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Bed covers can improve fuel efficiency

2013 Dodge Ram

2013 Dodge Ram Credit: Handout

If you don't make a habit of hauling construction material, dirt bikes or other tall objects, a pickup truck bed cover makes a lot of sense.

It adds secure storage and is weatherproof if you seal factory holes; it may look better than your beat-up truck bed and typically helps fuel economy. The extra 90 pounds isn't felt much on a 5,000-pound truck, but better airflow helps on the highway. With a bed cover highway fuel-economy gains vary as widely as the number of variables, though it's usually 8 percent or less (and much better than driving with the tailgate down). We had only two days for initial testing of this short-bed, regular-cab two-wheel-drive half-ton (5.3, six-speed auto, mild drop, slightly larger tires, odo-corrected) and commuting highway mileage went from a long-term 17.7 mpg to 19.1 mpg.

Prices for the ARE LSX short-bed cover when installed are in the $1,300 to $1,400 range. If your truck gets 17 mpg highway and you bump that to 18 mpg, the payoff in fuel economy at $4 a gallon is about seven years; from 15 mpg to 16 mpg at the same price is 5.5 years. In either case, a secure bed that won't fill with snow may be invaluable to you.

The LSX cover has a six-layer construction, multiple adjustment points and a limited lifetime warranty. ARE covers are built-to-truck so you usually can't buy one off the rack; the paint matches our 1-year-old GMC Sierra's Summit White nicely, and options we passed on included lights, clothes rod and a wing.

ARE does only dealer-installs, which ensures a good fit for warranty protection. Based on previous positive experiences, we did ours at DACO in North Hills, Calif., in less than an hour despite strong thunderstorms.

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