A tonneau cover can be a great addition to your truck bed, protecting your cargo from weather and prying eyes. But like most truck accessories, tonneau covers come with some drawbacks. Understanding the potential disadvantages of truck bed tonneau covers can help you decide if one is right for your needs.
What is a Tonneau Cover?
First, let’s review what a tonneau cover is. A tonneau cover is a protective truck bed cover that sits over the truck bed. Tonneau covers come in hard folding, soft roll-up, retractable, and hinged lid varieties. The main purpose of a tonneau cover is to cover and protect the truck bed and any cargo inside.
Tonneau covers offer many benefits like weather protection, security, improved gas mileage, and a sleek customized look. But they also come with some potential drawbacks to consider.
Disadvantage 1: Reduced Truck Load Capacity
One key disadvantage of truck tonneau covers is reduced load capacity. The extra weight of a hard tonneau cover can lower the overall truck payload capacity.
Hard folding, retractable, and hinged tonneau covers are the heaviest options, potentially weighing between 125 to 200 pounds. That’s a significant amount of added weight on the truck bed.
The result is a lower overall truck payload capacity since the tonneau weight counts against the payload limit. Soft roll-up tonneau covers weight much less, around 50 pounds, so they have less impact on load capacity.
How Much Load Capacity Do You Lose?
The load capacity reduction varies based on the truck model payload limit and tonneau cover weight. But for a truck with a 1500 pound payload, a 200 pound hard tonneau cover would cut the usable capacity by over 10%.
That could mean losing the ability to haul an extra dirt bike, set of furniture, or other heavy items. For trucks that already have a low payload capacity, a heavy tonneau can be especially limiting.
Disadvantage 2: Higher Cost
Tonneau covers also come with a higher upfront cost compared to keeping an open truck bed. The most affordable soft roll-up covers start around $200-$400. More heavy duty retractable and hinged models can cost $1000-$1500 installed.
You’ll also need to factor in installation costs if you don’t want to tackle it yourself. So there is a notable investment required.
Are the Benefits Worth the Cost?
Whether the cost is worthwhile depends on how much you’ll use the tonneau cover. If you regularly haul cargo and want the protection and security, the cost may be justified. But for light duty use, a soft roll-up cover offers most benefits at a lower price.
Disadvantage 3: Limited Bed Access
Restricted accessibility is another key tonneau cover disadvantage. Hard covers that fold or retract restrict access to parts of the bed when deployed.
With a folding cover, you can only access the front section of the bed when the cover is closed. To access the full bed, you must fully remove the cover.
Retractable covers allow access to about two-thirds of the bed length. But you’ll still need to retract it fully to reach the tailgate area.
Working Around Limited Bed Access
The limited accessibility can make loading awkward. You may need to fully remove the cover to load large or oddly shaped items.
Careful planning of your cargo layout can help optimize space with a folding tonneau. But the accessibility issues remain a compromise.
Disadvantage 4: Potential Compatibility Issues
Tonneau covers can also potentially have compatibility issues with other truck accessories. The bed rails, clamps, and mounts of the tonneau cover can clash with and restrict other accessories.
For example, a truck with an existing bed liner may need it trimmed or modified to fit the tonneau cover. And tool boxes or racks may need to be repositioned or removed.
The tonneau cover also limits what you can add later. A rack or tall toolbox likely won’t be mountable with the cover installed.
Checking for Accessory Compatibility Issues
It’s important to think through all your current and future truck accessory plans when choosing a tonneau. Measure for potential fit and mounting interference before buying.
Some covers offer more flexible mounting and positioning than others. But you’ll still have limitations compared to an open bed.
Disadvantage 5: Difficult Installation
Installing a tonneau cover brings another disadvantage – it can be challenging to install. Hard covers require drilling into the bed for rails and clamps. This can be difficult to do neatly and properly.
Improper installation can lead to leaks, noise, and other issues down the road. And removal is also difficult if you want to revert to an open bed.
Avoiding Botched Installation
Having a truck shop install the tonneau cover adds cost, but ensures proper fitment and function. If doing it yourself, follow all instructions closely and get help positioning and drilling the bed rails.
Take time to seal all holes and clamps thoroughly as well. Rushed installation is often the culprit behind many tonneau cover headaches.
Disadvantage 6: Security Limitations
Security is one of the main reasons people choose truck bed tonneau covers. But some types have more limitations than others in this area.
Soft roll-up vinyl covers don’t lock at all in most cases. You must rely on the tightness of the rolled cover to deter thieves.
Low profile hard covers also lack integrated locks in some cases. So you need to secure the contents, not the cover itself.
Retractable and hinged covers offer the most security. But even those may use clumsy tailgate locks that are easy to pick.
Choosing the Most Secure Tonneau Cover
If security is your top priority, seek out a retractable or hinged cover with sturdy lock mechanisms on both the cover and tailgate. Avoid vinyl covers and low profile hard covers without integrate locks.
And remember that even the most secure tonneau can be penetrated given enough time and tools. Use it as one part of a multi-layered protection strategy.
Key Takeaways on Tonneau Cover Disadvantages
Tonneau covers offer worthwhile benefits. But they also bring drawbacks to consider before installing one. Here are some key potential disadvantages to weigh for your needs:
- Reduced truck payload capacity – Hard covers can reduce capacity by over 100 lbs in some cases.
- Higher upfront cost – Hard folding and retractable models can cost $1000 or more.
- Limited bed accessibility when closed – Full access requires removing hard cover.
- Potential compatibility issues – Can limit or clash with other accessories.
- Challenging installation – Improper install can cause issues.
- Security limitations – Canvas covers and some hard covers lack locks.
Consider both pros and cons and your specific truck needs before choosing a tonneau cover. And opt for soft roll-up or low profile hard version to minimize drawbacks if they outweigh the benefits for your use case.
Despite the disadvantages, a tonneau cover can still be a great choice for plenty of truck owners. But making an informed decision allows setting proper expectations of the benefits and drawbacks you’ll experience.
FAQs About Tonneau Cover Disadvantages
Ready for a tonneau cover but want to learn more about the potential downsides? Here we’ll dive into some common questions about the disadvantages of truck bed tonneau covers.
Do tonneau covers reduce gas mileage?
No, tonneau covers actually improve gas mileage in most cases. By streamlining airflow over the bed, the tonneau reduces aerodynamic drag. This helps gas mileage, unlike a camper shell which usually lowers MPG.
Can you install a toolbox with a tonneau cover?
Sometimes, but it’s tricky. The toolbox and tonneau cover can interfere with each other’s mounting and operation. It’s easier to install a low profile toolbox first, then fit the tonneau cover around it. But compatibility isn’t guaranteed.
Do tonneau covers leak?
Tonneau covers can leak around mounting holes, clamps, seams if not properly sealed during installation. Ensure all connection points are sealed well and drain tubes installed to reduce risk of water intrusion and leaks. Proper maintenance helps too.
Can you mount a rack over a tonneau cover?
Most tonneau covers don’t accommodate mounting a rack over them. The rack base would interfere with the cover operation and sealing. You’ll need to remove the tonneau to mount a rack in most cases.
Do thieves cut through tonneau covers?
Yes, thieves can cut through vinyl and even aluminum tonneau covers given enough time. Locks deter quick grabs, but determined thieves can penetrate any cover. Use other security layers like concealed storage or a cable lock on gear.
Are tonneau covers worth it?
Tonneau covers offer useful benefits for hauling and security. But they come with drawbacks like cost and installation challenges. Overall value depends on your specific truck needs. They are worth it for frequent haulers but may not make sense for light duty use.
Do tonneau covers rust?
Aluminum tonneau covers won’t rust. But steel panel covers can develop surface rust over time. Keeping the paint intact and periodically treating it can help minimize rust. Rust-resistant spray can add an extra layer of protection too.
Should I get a hard or soft tonneau cover?
Hard covers offer more protection and security. But soft covers cost less and don’t impact load capacity. Choose soft roll-up covers for budget-friendly protection. Opt for a hard cover if security or keeping cargo dry is critical.
Do tonneau covers drain water?
Many tonneau covers have built-in drain tubes to channel water towards the outside of the truck bed. But proper installation is key to ensure drainage and prevent rainwater accumulation. Check for standing water after rains to identify any leaks or clogs.
The Bottom Line
Tonneau covers provide valuable protection and neat customization for truck owners. But it’s also important to consider the other side of the coin – the disadvantages and compromises you take on by adding a tonneau cover.
Keep in mind how a bulky hard cover will impact your payload capacity for frequent heavy hauls. And how closed covers limit bed accessibility for oversized cargo loading.
Factor in costs both for the cover and professional installation to avoid headaches. And make sure to pick a cover that has the right mix of features for your particular security needs and other accessory plans.
Going in with clear expectations of both pros and cons will ensure you end up with the right tonneau cover for your truck. With a little upfront thought, you can maximize the benefits you gain while minimizing buyer’s remorse from the disadvantages.