Do Tonneau Covers Save Gas? An Experiment-Based Talk

Are you wondering if Tonneau covers can save you gas But how does it work? Tonneau covers are designed to reduce drag on your truck by creating a smooth, aerodynamic surface over your truck bed. This helps to improve your truck’s overall aerodynamics, reducing wind resistance and drag. As a result, your truck doesn’t have to work as hard to maintain its speed, which can lead to significant fuel savings over time.

One of the most common claims about tonneau covers is that they can improve gas mileage by reducing wind resistance and drag.

In this article, we will explore the question of whether tonneau covers really do save gas, and what factors may impact their effectiveness. We will review various studies and expert opinions, and provide practical advice for anyone considering a tonneau cover for their pickup truck.

It is an automotive term that shields the load in the backside of the truck from water, rain, snow, UV rays, and the eyes of thieves. Lately, scientific study shows it helps in improving fuel efficiency. A tonneau cover will help reduce aerodynamic drag, which improves gas mileage by as much as 10%. 

Does Tonneau cover reduce Gas mileage?

Tonneau cover saves your gas mileage by sealing the truck bed from the air. It will reduce the aerodynamic force, which potentially increases the fuel economy. The savings should not be eye-popping at the current time, but at the end of the year, it may save some money at the pump.

Despite these facts, the savings will depend on the type of truck, tonneau cover, tires, and driving speed. According to the Mythbusters test, a tonneau cover will reduce aerodynamic drag and save gas. Tailgate up is more fuel efficient than tailgate down. You can look into the Theoretical Basis of Tonneau Covers. Following are some aspects that have a huge impact on reducing gas mileage.


Aerodynamics is the study of the motion of air and how it interacts with objects in its path. When a truck moves, the air particles in front of it are pushed away, creating a high-pressure zone. At the same time, a low-pressure zone is created behind the truck, causing the air to rush in and fill the void.


Resistance is the force that opposes the movement of an object through a fluid or a gas, such as air. When a truck moves, it encounters different types of resistance, including friction, gravity, and air resistance. Air resistance is also known as drag, and it can significantly affect the fuel efficiency of the vehicle.


Drag is the force that opposes the movement of an object through a fluid, in this case, air. The drag coefficient measures how efficiently a vehicle moves through the air, with lower values indicating better aerodynamics. Pickup trucks are not known for their aerodynamic shapes, and their open cargo beds create a significant amount of drag, which can reduce fuel efficiency.

Wind flow

Wind flow is the way in which air moves around and through objects. When a truck moves, the wind flow around its body changes, creating turbulence, eddies, and vortices that increase drag and reduce fuel efficiency. Tonneau covers can help smooth out the wind flow over the cargo bed, reducing turbulence and drag.

Studies that support fuel efficiency with tonneau covers

Several studies have examined the impact of tonneau covers on fuel efficiency, with mixed results. A study conducted by Western New England University found that a soft tonneau cover could improve gas mileage by up to 5%.

Another study by SEMA, the Specialty Equipment Market Association, found that a hard tonneau cover could improve fuel efficiency by up to 10%. However, other studies have found little to no significant impact on gas mileage.

To provide a real-life example, let’s consider a 2018 Ford F-150 with a 5.0-liter V8 engine and a six-speed automatic transmission. According to the EPA, this truck gets an average of 17 mpg in combined city/highway driving.

Suppose the truck is driven 12,000 miles per year and gas costs $3.00 per gallon. In that case, the annual fuel cost would be $2,118. With the installation of a hard tonneau cover, which improves fuel efficiency by 10%, the annual fuel cost would drop to $1,906, resulting in a savings of $212 per year.

Do tonneau covers save gas Mythbusters?

Did you watch Mythbursts episode 64, where scientists test fuel consumption? They tested with a few factors as;

  • Tailgate up/down
  • Tailgate removed
  • Mesh tailgate
  • Hardcover

They found the same results of fuel efficiency in the tailgate-up and hardcover. With the tailgate removal, the results were worse as it increased the aerodynamic drag. 

They were surprised to see the truck’s MPG driving with a Mesh tailgate. It saved gas more than others. Improved almost 5% fuel compared to tailgate up and hardcover. 

According to the Mythbusters test, a tonneau cover will reduce aerodynamic drag and save gas. Mesh tailgate was the winner, and tailgate up was more fuel efficient than tailgate down. 

The course of events was:

In an episode of MythBusters, a popular television show that tests popular myths and legends, the hosts tested whether tonneau covers save gas. They used two Ford F-150 pickup trucks, one with a tonneau cover and one without, and drove them on a 10-mile stretch of highway at 55 mph.

They measured the fuel consumption of each truck and found that the truck without the tonneau cover actually got slightly better gas mileage than the one with the cover.

However, the hosts noted that their test was limited and may not apply to all trucks and driving conditions. They also acknowledged that other studies have found that tonneau covers can improve gas mileage by reducing wind resistance and drag.

Overall, the MythBusters test suggests that the impact of tonneau covers on gas mileage may be minimal and depends on various factors such as the type of cover, truck, and driving conditions. It is important to consider these factors and do your research before investing in a tonneau cover solely for the purpose of improving gas mileage.

Note: An electronic flowmeter was attached to the fuel line for accurate measurements.

You should read about our honest review on Gator Fx Tonneau Cover Review | You Should Buy or Not?

Additional Factors to Consider

When considering tonneau cover gas mileage, it is better to keep these factors in mind.

Maintain a steady Speed

Most vehicles are more fuel efficient when they drive at 50 and 80 km per hour. When it comes to speed more than that, the zone vehicles use more fuel when they go above this speed limit. For example, at 100 km per hour, your vehicle uses more fuel than at 80 km per hour. 

Weight of Tonneau Cover

A hard tonneau cover made of fiberglass or hard plastic may lower gas mileage. Unlike hard tonneau covers, softer ones help in improving gas mileage. They do not add much weight onto the truck and are less likely to interfere with gas mileage.

Measure your Tire pressure

Driving the pickup with tires under-inflated by 56 kilopascals increases fuel consumption by up to 4%. It also affects the lifespan of your tire by more than 10,000 kilometers. 

Accelerate Gently

The more forcefully you accelerate, the more fuel you use. In the city, your fuel consumption rates less as you gently ease onto your accelerator pedal. Keep the driving conditions optimum that increases the lasting life of tonneau covers.

The Wind Tunnel Study

The Speciality Equipment Market Association (SEMA), in 2017, conducted scientific research on this question. Their team conducted the test on four trucks of different makes and 13 different tonneau covers. Names of the trucks were 

  • Chevy Silverado
  • Dodge Ram 1500
  • GMC Sierra 
  • Ford F-150

The tonneau covers used in the test were made of hard and soft materials. They picked all the bed covers, including roll, fold, retractable and hinged. Their main goal was to know whether a tonneau cover reduces drag or not. 

They did the test on the trucks in a standard wind tunnel. They took their experiment to the AeroDyn wind tunnel in Mooresville, North Carolina, which NASCAR frequently utilizes. The tunnel let them test how the trucks performed with and without tonneau covers.

The wind tunnel study found that the trucks covered with a tonneau cover had less drag than trucks without a tonneau cover. With a tonneau cover, drag reduction was calculated at 5.7%, which means the fuel efficiency increased by 1.8%. The results were not massive, but they were noticeable and measurable at the end of the year.

Concluded: They found that the tonneau cover reduced drag and wind resistance, resulting in improved fuel efficiency. However, the study only tested one truck model, and the results may not apply to other trucks or driving conditions.

Do you get better gas mileage with your tailgate up or down?

With a tailgate down, the aerodynamic drag would increase, resulting in getting the minimum amount of MPGs out from your pickup. On the contrary, if the pickup has a tailgate up, it reduces the aerodynamic force and improves gas mileage. 

Does driving behind a truck save gas?

Driving behind large trucks will improve fuel efficiency. When drivers drive their pickups behind a large truck and take advantage of something called “Drafting,” they can save up to 10% on gas which better that any of the tonneau cover alternatives. By drafting behind an opponent, you could drive faster as they create less drag for your vehicle. 

The science behind driving behind the truck is closely related to driving a vehicle to save fuel. 

Should I get a Tonneau cover?

Of course, improving gas mileage is not the only reason you install a tonneau cover over your truck bed. Besides this, a tonneau cover is used to protect and secure the cargo inside your truck bed. 

Do you want to leave your cargo exposed to the world? No, installing a tonneau cover is a shield and protects the cargo from the outer natural components and the eyes of the prey. 

Tonneau covers are categorized into two groups; soft and hard tonneau covers, and we have covered the best tonneau covers for your ease.

  • Soft tonneau covers are made out of canvas and vinyl material. They are lightweight, affordable, and flexible.
  • Hard tonneau covers are manufactured with aluminum, hard plastic, and fiberglass. They are heavy and durable. In addition, they provide the next level of protection to the cargo. 


In conclusion, tonneau covers can indeed save gas by reducing wind resistance and drag, but the extent of the impact varies depending on several factors. Consider the type of cover, truck, and driving conditions before making a purchase. Tonneau covers also provide security, durability, and weather protection to the cargo while enhancing the

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