Best Retractable Truck Tonneau Covers: A Top 10 List

Best Retractable Truck Tonneau Covers: A Top 10 List

Trucks are awesome. They can be found taking bricks to the job site, taking luggage to the hotel, or hauling all the fishing gear to the river. That makes trucks the adventure vehicle of choice for many people. Unfortunately, the same feature that makes trucks awesome can also make them terrible.

The open bed of a pick-up truck is a beautiful thing for quickly loading big objects, but those objects will be exposed to the weather. What’s worse, though, is that anything easy to put in can be easy to take out, and nothing ruins a day faster than having your stuff stolen.

Fortunately, a retractable tonneau cover is an easy to operate upgrade for your truck that can keep your stuff dry and away from sticky fingers. This guide will help you choose a great one. First, we’ll go over what they are and what to look for. Then we have a top 10 list with our take, and in the end, we take a closer look at some of the features.

Retractable Tonneau Basics

Tonneau covers can vary a lot in style and features, so if you are in the market for one, there are a few decisions you have to make. If you are here, you’ve already made the first decision. Tonneaus come in a lot of different flavors, you can see our complete overview here, but in this article, we are focused on the kind that retracts.

This leads us to…

What Makes a Tonneau Retractable

Retractable tonneaus are specially made to be easy to open and close. They do this by rolling up tightly at the front of the bed. Often they have some sort of assistance to make it easier to roll them up. Picture a set of horizontal blinds. You pull the chord, and they retract up with little effort. It works the same way.

Assistance Method

If the retractable cover features some kind of assistance, it will have one of two mechanisms.

  • Springs: Torsion springs help retract the cover and hold tension on the cover while you drive. These are exactly like your house blinds, just bigger. They take a little bit of effort to use but are less expensive.
  • Powered: Fancier, more expensive retractable covers are powered. You don’t have to do anything other than press a button to open or close them.

What to Consider Before Buying a Retractable Tonneau Cover

There are a handful of things to look for to make sure you get the right tonneau for your situation. We’ll expand on many of them below if you want to know more.

Material

Most modern retractable tonneau covers are made of aluminum, so there’s not much variation. Some are aluminum combined with g, which has its own specific benefits. The vinyl covering can add an extra layer of protection, and polymer parts can add strength and security.

Locking Mechanism

A simple lock and key is good enough for most people who are concerned about security. It will stop most thieves. Electronic locks can add an element of extra convenience since you don’t need a key, and tonneaus that have no external access are even more secure.

Ease of Operation

If you are going to be getting into your truck bed a lot, you are going to want to focus on getting a cover that is easy to operate. The differences are often subtle. One cover might have adjustable stops, while another may use ball bearings instead of plastic bushings. In our reviews, we’ll try to point out which ones are especially easy.

Ease of Installation

Weight, complexity, and quality all greatly affect how easy it is to install. If you have help, are mechanically inclined, or are willing to pay a shop to do it, it’s probably not a big concern. If you are doing it yourself and don’t have many tools, you should focus on products that are easier to install.

Price

Trucks are already expensive, and unfortunately, so are retractable tonneau covers. There is still variation in price, though, so if you are on a strict budget, just expect to sacrifice features or quality to keep the cost down.

Durability

Trucks have to withstand a lot of abuse, and most tonneau covers are up to the task. Some are just exceptionally sturdy, so we were sure to point them out.

Extra Features

There are a whole host of extra features that are specific to one model or another. Gator, for instance, has adjustable lock open points, and Retrax has a model that allows you to mount a bed rack to it. If there’s something specific you really need, then keep an eye out for it.

Check Your Bed Size

The good news is that almost every product on our list comes in a variety of sizes. They are either selectable on the same product page or will be in the recommended section on the page. You can also use the Amazon Garage feature to help you out.

Just make sure to double and triple check your bed size before confirming a purchase. Unless you are the inventor of a shrink ray, there is no way to make a cover that’s 8ft by 6ft fit your 5ft by 4ft Tacoma bed.

Now that you know the basics of what to look for, let’s jump right into the reviews of our favorite Tonneau Covers for 2021.

Top 10 Best Retractable Truck Tonneau Covers 2021

1. Best Overall Pick: Gator Recoil

Gator Recoil

Why we like it: The Gator Recoil is very easy to operate, very easy to install, and offers a ton of added security to your truck.

Editor’s Rating:

Quick Facts

  • Material: Aluminum
  • Assistance: Spring
  • Lock: Tailgate

What Stands Out

The way the Gator Recoil operates is really fantastic. Rather than locking anywhere, you pre-set latching points that the Recoil will automatically stop at as you open it. That may seem like a downside since it limits the number of positions you can open the cover.

With the stops, though, you can operate the entire thing one-handed and with minimal effort. If you have ever fought with a stop anywhere cover as it tries to retract away from you while you fumble with the keys, you know how nice those stops can be.

It’s also very secure. The operation is all done from underneath the cover, so the only way to access it is by opening the tailgate. Your tailgate is a lot stronger than the little locks that come with other tonneaus.

Our Thoughts

The Gator Recoil isn’t the best in any one area. Instead, it does everything really well. It looks good, it’s easy to use, and it’s inexpensive. It’s not the best looking; that’s probably the Roll N Lock M-Series. It’s not the easiest to use; the powered Roll N Lock opens by itself. Finally, the Synetic USA Retractable is cheaper.

All of those other tonneaus make sacrifices, though. They are hard to install, or expensive, or easy to break. The Gator doesn’t have any real compromises. In fact, it’s probably the easiest to install bed cover on our list. Gator has a lot of experience making rail systems, so it’s no surprise. All that combined is why we can easily suggest that if you don’t value any single feature over any others, it’s the one you should buy.

Pros

  • The adjustable stop points make operation easy
  • It’s easy to install
  • It’s very secure

Cons

  • It’s not the best at anything
  • Some people will prefer covers without stop points

2. Easiest to Use: RetraxONE MX

RetraxONE MX

Why we like it: The RetraxONE has a very unique, ultra-compact construction that lets it operate incredibly smoothly.

Editor’s Rating:

Quick Facts

  • Material: Reinforced Polycarbonate
  • Assistance: Spring
  • Lock: Key or Tailgate

What Stands Out

The RetraxONE is one of the smoothest operating covers out there. It’s something Retrax takes very seriously. In fact, it’s the reason they appear on this list with two of their other products; both the automated PowertraxPro and super durable RetraxPro are also very easy to operate. The RetraxONE is their “entry-level” product, which just means it’s cheaper and has fewer features than the other two.

Our Thoughts

The RetraxONE is a nice cover, no matter how you slice it. The durable black finish is more resistant to the truck lifestyle than many others, and the buttery smooth operation will have you smiling every time you have to peel it back to load a dirt bike.

It just has a few issues that come from the “entry-level” part of the equation. To get the price down, they used plastic on this cover for parts that would be metal on their premium products. That can lead to some stripped screws or worn-out parts after a few years.

It’s also just not as waterproof as it could be if there was a little bit more thought into fitting specific trucks. Usually, little design elements like that are what separate budget tonneau covers from nicer covers. The RetraxONE straddles the line between budget and nice, so we can’t fault it too much for not being as waterproof as a premium cover, but we also feel like it wouldn’t take much effort on their part to get it just a little tighter.

All in all, though, it’s a good looking, easy to operate, and durable system. You won’t regret purchasing it.

Pros

  • The black matte finish looks good
  • It’s very easy to operate
  • It’s a good value

Cons

  • It could stand to be more waterproof
  • The plastic parts can break over time

3. Best Budget Pick: Pace Edwards Switchblade

Pace Edwards Switchblade

Why we like it: This cover has no external locks and is made of very durable materials. Thieves will have a very hard time ruining your day.

Editor’s Rating:

Quick Facts

  • Material: Aluminum and Polymer
  • Assistance: Spring
  • Lock: Tailgate

What Stands Out

First, we just have to say that this is a really good looking cover. It’s a very low profile, and the matte finish is hard to scratch.

The other thing is that it’s very secure. Many tonneau covers rely on small keyed locks to stop thieves. The Switchblade doesn’t have an external lock; if your tailgate is locked, you can’t open the cover. The Gator Recoil has the same style of lock, but the Switchblade takes security to the next level because it’s made from a hybrid of materials that allow some flex but can’t be pierced.

Our Thoughts

There are a lot of things to love about the Switchblade. It’s got a great name, for one thing. It’s also a great value. The low cost and high security make a worthy investment for anyone with a truck.

However, there are a few things that stop it from being perfect. The most disappointing thing is that it’s not as waterproof as some others. It comes with weatherstripping, but the low profile works against you. Water won’t flow off the cover, and that gives the water a lot of time to find any crack or hole.

The other thing is that this cover isn’t as easy to install as others. You will find that to be the case with many budget covers. They don’t have nice clamps and are often just pickier about being centered. Not a huge issue, but when most of a product is good, the little things stand out.

Pros

  • It looks good
  • It’s very secure
  • It’s inexpensive

Cons

  • It could stand to be more weatherproof
  • Other products are easiest to install

4. Best Premium Pick: Roll N Lock E-Series

Roll N Lock E-Series

Why we like it: The Roll N Lock E-Series is simply one of the fanciest tonneau covers you can buy.

Editor’s Rating:

Quick Facts

  • Material: Aluminum
  • Assistance: Powered
  • Lock: Electric

What Stands Out

Everything stands out on this cover. It has one of the nicest, thickest powder coat finishes, so even looking at it, you know it’s premium. It also has Roll N Lock’s signature waterproofing; it’s an unrivaled cover in that department. You could get all of that on the M-Series, though, and those cost a lot less.

The E-Series is electric, though. You can open, close, and lock it with a small remote. It takes this cover from a simple utilitarian upgrade and turns it into a party trick. You won’t help but smile when you roll up to your friend’s house and don’t have to get out into the snow to let them borrow your chainsaw. Just drive up, hit the button, and make them retrieve it.

Our Thoughts

The E-Series Roll N Lock transcends practicality. There are good reasons to want the powered operation, like if you have trouble opening a normal cover or want the extra security of being able to close the cover when you drive to certain neighborhoods without getting out. However, if you just need a cover that automatically retracts, the PowertraxONE is just fine.

The Roll N Lock is just nicer. It has a better finish, it operates smoother, and it has better weatherproofing. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to splurge and get the best thing for your truck, and you certainly won’t find much to complain about with this thing.

There’s nothing to complain about except the installation, actually. All those cool electric features make this thing weigh about twice what most retractable tonneaus weigh. That means you may have to bribe a few friends with beer or pay a shop to help.

Pros

  • It offers some of the best protection from the elements
  • It looks great
  • The operation is truly effortless

Cons

  • It’s really expensive
  • It can be hard to install alone

5. Best Looking: Roll N Lock M-Series

Roll N Lock M-Series

Why we like it: This cover is one of the best-looking covers you can buy, and it’s an absolute breeze to install and operate.

Editor’s Rating:

Quick Facts

  • Material: Vinyl Covered Aluminum
  • Assistance: Spring
  • Lock: Single Key Lock

What Stands Out

The best thing about the Roll N Lock M-Series is that it looks truly fantastic. It has an ultra-low profile; the tracks are even inside the bed rather than on the rails. It’s also got a vinyl cover over the aluminum slats. That gives it this nice, unbroken look and virtually eliminates the possibility of scratches.

The vinyl cover also gives it an extra layer of weatherproofing, which is always a good thing. The downside is that the vinyl is more prone to fading, which is a problem that plagues almost all vinyl and cloth covers. The good news is that unlike most vinyl covers, this cover has an aluminum core. Thieves can’t just take a pocketknife to it and remove all your stuff.

Our Thoughts

The M-Series is a little on the expensive side for what is otherwise a fairly standard tonneau, so if you care more about function than looks, there are better options. The Switchblade is a great alternative that costs quite a bit less.

Here’s the thing, though. A lot of truck owners out there don’t use their trucks for truck stuff. They rarely haul rocks and wouldn’t dream of loading two oil-covered motorcycles into the back. That’s fine; if you only occasionally open the cover to load some luggage and drive to the airport, a truck is a very comfortable way to do it.

If that does describe you, the Roll N Lock M-Series is a perfect accessory. It gives you the security of aluminum without looking like a utilitarian aluminum cover. It gives you a very sleek profile for lower wind resistance, and it is resistant to scratches. It will add to the style of your truck, and there’s no shame in valuing that.

Pros

  • The vinyl finish looks fantastic
  • It’s scratch-resistant
  • It has one of the lowest profiles for maximum aerodynamics

Cons

  • It’s on the expensive side for what it is
  • The vinyl can fade over time

6. Most Durable: RetraxPRO XR

RetraxPRO XR

Why we like it: The RetraxPRO has premium features that make it perfect for people that like to use and abuse their trucks.

Editor’s Rating:

Quick Facts

  • Material: Aluminum
  • Assistance: Spring
  • Lock: Key Lock

What Stands Out

One of the nicest things about the RetraxPRO is that it has special rails that allow you to bolt a rack onto it. The whole thing is built for adventure. It’s extra strong so it can survive abuse, and it can lock anywhere so you can load all sorts of misshapen things in the bed. Coupled with a rack mount, you can get yourself, your kayaks, and all your camp gear to the lake without worry.

Our Thoughts

The price is steep, and unfortunately, that’s the first thing that jumps out to us. You have to really want a rear rack for this cover to be worth it. If you frequently mountain bike or are into rooftop tent camping, then it’s probably worth it. Otherwise, you can grab the RetraxONE, and you’ll probably be just as happy.

The good news is that with the premium price, there are a lot of premium features. It has extra protection from the elements, and the aluminum top can support up to 500lb. You can tell that Retrax put a lot of thought into every detail, and all the little things start to stand out. Things like the key slot have a rubber cover over it so that it doesn’t get impacted with debris, and when it rolls up, it doesn’t slide around, so it can’t get scratched.

There is one final thing to be aware of if you are looking at this cover. The T-slot system it uses for mounting racks is not compatible with all racks. It’s something you’ll have to check if you already have a bed rack.

Pros

  • It’s very high-quality
  • You can mount a bed rack to the rails
  • It’s very strong

Cons

  • It’s expensive
  • You may have some compatibility issues

7. Great Waterproofing: Syneticusa Aluminum Roll-up Tonneau Cover

Syneticusa Aluminum Roll-up Tonneau Cover

Why we like it: Unlike many budget tonneau covers, this Synetic USA offers amazing waterproofing.

Editor’s Rating:

Quick Facts

  • Material: Aluminum
  • Assistance: Spring
  • Lock: Key Lock

What Stands Out

The Synetic USA cover exemplifies beauty in simplicity. It doesn’t have a ton of features, but it’s a very good cover. It’s great at keeping the elements off of your stuff, and it’s virtually maintenance-free. In short, it’s the perfect cover for anyone that does a lot of work with their truck and just needs a cover they don’t have to think about.

Our Thoughts

The Synetic USA retractable cover is a really good value. It’s made of good material, it is decently weatherproof, and it’s easy enough to operate. It’s not the best looking, but it’s really not anything to complain about. Best of all, it’s pretty inexpensive.

The biggest problem with the Synetic cover is the installation. That’s the same problem that plagues most budget covers. The clamps aren’t as easy to work with. The instructions are honestly pretty bad, and it’s heavier than many competitors.

It’s also not as easy to open and close as others. It’s a really minor thing in the scheme of things, but if you open and close the cover a lot, get the Gator instead. The Synetic USA cover has two locks for added security, but that makes it a lot slower to unlock, especially when you only want it partially open.

Pros

  • It’s a great value
  • The thick aluminum makes it very durable
  • It has better than average waterproofing

Cons

  • The installation process could be better
  • It’s hard to open it quickly

8. Most Versatile: Peragon Retractable

Peragon Retractable

Why we like it: If you are constantly carrying a variety of different loads, a cover like this Peragon will save you from a lot of headaches.

Editor’s Rating:

Quick Facts

  • Material: Aluminum
  • Assistance: None
  • Lock: Key Lock

What Stands Out

There are a few little things that stand out about the Peragon cover. It’s compatible with a truck rack, though it’s not as easy to work with as the RetraxPRO. It’s also really strong; it’s not a traditional roll-up design, so the slats can be made more durable than other brands.

However, what really sets it apart is that it’s really easy to fold up and remove. Unlike most retractable, or even most folding, tonneau covers, once you roll up the Peragon it’s effortless to undo the latch and just lift the entire thing off your bed. You don’t have to worry about destroying it while hauling rocks or anything; just leave it behind.

Our Thoughts

There are a few bad things the Peragon covers. The first thing that can be a deal-breaker is that you have to order it from Peragon. You won’t find it on Amazon, which means you won’t get free Prime 2-day shipping or anything.

The second thing is that they aren’t truly retractable, not like other assisted covers are. Most retractable covers, like the Gator we recommend, have some assistance that makes them easy to open and close. The Peragon covers don’t. They fold up very easily and offer almost the same benefits of a retractable cover, but you’ll be doing all the work.

It makes up for those downsides in how easy it is to use and install. It’s a really easy system to live with because of how many configurations you can get from it, and it’s not likely to break.

Pros

  • It’s easy to install
  • It’s easy to remove
  • They are very durable

Cons

  • There’s no opening assistance
  • They could be more convenient to buy

9. Best High Tech Retractable Tonneau Cover: PowertraxONE MX

PowertraxONE MX

Why we like it: You can open this cover with your keychain, and unlike other automatic covers, it won’t totally break the bank.

Editor’s Rating:

Quick Facts

  • Material: Aluminum
  • Assistance: Powered
  • Lock: Electro-Magnetic

What Stands Out

The thing that makes this amazing is that you use a key fob to open and close it. One of the big issues with a lot of modern trucks is that they are high off the ground, and it can be hard to get to the covers to open and close them if you are short or otherwise can’t reach across the width of the bed. Having a powered retractable cover eliminates the need to touch the cover at all. You can retract it, load up, and then extend it all without much effort.

Our Thoughts

Just like the Roll N Lock E Series, this cover is automatic and powered by a remote, but it costs a lot less. That is a really fantastic thing because the cost of the Roll N Lock is the biggest drawback. Even though a self-retracting cover is already a luxury item, it’s always nice to save a few dollars.

It’s not as nice as the Roll N Lock, which is sort of to be expected. The finish scratches a lot easier, and it’s a lot pickier about how you install it. If you are off a little bit, it can bind or leak. There is a very simple solution to that, though, and that solution is to make sure you follow the directions.

Other than a few quality issues, this cover offers a really fantastic value. If you, for whatever reason, don’t want to operate a cover manually, you won’t be disappointed.

Pros

  • It’s a great value
  • It retracts and extends automatically
  • The remote is small and unobtrusive

Cons

  • The finish is not the best
  • It can be a little bit finicky to install

10. Best Basic Retractable Tonneau Cover: ISTUNT Aluminum Tonneau Cover

ISTUNT Aluminum Tonneau Cover

Why we like it: It’s a little clunky, but it’s a really amazing price.

Editor’s Rating:

Quick Facts

  • Material: Aluminum
  • Assistance: Spring
  • Lock: Single Key Lock

What Stands Out

This is the least expensive product on our list, so if you have a strict budget, then this is for you. Just be aware that they got that low cost by cutting corners on quality. The place that shows the most is in the fit and finish. It could look better, and almost everything else on our list is easier to install.

Our Thoughts

In our honest opinion, you’d be better off saving up a little more money and grabbing the Synetic USA cover. It’s much nicer, and it’s more secure. That’s because if budget is your primary concern, you should be looking at tri-fold tonneaus instead. They will protect your stuff, be much easier to install, and are much less expensive.

Having said that, we know that many people really want a retractable cover and want it to be as inexpensive as possible. If that describes you, we probably don’t need to say anything else; this is one of the least expensive retractable tonneau covers on the hard-shell market.

Just be warned, installing it is going to be a challenge. They have a “helpful” video on their product page that actually makes it more confusing unless you can parse out what “release the rope easily when you want to locking in the center” means.

Pros

  • It’s very inexpensive
  • It has an OK lock
  • Made of aluminum, which is a little rare for a budget unit

Cons

  • The quality could be better
  • It’s a bit difficult to install

A Closer Look at Retractable Covers


If you still have questions after the reviews, this section is for you. There are a few things that deserve a closer look, starting with why you would want to have a retractable cover over other styles.

The Pros and Cons of Retractable Covers

If you read through the reviews but still aren’t sold on any of them, then it may simply be that a retractable cover isn’t what you are looking for. The following are the major advantages and disadvantages of a retractable cover for you to use to compare.

Pros

  • They make it easy to get in and out of your bed
  • They often look better than other types
  • They are stronger than vinyl and multi-piece covers
  • Many offer unique features, like rack mounts, that are not found on other types

Cons

  • They are often much more expensive than other types
  • They don’t offer the quality of weatherproofing that other bed covers offer
  • They are harder to install

The Security of Retractable Covers


Keeping your cargo secure is one of the most common reasons to buy a hard tonneau cover. We touch on some of the differences in the reviews above, but there are some universal things that can make a tonneau more secure than others.

Construction

Most retractable covers, including all of the ones we reviewed, are made of aluminum. That’s great for security since it can’t be cut by a simple knife and is resistant to being forced open.

Some covers are more secure than others, though. Covers with smaller slats are easier to damage and get into, whereas covers that have a combination of construction materials are more resistant to common attacks from crowbars and things. There are also variations in the thickness of the aluminum; thicker aluminum is, of course, harder to damage.

Attachment

The rails that hold the cover in place are another place that security can be upped. If the tracks are easily accessible, it’s easier for a tool to be slipped underneath and for the tracks to be pried off.

The clamps that hold the rails on come in various quality levels as well. A low quality, inexpensive clamp will shear much more easily than a thicker clamp.

Locks

The locking method that a particular cover uses isn’t the most important part of security, but it still can make a difference, especially if you want the most security you can get. Anytime a lock is on the outside, as is standard with most covers, it is susceptible to being tampered with. That gives powered covers, and covers that rely on the tailgate for security, a slight edge.

Tips for Getting Better Weatherproofing

Truck offroad with bed rails

We mentioned above that retractable covers are not as waterproof as other types of tonneau covers. That’s because of the low profile, which allows water to pool up in places, and because of the tracks that the cover fits into.

Those tracks can’t be sealed, or the cover wouldn’t be able to slide in it, so there will always be space for water to get through. You can do a few things to make sure you get the best waterproofing possible, though.

  • Make sure the drain is properly installed. Most retractable covers have a tube that allows the water to drain from the storage box out to the ground. You will probably need to drill a hole in your bed to feed that tube through to the outside. You should follow the directions and use a grommet.
  • Keep the frame square and equal. If the cover closes at a little bit of an angle, it will leave a gap that rain can get through.
  • Be careful when installing the weatherstripping. Debris that gets trapped in the stripping can prevent it from working correctly.

FAQ

What Does Tonneau Mean?

Tonneau is the French word for a barrel. In the old days of racing, people would put arch-shaped covers over their cars’ open spots to make them more aerodynamic. Those barrel-shaped covers were eventually used to cover a truck’s cargo, and the name stuck. You can read more about the history here if you want.

Will a Tonneau Cover Improve My Gas Mileage?

Probably not. The Mythbusters famously put the gas mileage claim to the test and found no meaningful improvement. However, there are so many different trucks and truck bed designs that it’s impossible to claim that there won’t be an improvement on your vehicle. Many people claim to get better mileage, but our advice is to make sure you are choosing a bed cover for other reasons.

Are Retractable Tonneau Covers Waterproof?

A retractable cover will keep most of the water off your cargo, but if rain is your biggest concern, an overbed folding tonneau is a better option. Retractable covers must-have tracks that they are attached to, and those tracks are nearly impossible to completely waterproof.

Can I Go Through the Car Wash With a Tonneau Cover?

A touch-free wash is probably not going to harm your cover. A good pressure wash may force water into your bed, so if you are giving it a good pressure washing, it’s better to retract it so the bed can dry.

A drive through brush style car wash can damage the tonneau, and we don’t recommend it.

Enjoy Stylish Security

Statistically speaking, a truck will be the second most important purchase of your life. Give it a bed cover. They are relatively cheap ways to ensure your stuff doesn’t get ruined by weather or stolen by thieves, and they are incredibly stylish.