2021 Guide to the Best Truck Toppers & Truck Caps + Cost Comparison
This article was first published in 2018, latest update Jan 2021.
Table of Contents
Types of Truck Toppers
Truck Cap Materials
Second Hand Options
Best Truck Topper Brands
How Much Does a Truck Topper Cost
Are Truck Toppers Easy to Remove
Many truck owners want or need to make the most out of their vehicle. One of the most effective and popular ways of doing that is using a truck cap or topper. These common additions also go by the names of camper shells, truck caps, truck canopies, topper shells or box shells.
Finding the best toppers, caps and camper shells can be a real challenge if you don’t know what you’re looking for. One of the main reasons people use a topper is to create a large, weatherproof storage space in the back.
Before you pick the best truck cap for you
Let’s begin by talking about what a truck topper isn’t. With a liftgate window located at the rear and a simple lock on the back, don’t expect a high level of security to protect your goods from a determined thief. You also aren’t going to be able to accommodate oversized cargo any longer. In addition to that, gaining access to the items you need in the back is going to require a little more effort as you need to unload more of your gear in the cab.
Types of Truck Toppers
The Walk In Truck Cap / High Rise Topper
If you need room to crouch or stand in the truck bed or you need room for taller cargo, then a “high rise” truck topper is what you’re looking for. The high rise toppers offer additional headroom (cab height) plus a taller design.
If you want a topper that allows for easier access to the entire bed, then look for a truck topper that features side windows. Many of the commercial toppers already offer side windows, which seem to be a popular option.
Also, some of the commercial options use a sliding bed cargo tray to make access from the rear door more convenient.
Stronger, Commercial Truck Caps
If your requirements are more security based, to protect cargo that is pricey, then a basic topper isn’t going to fit your requirements Commercial systems tend to come with a heavier-duty aluminum or steel lock. You can also purchase locks for the toolboxes and drawers you keep in the bed.
Truck Topper Rack Systems
Many people want the option to mount items on the roof of a truck topper, for this you will need a truck topper roof rack. This is ideal for kayaks, mountain bikes, camping needs, ladders and more. For this, you need a rack system or a truck topper with roof rails attached.
The Lined Camper Shell
For those of you that dream of camping in your truck, look for a lined truck camper shell or topper. There are different variations based on your bed length that will provide a warmer, quieter atmosphere inside the bed.
Any of the above extras are going to increase the overall price of your truck topper. Keep that in mind when you are determining what is necessary.
Best Truck Cap Materials Compared to Costs
Now that you know what pickup truck topper you require in order to have it perform the way you need, you must start considering the materials.
Most truck caps are available in three material options:
Aluminum Truck Caps
With an aluminum truck topper, you will spend less than the others. New truck caps made from aluminum tends to run under $1,000.
There are some downsides to this option:
- The topper will ‘probably’ be white, so it may not look aesthetically pleasing.
- After some time, aluminum caps tend to become dented or dingy looking. In other words, they aren’t as durable as some of the other options.
The pros to using an aluminum topper include:
- They are lightweight.
- Great way to save money if having a less durable, white topper doesn’t concern you.
- Commercial options are available with features like locking toolboxes, shelving and double doors.
Fiberglass Truck Toppers
Fiberglass caps are aesthetically pleasing because you can paint them to match your paint.
With this in mind, there are a few downsides:
- Fiberglass truck shells tend to be more expensive than an aluminum and can run up to about $2,000 installed.
- A fiberglass truck shell is heavier than aluminum and can weigh up to 200 pounds depending what options you include.
- If you need a fiberglass topper for commercial use, it can be difficult to find a fiberglass cap to fit your needs.
There are, however, several pros to owning a fiberglass topper:
- You can match the factory paint job of your truck perfectly.
- They tend to be more durable and handle wear better than an aluminum toppers.
Plastic/Composite Truck Topper
These are newer to the market than your typical aluminum or fiberglass options. The color selection is currently limited, but they offer a nice blend of pros and cons.
Here are some of the downsides involved in choosing plastic or composite truck caps:
- There is a lack of colors to choose from
- You will spend slightly more than an aluminum topper (generally around $1,500 installed depending on the added features)
But, there are some pros to this option as well:
- They offer a compromise in quality between the fiberglass and aluminum.
- The cost is lower than fiberglass shells.
Pricing Considerations & Brands
To find the best, you need to look across the reputable brands that currently sell them. Keep in mind that the prices we quote are based on averages.
Your brand and truck model could also impact cost - for example, a Honda Ridgeline topper might cost more than the typical F-150 topper only because the Ford is more popular than the Honda.
Smaller sized trucks (with shorter bed length) are also going to cost slightly less than a full-size topper would. Remember, different areas of the country affect the cost of cap installation.
Second Hand Options
If you really want to save money, you can pick up used toppers for pennies on the dollar - don't worry if it's the wrong color, that's where Durabak’s durable, easy-to-apply truck paint can come in handy:
1) Get any pickup truck cap that fits, you can worry about the color later!
2) Clean up the topper, prep and scuff, tape off the windows and badges and then paint with Durabak.
3) You've got a beautiful matching cap for a fraction of the price!
Try searching Facebook Marketplace for second hand opportunities!
What is the Best Truck Cap Brand?
Here are some of the most well-known topper brands:
- A.R.E – This company features a selection of covers, caps, commercial gear and accessories. A.R.E also offer several, limited time coupons as well.
- ATC / Astro – This American-made brand features caps, lids, cargo management and accessories. On their website, you can create a fully customizable system.
- Century – This brand is known for their caps, but also offers a nice selection of commercial products and accessories. You can easily search for a dealer in your area right on their site.
- Gemtop – The Gemtop product is slightly different than others as it features a sturdy steel construction. The company also features some work toppers and commercial applications.
- Jason – This company has less of a selection than some others, but users have been pleased with the results.
- Leer – They offer a full selection of caps, toppers, commercial caps and also accessories. You’ll find an easy to use fit finder on their website.
- Raider – Featuring fiberglass toppers, this company makes it easy to find your exact fit.
- Ranch – This company specializes in a fiberglass units
- Snugtop – Here you’ll find caps, tonneau covers and accessories for all major brands of trucks.
- Unicover – This company offers a large selection of aluminum and fiberglass shells.
HOW MUCH DOES A TRUCK TOPPER COST?
As we’ve discussed earlier, it can be difficult to determine the exact pricing of the best truck toppers without having every brand / model listed.
A basic no-frills truck topper made from aluminum should easily cost you less than $1,000. Adding features to that setup will increase the price accordingly. Also, changing the material to a composite or fiberglass can easily raise your price to double or more the amount when installed.
To receive the most accurate pricing, you’ll want to review the websites listed above.
ARE TRUCK TOPPERS EASY TO REMOVE?
Although caps and toppers aren't often that heavy, their bulkiness can make them difficult to remove. We wouldn't say it's impossible to remove alone, but we would definitely recommend getting some help in order to safely preserve your cap or topper (especially if it has windows).
If you need your truck temporarily more open or accessible or you want to sell your cap, then the process of removing it should not prove too difficult. However, it probably isn't something you will want to do frequently.
OUR FINAL THOUGHTS
Truck toppers offer many conveniences as far as protection from the elements and capable storage for all your gear.
Take your time choosing the brand and style that is going to best suit your needs and enjoy that new addition.
The good news is that you can paint either Aluminum, Fiberglass or Plastic shells with one of 18 colors of Durabak-18 and paint the rest of the exterior of your truck with the same very same bed liner paint to get a uniform paint job and a very hard wearing and unique finish.