Our Testing Methodology
We tested a selection of car covers under normal and, what turned out to be, very punishing conditions. Our car cover test fleet consists of a tall and boxy SUV (1989 Mitsubishi Montero), a subcompact hatchback (1982 Toyota Corolla), and a turbo specialty sports coupe (1987 Mitsubishi Starion).
Clearly, this isn’t the average stable of cars: no CUV, no minivan, nor full-size truck present. However, given the fact that these cars don’t have large aftermarket support, nor did the OEMs ever build bespoke covers when new, it actually allowed us the opportunity to test out a handful of widely available universal and near-custom covers.
To narrow down the scope slightly, we limited the budget to under $200 and went for outdoor covers that could also be used indoors. Wrestling with a full-size cover on a street parked or daily driven car isn’t always feasible either, so we also picked up a few windshield covers. These partial covers are designed to keep snow and sun off the windshield and out of the interior, so you don’t have to start your day with scraping ice off glass or finding a cracked dash.
As for what we’d be looking for, fabric quality, overall fit, stitching, and additional features like tie-downs or side zippers were essential factors. Luckily for us at the time of the test, nature unleashed ideal conditions for real torture. We also did a bit of research-based picking as we couldn’t get covers for all the categories we wanted. Let’s get into how they did.
Best Car Covers Reviews & Recommendations
- Prevents mold and mildew
- Semi-custom fit by year, make, and model
- Can be used outdoors or indoors
- Patented gust strap wind protectors
- Costs more than universal fit car covers
- Tie-downs are not as easy to use as buckle-type straps
Firstly, yes, the Carcovers.com Platinum Shield does cost more than our other universal covers. At the time of writing, it’s offered at $194.95. However, the reason it takes our top spot is that it offers an excellent fit and high-quality material, making it worth the investment.
The cover came loosely folded for easy installation, along with a drawstring storage bag that’s large enough that you can actually put the cover back into it, even if it’s not folded as neatly as when it originally came from the factory. The material was thicker and more supple than our other universal contenders, and it featured a soft fleece layer where the cover met the paint for added protection against scratches.
Semi-custom covers aren’t a perfect fit, but the Platinum Shield was much better than the other universal covers we tested here. The lack of mirror pockets is actually a plus too, as it gives the cover a shape that helps sheds water away from the car and allows for some ventilation.
The cover’s generous elastic hem can be tucked up under the body, and the cover itself falls at the right height over the wheels. We didn’t subject the covered car to the same severe weather conditions as some of the others (it missed out on the snow), but the Platinum Shield cover comes with hold-downs just in case.
- 157 x 171 inches
- Zipper design for easy access
- Hatchback contour for better fitment
- Driver side zipper seam for easy entry and cover removal
- Weatherproof fabric
- Tie-down straps require tying knots to secure the cover
- Fabric stiff in frigid temperatures
The heavy-duty, five-layer material put up a strong defense against rain, ice, and snow in testing. After a deep freeze and 5-degree morning, the hatchback cover was slightly stiff but held together during removal.
Favoto gave the cover reflective strips on the front so you could see it in the dark, mirror pockets, and had “rear” emblazoned on the end which served as a guide as to which end is which. This specific cover also has a driver-side zipper seam for easy access to the cabin without having to remove the entire cover.
The cover had tie-down straps on each corner, but they were just sewn-on straps and tying up knots in near-zero degree weather left us wishing for quick-release buckles. The Favoto and AmazonBasics covers were very similar, but the buckle straps put the AmazonBasics cover one click up.
- Nylon with fleece lining
- Fits vehicles up to 170 in L x 65 in W x 47 in H
- 100 percent waterproof
- Exterior heat sealed seams
- Interior welded seams
- Venting to prevent condensation
- Front and back belt straps
- Discolors when left outside
- Could have a softer feeling lining
Feel confident leaving your car outside when you have this ultra heavy duty cover protecting your ride. It’s made from durable nylon with a soft-to-the-touch fleece lining. Unlike other covers, there are no seams that could potentially micro-scratch your car’s finish. All seams are welded on the backside and heat sealed on the outside. This construction also makes the cover waterproof. An extra feature of this cover is the three vents that allow airflow and reduce condensation buildup. Leave this cover on your car in any weather and it’ll stay in place, thanks to the front and back belt straps that secure under the vehicle and behind the tires. Use them to give this universal cover a custom fit to your car.
One potential drawback of this cover is that it can begin to discolor over time. This can happen more quickly with more prolonged sun exposure. In addition, while the fleece lining feels soft, it could be softer.
- Measures 6 ft x 10 ft
- Waterproof and UV-resistant
- Security panels flap
- Compatible with any car
- Tear-proof and machine washable
- Should have more magnets
- Cumbersome to handle
Sometimes you don’t want to deal with a huge bulky cover that goes over your entire car. This windshield cover protects what’s important. The reversible design means you can use it throughout the year. Put one side out, and it will reflect the sun’s UV rays to keep your car feeling cooler. Flip the cover over during the winter and protect your car from ice and snow. To keep your cover on your car, there are two security panels that you’ll close the front doors over. The tear-proof fabric means this cover can take a beating and won’t come apart. Then, if your cover gets gross, throw it in the washing machine, and it’ll come out looking beautiful.
Unfortunately, while there are magnets to hold the cover in place, they could be stronger, or there could be more of them. They are strong enough for light wind but won’t hold up in a heavy storm. The cover can also feel cumbersome to handle because of its weight and size.
- Non-abrasive underside
- Custom fit to specific car
- Easy heat- and moisture-wicking
- Custom fit ensure snug application
- Velvety underside keeps your paint pristine
- Well-known manufacturer
- There are some reports that some model refreshes don’t quite fit with the covers
- Long wait time for cover to arrive
Covercraft is one of the most well-known brands in the car cover industry. The company has been making car covers since 1965 and has specialized in all sorts of car covers, including this indoor car cover. This particular model is custom-sized for a Cadillac CTS, but you can find your specific make and model fairly easily either through Amazon or Covercraft’s website.
The cover itself is made of polyester and has a velvety underside to keep your paint looking pristine. It’s also water-resistant, so if you have a leaky garage or someone spills something on it, it won’t touch your paint, so long as you notice it somewhat quickly. We didn’t test this specific car cover as the company doesn’t make one to fit our…interesting cadre of vehicles, but its long-standing reputation for providing great products sealed our recommendation.
- Polypropylene and waterproof film
- Multiple sizes available
- UV- and weather-resistant
- Good UV protection
- Easy to put on and take off
- Could use more grommets for tying it down
- May be too tight if your vehicle has a rear spoiler
If you want to keep your vehicle’s paint from fading, consider the Budge Rain Barrier car cover, which can be used indoors or outdoors where it provides protection against the elements. It features three layers, including a waterproof film that keeps moisture out. It protects against dirt, dust, rain, snow, and sun and has reinforced seams for durability. One feature we really like is its ability to release condensation, so it doesn’t build up underneath the cover. The material is also soft, so it won’t scratch the finish. It has an elastic hem and grommets to tie it down and keep it in place. It comes with a storage bag and is available in multiple sizes to suit a variety of vehicles, from small sports cars like Mazda Miatas to larger vehicles such as Dodge Challengers.
One downside is that there are only a couple of grommets to tie it down, and these grommets aren’t the best quality. As a result, they may break prematurely. It can also be a little challenging to fold the cover and store it in its pouch. But overall, it’s a good cover for the price.
- Option for cars, SUVs, and trucks
- 175 to 270 inches
- Weather- and hail-resistant
- Not many covers protect from hail
- Comes with cellphone app
- One-year part and labor warranty
- Long setup time
- Need to know hail is coming
Meet the Hail Protector, a balloon that’s been mutated by science to encapsulate your prized possession and ensure its continued factory-contoured curves. The system works by combining a small blower motor that inflates the car cover in about 5 to 8 minutes — depending on the power source chosen — with a smartphone app that tells you when hail is imminent or in the forecast so you can blow it up ahead of time. The cover has been tested up to 60 mph winds and is resistant to UV rays, rain, and dust to keep your paint looking pristine.
Now, unlike the others, we didn’t put the Hail Protector through its paces as we did with a handful above, but that’s because there weren’t any hail storms predicted in our immediate future and we’d just run out of golf balls. What we can say is that enough folks that we trust have told us the benefits and drawbacks of the Hail Protector and we feel confident enough to suggest you take a gander if your area suffers routine hail storms. It can, however, be a bit of a pain to set up and eight minutes is a long time to wait if you miss the notification that hail’s coming.
While everything here stood up to the force of evil…I mean, a freak nor’easter, there was a clear winner: the CarCovers.com Platinum Shield cover. While the Platinum Shield cover was the most expensive of the set, which at the time of writing cost $194.95, the material was the best we handled and it felt positively durable.
Add that the inner lining was velvety soft, ensuring the paint stayed pristine (well, pristine for a 40-year-old SUV), as well as the lovely drawstring bag to keep everything tidy when not in use, it was the clear winner.
Car Cover Buying Guide
First and foremost, you want to keep in mind the fit. Car covers come in custom, contoured or semi-custom, and universal sizes. Custom-sewn aftermarket covers can meet or exceed the manufacturer’s fit, and semi-custom or contour covers are the next best choice. Universal fit covers are designed for vehicle types, rather than a specific year, make, and model.
You’ll also want to look for four corner tie-downs: the stronger, the better. Elastic hems alone are not enough unless you like fighting with maple trees and the brambles over car cover custody after your cover takes flight. Center anti-theft eyelet grommets might deter criminals but rarely prevent the car cover from coming loose and collecting grit as it flops around on the ground.
And lastly, material is a factor. Where you live and where your car is stored are the two most important factors in choosing a material that offers the most protection. Indoor car covers don’t need to fight the elements and are made of softer fabrics. Outdoor covers range from single-layer water-resistant fabric to multi-layer weatherproof material that’s more like a tarp than a windbreaker. Look for breathability with outdoor covers. You don’t want to wrap your car up like a steak in plastic wrap.
Types of Car Covers
There are three main types of car covers: indoor, outdoor, and windshield covers. Unless you’re shooting for the barn-find look, indoor covers are the answer for short- and long-term storage out of the elements. Indoor covers prevent dust buildup and offer moderate protection against accidental scratches. The lightweight fabric covers are not water or weatherproof but can act as a vapor and moisture barrier that prevents condensation buildup and mold.
Protection against the elements requires different materials and construction than indoor covers. Outdoor covers range from multi-layer weatherproof versions to single-layer water-resistant types. Sun, rain, snow, and ice present formidable challenges for outdoor car covers, so consider your climate for the best protection. Breathability and tie-down straps are vital considerations.
Windshield covers fit over the front windshield and cowl to prevent snow and ice buildup while you sleep, so you don’t have to scrape off the ice when you wake up. They also offer sun protection from baking your interior. Smaller versions cover the windshield only, and larger versions feature a sunroof, side window, and mirror pockets. The covers are inexpensive and easier to use than full-size covers and are an excellent choice for winter.
How Much Do Car Covers Cost?
Car covers range from under $20 to over a thousand dollars for your top-spec, OEM-produced supercar covers. Solid, middle-of-the-range models will likely set you back under $200.
FAQs About Car Covers
You’ve got questions. The Drive has answers!
Q: Can a car cover damage my paint?
A. Only if neglected. A dirty, low quality, worn out, ill-fitting, or improperly fastened car cover can scratch or scuff the paint. Dirt trapped in between the car and the cover acts like sandpaper. Wind whipped fasteners and tie-down straps can slap against the paint like loose rope hitches on a flagpole, too.
Q: Can I use an outdoor car cover indoors?
A. Yes, most outdoor covers can also be used indoors. Make sure both sides of the cover are thoroughly clean and dry. Breathable fabric is important. You don’t want the cover to trap moisture inside the car during indoor storage.
Q: How do I clean a car cover?
A. The same way you wash a car. Rinse first and use car wash soap to remove crud and grime. Rinse again, reverse the car cover, and repeat. Hang dry. Some indoor car covers can be machine washed but check with the manufacturer first.
Q: Do car covers cause rust?
If moisture is trapped underneath the car cover, rust may occur. This is an issue you might run into if a vehicle is stored outdoors with covers on for long periods of time, but it can be prevented by periodically inspecting the vehicle to ensure it’s dry and moving it to a new space if necessary.
Q: Can I use a car cover daily?
Yes. However, it’s important to be aware that repetitively dragging a cover over the paint raises the potential for scratches, and you should act carefully.