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The 8 Best Car Covers for Protecting Your Vehicle

When it comes to long-term parking and storage, a car cover is a handy option for keeping your vehicle’s paint preserved against contaminants and ultraviolet rays.

best car covers
Staff, Courtesy of Leader Accessories

Some of the biggest threats to a car’s like-new condition are faced while it’s sitting still. Ultraviolet rays beat down from the sun, breaking down a paint’s clear coat over months and years. Windswept sand leaves microscopic scratches and swirls on every body panel, and animal droppings do lasting damage if not washed away in time. These effects however can be mitigated by proper use of a car cover, either outdoors or in a garage. The cover acts as a barrier against dirt, acid rain, and wildlife, so you can find your car just as nice as you left it.

What to Consider

The first factor to purchasing a car cover should be size. Aftermarket covers generally come in “universal” sizes made to fit a range of smaller or larger vehicle segments. Automakers often offer bespoke, snug-fitting covers as a dealer option for your particular vehicle, but those come with a loftier price tag.

Material composition is also important. Most car covers will utilize an outer defensive layer of hard synthetic fabric, and an inner soft cotton layer to be gentle on paint, with a varying amount of layers between those two adding additional protection. Simple covers are available using only a single layer of synthetic or cotton fabric. They’re a suitable option for short-term storage in a garage, but not ideal for long-term preservation.

Cloth covers are fixed to the car using either string tie-downs, or elastic. The elastic option can be more convenient for application and removal, but it’s also more liable to slip or fall off if left in windy conditions. If your vehicle has a radio antenna that sticks out from the body, you may also want to find a cover with a hole placed to accommodate it.

Some specialty covers are also comprised of a single plastic sheet, which doesn’t contact the car, but creates a vacuum-sealed bubble against dirt. This bubble type is mostly used by die-hard car collectors to meticulously preserve decades-old machines.

Before installing a car cover, it’s important to make sure your vehicle has already been washed. Any contaminants left on the surface of the paint will become trapped underneath the car cover, and can lead to scratches where the cotton contacts each body panel.

How We Selected

Popular Mechanics has selected these car covers based on a combination of personal auto maintenance experience, and review data from publications like Forbes Autos, Chicago Tribune, and The Drive. We’re also sticking to universal fit aftermarket options for these entries to suit a wide variety of consumer and vehicle needs.

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Budget Buy
Budge Lite Car Cover

This simple one-ply car cover comes in a bevy of sizes to fit mid-size sedans, large SUVS, and many in between. For the cheap price, you get a single polypropylene layer. It’s enough to shield against some UV, and many outdoor contaminants, but heavy rain will probably overwhelm the thin material. 

For those who want to keep their paint showroom quality, you’ll at least want to spring a little extra for a cotton inner layer. The cover is fixed to the car using a large elastic band around the bottom, with some integrated metal rings that can be used to tie it down tighter. It also comes with its own storage bag.

  • Affordable
  • Elastic and tie-down application

  • Single fabric layer
Leader Accessories Premium Car Cover
Leader Accessories

While still remaining affordable, this cover comes with three layers polypropylene, one layer of waterproof polyethylene film, and one layer of UV protection. This basically means you can leave it out, rain or shine, without worry. Fabric straps are also included that hug the underside of the vehicle, so moderate winds won’t be taking this cover away. 

Three sizes are available: 185, 200, and 228 inches long. We do wish that it included a cotton inner layer for a gentler touch.

  • Affordable
  • Weather-resistant
  • Windproof straps

  • No cotton layer
Cotton Lining
Favoto Five-Layer Car Cover

The Favoto cover incorporates many useful features, such as four  layers of durable oxford cloth, one soft cotton layer, side mirror compartments, and green reflective stripes for added visibility at night. 

A zipper opening on the driver’s side of the cover allows the vehicle to be accessed without removing the entire product. It provides coverage against UV, rain, and snow, securing to the vehicle using elastic and four included straps. 

Six sizes are available, accommodating everything from small hatchbacks to big SUVS. A matching storage bag also comes complimentary.

  • Cotton Layer
  • High visibility
  • Elastic and strap attachment
Kayme six-layer cover

This car cover utilizes a shiny aluminum outer layer, which reflects both UV rays and heat away from the vehicle. Underneath is a waterproof synthetic and one cotton layer. 

Other features are much the same as the Favoto, with orange visibility markers, mirror pockets, driver door zipper, and an elastic and strap combo. A wide array of 13 sizes are available, with each including a storage bag.

  • Heat-resistant surface
  • Multitude of sizes
Sleek Design
Coverado All Weather

The Coverado All Weather combines waterproof layers with a heat-resistant aluminum film, and fleece lining. It's all under jet-black outer fabric, and integrated silver reflectors, giving a professional modern look to the product. 

Five underside straps make this car cover highly secure under even severe weather conditions. Zipper access and storage bag are also included, with eight size options to choose from. Minimum 160 and maximum 220 inches long.

  • Classy black exterior
For Extreme Weather
Hail Protector

While other covers are designed for general purposes, The Hail Protector was created specifically for harsh storms. Hailstones present a great menace to our cars. The largest stones impact with great velocity, leaving dents in bodywork, and potentially even cracking windows. This unique cover defends against hail by combining a rigid metal skeleton with inflatable synthetic fabric.

The cover reportedly takes about 20 minutes to assemble, and another 5-8 minutes to fully inflate. Customers note that the components are fairly heavy, and assembly is made easier with a partner. Air is supplied by a built-in pump motor, running on household power, a car’s accessory outlet, or AA batteries in a pinch. 

Once prepared, it will guard the vehicle against hail, heavy rain, 60 mile per hour winds, plus UV and dirt. This level of protection comes at quite a cost, but if you live in an area with heavy storms, it could easily pay for itself by averting a bill at the body shop. 

Six sizes are available, from 175 inches up 270 inches long.

  • Unmatched storm protection
  • Built-in pump

  • Expensive
  • Heavy parts
Konnfeir Half Car Cover

This product comes with less of a footprint than typical car covers, but consequently offers less area of coverage. The vehicle’s bumpers, hood, roof, and windows remain protected, so it should still block a good amount of UV and heat coming in from above. Still, the doors and quarter-panels remain unshielded from contaminants. 

This particular cover is most suited for those who want quick installation and removal in short-term parking situations. Four included bungee straps can be used to fix the product each of a vehicle’s wheel wells. 

Five sizes are available to fit hatchbacks, sedans, SUVs, and trucks. There’s also an extra small option for side by side ATVs, which we haven’t found with any other product.

  • Quick and easy installation
  • ATV size option

  • Lesser coverage
Premium Option
Car Capsule

For those who are nothing short of obsessed about keeping their vehicle clean, the Car Capsule creates a near-impenetrable pocket of air around your precious ride.

The capsule itself is made of ⅓-inch-thick clear PVC, with a tarpaulin mat for the car to rest on. A fan motor, which includes an activated charcoal filter, is used to inflate the bubble, then cycle in fresh air about every 15 minutes. After the capsule is set up in a covered garage, the vehicle inside is essentially sealed off from the outside world. Perfect for protecting irreplaceable antique cars. 

Our listing comes in at 168 by 78 by 80 inches, but there are plenty of other size options on the official website. This peace of mind does not come cheaply, and it basically requires an indoor space to do it’s thing. The capsule itself offers little in UV, heat, or wind protection. 

The manufacturer says it takes about 15 minutes to set up, plus another six to fully inflate. They also throw in a one-year warranty with purchase.

  • Filtered air bubble
  • Great for collectors
  • One-year warranty

  • Expensive
  • Needs a garage
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