Best Jeep Soft Top for The Money: Reviews and Buying Guide by Experts
Recently, we were talking to a Jeep owner who sounded pretty frustrated. He was telling us how he had bought a soft top for his Jeep thrice in 2018 and how he was on the market the fourth time because two of the three previous ones worn and one was leaking badly.
“My factory top lasted ten years, but these won’t even go for a year!” he said. So, he requested us to do a research project that would help him and others like him find the best soft top in terms of performance and durability.
If you relate to this story and want to find a soft top of superior quality to replace the one you’re using, then don’t go anywhere. We’re going to show you the finest models and where to get them.
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What Is A Soft Top and What Are the Benefits of Using One?
A soft top is a tough fabric cover meant to be attached to a Jeep as a roof. The cover is usually coated with vinyl or other water-repellant materials to make it resistant to water.
While these items are made for providing protection from rain, cold, wind, dust, and other unfavorable conditions, they’re not for the extreme conditions.
The material they’re made from might be tough against light showers or other mild conditions but in a rainstorm, or when it’s exceedingly cold like during winter, a hard top will be more appropriate.
But during summer, when you just want to enjoy the beautiful sceneries while enjoying the cool breeze and the sunshine, it’ll be more appropriate to use a soft top.
Unlike hard tops, which need you to use a hoist or enlist the help of a friend or two to remove or attach, soft tops are designed for easy and quick attachment and removal.
Most soft tops are designed with interchangeable colors and materials, storage pouches, and a complete roll-back sunroof.
Furthermore, soft tops are a lot less costly than hard tops, and if your budget is tight and you need a top for your Jeep Wrangler, a soft top will be the more suitable option.
Just to recap, here are the benefits of owning a soft top:
Our Top 10 Best Jeep Soft Tops Reviews
1. Smittybilt 9970235 Black Diamond
The Smittybilt 9970235 Black Diamond is for the 1997 to 2006 Jeep Wrangler TJ owners seeking one of the highest-quality yet most affordable replacements for their worn-out factory top.
The soft top fits TJs with half doors so, it comes with a replacement upper door skins. It also comes with tinted windows with maximum visibility of around 31% that are DOT-approved.
Just like the OE (original equipment) top, the 9970235 is a straightforward install. It slides right into the rails, and the anterior clasps will close without any trouble.
Some users have complained about being unable to zip up the rear window at first, but once the top is exposed to heat from the sun and stretches a bit, zipping up becomes a cinch.
The construction on this, friends, is an upgrade to your OE soft top. It definitely has a well-thought out design.
The cover is made with marine-grade denim vinyl, which makes it waterproof. This enhancement also means the cover is able to withstand harsh elements like dust and wind.
The fabric is a heavy 130-gauge thread with a coating of wax for preventing mildew or mold from forming on the top.
In addition to that, the seams are heat-sealed with double-sided stitching as a measure to ensure the water doesn’t sneak into your cab.
As mentioned before, this is one of the most affordable options with the quality that a TJ owner deserves. This one currently goes for under 300 bucks, but other options of the same quality could cost you between 400 and 500 and over.
2. Pavement Ends by Bestop Black Diamond 51197-35
If you own a 1997-2006 Jeep Wrangler TJ, and you need an OEM replacement top for it, then you’ll most likely love the Pavement Ends by Bestop Black Diamond 51197-35.
This is a beautiful soft top is produced by one of the most respected names in the industry, and therefore, you can expect it to have a myriad of excellent features.
First, it comes with a few useful items.
That includes the side and rear windows and the upper door skins. The windows are tinted and have visibility of 31%, which is pretty convenient. They’re also DOT-approved, showing the quality is great.
One issue with soft tops is that they’re not as resilient as hard tops. That being said, there are soft top models that are built to last. If you’re looking for such a model, the Black Diamond 51197-35 will be a perfect pick.
It’s built with a tough, automotive-grade polyester material that makes it fade-resistance and durable. That makes sure you’ll not be returning to the shop anytime soon unless to get another style or color.
The top is also vinyl-coated, and thus you don’t have to worry about moisture seeping into the vehicle.
If this product has one thing going for, it is the ease of installation. You can install it, without help from anyone in less than 30 minutes.
We recommend doing it on a warm day, so the material can stretch a bit and make things even easier.
3. Bestop 56822-35 Trektop NX Black Diamond
If you that have been using Jeeps for a long time have probably heard of the brand name Bestop. It’s one of the most respected names in the top and top cleaning products industry.
The Bestop 56822-35 Trektop NX is for you if you own a 2007 to 2017 JK and are looking for a high-grade slant-back style soft top.
One of the benefits of this top is that it comes with the sunroof option. All you need to do is release the header channel, and you can enjoy the sunshine on a fine morning on your way to work, school, or wherever it is you’re going.
The twill fabric material not only makes the top look and feel nicer but also helps it hold up really well. If you’re someone who keeps their soft top on year-round, and you want something that will hold up for years to come, you can’t go wrong with this model.
With the Trektop NX, you can remove the three rear windows and fold back the front portion to get the open air driving experience.
When it comes to the installation, this top gets one out of three wrenches for incredible ease with which it installs onto your jeep as compared to other models.
The initial installation will take about 2 hours, but from there, it’ll take only about 30 minutes.
This top comes with all the hardware needed for the installation. That includes the door surrounds, the tailgate bar, top arch bars, windows, etc.
You’ll have to pay a premium for this one but for all the functionality it offers plus the amazing durability, we’d say it’s more than worth it.
4. Smittybilt 9870215 Denim Black
If you own a 1986 to 1995 Wrangler YJ, and you need something good but affordable, you definitely want to check out the Smittybilt 9870215 Denim Black.
Being made of marine-grade fabric, and with its seams being heat-sealed, the top holds out to elements really well, and it’ll keep your Jeep looking good for several years.
The windows are tinted and DOT-approved as proof of their great quality. The zipper pulls will make ringing sounds when the Jeep moves, but by installing zipper bumpers, which fortunately are cheap, you get to fix this issue.
We cannot really say that the installation is all that easy, but for the money, it’s good and easy as it doesn’t involve any drilling. It fits nice and snug on the jeep and contrary to what we expected from such an inexpensive top, there’s no flapping against the frame bars.
The vinyl coat on this top ensures two things. First, that the top efficiently resists stretching and fading and secondly, that the moisture is totally locked out. So, if you’re looking for a sturdy top that will protect you and your car’s interiors when you drive through the rain, then this will be a good pick.
The top is also designed to resist heat and UV rays so you can expect it to resist the fading that comes with that.
As mentioned, this is not the best soft top for Jeep wrangler that you can get; it’s not as good as the Bestop Trektop NX and other premium options, but for the money, it’s really good. Remember, you get what you pay for.
5. Alien Sunshade Shade Top Cover Original Black
Own a 2007 to 2017 Wrangler JK 2-door and need a sun-shade cover for it? The Alien Sunshade Shade Top will definitely serve you well.
Note, this is not like the other soft top covers we’ve discussed above. It’s not a weather-resistant top but rather a simple sunshade. While it can really come in handy for a hot summer day, it’d be totally useless during a rainy or snowy day.
When it comes to protecting your passengers and the interiors of your Jeep from the UV rays, without having to give up a nice open air experience, this is the perfect top.
What we love about it is its long-lasting woven PVC mesh which remarkably reduces the UV ray penetration while limiting the wind noise.
Something else that’s amazing about the Alien Sunshade Shade Top is the ease of installation. With this top, you need no tools, and you sure don’t need to modify your Jeep in any way.
You just have to tighten the bungee cords around the rollbars, and you’re good to go.
If you need to install your hard top or soft top, you needn’t remove this shade. You can install the top with the shade on!
Here comes interesting part – this product comes with a 10-year warranty. Yep, 10 years! Can you believe that? The manufacturer is pretty confident about what they’re offering you, and that should tell you that you’re buying something high quality that will last.
It effectively resists stains, fading, and mildew.
6. RAMPAGE PRODUCTS 68215 Top
If you’re a 1987-1995 Wrangler YJ owner who needs a premium-grade soft top, the RAMPAGE PRODUCTS 68215 Top could be it.
This comes as a complete kit with everything needed for the installation. You get vinyl windows, the frame, the fabric top, the bows, and other hardware. You also get an adjustable spreader bar.
DOT-approved windows are included here, and you have a choice between clear vinyl and tinted (35%).
If you need a place to store items like iPads, stationery, tools, and so on, you can use the storage compartments woven onto the interior side of the fabric. These storage compartments are conveniently zippered to keep your items safe.
Amazingly, these storage pouches are on both the driver’s and the passengers’ sides.
One thing we all like when it comes to soft tops is the ability to fold down the top with ease when it’s not in use, right? Well, guess what? The 68215 has a features re-engineered bow system that folds down effortlessly. The installation is also fairly simple.
The weatherproof design of this top should be another reason for getting it. Everything from the fabric to the zippers and the windows is marine-grade, and the seams are heat-sealed to keep them from tearing while keeping the water out.
Longevity is another benefit that you’ll find useful. We’ve already mentioned the material is marine-grade, which shows it can take a beating.
Zippers are normally an issue with soft tops, breaking or jamming, but these are heavy-duty, and with molded teeth, you don’t have to worry about jamming or breaking.
7. Sierra Offroad Jeep Soft Top
For 1997-2006 Wrangler TJ owners on a budget, the Sierra Offroad Jeep Soft Top is a perfect selection.
If this top has one thing going for, it is the unique manner in which it fits the TJ Jeep. The top offers custom patterns designed to suit the OEM frame. As such, it installs beautifully on the Jeep.
If you have seen one of those sporting jeeps, that’s the kind of fit we’re talking about.
One of the things that Jeep owners complain about when it comes to the soft top is the zipper. If your soft top is of mediocre quality, you might have to deal with a jamming zipper every time you’re opening or closing the windows.
Sierra’s zippers are self-correcting, thus preventing the problem of jamming. As they’re also heavy-duty, the zippers last a long time working excellently.
The seams on this one are heat-treated. That means no leaks and no unexpected tearing.
The fabric used to make this top is known as sailcloth. This is a heavy-duty 2-ply complex that not only lasts longer than other materials but also considerably cancels out the noise.
At highway speeds, the top is quite quiet, but on the freeway, there will be a little noise, but this is understandable for a top of this price; perhaps even too good.
The material is enhanced with marine-grade vinyl, thus keeping water out.
If you need something that efficiently filters out the UV rays, this is it. Its polyester thread offers the UV protection needed.
8. Pavement Ends by Bestop 51132-15
The cost efficiency and the good features of the Pavement Ends by Bestop 51132-15 make it a good pick for a 1988 to 1995 YJ Wrangler. If you’re on a budget, you seriously want to check this one out.
This fabric top is manufactured to fit over your existing bows and frame, and the installation process is easy and quick.
If this top has one absolutely amazing feature, that would be the appearance. The fabric is automotive grade, and the front windows are super clear, and you’ll love the tint on the back windows.
The top fits nice and snug on your YJ. Nonetheless, when it rains it might sag a bit, and the top might collect puddles. This is not a deal breaker; it’s just a case of getting what you pay for. For less than 300 bucks, the top is definitely good.
Some folks use the noodle on a broom handle fixture, and they say it works well as a solution for the sagging and the puddles.
Being an automotive grade fabric, it holds out to elements pretty good. The vinyl coat performs well to keep the water out, but you shouldn’t expose it to too much rain or heavy showers, as that will cause it to leak.
The vinyl windows and the seams are also heat-treated to offer some protection against water.
This might not be the most appropriate top for the wetter months, but for the dryer months, it’s definitely a good choice.
9. Sierra Offroad Denim Vinyl Soft Top
The Sierra Offroad Denim Vinyl Top is one of the budget tops, but most of those that have used it have expressed their satisfaction. This top, which is meant for 1997 to 2002 Wrangler TJs, is packed with great features as discussed below.
The material is tough and moderately heavy to create that tight and comfortable look when fitted. As a heavy-duty material, it lasts a long time and holds up well.
The entire fabric is cut from the same material bolt, and you know what that means? Consistency in both grain and color.
The polyester thread is resistant to the rays of the sun, and with the enhancement from the denim vinyl, fading will take place very slowly.
So you’re not a car person? Don’t worry; the installation is a piece of cake. This one has 12 screw holes as opposed to the regular 16, meaning that’s four screws less, and thus less work. But even with four screws less, the fit is really nice.
Most people are done with the installation in less than an hour and a half.
Something else that you’re probably going to love is the tint on the windows. The front ones are very clear, but the rear ones have a nice tint for privacy.
The zippers are made from sturdy materials and being self-correcting, they run smoothly.
10. Rough Country 85240.35
Need the finest top for jeep wrangler JK 4WD (2007 to 2009)? The Rough Country 85240.35 offers you not only superior aesthetic value but also great performance and durability.
The top is made from a polyester cotton material that is designed to resist the harshest elements.
As a boost to the sturdiness, the polyester thread is 135-gauge bonded and double stitched. That way, the rain, dust, wind, and other elements aren’t much of a problem.
With a layer of vinyl as well as other chemical treatments, the top efficiently keeps mold and mildew at bay. This construction is also very handy for resisting UV rays.
The seams are sealed with a heat tape for ensuring no water leaks in through them. Being leakproof, the 30-mil thick DOT-approved windows are also able to keep the moisture out.
Want to put the wind in your hair while driving down the highway? The windows are very easy to remove to make that happen.
As the heavy-duty zippers are self-correcting, removing the windows is a cinch.
The ease of installation is certainly worth mentioning. This top is a snap-on fit that you just install on your existing hardware without the need to modify anything. And, the top stays tight and wrinkle free.
What about that 3-year warranty? Isn’t it proof that the manufacturer is willing to bet on the quality of what they’re offering?
Best Jeep Wrangler Soft Tops Buying Guide for Beginners
There are so many options available, and if you’re not careful, you could end up getting the wrong soft top model or something substandard. But don’t fret; we’re here to help you along. In this section, we’ll discuss the factors to consider before clicking “buy”.
Your jeep’s model
This is arguably the most important factor, as different models fit different jeeps. You need to identify your Jeep by year, make and model. Fortunately, if you’re buying from Amazon, all you have to do is enter these details at the top left corner and then click “Check Fit”.
Amazon will tell you automatically if the soft top fits your Jeep.
Your soft top model
But what if you’re not buying from Amazon? Most sellers indicate the Jeep models that their soft top id suited for. But if for some reason that isn’t helpful, then you’ll probably need to identify your soft top and compare it with the one you’re looking to buy.
In the past, the only color options for Jeep soft tops were black or some gray or tan shades. And sometimes blue for old CJs. But those dark times are gone, and today, there’s a range of color options to choose from.
The most common colors include black twill, navy blue, pebble beige, granite gray, and black diamond, and all of these colors look vibrant when chosen carefully. You just have to look at the color of your Jeep and see what goes with it.
Some people like getting a top that looks like the body of the vehicle while others like using a different color.
Longevity and water resistance
One thing is for sure – soft tops are made of fabric. But different fabrics have different levels of sturdiness. Polyester would be a good choice as it is tough, but you also got to consider the construction.
The Smittybilt 9970235 Black Diamond, which is first on our review, is constructed with a heavy 130-gauge thread, which keeps the stitching intact. On top of that, the cover is coated with wax to make it waterproof while keeping mildew and mold at bay.
Some soft tops, including this one by Smittybilt, are enhanced with marine-grade vinyl, and that helps make them highly repellant to moisture.
Heat sealing and double stitching is also a way to ensure water doesn’t sneak into the cab.
Now, as much as the longevity of your soft top will depend on the material and the construction, remember to store it properly. Good storage will help your top last a long time, but bad storage will wear it down quickly.
We’ll talk more on soft top maintenance in a short while.
Does it have a frame?
Framed soft tops have an aluminum frame skeleton, and it is this skeleton that is attached to the roll bar to support the fabric. One advantage of such tops is that they’re more durable, but then, they’re bulkier and require more storage space.
Frameless soft tops are not as durable as the framed ones, but they’re less bulky and consume less storage space.
What Are the Top Rated Jeep Soft Tops Brands on the Market?
When you’re out shopping for a soft top, the options are endless. There are dozens of brands and hundreds of models, and you also have to think about the individual features.
All these considerations can overwhelm you, and that’s why we’re here. To help you narrow down on your options, we’re going to list the top, most-preferred brands in the market.
Smittybilt is a US brand that was founded back in 1956 by Basil Smith. As a pioneer 4WD enthusiast, Mr. Smith was concerned with developing handy equipment for Jeeps and 4WD vehicles.
When his son, Tom, took over the company, he spearheaded the creation of a plethora of innovative products to serve the off-road industry, which was growing steadily.
Some of the products he introduced included bumpers, side steps, and soft tops.
Today, this brand has a myriad of distributors and dealers around the world, and they also sell through the top online stores like Amazon. If you want a high-quality soft top, don’t hesitate to buy from Smittybilt.
Bestop is arguably the most popular soft top brand in the world. It was founded in Colorado in 1954 by Tom Bradley.
Originally, the firm had just 7 employees and was operated from an old brick house. The team was determined to make a difference, so they worked hard and built a reputation for quality for their little company.
In the course of the next 10 years, the brand grew tremendously, and its soft tops gained recognition around the USA.
66 years later, the brand is still going strong and has actually risen to the top spot when it comes to soft top brands. Today, it has over 500 employees, dozens of products and millions of customers.
The founders of the Alien Sunshade brand situated it near the Jeep assembly plant in Ohio, perhaps to make it easier to work with the vehicle’s manufacturers and design their soft tops in a way that they’re perfectly suited for these vehicles.
This company’s main focus is sunshades and soft tops, but they also sell other Jeep Wrangler accessories and even mugs and t-shirts.
What are they known for? Mostly quality and affordability. If you want an inexpensive but high-grade top that isn’t too fussy with the features, you want to check out what Alien Sunshade has to offer.
Rampage is a USA firm that is committed to product innovation and quality as well as service.
When it comes to premium aftermarket accessories and parts for trucks, SUVs, and specialty jeeps, the Rampage brand is, without a doubt, a leader. The wonderful part is that their products are among the cheapest on the market.
Checking the reviews left for their soft tops, it’s clear that this is one of the most loved brands. Most of the customers are satisfied, and we have a feeling you’ll add to that statistic.
Sierra Offroad is owned by the GAHH Automotive brand, which has been associated with exceptional quality since 1979.
As a GAHH Automotive division, the brand focuses on making and availing premium-grade OEM replacement tops for jeeps.
Attention to detail is one of the values that the brand is associated with. To make it possible for you, the end consumer, to enjoy the most affordable prices possible, the brand removes the middle persons and sells to you directly via sites like Amazon.
If you want to buy from a brand that’s synonymous with quality and get a tough top that will take many punches without breaking, get it from Sierra Offroad.
How to Install It on Your Jeep
Installing a Jeep soft top is not as hard as you might think. Below is a step-by-step process describing how to remove the existing soft top and hook your new soft top.
Removing the existing top is quite a piece of cake, as it’s mostly about unzipping. Follow these steps:
How to Take Care of Your Soft Top for Longevity
Rain, heat, bird droppings, mildew, and dust are just a few of the many elements that pose a threat to your soft top’s longevity.
Enjoying the sun by rolling back the top is something that many jeep owners love to do, but unfortunately, the UV rays from the sun don’t treat the soft top very well. They cause it to fade and crack and even loosen the fabric’s threads.
These are some of the reasons why, as a Jeep owner, you should know how to take care of your soft top. In this part, we’ll go through the care and maintenance procedures.
Maintaining your soft top
To stop the elements from wreaking damage and keep your soft top’s fabric looking vibrant, consider applying protectant fluid to the top regularly.
Generally, you ought to apply a protectant to the soft top at least every three months. If you use the Jeep often or if your Jeep is exposed to the elements we’ve mentioned above (rain, heat, etc.), then you should apply the protectant once every month.
While applying the protectant, be sure to focus on these areas – the zippers, the windows, and the fabric. Often times, people apply protectant to the last two, but they neglect the zippers.
Go to amazon and get the finest protectant you can find for the soft top and also some good oil for the zippers. Bestop sells some of the most preferred products in this area so be sure to check them out.
Cleaning Do’s and Don’ts
No matter how sturdy your soft top is, it’s not invincible. One of the top causes of soft top damage is excessive use. It’s just like shoes. If you put on your favorite pair every day, the shoes will wear down quickly even if they’re of high quality.
Hence, we recommend you buy a few soft tops for interchanging once in a while. You can use one top for 5 months, then replace it with another soft top while you store that one.
Again, when the weather is not very favorable, like during fall and winter, consider using a hardtop rather than a soft top, as the former is tougher.
Some Jeep owners also store their Jeep once in a while to minimize the soft top’s exposure to elements.
But remember, even if the soft top is in storage, it needs to be treated with protectant at least once every three months to keep it in good shape.
Frequently asked questions (FAQs)
Which one is better – a soft top or hard top?
It all depends on the situation. A hardtop is generally tougher, harder, and more durable. A hard top is what you want to use during winter when you need something to insulate your vehicle’s interiors from the extreme cold or the snow.
Soft tops are better during spring and summer. The advantage is that they’re easier to install and remove, and some come with sunroofs so that you can roll back the upper part and enjoy the open air experience.
How do you maintain a soft top?
The essential thing is to clean the dirt that accumulates over time. Use a soft-bristle brush to break off the grit and then use some water, recommended cleaning agent like the bestop cleaner, and a microfiber towel. After that, allow it to dry and apply some protectant.
Can I have my soft top washed in the car wash?
It wouldn’t be a good idea. The high-pressure spray and the rotating brushes will only leave it with scratches. It’s better to wash it manually at home.
Is the soft top waterproof?
Most of the top brands are coated with high-quality vinyl that effectively keeps the water out. The Velcro and the overlapping zippers also help prevent leaking.
However, soft tops only keep out the water from light showers. Continuous exposure to heavy rain will wear down the vinyl, and your top will eventually leak.
What are soft tops made of?
Most of the soft top is fabric, like polyester, coated with a layer of vinyl. This is the basic design of OEM soft tops, only that it’s tougher, meaning an aftermarket soft top will often last longer.
How durable are soft tops?
They last 3 to 5 years, on average, and some top models like the ones in our reviews above can go for 10 years or more. But remember, the longevity will depend on the maintenance as well.
Proper washing and handling as well as interchanging it with a hard top or another soft top will help you stretch its longevity as much as possible.
Regarding jeep soft top materials, what’s the difference between twill and sailcloth?
Sailcloth is the OE factory top (the one that comes with the jeep). This fabric is lighter and stiffer than twill. Twill is softer and heavier. Generally, twill is considered better.
Does the Jeep model matter when buying a soft top?
Yes, a lot. The wrong top might fail to fit, so check your Jeep’s model and year. In our jeep soft top reviews above, we’ve indicated the jeep model that each of the tops is suited for. Again, on Amazon, there’s a part at the top where you enter your Jeep details to see if the product will fit.
What other factors should I consider when looking for a soft top?
You want to check the material as this determines the longevity. Sailcloth and twill are some of the most preferred, with twill being better. You may also want to check the color. Some options include black twill, granite gray, black diamond, and pebble beige.
Check whether it comes with everything needed for the installation, like the frame, the bow, the windows, and other hardware.
Why should I get Jeep softop?
For those sunny days when you want to enjoy a good outdoor experience driving down the freeway. A soft top is much easier to install and remove than a hard top. Another reason for getting it is so you can interchange it with your OE top to slow down the wear.
Have you made up your mind regarding the best jeep soft top you’re going to buy? Our Jeep Wrangler soft tops reviews above have something for everyone.
There are both budget and high-end options and remember, as mentioned before, with soft tops, you get what you pay for. All in all, we’ve done the legwork in finding the finest products and all you got to do is pick one or two that suit you.
Don’t forget to buy by Jeep model. When you get to Amazon through our links, you’ll see a part at the top where you’ll enter your specific model and year to see if the top will fit your vehicle.
We wish you a happy open air experience with your Jeep!