Jeep Hardtop vs Soft Top: Which is Better For Wrangler in 2021

| Last Updated: September 8, 2021

What’s better, a soft top or a hardtop? What if we told you that you should use both?

There are many arguments on the subject, but the truth is, both tops have their place on a Jeep Wrangler. Be the smart one, avoid arguments, purchase a soft top and a hardtop, and use them for their appropriate applications. 

Let’s get into the nitty-gritty and talk about Jeep Wrangler tops until you can confidently make the correct purchasing decision!

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TL;DR: Jeep Hardtop vs Soft Top

Hardtop

Soft Top

Pros

Hardtop

Very easy to clean

Hardtops are strong and durable

Excellent insulation from outside weather

Soft Top

Storable in the Jeep

A lot of customization options

Very easy to remove and install

Cons

Hardtop

Much more expensive than soft tops

You cannot remove the top ‘on-the-fly’

Difficult installation that requires a few people

Soft Top

They can easily tear

Difficult to wash and clean

May flap in the wind at highway speeds

Best For

Hardtop

Hardtops are an excellent choice for cold climates and wintertime

Soft Top

Soft tops are excellent during warm weather and summertime

Jeep Hardtop Types

Jeep hardtops are durable and provide insulation from outside weather. That’s why they’re usually, almost exclusively, used in colder climates and during winter. 

There are two main types of hardtops, a 1-piece, and a 2-piece hardtop. Each one has its advantages and disadvantages; let’s discuss them!

One-Piece Hardtop

As the name suggests, these hardtops come in one piece without removable panels in the front. These hardtops are strong, durable, but they aren’t flexible at all. The good thing is that they’re cost-effective. Another disadvantage of one-piece hardtops is that you’ll most likely need a friend or two to install and remove the top.

One-piece hardtops are the perfect choice if you live in a year-long cold climate, or in a climate where the weather during the colder days of the year doesn’t vary much. If that’s not your case, take a look at the two-piece hardtop.

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Two-Piece Hardtop

Two-piece hardtops are excellent, even though they might look niche at the first glance. You have the advantage of being able to remove the front panel for a more ‘open’ experience without the trouble of removing the entire hardtop.

These tops are a lot more flexible, and some of them even have a fastback look or a sunroof on top. These hardtops definitely offer more, however, if you plan to use a hardtop only during the 3 months of winter, you’ll save yourself a few bucks by purchasing a one-piece hardtop.

Other Hardtop Styles

There are various other hardtop styles, such as the fastback hardtop, but they’re usually just variations of the one-piece and two-piece hardtops. Whether you’re looking for a more aggressive, fastback hardtop, or the traditional, OEM square hardtop depends on your choice.

Jeep Soft Top Types

There are various variations of a Jeep soft top and all of them are used in warm climates, and during spring through summer to late autumn.

Let’s see the benefits of each soft top and help you decide which one you need!

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Safari Soft Top

A safari soft top is the closest that you will get to a hardtop. It could be argued that a safari soft top is the most flexible of the soft tops. It allows you to enjoy the pleasant outdoors while still offering protection from the elements.

A safari soft top is very similar to a bikini top, but it has the advantage of a bit more protection for you and your passengers primarily from a summer shower, however, it offers less sunlight exposure.

Bikini Soft Top

A bikini soft top is an excellent alternative to driving topless. With a bikini top, you have all the advantages of driving topless without any of the disadvantages. Pairing a soft top with tube doors will give your Jeep that true ‘Jeep’ look.

There are also sunlight bikini tops, which offer a bit more exposure to sunlight and a bit worse UV protection compared to regular bikini tops.

Lastly, there’s sunshade tops which are similar and offer even more sun exposure.

If you’re looking for a bikini top, we talk about it here in-depth.

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Flip-Top Soft Top

Flip-top soft tops, as the name suggests are soft tops that you can flip open. They are basically sunroofs for Jeeps. These tops offer sunlight exposure but they also offer insurance that you won’t get wet if it starts to rain.

Photo Credit: FlipurTop.com

Windjammer And Duster Top

A windjammer and a duster aren’t tops per-se, they serve more as aesthetic accessories more than anything else. Still, they combine very well with a regular bikini top and/or something like a Spiderwebshade / Alien Shade product.

Photo Credit: VividRacing.com

Other Soft Tops

There are a few other soft tops out there, but they fall in the categories that we’ve listed. Those soft tops serve the same purpose, but they differ in small details.

Relevant Characteristics Between Jeep Hardtop and Soft Top

Jeep Hardtop vs Soft Top

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Convertibility

Hardtop

Time consuming & Needs Two People

Soft Top

Relatively easy (can be frusterating if zippers are old)

Weather Resistance

Hardtop

Excellent

Soft Top

Relatively Poor

Security

Hardtop

Excellent

Soft Top

Poor / None

Noise

Hardtop

Relatively Quiet (it’s still a Jeep)

Soft Top

A lot of highway noise

Cost

Hardtop

>$2,000 usually

Soft Top

$300-800 typically

Cleaning and Maintenance

Hardtop

Easy to wash, no serious maintenance

Soft Top

Must be washed regularly and conditioned, and will still fade over time

Similarities and Differences 

Here are the differences and the similarities between Jeep hardtops and soft tops. After this, you should have all the knowledge and the information necessary to decide whether you need a hardtop, a soft top, or both.

We’ve listed the relevant characteristics of each, now let’s discuss them in detail.

Jeep Hardtop and Soft Top Differences 

There are many differences between Jeep hardtops and soft tops, so let’s see how different they really are;

The Materials Used

The materials used to create hardtops and soft tops impact relevant characteristics we talked about the most. Most hardtops are made out of fiberglass, which is a plastic material reinforced with glass. It’s a sturdy material that gives hardtops their durability while at the same time saving on cost.

Soft tops, on the other hand, are made out of polyester plastic. The material, while it’s plastic, resembles cloth more than anything. Soft tops are made out of thin lines of polyester with small holes that are just enough to let the sunlight through while at the same time offering protection from harsh UV rays.

In terms of protection, both hardtops, and soft tops offer protection, just from different elements. A soft top protects you from the UV rays, while a hardtop protects against snow and rain. However, soft tops aren’t nearly as durable, even if they don’t have to be exposed to harsh weather.

Hardtops Offer Great Safety and Soft Tops Offer None

This is a major, and a really crucial difference between a soft top and a hardtop. 

A hardtop offers excellent security and protection against theft simply because it cannot be torn apart. A soft top on the other hand can be cut through with a knife without any effort. In fact, a bikini soft top doesn’t offer any protection or security, because an intruder could climb into your Jeep through the back without an issue.

Safety and security are one of the biggest advantages of hardtops compared to soft tops.

Insulation From Wind, Noise, and Outside Elements

This is another advantage of hardtops because they offer insulation from the outside and you can drive in peace without being affected by the outside. With a soft top, although it offers some protection from the rain, you’ll still get wet. Regarding the noise, soft tops offer no insulation from your Jeep’s engine noise, so it won’t be the best of experiences while you’re cruising on the highway at high speeds.

The Difference in Price

The price difference, unsurprising to most, is astonishing. A soft top goes for a few hundred dollars, in fact, you can purchase a bikini soft top for less than a hundred dollars. Here are the best bikini tops for Jeep Wrangler, if you’re looking for one.

In comparison, a hardtop for a Jeep Wrangler will cost you $2000 at the very least.

Photo credit: caranddriver.com

Clearing and Maintenance

A hardtop doesn’t have to be cleaned in any special way. Simply wash it the same as the rest of your vehicle. A soft top, however, requires cleaning with a dedicated soft-top cleaner. You’ll have to remove the soft top, wash off all the dirt and grime off, and then you can use a detergent to slowly clean it, but you have to be careful not to tear the polyester.

Jeep Hardtop and Soft Top Similarities

We’ve discussed the differences, now let’s see what makes a hardtop and a soft top similar, besides the fact that they go on top of your Jeep.

The Comfort

This is a category where soft top and hardtop are similar but very different at the same time.

The soft top offers great comfort during summertime. You’ll be able to enjoy the sunny days without getting sunburnt. As you’re driving, you’ll experience the wind that isn’t hitting you in the face, instead, it’s a pleasant cooling effect. However, during colder days, this is where a hardtop shines.

During the colder days of the year, putting on a hardtop will offer insulation from the cold. You’ll be able to turn the heating in your vehicle on, without the heat escaping to the outside like it would if you had a soft top. Hardtops also have a slight advantage in terms of noise. Being insulated from the outside elements, you’ll also be insulated from the noises.

Both, the soft top and the hardtop offer great comfort, just in different situations, and that’s where the similarities end.

Photo credit: amoffroad.com

Bottom Line

That should be everything that you need to know about Jeep Wrangler tops. If you do have a budget, it’s an excellent choice to purchase a soft top and a hardtop, but if you’re looking for one or the other, you need to consider your climate, because driving in the winter with a soft top won’t be pleasant at all, and vice versa.

A soft top is an excellent way to customize your Jeep Wrangler in any way you’d like to, but a hardtop offers more insulation, more security, and it’s a more durable top.

People Also Ask

With so many variations of hardtop and soft top, even decade-long Jeep owners can get confused, but that’s why we’re here! We’d love nothing more than to help answer your questions, that’s why we went ahead and answered the most common questions for you. Of course, if you still have unanswered questions do not hesitate to give us a call!

Can You Convert a Hardtop Jeep to a Soft Top?

You can convert a hardtop Jeep to a soft top. All you have to do is remove the hardtop and the mounting hardware and replace it with the soft top. An even better solution is having a bikini top under a hardtop.

Can You Put a Hardtop on Any Jeep Wrangler?

You can put a hardtop on any Jeep Wrangler. All you have to do is purchase a hardtop, which will come with all the necessary hardware and instructions. Next, remove the soft top and install a hardtop.

How Long Does Jeep Soft Top Last?

A soft top will last you four years on average. However, it depends on how you treat the soft top. If you store the soft top correctly, clean it regularly, and you don’t tear it, it should last you more than four years.

Who Worked on This?


Brian

Editor

A master of organization, Brian helps keep everything running smoothly for Your Jeep Guide.

No Jeep yet but we’re working on that!

Cory

Writer

Cory loves his XJ and frequently thrashes it through the hills. He’s constantly fixing something.


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