There are several factors that must be considered when purchasing the proper cover for your vehicle. The three phases of consideration will allow you to determine which type of cover best suits your personal needs.
The first phase requires that you determine the basic necessities for protection. This factor is largely dependent on storage style and local climate.
After determining the protection level, the next step is to decide which features best suit your preference. Basic features are those provided by most covers, though their quality level may be altered based on budget or protection needs.
Finally, for those of the higher-end budget, determining which additional features are desired can quickly narrow down the market.
Before beginning the search for a cover, the most important step that can be taken is to determine the environment in which the vehicle will most often be exposed.
When planning for long-term indoor storage, there are significantly less factors that the cover needs to protect against. Without long-term weather exposure, a simple cover can be purchased that focuses more on scratch, dust, and mold/mildew protection. For short-term storage these covers may provide basic protection against dust, dirt, debris, bird droppings, and tree sap.
Outdoor storage can become much more complicated. First, the local climate must be evaluated. Will the vehicle be exposed to dramatic changes in temperature, such as heavy winds or snow, or is the climate mild with more UV exposure? Is there a high rate of precipitation or is the climate dry and dusty?
Climate and weather
When determining the climate of the storage location, it is important to prepare for the most anticipated extreme of weather potential. This will help you decide the level of waterproofing, thickness of material, and undercarriage security that will be needed from your cover.
A cover that is intended for use in high-wind areas, will need to include grommets and tie-downs to prevent the item from blowing away. A heavy snow area will require a cover that prevents moisture, and therefore ice, from collecting on the paint. Finally, a mild-weather, but sunny location, will need a cover with strong UV protection and temperature reduction properties to protect paint and the interior from overheating.
If your vehicle will primarily be stored indoors, but may occasionally find itself outside, you might want to invest in something more heavy duty than a single layer slipcover. However, a full weather cover might mean overkill for temporary exposure. Deciding the right balance for the vehicle’s needs will help prevent you from spending too much on unnecessary protection, or too little when you needed more.
Basic Necessary Features
Once the climate requirements have been determined, the next phase is to decide which basic features are most important for your storage location.
Car cover material
The first factor that should be considered is the type of material that the cover is made of. This has less to do with the physical makeup of the material, and more to do with the number of protective layers that each fulfill a unique job. Single layer covers are usually intended for indoor storage. They are lightweight and breathable and do not often provide much protection from the elements. Multi-layer covers can have a variety of useful features that are usually only necessary if intending on at least some outdoor storage time.
Inner linings are a layer that can be helpful in terms of scratch protection. These soft layers can sometimes become damp with water-resistant, but not waterproof, materials. Oftentimes, water-resistant materials are breathable and designed to allow the material to dry slowly without damage to the vehicle.
Another type of layer is a thin waterproof film that often lies between a soft lining and exterior protective later. This layer will prevent water from seeping into the soft liner, however, it will not prevent the exterior layer from becoming wet. It is important to understand the difference between waterproof and water-resistant. Research on the number of layers, and their function is extremely important when preparing for outdoor storage.
Some of the factors to consider when researching what a cover might protect against are:
- Small Debris
- UV Rays
- Environmental Pollutants
- High Interior Temperatures
Another basic feature to consider is whether the elastic hem must surround the entire vehicle, or if it would suffice to simply have elastic on the ends, or corners of the vehicle. This largely depends on the strength of the wind-gusts that the cover will be exposed to. For interior storage, corner elastic would be enough to keep the cover in place. Outdoor storage might require that the elastic hem encompass the entire vehicle for additional grip.
If the elastic edge is not enough to secure the cover during windy periods, most covers provide at least one set of grommets that can be used to attach a rope or bungee beneath the vehicle. This will prevent the cover from blowing away. The more sets of grommets provided, the higher the level of wind-resistance of the cover.
Finally, the last basic item that is often, though not always, included with the purchase of a cover is a storage bag. This bag is necessary to protect the cover from damage, or debris that might be transferred to the vehicle, when not in use. If you intend on leaving the vehicle uncovered for an extended period of time, or during certain seasons, it might be wise to ensure that the cover is properly stored in this protective bag.
If you are willing to spend a little more money for additional conveniences, there are several helpful features that may be included during your search for the perfect cover.
An antenna patch is an absolute requirement if you have a lengthy antenna that does not retract into the vehicle. This patch allows for the antenna to pass through the cover and prevent damage that might otherwise occur if it were trapped beneath the fabric. Poorly protected antennas can puncture a cover or, worse yet, bend or break under the weight of the material. Deciding whether or not your vehicle needs an antenna patch can prevent you from wasting money in repairs.
Some covers have tie-downs included along with the grommets. The type of tie-down can range from a piece of rope, to a high-end bungee with metal hooks on each end. If you plan on utilizing the grommets, it might be worth considering having the tie-downs included. Otherwise, you will need to factor in the cost of providing your own.
Welding of seams
Ultrasonic welding of seams, or other types of reinforced seams, can be well-worth the money if you are concerned about water-damage protection. These seams prevent leakage and gathering of moisture along what might otherwise be a weakened point of the material. When searching for a waterproof cover, it is essential to ensure that the seams are also 100% waterproof.
Driver’s side entry
One of the most luxurious additions to a car cover is a driver’s side zippered entry. This small door allows entry into the vehicle without the hassle of removing the cover. In snow-ridden climates this is a game-changer. Slip inside of your vehicle without cleaning and clearing the cover. Then, zip the door closed when finished and walk away without having to re-install your cover. For buyers looking for full access, even when the grommets and tie-downs are secure, this is well worth the extra money. If you intend on indoor storage with a lightweight slipcover, this feature might be irrelevant.
A word on warranties
Finally, warranties can be a major feature of your car cover purchase. Though many covers offer some sort of warranty or replacement guarantee, there are those that are clearly superior to their competition. A lengthy warranty and coverage of specific features can mean that you do not have to worry about purchasing a cover that will quickly need to be replaced. Oftentimes, paying extra for a better warranty can ensure that your cover fulfills its duties and provides you with hassle-free protection for your special vehicle.
When making the final decision for your purchase keep in mind that each vehicle, and owner, has unique requirements. Taking the time to ensure that you choose the proper cover for your vehicle’s needs can save you a significant amount of time, money, and frustration.