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Choosing a Retractable Tonneau Cover

Best practices for selecting your late-model pickup’s top-tier bed lid.

May 1, 2020
It's a safe bet that you—and many other trucktrend.com followers—actually own pickup trucks. And, like many enthusiasts, you probably have at least a small loyalty to your rig's manufacturer (Ford, GM, Ram, etc.) Well, make doesn't matter for this report, nor do other typically critical criteria such as powertrain details, suspension, cabin amenities, or anything else. Our focus right now is on the aftermarket retractable covers that are available for a pickup's bed.
With all due respect to aforementioned components, beds—short and long—are extremely high-profile areas on pickup trucks, as they do the theoretical "heavy lifting" by carrying and storing whatever we load into them and keeping the interior open for human occupants.
Like most areas on a pickup, beds also can be modified, whether for appearance, capacity (increased or decreased), and the all-important capability. And, in most cases, changes are made using aftermarket pieces. Bed covers arguably are the most popular aftermarket upgrades for a rig's cargo area, especially retractable units that sit at the top end of the bed-cover scale.
More commonly referred to as "tonneau (that's French for container)" covers, here are the four most popular styles that truck owners choose:
  • One-Piece
  • Roll-Up
  • Folding
  • Retractable (manual and electric)
Regardless of "type" or style, the primary objective for all tonneau covers is to conceal and protect cargo against the elements, from flying out of the bed, and, most importantly, theft. Hopefully, it will deter thieves from trying to get inside. Our focus in this report is on retractable covers, which can be opened and closed by manually sliding the top into and from an integrated compartment, or with the simple press of a key fob's button. We're not ranking or awarding gratuitous titles like "best" or "greatest" because those acknowledgements should only be given after covers are thoroughly evaluated and objectively scored and ranked.
So, what is it that makes retractable covers, which are more costly than other types, desirable? There are several criteria, but we think style and optimum security probably are the main reasons why enthusiasts spend the big bucks.
Most tops are comprised of vinyl, Lexan, and/or aluminum, and they're designed for superior resistance to water and moisture. They also are relatively easy to DIY install, and they feature sealed ball bearings for smooth rolling. They typically enhance—not detract—from a pickup's overall appearance, making it look sleek and finished.
Photo 2/8   |   Retractable Tonneau Cover 7

Popular Retractable Tonneau Covers

Here are examples of popular retractable tonneaus, again, unranked, only because we have not done the testing that's necessary for fully validating standouts as "best." It's a slippery slope for accessories like this, as the lion's share are all very good. The selected models are available for late-model midsize and fullsize pickups, in shortbed and longbed configurations.
Of course, buying a retractable cover ultimately boils down to what your needs and wants are—needs are always most important—as well as your budget for the investment. Truck Hero is a one-stop-shopping outlet that we recommend for comparing and ultimately buying a cover for your rig.

* Gator Covers GatorTrax MX (12-Volt Electric)

Photo 3/8   |   Retractable Tonneau Cover 1

* RetraxONE MX (Manual)

Photo 4/8   |   Retractable Tonneau Cover 2
 

* Retrax PowertraxPRO XR (12-Volt Electric)

Photo 5/8   |   Retractable Tonneau Cover 4
 

* Roll-N-Lock A-Series (Manual)

Photo 6/8   |   Retractable Tonneau Cover 3
 

* Roll-N-Lock E-Series (12-Volt Electric)

Photo 7/8   |   Retractable Tonneau Cover 5
 

Retractable Tonneau Covers, Pros and Cons:

Pros

  • Easy to install (DIY, or with assistance)
  • Easy to use, one-hand operation
  • Built for durability, tamper resistant, weather resistant (exception for severe weather)
  • Minimal maintenance necessary
  • Secure, lockable in all positions
  • Low profile, stylish
  • Improved fuel economy
  • Integrated locking system

Cons

  • Heavy
  • May require bed modification (cutting)
  • Expensive
Photo 8/8   |   Retractable Tonneau Cover 6

Sources

Gator Covers
(855) 641-2342
https://gatorcovers.com
Retrax
(800) 206-4070
https://www.retrax.com
Roll-N-Lock
(800) 952-7655
https://www.rollnlock.com
Truck Hero
(877) 875-4376
https://www.truck-hero.com
 

Sources

Roll-N-Lock
Pompano Beach, FL
800-952-7655
http://www.rollnlock.com

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