Tri-fold vs Roll-up Tonneau Cover: What Is the Difference and What to Choose?

A tonneau cover is usually the first thing that truck owners consider when it comes to aftermarket accessories. Protecting the bed, and the gear inside is essential. But with all the choices available on the market, it can quickly become overwhelming. This guide will help you sort out the advantages and disadvantages of both tri-fold and roll-up styles of tonneau covers so that you can make the right decision for your needs.

Benefits of a Tri-Fold Tonneau Cover

Not sure of the type of tonneau cover is right for you and your needs? Here’s a quick rundown to help you sort it out. Hard tonneau covers are, by their very nature, are the sturdiest of your choices. But that’s not the end-all and be-all. There are many other things to consider, including design, material, and ease-of-use.

Perhaps the best benefits of a tri-fold tonneau cover are the obvious ones: durability and security. From molded plastics to rigid panels of various metals, there are a vide variety of materials and finishes on the market today that offer the strength necessary for just about any truck owner’s needs. The sturdy characteristics of the tri-fold lend themselves to keeping the contents of the truck bed safe from both thieves and Mother Nature. Just unfold it and lock your tailgate.

Most tri-fold options are low-profile, so they will offer your truck and bed a seamless look, and they can come in a variety of finishes that can be made to match your vehicle. And because they mount on rails, you still have the capability to use the entire bed, or even remove it if necessary.

Tri-fold tonneau covers do come with a couple drawbacks. While some covers may allow you to drive in no matter what folded position your cover is in, whereas other covers must be completely unfolded in order to drive safely. It’s all a matter of how they are designed. Furthermore, if you are out on the jobsite and you need the entire truck bed, you may be forced to remove the cover completely with no place to store it.

Benefits of a Soft Roll-Up Tonneau Cover

One of the main benefits of a roll-up tonneau cover is its simplicity. Need access to your bed? Roll it up. Need to keep your gear dry and otherwise safe from the elements, roll it out flat and secure it by closing the tailgate. Flexible, heavy duty materials such as vinyl offer a sleek, low-profile look when rolled out and are near invisible when rolled up and secured at the back of the cab.

Roll-up tonneau covers make getting in and out a breeze. When camping, out on the job site, or just cruising around town, you’ll find that accessing your bed with a soft tonneau cover in the closed position is usually just a matter of popping a latch to get to your gear. The cover rolls back by hand (there are models on the market that do it with a push of a button) and is secured with straps. Closing a roll-up cover is just as easy; just roll it back into place. The sides are most often secured with Velcro or similar method to keep the cover resistant to the elements. And the flexible material makes it possible to pack just a bit more gear in your bed than with a hard tri-fold.

While the roll-up tonneau cover is easy to operate, there are a couple of things to consider. A soft roll-up cover doesn’t offer the security of a tri-fold. Yes, they can be locked in place when the tailgate is shut, but the material won’t prevent a knife or other sharp object from cutting through. Water can collect on the cover, worse snow and ice, which can be a big inconvenience when you must access the bed.

Finding the Right Tonneau Cover for Your Truck

Before deciding on what type of tonneau cover you are going to buy, you should consider what your needs are now and what they will be in the future. If you are a contractor, HVAC tech, or in another line of work that requires you to store expensive equipment in your bed, then your obvious choice is a tri-fold with rugged panels. But if you need a little flexibility in your life, then a soft roll-up tonneau cover is probably the way to go.

About the author

David Patterson

Our editor, who brings a wealth of experience in tonneau covers and truck accessories sales to our editorial team. With over a decade in the industry, David has a deep understanding of the products and a knack for helping customers find the perfect fit for their trucks.

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