Does a Bed Cover Really Increase Your Toyota Tundra's MPGs?
V8 and Good Gas Mileage Should Never Be Used in the Same Sentence
First off, let’s get one fact straight. Trucks are designed to perform sufficiently without a cover, hence why they are built the way they are. This is obviously a no-brainer, but tonneau covers and caps are not required to improve a truck’s abilities. The primary reason covers are manufactured is for their convenience to cover your tools, keep personal belongings safe, go camping in, etc., NOT to improve your gas mileage. Trucks are not designed like a car to get adequate gas mileage, especially a Tundra. If you want better MPGs, get a Prius.
Toyota Tundras are designed to haul and endure, they are high-powered, gas guzzling machines. There’s absolutely no way you should expect a V8 to run like a car and get efficient mileage, and there’s no reason to presume a tonneau cover is the answer to fix that problem. A DAP tune can enhance your truck's mileage, but not a bed cover, that's not what it's for.
The No-Brainer Way to Determine Gas Mileage
The biggest factors (from a physics aspect) when observing fuel consumption is acceleration, deceleration, and idle, in addition to the environment and terrain where one drives their vehicle. So, where you drive your truck and how you drive your truck are ultimately the key conditions that will control your mileage. Even the modifications to one’s truck determines mileage- like a stock Tundra with 32’s should get better MPG’s versus a 12-inch lifted Tundra on 40’s. If someone drives more highway miles than city miles, they will get better mileage. If someone drives more flatland versus hills, they will also get better mileage. If someone floors it and speeds all the time while someone else drives their Tundra like a baby, you obviously know who will get better mileage, with or without a cap or tonneau cover.
Illogical Expectations of a Tonneau Cover or Cap
There are so many companies that claim an illogical amount of savings, like over 10% a year, when utilizing a tonneau cover or cap. According to Tundraheadquartes.com, SEMA conducted a study that observed the affect tonneau covers had on pickups, which concluded that tonneau covers “reduce aerodynamic drag by 4.2-7.8%, depending upon speed” and the amount weight added to the vehicle from the bed cover. Though these numbers may seem factual, this does not make this achievable for all trucks.
In a separate observation, Tundra Headquarters came to a different conclusion that the best quality cover, proven by SEMA, which produced the best results would not save you as much money as you may hope.
“Assuming gas is $3.50 per gallon, here’s how the best case math works out:
Driving your tonneau cover equipped truck at 65mph for 20 minutes per day would save you 0.04 gallons of gas, or about $0.14 per day. Under these circumstances, we figure it will take about 30 years of workday commuting to save enough to earn back the cost of a $1000 tonneau cover.
Drive your tonneau cover equipped truck at 85mph for 60 minutes a day and you’ll save 0.33 gallons of gas, or about $1.16 per day. We figure that’s only 3 years and 7 months of workday commuting to earn back a $1000 tonneau cover. Of course, during that same period, you’ll spend over $13k on fuel. We feel sorry for anyone that has to drive their truck 85mph for 60 minutes a day — the fuel costs for just three years would be enough to buy a nice toy (ATV, boat, motorcycle, etc.)”
Personal Experience With a Cap
Our family of 4 invested in a SnugTop Rebel for our double cab this past year. We did not purchase our cap to get better mileage, we of course bought it so we could throw all of our stuff in the back when traveling. It was such a pain having pile everything in the open bed, I hated our stuff being exposed, and with our luck it would rain and all our stuff would get wet. We also hated having to throw everything in the cab if we wanted to stop for a bite to eat. The back and forth was just too much stress so, we decided we needed a cap ASAP.
SnugTop claims you can, “Save Over $250 A Year with a SnugTop SnugLid!” And that, “Adding a SnugTop tonneau to your pickup truck can save you fuel and money. Now you can enjoy your family trips longer with fewer stops! Your SnugTop tonneau will soon PAY FOR ITSELF!” If you use their gas savings calculator, you can see how much fuel savings a year you can get with a tonneau cover. According to my calculations, I should be at least saving $125.00 a year at 5%. It would take us nearly 24 years to save enough money for our cap to pay for itself at that rate. So, is that really enough gas savings to say that caps or tonneau covers significantly increase your mileage?
I only agree with part of their statement- that me and my family enjoy our trips with fewer stops. We have a cap, which is obviously heavier and more expensive than a tonneau cover, but it shares the same qualities and provides us more space. Additionally, our gas mileage did not decrease nor increase after putting on our cap which contradicts the findings from the SEMA study.
Our Toyota Tundra is weighed down more, but we still get 14 MPGs in the city, and around 20 MPGs on the highway, just like we did before we got the cap. Granted, we live in a flat farming community so there shouldn’t be any significant reason for our miles to drastically increase or decrease, and we drive our truck right.
Furthermore, I will conclude that your mileage won’t get better just because your bed is covered, it’s how you drive and where you drive that determines your mileage. Buy a tonneau cover because it keeps your things secure and your bed dry, not because an old truck tale says you should.
Also see: A Working Review of the 2016 Toyota Tundra Limited: Luxury on a Budget