As a busy mom of two young kids, I know how precious cargo space is in my truck. I need every inch of that truck bed to haul around strollers, bikes, sports gear, and anything else my family needs on our daily adventures. But living in the rainy Pacific Northwest means I also need a way to keep all that gear protected from the elements.
After struggling for years with a basic snap tonneau that was tedious to open and close (and never fully watertight), I started looking into upgrading to an automated cover. Who has time to unlatch 10 snaps every time you need something from the truck bed? Not me!
I spent hours researching the different automated options to find the best balance of convenience, weather protection, security, and cost. I compared everything from roll-up covers to tri-fold to retractable. I studied reviews, demonstrations, warranties, and more.
Finally, I narrowed it down to 5 of the top automated tonneau covers that seemed best suited for my needs. I ordered them each for a test drive on my 2015 Toyota Tundra. After a month of first-hand use, I returned the ones that didn’t make the cut.
Below I’ll share my thorough evaluations of these 5 covers, along with tips on how to select the right one for your truck. Whether you need maximum protection or quick access, prefer aluminum panels or vinyl, there’s an automated tonneau out there for you. Just keep reading to find yours!
Before jumping into the individual reviews, here’s a high-level overview of how the main features stack up across these 5 models:
|GATOR SFX TRI-FOLD
|10 years (vinyl)
|Limited lifetime (frame), 10 years (tarp)
BAKFLIP MX4: Best for Security
The Armored Fortress Award
Living in an area with a high rate of truck break-ins, security is my top priority in a tonneau cover. I need serious protection to keep prying eyes and hands away from my cargo.
That’s why the ultra-durable BAKFLIP MX4 rose straight to the top of my list. This automated roll-up cover is built like an armored fortress, with heavy-duty matte-finish aluminum panels that thwart any thief.
I first noticed the exceptional build quality as soon as I lifted the MX4 out of the box. At about 75 pounds, this is by far the heaviest cover I tested. The aluminum feels rock solid and the components have a precise, premium feel during operation.
Installing the MX4 was quick and simple with the no-drill design. The clamps slide easily onto the bed rails and tighten securely with a twist of the knob. I appreciated that it sits nearly flush with the rails for a clean, integrated look.
Rolling the cover open and closed is a breeze thanks to the automatic latching system. Just push a button and the panels glide smoothly into place with the help of spring-loaded arms. The low-profile design even allows full operation with my truck’s cargo light installed.
Shutting the tailgate automatically secures the rear panel in place. But you can take it a step further and lock each panel individually with the integrated keyed locks. The BAKFLIP also seals tightly along all edges to keep dust and rain completely out of the bed.
I was able to haul some heavy items like paving stones and lumber with no issues. The aluminum construction and upgraded bumpers allow for up to 400 pounds of evenly distributed weight. Just avoid point loads like wheelbarrows that could dent the panels.
After a month of use, my gear has stayed bone dry and 100% secure. The BAKFLIP MX4 might be pricey, but it’s worth every penny if you’re serious about protection.
- Extremely durable aluminum construction
- Super secure individual panel locks
- Tight weather-resistant seal
- Holds up to 400 lbs distributed weight
- Upgraded bumpers prevent sagging
- Heavy and difficult for one person to handle
- Expensive compared to others
Why Choose the MX4?
The BAKFLIP MX4 is the perfect tonneau cover for truck owners who demand absolute security and weather protection above all else. With its rugged aluminum armor, individual locking panels, and watertight seal, the MX4 excels at keeping your cargo safe from threats. If those are your top priorities, look no further than this bed cover fortress.
GATOR SFX TRI-FOLD: Best for Convenience
The Smooth Operator Award
As a busy parent, quick and easy access to my truck bed is a must. I don’t have time to fiddle with complicated clasps or covers that require two people to operate.
That’s why the super convenient GATOR SFX TRI-FOLD tonneau cover stood out from the pack. Opening and closing this tri-fold is smoother than melted butter, making it perfect for my on-the-go lifestyle.
Right off the bat, I was impressed with how quickly the GATOR installed on my Tundra. It simply bolts onto the bed rails with a few clamps—no need to drill holes. The fit was nice and snug with minimal gaps.
Opening the cover only takes seconds thanks to the paddle latches that release all three panels in one swift motion. From there, the panels fold effortlessly into thirds with help from the spring-loaded hinges.
Closing it up is just as fast. No snaps or buckles to fuss with—just fold the panels back up and press down firmly. The latches click automatically into locked position for security.
I love being able to easily open just one panel to quickly grab something from the front of the bed. Or fold all three forward to get full access. The vinyl material feels durable and resists sagging even when folded forward.
This soft cover definitely prioritizes fast access over absolute weather protection. The vinyl material beads small amounts of water but isn’t watertight like a hard cover. It also lacks locking panels found on some models.
But if hassle-free convenience is your top desire in a tonneau, you can’t go wrong with the smooth-operating GATOR SFX!
- Super fast and easy operation
- Spring-loaded hinges for effortless folding
- Partial or full bed access
- Tear-resistant vinyl material
- Not 100% waterproof
- No individual locking panels
Why Choose the SFX?
With its ultra-convenient tri-fold design, the GATOR SFX is the perfect automated tonneau for truck owners who need quick, easy access above all else. If you value hassle-free operation over maximum protection, this smooth operator has you covered.
GATOR EFX: Best Retractable
The Disappearing Act Award
I’ll admit, I’ve always been fascinated by the retractable tonneau covers that seem to magically disappear into the bed rails. Being able to free up 100% of the truck bed with the press of a button is pretty appealing.
Of the retractable options I tested, the GATOR EFX impressed me the most with its strength, protection, and smooth operation. This cover offers the ultimate versatility for accessing your cargo.
Constructed of lightweight aluminum panels, the EFX provides excellent durability and weather resistance without adding a ton of weight. The flush-mount low profile looks much sleeker than some bulky retractable models.
Installation was a cinch with the clamp-on no-drill design. Just position the canister box and attach the clamps in minutes with simple hand tools. I appreciated the included drain tubes to prevent water pooling.
With the press of a button, the EFX silently retracts the panels into the canister box along the front rail. It operates so smoothly you’ll think it’s running on butter. The low-profile housing allows full functionality even with a bed liner installed.
I liked being able to stop the cover anywhere along the rails for partial bed access when needed. Or fully retract it for 100% clear access. The aluminum panels feel solid and secure when closed, and hold up to 300 pounds of evenly distributed weight.
While the canister housing does eat up some rail space, the tradeoff for that retractable versatility is worth it! Overall the GATOR EFX offers the perfect blend of quick access, protection, quality, and cool factor.
- Retracts fully into canister box
- Partial or full bed access
- Made of durable, lightweight aluminum
- Easy no-drill installation
- Holds up to 300 lbs distributed
- Canister box takes up rail space
- Not as protective as a hard tri-fold
Why Choose the EFX?
For truck owners who want the convenience of a fully retractable tonneau, the GATOR EFX is easily one of the best options out there. With its sturdy aluminum construction, smooth operation, and versatile access, this cover offers the ultimate in truck bed versatility.
GATOR SRX: Best Value for Money
The Budget Buy Award
As much as I’d love an expensive, decked-out tonneau cover, reality calls for sticking to a budget. That often means compromising on certain features and quality.
But in my testing, the GATOR SRX roll-up cover proved you can still get excellent value even at a bargain price point. For cost-conscious truck owners, this is the top value pick.
At around $200, the SRX costs hundreds less than most other roll-ups. But surprisingly, it didn’t feel “cheap” in quality or functionality. The vinyl material isn’t as thick as higher-end brands, but still seems quite durable.
Installation took less than 30 minutes using the quick clamp-on method. Just position the rails, attach to the bed with clamps, and snap on the cover. No drilling required.
Operating the SRX is a breeze thanks to the spring-loaded roll bar and easy trigger latch release. Pulling the handle unfurls the cover smoothly, then snaps back into place when closed. The vinyl panels also feature reinforced corners to prevent sagging.
Just keep in mind that, unlike hard covers, the vinyl material won’t keep out heavy rain or snow. It beads/rolls off light precipitation but leaks when water pools. And it lacks the locking panels found on pricier soft rolls.
For the money, though, you’d have a hard time finding a quicker, easier roll-up tonneau. If your top priority is cost savings, the GATOR SRX delivers excellent value without looking cheap.
- Very affordable price
- Easy and quick installation
- Smooth roll-up operation
- Reinforced corners prevent sagging
- Not waterproof in heavy rain
- No individual locking panels
Why Choose the SRX?
With its super easy installation, smooth operation, and budget-friendly price, the GATOR SRX is the top choice for truck owners who want good value without breaking the bank. While it lacks premium features, this cover delivers impressive quality for the money.
TRUXEDO TRUXPORT: Best Low-Profile
The Streamlined Award
While I appreciate the protection offered by some rigid tonneau covers, I really love the sleek, low-profile look of a soft roll-up. And of the vinyl roll-ups I tested, the TRUXEDO TRUXPORT had the most streamlined appearance installed on my truck.
Right out of the box, I was impressed by the clean, stylish look of the TRUXPORT. The tight, vinyl grain finish gives it a OEM quality that blends nicely with the truck bed.
True to its name, the TRUXPORT maintains an ultra-low profile. The cover sits just 1-1/2 inches above the rails when closed. That’s noticeably lower than competitors, providing a flush, integrated look.
Installing the TRUXEDO was effortless thanks to the quick no-drill clamp system. Just slide on the rails and tighten the clamps by hand to grip the bed walls. No need to drill holes or wrestle with confusing instructions.
Operation is smooth and quiet with the dual paddle latches that release the spring-loaded roll bar. The industrial strength Velcro seals the cover along the rails when closed. Plus, the pre-set tensioner applies optimal pressure for a taut, wrinkle-free fit.
Like other vinyl covers, the TRUXPORT trades a bit of protection for convenience and its streamlined profile. It really shines for maintaining the sleek aesthetics of your truck bed.
- Low-profile design sits close to rails
- Pre-set tensioner ensures tight, wrinkle-free fit
- No-drill installation system
- Industrial strength Velcro sides
- Durable vinyl construction
- Not as protective as rigid covers
- No hardshell panels
Why Choose the TRUXPORT?
For truck owners who want the smooth, streamlined look of a soft roll-up tonneau, the TRUXEDO TRUXPORT is the top choice. With its ultra-low profile, tight tensioned fit, and easy installation, this cover provides good protection without sacrificing aesthetics.
What To Look For in an Automated Tonneau Cover
Picking out the right automated tonneau for your truck bed is not a decision to take lightly. This cargo cover will be used and abused almost daily, so you’ll want to select one built to last. Keep these key factors in mind while shopping:
Look for a cover with a quick, no-drill installation system. Clamp-on rails that tighten by hand are ideal for getting up and running fast, without needing to drill into your bed sides. Make sure it’s a universal fit or designed specifically for your truck make/model.
Hard aluminum or fiberglass panels provide the most durable and protective covers. But soft vinyl options prioritize convenience and flexibility over ruggedness. Retractable covers offer the best access, but the canister housing does eat up some rail space.
Manual roll-ups and folding covers require muscle, while powered options provide effortless automation. For quick everyday use, spring-assisted covers are a nice middle ground. Simple trigger latches for opening are also convenient.
Lower profile covers maintain a streamlined, OEM look on your truck. But for certain uses, a cover that sits higher when closed can allow you to pile cargo slightly above the bed rails.
Locking panel covers offer the best theft protection. Some also include weather sealing to keep the elements out. Just know that rigid aluminum panels show dents more easily if stepped on.
If you’ll be hauling heavy items like paving stones or dirtbikes, look for a cover rated to hold 300+ pounds when evenly distributed. Avoid any point loads that could dent panels.
A 5-year minimum warranty provides some assurance of longevity. Full lifetime warranties on frames are ideal. Just be sure to review what exactly is covered if defects arise down the road.
Budget-friendly soft covers start around $200, while high-end retractable options can cost over $2,000. Set a realistic budget but know you get what you pay for in terms of quality and durability.
More Expert Tips for Automated Tonneau Covers
Beyond just purchasing advice, here are some other usage tips I’ve learned from my tonneau cover testing adventures:
- For retractable covers, be sure to periodically clean out the canister box drain tubes. Debris buildup can lead to water leakage into the rails if clogged.
- Don’t rely solely on your tonneau for keeping cargo locked down. Also use tie-downs, cargo nets, or locking saddle bags for heavy/loose items.
- Roll-up covers can collect small tears over time. Apply clear vinyl repair tape to any small rips or splits as soon as you notice them to avoid enlargement.
- Allowingsnow to build up on any tonneau cover can lead to tears and dents from the weight. Brush off accumulation frequently to avoid damage.
- When parking in public, positionthe tailgate angled downward with the tonneau cover partially open to deter thieves from slicing the vinyl sides.
- Avoid using any harsh chemical cleaners, abrasives, or protectants on vinyl covers. A mild soap and water solution is best for maintaining the material.
- For hard covers, keep exterior surfaces waxed just like you would the truck paint. It protects from UV damage and makes scuffs easier to remove.
Other Truck Bed Accessories to Consider
An automated tonneau cover is a great start, but you can really trick out your truck’s cargo zone with these other useful accessories:
A folding bed extender provides even more cargo space when the tailgate is down. Look for one with quick release mounts for easy on/off. Make sure it’s designed to work with your tonneau cover.
A spray-in or drop-in bed liner protects the inner bed from scratches and dents. Roll-on liners are also available for easier DIY application. Make sure it’s compatible with your tonneau mounting system.
Plastic bed slides make loading heavy items like fridges or furniture much easier. They eliminate the need to lift across the paint-scratching tailgate gap.
Securing loose objects with cargo nets prevents load shifting during driving. Vinyl dividers keep items separated. Look for tension-fit options that conform to your bed shape.
Bed Storage Boxes
In-bed storage boxes maximize unused space under tonneau covers. Waterproof plastic boxes keep items secure, organized, and protected from the elements.
LED cargo lights illuminate the usable bed space when loading in the dark. Choose bright, low-profile lights that mount under tonneau covers.
Gas struts allow you to gently release the tailgate instead of dropping it. The struts support the weight while preventing slam damage.
Frequently Asked Questions About Tonneau Covers
Still have some lingering questions about picking out and using an automated tonneau cover? Here are answers to the FAQs I get the most:
Do tonneau covers increase gas mileage?
Yes, tonneau covers can improve gas mileage by reducing aerodynamic drag from the open bed. Some manufacturers claim up to 10-15% better MPG. Expect around 2 MPG average improvement.
How difficult is it to install a tonneau cover?
Most modern covers feature quick clamp-on attachment methods that allow tool-free installation in under an hour, with no drilling required. Just be sure all components are universal or designed for your truck.
Can you store items on top of a soft tonneau cover?
It’s not recommended. Vinyl covers lack the strength to support weight on top. Rigid covers may hold some evenly dispersed lightweight items, but avoid point loads.
Do tonneau covers stop water from getting in the bed?
Rigid aluminum covers provide the best waterproofing when sealed correctly. Vinyl covers will bead/roll off light rain but can leak with pooling. Retractables are not fully watertight when closed.
Can you open a tonneau cover with items loaded against it?
Yes, most quality automated covers have enough power to open smoothly even against some resistance from cargo. But avoid overloading weight directly against the cover.
What’s better roll-up or tri-fold tonneau?
Roll-ups offer better weather protection when closed, and you can open just halfway. But tri-folds are quicker, avoid rear rail space, and allow partial or full access. Personal preference!
How do you clean vinyl tonneau covers?
Use a mild cleaner and water solution. Avoid harsh chemicals/abrasives that could damage the vinyl. Wipe down regularly with protectant/conditioner to prevent drying and sun damage.
Can you mount a tool box with a tonneau cover?
Some covers allow for mounting a low-profile toolbox at the front of the bed. But confirm spacing allows for cover operation. Weight on rear toolboxes likely prevents cover opening.
How much does a good tonneau cover cost?
Basic soft vinyl covers start around $200-300, mid-range tri-folds $500, retractables $800+, and high-end hard covers up to $1500+. You get what you pay for in durability.
Take the Hassle Out with an Automated Tonneau
As you can see, choosing the right automated tonneau cover for your truck is an important decision. The convenience and protection offered by power tonneaus make them well worth the investment for truck owners who are tired of struggling with manual covers.
I hope these comprehensive reviews and tips help you select the perfect model to meet your needs and budget. Any of these covers will provide an awesome upgrade over your basic snap-on vinyl.
Just remember the key factors like material type, clamps versus drill installation, profile height, weight rating, and special features like canister housings or locking panels.
Here’s to smooth, stylish, hands-free access to your truck bed! Ditch the snaps and give one of these time-saving automated tonneau covers a try. Your gear will stay dry and secure in any weather, with way less hassle.