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Making Your Tacoma's Bed: Tonneau Covers

Written By: Connor MC

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Bed covers, also called tonneau covers, are either vinyl or steel covers scoping the entirety of your Tacoma's bed. Perfect for keeping tools and camping gear away from prying eyes and jostling out of the bed, tonneau covers also streamline the profile of your truck to increase MPGs.

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A tonneau cover is by far and large a must have item for any Tacoma owner. While there is no disputing the utility of having a large bed in which to carry up to 1620 lbs of payload (this is the top rated amount for a 2018 Tacoma SR), it certainly is not helpful to load up the bed with your gear and hit the road only for it get soaked by rain along the way.

What is a Tonneau Cover?

A tonneau cover is designed to prevent exactly this – it installs across the top of your Tacoma’s bed and provided a watertight seal to keep any items placed in your bed dry and safe from any inclement weather. A bed cover also adds another layer of security, as passersby will no longer be able to see what is in the bed. Combine this with the fact that many tonneau covers are lockable on their own or can be integrated with the self-locking function of the tailgate that most new Tacomas are equipped with. If your Tacoma is lacking a self-locking tailgate (as many older models are), you can easily and inexpensively replace the original handle with a locking type. On top of weather protection and object security, bed covers can help with fuel economy too, as they help improve aerodynamics over the bed when extended in place.

The Types of Tacoma Bed Covers

There are several types of tonneau covers on the Tacoma market today. 

Roll up covers: These are low-profile systems that sit flush with the top of the bed, making for a very streamlined appearance. Typically made from heavy duty vinyl, roll up covers unfurl from the back of the cab, along the bed rails, and latch in place at the tailgate. They offer good weather protection; however, are not heavy duty in the sense you can place large objects on top of them as they typically lack any significant structural framing. That said, there is a new type of roll up cover that is beginning to catch on. This second version is made from narrow metal slats (usually aluminum) that unwind out of a drum to lay flat across the bed of the Tacoma. Also weatherproof, these metal-based versions are significantly stronger and more secure but come at a higher price point (some of these models are also electrically controlled).

Fold up covers: This type of cover is the most prominent on the market as it is highly affordable and offers an excellent blend of weather and cargo protection. Folding covers typically come in two flavors: bi-fold and tri-fold. The former folds from the middle, creating two equal compartments to either side of the center line. The latter, a tri-fold, sees a similar tonneau cover sectioned into three areas which makes partial bed access easier as you can only lift the third section, for example, if you wish to only access the tailgate area. Folding covers are fairly sturdy as they use an underlying metal frame to keep the vinyl on top properly tensioned. 

Lift-up or hinged covers: The final type of Tacoma bed cover is one that has been on the market for the longest time and could be considered the forefather of tonneau covers. This last option is a one-piece tonneau cover that lifts up from one end, typically using a gas-assist strut, but remains fixed at the other end (usually fixed at the cab end). These solid, strut-lifted covers are made from fiberglass or plastic and are often a dealer option that comes painted to match the exterior color of the Tacoma. Certainly less prevalent due to their size and weight, nonetheless these original style tonneau covers are still widely available and offer excellent cargo security and protection from the weather. Like the other systems, a solid lifting cover (model dependent) can also integrate with the locking tailgate.

Which Tonneau Cover is the Best?

Having examined the three most common types of Tacoma tonneau covers, some are likely wondering which is the absolute best. Of course, this is entirely a subjective question and is not easily summed up. They all offer excellent weather protection, however, they all offer differing levels of cargo protection. When considering all variables such as durability, bed accessibility, ease of use and of course cost, solid folding covers (mainly the tri-fold) seem to be the most popular. Their blend of ease of access, durable build, and fair pricing make them the best bang for the buck.

Installing a Bed Cover on Your Tacoma

Outfitting your Tacoma with a tonneau cover is actually quite easy and it almost never requires drilling or any sort of permanent modification. Rather, tonneau covers are attached using their accompanying bed rails that are clamped in place onto the bed. Once the bed rails are clamped in place, the cover typically slots or latches into the rail and is held securely. No cutting or drilling of metal is needed. Perhaps the most frustrating part, and this is getting really picky, is installing any necessary weather stripping that may come with the cover in order to keep it watertight. Using basic hand tools, you can expect to have any style of tonneau cover installed in 2 hours or less.

Tacoma Bed Length

It is important to know the correct bed length your Tacoma has in order to order the proper tonneau cover. You can simply measure it and compare it to the values below or decode the VIN using an online decoder or by simply asking a dealer.

  • 2005-2015 Tacoma Short: 60.3”, Long: 73.5”
  • 2016-2019 Tacoma Short: 60.3”, Long 73.5”

Bed Accessories and Tonneau Cover Compatibility

Another highly popular Tacoma accessory is, of course, a bed mounted toolbox. If your Tacoma has one of these already, or you plan to add one shortly, there are tonneau covers available that take a toolbox into consideration. Most manufacturers do offer a specialized cover (usually a roll up or bi-fold) that will accommodate a standard 20” bed-mounted tool box. These covers install right up against the wall of the toolbox, leaving the top of the box exposed for easy access, but protect the remainder of the bed down all the way to the tailgate.

Fitment includes: 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, Pre-Runner, X-Runner, SR, SR-5, TRD-Sport, TRD-Off-Road, Limited, TRD-Pro