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Why Are Tonneau Covers So Expensive?

Side and back view of car on the gran with tonneau cover.

The price of the average tonneau cover is nothing to sniff at, especially if you’re opting for the high-quality stuff. That said, it makes sense that tonneau covers have a relatively high upfront expense considering they protect your truck’s bed (and the cargo and tools it carries) while helping you potentially save on gas.

Generally, quality tonneau covers are durable, versatile, and have high utility, so they are usually worth the expense.

When it comes to the topic of tonneau covers, two questions often spring to mind. The first one is, “Why are they called tonneau covers?” 

The answer to this one is pretty simple. The word tonneau is French, and it means cask or barrel. It originally referred to an open rear passenger compartment, such as the bed of a truck. But, in those days, these compartments were rounded like a barrel.

By extension, a tonneau cover is something that spans and covers the open, rear passenger compartment of an automobile.

The second question is, “Why are tonneau covers so expensive?” I’m sure I’m not the only one who has wondered about this after seeing what some brands charge for tonneau covers. I believe this question requires a bit more detail, so let’s dig in to get to the bottom of it all.

What Does a Tonneau Cover Do?

Close up photo of tonneau cover at daylight.

It’s impossible to fully understand why tonneau covers are expensive without looking at their purpose. A tonneau cover – also known as a truck bed cover – is a flat cover you install on top of your truck bed. Some of the most common tonneau cover types include:

  • Hinged – These are rigid and have a hinge behind the cab that acts as the single pivot point. This one-piece cover also comes with struts, which keep your cover propped up when you need to load up or unload.
  • Roll-up – Roll-up tonneau covers are highly convenient. They are made from a pliable material, so you can easily roll them up toward the truck cab without obstructing the view from the back.
  • Hard-folding/Tri-folding – These covers have three-segmented sections with hinges in between. This allows you to fold up and down even though the cover is made from a rigid material.
  • Retractable – These covers have numerous segments that allow the cover to be pushed back and rolled around a canister. The cover moves back and forth on rails installed on either side of the truck bed. 

The Number One Reason Why Tonneau Covers Might Be Expensive

Side view photo of truck and a tonneau cover at the back.

First and foremost, a tonneau cover is designed to protect your truck bed and any cargo from lousy weather, prying eyes, and thieves.

  • Bad weather. The open-air part of your vehicle is at the mercy of harsh weather elements, and dust and water can easily accumulate. Without cover, the bed of your truck will need regular cleaning, leading to faster wear and tear, rusting, and a lower resale value. In addition, rain, snow, hail, wind, the sun’s rays, and other environmental factors can damage the truck bed and its contents.
  • Prying eyes. Regardless of what you’re hauling, you may not be happy about showcasing your goods to the rest of the world. A tonneau cover will protect your cargo from prying eyes and give you the privacy you deserve.
  • Thieves. In this case, the phrase out of sight, out of mind might be apt. Your cargo is less vulnerable to theft, especially if you choose a durable cover that fits securely and has locks or locks with the tailgate. This will help deter thieves and keep your sensitive items safe.

Most people are willing to pay a premium to keep their items safe during transportation and keep their truck bed in the best possible condition. This explains why tonneau covers might come with a hefty price tag. The initial investment is often worth it if it saves on truck bed repair and maintenance.

Other Reasons Why Tonneau Covers Might Have Higher Cost

Besides offering protection, tonneau covers are also worth splurging on for the following reasons:

Wide Range of Styles and Functionality

Close up photo of black tonneau cover directed to the sunlight.

If you’re looking for the best tonneau cover for your truck, you’ll be pleased to know there are many styles and designs to choose from. This is great because every truck bed is unique, so the wide variety of styles means you can get customized options that fit your truck and needs perfectly. 

For instance, you can find color-matching covers, whether your truck is black, grey, red, or blue. You can also find covers specifically designed for your vehicle’s make and model. There are also options when it comes to how the covers operate or open and close.

What’s more, even if tonneau covers have a reputation for being expensive, it’s possible to find more affordable options that align with your budget better.

Durable Material

Tonneau covers are made from various durable materials, including:

  • Vinyl – It’s lightweight, waterproof, affordable, and a popular option for making soft covers.
  • Fiberglass – Hard fiberglass is one of the best materials for hard tonneaus. It’s also an aesthetically appealing option.
  • Canvas – Canvas is suitable for soft covers. It’s lightweight, strong, and affordable, though it’s a less common option.
  • Aluminum – Aluminum panels are handy for making lightweight hardcovers, typically foldable and retractable ones.
  • Hard plastic. Like vinyl, plastic tonneaus are also popular, lightweight, and impact-resistant.

Most of these materials can withstand the roughest conditions, especially the hard ones. Hard tonneaus are so durable you can use them to cover the cargo inside your truck bed while also installing other items like riding equipment and gear on top.

Better Fuel Efficiency

Top view shot of truck and rolled tonneau cover.

The claim that tonneau covers improve fuel economy is debatable, so take this one with a grain of salt. The explanation is that keeping your truck’s tailgate up and covering the bed helps eliminate turbulence and streamlines the body. This results in a smoother airflow, and the lack of wind drag means your engine uses less fuel to move. 

On the other hand, one study proves this claim false, though more studies might be needed to get conclusive results. My guess is that any improvement to your truck’s aerodynamic design or gas mileage is negligible.

Smart Appearance

If you want a smarter-looking car, installing a tonneau cover is the way to go. I highly recommend fiberglass tonneau covers because of their sleek and sophisticated appearance. You can also choose from other rugged options to give your truck an edgier look. Tonneau covers also keep your vehicle smart by keeping your truck bed clean. 

A dirty, dusty, smelly, and waterlogged truck bed can detract from your truck’s overall appearance. So tonneau covers enhance the appearance of your car while providing great functionality.

How Much Should a Tonneau Cover Cost?

A photo of black tonneau cover of a car.

Saying that tonneau covers are expensive sounds a bit vague. Maybe you want to know what’s a reasonable price to pay when purchasing this item. This question is tricky because the cost depends on various features.

So, you can find tonneau covers ranging anywhere from a couple of hundred dollars to a couple of thousand dollars. Going from the most affordable to the most expensive, you find soft tonneau covers, and the price generally increases as you explore more hard materials.

Tonneau covers also have different mechanical and functional features, affecting the price. The good thing is that there are plenty of options to consider whether you have a tighter or more flexible budget.

How to Get the Best Value When Buying Tonneau Covers

Sure, tonneau covers might be expensive, but there are still ways to get more bang for your buck. The trick is to choose the right cover that you can use for many years to come by considering the following:

  • Your budget – This helps narrow down your options when shopping around.
  • Vehicle type – A tonneau cover specifically made for the type of vehicle you have is a better option
  • Geographical location – This influences the weather conditions. You may need a more durable cover that withstands harsh weather elements.
  • Usage – A long-lasting cover is best if you’re going to be using it more frequently.
  • Installation – A cover that’s easier and cheaper to install might be preferable.
  • Features – Some covers are worth paying more money for. These come with features such as a top surface that’s resistant to dents, scratches, and damage, easy/automatic operation, security features, a long warranty, and more.

Related FAQs

Is a Tonneau Cover Worth It?

Back view of a car and tonneau cover in a white background.

Although tonneau covers are not necessary, they are worth it because they protect your truck’s bed and cargo while enhancing your vehicle’s appearance.

What Are the Main Advantages of a Tonneau Cover?

  • Protection against the weather and theft.
  • Can transform your car’s appearance for the better.

Should I Choose a Hard or Soft Tonneau Cover?

It all depends on what you need and prefer. Hard covers might be a better option if you need more security and something that lasts longer. However, keep in mind that hardcovers are generally more expensive. In contrast, soft tonneau covers are more affordable and easier to install and handle, but they may not be as durable as hardcovers.