Truth be told, there’s a lot of confusion out there about the impact that camper shells have on overall gas mileage efficiency numbers.
On the one hand, you have a camp of folks that say camper shells dramatically improve fuel mileage in your truck by streamlining your vehicle and eliminating the “wind sail” drag created by an empty bed and your tailgate.
On the other hand, you have a camp of folks that say the exact opposite – people that say a camper shell adds a lot of extra weight to your truck, bogs it down, and basically adds a “flying brick” to your vehicle and causes gas mileage numbers to plummet.
And then of course you have some folks sitting squarely in the middle that say there’s no real difference whatsoever to running your truck with or without a camper shell.
Who’s got this right?
Let’s find out right now!
What’s the Impact of Camper Shells on Gas Mileage?
Well, when it comes to the impact of camper shells on gas mileage there is some pretty clear and definitive data that shows these add-ons actually lowering your miles per gallon numbers.
Yes, you read that correctly – your camper shell isn’t going to help improve your fuel efficiency numbers. It’s actually going to cause them to drag down a little bit.
Most of this has to do with the extra weight that gets added to your vehicle and has little to do with aerodynamics.
In fact, many of today’s top-quality camper shells are far more aerodynamic than ever before and allow your vehicle to handle just the same as if it didn’t have a camper shell in back at all.
No, it’s the additional weight that is going to cause your truck to chew through a little more fuel per mile than it would have otherwise.
The more weight your camper shell adds the more your fuel efficiency is going to struggle. It’s the same kind of thing you probably see when your truck bed is completely empty versus when it has a full load in the back.
Expect your fuel costs to go up at least a little bit when you have a camper shell attached.
Are There Any Truck Bed Covers That Boost Mileage?
Unfortunately, there really aren’t any camper shells out there on the market today that are going to boost your fuel efficiency. There really aren’t any camper shells out there that will even be “fuel-efficient neutral”, if you will.
Anytime you stick a camper shell on the back of your vehicle you are going to see your gas mileage numbers go down.
That doesn’t mean that there aren’t any truck bed covers that can boost your fuel efficiency, though.
Tonneau covers (those flat, super light, secure covers that can fold or roll across your bed) are known for improving aerodynamics and cutting down on fuel consumption quite a bit.
Not only do you get a solution that can turn your bed into a more secure container (especially if it pairs nicely with a locking tailgate), but you also get a truck bed cover that is going to cut down on how fuel hungry your vehicle is.
Obviously, you’ll want to choose the lightest weight tonneau cover you can find without sacrificing security to get the best fuel efficiency results, though.
Tips to Boost Mileage While Carrying a Camper Shell
Even though your camper shell is going to do a number on your miles per gallon of gas numbers that doesn’t mean that there’s nothing you can do to boost your fuel efficiency, even just a little bit.
Here are a couple of things you’ll want to try out to get those efficiency numbers up as high as possible, mitigating some of the damage to fuel efficiency that your camper shell inevitably causes.
Keep Your Truck Well Maintained
For starters, make sure that your truck is perfectly maintained on a regular basis.
The owner manual in your glove box is going to give you clear instructions for how your vehicle should be maintained, complete with a detailed maintenance schedule.
It’ll tell you things about when to get an oil change, when to check the PSI in your tires, when to rotate those tires, and a whole host of other details that will won’t just keep your vehicle running smooth but will also improve your fuel efficiency numbers, too.
Make Your Camper Shell a Permanent Fixture
Making your camper shell a permanent fixture on your vehicle will help improve aerodynamics quite a bit.
This means mounting it down so that there aren’t any gaps between the camper shell and the bed of your truck or the body of your vehicle.
It means sealing off gaps that air can race into and cause drag, and it means learning how to drive your vehicle with a camper shell permanently attached so that you aren’t drinking through gallons and gallons of fuel at a breakneck pace.
Turn on Cruise Control on the Highway
It’s a simple thing, flipping on your cruise control button when you are roaring down the highway, but it can be a game changer when it comes to cutting down on your fuel consumption.
Adjust your speed so that you are tooling around with traffic and have to touch the brakes as little as possible. You want to be able to glide down the highway without any stop and go issues, eliminating those slowdowns and quick accelerations that inevitably burn through a lot more fuel than consistent cruising along the highway.
Use the Fuel Your Owner’s Manual Recommends
It’s never a bad idea to use the same kind of fuel in your vehicle that the manufacturer recommends personally.
A lot of folks just go to the cheapest stuff at the pump, and there’s nothing wrong with that for the most part – especially if you don’t really care all that much about optimizing fuel efficiency just as much as humanly possible.
If that is something you want to do, though (and if you have a camper shell up top the chances are pretty good you do) it’s important to use the fuel your manufacturer recommends.
Most of the time that isn’t going to be the most premium stuff at the pump. Sometimes, though, you’ll find your vehicle really purrs when you bump up the octane level a little bit – helping your vehicle runs smoother and burn through less fuel per mile even when loaded down with a camper shell.
Try to Idle as Little as Possible
Do your level best to avoid idling whenever possible.
Instead of chugging through the drive through to grab a coffee, park your truck and swing inside.
Instead of waiting in line at the pull-up ATM, park your truck and go in to see a teller.
Instead of idling up front near the store entrance waiting for someone, swing into a parking spot and shut your truck down until your passenger pops back out.
It might not feel like these things can have an outsized impact on how much fuel you’re able to conserve. But everything adds up – it’s amazing how much money (and fuel) you can conserve when you cut out idling at every opportunity.
Steer Clear of Stop and Go Spots in Traffic Whenever Possible
Lastly, you want to do everything you can to steer clear of stop and go spots in traffic when you have your camper shell up top.
Obviously, some stop and go traffic tooling around town is going to be inevitable.
Unless you only ever work on the highway, only ever shop on the highway, and live right off of the highway of the odds are pretty good you’re going to be stuck in traffic every now and again.
There’s not much you can do about that. There’s not much any of us can do about that.
What you can do, though, is preplanned your runs into traffic while trying to choose routes that minimize stop and go activity. It’s not always going to be perfect – and you might not be successful every timeout – but it will help you save fuel when you have your camper top loading you down.