Written By Patrick George
Published Sep. 22, 2021

Unfortunately, not all of us have the luxury of parking our car in a covered garage. For drivers who are forced to park their cars outside, and don’t relish the hefty cost of an eventual repaint, a car cover is a great investment. It’s exactly what it sounds like: an ideally weather-resistant covering that goes over your entire vehicle and protects it from wind, dust, UV rays, hard rain, and possibly even hail damage. While you often see driveway-parked sports cars or project cars wrapped in one, the fact is that it’s not a bad investment to make for any ride that is parked outdoors. Fortunately, we’re here to help you find exactly the right car cover to suit your budget and needs and provide you with the peace of mind you require. After all, you deserve nice things. 

(Additionally, please note that some of the car covers listed below are for specific vehicle models; you may need to find a similar version designed to fit your car.)

iCarCover’s multi-layer car cover (the numbers in the name do not refer to the actual layer count) is a great all-purpose choice for outdoor protection. Since it comes in sizes to accommodate smaller cars to full-sized ones — although you should absolutely take careful measurements before buying — it can be used for just about any mass-market vehicle.

This is a multi-layer polyester unit designed to provide basic, ample protection from the elements when your car is parked outside: Rain, UV rays from the sun, wind, and more. It also boasts a soft inner layer to protect your paint from getting scratched.

Specs
  • Includes storage bag
  • Waterproof polyester material
  • Comes in a variety of car sizes
PROS

Comes in multiple sizes to fit common types of cars

High marks for being waterproof, wind resistance, and sun protection

Three buckles and straps to attach easily

CONS

May not last long-term

Poor customer service

Sizes may not match vehicle measurements

You don’t need to spend a ton of money just to head off damage to your vehicle. Leader Accessories offers an affordable option designed to fit over just about any type of vehicle. This is a breathable, windproof, UV-resistant cover that includes straps in the middle for easy and secure attachment.

It does, however, lack some fancier features you may find on more expensive car covers, like a door zipper, but it will easily get the job done. And we’re pretty sure that the “Basic guard” may be enough for most people’s needs, though scroll through the company’s selection to find the best fit for your application.

Specs
  • Made of non-woven fabric
  • Fits small sedans, trucks, minivans, and everything in between
  • Attachment straps and storage bag included
PROS

An inexpensive option

Basic outdoor car protection

Straps for easy placement

CONS

Not as fancy as others

Covers for larger cars get more expensive

May not stop tree sap

Best Heavy Duty

Morhept’s all-weather car cover is a heavier-duty option than most, but the best part is it’s not considerably more expensive. This is a six-layer, windproof, waterproof cover designed to take the hit on grime, bird droppings, snow, tree sap, and more, so your vehicle’s paint doesn’t have to. It’s also advertised as offering some degree of hail protection, although we advise that it can probably only handle so much of that before damage occurs.

The cover boasts easy-to-read markings, so you can nail placement without any hassles, and straps that attach to the car’s wheels for extra security. Additionally, it has fluorescent light strips that pop at night, which makes your vehicle much more likely to be seen in the dark if it’s street parked there.

Specs
  • Soft, felt-like material
  • Four straps for easy wheel attachment
  • Easy installation
PROS

Four-season protection

Front tag for easy placement

Reflective strips to prevent nighttime mishaps

CONS

Straps may break

May have issues with vehicle fit

Could be thicker

Many car covers claim to be hail-resistant, but with just a few layers of fabric between the worst that weather has to offer and your car’s paint, don’t expect much. A far more aggressive—and expensive—option comes from Hail Protector, which is just what it sounds like. This is a car cover that inflates via remote control when you know bad weather is coming. The cover blows up like a balloon, and it offers the kind of hail defense normal covers can’t match.

Just be aware that besides the much greater cost, it could take as long as 20 minutes to fully inflate, so you better know hail is coming well ahead of time for maximum effectiveness. Luckily, this product also includes a phone app that offers extreme weather warnings, too.

Specs
  • Inflatable to protect from hail
  • Operated via remote control
  • Textile material
PROS

Could pay for itself

Three power sources

Remote-controlled protection

CONS

Much expensive than conventional covers

Time to inflate may not account for sudden weather changes

Best Money-No-Object

If you’re a car collector and you’re desperate to protect a vehicle you see as an investment, the “original car bubble” may be an option worth splurging on. This is an indoor, inflatable car cover, designed to regulate airflow and temperature and guard against dust and other elements. The Car Capsule includes a fan, power supply, and washable charcoal filter that regulates airflow inside three or four times an hour.

While it may take up extra space in your garage and is quite a bit more expensive than a conventional car cover, we know enthusiasts who say it’s worth it to protect something very important to them. Just know that other people may not fully appreciate your commitment to your car or the amount you spend on it.

Specs
  • Inflatable indoor “car bubble”
  • Resistant to mildew, abrasion, and flame and impervious to oil, gas, and antifreeze
  • Washable charcoal filter
PROS

Keeps consistent temperature

Locks out moisture

Three different size options

CONS

Explicitly for indoor use

Requires ample garage space

People may judge you

How We Selected The Products 

We primarily examined car covers with a more universal fit for ease of selection — most of our top selections allow you to pick a size based on your vehicle’s length. We combed through thousands of owner assessments for each product and carefully considered factors like build material, warranty, number of layers, authenticity and plausibility around weatherproofing and hail-proofing claims, and overall value. We did not select any products we wouldn’t purchase for our own vehicles. 

Our product selections, rankings, and awards for this story are based on research. While we haven’t conducted real-world testing on all of these products yet, we’ve looked at consumer testimonials and data, tutorials, and general discussions on social media and in forums. We also consider price and specification in the context of the segment. And, of course, we rely on our institutional knowledge of the automotive landscape to weed out weak products.

Buying Guide/What to Look For 

Many car covers seem similar at first glance. But careful research is needed; car covers can vary widely depending on materials, construction, and purpose, so it’s crucial to buy one that suits your needs—as well as your budget.  To make sure you wind up with the best possible option for your car and your needs, here are a few critical factors you should consider.

Size

As basic as it sounds, it bears saying: Car covers work best when you buy them in the correct size for your vehicle. If it’s too large, the cover could flap about in the wind and allow water and debris to enter. If it’s too small, it won’t adequately cover the car. Always check your car’s measurements against the manufacturer’s size descriptors to ensure you’re getting the best fit. 

You want to select a cover that’ll offer a pretty snug fit. Universal fit covers can be a good choice, but they may be too big—however, if you look for covers with features like an elastic hem, adjustable straps, and buckles, you can make most universal fit options work well. Ideally, you should try and get a cover designed specifically for your car. 

Material

The cover’s material make up can make a huge difference in its effectiveness. Choose a material that’s tough enough to survive potential problems like UV rays, freezing temperatures, high heat, wind, and moisture from rain or snow. 

Materials like polyester fabric and polypropylene fabric are good choices for quality and durability. A soft inner lining is always a good idea to prevent scratches, and you can look for other benefits like double-stitched seams and reflective fabric to find high-quality options. And don’t forget to consider whether single layer or multi-layered material is best for your needs.

Budget

More expensive does not necessarily mean better quality as it’s only worth splurging on a car cover if it stands up to snow and hail, rather than simply garage storage or the occasional shower. A good quality car cover can be purchased with any budget, but make sure you’re budgeting enough to meet your protection needs. Similarly, if you’re taking care of a ride that’s precious, you may want to spend more to protect your investment. 

Indoor or Outdoor

Many of the car covers we listed here are suited for outdoor duty. Others on the market are designed primarily for indoor storage. You should take note of what you need before making a purchase. If you typically park your car inside a garage or under the coverage of a carport, you may be able to get by with a lighter and less heavy-duty indoor cover. However, if you park in your driveway or on the street—or anywhere your car is exposed to sunlight, rain, or the great outdoors—an outdoor cover will be the best pick to keep your car protected.

Portability

If you travel a lot, you probably don’t want to carry a bulky car cover with the rest of your luggage. If this sounds like you, it may be worth buying a cover that’s lightweight and comes with its own storage bag. Each manufacturer will be able to tell you how portable their covers are.

Weather and Season

A winter car cover will generally offer more protection than one designed for milder climates or indoor use. Make sure to check the manufacturer’s recommendations with your own experience of the local climate before making a final buying decision. Consider whether a car cover is able to protect against issues like water spots, sunlight, and temperature swings.

FAQs

Q: How do I install a car cover?

Installing a car cover is usually a simple affair. First, unfold the cover and line it up with your vehicle. Most high-quality covers will have slots for door mirrors, so these parts can help you position it the right way. Then affix it to the car and go.
Some covers have extra straps or drawstrings to keep them in place—consult the manufacturer’s guidelines to ensure you’ve attached the cover properly. Taking it off is a simple case of undoing any extra fastenings and carefully pulling it away from your car, being mindful of the door mirrors.

Q: How often should I wash my cover?

When your cover gets dirty by bird droppings, dust, mud, or other grime, it’s time to wash it. Try not to wash your cover too often, though, as this can diminish the waterproofing properties.
Most car covers can be washed by hand with a mild liquid detergent and lukewarm water. Mix the water with the detergent, and sponge the cover down before giving it a thorough rinse.

Q: Do car covers damage your car?

A quality cover shouldn’t cause any damage to your car. The final layer—or the underside—of a cover is typically a cotton layer that’s soft and gentle on your car’s paint. This prevents scratching, even when items may brush against or lay on the cover. Make sure to look at the material and fabric layers before choosing a cover so you know it includes that soft innermost layer.

Q: Are car covers worth it?

Owning—and using—a quality car cover can save you money in the long term. When you use one to cover your car regularly, you’ll prevent issues that can make your car look old and worn out with issues such as fading, dents, dings, scratches, and rust. Keeping your vehicle free of these unsightly issues can help it hold its value, which can pay off when you plan to sell your car.

Final Thoughts

By now, we hope we’ve made the case that if your car has to live outdoors, a car cover is a great way to keep it safe from the elements and in awesome shape long term. The iCar Cover 18-Layer All-Weather Cover is a great all-round option that’s also reasonably priced.

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