We Bought a $189 Tonneau Cover for Our $78K Ford F-150

2021 Ford F-150 Limited bed cover 2021 Ford F-150 Limited | photo by Joe Bruzek

The near-$80,000 2021 Ford F-150 Limited we bought to test over the next year came with extravagant options like massaging seats and a built-in generator, but it also came with a bare-ass bed — no bed cover or bedliner. So we sought to install a bed cover to use the 5.5-foot bed more like a large trunk; after all, we plan on this being mostly a daily-driver luxury truck with spurts of towing and hauling.

However, we’re on a budget, as we also need to buy a weight-distributing hitch, bedliner and other accessories. All of that drove the decision to find a sub-$200 bed cover for our 2021 F-150.

Related: Best of 2021

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What You Get for $189

We landed on the Tyger Auto T1 soft roll-up tonneau cover for the 2015-21 F-150, which retails for $189, installs with basic hand tools and secures via Velcro. Like our purchase of the truck itself, bought the cover independently (there’s no partnership with the manufacturer or retailer), and it arrived on a big blue truck with a little blue arrow two days after ordering. One of the main selling points — besides being inexpensive — was that the cover rolls all the way up to the cab and secures via straps to render access, if needed, to pretty much the entire bed without having to remove the cover. Some multipanel hard covers, by contrast, keep a third of the bed obstructed when the panels are retracted. There are also arched horizontal crossbars designed to shed water off the top that give the cover a slightly raised center. And in case we didn’t mention: It was cheap.

The downside of a soft cover like this is that it provides little protection from theft, considering the vinyl could easily be cut through, but we don’t plan to keep valuable tools or inventory in the bed, where a hard cover might instead be more appropriate.

Installation: A Tonneau Work?

ford-f-150-hybrid-2021-03-bed--black--exterior.jpg 2021 Ford F-150 Limited | photo by Joe Bruzek

You can reference Tyger’s installation video for the recommended installation procedure. Installing the cover — and filming it — took a couple of hours, including fumbling with cameras and finding where my workhorse tools went over the winter because this was the first garage install of the year; otherwise, I bet it would take well under an hour. The only tools I needed were a 10-millimeter socket and ratchet, a 10-millimeter wrench, a Phillips-head screwdriver and a tape measure. Honestly, it’s taken more tools to put together cheap plastic toys that my kid uses for two weeks before they fall apart.

ford-f-150-hybrid-2021-05-bed--black--exterior.jpg 2021 Ford F-150 Limited | photo by Joe Bruzek

The cover has three major components: the rolled-up section that sits at the bed’s bulkhead; two aluminum powder-coated rails with Velcro tops on which the vinyl cover rides; and six clamps to mount to the truck’s side rails. Our F-150 required laying down a strip of adhesive seal between the bedrails at the bulkhead to level the mating surface for the cover, lest the plastic bedrail covers sit higher than the bed and leave a gap. Really, though, the bulk of work was making sure everything lined up to spec and adjusting the latch to make sure the cover was taut and tightly secured.

The Fitment 

All in all, the cover fits remarkably well and looks right at home on the back of our luxe truck with its rich, black vinyl matching the surrounding trim of the bed cover. The cover can only be released when the tailgate is down, and our F-150’s power tailgate — a new feature for 2021 that automatically motors up and down — doesn’t slow or get hung up with the cover in place. It makes a tight seal with the cover on. There’s some rippling of the cover at highway speeds, but it’s not too audible, and we’re still tweaking tautness, balancing how tightly it fits and how easy it is to latch.   

ford-f-150-hybrid-2021-22-bed--bed-cover-installation--black--exterior.jpg 2021 Ford F-150 Limited | photo by Joe Bruzek

The cover wasn’t completely watertight when we took the F-150 through a high-pressure brushless car wash afterward, but that’s not all its fault. While I wouldn’t expect something like this to be completely watertight under high pressure, its gaps stemmed from how the factory plastic bedrail cover fits over the aluminum bed, which leaves a small gap. The bed cover mounts on top of the factory plastic bedrail covers, so it does nothing to address those gaps. You can see in the video that the car wash squirted water into the bed from these openings, which I later sealed with leftover seal stripping from the initial installation.

We’ll have this cover installed for the next year and keep an eye out for water seepage through natural precipitation, as well as color fading and any potential wear and tear from use. For now, though, it was $189 well spent.  

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