Tips on Buying a Shell or Top for your Dodge Ram

Writer John Linden

All but the most diehard enthusiasts will be surprised by the large variety available today in truck bed covers and tops. Truck shells* have significantly benefited from modern technology and now sport versions for almost any niche you can think of. From camping to high-security storage, the right truck bed cover can give your Dodge Ram an additional set of useful functions.

Tips on Buying a Shell or Top for your Dodge Ram
Image credit: Original Work: Photoshop filter ~Flip of Leer Product Image

To help you parse through the decision process, we are going to explore the benefits of truck shells, as well as touch on some of the more popular styles and types. By the end, you will have a better idea of both the options and possible benefits of your myriad of choices out there in truck tops.

*Also known as camper shells, truck caps, truck caps, box shells,  truck canopies, and a bunch of other names!

Why Many Dodge Ram Owners Get a Truck Shell or Top

Increased Security

Better Fuel Efficiency?

Picking a Look and Style for Your Dodge Ram Shell

What Do You Plan to Use Your Topper For?

Tonneau covers

“High-Rise” Topper or Shell

Understanding the Difference in Materials

Fiberglass

Aluminum

Soft Tops

Composite

Choosing Addons

Carpet Lining

Windows

Racks

Extra Security Measures

A Note on Brands

Why Many Dodge Ram Owners Get a Truck Shell or Top

There is no single reason Ram owners opt for a shell top; in fact, there are countless good reasons for such a purchase. By looking through the vast assortment of options available, you can start to get a feel for just how versatile a Dodge truck with the right shell or top can be. We are talking everything from roll away hardtops for added security, to large shells with extra storage shelves mounted on the ceiling and walls.

For those who work out of, or recreationally use, their trucks the added efficiency these tops provide can be impossible to ignore.

Even if you don’t tend to use your truck for activities like camping or work, there are still benefits a shell or top can provide to every truck owner.

One last note while we are here, it is not enough to take a tape measure and measure a prospective shell to see if it would fit. Most truck beds are not perfect squares, and most brands have proprietary tapers in the bed. Make sure you double check the fit for your truck.

Increased Security

This section is pretty self-explanatory. The ability to shield what is in the bed of your truck from the outside world protects it from both the elements and theft. Some materials and styles will obviously do a better job than others when it comes to these forms of protection. SuperTop canvas tops, for example, are more suited for protection from the elements than a committed theft. However, all tops will provide some added layer of security from both weather and humans, even if just by obscuring and hiding the items in your bed. This obscuration benefit doubles for the sun. The bed of your truck will suffer less UV damage and weathering damage over time with a  top, better protecting the value of your Dodge.

Increased Security
Image Credit: DiamondBack Truck Covers / Flickr

There are a large assortment of security additions that allow you to either secure the entire bed of the truck or individual shelving emplacements.

Better Fuel Efficiency? 

While many companies claim that you can get better gas mileage with specific shell toppers, the science is dubious. There is a good chance that the light covers will decrease wind resistance without adding too much weight. Generally speaking, though the heavier shells likely cancel out the benefit of any lessened wind resistance. You need the more massive shells to carry many of the additions like shelving and bike racks, which also increase the weight. Bikes on a bike rack probably aren't helping with the wind resistance either. The savings from shells come from the wear and tear that they protect your vehicle from and from the added efficiency they bring to your workday.

Picking a Look and Style for Your Dodge Ram Shell

There are both aesthetic and utility aspects to consider when purchasing your truck shell or top.

What Do You Plan to Use Your Topper For?

At the end of the day, the reason for getting a truck shell will ultimately come down to your personal needs. Maybe you are a martial arts coach who needs to travel around with a bunch of bags that can’t be left out in the rain -who knows?

But you should consider what your goals for the top or shell are, and how you can best achieve them. For example, If security and storage space for a large selection of tools you travel with is key; then a top made from a  tough material with added shelving and metal locking mechanisms is what you will be looking for.

The following is by no means a comprehensive list. This is simply to demonstrate the large variety of styles available to you.

Tonneau covers

A Tonneau cover is either flat or just slightly raised above the top side edge of the bed of your truck. The types of covers create less of a dramatic appearance change to your vehicle and still provide a broad array of benefits. Tonneau covers can be either hard or soft; there is no strict rule set dictating their form or function.

Tonneau covers
Image credit: DiamondBack Truck Covers / Flickr

These are generally lower price and are popular amongst those who dislike the look of camper shells.

A popular style of tonneau cover you may want to consider is a rolling cover. These covers can be easily rolled up into an onboard canister when you don’t wish to have a sealed bed. You will have to look for the high quality rolling covers if you want something waterproof.

“High-Rise” Topper or Shell

While these shells are usually at an even height as the cab of the truck, some also come with an increased ceiling. Both designs are popular with those who need to store large pieces of equipment often. The added headroom also makes these popular for camping.

High-Rise Topper or Shell
Image Credit:  UK Sports Super Store

Understanding the Difference in Materials

 The price you will eventually pay for your Dodge Ram top or cover is going to ultimately depend on what it is made out of. Fiberglass is going to be exponentially more expensive than canvas, for example.

Fiberglass

Fiberglass is expensive and heavy, but it lasts and looks great. This is the most popular option for non-commercial uses (as those options are more limited) due to the aesthetic quality of the shells. Fiberglass shells are used when trying match the shell near exactly to your vehicle.

While the SUV look is nice, remember that repairs from accidentally bumping your garage can be quite extensive with this material, and it is limited in actual utility.

Aluminum

Aluminum
Image credit: DiamondBack Truck Covers / Flickr

Aluminum is perhaps the second most popular option after fiberglass, and the most popular when talking commercial uses. Aluminum is much cheaper than fiberglass and is still a  relatively durable material.

Soft Tops

When you want to be able to use more space than a tonneau allows but don't want a permanent shell, you may opt for a soft cover. The canopy and vinyl windows are all reminiscent of a Jeep. There is no single material but the majority of them are at least semi-weatherproof and durable enough - but they won't do much in the way of security.

Composite

Composite made shells are a fairly new option and one that ails somewhere between fiberglass and aluminum in overall price and quality. The style options in this material are a bit more limited than others. As time goes on you are likely to see more composite options from the major sellers.

 

Choosing Addons

 In addition to selecting material and style, there are also many optional features that you may be able to add-on or remove from your base model. One of the best aspects of getting a sturdy and more massive shell is that it allows attaching modular style systems to it. You can effectively turn your truck into a real industrial multitool with the right additions.

There are also quality of life additions that make time spent inside the truck more enjoyable.

Carpet Lining

Carpet lining looks much nicer and more presentable than the base fiberglass or bed lining. Carpet may not be the most practical if you plan on needing to was the bd out, but if not it can be a very comfortable and quieter improvement.

Windows

Depending on your purposes, windows can be a nice addition. Windows make cleaning the interior a bit easier as well as providing some light.

Windows
Image credit:   Rudolf Stricker / Wikimedia

Windows may be a compromise between security and function in many cases.

Racks

Racks can be placed on the back of both shells and tonneau covers. A rack gives you the option of placing smaller vehicles, bikes, kayaks and all manner of other items on top of your typical storage area. In some cases, you may have to get the roof reinforced.

Extra Security Measures
Image credit: DiamondBack Truck Covers / Flickr

A topper with roof rails gives you much more versatility.

Extra Security Measures

If you are regularly storing expensive gear in your truck, then investing in extra security measures is likely a wise choice. Most decent commercial systems will come with heavy duty aluminum or steel locks. Think about both external and internal security measures. Toolboxes and drawers installed into the bed of the truck can all be independently secured, adding an extra layer of protection. Internal locks significantly limit a thief's ability to steal anything (they have to pick and cut locks while inside your truck that they just broke into) unless they take the entire vehicle.

A Note on Brands

It used to be there were only two or three truck top companies worth mentioning. While the well-known companies like Leer and Snugtop are still considered the safer option, there are many competitors in recent years that have proven themselves worthy of being mentioned.

In addition to

Different models may vary in quality, but these companies have proven themselves to be trustworthy and honorable sellers. Do your research on the brands and read plenty of reviews before you commit to any purchases. You will often be able to get  a feel for the downsides and possible drawbacks of a certain brand or model that way. Not every product from a  good brand is good, and not every product from a bad brand is bad.