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Tips on Buying a Shell or Top for Your New Truck

Author:

Tom Zizzo, a journalist, has also spent many years selling truck and SUV accessories.

So, you finally got that new truck you've been wanting, but now that it's sitting safely in your driveway (it looks so 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 I plan on using my new truck? If I put a top on the truck bed, will I 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.

Tips on Buying a Truck Shell or Top

  1. Learn the different types of shells, tops or toppers.
  2. Decide on a style or brand.
  3. Consider which add-ons you may want or need.
  4. Consider buying used.

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

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

SnugTop Covers

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.

truck-top-shell-buying-guide
Without those those shipping boards, the rails on this top would get damaged for sure.

Without those those shipping boards, the rails on this top would get damaged for sure.

truck-top-shell-buying-guide

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.

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.

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.

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.

A Word on Leaks

Camper shells leak. But very often, it's the beds, not the shells, that leak, and I'll do my best to explain this. I hear this a lot: "The shell on my old truck never leaked." You say this because your old truck is likely worlds apart different than your new truck. Pickup beds were never meant to be sealed. Just closely look at your bed before you put anything on it, and you'll start to notice gaps, holes, unsealed seams, etc.

Older pickups had nice, rectangular metal boxes for beds; today, they have plastic rail caps, tapered lines, tie-down holes, and some aren't even beds at all, like the '05 to current Toyota Tacoma. No coincidence: the Tacomas leak the most, and it's because of the bed, not the shell. It's the two front corners that are the biggest trouble spots. Most shops will try to mitigate that with silicone and or butyl tape seal in those corners, but it's not 100% effective.

Nevertheless, having said all that, if you put a top or shell on your bed and experience a heavy downpour, you're going to find water in your bed. Don't be alarmed if your shell leaks. The best way to find the problem is hop in the bed—ON A DRY DAY—and have someone outside hit it with the hose. You should be able to pinpoint the problem.

Keep your cargo in one place

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.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

Comments

Tom Zizzo (author) from Santa Clara, CA on August 24, 2020:

I'm not sure, I've never officially sold ARE, they seem to be thinner than most.

Tom Zizzo (author) from Santa Clara, CA on August 24, 2020:

Probably way late for this, but I think the standard or supercab were the same fit, if you find a top on an '04 Heritage edition, they're the same. Chevy tops from the same era seem to fit ok as well on those trucks.

Ryo on July 25, 2020:

Hi - thanks for this informative article. Wondering if you have any thoughts on the ATC brand as a comparison to the brands you mention in your article. My primary goal is to be able to sleep in it for camping and road trips. It's for a 2014 GMC Sierra 1500.

KYRain on July 08, 2020:

Hi Tom,

Thanks for the informative article. Can you tell me if it matters if a topper made for a standard cab will fit a supercab on the 1998 F150 (mine is the supercab, 6.5 foot bed, styleside)?

Also, are there any other years that would still be compatible? I read that '97-'03 has the same body, but was hoping maybe '04 would still work. Desperately need a topper. Thank you!

Ahren Wade Shindler on July 06, 2020:

On ARE toppers what is the normal thickness of the fiberglass on the top and sides?

Tom Zizzo (author) from Santa Clara, CA on April 07, 2020:

@Bud Warren -you are correct, the shell you bought is for your truck bed. The technical model name for that 100R is 58GMT, which is their code for that generation of Chevy(GM) truck. Let me know if you need help identifying your factory color code.

Bud Warren on April 05, 2020:

Hi Tom. I just joined your great website. hope you can help me. I'm just curious . I purchased a used but like new condition cab high Leer 100R I believe. (Its White, my truck is Dark Spiral Grey Metallic) so I would want to have it painted to match my truck.Serial number on metal tag says 01244652. my truck is a 2005 Chevy Silverado 4 door crew cab 1500 4 wheel drive. Very short bed. around 5 1/2 foot. can you tell me based on the serial number what year the shell was manufactured ? It fits really well so I assume its for a truck like mine for the years 2004 to 2006 classic.

Tom Zizzo (author) from Santa Clara, CA on March 28, 2020:

@Jawesomel -that's at 1:04, you said 1:05. Sorry for the confusion, and for the record, I've never seen that ARE shell ever.

Tom Zizzo (author) from Santa Clara, CA on March 28, 2020:

@Jawesomel -no, that's not what it is, in fact you can see LEER on the back door. It's the 100XQ, and it was quite unique.

Jawesomel on March 28, 2020:

Hey Tom. Found out it's an A.R.E. RT series. They quit making it in 2015 and destroyed the molds. Apparently not enough people thought it was cool.

Tom Zizzo (author) from Santa Clara, CA on March 20, 2020:

@sierragrl - sorry to hear about your bad experience, SnugTop really is the best manufactured top, but no shell, none, will seal that well on a new Tacoma bed. If I have five pending leak-check appointments on my schedule, you can bet that at least four of them will be for a Tacoma. It's a composite bed, and there's this top-rail piece that goes across the front of the bed. Take a real close look at the front corners of the bed, it is unlike anything, with maybe the new Ranger being an exception-there are huge gaps in the front corners. Older truck beds were not like this. If you can seal the bed, you can seal the shell. Seal up the gaps, and make the top rails totally even, the shell should seal then. The carpet should not sag, so yes, that is wrong, should not be like that.

Tom Zizzo (author) from Santa Clara, CA on March 20, 2020:

@Jawesomel -that's a Leer 100XQ, not sure if they make it still for the 02 to 08 Ram.

sierragrl on March 18, 2020:

I owned a 2005 Tacoma with a Innovation shell for 14 years. It was awesome, never leaked a drop all that time.

I bought a 2017 Tacoma last year and bought a brand new SnugTop hi liner shell to go with it. I've had nothing but trouble with the shell. it leaks like a sieve. It doesn't just drip in, my bedding gets completely soaked!!! I've asked the dealer to remount it 3 times, I asked them to let me back with them so we could strategize on how to make it mostly water tight. Each time it is WORSE.

I am at my wits end. I need this shell to be water tight. I called Snugtop and they said 'due to the way truck bed rails are with current trucks, the shell will NEVER be watertight.

That just doesn't sound right to me, not to mention, the only reason I bought the shell was to sleep back there when camping. A wet truck bed and bedding does not work for me.

Can I get people's thoughts and comments on this?!?!

In addition, the carpet lining failed, within 6 months it started sagging in the corners and then from the top. They sent the shell back to Snugtop and they replaced the carpet lining. It looked much more professional, however, the exact same thing is happening!!!

They want to send it back again. My question was, what is Snugtop going to do different to stop this from happening....I'm waiting for an answer.

I am so upset that I bought this shell....and I paid top dollar for it!!!!!

Jawesomel on March 14, 2020:

Does anyone know who manufactures this truck topper/cap ? It's on the Dodge Ram 1:05 into this Youtube video.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P9e5b3Hg0f0

Thanks! John

Tom Zizzo (author) from Santa Clara, CA on February 05, 2020:

@Arthur Garcia -doesn't sound right. A SnugTop for a Superduty should fit, if that's what it was made for. Give me the serial number and I can tell you for sure if you want.

Arthur Garcia on February 03, 2020:

I just bought a snug top camper for a 2002 ford 250 it fits but seem short on top of cab.by 2" is that right for my truck

journeywelltravel on November 20, 2019:

Thanks for the article! After ~6 months of rolling the idea around in my mind, and a week of solid searching, I lucked out and ended up with a practically brand-new Snug ProXL for a great price. It's not a PERFECT fit for my '16 Tacoma SR5 (6.5' bed) but for non-custom fit, I believe I can shore up the gaps (~0.5'' between the shell and lid, and the back) with extra seals. Now, the research continues with how I can make this work in an overland-camping environment. One thing I appreciate (and hope doesn't turn out to be a huge problem) is that it's zero-glass construction all the way around, with 2x barn-door side windows (also solid) which feature workboxes on each side for about 2/3 of their length (but still enough room to fit bedding down the middle of the truck bed and storage underneath them). If anyone has thoughts about cutting the workboxes so I can access them from the inside, setting up proper ventilation (cutting into roof to install a fan, etc), climate control, insulation (add carpet to fiberglass?) etc, for spending nights in the truck in all weather, it would be much appreciated (point me in the direction of a better thread, as I understand this post may be a smidge off topic here). I love my Taco and am excited to make it work. I have a serial # for Snug Top but as I'm not the original purchaser, assume I don't have access to any warranty, and understand any mods I make to the shell will likely void any which would exist.

Stan Marsh on October 31, 2019:

Great article!

Steve on October 05, 2019:

Glad I stumbled on to your site Tom,

I haven't thought about toppers since my 71 Ranchero. Just bought a 2019 Frontier and now have fit and function considerations I did not think of on my own. I want to attach a couple solar panels on the roof, so the pre-installed tracks will be very helpful. People think the wind will rip the panels right off. I'm a machinist and can make a wind deflector.

Happy Trails

Steve

Tom Zizzo (author) from Santa Clara, CA on September 30, 2019:

@Mike Kelly -a top that is meant to fit the bed should fit well, follow the body lines, etc. Most camper shells now hang over a little, they call them 'wrap' rails, to cover up factory plastic bed cap rails. The shell makers also don't want the shell to wear off too much of the paint on the bed, so there should be a small gap.

Mike Kelly on September 29, 2019:

How close should my topper fit to the side of my bed, or how much gap should I expect between the shell and the bed of my truck.

Tom Zizzo (author) from Santa Clara, CA on June 24, 2019:

@rich -A camper shell will not turn your truck into an SUV. Pickup beds are not 'sealed', and never have been. It's one of those things many people just aren't willing to accept. The Tacoma (2005-to present) is a great example. The bed isn't even really a bed. It's a metal skin, partially framed, with a composite insert. The leak problems are mainly along the front wall, the corners being the biggest trouble spots. It doesn't matter if it's a Leer, SnugTop or A.R.E, if you don't put forth some effort to seal the bed, like a little silicone in the gaps, it will leak. GM trucks have literal gaps in the seams of the front of the bed, Rams have holes, which means even if you can keep water out, you'll still get dust in dry, 'dirty' environments. Older truck beds were actually much easier to seal. I hope this helps.

rich on June 23, 2019:

Hello Tom,

Very nice write-up, much appreciated.

I have been reading on several forums where water leaks (and dust/dirt) are common issues for trucks/shells. I was considering purchasing a Tacoma and shell, but now have reservations. Do shells typically leak or is this an over exaggeration? Some say the design of the Tacoma's bed is the issue while others state it's the shell manufacturers and/or both. I think the issue is with both truck and shell design/quality in addition to improper installation procedures. Would you please shed some light on this issue, thank you very much.

Tom Zizzo (author) from Santa Clara, CA on May 23, 2019:

@Gerard Forrest - That picture was put there by Hubpages (AxleAddict) but you're correct, you could get a factory shell for those old Fords. I think, they were made by GemTop, which later got acquired by Leer and now it is no more. The key thing was the back door, it was not like a normal shell. Tops like that are going to be very difficult to find, they didn't last and people didn't think to keep them. I have found vintage SnugTop shells, because the fiberglass was one-piece, and very thick, like a solid boat. Tops from that era were typically aluminum, steel, or plastic. Like I said, I think GemTop made that, but seriously, good luck finding one.

Gerard Forrest on May 17, 2019:

Hi Tom, Thanks for the informative article. I'm currently looking for a factory shell for my 73 Ford F250 Long Bed. Like the one in your picture. I live in SoCal. any leads on where I might find one? i'm not having much luck.

Joemed55 on May 06, 2019:

Tom,

Can you give me some honest feedback on Ranch caps / camper shells

If you have it on here I apologize that I missed it

excellent information thanks for making time to do this

Tom Zizzo (author) from Santa Clara, CA on May 05, 2019:

@Phil Anders -I have no idea, does the DCU have a walk-in door, or a 'barn' door where the tailgate is removed? You can't modify that. If the shell is just a bit too long, maybe you can cut the front rail just a bit to make it fit, honestly, I'm not looking it to be able to give you much advice.

Tom Zizzo (author) from Santa Clara, CA on May 05, 2019:

@WilburW -think of Leer like GMC, Century is the Chevy. They use slightly different parts, but the hull of it-the mold, is still a Leer, they come out of the same factory.

Phil Anders on May 03, 2019:

Im putting an ARE DCU from a 2011 full size regular cab F150 on toa 2004 GMC 1500 regular cab full size. how do I modify to fit?

WilburW from Nor Cal on April 22, 2019:

I currently have a leer shell on my short short bed ford supercrew. I want a shell with a higher roof. I see you said Century is a 'cheaper' leer. Will the Century shell hold up as well as a leer? Thanks for any info.

Tom Zizzo (author) from Santa Clara, CA on April 10, 2019:

@jon Furillo -not sure what your question is. How tall should a top be for a Ranger and an S-10? Easy, if you want it to be cab level, measure how tall the cab is, that's how tall the shell should be. Manufacturers don't sell tops by measurements, they sell them by year, make and model, like everything else.

jon Furillo on April 08, 2019:

what is the proper height for a cap ?? ranger, and s10??

think it should be roof line but ford seem a bit higher, can you help

quiverfull on April 07, 2019:

Thank you. In the market for another capper for one of our trucks. Its been a while since I looked for one, so a quick primer is helpful.

Tom Zizzo (author) from Santa Clara, CA on April 06, 2019:

@Christian P -no, check out my other Hub to see why. The rear of the Ram radically changed in 2009, the new Rams have quite the curve to rear of the bed and tailgate.

Christian P on April 05, 2019:

I was wondering if a 2006 ram 1500 quad cab campershell would fit my 2015 ram 1500 quad cab?

Tom Zizzo (author) from Santa Clara, CA on March 06, 2019:

It won't work, sorry to tell you. Because of the way the tailgate section sticks out, with that unique shape to it, your top will fall short. It will fit every other aspect of the bed, but the back end will not. I've tried to fit a 2014 top on a 2004-08, and it's like an inch and half too long, your situation would be similar.

Bob Harris on March 05, 2019:

Hi, Tom,

Thanks for sharing your wisdom; great write-up.

I know everyone is bugging you, so i thought I would too - lol. How can I find out if a cap from my 2006 F150 6.5' box Supercab will fit my "new" 2016 Supercrew with 6.5' box? Is trying it the only way? Do you happen to know?

Thanks!

Tom Zizzo (author) from Santa Clara, CA on November 18, 2018:

@Chicco -good question, accessory shops tend to sell more tops when people are gearing up for trips, like in the spring time, early summer, or now, right before the Thanksgiving Day weekend. Shops may not off much in the way of deals, but the manufacturers may offer coupons and deals directly off their site that shops will honor. So, for example, if you were interested in a Leer, you can go to the Leer site and get a coupon code for discounts, give that to the dealer and they should honor it.

Tom Zizzo (author) from Santa Clara, CA on November 18, 2018:

@Kelly -hard to say, fiberglass lids have to be nearly identical in dimensions to work, because the whole lid itself is like a giant door, and it needs to all line up correctly.

Chicco on November 18, 2018:

Thoughts on the best time of year to shop for a shell for lowest pricing?

Kelly on October 31, 2018:

Can I put a fiberglass lid from a silverado 6.5 bed on an 11 Silverado 6.5". The measurements are:

2011 82 1/4. 71 1/2-68 1/8

2002 81 1/2. 71 1/2-68

Thank you.

Tom Zizzo (author) from Santa Clara, CA on October 21, 2018:

@Jennifer - Tough one on that truck, especially if you have the crew cab (supercrew) in which case ONLY a specific top will work. If it isn't the crew, I've seen older Chevy tops put on those trucks, fit is not great, but it will sit on the bed and cover it ok.

Tom Zizzo (author) from Santa Clara, CA on October 21, 2018:

@Annette Lusich -classic body Chevy, lots of tops still available for that truck, best to stick with something specific. Anything from 1999 to 2006 will work. A new, painted to match fiberglass top would run you about $1,800.

Jennifer on October 18, 2018:

Im having a problem finding a cap for my 2001 ford f150 . Will the cap im looking for will be only for a 2001 ford f150 . Or will other truck chevy or dodge fit as well ???

Annette Lusich on October 05, 2018:

I have a 2004 GMC Sierra 1500 extend a cab with a short bed (not a side step bed). The inside lip measurements are: length- 77 7/16", width-front - 64", width rear - 62 1/8".

What camper shell should I buy?

Tom Zizzo (author) from Santa Clara, CA on September 29, 2018:

@Stewart -yes, it will fit, probably sit taller than the cab though. The rough dimensions on the GM beds are not that different. Rack-It lumber racks uses the same rack from a 1989 Chevy/GMC that they use on the brand new ones.

Tom Zizzo (author) from Santa Clara, CA on September 29, 2018:

@Kamal -not sure what a hi-rise pro top is. I'm familiar with Leer, SnugTop, ARE, Century, and Lifetime-for new tops.

Stewart on September 24, 2018:

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.

Kamal on September 24, 2018:

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 (author) from Santa Clara, CA on September 24, 2018:

@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 (author) from Santa Clara, CA on September 24, 2018:

@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.

BrianG on September 23, 2018:

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?

Milt Simmons on September 23, 2018:

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 (author) from Santa Clara, CA on September 19, 2018:

@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.

tom on September 16, 2018:

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 (author) from Santa Clara, CA on September 11, 2018:

@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.

Candy riddle on September 10, 2018:

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 (author) from Santa Clara, CA on September 09, 2018:

@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.

sangye on September 06, 2018:

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 (author) from Santa Clara, CA on August 20, 2018:

@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.

abelzw on August 16, 2018:

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 (author) from Santa Clara, CA on August 12, 2018:

@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.

ggbutcher on August 11, 2018:

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 (author) from Santa Clara, CA on August 06, 2018:

@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.

john bishop on August 05, 2018:

Tom,

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

Tom Zizzo (author) from Santa Clara, CA on July 30, 2018:

@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 (author) from Santa Clara, CA on July 30, 2018:

@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.

Gottahaveit on July 30, 2018:

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!

ken Daniels on July 30, 2018:

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 (author) from Santa Clara, CA on July 28, 2018:

@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 (author) from Santa Clara, CA on July 28, 2018:

@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 (author) from Santa Clara, CA on July 28, 2018:

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

Jack Fanning on July 27, 2018:

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.

Dom Audisio on July 26, 2018:

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.

Diane on July 25, 2018:

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

Tom Zizzo (author) from Santa Clara, CA on July 24, 2018:

@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.

Daisy on July 15, 2018:

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 (author) from Santa Clara, CA on July 07, 2018:

@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 (author) from Santa Clara, CA on July 07, 2018:

@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.

Lauren on July 03, 2018:

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

elbiluco on July 03, 2018:

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

Tom Zizzo (author) from Santa Clara, CA on June 27, 2018:

@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 (author) from Santa Clara, CA on June 27, 2018:

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

amanda on June 24, 2018:

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?

Bruce Page on June 23, 2018:

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.

Jag Perez on June 12, 2018:

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 (author) from Santa Clara, CA on May 28, 2018:

@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 on May 27, 2018:

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 (author) from Santa Clara, CA on May 27, 2018:

@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 on May 27, 2018:

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 (author) from Santa Clara, CA on May 22, 2018:

@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 (author) from Santa Clara, CA on May 22, 2018:

@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.

tj on May 21, 2018:

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!

William on March 28, 2018:

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

Keith on March 21, 2018:

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

Tom Zizzo (author) from Santa Clara, CA on March 04, 2018:

@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 :)

joymclouth75@gmail.com on March 03, 2018:

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 (author) from Santa Clara, CA on February 09, 2018:

@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.

Dave on February 08, 2018:

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 (author) from Santa Clara, CA on February 06, 2018:

@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.