Choosing between hard vs. soft tonneau cover for your truck

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Written By Waylon Joe

Hey, It’s Waylon “Joe” Kite here. I am a West Virginia native and a die-hard pickup truck fan. My story with trucks started with my dad’s 1989 Ford F-150, and it's still going on. I'll share all my trucking experiences (both great and gross ones) with you. I have a garage full of tools to fix and renovate trucks and a freezer full of ales. Do you want to join me?

Which the best hard vs. soft tonneau cover? Choosing between hard and soft tonneau covers presents a pivotal decision for truck owners, impacting security, durability, and functionality.

hard vs. soft tonneau cover
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Comparative analysis of tonneau cover options

Comparing hard and soft covers across various factors is crucial for truck owners seeking the ideal truck cover for their needs.

Durability of tonneau covers

Durability stands as a fundamental criterion in evaluating tonneau covers.

Hard truck bed cover

Structural strength: constructed from robust materials like fiberglass, heavy-duty aluminum, or sturdy plastics such as ABS, they offer exceptional structural strength.

Resistance to wear: the solid construction of this cover provides resistance against wear and tear over extended periods, ensuring a longer lifespan compared to softer alternatives.

Soft roll-up tonneau cover

Material resilience: roll-up tonneau covers, typically crafted from vinyl, canvas, or similar sturdy fabrics, offer durability suitable for everyday use.

However, their fabric-based construction may make them more susceptible to damage from sharp objects.

Flexibility vs. durability: while a roll-up tonneau cover can provide flexibility and lightweight usability, it might exhibit signs of wear earlier than hard ones.

Tonneau cover comparison

In summary, while hard tonneau covers stand out for their robustness and ability to withstand heavy-duty use, soft ones balance durability and flexibility, requiring slightly more attention to ensure their longevity.

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Security features

Assessing the security features of tonneau covers is essential in safeguarding truck beds.

Hard truck bed cover

Locking mechanism: these covers often integrate robust locking mechanisms, including locking tailgate, secure latches, or key-operated systems, providing significant deterrents against theft and ensuring a high level of protection for cargo stored in the truck bed.

Tamper resistance: the rigid nature of this cover makes it less susceptible to tampering or slashing attempts (when what threatens your items would be thieves), further securing the whole bed.

Soft roll-up tonneau cover/folding tonneau cover

Limited security measures: while such cover offers locking systems or mechanisms.

It might not provide the same level of security as hard ones due to their fabric-based nature, which can be cut or manipulated more easily.

Visual deterrent: roll up tonneau covers might act as a visual deterrent, concealing the truck bed’s contents from potential thieves, yet they might not offer the same physical resistance against unauthorized access as hard ones.

Tonneau cover comparison

In essence, hard tonneau covers prioritize security through their solid build and sophisticated locking mechanisms, offering more robust protection for truck bed cargo, while soft ones, though providing some security measures, may not match the same level of resistance against theft or unauthorized access.

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Ease of use

The ease of use in tonneau covers significantly influences their practicality.

Hard truck bed cover

Operation complexity: this cover, while often providing excellent security and weather protection, might require more effort due to its heavier and more substantial build.

Some cover models feature folding or hinging mechanisms, allowing partial access, yet their weight might pose challenges during full removal.

Installation and removal: installing or removing entire truck bed covers might involve more steps and additional assistance due to their weight and size, reducing the overall convenience and easy access.

Soft cover/roll-up tonneau cover

Lightweight construction: they are generally lighter and easier to handle during installation or removal, typically requiring no additional assistance with side rails. Their lightweight nature contributes to the overall ease of use.

Simple installation and bed access: a roll-up tonneau cover usually comes with user-friendly installation methods, such as roll-up, snap-on, or folding covers (and hard-folding covers) with side rails, giving you full bed access.

Tonneau cover comparison

In summary, while hard covers may provide enhanced security and weather protection, they often require more effort in operation and removal.

Conversely, soft ones, with their lightweight construction and simpler installation methods, offer a more user-friendly experience, prioritizing ease of use and full bed access.

Weather resistance

Assessing the capability of tonneau covers to withstand varying weather conditions is crucial.

Hard truck bed cover

Solid weather shield: these covers excel in providing robust protection against diverse weather conditions such as heavy rain, snow, hail, and UV rays due to their solid build, effectively shielding the truck bed and its contents.

Sealed design: their design typically includes sealing features that minimize water intrusion, keeping cargo dry and protected even in extreme weather conditions.

Roll-up tonneau covers/folding tonneau covers

Adequate weather protection: while softer covers offer reasonable protection against moderate weather conditions, they might not be as effective as hard ones in extreme climates or heavy rainfall, potentially allowing some moisture to seep through.

Ventilation and condensation: their fabric-based nature may allow for better ventilation, preventing condensation buildup under the cover, yet this might also make them slightly less effective in extreme weather situations.

Water-repellent coating: some covers feature water-repellent coatings to enhance their resistance against light rain and moisture, but they might not offer the same level of protection as hard ones in severe weather conditions.

Tonneau cover comparison

In summary, hard covers outperform soft ones, providing superior protection against various weather elements, and ensuring a more secure and dry environment for truck bed cargo.

Soft ones, while offering adequate protection in typical weather conditions, may exhibit limitations in extreme climates or heavy rainfall situations.

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Cost analysis

Analyzing the cost and long-term value of tonneau covers is essential for making a good decision.

Hard cover

Higher initial cost: these covers typically have a higher upfront cost owing to their sturdy construction materials such as fiberglass or aluminum, demanding a larger initial investment.

Long-term investment: despite the higher initial expense, they might offer better long-term value due to their durability, requiring fewer replacements or repairs over time, potentially contributing to higher resale value.

Soft cover/roll-up tonneau cover

Lower initial cost: they generally have a more affordable price tag, making them an attractive option for budget-conscious buyers.

Potential maintenance costs: while initially cheaper, these covers might require more frequent replacements or repairs due to their fabric-based construction, potentially increasing the overall cost over the cover’s lifespan.

Tonneau cover comparison

Hard truck bed covers, despite their higher initial cost, may offer better long-term value.

On the other hand, while soft ones are more budget-friendly initially, they might incur higher maintenance costs over time, potentially affecting their overall cost-effectiveness.

Maintenance considerations

Understanding the maintenance requirements of tonneau covers is crucial.

Hard tonneau cover

Mechanical components: some covers feature moving parts or hinges that might require occasional lubrication or adjustments to ensure smooth operation.

Cleaning and care: regular cleaning, typically with mild soap and water, helps maintain the appearance and functionality of hard covers, especially in regions prone to dust or debris buildup.

Soft roll-up tonneau cover

Fabric care: specific fabric protectants or cleaners may be recommended to preserve the material’s integrity and water resistance, particularly for covers exposed to prolonged sunlight or harsh weather conditions.

Attention to fasteners: regular checks on the fasteners, snaps, or zippers of soft covers ensure they remain in good condition and securely hold the cover in place.

Tonneau cover comparison

In summary, while hard covers might require occasional adjustments and cleaning of mechanical components, soft covers generally demand simpler upkeep focused on preserving the fabric.

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In conclusion, the choice of a tonneau cover hinges on the balancing factors mentioned above, allowing truck owners to select the cover that best aligns with their specific needs and preferences.


Is a soft or hard tonneau cover better?

It depends on the truck owner’s preferences: a hard tonneau cover offers more security and durability; a soft tonneau cover is lighter, and easier to use.

What are the disadvantages of soft tonneau cover?

Less security, vulnerability to cuts, and potential wear and tear.

Do soft tonneau covers improve gas mileage?

They may contribute slightly due to reduced drag, but the impact is usually minimal.

Do soft tonneau covers keep water out?

They provide some water resistance, but heavy rain might penetrate.

Do soft tonneau covers save gas?

They can contribute slightly by reducing aerodynamic drag, but the effect on truck gas mileage is generally minor.

Is the BAK Revolver tonneau cover good?

The BAK Revolver tonneau cover is considered a reliable and popular choice among truck and pickup owners for its durability and ease of use.

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