I love my truck, which is a 2008 Dodge Dakota. It has done everything I've asked it to do to date. It's hauled luggage to and from Detroit, lumber, and other materials to fix the house, tools, groceries, and even trash from my house to the community dumpsters. It's also hauled our yard waste to the community compost heap without the time or expense of those inane paper lawn bags.
One of the main problems with this and any other pickup truck is that it's open. This means things can blow out, be lifted out (by thieves), get rained or snowed on, or simply get snow or ice in my bed that I have to get up into and remove. Every time I take this through an automatic car wash means taking everything out of the bed and putting it in the cab.
The other thing with this truck is that storage space inside is very limited. There's no space under the seats, in the glove box or anywhere else save the floor or back seat, which are small for a quad cab truck. This necessitated putting a slightly used toolbox in the bed to store that stuff, but this is a pain in the butt to open if too much is placed inside or the lid flexes just right. The height to make this useful means it blocks my vision in the back and necessitates a spotter to back it up.
While a back up camera would work wonders, these also cost about $150 and only address one problem, which is the view. More wiring and mods would be needed. This is not in the plan right now.
Another issue is fuel economy as with any truck. While I'm not looking to make this into a Prius, even a half of a mile a gallon increase would be nice. While a slotted tailgate would solve that issue, it would cost about $200 and only solve one issue.
So here are the options. One is buy a van, and eventually, this is going to happen. However it will be a much more expensive story. Another is to buy a topper, but the going rate for a new one is about $1700 to $2000 for a new one for my truck. I've yet to find one in my area used. Considering the rarity of my truck to say a Chevy Silverado half ton with an 8 foot bed, this is a no go. Considering the truck is 8 years old, investing $2000 on anything that doesn't make it go doesn't make a lot of sense. My storage space for something like this is also at a premium, so it would have to sit behind my house at risk of damage or theft when I'm not using it.
A tonneau, or bed cover is also an option, but a soft cover isn't one at all. These tear easy, can't secure cargo or tools and are meant to keep the rain off, that's it. They also need bows to keep the water from pooling in and are frankly more trouble than they're worth. These are about $200 plus some install time.
A hard tonneau cover is more my speed because I can remove and store it easier when I need the space above my bed rails for moving furniture and whatnot. They afford more security, safety and convenience. They also give the bed a finished look and an aerodynamic advantage more or less. However, they are expensive; about $700 to $1000 for a good one. This is better than a topper, but still pricey for a used truck of this one's vintage.
So my option is to build one. I don't know how much the materials, or what they should be, as I've never built one before. I am going to learn in the next few weeks and hopefully this project will pan out and give some much needed writing material. Maranatha!