Do Tonneau Covers Save Fuel?

Your ute is made to work, generally not to save the environment, but there’s no doubt using less fuel will keep more money in your pocket for the weekend, and more time with fewer stops at the petrol station.

So what can you do to improve fuel efficiency in your ute? Firstly, the biggest impact on fuel efficiency is how you drive, so best ditch the lead foot and opt for a scenic style of driving. But if that’s not for you, a simple hack to reduce petrol consumption is to install a tonneau cover on your ute.

How does a tonneau cover improve fuel efficiency?

Installing a tonneau cover reduces air disturbance and creates a smooth path for the air to follow. The reduced drag means the engine doesn’t have to work as hard, thus reducing fuel consumption. One particular study by the U.S Specialty Equipment Market Association found installing a Tonneau Cover improved average coefficient of drag by 5.73%. According to Aerodynamicists, this equates to a 1.8% improvement in fuel efficiency.

One thing to note is the type of tonneau cover you use will impact performance. Soft tonneau covers are effective and also lightweight, especially compared to hard lids or roller covers. A Bunji tonneau cover weighs 3.7kg, a clip on tonneau cover weighs 7kg and a hard lid will add around 40kgs. So the fuel performance returns will be better for soft tonneau covers compared to hard lids.

So how much money will you save?

The 2020 ABS census reported light commercial vehicles travelled on average 15,300 km per year. Using the reported fuel economy of an unloaded 2021 Ford Ranger of 8L/100km, and an average 2022 diesel price of $2.17. You would roughly stand to pocket and extra $49 per year. Australians on average hold their vehicles for 6 years, so you would see an approximate lifetime saving of $294.

An entry level bunji tonneau cover starts at $249, so it will be a few years before you ‘cover’ the costs of it, but it will earn you a case a beer (just) every year. And added to the other reasons to install a tonneau cover like security and load restraint, it does add up.

Fuel Saving Calculator

Reported consumption for 2020 Hilux is 8.5 L/100km
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20 L
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50,000 km
Approx. National Averages 2022: Diesel $2.2 Petrol $1.7
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30 Y
Before Tonneau
Cost per year $000
Lifetime Fuel Cost $000
After Tonneau
Cost per year $000
Lifetime Fuel Cost $000

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