Tips on Buying a Shell or Top for Your New Truck

Updated on January 3, 2017
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So you finally got that new truck you've been wanting, but now that it's sitting safely in your driveway, it looks naked. You're considering a shell or a top, maybe even a hard lid-type cover, but there are so many options. Where do you begin?

I spent many years selling truck accessories, but no longer do, so I will try to help by offering this information.

The first thing you want to ask yourself is: How do you plan on using your new truck? If you put a top on the truck bed, will you still be able to use the truck in the same way?

If the answer is yes, meaning a lumber rack and/or tool boxes aren't part of your vision, then you're ready to start looking at tops.

Types of Removable Covers

So you want a shell, or even a lid (also known as a hard tonneau cover), but you want to be able to remove it without too much trouble for that occasional large load. After all, what good is having a truck if you can't use it like a truck.

The good news is that many truck top manufacturers know that truck owners want the option to be able to remove a shell or lid.

SnugTop Covers

SnugTop Mounting System

Where the rail is bulging out is where the mounting clamp is, a feature exclusive to this brand.
Where the rail is bulging out is where the mounting clamp is, a feature exclusive to this brand.

For a good shell that's easy to remove, consider a SnugTop. It uses a J-hook style installation that works like a clamp—no drilling.

The other benefit with this brand is that their tops are very custom fit, meaning the base rails of the shell are a contoured fit, not flat, so you will actually feel the shell fit in place when you set it on the bed.

Their tops also have a bulb rubber seal built-in along the base rail, meaning there is no seal to have to re-do when you remove and reinstall the shell.

Leer

A Leer brand top has a rubber seal and J-hooks as well, although their J-hooks are a little different. Most manufactures require a foam tape to be installed along the base rails to seal the shell to the bed.

If that tape is not replaced when the shell is removed, it will leak after you reinstall it. Either one of these brands of shells will weigh between 150 to 200 lbs, depending on how large your truck is.

Pro-Tip: Ask for the Boards the Shell Was Shipped On

A good tip to remember if you plan on removing a shell after you buy it is to ask the dealer for the boards that the shell is shipped with, that way if you do remove it, you can reuse those boards when you set it on the ground for storage.

These boards typically get tossed out or recycled, so the dealer should not have a problem just giving them to you. Remember too that a lot of truck shells now have what they call wrap-rails-for a nice custom-fit look. They can easily be damaged, so having these shipping boards really helps.

Removing Hard Lid Covers

Hard lid covers (tonneau covers) are not as easy to remove as you might think. A hard, fiberglass, painted-to-match lid is actually quite heavy, and depending on the brand or style, it can be a little tricky to take on and off.

Believe it or not, something such as a basic SnugTop hard tonneau—which they call their TC lid-or Tonneau Cover—weighs almost as much as some shells do. They have a very thick honey-comb construction, and despite what the company says, they're heavy.

Painted-to-match Leer covers are about the same in weight.

Another good painted fiberglass lid brand is the Gaylord cover, and their mounting systems have a lot of flexibility for fine adjustments.

Pro-Tip: Stay Away From Shut-and-Lock Latching Systems

This will make sense when you re-install a lid, since the real trick is for it to be able to open and shut with ease, and for this reason, I like to stay away from these shut-and-lock latching systems.

These latching systems work on the idea that your truck bed is now like a big trunk—use a key to open it, then slam it shut to lock it. Many of the popular brands operate this way, and they all say they work great, but I have sold and installed many lids, and on average, we would replace 2 to 3 Snuglid SL lid locks every week.

The Snuglid TC lid, and the Gaylord basic lid, use the standard lock that turns and swings a cam under a fixed plate to lock it in place. This is really the best way to go. It's not that fancy, but there are no headaches later on. Back in the late 90's, most hard lids used these simple locks, and they hardly ever had problems.

Remember too that all of the lids I described are clamped on-no drilling, but that does not mean they are easy to remove, it simply means less holes in your bed.

The Easiest Lid to Remove

Probably the easiest lids to remove are the non-painted, black hard covers, such as the Undercover brand. They weigh less than half of the painted fiberglass covers, but they are also just as strong. They tend to fit great and are very easy to install.

I found that their cover on the new Tacoma beds were extremely simple to install. Professional installers can get them on in about 15 minutes or less. It's no surprise then that removing these and re-installing them is just as simple.

Since they weigh about 50 lbs. (less for the extra short mini-truck beds) and they aren't painted, taking it off and propping it against a wall in your garage takes about ten minutes and you won't have to worry about scratching it.

True, these covers don't look as good as the painted ones, but they are very functional, secure and strong. Older style covers, like the old Protecto Tops, were very flimsy, and could be broken in half like snapping thin plywood.

The newer Undercover lids are also very reasonable in price, and don't pay too much for labor if you get one of these installed, because believe me, even someone who is mildly handy could put one of these on by themselves.

Rolling Covers

You may also consider a rolling cover. They roll up out of your way into a canister in the front of the bed, and you don't have to remove it. But remember, more moving parts means more that can go wrong over time.

It may work great when you first get it, but give it a year or two and it may need some occasional adjusting, or sometimes a lot of regular adjusting.

Roll covers also take up bed space, and they are notorious for leaking. That's why most of them come with drain tubes. A good, secure cover is the Pace Edwards Full Metal roll cover. It costs almost as much as a shell, but they are designed well, and have few problems.

Style

What do you want your truck to look like?

Good shells and higher-end models will cost well over $2,000 at the end of the day, so before you even start looking, keep that in mind.

Fiberglass

Even when there are special sales, a simple, color-matched fiberglass shell can cost between $1,200 and $1,400 depending on the brand.

Shells are not what they used to be, which were gel-coated (not painted) plastic pieces of garbage that fit lousy, and spent more time on the side of the freeway than on the bed of your truck.

Plastic shells are now non-existent and most fiberglass tops are clear coat enamel paint, just like your truck. I know they seem expensive, but if you just spent more than $35,000 on a brand new truck, you should put something on it that is comparable in quality to the truck itself. After all, you wouldn't buy a $5 tie for a $1,000 designer suit.

High-End Tops and Their Downsides

Expensive styles of tops usually have the all-glass doors with hidden or semi-hidden hinges for that realistic SUV look. SnugTop's models that have this all glass, frameless rear door are the XV (eXtra Vision) or the Super Sport models.

It's all about the look, nothing more. Going with that SUV look may be the coolest, but remember that if and when you do break that back door, it's expensive. Trust me, a lot of people break the back door on their shells.

Backing into the garage with the door up is the most common scenario. Same goes with Leer's popular 100XL model. Remember that the glass in these doors is tempered safety glass, but not laminated like a windshield, so all it takes is one small rock, and all that glass will shatter into very small pieces.

Aluminum-framed doors on the other hand are much cheaper to replace, sometimes half the cost for the part. Most basic fiberglass shells use the aluminum framed rear doors.

SnugTop calls their basic top the Cab High, meaning it is level in height with that of the cab of the truck. Leer's is called the 100R. Of course, all of these tops I just described are cab level in height.

These two types of tops are the most popular, and I highly, highly recommend looking at actual tops at an accessory dealer so you can see the quality difference in the parts they use.

SnugTop vs Leer

SnugTop's shells tend to cost more than any other brand, but that's mostly because they use more expensive parts. It's arguable if that means those parts are better, but they look and feel better, like sturdier latches and metal, not plastic hinges.

SnugTop shells also have thicker fiberglass construction, which may mean nothing unless you want to mount a rack on top of it or if you have an off-road truck and actually use it that way and subject the bed to a lot of flexing.

There are of course many other models, most of which involve extra height for the camping enthusiast or just someone with a need for more headroom and space.

Leer has several taller models, the model 122 being the tallest, but I personally think they look ugly. SnugTop has a very smooth-line taller top called the High Liner, but its availability is sometimes limited as most people want the clean look of a cab high top.

The Best Brands

Notice I am mainly talking about SnugTop and Leer here. That's because these are the two most widely known and popular brands on the market today. There are other more obscure brands, but be careful what you buy.

I have seen manufacturers come and go, and good luck getting parts or service for these tops once the company goes under. SnugTop and Leer have been around for a while. Century is a decent brand, and it's owned by Leer so it's basically a cheap Leer.

Glasstite use to be a really good brand, then they sold out to different corporate owners a few years ago and the service went down the tubes.

A.R.E. is another brand, and they have a very distinct model of top where the tailgate of the truck bed is removed, making it a full walk-in rear door, but be careful with this one, it's prone to many potential problems. The fit from A.R.E. isn't that great either.

Other Options and Add-Ons

Carpet Lining

Yes, truck caps or shells have many optional features. The most common is the inside carpet lining. Most shells have this, that is to say most dealers will stock tops with this option and many models actually come with this option included.

Is carpet necessary? No, not really, it just looks much better than the raw fiberglass, and it helps to insulate the shell better. The carpet is like speaker box carpet, and it's indoor/outdoor grade, so it won't get mildewed if it gets wet.

Windows

The front of a top usually has a sliding window, so the inside of the now covered bed can be accessed from the truck's rear cab window-provided your truck has a rear sliding window. Solid windows are usually standard, but you would only want that if your rear cab window is solid as well.

An option for that front sliding window in the shell is to have one with the capability to fold down, or in the case of Leer, it can be removed.

Why is this a good option? Because cleaning the rear cab window once a shell is installed becomes quite a chore without it.

The gap between the truck bed and cab is very tight, especially now since trucks have more streamlined designs, and if you want a nice custom look, the shell has to fit this way. Fold down glass is also available with solid windows as well, for the same reason.

Folding Front Slider Option

As you can see, with the front slider dropped down and out of the way, cleaning the cab window is a lot easier.
As you can see, with the front slider dropped down and out of the way, cleaning the cab window is a lot easier.

Boots

Don't get a boot. This option is still offered, but I highly, highly recommend not getting it. They leak, they rub off all your paint, they don't last and the list goes on. With folding front sliders now available, they really aren't necessary.

Racks

Racks on top of shells are also common options. The best thing to do is to order the shell with the tracks pre-installed. Either Thule or Yakima tracks are cross-compatible, and even if you're not sure what specific type of rack you want, you at least now have the option to install the towers and bars on the tracks after you get the shell.

You may even have these parts already and want to transfer that system to the shell. Tracks also give you the option to vary the spread between the bars. They can typically hold about 165 lbs. I only know of one shell manufacturer that offers the option to have the roof made thicker to accommodate extra weight, and that's SnugTop.

They call it the sportsman package, and for a price, they will make the roof thicker as well as reinforce all of the critical stress points. Tops with this option can carry up to 500 lbs, which is perfect for a small aluminum boat. For most, this option is probably overkill.

Keep your cargo in one place

Buying Used

You can get a really great deal buying a used shell if you know what to look for. I had a customer once who not only got the exact fit, but he found a used shell that was the same color, and it wasn't a common color either. He bought the shell used for $500, and new, the same shell would have cost $1,500.

Do Your Research

The key is to know what fits what. Full size Chevy beds for example:1988 will fit up to 1998, and some 99s. 2000 up to 2006 Chevy beds are also the same, despite the body style changes. The 2007 model is different than all of them.

Simply measuring the bed though will not always be enough to know if the used shell you're looking to buy will fit. This is because most truck beds are now tapered, meaning the bed is wider in the front and narrower in the back.

Chevy started doing this in 88, Ford in 97 and Dodge in 94. The new full-size Dodge truck beds are so tapered in fact that lumber racks on these beds don't seem to fit until you push the rack all the way forward.

Try It On

Setting the shell on the bed is the best way to determine if it will fit. Remember that even if the shell appears to fit, if the rear door doesn't open and shut right, or lock, what's the point of even having the shell on the bed.

Some dealers also offer close-out shells, because truck bed fits have gone through so many changes over the last five or six years, they may still have a top in inventory that they would love to get rid of.

I once sold a shell to a guy that only fit a 2003-04 F150 crew cab with the extra short bed, and it was even in is color, and he got it for almost $800 less than if he had ordered it, and the shell was technically brand new.

Ask, Ask, Ask

Remember to always ask about warranties and paint finish for those really good deals you see advertised.

Sometimes shells will be offered super cheap, but they may only come with a one year paint warranty, where most have a lifetime warranty.

Good luck, and I hope this info helps.

Comments

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    • profile image

      Stewart 

      6 hours ago

      Hi there I’m selling my 2001 Silverado 2500HD 6/12’, but would like to put the leer camper shell on my 2012 Silverado 2500 HD 61/2’. Will it fit.

    • profile image

      Kamal 

      17 hours ago

      I am considering a Hi-Rise Pro Top for my 2nd Gen Tacoma for camping. What are your thoughts on that brand/model? Thanks for your help.

    • Tom Zizzo profile imageAUTHOR

      Tom Zizzo 

      25 hours ago from Santa Clara, CA

      @BrianG -Any SnugTop shell has a thicker fiberglass construction, including the Highliner and SportHighliner. If you were to cut away the roof you'd see a nice thick resin-filled honey comb construction, and the corners are thicker so it takes the flexing during rough road driving better, so yes, I would recommend the SnugTop Highliner. Watch the beginning of the movie Twister-that red Dodge has a SnugTop Highliner on it.

    • Tom Zizzo profile imageAUTHOR

      Tom Zizzo 

      25 hours ago from Santa Clara, CA

      @Milt Simmons -It will fit the bed but the front angle won't be right. It will work, you'll just have this weird gap between the shell and the cab. The quad cab is more straight up and down, the crew cab has a bit of an angle to it.

    • profile image

      BrianG 

      33 hours ago

      Hi Tom, I sure appreciate your willingness to share your expertise. I'm looking at the snugtop series, and would prefer something with some extra height, i.e, the Hi-liner. I notice it's not listed among their "off-road" choices, so I wondered how you think it would hold up to moderate (by no means extreme) 4x4 travel?

    • profile image

      Milt Simmons 

      46 hours ago

      Will a Lear Camper Shell designed for a 2017 Ram Quad Cab with a 6' 4" Box, fit on a 2018 Ram Crew Cab with a 6' 4" Box?

    • Tom Zizzo profile imageAUTHOR

      Tom Zizzo 

      5 days ago from Santa Clara, CA

      @tom -first off, what you have is technically a 'quad' cab. That second door is not a full-size door. Rams are funny, they didn't bring back a true crew cab until 2009. The good news is, it won't matter if you find something off a 2500 or 1500, they will all fit your bed-for that generation, but unless it's for a Ram, nothing else works well. You need something from an 02 to 08, and if it's a, 09 2500/3500 -those should all be the same. Some years in there have this plastic tailgate piece that needs to be removed, but other than that, they're identical.

    • profile image

      tom 

      8 days ago

      Tom, I have a 2006 ram 3500 slt crew cab (short bed) how can I find out if other truck manufactures shells fit on my truck? I'm having a hard time finding one.

    • Tom Zizzo profile imageAUTHOR

      Tom Zizzo 

      2 weeks ago from Santa Clara, CA

      @Candy riddle -the only thing I can think of is if you're truck is a 2007, you may have that extruded plastic piece on top of the gate, unless it's a heavy duty (2500/3500) truck, then it's the older style, but if it does have that piece sticking out, and it was not removed, take it off, then move the shell back, but without seeing it, I couldn't say exactly.

    • profile image

      Candy riddle 

      2 weeks ago

      I bought a leer 122 for my chevy silverado long bed 2007. The installer offset the cap about 2 inches in order to make the back door fit. It looks horrible. It actually looks like the door is about 1 inch too long. Are there different heights of tailgates ? Is there any way correct this so it is lined up correctly.

    • Tom Zizzo profile imageAUTHOR

      Tom Zizzo 

      2 weeks ago from Santa Clara, CA

      @sangye -I know that Leer still makes a top for that truck. Check out their site to find a local dealer. Ask about the Leer Legend, should cost around $1,600, color matched.

    • profile image

      sangye 

      2 weeks ago

      hi and thank you for so much valuable insight. any chance you could direct me to a company that could fit my 1998 ford 150 lariat? it has the tapered 6.5 foot bed with a seven inch width difference.

      i was hoping for a canvas shell that gave me ease of removal but research indicates this is unlikely......

    • Tom Zizzo profile imageAUTHOR

      Tom Zizzo 

      5 weeks ago from Santa Clara, CA

      @abelzw -I know the picture you're talking about, and FYI -that rack is no longer available from Leer. The 100XQ looks awesome on that truck, new F150's as well, but I would not recommend it for off road, or more than average 'rough road' driving. People take for granted just how much a truck bed flexes and twists, and if you get a SnugTop with the reinforced off road package (they call it the Sportsman Package) it will take the flexing, and extra roof weight quite well. The fiberglass hull of a SnugTop will last forever. I have one at my workshop that came off a 1968 Chevy -has all the original parts on it.

    • profile image

      abelzw 

      5 weeks ago

      Thanks for this awesome article! I have a question though, I'm currently deployed but when I get back stateside, I want to install a camper shell on my 2015 Silverado. I've been looking at the Leer 100XQ because it looks like it follows the lines of my truck the best. I saw a picture online of a Silverado with the 100XQ installed and a roof rack with a large spare tire mounted on top. Realistically, how would a set up like that hold up off road? I don't do anything crazy like Baja style jumping, just some mild rock crawling and trail running. I do hit up some places that require a lot of flex. Are the camper shells pretty resilient to that? Would the 100XQ be a good option? You mentioned that SnugTop can reinforce the roof, should I go with that brand?

    • Tom Zizzo profile imageAUTHOR

      Tom Zizzo 

      6 weeks ago from Santa Clara, CA

      @ggbutcher -you'll have to get the part from a licensed dealer. They will want to know the serial number to the top, which is etched on a metal plate, and which side. The window has two parts, the main window and frame, and an inner clamp ring-that's the part that's screwed in on the inside, you'll also need some window seal the stick on the frame. Go to the Leer site, put in your zip code to find the nearest dealer to you.

    • profile image

      ggbutcher 

      6 weeks ago

      Good articles.

      Tom, I have a 2015 Toyota Tacoma DCLB with a Leer top; working in it a few days ago I slid the side window shut and it shattered. I can replace the window myself, do you have any recommendations on where to procure one?

    • Tom Zizzo profile imageAUTHOR

      Tom Zizzo 

      7 weeks ago from Santa Clara, CA

      @john bishop -no, never heard of it before, but looking at their site they look a lot like the Century tops, which is like a low-end Leer top. Problem with tops like that is when you have one on your truck after like 6 years, a window breaks, and you can't find a dealer anymore, good luck getting it fixed.

    • profile image

      john bishop 

      7 weeks ago

      Tom,

      Do you have any knowledge of the Ranch truck topper brand?

    • Tom Zizzo profile imageAUTHOR

      Tom Zizzo 

      8 weeks ago from Santa Clara, CA

      @Gottahaveit -it's nearly impossible to sell a used roll cover/folding cover or one-piece hard cover. You have to have ALL the hardware, instructions, and know exactly what it will fit. It's much harder than you think. People regret their purchases all the time. It's quick and easy to get a roll cover, or folding cover-they aren't painted to match. Committing to a painted shell is much more thought out. They all have their limits, or pros and cons. Weigh them out and try to determine what will work best for you.

    • Tom Zizzo profile imageAUTHOR

      Tom Zizzo 

      8 weeks ago from Santa Clara, CA

      @ken Daniels -most tops have serial numbers, typically etched on metal plates. Leer's look like they are literally etched by hand. SnugTop's are stamped on a metal plate, which also says Custom hardtops, Long Beach CA, and they start with a letter, Leer's are just numbers. Cheaper brands use stickers, so you may not find anything, but most data plate/serial numbers are on small metal plates near the back door/glass.

    • profile image

      Gottahaveit 

      8 weeks ago

      Thanks for the great info. I'm trying to figure out which solution is best for my 14 Raptor, or if I should simply go with a roll top. In all of your years, have you ever heard people wish they would have got a roll top instead of the shell or visaversa? Are the roll tops easy to resell if I decide it's not the solution? Too many decisions and too little time. LOL Thanks again!

    • profile image

      ken Daniels 

      8 weeks ago

      I was given a free topper in almost brand new condition and the back glass had been broken out need to find out were to replace the glass and frame and also we're are the leer numbers that tell you what model and make it is besides on the end of the topper need help please

    • Tom Zizzo profile imageAUTHOR

      Tom Zizzo 

      8 weeks ago from Santa Clara, CA

      @Jack Fanning -thank you, the new Tacoma is VERY popular. Finding a used top will be difficult-but in a good way, meaning it's so popular, the demand for a used top is high. If you're looking for a decent top, but on a budget, ask about the Leer Legend top, should run you around $1,500. It's a simple, color matched, cab-level top.

    • Tom Zizzo profile imageAUTHOR

      Tom Zizzo 

      8 weeks ago from Santa Clara, CA

      @Dom Audisio - I've never been a fan of ARE shells, mostly because of fit and finish-among other things, but yes, I'm aware of their production delays they have had this year. I'm sorry you had such a poor experience.

    • Tom Zizzo profile imageAUTHOR

      Tom Zizzo 

      8 weeks ago from Santa Clara, CA

      @Diane -yes, well, depends. If it's REALLY old, like 40 years old, probably not, but most can be repaired.

    • profile image

      Jack Fanning 

      8 weeks ago

      Thanks much for the info. Just bought a 2017 Toyota Tacoma 4 cylinder pickup and want a camper shell to fit it. Don't want anything expensive but want it to be reliable. You are a big help in sorting through the details to decide what to get. There is a Leer dealer not too far that I will visit to eyeball the choices, but would prefer to get a used (cheaper) one if available. Don't want to buy b4 I know more though. U r a good start to my education.

    • profile image

      Dom Audisio 

      2 months ago

      Don't purchase a shell from ARE. Ordered one and six-weeks later the dealer called to say it was damaged in shipment. Then they said the paint was defective (bubble) from the factory, not damaged. So I paid too much for a shell that is nothing more than a used product. It will be another six-weeks before I receive a repainted-repaired shell. What good is a warranty if you can't get a quality product right from the start? Send it back to the factory every year for a possible repair (only if the dealer stays in business). Very sorry I purchased from this company. Fool and his money are soon separated, guess I'm an old fool.

    • profile image

      Diane 

      2 months ago

      Can the glass rear window on a snug top be repaired?

    • Tom Zizzo profile imageAUTHOR

      Tom Zizzo 

      2 months ago from Santa Clara, CA

      @Daisy -for a temporary job, it should be ok, but long-term, most people end up throwing them in the trash. They're not exactly secure or water tight.

    • profile image

      Daisy 

      2 months ago

      Hello, I just got a 4 door tacoma, considering the cloth camper shell cause of the cost, just need ITV to transport my border collie pup? Do you recommend it? Thanks

    • Tom Zizzo profile imageAUTHOR

      Tom Zizzo 

      2 months ago from Santa Clara, CA

      @Lauren -a V4 Tacoma? Not sure what you're asking, but the Tacomas are very popular and reliable. They currently have the best resale value of any pickup on the market, can't go wrong, if you don't like it, sell it and get all your money back.

    • Tom Zizzo profile imageAUTHOR

      Tom Zizzo 

      2 months ago from Santa Clara, CA

      @elbiluco - I have no idea what you mean by a 'Ranch Camper'. Check out my other Hub on this topic, the back door from a 2011 fiberglass top will not, I repeat not shut over the new (2016) gate.

    • profile image

      Lauren 

      2 months ago

      Super helpful! Thank you! Any thoughts on if its worth a try on a v4 tacoma? Not much power there.

    • profile image

      elbiluco 

      2 months ago

      Will a Ranch Camper shell from a 2011 chevy 2500 crew cab fit a 2016 chevy 2500 crew cab?

    • Tom Zizzo profile imageAUTHOR

      Tom Zizzo 

      3 months ago from Santa Clara, CA

      @amanda -not sure what you're asking, from 1980 to 1996, all F150s are the same, same as a 73 to 87 Chevy, some old Dodges, the key is that Ford didn't start to taper the bed until 1997, and for more info, check out my other hub/article on Tips and Compatibility info for used camper tops.

    • Tom Zizzo profile imageAUTHOR

      Tom Zizzo 

      3 months ago from Santa Clara, CA

      @Bruce Page -never heard of that company, don't like the look or fit, why do they use windows that are so small?

    • profile image

      amanda 

      3 months ago

      what other model trucks.say it came on it would fit a 94 ford f150?is it all measuring? no universal lke a chevy short bed wil fit a ford short bed?

    • profile image

      Bruce Page 

      3 months ago

      How is it you failed to mention the Caravan Camper Top Company

      In Sparks Nevada. They make arguably the finest tops in the

      world, and have been doing so for over four decades. Like a hunting

      rifle discussion without mentioning Wearherby.

    • profile image

      Jag Perez 

      3 months ago

      Hi Tom,

      This is a very helpful information on buying a camper shell.Thank you so very much for your time and effort to post this great information.

      Cheers.

    • Tom Zizzo profile imageAUTHOR

      Tom Zizzo 

      3 months ago from Santa Clara, CA

      @Tundra2011 -not really worth it, would take some drilling, added parts, and a gaping hole in the middle. The double handles are no more secure really, anyone can just grab a handle and pull it really hard, bend the cam behind it and yank the door open. You can also tint your windows darker.

    • Tundra2011 profile image

      Tundra2011 

      4 months ago

      Thanks for the reply. I'm going to end up removing everything I keep in the bed. I keep gear back there all the time. My main concern is break in's while at home. I will look into some sort of lock box as well.

      A few days ago, someone tried to pry the back door open it seems like. The door has some play when its locked, it was a very snug fit days before. Is there a way to retrofit the frame to remove the single middle handle lock to dual locks on the ends? Is this a worthy upgrade or no?

    • Tom Zizzo profile imageAUTHOR

      Tom Zizzo 

      4 months ago from Santa Clara, CA

      @Tundra2011 -I don't think that slick lock or a hasp lock would work-those aluminum frames are not that heavy duty, and slick locks rely on vehicle-spefic mounting hardware. Bottom line is, anyone can and will break a window. It's best to have some type of locked storage in the bed, like a tool chest.

    • Tundra2011 profile image

      Tundra2011 

      4 months ago

      Hey Tom, cool write up. Very true about the A.R.E's fit being bad as mine leaked after the first rain =(

      Is there anyway to make a truck cap more secure by adding external locks? Today, I am going to wire in a hood pinswitch and blinking LED light from my alarm system to the rear cap door. Tired of people prying open the door or grabbing stuff from the back when I forgot to lock. Maybe something like a Slick Lock that work vans use.

      The locking mechanism and aluminum door frame on the ARE MX cap that I have is pretty flimsy.

    • Tom Zizzo profile imageAUTHOR

      Tom Zizzo 

      4 months ago from Santa Clara, CA

      @tj -softopper or bestop, which is also a soft top, I do not recommend. They don't seal well, they aren't very secure and I don't like the look of them, and anything from Bestop is not going to be cheap. Lifetime is ok if you're on a budget, but you can also look into the Leer Legend top or Century (same manufacture as Leer).

    • Tom Zizzo profile imageAUTHOR

      Tom Zizzo 

      4 months ago from Santa Clara, CA

      @William -sorry for the late reply, lots of tops, but I will probably always recommend the Snugtop, typically the Rebel model, I like the lines of the Snugtop on the Ram better than anything else.

    • profile image

      tj 

      4 months ago

      hello,

      good article.

      any suggestions for guys rockin' mid-4-figure $ trucks, vs the more typical new / newer mid-5-figure $ + crowd?

      lifetime, softopper, bestop, etc?

      Vaya con Dios

      thks!

    • profile image

      William 

      6 months ago

      Hi Tom. I live in Thousand Oaks Ca. Looking for a shell for 2014 Dodge 1500 Tradesman short bed. Any recommendations?

    • profile image

      Keith 

      6 months ago

      Thanks Tom! Very informative! Now on to further shopping for my F150 cap!

    • Tom Zizzo profile imageAUTHOR

      Tom Zizzo 

      6 months ago from Santa Clara, CA

      @joymclouth75@gmail.com -it's true that a top will cover up the cargo-area light, which I doubt provided enough light to see where the hitch and trailer tongue meet. The backup lights in the tail lights will not get covered up. It would also not be that difficult to wire and mount some sort of auxiliary light-even if switched on manually-to provide the same assistance. Hope this helps :)

    • profile image

      joymclouth75@gmail.com 

      6 months ago

      All I want to know if after my husband puts his new Leer Cab on he says he'll lose his "back up lights" that make it so he can load a trailer by himself without jumping in and out of his old truck. Anyway, to rewire or preserve these back up lights on a 2018 GMC pickup?

      Maybe the Leer dealer will know too, but it' his truck and was only making a comment to me. Thought I see what can be done, Thanks

    • Tom Zizzo profile imageAUTHOR

      Tom Zizzo 

      7 months ago from Santa Clara, CA

      @Dave -a full Yakima rack alone can be over $400, which is less than what it would cost if you were to add it after you bought the top. $3K for an ARE is a little pricey, but their Z series is their frameless side glass top, so it's going to be in that range. I know that a Leer 100XL is less-at least at my shop it is. Shop around, and notice the differences, ARE doesn't have good standard wire connectors for the dome light and brake light, and they don't have a bulb rubber base seal.

    • profile image

      Dave 

      7 months ago

      Wow! I've only checked the dealer that was near me listed on AREs website so far, but was just quoted $3995 plus tax for a Z series with Yakima rack.

      He stated base price was $2995 plus upgrades. Big change in market for these or just because I'm in Phoenix?

    • Tom Zizzo profile imageAUTHOR

      Tom Zizzo 

      7 months ago from Santa Clara, CA

      @Chris -There are in fact very big differences between an ARE and a Snugtop. ARE does not use a double bulb rubber seal along the bottom of the base rail, so when the top is installed, they have to stick a neoprene foam tape to the rail to seal it with the bed. It's an old way to do it, and done to cut costs. Snugtop has a lifetime paint warranty, the roof of a Snugtop is almost twice as thick, along with all the corners-the stuff you can't really see. In my opinion, Snug is far better-a closer comparison would be Snugtop and Leer. They use similar parts, have the rubber, and a better fit. Snugtop also has the best no-drill patented clamp system. And yeah, your prices are spot on. Check out the Leer 100XL.

    • Tom Zizzo profile imageAUTHOR

      Tom Zizzo 

      7 months ago from Santa Clara, CA

      @Kevvin -modifying the door is probably your best bet as I'm sure you have no idea who manufactures the top to find the parts.

    • profile image

      Chris 

      7 months ago

      I don't think I mentioned in my previous comment that I have a 2017 RAM 3500 Mega Cab.

    • profile image

      Chris 

      7 months ago

      This is a great article. I'm really torn between the SnugTop Xtra Vision and the A.R.E. Z Series. The ARE with the fold down front slider, locks keyed to my remote, and 2x4' rope LED lights is only $2515. The SnugTop is at least $3100 for a similar configuration. I can probably get an additional 10% off on the A.R.E. Do these prices seem high? Do you have any advice to help justify the cost difference for SnugTop?

    • profile image

      Kevin 

      7 months ago

      I got an old aluminum (not tapered) cap for free. The rear window extends down too far and hits the tailgate so it wont close. Should i trim 3/4" off the window or can i find replacement windows that would fit better.

    • profile image

      Amy 

      12 months ago

      Thanks for the good info! Coming from a newbie first-time truck owner who is unfamiliar with all this stuff, I could really use some visuals (photos) inserted along with all the different options you describe.

    • Tom Zizzo profile imageAUTHOR

      Tom Zizzo 

      14 months ago from Santa Clara, CA

      @Robert McGee -depending on where you live exactly, you may have few dealers close by to get competitive pricing, but always check on SnugTop's site as they will list monthly specials, which are typically free optional items, like a free fold-down front slider (about $120 off). Any discount in addition to that is good buy.

    • profile image

      Robert McGee 

      14 months ago

      Tom, I'm sold on Snugtop. Can you give me an idea of how much off MSRP would be a good buy?

    • Tom Zizzo profile imageAUTHOR

      Tom Zizzo 

      15 months ago from Santa Clara, CA

      @Tracey -for a truck like that, you're looking at maybe just over 200lbs in added weight with the top, so it should be able to handle that no problem. I know a SnugTop XV for an 8 foot bed, full-size truck is just over 300 lbs, but that's a much larger truck.

    • Tom Zizzo profile imageAUTHOR

      Tom Zizzo 

      15 months ago from Santa Clara, CA

      @Doc -well, you typically only see the tailgate removed for utility shells, but remember these are shells, not cabover campers, so that back wall, where the gate use to be, is never sealed very well. I like to keep things simple. Simple things seem to last longer.

    • profile image

      Tracey 

      15 months ago

      I have a 2002 Toyota longbed, V6 I am considering a camper shell. I am not sure who to ask if my truck can handle the weight. any suggestions, Great article it helps those who need it!

    • profile image

      Doc 

      15 months ago

      Thanks for the article Tom. In your opinion, is it better to have the pick-up truck's tailgate removed and have a full back door installed on a custom camper shell or is it better to keep the tailgate and get a camper shell that sits on top of the tailgate?

    • Tom Zizzo profile imageAUTHOR

      Tom Zizzo 

      16 months ago from Santa Clara, CA

      @Annette -forgive me, I'm no longer getting notifications for some reason, not sure what you're referring to about the bed being sealed.

    • Tom Zizzo profile imageAUTHOR

      Tom Zizzo 

      16 months ago from Santa Clara, CA

      @Kelly -the gap should be even, yes. You want to avoid the cab and bed rubbing while driving.

    • Tom Zizzo profile imageAUTHOR

      Tom Zizzo 

      16 months ago from Santa Clara, CA

      @Rex -if you read my other post, I address that issue. There really isn't any cross compatibility, however, on older trucks, like a pre 1980 Ford and Chevy, they were essentially the same dimensions, we also use to use shells from the old (pre 93) S-10 on the Nissan hardbody trucks. For the most part though, this is not the case anymore with new trucks.

    • profile image

      Kelly 

      17 months ago

      should the truck cap gap be evenly spaced with the cab?

    • profile image

      Al Lewandowski 

      18 months ago

      I just purchased a Toyota Tacoma and am planning to add a hi-rise as I plan frequent camping trips. This article was really informative and helpful.

    • profile image

      Rex 

      18 months ago

      Is there any compatibility between truck brands? I found plenty of used chevy caps that according to measurements should fit on my ford, but after speaking with a leer rep, they say 'no way will it work.' If there is any cross-over, the next question would be how perfectly do these caps need to fit onto the bed?

    • profile image

      Annette 

      18 months ago

      Hi

      My husband has a 1988 GMC 3500 truck which we have found a cab for. However, the bed of the truck is sealed and does not have side rails. How do you install the cab on this?

    • Tom Zizzo profile imageAUTHOR

      Tom Zizzo 

      19 months ago from Santa Clara, CA

      @pposey -good question, there have been some slight modifications to that truck, but the old top may still work on it, not sure though, I know that SnugTop has a new mold for the 2014 to current model, Leer also shows that there is a new mold for the current truck, so it might not be a perfect fit.

    • profile image

      pposey 

      19 months ago

      First great website and info,,, I have a 2008 Tundra Crewmax with a Leer fiberglass top that fits really well,, I am looking for a 2015-2017 Tundra Crewmax, will the top fit the newer truck?

    • profile image

      Jim Heckenkamp 

      19 months ago

      great advice here. Thank you.

    • Tom Zizzo profile imageAUTHOR

      Tom Zizzo 

      19 months ago from Santa Clara, CA

      @Mike -great question, and once upon a time, a couple of manufacturers did. You may be able to modify an aftermarket accessory for a top. Check out the Lund Windjammer. Hope this helps!

    • profile image

      Mike 

      19 months ago

      HI Tom,

      Why is it and I've checked and checked, that no Cap Manufacture offers a Wind Deflector mounted above the caps rear window to deflect Snow/Dirt off the window????

      All Sport Utility vehicles have these that in most cases work great. When traveling in snow I have a couple of inches of snow that builds up.

    • Tom Zizzo profile imageAUTHOR

      Tom Zizzo 

      20 months ago from Santa Clara, CA

      @aradsc -they're not wrong, they ARE different, mostly toward the rear, and unfortunately, if you want to get the best water seal, you need a specific mold. If you do have to go with a new top, check out Century, it's made by Leer, but more basic parts so it's cheaper. Hope this helps.

    • profile image

      Chris 

      20 months ago

      Thanks for the info in this article Tom. You did not mention Jason brand tops and was wondering if you have any experience or knowledge of them. I am on a really tight budget and need to get the most bang for the buck.

    • profile image

      aradsc 

      20 months ago

      Here's my dilemma.

      Guy on CL has a 2012 Silverado w/ short bed and is trying to sell his Leer 100XL truck top for a fair price; I'm interested.

      I have a 2015 Silverado w/ short bed and want to buy the CL one but the Leer site says it wont fit. Leer says the 2012 model Silverado uses a 2007-2013 model 100XL and the 2015 Silverado uses a different "new" model. What is the difference going to be? Bed rails? Can I make this fit on my truck and be water tight? I would hate to pass on this deal if I don't have too. Leer was useless & no one seems to be able to tell me what the fitment issues are.

    • Tom Zizzo profile imageAUTHOR

      Tom Zizzo 

      20 months ago from Santa Clara, CA

      @Ann, first thing you need to do is locate your local SnugTop dealer, will make what you want to do a lot easier. They should have replacement parts, like the j-hooks and even a key to the lock, or just a new lock. You can mount a rack to the roof-those shells are fairly thick. I recommend using the Yakima or Thule false rain gutter attachments, then you can use any rain gutter style mounted rack. There are battery dome lights available, sealing everything up gets expensive, for the labor, but a dealer can explain that. Hope this helps!

    • profile image

      Ann 

      20 months ago

      Dear Tom,

      Your wealth of knowledge is astounding.

      I'm gotten certified in HVAC and may need to use

      Toyota light truck with Snug top shell as my "vehicle" 1993

      My question is how can I for CHEAP

      Lock Snugtop with tools/ equipment (lost key to lock that came with it)

      Put ladder on top of Snug top

      Get replacement J hooks used?

      Keep leaks under control without "smelly" insulation

      All gaskets really need to be replaced!

      (I'm chemically sensitive)

      I make need to overnite in it for work and want to rig up little fan for ventilation?? Battery?

      I know the economy is tough

      and then there's being a woman.

      J hooks first 91101

    • Tom Zizzo profile imageAUTHOR

      Tom Zizzo 

      20 months ago from Santa Clara, CA

      @Ken -that's a new one, and by insulation I'm guessing you're talking about the carpet lining. Not sure what to tell you. Spray it with a lot of fabreeze or something, I have no idea. In all the years I sold truck stuff, never had that complaint. Wish I could be more helpful.

    • profile image

      Ken 

      20 months ago

      Hi,

      Hopefully you receive this message as you seem to be pretty knowledgeable about shells. I just got a brand new Leer shell about a few months ago. It came insulated. One thing I noticed as soon as I got home was the very strong and nauseating odor of the insulation. I figured it would be gone by now but no such luck. Every time I open that shell, I'm blasted with an odor I can't stand. Do you have any suggestions as to how I can get rid of this "new insulation" odor?

    • Tom Zizzo profile imageAUTHOR

      Tom Zizzo 

      23 months ago from Santa Clara, CA

      @Joe -wish I had some advice for you. A shell manufacturer will not just make a new one, and if they do, it's really rare and depends on what the dealer is able to work out with them, this goes for SnugTop OR Leer. One problem is, every time the shell goes back and then comes back to you, you're going to go over it with a fine tooth comb, I've seen this many times. Shells will never have a 100% paint match, there's multiple reasons for it, and no manufacturer will tell you it will. Does that mean they aren't using the same Dupont code associated with your vehicle? No, they are, what that means is you could park another truck, just like yours, painted the same color, next to your truck, and they probably won't match. No shell is totally leak free, but windows, in general, shouldn't leak. You can keep trying to plead your case, but I'm sorry to tell you that they will still want to 'fix' what you have. Sorry I don't have better advice.

    • profile image

      Joe 

      23 months ago

      Bought a SnugTop canopy in December 2015 and it was installed on a brand new Toyota pickup in February 2016....in the last 9 months it has only been on my truck for a total of four months because it has been back and forth to the factory and I still have a MESS. It was installed incorrectly which leaves my truck with scratches all around the top of the bed sides, the paint was inferior from the start with "orange peel" and swirl marks besides not being a color match......The windows leaked, the fancy liner was coming undone, etc etc. Nothing but a run-around from the factory.....it has been sent back three times and comes back worse....the clear coat has mostly been buffed off, the paint is compromised, etc etc .....WHAT to do? The warranty says "until the customer is satisfied???? I have put over one thousand miles on my new truck just taking the canopy back and forth......I asked for a new one and that request is not even taken into consideration.....it has cost more sending it back and forth then it would have to just replace it to begin with.....any advice?

    • Tom Zizzo profile imageAUTHOR

      Tom Zizzo 

      24 months ago from Santa Clara, CA

      @bobcostas -not sure what you mean, a boot IS an open window. They all leak, and most manufacturers now won't even offer a boot. The fold down window, or with some, you can actually remove that window, has become standard because dealers and manufacturers were tired of dealing with boots. Cabs are no longer the smooth, flat surfaces they use to be, so boots just don't seal well. A better option back in the day was the accordian boot, which clipped around the edge of a unique truck slider that would be installed. It sealed, offered the pass through, but didn't compress against the cab. A fold down slider is just a simple solution to all that.

    • Tom Zizzo profile imageAUTHOR

      Tom Zizzo 

      24 months ago from Santa Clara, CA

      @Vishal -I've yet to see a rack and fiberglass tonneau installed together, unless the rack is installed on the cover itself. Sorry for the late reply.

    • profile image

      bobcostas 

      2 years ago

      You know what leaks worse than a boot? An open window. I still go with the boot. That way I still have my electric pass-through and only one window to clean tilt down or otherwise. In the old days, I used to put vinyl tape around the cab to keep it from chafing. Now I use 3M paint protection film.

      Never had a boot fail (crack or deteriorate) nor really leak. Even if they did 20 years ago, there's little that modern polymers have in common with those old materials. There'd always be a drip or two running down the truck window but no infiltration into the cap.

      To me, if you have a pass through truck window, you almost have to do away with the front window in the cap. Otherwise, whats the point. When we would actually camp out in the truck cap, we'd have a near air tight seal between the truck and the cap so we could leave it open and pass things through. There's not much reason to use a boot or the pass-through. Trucks aren't as durable as they used to be. Laying a 2x6x12 across your rear window is pushing its durability. To me, its about being able to grab stuff quickly without getting out.

    • profile image

      Vishal 

      2 years ago

      Hey Tom is there any way to get a fiberglass tonneau cover installed with a chase rack on my F150. Thanks.

    • Tom Zizzo profile imageAUTHOR

      Tom Zizzo 

      2 years ago from Santa Clara, CA

      @mike ace -they probably aren't much different. I haven't sold truck stuff for a few years so I'm not exactly sure, but I know that the major change GM has made recently has been with the Canyon/Colorado truck, not the fullsize version.

    • Tom Zizzo profile imageAUTHOR

      Tom Zizzo 

      2 years ago from Santa Clara, CA

      @Greg Z -after 09 Ford extruded out that tailgate section, not sure why, so, anything from 04 to 08 will be an exact fit. Remember too that if someone has an 04 Heritage model F150, it's the 03 body style-just a footnote :)

    • profile image

      Greg Z 

      2 years ago

      Hey Tom, I have a A.R.E. Z series off a 04 F150. Its been in my Garage forever and a day. Tried to sell it today to a guy with a 11. BTW, both trucks a 4dr short bed. The top was only like 1/2 in off from getting the Tailgate to close. Am I just SOL, or is there something we can do? What years does my top fit?

    • Tom Zizzo profile imageAUTHOR

      Tom Zizzo 

      2 years ago from Santa Clara, CA

      @ -hooks Well, you could just bolt the sucker down if you really had to, but that kind of defeats one of Snugtops main selling features. One thing to do is wrap a little rubber around the part of the hook that's gripping the bed rail. I'm surprised the dealer didn't do that. Give it a little grip if you know what I mean.

    • Tom Zizzo profile imageAUTHOR

      Tom Zizzo 

      2 years ago from Santa Clara, CA

      @Christina -I use to work with this company called Access Manufacturing, and they make utility shells, called the Tradesman. They will custom make just about anything. You'd have to find a dealer though, and I'm not sure there are any where you live, and you're right, it would be expensive.

    • profile image

      David 

      2 years ago

      Regarding the 2006 Tundra (see immediately below), my clamps are NOT the j-hoks, but Snugtop's proprietary low profile clamps.

    • profile image

      -hooks 

      2 years ago

      Hi. I have a 2006 Toyota Tundra double cab. Bought a Snugtop Rebel, which attaches to the bed with Snugtop's "J-hooks" clamps. After initial installation, had to return to dealer twice because the hooks weren't holding the shell in place. (Slid back a whole inch.) They finally tightened it enough that it quit moving. However, the shell developed another problem, so dealer took it off to ship back to factory. The J-hooks had really misshapen my plastic bed rail caps, and slightly bent the bed rails where they turn down on the inside of the bed. Any other options for securing the shell when it comes back? Would aftermarket stainless bed rail caps, which might not be susceptible to bending, work? Thanks!

    • profile image

      Christina 

      2 years ago

      Great article! I'm looking into buying a Daihatsu Hijet Japanese mini truck. It doesn't look like canopies are common for these trucks. Is it possible to have one made? Or would that just be so expensive it wouldn't be worth it? Any advice on where to look? I'm in Vancouver BC.

      Thanks!

    • Tom Zizzo profile imageAUTHOR

      Tom Zizzo 

      2 years ago from Santa Clara, CA

      @Henry P - if you're looking for used, the auto parts section of Craig's List is your best bet, just search using the words 'shell' and 'Tundra'. 2007 was the first year of the new body style. Used will be a lot cheaper than new, but higher end would be like a Snug Top, which is manufactured not far from you in Long Beach. For a new top, prices are probably close to $2K and up. Like I said, used are a lot less.

    • profile image

      Gordon 

      2 years ago

      I read your article with special interest on you negative recommendation for a boot between cab and shell. Can you recommend another device that will keep out the rain and snow? Either snow in the gap (during winter), and rain on the outside of the two windows pretty much eliminates vision via inside mirror, and the outside mirrors have too much dead space. I certainly would appreciate any suggestions as I am in way over my head!

      PS- I have a 2014 Ram 1500 regular cab and a Jeraco shell on a 6 ft nominal bed.

    • profile image

      Henry P 

      2 years ago

      Tom,

      I'm looking for a 2007 Tundra 6.5ft camper shell higher end (black color) with clamp on and light weight if possible. Do you know how much should it be and where to find it in my area CA 92802? Any recommendation to find used that I may afford? my email fbahenry@yahoo.com

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