Do Tonneau Covers help You save On Gas?

YES, tonneau covers can help save gas by improving your truck’s aerodynamics.

However, the actual impact depends on various factors, including your driving habits, the type of cover, and your vehicle.

Tonneau covers make effectively save gas on highways.
Tonneau Covers save gas on highways.

For many, the gas savings are a nice bonus but not the sole reason for their purchase.

Tonneau covers can potentially save gas for pickup truck drivers, especially on highways where reduced aerodynamic drag means better fuel efficiency, possibly improving mileage by up to 10%.

However, in city driving with frequent stops, the effect is minimal. The type of cover matters too, with hard, streamlined covers generally offering more savings than soft ones.

Ultimately, while not a guaranteed fix for all, for regular highway drivers, a well-chosen tonneau cover could offer noticeable fuel economy benefits over time.

Here’s what you need to know.

Aerodynamics and Fuel Efficiency

At its core, the theory is all about aerodynamics.

Wind Drag

When you drive, air hits your truck’s tailgate and creates drag, which means your engine works harder to maintain speed.

The more aerodynamic a vehicle is, the less air resistance it encounters, and consequently, the less energy (or fuel) it needs to maintain or increase its speed.

Impact on Trucks

Trucks, particularly those with open beds, face significant aerodynamic challenges. The large, flat front area of a truck already makes it less aerodynamic, but the open bed creates additional turbulence and drag.

As air flows over the cab, it can tumble into the bed, creating a swirling effect that increases resistance.

Tonneau covers help you save some bucks on gas station
An Aerodynamic offer better fuel efficiency.

Role of Tonneau Covers

A tonneau cover is a hard or soft cover that goes over the bed of a truck. Its primary purpose is to create a smoother surface over which air can flow more easily.

By covering the bed and eliminating the tailgate’s turbulence, the cover can streamline the vehicle, thus potentially reducing drag.

When drag is reduced, the engine doesn’t have to work as hard to maintain speed. This means it burns less fuel for the same distance traveled, leading to better fuel efficiency.

Have a look at my top picks on best hard tri-fold tonneau covers.

What Do the Studies Say?

Several studies, including those by SEMA, suggest that at highway speeds, a tonneau cover can improve fuel efficiency by about 5-10%. However, real-world savings can vary. Factors include:

  • Driving habits Frequent acceleration and braking can diminish potential savings.
  • Type of cover Hard covers might offer better aerodynamics, but their added weight could offset benefits.
  • Truck model Aerodynamic profiles vary, so the impact of a cover differs between models.

Understanding the Doubts

There’s skepticism for a few reasons:

  • Weight Some hard covers are heavy, potentially reducing the fuel efficiency they’re supposed to improve.
  • Minimal Savings For some, the improvement is too slight to notice a difference in their budget.

Maximizing Your Savings (Practical Tips)

If you’ve got a tonneau cover or are considering one, here’s how you might maximize potential gas savings:

  1. The aerodynamic benefits only apply when the cover is closed and flat.
  2. Consider a lightweight, aerodynamic design that suits your truck’s profile.
  3. Smooth acceleration and maintaining steady speeds complement the aerodynamic benefits.
  4. Regularly check and maintain the proper tire pressure to reduce unnecessary drag.
  5. Ensure the air filter is clean and unobstructed to improve engine efficiency.
  6. Avoid using cruise control to better manage and reduce fuel consumption.
  7. Regularly check and adjust your truck’s alignment to prevent uneven tire wear and excess fuel usage.
  8. Adopt a calm and steady driving style, as rapid acceleration and braking can increase fuel usage.
  9. Remove excess weight from the vehicle to decrease the workload on the engine.
  10. Use a higher quality or synthetic motor oil that can reduce engine friction.
  11. Plan your routes efficiently to avoid areas with heavy traffic or frequent stops.
  12. Consider aerodynamic add-ons or modifications that can reduce air resistance and improve fuel economy.
  13. Keep your engine properly tuned and serviced according to the manufacturer’s recommendations to ensure optimal performance and fuel efficiency.

Beyond Gas Savings (Other Considerations)

While we’re focused on gas savings, remember the other benefits of tonneau covers:

  • Security Protect your cargo from theft and prying eyes.
  • Protection Keep your gear safe from the elements.
  • Resale Value A well-maintained cover can enhance your truck’s resale value.

Final Thoughts – Is a Tonneau Cover Right for You?

If saving gas is your primary goal, a tonneau cover might help slightly, but it shouldn’t be the only strategy you rely on.

Efficient driving habits and regular vehicle maintenance play a much larger role in fuel economy.

But if you’re looking for a multi-functional accessory that offers security, protection, and the potential for improved fuel efficiency, a tonneau cover is a worthwhile investment for your truck.

In conclusion, while a tonneau cover can contribute to fuel savings, it’s one piece of a larger puzzle when it comes to efficient driving and vehicle maintenance.

Evaluate your needs, consider your options, and enjoy the journey, knowing you’re making informed decisions about your vehicle and its accessories.