Tonneau Cover vs Camper Shell: Which One Is Better?

To make your pickup truck more durable, a tonneau cover and camper shell are 2 great options. However, you may be wondering between tonneau cover vs camper shell which would suit your needs better. Comparing a tonneau cover to a camping car tire can get you out of a difficult situation and lead you to the right decision.

1. Tonneau Cover vs Camper Shell: The Main Differences

Tonneau Cover vs Camper Shell
The main differences between Tonneau cover and Camper shell (Source: Internet)

While both tonneau covers and camper shells are varieties of vehicle bed covers, they have different uses and unique characteristics. A summary of their parallels and discrepancies is provided below:


  • Truck Bed Protection: Camper shells and tonneau covers both shield the items in the truck bed from weather conditions like rain, snow, and sunlight.
  • Security: By concealing the truck bed and erecting a barrier to theft and unlawful access, both solutions offer differing degrees of security.
  • Improved Aerodynamics: By lowering wind resistance, camper shells, and tonneau covers can both improve the aerodynamics of the truck, which may lead to an increase in fuel efficiency.


  • Material

You have additional choices when it comes to the tonneau cover’s material. Covers come in a variety of materials, including cloth, aluminum, fiberglass, steel, canvas, and vinyl. Various materials are used to make tonneau covers, as well.

On the other hand, the majority of camper shells are made out of aluminum or fiberglass. Occasionally, canvas is used to make shells. There are therefore few options available.

  • Installation

Regarding the installation procedure, I think a tonneau cover is easier to install than a camper shell.

Nearly all tonneau covers enable you to complete the installation without expending a lot of work. These can be installed by just one person. Additionally, a lot of tonneau covers include an option for tool-free installation.

However, fitting a camper shell is difficult, especially if done by one person. Being on your own to tackle this is incredibly difficult. Even if you have someone to assist you, you both will need to put in a lot of work.

This also holds true for uninstalling. Comparatively speaking, removing a tonneau cover is easier than removing a camper shell.

  • Outlook

For the majority of truck owners, the truck’s appearance is significant. This is why it’s so important in our conversation.

Because of where it sits, a tonneau cover typically guarantees a smooth appearance for the truck. So you won’t notice much of a difference in the truck after putting a tonneau cover.

However, when you add a camper shell, your truck’s appearance dramatically changes. It’s a big deal. I don’t think the outlook is significant till the color is correctly matched. Tonneau covers are still the winner at this moment.

  • Room for Storage

The camper shell is more spacious in terms of storage. You’ll discover spacious storage where you may keep a lot of items as a camper shell goes to or exceeds the height of the cad.

The tonneau cover, on the other hand, prevents you from getting as much storage space because it stays at a similar height to the side panels.

The table below lists the key parallels and divergences between the tonneau cover vs camper shell.

Tonneau cover vs Camper shell  Tonneau cover Camper shell 
Design Flat, one-piece cover Large, shell-like structure
Material Vinyl, aluminum, fiberglass Fiberglass, aluminum
Aesthetics Maintains the truck’s original profile Alters the truck’s appearance, resembling a camper
Purpose Provides protection and security for the truck bed Creates a covered space for camping and storage
Access Access specific sections of the truck bed Full-height access to entire truck bed
Aerodynamics Improves truck’s aerodynamics May increase wind resistance
Interior Space Does not provide additional interior space Creates an enclosed space for camping or storage
Price  $150 – $1,000 $1,000 – $2,000 

2. What is a tonneau cover?

The tonneau cover, a marvel of automobile engineering, is used to cover a truck’s back to protect the payload and enhance aerodynamics. A tonneau cover is a great option for any car owner to protect their car bed because it comes in a variety of sorts and designs.

Furthermore, tonneau covers are available in a variety of shapes and materials. Canvas tonneau covers, flip-up and roll-up coverings, and rigid, one-piece fiberglass covers are a few of the alternatives available.

Tonneau Cover vs Camper Shell
Tonneau Cover (Source: Internet)
  • Design

Tonneau covers are available in a variety of styles with varying features. Here are a few prevalent patterns:

Roll-Up Tonneau Cover: This style of tonneau cover has a flexible material that rolls up toward the front of the truck bed, frequently made of vinyl or cloth. Typically, it contains a mechanism that enables you to lock the lid in various positions, allowing you to access the truck bed partially or completely.

Folding Tonneau Cover: Folding tonneau covers normally consist of panels that can be folded in parts so that they can be folded toward the truck’s cab. They frequently have numerous hinges, allowing for both simple access to the truck bed and protection when closed.

Snap-On Tonneau Cover: This classic design of tonneau cover comprises a vinyl cover that fastens to the truck bed using snaps or buttons. You may fasten the cover in place using the clips found on the sides of the truck bed. You need to release the lid in order to reach the truck bed.

Hardtop Tonneau Cover: Hardtop tonneau covers are composed of rigid materials like fiberglass or aluminum. They give a strong and long-lasting cover for the truck bed, enhancing security and providing protection from the elements.

Tonneau Cover with Hinged Doors: Tonneau covers with hinged doors are often built of a sturdy material like fiberglass or aluminum. They have one or more hinges along the back edge that enable the cover to be raised, much like a car’s trunk. Full and simple access to the truck bed is provided via hinged coverings.

Retractable Tonneau Cover: These coverings are made to slide open and shut, giving the truck bed flexible access. They can be manually operated or motorized, and their construction is frequently made of metal or hard plastic.

  • Brand

Here are some well-known companies with a variety of high-quality tonneau cover options:

BAK Industries is renowned for its creative and long-lasting tonneau coverings. They provide a variety of designs, including roll-up, folding, and retractable covers, all of which are renowned for their strength, security, and usability.

Roll-up tonneau covers are TruXedo‘s specialty. The company is renowned for its svelte designs and user-friendly features. Their coverings are frequently complimented for their cost, weather resilience, and ease of installation.

Hardtop tonneau covers made by UnderCover are known for their strong security and protection. Their covers frequently combine strength and convenience by using lightweight, strong materials.

  • Price

Some tonneau covers, such snap-on vinyl coverings or straightforward roll-up covers, are more reasonably priced and are available. These covers are functional and offer fundamental protection without a lot of extra features.

On the other hand, luxury tonneau covers with high-end features, such retractable mechanisms or integrated locking systems, and those made of premium materials like aluminum or fiberglass, are frequently more expensive.

Although tonneau covers demand a one-time expenditure, they can offer long-term advantages like better security, weather protection, and significant fuel savings due to improved aerodynamics.

Pros  Cons 
  • Accessibility: Tonneau covers make it simple to load and unload cargo by enabling quick access to particular areas of the truck bed.
  • Versatility: Tonneau covers come in a variety of forms (roll-up, folding, hinged), giving them the adaptability to meet diverse needs and cargo sizes.
  • Increased Fuel Efficiency: Tonneau covers may increase fuel efficiency by lowering wind resistance and enhancing aerodynamics.
  • Cost: In general, tonneau covers are less expensive than camper shells.
  • Limited inside room: Unlike camper shells, tonneau coverings do not offer additional enclosed room or inside amenities.
  • Security: Due to their shape, tonneau covers can offer some security but may not offer the same amount of protection as camper shells.

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3. What is a camper shell?

For added security and greater weather protection for the cargo, camper shells or truck bed shells are also provided for consideration. These come in a range of sizes and shapes and are primarily composed of fiberglass and aluminum. The majority of camper shells have windows.

Additionally, some camper shells have a back door that opens and closes up against the tailgate, allowing it to stretch all the way to the ground. The cap’s design offers a range of roof heights, allowing selection based on the needs and kind of truck.

Even a few camper shells provide expansion over the car’s cab. Because the camper shell will give you a comfortable, dry, and covered sleeping place, you may enjoy camping and hunting with ease.

Camper Shell (Source: Internet)
  • Design

Camper shells are intended to completely enclose the truck bed area, converting it into a covered enclosure. They are often referred to as truck tops or toppers. Here are a few standard elements of camper shell designs:

Shell-like form: Camper shells are characterized by their distinctive shell-like form, which fits over the truck bed and provides a roof and side walls. Typically, the shell’s form is molded to follow the curves of the truck’s cab and bed.

Windows: Camper shells frequently have windows on the sides and/or back for viewing, ventilation, and natural light. Windows that slide or crank open and shut according to preference may be featured in some models.

Rear Door: The truck bed is normally accessible through the rear door of camper shells. The back door may have a top hinge (also referred to as a tailgate-style door) or a side hinge (sometimes referred to as a gull-wing or barn-door-style door). Additionally, some camper shells could feature two doors for better accessibility.

Roof Racks: Many camper shells are available with built-in or add-on roof racks, which offer extra storage space for goods like cargo boxes, kayaks, and bicycles.

  • Brand

High-end camper shells are available from a number of reliable brands. Here are some well-known manufacturers known for their high standards and extensive selection of camper shell options:

Leer: Leer is a reputable company with a reputation for producing tough and adaptable camper shells. Different materials, window arrangements, and interior features are among the several models and customization options they provide.

SnugTop: SnugTop is renowned for its high-end camper shells that seamlessly blend utility and style. They provide a variety of styles, including camper shells with built-in roof racks, sturdy design, and adaptable features.

ARE: ARE produces high-quality camper shells with an emphasis on innovation and durability under the name A.R.E. They provide a variety of designs, components, and features to accommodate various demands and truck types.

  • Price

Due to their greater size and added features, camper shells typically cost more than tonneau covers. The real price range, though, can differ greatly.

Typical fiberglass or aluminum camper shells cost between a few hundred and a few thousand dollars. The price may rise depending on the truck bed’s size, the design’s intricacy, the addition of features like windows, amenities inside, roof racks, and other customizations or accessories.

Custom-built or specialty camper shells can cost several thousand dollars or more and may have cutting-edge features, high-end materials, or major interior alterations.

When assessing the cost of a camper shell, it’s crucial to take your budget, individual needs, and desired features into account. As expert installation or adjustments may be necessary, installation expenses should also be considered.



  • Additional Interior Space: Camper shells enclose a space in the truck bed that can be used for additional storage or even as a tiny camping site. They might come equipped with features like windows, lighting, and sleeping areas.
  • Weather Protection: Camper shells provide the best defense against the weather, keeping cargo safe and shielded from the sun, rain, and snow.
  • Enhanced Security: Camper shells offer a more secure storage space because they frequently have windows and doors that can be locked.
  • Versatility: Camper shells can be utilized for a variety of activities, such as camping, moving heavy objects, and setting up a mobile office.
  • Limited Accessibility: Camper shells may make it difficult to load and unload some products since they demand full-height access to the truck bed.
  • Reduced Fuel economy: Compared to tonneau covers, camper shells may increase wind resistance and reduce fuel economy.
  • Cost and Installation: Camper shells can be more difficult to install and are typically more expensive than tonneau covers.

4. The Ultimate Decision: Tonneau cover vs Camper shell?

Both the tonneau cover and the camper shell have their advantages. The tonneau cover is preferable to the camper shell when you take into account convenience, safety, and fuel efficiency. However, compared to tonneau, camper shells provide more storage capacity.

However, depending on your needs, you can easily distinguish between the tonneau cover and camper shell. The camper shell comes in handy for enjoying camping and hunting, while the tonneau cover is perfect for moving freight or other things securely.

5. FAQs

Q: Do most camper shells have a universal fit?

It’s realistic to suppose that since truck beds vary, there won’t be a camper shell that will suit every truck on the road. Although some camper shells assert that they are universal, a tailored fit is ideal. Get a camper shell that perfectly fits the situation after conducting thorough research.

Q: Is it simple to put on and take off camper shells?

A camper shell can often be lifted and moved to or from the truck by two people. It is sometimes simple for one person to lower or raise a cap by attaching a pulley from the garage ceiling.

Q: What is a camper shell’s height?

Leaving a truck, how tall are truck campers? From the bottom of the rig to the top, the majority of modern models are between 94″ and 106″ tall.

Q: What makes a tonneau cover crucial?

With a tonneau cover, you can prevent theft, misplaced or damaged cargo, and poor gas mileage. Additionally, it will safeguard your truck’s bed and aid in avoiding significant harm that would necessitate repairs. However, the bed will hold up far better when you sell your truck than it would if it were uncovered.

Q: How firmly should a tonneau cover be fastened?

Your cover shouldn’t sag between the bows and should be drum tight. Roll the lid open to access your tension adjusters if adjustment is required. Turn both tension adjusters clockwise to release.

Q: Do tonneau coverings work well in the snow?

Unfortunately, your vehicle bed cover might not be made to endure a lot of snow, just like your home’s roof. You’ll be dealing with 40 pounds of weight per square foot if one foot expands to two before the first one melts.

Q: Are Tonneau coverings really noisy?

Tonneau coverings are made to fit across the truck precisely. However, if your cover doesn’t fit snugly, it may shake, whistle, and rattle while you drive. This is harmful for the cover and the truck, and it can become irritating, especially on prolonged excursions.

Q: Do camper shells increase fuel efficiency?

Although only slightly from around 8 to roughly 9.5 miles per gallon the fuel economy did increase. I’m towing with a diesel-powered Chevy 2500 pickup. Someone proposed purchasing a camper shell to install on the pickup truck, claiming that would enhance airflow, lower drag, and increase fuel efficiency.

Q: Are supple tonneau covers long-lasting?

Each cover can shield against the elements and foreign objects, but hard coverings are more durable. The heavier materials are better at deterring theft and vandalism since they can take more punishment. In terms of durability and wear, hard covers do slightly better than soft covers.

6. Conclusion

I think you can now readily grasp and differentiate between tonneau cover and camper shell in light of the factors that were in-depthly mentioned above. Both camper shells and tonneau covers offer a great deal of security and let you make the most of your truck. You should think about your priorities and how you want to utilize your truck before deciding between a tonneau cover and a camper shell. 

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