Many pickup truck owners consider a tonneau cover as essential an accessory as socks are for feet. But, choosing the right cover can be confusing, especially if you’ve never used one before. With this in mind, we’ll dive into the tri-fold vs. roll-up tonneau cover debate.
Folding: A folding tonneau cover uses multiple connected rigid panels (usually three, hence the tri-fold moniker) to protect a cargo bed. The panel closest to the tailgate folds onto the middle panel. Then those two panels fold onto the third panel (the one closest to the cab). All three panels are either removed or placed against the rear window to open the cargo bed fully.
Roll-Up: Most roll-up tonneau covers are fabricated from soft but durable weather-grade vinyl or nylon. The cover is rolled out over the cargo bed using an attachment system (such as Velcro or snaps) along the bedrail. Think of it like rolling or unrolling a sleeping bag, but the outer edges are secured on both sides of the cargo bed. With this type of cover, you can roll or unroll as much as you need to. The surplus material will sit on top of the bed, or when fully rolled up, behind the cabin (or it can be removed entirely).
Other Tonneau Covers: While this article compares folding and roll-up tonneau covers, it’s good to have a basic understanding of other options.
- A retractable tonneau cover is like a roll-up window shade. It’s stored in an elongated box at the front of the cargo bed (underneath the rear window). A channel on each bed rail guides the cover and secures it over the bed. Some versions are power-operated.
- A hinged tonneau cover uses a single-piece lid that’s hinged at the front of the bed. There are two positions: open and shut. Some models may have a strut (like that used with a vehicle hood) to prop the cover open for loading and unloading.
No solution is perfect, but choosing the best tonneau cover option involves picking one that matches your needs and preferences.
- Easy Opening: Most folding tonneau covers can be opened from either side of the truck.
- Choice of Materials: A folding cover can be made from semi-rigid panels constructed from nylon or vinyl fabric, or the cover may use hard plastic panels.
- Solid structure: A closed folding cover (that uses rigid panels) can serve as a supplemental work area
- Blocks The View: A folding tonneau cover blocks rearward vision when fully open and stored behind the rear window.
- More Expensive: A folding cover can be more costly, particularly with plastic panels.
- Extra Weight: A folding cover will weigh more, making folding more difficult and adding to the truck’s overall weight.
- Cost-Effective: A roll-up tonneau cover is generally less expensive than other cover options.
- Light-weight: The simple fabric structure of a roll-up tonneau makes folding or removing effortless.
- Bed Flexibility: Being able to position a roll-up cover exactly where you want it to provides maximum cargo bed flexibility.
- Less Secure: A roll-up tonneau cover may not provide the same level of security as a hard-panel top.
- Opening TIme: It can take longer to open or close a roll-up cover.
- Awkwardness: Depending on the product, dealing with snaps or Velcro to secure the sides can be time-consuming.
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