Tonneau Cover vs Camper Shell: What One Is Better?

Every truck owner thinks of investing in a truck bed cover at some point. If you have never got a topper before, there is no doubt that you are confused and overwhelmed by all the different options available.

The common debate between tonneau cover vs camper shell adds up to the confusion. However, both come with a few advantages and disadvantages. But, you can get the best out of a topper if you buy it depending on your requirements.

A good cover should be easy to install, fit nicely and meet all your needs. So, let’s take a look at the primary differences between tonneau and camper shells.

What Is Tonneau Cover?

“Tonneau cover” is fancy terminology for describing a truck bed cover; it secures your loads or cargo and protects your pickup bed from rain, snow, and debris. These toppers come in hard and soft shells, giving you many options to pick from according to your need.

Moreover, the cover is also an excellent option if you are looking for semi-permanent truck bed housing. These are easily removable, which allows you to put tall cargos easily by detaching the cover.

Tonneau Cover

These truck beds are available in various materials and designs. You can buy soft covers, hard shell fiberglass covers, roll-up, and flip-up covers. Here are the most common types of tonneau covers available:

1. Roll-up and Fold-up Covers

The roll-up and fold-up toppers offer flexibility and ease of use. If you plan to use your covers only on specific days and keep the bed topless on other days, this is a viable option.

Most of them come with locks; however, some don’t have a lock system. Therefore, if you have valuable assets that need extra protection, this might not be the greatest choice.

2. One-Piece Fiberglass Covers

Fiberglass covers are incredibly durable and sturdy that comes with a sleek design. It looks good on any truck and enhances the outlook of the vehicle. They are also the perfect choice if you want to lock your items on the vehicle securely.

3. Canvas Covers

These are soft material covers which you can remove and attach easily anytime you want. It comes with a clamping system, and the material contains marine-grade vinyl. However, these don’t have any locking features.

4. Retractable Covers

For rigid protection from thieves and challenging weather conditions, retractable covers are a great option. These include secures a lock system and protects valuable items.

What Is a Camper Shell?

Camper shells are rigid, sturdy truck covers that offer exceptional weather protection for goods. You can usually find aluminum or fiberglass camper shells available in the market. These do not come with soft shells and are not easily removable.

It varies in size, roof height, and weight. The various roof height options allow you to choose the perfect height depending on your needs. They also include windows and a rear door that you can open upwards without any hassle.

Camper Shell

Additionally, camper shells also provide an excellent sleeping spot if you go camping or hunting. It keeps the truck bed dry, clean, and secure, allowing you to camp in easily without any trouble.

Truck Topper Materials

Truck toppers can be of aluminum, glass, or plastic. Different materials offer different features and benefits. Hence, before investing in a truck bed cover, it is essential to know what the various materials provide.


Aluminum covers are highly affordable and readily available. If you are skeptical about buying a bed cover, you can settle for a low-price aluminum pickup cover and experiment.

However, one downside of it is, they are only primarily available in white. Hence, you cannot find a perfect aluminum topper that will match your truck’s color. But on the bright side, most colors look great with white, so you can fit a white topper with any colored truck.

Another disadvantage is that aluminum toppers look dingy and dented after a while. Hence, if you are a fan of aesthetic outlook, aluminum material might not be an excellent option for you. However, people who are on a budget and do not care about the view can consider purchasing these covers.


Fiberglass toppers come with a great design, and you can customize the color of this material to match your truck’s body. Hence, you do not have to worry about the color option with this material. These are highly sturdy and more durable than other materials.

However, it comes with a hefty price tag; therefore, they are not very affordable. Additionally, it is also heavier than other materials and can weigh as high as 200lbs. You may also have a hard time looking for this material since they are not easily available.


Plastic toppers are comparatively new in the game. These offer a good balance between aluminum and fiberglass toppers with their impressive features. They include a lot of features similar to aluminum toppers without compromising the appearance.

Moreover, the pricing is also lower than fiberglass, making them highly affordable. However, the colors are still limited, but you can find more fantastic options than aluminum covers.

Tonneau Cover vs Camper Shell

Now you know everything about tonneau and camper shell toppers, but what are the key points that set them apart? It is essential to understand the fundamental differences between them to know which of the two types would be best for you.

Though there is not a clear winner, there are some basic differences that you need to consider before getting either of them.

Installation Process

Tonneau toppers are usually lighter in weight and removable. Therefore the installation procedure is exceptionally straightforward. You won’t need any deep mechanical knowledge or experience to set this up. It will take only 30 to 35 minutes to finish up the setup process.

However, Camper shells are extremely heavy and require more than one person to install. Moreover, they are not easily removable; therefore, if you have to put something too tall in height, you might have to take the whole topper off to fit your stuff.

Tonneau Cover vs Camper Shell

Consequently, the installation of these toppers is a bit challenging and requires more human resources.

So, if you plan to buy a topper that you can use for only a part of the day and remove it later, tonneau may be a better option for you.


Tonneau generally offers less security than a camper shell. These come in various designs and styles. However, most of them only provide protection from rain and snow and space to fit your cargo.

Moreover, These toppers usually do not come with a secured lock system and are easily removable. Therefore, if you have to store valuable assets that need protection, they are not fit for the job.

Camper shell covers are sturdy and come with a secured lock. It also provides a good amount of space for loading cargo. They are usually taller than other covers; hence, they are also fit for camping and hunting. Moreover, if you are traveling across the country and need a safe space for a short time, camper shells are perfect for the job.

Fuel Economy

Tonneau toppers are lightweight and cover the tailgate of your truck bed. Hence, it reduces wind resistance and improves fuel mileage. You can save up to one mile per gallon by installing this cover.

On the contrary, Cap shells are usually heavy, and the height goes higher than the cab. It creates wind resistance which may negatively impact your fuel mileage. Hence, these types of toppers can increase fuel expenses.

Storage Space

Tonneau toppers only act as a lid on your pickup truck bed; it does not create extra space on the top to fit more enormous cargos or loads. Moreover, it is not suitable if you plan to use the truck for camping or as a sleeping space.

Cap shells offer more space to haul large loads by adding extra height. It is more rigid and creates a secure area, almost like a bit of room where you can even spend a night or two if you have to. Hence, they are perfect if you want to camp outside or have to move from one place to another.


If you want your truck to look sleek and pretty after installing a topper, you should probably go for tonneau covers. These covers provide a clean look and improve the exterior view of your truck.

On the other hand, camper shells are huge covers that take a lot of space. Most people do not like the look of these toppers. It makes your truck appear bigger than it is. Moreover, if you can’t match the color of the topper and your vehicle, the whole thing together might not look pleasing.

Final Words

Finally, we are ending the comparison spree here. Hopefully, this article will help you to pick a winner between tonneau cover vs camper shell. Moreover, we have also provided how different material covers offer various features and benefits. We hope you can make an informed decision after reading this insightful article.

Further Read:

1. Truck Cap vs. Tonneau Cover

2. Best CB Antenna For Pickup Truck

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