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Making Your Bed: Should You Choose A Hard Or Soft Tonneau Cover For Your Ute?

Fitting a tonneau cover to the bed of your ute can do far more than simply add a little security to your ute—when well fitted and well maintained, a tonneau cover can also improve the aerodynamics of your ute to lower fuel consumption, as well as protecting your ute's bed from rust, corrosion and accidental damage from pebbles and other road detritus. However, no two tonneau covers are ever the same, and manufacturers offer a range of covers in both had and soft varieties. These different types of covers are suited to different needs and activities, so make sure that the cover you choose is the right one for you (and your ute) before you buy.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of choosing a hard tonneau cover?

Hard tonneau covers are made from rigid materials as their name would suggest, and are generally manufactured from fibreglass, steel, aluminium or other durable materials. As you can imagine, they are the tonneau cover of choice for the security-conscious, and when properly fitted and secured that can be a great deterrent to thieves, both physically and visually. Hard covers can also reduce wind resistance and improve your ute's aerodynamics, since they provide a smooth surface for air to run across instead of the scoop-like shape of an uncovered bed.  

If you do choose a hard tonneau, make sure to choose the opening and closing mechanism it uses carefully, as this can dramatically affect how your cover performs. You have a number of options to choose from here:

  • Hinged covers are the simplest type, and open with a simple hinged bracket in the same way your ute's bonnet cover does.
  • Folding covers are folded into a number of smaller segments, similar to a concertina shape, and are then stowed in a protective case close to the ute's cab when not in use. High-end models have in-built motors that allow them to fold and unfold automatically.
  • Retractable covers are the newest and most advanced hard covers available, and use hard yet flexible materials that are rolled into a canister by the cab when opened. They are available in both manual and automatic varieties.

Whichever type of hard tonneau cover you choose, you should be aware that they will almost certainly be significantly more expensive than a comparable soft cover. Hard tonneau covers are also vulnerable to scratches and dents that would be shrugged off by soft covers, and they can effectively keep your tools and equipment locked out of reach if they malfunction on the road (a particular problem for automated hard covers).

What are the advantages and disadvantages of choosing a soft tonneau cover?

Soft tonneau covers are light and flexible, and are generally made from tough plastics such as PVC or vinyl. Their great advantage is their low cost compared to similar hard covers, but they have a number of other advantages too; they are light and easy to fit, and manual models require much less elbow grease to operate than hard covers. Their simple design also makes them very simple and quick to use, allowing you to access the equipment in your ute's bed practically instantly.

However, choosing a soft tonneau cover also means sacrificing a few things, chiefly security. While soft covers are much tougher than they appear and are generally fitted with very robust latches and locks, a thief looking to save time can still slit them open with a large knife to access the equipment inside. Naturally, they are also less durable than hard covers, and are particularly vulnerable to perishing caused by UV sunlight if stored outdoors.