You already know you are looking at the highest level of security, protection, and functionality in retractable tonneau covers, but what are the subtle differences between one product and another, especially considering such a wide span of prices? You also have to ask yourself, do you really need that convenience, or is it a luxury that makes you look cool? This review of retractable tonneau covers will help you make that decision.
Before we get started, we want to say up-front that all these models are low-profile. This means that the retractable tonneau cover extended no higher than the bed of your truck. For the casual observer, a quick look at your truck does not necessarily reveal that you have a retractable tonneau cover. Low-profile covers don’t attract attention. They don’t make a thief think, “Huh? What’s the owner hiding in there?”
Here is a quick rundown of the models.
|Synetic USA||Best value||A great bargain retractable tonneau cover. Looks good even after a few years||Low price point, looks good, holds up well, five-year warranty||Manufacturer installation video can be difficult to understand. Reports of some shipping problems (mostly damage and poor quality control (product comes from Asia)||Check Price|
|GatorTrax Tonneau Cover||For a step up in price, this is a great tonneau cover, and it ages well||Made in the US, the factory-sealed ball-bearing mechanism makes sliding smooth, made of composite polycarbonate, and aluminum||Considering the higher price, this retractable tonneau cover comes with only a one-year warranty, the weakest of any reviewed||Check Price|
|RetraxPRO MX and RetraxONE MX||Best mid-range price||Two versions of this retractable model. The RetraxONE comes with a composite tonneau cover. The PRO model is made with aluminum||Made in the US, limited lifetime warranty, easy installation, factory-sealed ball-bearing rolling mechanism||The higher price point for the aluminum version will make some buyers think twice||RetraxPro Price MX / RetraxOne MX|
|PowerTraxPRO/ONE Electric with remote control||Best electric model||A quality tonneau cover with a ball-bearing mechanism and an electric motor for retractiving with a remote control||Made in the US. Composite (ONE) or aluminum (PRO), ball-bearing mechanism, the remote electric opener gets rave reviews. Very smooth||High price point and DIY installation may be a problem for some trucks||PowertraxONE / PowertraxPRO|
Best Retractable Tonneau Covers: Reviews & Recommendations
SyneticUSA Retractable Hard Tonneau Cover
BRAND: Synetic USA
FINISH: Textured black matte
WARRANTY: 5 years limited warranty
WEIGHT CAPACITY: 200 lbs., evenly distributed
PRICE: Check Price
This is a solid purchase, especially at the $800-level for a low-profile, attractive retractable tonneau cover. The black matte finish on this tonneau looks sharp, and the kit comes with a drainage system for both the front and back (the only one on the market of those we reviewed), drain any water from the tracks. At a weight of 80 pounds, you and a buddy can install this in a few hours on a weeknight before you make your next weekend camping run.
The aluminum cover on the Synetic USA MR is powder coated for a black matte finish. Long-term this cover holds up well and continues to look good with few signs of wear. The cover rolls easily into the canister and rolls out again just as smoothly. The key lock keeps possessions safe from prying eyes, and while no lock is completely theft-proof, provides enough security to make the bad guys contemplate moving onto a truck with less protection. Better yet, the locking mechanism allows you to lock the cover into place anywhere along the rails for those times you find yourself carrying a larger item.
The Synetic USA fits tight. No rattles or vibrations out of this tonneau cover.
There have been complaints of damage when buyers opened the box, either from shipping or what might be poor quality control when they are doing the final packing at the plant. The extent of the damage may make installation impossible. Consider purchasing the Synetic USA from a US-based dealer and make the inspection quickly after arrival. If you need to exchange or return it, it’s usually easier if you just received it.
Everything worked well upon completion of the installation. The only snag we found was that the lock mechanism might be tight for a while until it is broken in.
GatorTrax Tonneau Cover
FINISH: Textured black matte
MATERIAL: Composite, polycarbonate and aluminum
WEIGHT CAPACITY: 175 lbs., evenly distributed
PRICE: Check Price
The most distinguishing and spiffy feature of this low-profile, US-manufactured GatorTrax is the sealed ball-bearing track that guides the retractable cover along the track. Your tonneau cover slides like the well-oiled machine that it is. Even better, this mechanism keeps the cover from coming into contact with itself when it is fully retracted into the box, a feature that prevents the panels from rubbing against each other and wearing out. The retracting mechanism is factory sealed, so you never have to worry about it–ever.
When fully extended, the GatorTrax locks in place with one key lock. Lock your tailgate, and your GatorTrax and the items in your truck are secure. Unlock it, and you can slide and secure the track into place anywhere along the track. When fully closed, the GatorTrax tonneau supports 175 pounds of evenly distributed weight. It doesn’t move and rattle, even as you’re traveling down the freeway at 60 mph.
The Gator also wears well. Four years after installation, the GatorTrax Tonneau Cover looks as good as the day it was installed.
Speaking of installation, the GatorTrax installs easily. Thanks to a video on the website, you have all your questions answered.
The downside, for the larger price tag, you get only a one-year warranty. Of the models we reviewed, this is the least-warranted retractable tonneau cover we encountered.
RetraxPRO MX and RetraxONE MX
FINISH: Textured black matte
MATERIAL: Aluminum (RetraxPRO), or composite (RetraxONE)
WARRANTY: Limited lifetime
WEIGHT CAPACITY: Up to 500 lbs evenly distributed on the PRO model
PRICE: RetraxPro Price MX / RetraxOne MX
We’re getting up into high-dollar territory with the RetraxPRO MX, although the RetraxONE MX competes with the GatorTrax on price. The natural question is, what do you get for your money? First of all, you get a limited lifetime warranty with both models, which means that if you install it correctly and don’t drop a wrecking ball on it, this low-profile baby will last for the life of your truck and maybe your next truck if it fits.
We attribute part of the lifespan of this retractable tonneau cover (either the aluminum or composite version) to the factory-sealed ball-bearing mechanism that allows your cover to glide along the rack. When you install it you will get a sense of the solid construction and hardware. Add the quality seals that come with the kit, and you get a tonneau cover that keeps anything in your truckbed dry and safe.
At this price point, you expect to see all the features of a superior retractable tonneau, and the RetraxPro and RetraxONE don’t disappoint. Installation takes less than an hour. The rails come with adjustable screws so that you can ensure true parallel clearances, allowing the cover to glide smoothly the entire way and not bind. The locking mechanism is solid, and you can also secure the partially open tonneau cover in place anywhere along the rail.
The biggest downside of the RetraxPRO is the price. At more than two grand for the aluminum version, it’s going to make a lot of people reach for their wallet and say, “Ouch.” But as one truck owner said, “Yeah, it’s expensive, but so is my truck.
Update: for more details, read our review RetraxONE MX here
PowertraxONE/PRO–Electric-powered, remote control version
FINISH: Textured black matte
WARRANTY: Limited lifetime (pro-rated after three years)
WEIGHT CAPACITY: Up to 500 lbs evenly distributed
PRICE: PowertraxONE / PowertraxPRO
Frankly, we were amazed at the price point of the electric, remote-control version of the PowertraxPRO retractable tonneau cover. You get everything on the RetraxPRO MX, plus a remote control electric opening mechanism and additional truck bed lighting, and you’re only paying $500 more. Of course, this makes the PowerTrax PRO with the electric opener the most expensive model in this review, but we expect to pay more for this convenience. It’s also made in the US.
The PowerTraxPRO/ONE comes with everything the RetraxPRO/ONE does (which we discussed in the previous entry). The difference is the addition of the electric motor for opening and closing the tonneau cover with a remote control unit. It looks slick, too. If you are the kind of truck owner that wants convenience, this is the tonneau cover for you.
One of the concerns we had was the speed of the mechanism. If you are in a hurry, will you be dancing from one foot to another while waiting for the cover to open or close? Not so with this model. That electric motor hums along, opening or closing it in just a few seconds. The PowerTrax wisely comes with two remotes because no one ever loses a remote (yes, that’s sarcasm you just read). One wise soul even mounted the second remote in the bed of his truck. This is a good idea for two reasons. First, it’s convenient if you are in a hurry to drop something off and want to leave the engine running. Second, if you lose the remote, then you have a backup in the truck, and not in a drawer back in your garage.
What are the downsides of the PowerTrax? The first is installation. You need to tap into the electrical system of the truck to get power to the electric motor that controls the opening and closing. That means you have to run a wire to the battery. PowerTrax has done a good job of making this as simple and clean as possible, but on installs on some trucks, it can get complicated. If you are a handy truck owner, you can work your way through the process, but routing the wiring through the truck from the battery to the canister-mounted electric motor can get complicated. If you don’t have the handy touch, or an afternoon with nothing else to do, you might find yourself considering a professional installation (that means more money).
Of course, our final concern is price. This is the most expensive model of those we have reviewed. But if you are considering the PowerTraxPro, then money might not be as much of a concern for you as opposed to the more budget-minded truck owner. You want convenience, and that’s what you’ll get with this model.
For the money and performance, the Synetic USA Retractable Hard Tonneau Cover (MR) gets the nod. From everything we have seen, combined with the $800-range price tag, you can’t beat it.
The best mid-range retractable tonneau
This goes to RetraxONE MX, which is the composite version. You pay extra, but you get that limited lifetime warranty and solid construction.
Best luxury model
This goes to the PowertraxONE/PRO–Electric, electric-powered, remote control version. It opens and closes in a few seconds, and comes with two remote controls.
Buying Guide: Things to consider as you look at retractable tonneau covers
No stake bed cup holders and a little less room
The railings for almost all retractable tonneau covers on the market cover the stake bed cup holders. That’s a sacrifice you have to make. Secondly, retractable tonneau covers, by definition, include a canister stretching across the bed just behind the cab of the truck. The rolled-up tonneau cover sits inside this canister. This canister takes up about a foot of the bed, giving you less space in the bed. It typically rests about nine inches above the floor of the truck bed, so you can slide longer items the entire length of the bed, as long as you stay below the canister. The important thing to remember is that you will lose that space.
Some of the models reviewed support as much as 500 lbs., and the minimum is 175 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 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 tonneau covers that feature an electric motor. That’s going to take a bit longer.
Drainage, and water-resistant vs. waterproof
The retractable tonneau covers we reviewed came 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 few water problems and did not hear of many, 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 does wear out. 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. Refrain from retracting your tonneau cover when there are a lot of leaves or tree droppings on it.
Frequently asked questions
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 will 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. 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 will be stiff and difficult to operate until they wear in. This is a good thing. If properly installed, your tonneau cover should retract smoothly. Your biggest enemy to this are rails that are not perfectly parallel. Pay attention to the instructions. Unless indicated, rails and other parts do not require lubrication. Some manufacturers advise owners to apply some paraffin wax is facilitate operation.
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 message asking a question about the product. See how their response times are.