Having a truck can be a huge advantage over having a car, with the extra space in the bed and towing power. In addition, toolboxes are a big bonus to people who may need their tools on the go, be it for work or other reasons. Another major addition to a truck you may consider is a truck bed cover or tonneau cover, but you may be wondering if they’re compatible with toolboxes.
You can have a truck bed cover with a tool box. They are compatible with each other, but may need to be specially made and fitted to your specific truck’s needs. Regular covers for trucks without toolboxes won’t fit, but that doesn’t mean you need to give up the protection a tonneau cover offers.
This article will detail tonneau covers, including some background and the advantages they offer to truck owners.
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Why Is It Called a Tonneau Cover?
I know, it seems too fancy a term for what should simply be called a truck bed cover, but there’s a long history behind the term! Auto trimmers and restylers may be aware of the history of the term due to the popularity of tonneau covers, but your average truck owner may not know.
The term ‘tonneau’ was in use long before trucks or even automobiles existed. Tonneau is a French word meaning barrel, container, or cask and was used for many centuries to refer to the cover over the cargo hauled by horse-drawn carriages.
Mostly this just referred to a simple tarp that the French would throw over the cargo to protect it from bad weather or potential thieves, but it has evolved a lot over the years. The first evolution of a plain tarp was the addition of fixed roofs on carriages, and then that naturally carried over when carriages evolved into automobiles. Actual tarps as tonneau covers stopped being used because they weren’t needed anymore.
In the 1930s, automobile sport became popular, and sportsters began looking for creative ways to increase cars’ speed. Wind drag was the most prominent offender holding them back, so they looked to history, specifically tonneau covers, for the answer.
It turns out that the aviation industry used canvas tarps similar to carriage tonneau covers to reduce the wind drag caused by unoccupied seats. So people took that idea and applied it to automobiles to increase speed by reducing wind drag. And thus, ‘snap-on’ tonneau covers were born!
Today, tonneau covers are made from a wide variety of materials, whether they’re soft fabric-based covers or hard plastics, or fiberglass. Varieties such as retractable, roll-back, retractable, and snap-on exist. Still, their purpose hasn’t fundamentally changed from the French origins of the word tonneau – to shield cargo from weather and thieves, plus the addition of reducing wind drag on the vehicle.
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Do I Really Need a Tonneau Cover?
It can be tempting to see the price tags of some tonneau covers and say you’ll take your chances without one, but I wouldn’t recommend it. A tonneau cover keeps your belongings dry, organized, and safe from thieves. Not to mention that some of them are stylish and can be customized to fit your truck! We’re about to go over some of the benefits of a tonneau cover and why you should definitely get one.
Benefits of a Tonneau Cover
Tonneau covers offer more benefits to a truck owner than you may initially be aware of, and some of these benefits can be surprising. I think everyone can agree that they’re a sleek and classy addition to any truck. Still, they give substantial advantages to truck owners that make them irresistible to even the staunchest holdout.
Increased Gas Mileage
This may come as a pleasant shock, but tonneau covers increase gas mileage, which is precious, as any truck owner knows. But are you actually aware of how a tonneau cover saves gas? The same principle that reduces wind drag! When you drive your truck, air goes over your cab and down into your truck bed, dragging on your tailgate and slowing your truck ever so slightly.
It may be an imperceptible difference, but that wind drag adds up to your gas bill over time! With a tonneau cover, the wind goes from your cab and glides right off the cover – voila, goodbye wind drag, and hello to gas savings! Some estimate that savings can be as much as 5% to 10%, so a cover is worth considering on that basis alone.
Rain and snow come to mind when you think of inclement weather, but wind can be detrimental to whatever cargo you may be carrying. With a tonneau cover, you don’t have to worry about wind shifting around any sensitive cargo and messing the whole bed up.
That’s not to say there’s no rain and snow protection – tonneau covers are an absolute lifesaver when it comes to your truck bed. Not only will your cargo stay nice and dry, but you don’t have to worry about your bed getting flooded either.
Security Against Thieves
Nobody likes to even entertain the idea that someone might decide to peek in your truck bed and walk off with your belongings, but realistically, you have to consider the possibility and take precautions against it.
One of the best things you can do to protect yourself against prying eyes and sticky fingers is to get a tonneau cover installed. Even if your toolbox with your valuable tools is locked, an open truck bed is as good as an invitation to thieves. Tonneau covers will not only remove the temptation for people to take a little peek at what you’re hauling but oftentimes come with a lock to protect against the more intrepid thieves.
If you frequently carry valuable goods in the bed of your truck and sometimes need to leave them there for any period of time where you’re not nearby, a tonneau cover can offer you peace of mind that you won’t lose anything to criminals.
A tonneau cover offers all of the above benefits and the attractive addition of adding value to your truck. The less your truck bed is directly exposed to wind, rain, and snow, the better condition it will stay in. It makes sense, right? A truck closest to factory condition will retain its value much better than a truck with a bed that gets rained on and worn down over time due to exposure to the elements.
Other considerations that add to value are thief protection and gas mileage. Think about it: how much extra gas do you save over the years with a tonneau cover? 5-10%? Not to mention the potentially expensive cost if the valuable cargo were to get nicked by a criminal. If you think about it, a tonneau cover really pays for itself over time.
Are Tonneau Covers Really Waterproof?
Well, mostly. Depending on the exact type of cover you have and how well it’s fitted, your protection from water can range from a glorified tarp to 99% waterproof. Soft covers are more likely to let water in versus a hardtop cover, but it’s mainly about the seals and your individual needs as far as water coverage goes.
If you mainly just want something to obscure your cargo from would-be thieves and keep the worst of the rain off, you’ll probably be OK with a cheap softcover, as long as you come to terms with the fact that you will get some water in your truck bed. The old saying, “You get what you pay for,” very much applies to tonneau covers.
On the other hand, if you’re a professional using your truck for business and need to store valuable and potentially sensitive cargo in the bed, you’re likely better off getting a hard top cover. We’ll be going over the different types and differences between different covers, but you don’t want to leave your business at risk because you cheaped out on a tonneau cover.
What Kinds of Tonneau Covers Are There?
Now that you may be convinced that getting a tonneau cover is a good idea, you’re probably looking at all the types of covers there are and possibly getting overwhelmed. Thankfully, you don’t have to worry – there’s a tonneau cover variety for any possible set of needs you may have. Whether you’re a professional tradesman with thousands of dollars of tools and materials or a DIY warrior home renovating, there’s a cover that fits your needs.
Flat covers are generally popular because they maintain the truck’s original style and don’t impact driver visibility as truck caps do. Depending on your needs regarding price, ease of use, protection, and compatibility, the type of cover you need will vary.
Retractable Tonneau Cover
A retractable tonneau cover folds or retracts into itself toward the back of the truck bed and can be made of a hard or soft material depending on your specific needs as far as protection goes. A hard retractable tonneau cover will offer a great deal more protection than a softcover. A unique feature of retractable covers is that they can be retracted to only expose a select portion of cargo while leaving the rest covered.
Materials can be vinyl, aluminum, or polycarbonate, depending on the needs discussed above. Retractable covers don’t go on top of your truck bed like some other varieties, and therefore provide a clean and sleek aesthetic. Some retractable covers can even be left partially open to carry oversized cargo.
Folding Tonneau Covers
Folding tonneau covers come in both hard and soft variants, as well as different folding designs. Those are bifold, which folds into two pieces, and trifold, which folds into three pieces. Most folding covers, especially the hard ones, come with locks for added security.
The benefits of a folding cover include ease of access since you don’t have to remove the entire cover to access the truck bed. For this reason, folding covers are great for truck owners who need to haul tall and oversized cargo.
Rolling Tonneau Covers
Rolling tonneau covers are covers that roll into themselves toward the back of the truck bed, reminiscent of a retractable cover. The difference is that the retractable covers roll into a canister, while the rolling cover doesn’t. Rolling tonneau covers come in both hard and soft options.
You can adjust the cover to meet your needs as far as oversized cargo like furniture and lumber because of the rolling design. Naturally, hard rolling tonneau covers are more protective but more expensive than soft rolling covers.
Tool Box Tonneau Covers
If you don’t already have a toolbox on your truck, there are tonneau covers that include a toolbox as part of the cover! This is helpful because it keeps the same design style rather than a jarring difference between a cover and toolbox, plus the fact that not all tonneau covers are compatible with pre-existing toolboxes.
If you’re interested in having both a tonneau cover and a toolbox (assuming you don’t already have one), these can be a great value.
Hinged Tonneau Covers
Hinged tonneau covers come in both hard and soft versions but are both simply a lid for your truck bed on hinges that can be pushed up for bed access and closed for travel and protection. Many varieties of these come with built-in locks for extra security.
While hinged tonneau covers don’t partially open to allow for the transport of award or oversized cargo, limiting your truck bed space, many truck owners enjoy the clean look of them and simply live with the limited space.
Snap-On Tonneau Covers
Snap-on Tonneau covers use clamps that ‘snap-on’ to the frame of your truck bed. These covers are unique in that if you want access to a specific area of the truck bed, you can simply unclamp the clamps from that area while the rest of the cover remains intact. By doing this, you can haul awkwardly shaped items while keeping the rest of your smaller cargo dry and safe.
Electric Tonneau Covers
As the name suggests, these tonneau covers use electricity to retract or extend the cover over the truck bed. Usually, this is accomplished by using a key fob that can retract the cover entirely or even partially, giving you the benefits of a partially open tonneau cover.
Advancement in technology makes this the most convenient option available because all you have to do is press a button, but that convenience comes at a hefty price tag. Consider if your budget and needs necessitate an electric tonneau cover or whether another type will meet the same needs at a lower price.
High Impact Tonneau Covers
High impact tonneau covers are generally made of plastic, vinyl, or aluminum and, as the name suggests, can withstand impact better than soft varieties. These covers are easy to install for the average truck owner and can even be removed if necessary and later reinstalled. This process usually only takes a few minutes!
High impact tonneau covers are heavy-duty and designed to last for years with minimal risk of wear and tear. Harsh weather such as frequent rain and snow are no problem for these types of covers. Another plus is that these covers usually come with a lock for added protection when you need to leave cargo in the truck for a long time.
Some disadvantages are that high impact tonneau covers are usually expensive and heavy, so it’s wise to consider if a lighter and cheaper cover may meet your needs before springing for the pricy one.
Fiberglass Tonneau Covers
Fiberglass tonneau covers are oftentimes painted to look like a part of the truck, making them an attractive option. In addition to this, fiberglass covers are heavy-duty and capable of withstanding any amount of punishment you or inclement weather can throw at it. Most of the time, these covers come with locks, too.
The downsides are that fiberglass tonneau covers are very heavy and typically need a professional to install them – meaning you can’t do it yourself. Of course, this all makes fiberglass covers an expensive choice.
What Varieties Are Compatible With Toolboxes?
If you already have a toolbox, then you’ll have to look for tonneau covers for pre-existing toolboxes on trucks. Some varieties mentioned above are specially modified to accommodate toolboxes. Still, the exact options available will depend heavily on what kind of truck you have, how big your bed is, and the size of your toolbox.
If you’re in doubt about how to find a tonneau cover that fits your truck and toolbox, you can ask a trusted mechanic or your dealership for recommendations on where to look.
While tonneau covers of all shapes and designs exist, only you can decide which type will fit your individual needs. Protection, accessibility, aesthetic design, the type of cargo you’ll be hauling, and your budget should all be considered before settling on a tonneau cover for your truck.