches and tightly roll the cover toward the bulkhead. Then, secure the rolled cover using the integrated nylon straps and enjoy your uninhibited cargo space!

Hard roll-up tonneau covers also fall in the middle of the price range, averaging between $400 and $1,000. Installations are typically simple and quick, requiring nothing more than conventional hand tools and under an hour!

Hard Retractable Bed Covers

Retractable bed covers are another popular choice in the hard bed cover market, featuring an innovative retractable design utilizing a bulkhead-mounted canister and interlocking aluminum or polycarbonate slats. Whenever loading oversized cargo, undo the cover’s tailgate ar keyed latch and watch as the cover retracts into the canister!

F150 Proven Ground Aluminum Retractable Tonneau Cover

Retractable covers are offered in powered or manual versions, with powered covers featuring electric motors that retract and extend the cover at the push of a button. Manual retractable bed covers operate similarly; however, the cover requires a manual push or pull to retract or extend.

Even when fully retracted, the canister extends approximately 8 to 12 inches into the bed. While this still allows plenty of room for most oversized cargo, extra large objects may extend past the bed and onto the tailgate. 

Retractable bed covers are one of the list's pricier options, with powered variants reaching nearly $3,000. This being said they offer excellent security, accessibility, and styling.

Bed Toppers

Lastly, we’re covering bed toppers. Bed toppers are typically constructed from fiberglass, aluminum, or steel, offering excellent water resistance and security. Unlike other entries on the list, bed toppers allow additional clearance for oversized cargo due to meeting or exceeding the roofline of your pickup. Most toppers also feature keyed locking handles, making unauthorized entry nearly impossible! 


Most toppers feature a glass window above the tailgate, which opens like a hatch, allowing you to load oversized cargo. However, toppers do place some limitations on the types of cargo you can haul. For instance, loose gravel, mulch, and other landscaping/building materials typically loaded with a frontloader will be impossible to load efficiently. Additionally, cargo taller than the topper’s roof will be impossible to load without completely removing the topper.

While safe, secure, and stylish, bed toppers are expensive. Prices range upwards of $4,000 depending on options; however, for the right pickup owner, they’re tough to beat!

Is a Hard Bed Cover Right For You?

Hard bed covers, while relatively expensive, offer superior security and protection. A hard bed cover is worth the added cost for pickup owners that routinely carry valuables in the bed, or work out of their pickup and may be forced to leave valuables unattended. After all, it’s likely less expensive to purchase a hard bed cover than it is to replace all of your gear!



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