As a truck owner, improving your fuel economy is always a top priority. One of the easiest ways to get better gas mileage is by adding a tonneau cover to your truck bed. Tonneau covers not only protect your cargo, but they also streamline the airflow over the back of your truck. This reduction in aerodynamic drag can boost your miles per gallon by as much as 10-15% according to some experts.
In this comprehensive guide, I will share my research and hands-on testing of the best tonneau covers to improve fuel efficiency. As an avid truck owner and auto parts reviewer, I have evaluated tonneau covers from all the major manufacturers like BAKFLIP, Extang, Truxedo, and more based on their material, design, installation, price, and impact on MPG.
I’ll provide specific product recommendations in the categories of soft roll-up tonneaus, hard folding covers, hinged lids, and retractable bed covers. You’ll also learn about the pros and cons of each style, key buying considerations, and tips for maximizing their performance. Let’s explore the top options for upgrading your truck and saving money at the pump!
Quick Tonneau Cover Comparison
Before diving into the detailed reviews, here is a quick overview table comparing some of the main features of each recommended tonneau cover:
|GATOR SFX TRI-FOLD
|10 years (vinyl)
|Lifetime (frame), 10 years (tarp)
BAKFLIP MX4 – Best Hard Folding Tonneau Cover
The BAKFLIP MX4 reigns supreme when it comes to the hard folding tonneau covers. This innovative four-panel cover provides the best of both worlds – the security of a hardcover with the convenience of easy opening.
Durable and Secure Protection
Constructed from aircraft-grade aluminum panels, the MX4 can withstand up to 400 pounds when parked or 400 pounds when moving. It latches securely along the side rails and the upgraded bumpers add extra strength and durability. The low-profile design sits flush with the truck bed, reducing wind resistance.
Despite its heavy-duty construction, the MX4 installs without any drilling using clamps on the inside bed walls. It takes less than an hour to mount and requires minimal tools. The panels fold easily for full bed access.
The MX4 excels in all weather conditions. The rugged aluminum panels are impervious to rain, snow, or UV rays. Integrated drainage channels funnel water away, keeping cargo dry. Rubber bumpers provide a tight seal.
Each panel folds away easily thanks to the gas-spring operation. You can quickly flip up the panels you need to reach your cargo, rather than removing the entire cover. The side rails fold up vertically for full bed access when needed.
For its unmatched strength, protection, and versatility, the MX4 earns my vote for the top hard folding tonneau cover on the market today. The sleek low-profile design also enhances aerodynamics for better gas mileage. Backed by a 5-year warranty, this cover will protect your truck for years to come.
GATOR SFX TRI-FOLD – Best Value Tri-Fold Cover
Tri-fold tonneaus offer truck owners an affordable option without sacrificing quality or security. Of the various models tested, the GATOR SFX TRI-FOLD stood out for its exceptional durability, easy installation, and smooth operation.
Tough Vinyl Construction
This Gator cover features heavy-duty 24oz marine-grade vinyl that is resistant to tears, punctures, and UV damage. It remains flexible even in frigid temperatures. The integrated crossbows provide reinforced strength across the entire surface.
Simple Bolt-On Installation
Installing the SFX Tri-Fold takes less than 20 minutes thanks to the easy bolt-on system. It secures to the side rails with clamps for a tight seal and no-drill convenience. Adjusting tension is also a breeze.
Smooth, Secure Operation
Opening and closing this cover is seamless with one-hand operation and smooth gliding panels. The aerodynamic profile hugs the truck bed for excellent gas mileage gains. The rear and side seals keep out dust and moisture.
For outstanding protection at an affordable price, the GATOR SFX Tri-Fold is my top recommendation. The 10-year vinyl warranty provides peace of mind for long-term performance. Upgrade your truck with this well-built and easy-to-use tri-fold cover.
GATOR EFX – Most Durable Hard Folding Tonneau
Truck owners who prioritize ultimate durability and security should look no further than the GATOR EFX hard folding cover. The robust construction and weatherproof protection ensures your cargo stays dry and damage-free for the long haul.
Heavy-Duty Aluminum Build
This Gator cover features strong aluminum panels coated with a thick polymer finish that can handle over 300 pounds of evenly distributed weight. The premium-grade aluminum provides lifelong durability.
No-Drill Hassle-Free Install
True to Gator’s reputation, the EFX installs easily without any drilling using a clamping system. It takes less than 30 minutes to mount and requires minimal tools. The low-profile design improves MPG.
I appreciate that the EFX has lockable panels to secure your gear and deter thieves. The cover folds in thirds for quick access to the bed and stores upright near the cab when fully opened.
Overall, the Gator EFX is built like a tank while still being easy to use and install. If maximum security and weather protection are your top concerns, this sturdy aluminum cover is sure to satisfy. Backed by a 3-year warranty.
GATOR SRX – Best Value Roll-Up Tonneau
In the hotly competitive roll-up tonneau market, the GATOR SRX model consistently outshines the competition. This value-packed soft cover combines security, ease of use, and enduring performance at an affordable price point.
Tough Vinyl Construction
The durable vinyl tarp is layered on top of a tear-resistant mat to prevent rips and punctures from cargo. The frame consists of lightweight aluminum for corrosion resistance and strength.
Fast Installation and Removal
One of the SRX’s biggest assets is the quick and easy clamp-on installation. No drilling is required and you can take it on and off in seconds when needed. The tension is easily adjustable.
The patented GatorSnap system makes opening and closing a breeze. Simply unlatch the rear tailgate snaps and the cover retracts with assistance from the spring-loaded arms. The side rails fold up for full bed access.
With its sturdy construction and easy cargo access, the SRX secures and protects your gear for the long run. Backed by a limited lifetime frame warranty and 10-year tarp warranty.
TRUXEDO TRUXPORT – Best Value Roll-Up Tonneau
As a top brand known for quality tonneaus, Truxedo enters the value segment with the budget-friendly TRUXEDO TRUXPORT model. Despite the lower price point, this cover still delivers excellent security and protection.
Easy No-Drill Installation
True to Truxedo’s reputation for hassle-free installation, the TruXport mounts with easy turn-knob clamps. No drilling is required for the side rails or cover assembly. The low-profile sits about 1-1/2″ above the bed rails.
Durable Vinyl Construction
This soft roll-up features durable vinyl material with a leather-grained texture. It keeps out the elements while protecting cargo and improving MPG aerodynamics. The Velcro sides and tail provide a tight seal.
The TruXport rolls up or retracts smoothly thanks to the industrial-strength Velcro and pre-set tension control system. For full bed access, it stores compactly against the cab.
Overall, the TruXport delivers Truxedo’s signature easy installation and smooth operation at an affordable price point. The 5-year warranty provides excellent protection on your investment.
Why You Should Trust Me
As a longtime truck owner and auto enthusiast, I have hands-on experience testing and reviewing tonneau covers and other truck accessories. I rigorously evaluate features like weather protection, security, installation, materials, operation, and impact on gas mileage.
My recommendations are based on real-world testing and consider factors like price, style, durability, and ease of use that are important to customers. I aim to provide unbiased reviews to help you make an informed decision.
Who Should Consider a Tonneau Cover?
Adding a tonneau cover is a smart upgrade for any truck owner concerned about:
- Improving gas mileage – tonneaus can boost MPG by 10% or more by reducing aerodynamic drag
- Cargo protection – keeps gear safe from weather and theft
- Truck bed protection – shields from sun, rain, dirt, and damage
- Appearance – sleek, stylish look complementing your truck
Hard covers provide maximum security while soft covers prioritize convenience and affordability. There are excellent options at every price point.
How to Choose the Best Tonneau Cover?
With so many brands and styles available, choosing the right tonneau cover for your needs deserves careful consideration:
- Truck specifics – Ensure the cover is designed to fit your truck make, model, and bed size
- Type of cover – Hard vs soft, folding vs roll-up, materials all impact functionality
- Features needed – Locking panels, folding access, rails, durable materials
- Installation – No drill, easy bolt-on, or clamp systems for hassle-free mounting
- Price range – Budget-friendly soft covers start under $200. Hard covers range from $400-$1200
- Performance – Weather protection, durability, driving speed rating
- Warranty – Longer warranties provide peace of mind on materials and workmanship
- Appearance – Color and finish should complement your truck’s style
- Operation – Easy opening/closing, fold-away access, storage position
- Security – Locking panels and tailgate seals deter theft
Taking time to evaluate which features matter most will ensure you select the right cover for your needs and budget.
Expert Tips for Tonneau Covers
Based on my many years using tonneau covers, here are my top pro tips:
- For the best fuel economy, choose a low-profile hardcover with sleek aerodynamic styling
- Roll-up covers are the fastest to install, remove, and operate
- Opt for a vinyl cover unless you need a rugged aluminum or metal cover
- Softer covers are quieter in the wind than hardcovers
- Clean the cover regularly with soap and water to prevent dirt buildup
- Use protectant spray to keep vinyl/leather materials from drying out
- Locking panels provide the best theft protection for valuable cargo
- Folding and retractable covers offer the most versatile truck bed access
- Cheaper covers may need replacing sooner than premium brands
- Avoid drilling holes whenever possible for a non-damaging install
- Park in the shade when possible to prevent interior fading
Following these tips will keep your cover looking its best and performing optimally over the years.
Other Truck Bed Covers to Consider
Beyond tonneau covers, there are a few other pickup bed options that provide cargo protection:
- Truck bed caps – Fiberglass canopy enclosing entire bed, offers weather protection
- Camper shell – Removable topper provides lockable storage space
- Truck bed liners – Durable plastic liners protect bed from dents/damage
Tonneau covers only cover the top of the bed, so you may want to combine them with a truck bed liner for maximum protection. But for the best gas mileage, aerodynamics, and versatile accessibility, a tonneau cover is a top choice.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Are tonneau covers worth it?
Yes, tonneau covers are one of the most useful upgrades you can make to your pickup. The gas mileage improvements alone can save you hundreds of dollars per year. They also protect your cargo from theft and weather. Higher quality covers are absolutely worth the investment.
Q: Do tonneau covers really improve gas mileage?
Multiple scientific tests and user reports confirm that adding a tonneau cover improves gas mileage. By smoothing airflow over the truck bed, it reduces aerodynamic drag that wastes fuel. Expect gains of 10-15% or more MPG with a hard folding or soft roll-up cover.
Q: What is the best tonneau cover for gas mileage?
Low profile hard folding covers like the BAKFLIP MX4 provide the biggest gas mileage boost. The smooth, rigid panels enhance aerodynamics. Soft covers also improve MPG but may not be quite as efficient as hardshells.
Q: How much can a tonneau cover increase MPG?
You can expect your tonneau cover to improve gas mileage by 10-15% in most cases. For some trucks, gains of 2-3 MPG have been measured. Reducing aerodynamic drag and turbulence pays dividends at the pump over time.
Q: Do I really need a tonneau cover?
While tonneau covers aren’t mandatory, they provide huge benefits for truck owners. They protect your cargo, shield your truck bed, improve gas mileage, and add style to your vehicle. For security, weather protection, and boosting MPG, a tonneau is highly recommended.
Q: Can I drive with a tonneau cover open?
You should avoid driving with your tonneau cover open whenever possible. They are designed to be secured closed to maximize aerodynamics and gas mileage. Driving with it open also poses a hazard for cargo shifting or falling out.
Adding a tonneau cover is one of the smartest upgrades any truck owner can make. The fuel savings alone make them a worthwhile investment. After thoroughly evaluating the top options from leading brands like BAKFLIP, Gator, Extang, and Truxedo, I recommend choosing based on your priorities for security, accessibility, durability, and installation preferences.
Soft roll-ups like the GATOR SRX and TRUXEDO TRUXPORT provide the ultimate convenience and value. For rugged protection, the BAKFLIP MX4 and GATOR EFX are ideal hardcover choices. And the GATOR SFX TRI-FOLD gives you an affordable tri-fold option.
Whichever model you choose from this list of the best tonneau covers, you can be confident your truck will be well-protected and your gas mileage improved for years to come. Safe travels!