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Do Tonneau Covers Reduce Drag?

Do Tonneau Covers Reduce Drag?

By PattyKay Lilley

If you’re looking to reduce drag, improve fuel efficiency, or just change up the look of your pickup truck, a tonneau cover may be just what you need. Tonneau covers are retractable truck bed covers that come in soft and hard varieties and offer plenty of benefits for those who own pickups.

But with all of the advantages associated with tonneau covers, one age-old question stands: do they really reduce drag? In this blog post we’ll dive into the science behind tonneau covers to answer this common question once and for all. So if you’ve ever wondered whether investing in a tonneau cover is worth it from an aerodynamic standpoint, read on!

Knowledge About Drag on Cars

Drag is essentially a force that resists the movement of an object through a fluid. In this context, the fluid is air, and the object is your pickup truck. When your vehicle moves, it displaces the air in its path, creating a resistance that the vehicle must overcome to maintain its speed. This resistance is what we call aerodynamic drag.

In theory, anything that smoothens the airflow over your vehicle, reducing turbulence and allowing the air to glide more easily, can decrease aerodynamic drag. This is where tonneau covers come into play. A tonneau cover, particularly a hard, smooth one, can help streamline the airflow over the bed of the truck. By creating a sort of ‘sealed’ space, it prevents the air from tumbling into the truck bed and creating turbulence.

Do Tonneau Covers Reduce Drag?

Yes, tonneau covers do reduce drag. They contribute to a smoother airflow over your truck, reducing turbulence behind the cab, and allowing the air to continue its path towards the rear of the vehicle. This reduction in drag can lead to better fuel efficiency, as your truck’s engine doesn’t have to work as hard to maintain speed.

Scientific tests have demonstrated the efficacy of tonneau covers in reducing drag. In one study, a vehicle fitted with a tonneau cover showed a reduction in drag coefficient by about 12% compared to the same vehicle without a cover. This drag reduction translated to an increase in fuel efficiency of approximately 5%.

However, the level of drag reduction and fuel efficiency improvement can vary depending on the type of tonneau cover used. Hard covers, particularly those that are smooth and flat, tend to perform better in reducing drag than soft, roll-up covers. That’s because hard covers provide a more uniform surface for air to flow over, minimizing turbulence.

In conclusion, while tonneau covers may not turn your pickup into a high-performance, aerodynamic racing machine, they do offer modest improvements in aerodynamics. This can lead to better fuel efficiency, which adds up over time, especially for those who do a lot of driving. Additionally, tonneau covers also provide other benefits like added security and protection for your cargo, making them a worthwhile investment for most pickup truck owners.

See more: Is Tonneau Cover More Aerodynamic?

Types of Tonneau Covers

Types of Tonneau Covers

There are several types of tonneau covers available on the market, each with their unique features and benefits. Below, we breakdown the different types:

Roll-Up Tonneau Covers

These are some of the most common types of covers and are typically made from durable fabric or vinyl. Roll-up tonneau covers provide a level of flexibility; they can be quickly rolled up for full bed access and rolled back down for secure coverage.

Folding Tonneau Covers

Folding covers, usually made of hard material, are designed with multiple panels that fold up onto each other. This design allows partial access to the truck bed without having to remove the entire cover, ideal for those who need to regularly access their truck bed.

Retractable Tonneau Covers

Retractable covers feature a canister that the cover rolls into, allowing for easy access to the bed of the truck. These are often made from robust, hard materials — offering superior security.

Hinged Tonneau Covers

Hinged covers operate much like a trunk of a car. These covers are typically made of hard materials and provide excellent security. They are hinged at the cab and lift up, granting access to the bed.

In summary, tonneau covers come in a variety of styles to suit different needs and preferences. Whether you want to enhance your truck’s fuel efficiency, improve its aesthetic, or secure your cargo, there’s a tonneau cover out there for you.

It’s crucial to consider your specific needs and consult with a professional to ensure you choose the right type for your truck. With the right tonneau cover, you can enjoy improved aerodynamics and other tangible benefits that make your driving experience better.


When it comes to tonneau covers, there are often a few frequently asked questions that arise. These involve understanding their benefits, how to choose the right one, and how they affect the vehicle’s performance. Let’s dive in and address some of these common inquiries.

How does a tonneau cover improve fuel efficiency?

A tonneau cover improves fuel efficiency by reducing aerodynamic drag. When a vehicle is in motion, it displaces air, creating resistance known as drag. A tonneau cover smoothens the airflow over your vehicle, reducing turbulence and thereby decreasing aerodynamic drag. As a result, the engine does not have to work as hard to maintain the vehicle’s speed, leading to improved fuel efficiency.

As per scientific studies, a vehicle fitted with a tonneau cover can see a reduction in drag by about 12%. This reduction can translate to an approximately 5% increase in fuel efficiency. However, it’s important to note that the level of drag reduction and fuel efficiency improvement can vary depending on the type of tonneau cover used.

How do I choose the right tonneau cover for my truck?

Choosing the right tonneau cover for your truck depends on your specific needs and preferences. Some factors to consider include the level of security you need, the frequency with which you access your truck bed, and what type of cargo you commonly carry.

If you frequently need access to your truck bed, a roll-up or folding cover might be the best option. On the other hand, if security is a priority, hardcovers like retractable or hinged covers provide superior protection. The type of cargo you carry can also influence your choice; for instance, larger, awkwardly-shaped items might require a roll-up cover for flexibility.

Can a tonneau cover be easily installed and removed?

Most tonneau covers are designed for easy installation and removal. Many come with clamps or other non-permanent fasteners that allow the cover to be securely attached without making any modifications to the truck. However, some types of covers, such as hard hinged or retractable covers, may be more complex to install and might require professional assistance.

As for removal, roll-up and folding covers are typically the easiest to remove as they can be rolled up or folded back for quick access to the truck bed. Retractable and hinged covers can also be removed, although the process might be a bit more involved.

How does a tonneau cover affect the overall value of my truck?

Adding a tonneau cover to your truck can increase its value in multiple ways. Firstly, by improving fuel efficiency, a tonneau cover can lead to cost savings over time, which adds to the truck’s overall value.

Secondly, tonneau covers help protect the truck bed from weather damage and potential theft, preserving the condition of both the bed itself and any cargo. This protection can help maintain the truck’s aesthetic appeal and functionality, which can positively impact its resale value.

Lastly, tonneau covers can enhance the visual appeal of your truck, giving it a sleek, finished appearance. This visual improvement can also contribute to the overall value of your truck.

Final Thought

Investing in a tonneau cover is undoubtedly beneficial for pickup truck owners. Its advantages extend beyond aesthetic appeal, offering improved fuel efficiency, enhanced security, and increased vehicle value.

While the upfront cost of a tonneau cover might seem substantial, the long-term benefits justify the investment. The improved fuel efficiency alone offers significant cost savings over the life of the vehicle. Additionally, the protection it provides for your truck bed and cargo can save you substantial repair or replacement costs.

Choosing the right cover for your needs is critical. The perfect tonneau cover marries functionality with style, offering the utility you need while maintaining the visual appeal of your truck. Consider your specific needs and consult a professional if you’re unsure which type would best suit your truck.

The bottom line is, a tonneau cover is more than a simple truck accessory. It is a practical investment that brings a multitude of advantages. So, if you own a pickup truck and are considering a tonneau cover, there’s no better time to invest than now.

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