Aside from stopping a truck owner in the parking lot to ask them about their hard-panel folding tonneau cover, there are few places you can see and feel the cover in operation and get a qualified judgment. You’ll also get different stories from different owners on the exact same product. They might have installed it incorrectly or felt they paid too much.
We have gone through and done the research, selecting what we consider to be the best-looking and best-performing hard-panel folding tonneau covers at each price range. With the exception of the DiamondBack SE, all the other hard-panel folding tonneau covers are low profile, meaning that from more than a few feet away, most people cannot tell there is a tonneau cover. The DiamondBack SE, however, has a higher profile. It is easily noticed, for good reason.
The List: Our Top Picks
Here is a quick rundown of the models.
|DNA Motoring||Best budget||Low price. Looks good. 350-pound capacity||Cam-locking mechanism instead of pull-cord releases. More of a hassle to open||If you are ready to make the jump to a folding hard-panel, but are price-sensitive, this is a good entry model||Check Price|
|Gator EFX||Best mid-range||Still a low price, looks good, and functions well. Gator EFX has great customer service.||Panel closest to the cable cannot be flipped up to provide near-total bed access. Some reports of leaks.||A step up in convenience, and still not a bad price.||Check Price|
|BakFlip MX4||Best choice||Extra weight capacity and extra heavy-duty construction||In extreme crosswinds (40 mph) you might have a problem with the cover lifting at the hinge, but it is extreme. Also, evaluate whether you want to spend more and need the extra weight capacity||It’s really a toss-up between either one of the BAKFlip models, but when in doubt, go for the extra weight capacity the GX model offers||Check Price|
DNA Motoring Hard Tri-Fold Tonneau Cover
BRAND: DNA Motoring
FINISH: Textured black powder-coated.
MATERIAL: Aluminum, composite, ABS plastic.
WARRANTY: None stated
WEIGHT CAPACITY: 350 lbs., evenly distributed
PRICE: Check Price
This is an entry-level, hardtop tri-fold tonneau cover. Certainly worth the price. It is attractive and made with a nicely finished powder-coated aluminum that sandwiches an ABS interior. It looks good, and it does the job. The assembly pack comes with a fair amount of seal, allowing you to keep out most of the moisture when it rains or when you drive through the car wash. The installation instructions are thorough and at a weight of 70 lbs., one person can do the install, probably in an hour. The product is manufactured in China if that is a concern. The entire kit comes in a sturdy cardboard box, preventing most shipping problems. The panel closest to the cab also folds up and secures in place, giving you access to almost the entire bed.
What’s missing on the DNA Motoring Tri-Fold Tonneau cover? How about side rails? There are none. Instead, the tonneau cover is sealed by tightening down each panel from the inside with a cam latch. To fold the cover back and get access to the bed, you undo each cam latch. They are designed for this, snapping up into a recessed mechanism that holds them in place. You unsnap the cam latch on either side. Opening and closing takes a little longer than with the traditional pull-cords.
These adjustable clamps seem to require a lot of adjustment all the time. If you don’t regularly check the hardware, things will rattle when you’re driving down the highway. On the other hand, cam latches make it easier to center the unit on your truck bed.
These adjustable cam latches are only accessible if you open the tailgate, similar to the cable pulls that are used on other hard folding covers. That means the tonneau cover cannot be opened if you have a locking tailgate. Nice feature. Makes it a bit more theft-resistant.
Gator EFX Hard Folding Tonneau Cover
FINISH: Semi-gloss powder-coat black finish
MATERIAL: Aircraft-grade aluminum
WARRANTY: Three years
WEIGHT CAPACITY: 300 lbs., evenly distributed
PRICE: Check Price
The Gator EFX Hard Fold Tonneau Cover is a step up into the mid-range prices for hard folding tonneau covers. It is made in the US from aircraft-grade aluminum, with EDMP plastic hinges between the panels (EDMP is a high-tech plastic).
Open the tailgate of your truck, tug on the hidden pull cord on either side that unlocks the panels, and fold them over, opening up the bed of the truck. Because the pull-cords are on the underside of the end rail of the last panel, when that panel is down the pull-cord is inaccessible. If you have a locking tailgate, when the tailgate is up and the panel of the Gator cover is down, it is pretty difficult to get into the bed of your truck. It’s not theft-proof (few things are), but it’s harder to get it open. The goal is to encourage the bad guy to go on to the next truck.
Gator included a tube drainage system in the design of this tonneau cover. Like most other drainage systems, it routes water from the channel guide, out of the openings in the bed that are placed there by the truck manufacturer.
Gator EFX Hard Fold Tonneau Cover looks good, even after being out in the elements, and it cleans up well.
There are some downsides. One of the big differences between the Gator cover and other models is that the panel closest to the cab of the truck is stationary. It does not fold up like other models. You don’t have access to the entire bed. For some truck owners, this is not a problem. For others it is. Gator’s makes it easy to loosen the folded panels and lift the entire assembly off the truck. You can reinstall it later.
Gator has had some complaints about mold pieces and trim parts that come apart, leaving gaps that don’t look good and allow water in. Gator is very cooperative with buyers and has even sent out a few new hard-folding tonneau covers to replace defective ones. Even so, we haven’t encountered any owners that would recommend against buying this product.
BAKFlip G2 Tonneau Cover
FINISH: Gloss black powder coat
MATERIAL: Aluminum-wrapped composite
WARRANTY: Three years
WEIGHT CAPACITY: 300 lbs., evenly distributed
PRICE: Check Price
The BAKFlip G2 features closer tolerances and quality rubber seals, examples of what you see as you get into the quality hard folding tonneau covers. Small wonder that BAKFlip is a respected name in tonneau covers.
Installation is easy, in less than an hour. You accomplish everything with a Phillips head screwdriver and a ratchet armed with a ½-inch and a 9/16-inch head.
The recessed cable pull that releases the third panel from its place against the tailgate is accessible only after you have lowered the tailgate, once again providing good security, especially if you have a locking tailgate.
A common problem with these folding hard folding tonneaus is that when you flip up the last panel closest to the cab, providing access to almost the entire bed, that panel rests against your cab exterior. Enough vibration can scuff or damage your paint job. BAKFlip solves this problem by providing you with adhesive-backed foam molding that installs on the panel where it contacts the cab.
The aluminum panels, encasing a composite interior, are strong enough to support 300 lbs of evenly distributed weight. These powder-coated panels stand up in even the harshest climates. Just wash them as you would the rest of the truck and they look good, even a few years later.
As far as flaws or problems, the price can be a barrier. You’re getting into the more expensive folding covers, but for many, the higher price is worth it to protect your truck.
There are a few secluded instances of leaking problems around the hardware and the hinges, but those seem to be the exception rather than the rule.
There is one design flaw we encountered, and that has to do with the cable releases. It is also easily remedied. When you reach for the cable to release the panel, it is easy to push the cable up into the recessed trim piece. Unless you have a pair of needlenose pliers, it can be difficult to get the cable out. You’re stuck with the panel locked in place until you have the proper tools. This is remedied by fitting a piece of weather stripping or molding into the recessed piece to prevent the cable from getting pushed in there. Problem solved.
BAKFlip MX4 Tonneau Cover
FINISH: Gloss black powder coat
WARRANTY: Five years
WEIGHT CAPACITY: 400 lbs., evenly distributed
PRICE: Check Price
Pickup truck owners are climbing the ladder to near the top of folding tonneau covers with the BAKFlip MX4. This is a premium cover that supports 400 pounds of evenly distributed weight. This cover is so sturdy, in fact, that even when there is a near-full load on top of the MX4, the aluminum panels hold up so well that you can still open the truck’s tailgate. Lesser panels will bow, sag, and bind against the tailgate, preventing you from opening it.
The black matte cover retains its like-new appearance after several years of use, even in hard weather with snow and freezing temperatures. It also holds up to the daily grind. Owners who have the MX4 on their work truck, or perhaps have an auxiliary fuel tank in the bed (common for fifth-wheel owners) have to fold back the panels on a near-daily basis. But the MX4 still looks new, with the molding still in great condition, with few leaks.
A few years back the MX4 ran into one flaw. Driving with the cover fully closed at 80 mph with a 40mph crosswind, the wind managed to get under the last two panels of the cover and lifted it up at the hinge (the next to last panel does not lock down). The panels and hinge were left without even a minor blemish, but the vibration wore out the endcap trim. BAKFlip’s excellent customer service sent out replacement caps.
The price point, north of ~$1,000, will make some people think. For those drivers who want the durability, though, it’s a fair tradeoff and an investment they are willing to make.
Update: for more details, read our Bakflip MX4 review
DiamondBack SE Tonneau Cover
FINISH: Rugged black, smooth black, or aluminum
MATERIAL: High-grade alloy aluminum
WARRANTY: Limited lifetime on manufacturing and parts.
WEIGHT CAPACITY: 400 lbs., evenly distributed
The DiamondBack SE Tonneau is a serious cover for serious truck owners. You can see this just by looking it at. It is made from heavy-duty diamond-plate aluminum alloy. It supports 400 lbs. of evenly distributed weight
The other distinctive feature of the DiamondBack is that it is a departure from other folding tonneau covers that fold all the way to the front of the bed. The DiamondBack features a narrower center panel. Both the front and back panels raise from this center panel, aided by gas-filled struts and heavy-duty hinges. This gives you access to the front or back of the truck bed without having to open the other end. If you have an auxiliary fuel tank or an anchored toolbox at the front of your truck, there is no need to fold up the entire tonneau cover. You lift the front panel, and you’re there.
The struts are easily detached and the panels have 180-degree rotation so your panels can lay flat. If your load requires that you drive with the panels open, no problem.
DiamondBack knew that their clientele would be carrying valuable cargo, because the engineers outfitted both the front and back panels with heavy-duty keyed dead-bolt style locks with die-cast zinc lock handles. It takes a determined thief to get past this tonneau cover.
The DiamondBack SE comes in a choice of three finishes, rugged black, smooth black, or aluminum. All of them hold up to any weather you might encounter. Neoprene gaskets all around prevent leaks, assisted by gutters under both panel hinges to channel the water away.
The center panel on the DiamondBack prevents full access to the truck bed, so this has to be considered in your buying decision. But the 400 lb. capacity on top of the closed panels is a viable alternative for big loads. This is made all the easier because the DiamondBack includes four heavy-duty cleats on the sides of the panels. The DiamondBack also has a higher profile, but that’s part of the statement it makes. This is a serious foldable truck bed cover, and it justifies the $1,800 price tag.
Best Value. The DNA Motoring tonneau cover is a good value for someone who wants an entry-level folding hard-panel tonneau cover that doesn’t break the bank. It supports 350 lbs., a hefty load. The downside is the cam-latching, which takes a bit longer to unfasten, making it more of a production to fold back the cover. It is a small inconvenience for a good price reduction.
Best mid-range. If you have the money, the BAKFlip G2 model or the MX4 model are favorites. They are backed by a known name in the tonneau industry, have good materials, and weather well. The only question is whether you need the added weight capacity offered by the more expensive MX4.
Best security. The DiamondBack SE is made from serious aluminum alloy that stands up to most attempts to defeat it and steal your stuff. These panels are backed up with zinc-enclosed locks on the front and back, and galvanized steel deadbolts. The DiamondBack is expensive, but it is solid.
Buying Guide: Things to consider as you look at hard-folding tonneau covers
Not really full bed access and less vision
Even though they say that when you fold up the last panel, you get access to the full bed, that is not completely true. The folded panels take up four to six inches. Also, for those models that do allow the panels to fold up against the back of the cab, you lose any vision out of your rearview mirror. Chances are, though, whatever you’re carrying is large enough to at least partially block that view anyway.
Some of the models reviewed support as much as 400 lbs. on top of the panels, and the minimum is 300 lbs. If you need the space, longer items can be fastened down on top of the closed cover.
You may encounter a situation in which you want to remove the folding hard tonneau cover for a trip or errand. All those we reviewed are easy to remove, thus giving you the full truck bed. Although some models say you can do the installation with one person, count on two. Installations take about an hour. With the exception of the DiamondBack, the other tonneau covers can come off and sit lengthwise in the truckbed in the event you need to remove them when you are all the road. The DiamondBack, is larger. If you take it off and leave it unassembled in the back of your truck, you have room for little else.
Drainage, and water-resistant vs. waterproof
The hard-panel folding tonneau covers we reviewed, with the exception of the DiamondBack, come with drainage systems that route the water through plastic tubes to holes in the bottom of the bed. All of them have sturdy connections, but they can occasionally be dislodged by cargo sliding around the bed. Routinely check the drainage tubes to make sure this has not happened.
Also, there is a difference between water-resistant and waterproof, and few tonneau covers are waterproof. The instructions are usually carefully worded to avoid making that promise. Water is good at getting into places it is not supposed to be. In our reviews, we experienced minor leakage problems and heard of a few others, but enough water at the right angle will eventually trickle in. We suggest you check your truck bed routinely for any leaks, especially right after installation.
Molding and insulation do wear out, Especially if you open and close that folding hard-panel tonneau cover a couple of times a day. After three or four years the insulation might get thin. Try to keep debris, dirt, leaves, and other junk off the molding. It will accelerate the process. And if it does wear out, most moldings are easily replaced.
If you use a professional installation, research your installer as carefully as you researched the tonneau cover purchase. Obviously, some installers are better than others. Regardless of who does it, expect that you might have to add some molding, or trim a part for that exact fit.
We have seen tonneau covers lasting years and still looking good, but you still want to do what you can to keep it looking brand new. There are a variety of matte cleaners on the market to help you keep that like-new look as long as you can. Apply them regularly. Check the rails regularly, making sure everything is tight. Nuts and bolts will loosen over time. If you hear or see a vibration that wasn’t there before, check it out. Check the rails regularly for excess debris that might prevent a smooth operation.
Frequently asked questions
These tonneau covers are made from aluminum. Aluminum is not that strong, is it?
This is not your grandmother’s aluminum. These are high-grade aluminum alloys that are much stronger and have the added benefit of being lightweight. Many of these aluminums are used in aerospace, and the FAA does not mess around. This is a strong aluminum that will hold up. The truth is, locks and theft-proof materials on anything only discourage.
How theftproof are these tonneau covers?
Like waterproof, there are few things that are theftproof. If someone wants through your folding, hard-panel tonneau cover badly enough, they will figure it out. Thieves are opportunistic people. If you make life difficult for them, they will move onto the next truck. That’s what you want to accomplish, and most of the time it does not take much.
How do I clean my tonneau cover?
Whenever you wash your car, wash the tonneau cover in the same manner. Running it through the car wash should not be a problem. Many of the DIY car washes have foaming brush extensions. Those work well, too. Use a matte cleaner regularly. Lots of retractable tonneau covers go on work trucks to secure tools and materials. Try to keep from spilling paint and solvents. Look at your directions for specific cleaning instructions. WARNING: if you are going to get leaks, the high pressure of a car wash will do it. If you absolutely don’t want it wet, take it out of the bed of your truck before going through the car wash.
I just installed the tonneau cover and the locking mechanism is tight, and other actions are tight.
Especially right after installation, locking mechanisms and other actions can be stiff and difficult to operate until they wear in. Pay attention to the instructions. Unless indicated, do not lubricate anything.
I see different prices around for the same cover?
This is not uncommon. Manufacturers and dealers run specials, or they might discount prices if they have excess inventory. We recommend you shop around the various sources. Watch refund and exchange policies, as well as what kind of service they have. The best ones list a phone number. If they do not, or encourage email through the website, send them a question about the product. See how their response times are.
What if I fold up the cover? How do I neep the panels from getting caught in the wind?
With the exception of the DiamondBack, which is a different design, all the tonneau covers reviewed include adjustable latches to hold the panels in place.
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