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Pick-up Covers: Truck Caps & Tonneau Covers

Tonneau Covers and Truck Caps

Tonneau Covers and Truck Caps

Truck caps, both aluminum and fiberglass, commonly dominated the market for pickup covers through the early 1980s. They provide a dry environment for transporting materials and marginally increased the security of the payload. With the advent of mini vans and subsequently SUV’s, the need for truck caps was diminished. Sales fell off tremendously and many manufacturers turned their efforts to other products.

Truck Caps Today

Today, truck caps are still available although they are less popular and considerably more expensive than Tonneau covers. Truck caps provide for hauling larger payloads under cover, but in a less secure environment than a hard Tonneau cover where passersby cannot see the payload. They are generally color matched or coordinated with the truck color, while Tonneau covers are frequently black. Truck caps are removable as they’re installed with C clamps or bolts – but it’s a bit of a nuisance to take it off and on as they’re heavy and you’re likely to need to replace the foam tape between the bottom sill of the cap and the truck rail. So unless it’s really important, you’re limited in hauling capacity to what goes under the rear door.

Tonneau covers don’t have this restriction. Tonneaus come in a variety of styles, from roll-up covers to retractable or hard folding or hard non-folding tonneau covers. Most of these offerings allow for hauling with a completely open bed (aside from any space occupied up from with storing the cover). This is a big benefit. The non-folding hard Tonneau cover traditionally opens with gas prop arms and is not easily removable, therefore limiting the payload. However, it is one of the most secure systems for protecting cargo.

An additional benefit to Tonneau covers is that they decrease gas consumption by reducing the air drag against the tailgate.

Common benefits to both caps and Tonneau covers include protection from weather elements such as snow and rain, as well as security against theft. Many truck owners also install truck covers to enhance the appearance of their vehicle.

Types of Secure Truck Covers

Hard Non-Folding Flat Tonneau Cover

The most secure Tonneau cover is the hard non-folding version. These covers are not easily removable and should not be driven with the cover in an open position. So this limits available space for cargo. If someone is looking for an option to maximize covered cargo space, this is not the right choice. This is the best option, however, if you’re looking for a cover that’s low profile, sleek and stylish, highly secure and generally color matched to your vehicle.

Aluminum Truck Caps

Aluminum truck caps provide more cargo storage than Tonneau covers and typically come with windows on the sides and back. They are significantly less expensive than fiberglass caps and hard Tonneau covers and have a boxier look than a fiberglass cap (that can mold to contour the shape of the truck’s cab).

While most aluminum truck caps are built from lightweight aluminum frames and purchased primarily based as an inexpensive option to cover the back of the truck, some manufacturers build commercial aluminum caps that are designed for a more heavy duty use. These caps have wood frames, heavier wall aluminum or steel. These aluminum truck caps are an affordable option for contractors who don’t want to invest in a service body.

Both consumer aluminum caps and commercial aluminum caps offer all the options like roof racks, side doors, shelving, etc.

Fiberglass Truck Caps

Fiberglass caps offer a molded, EOM truck look. In most cases, you might think it was part of the original truck. Fiberglass wins the award for best looking, strongest, most durable and most expensive. They custom mold to each specific truck to provide a snug fit – not like an afterthought that bolts onto the back of your truck. You can color-match a fiberglass cap in gel coat from the factory in order to match your truck. Fiberglass caps offer all the options that aluminum caps offer – and then some.

Common benefits of Truck Caps:

All truck caps cover the payload from weather, have a locking rear door, provide options of windows, walk-in doors, roof racks, tinted windows, etc.

Benefits of Specific Types of Tonneau Caps

Roll-up Tonneau Covers

  • The least expensive Tonneau cover option
  • They’re easy to install and require no drilling
  • Made from a soft material, usually consisting of vinyl or cloth
  • Provide the benefit of decreased fuel consumption with minimal investment

Retractable Tonneau Covers

  • A more durable Tonneau cover option
  • Requires a semi-permanent installation
  • Usually made of vinyl or aluminum materials
  • Provide the benefit of decreased fuel consumption

Hard and Folding Tonneau Covers

  • Made of aluminum or fiberglass
  • Made to be sturdier and long lasting
  • Hard Tonneaus require a more permanent install, involving drilling
  • Provide the benefit of decreased fuel consumption

How to Properly Care for your Truck Cap

  • Regularly Check Your Tonneau Cover
  • Does Your Hardware Fasten Tightly?
  • Understand the Proper Way to Wash Them
  • Avoid Leaving Heavy Gear on Your Cover
  • Know Your Cleaning Chemicals

Explore each of these tips in depth, in our blog post, “5 Important Tonneau cover Maintenance Tips” »