Fuel Economy Tip – Keep Your Tailgate Up

Today’s tip will probably come as a surprise to most of you, but will be especially useful for those of you who drive trucks.

Driving with your tailgate down doesn’t help you save gas.

I’ll be the first to admit, I bought into the notion that by having your truck’s tailgate down while you’re driving down the road (especially the highway) you would greatly increase your truck’s fuel economy. Apparently that just isn’t true.

According to several sites (Ask Yahoo! for example) state that you get roughly the same gas mileage driving with your tailgate up as you do when your tailgate is down.

According to the Ask Yahoo! article, this is the reason why:

“When the tailgate is raised, a “separated bubble” of stagnant air is formed in the bed of the pickup. Wind tends to swoosh over this bubble as though it were part of the truck. Lower the tailgate, and the bubble disappears, which leads to increased wind resistance.”

So, get rid of that net you used to replace your tailgate and go ahead and drive around with your tailgate up!


  1. ektomurphy says

    I say we avoid independent tests performed by people who can’t spell the word independent. The tailgate makes no difference whatsoever to gas mileage. All I do all day, every day is run up and down Hwy. 99 in my Dodge Ram 2500 delivering bicycle parts to customers. Since 2004, I’ve done it eight ways to Sunday – tailgate up, down, off, halfway down (tied) and with a tonneau cover for the past four weeks for good measure. I have to log my mileage and gas receipts for tax and reimbursement purposes so believe me, I know to the penny and the inch what my mileage is. The differences in my daily mileages are completely random and do not change more than 2-3% a day on average.

  2. murphy, Sorry I misspelled a word, I know that takes away all credibility. Your statement is confusing, first you say tailgate up or down makes no difference, but then you contradict yourself by saying there may be a 2-3% difference. Assuming you drive 80 miles on Hwy 99 for your deliveries, and I drive 1900 miles, a 3% difference in fuel expenditure for 1900 miles would equal about 1 tank of gas. The fact that you’re using a Dodge Ram 2500 to deliver bicycle parts may be your downfall in this test. Dodge is the worst vehicle on gas irregardless of wind. The facts are- I used 5 tanks of gas going generally downhill with the tailgate up, and I used 4 tanks of gas going generally uphill with the tailgate down. The conditions were mirrored. I have nothing to gain by lying about the situation. I’m unbiased either way, I’d rather leave the tailgate up, but the facts remains.

  3. There’s no such word as “Irregardless” – please explain what you’re trying to say.

  4. Irregardless is a term I picked up from my granddad, it’s been used since early 1900 like the word ain’t. Most men know the term. Here it means using a Dodge Ram 2500 to deliver bicycle parts is going to use alot of gas with or without the effects of the wind, but I think you knew that. Here it means you’re driving a large truck loaded down with metal parts on the back, making stops at bicycle shops (which are in town, not on the highway). Just like towing a trailor, fuel conservation goes out the door at that point. When you’re carrying a load, the tailgate being up or down is a mute point. The tailgate issue only matters when you have a mostly empty bed, you’re traveling down a highway at distance, and you’re maintaining a moderate speed.

  5. Sean in CA says

    The prefix ir- (i-r) is a negative prefix, so if you add the prefix ir to a word that’s already negative like regardless, you’re making a double-negative word that literally means “without without regard.” Appear stupid at your own peril. Learn to spell trailer and moot while you’re at it.

  6. This has to be the same guy using different names, there can’t possibly be this many effeminate truck drivers in the U.S. that are more concerned about spelling and less about the issue of saving gas. Sean… close your laptop, walk out of Starbucks, get in your Volkswagon Beetle, drive it off the nearest cliff.
    I would like to see a test, (no reality shows or college student theorems), just 2 identical trucks running side-by-side down I-95, one tailgate up and the other down. It would have to be operated and documented by a respectable source. Probably the only way this debate would be settled.

  7. You have to be the same guy using different names, I find it hard to believe that there are so many effeminate truck drivers in the U.S. that are more concerned about spelling than the issue of saving gas. Sean… close your laptop, walk out of Starbucks, get in your Volkswagon Beetle, drive off the nearest cliff.
    I would like to see a test (no reality shows or college student theorems), with 2 identical trucks driving down I-95 side-by-side from Virginia to Florida, one tailgate up and the other down. This would have to be operated and documented by a respectable source.. but that should settle the debate for those that rely on what they read instead of personal experience.

  8. No MK896, I just hate to see the English language morph into an unintelligible jumble of malapropisms and newly minted verbs that are really nouns. I don’t drive a VW (Chevy Colorado), don’t go to Starbucks (Peet’s) and don’t own a laptop. Getting back to the point of this commentary, I am in the tailgate up camp, but I don’t need to slam people who disagree with me. You are right, someone reputable should do a real world comparison test and perhaps put an end to the debate once and for all.

  9. Frank Giantonio says

    In my situation I get a 20% increase in gas mileage with my tailgate down. I Think we’ve all see the mythbusters episode… but I have a 2002 Dodge Ram 1500 with a 4.7 engine. I’ve tested this theory many times… my tailgate stays down.

    • johnny grivette says

      20% Frank? I think you may need to start holding your breath when you fuel up.

    • I have run tests as well and find that once I hit the 60 mph speed, having the tailgate down makes a small difference. At 70 mph it gives me a 3 MPG increase. 55 mph and slower, tailgate position doesn’t matter. These tests were done over hundreds of miles, not a 10 second reading of a flow meter. 2007 Dodge Ram 1500 quad cab 4×4 with multi- displacement. 21 mpg highway on regular gas.

  10. I have tried it many times @ 70 to 75mph & did not draw an accurate conclusion.However, on 1 trip to Calif. @ speeds above 80 mph I dbetter milage by 2.2mpg than ever before with the tailgate down. This was in a F-150 super cab, 4.6 engine, with 3.55 axle ratio,& 42 lbs. of air in the tires[ this is my normal amnt. when on a trip]. My conclusion=@ higher speeds it seems to aid mpg. with the gate down—@ 70mph little if any difference.

  11. Cummins5928 says

    I think there is a lot of disputes on leaving the tailgate up or down. I do believe under the right speed at long distances leaving the gate down may improve fuel mileage, but tell me when and were in the highway system now adays that you can achive this with all the different speed zones and retarded drivers on the road. Obviously GM, Dodge, Ford etc.. know something about the debate and keep putting tailgates on for a reason other than hauling dont ya think..Everyone is trying to save fuel no doubt there especially with gas prices anymore. With what ive tried with everyday driving leaving your gate up is best for mileage and it keeps some other idiot from hitting it at a traffic light cuz they werent paying any attention..

  12. Jeff talbot says

    Can anyone guide me to what episode this test was performed with pick-up truck(s) w/tailgate up? Or the tailgate down???thanks Jeff2112from

  13. Below is a website from consumerreports on tailgate up/down & tonneau covers. Interesting read!


    and another:

    and another:

    All say you get better gas mileage with the gate up.


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