The endless list of auto accessories can be confusing. Hood deflectors, bug deflectors, bug shields, hood skins and stone deflectors are all basically the same thing.
Deflectors are made for cars, trucks and SUVs, with sales for trucks far outstripping all the others. They generally cost $40 to $100 and are relatively easy to install.
Is a hood deflector worth it? Let’s find out.
Hood Deflector Purpose
A hood deflector is a small shield (usually made of acrylic) installed on the front of a hood. It has a two main purposes:
- Shifts the airflow so that bugs or other debris sail over your windshield
- Prevents direct hits from damaging your hood face or windshield.
Do Bug Deflectors Affect Gas Mileage?
There is a lot written on the internet about how bug deflectors affect gas mileage. Very little of it contains any facts.
A study by the National Research Council in Canada pegged the reduction in mileage at approximately 1.5%. Note: this was using a low profile deflector on a commercial truck. Edmunds also states that there is a negative effect but doesn’t quantify the amount.
Our view is as follows.
- There is a negative impact
- The impact is very small, especially for low profile deflectors
- Other driver considerations, like windshield and paint protection, are more important considerations.
The rationale is as follows. Most add-ons to the front of a vehicle are going to increase drag or resistance. However, hood deflectors have improved greatly from the 1980s when they were basically 6 inches of plastic sticking straight up in the air.
The relevant factors for the impact on fuel efficiency are:
- How fast you drive – the loss of mpg only kicks in at highway speeds.
- How aerodynamic the deflector is – most new ones are custom fit and tightly contour to the shape of the vehicle.
Look for deflectors that have been wind tunnel tested. Couple that with a few modifications to your driving habits and your mileage might actually improve.
Alternatives to Hood Deflectors
I would say the “alternatives” are more like partial substitutes. Clear bras are an adhesive film that usually cover the front of the hood and painted areas around the grill.
While these bras offer solid protection against chips from flying debris, they do little in the way of windshield protection. As we noted in our article on car bras, they can be also VERY expensive when professionally installed.
Hood Deflector Pros and Cons
As we noted earlier, the biggest con – an ugly and obtrusive piece of plastic dominating your hood is no longer an issue. Now the “Pros” outweigh the “Cons” for many drivers.
- Keeps windshields cleaner, requiring less hand scrubbing between car washes
- Prevents damage to car and truck paint
- Helps maintain resell and trade-in value
- Offers great protection for an attractive price point
- Receives great customer feedback for leading brands
- Certain models create “wind noise” when driving at highway speeds
- Installation required
- Slight MPG deterioration possible with some models.
Is a Hood Deflector Worth It?
The answer to these questions is always, “it depends.” Hood deflectors are likely to be good purchases for people who:
- Drive on roads with loose debris or gravel
- Live in areas with lots of flying bugs (e.g., anywhere in the South)
- Have a nice paint job worth protecting
- Like, or at least don’t mind, the look.
At around $50 for most common brands, feeling like you get a good “return on investment” is not that difficult as long as you like the aesthetics. If you think the looks are a plus, then the argument for purchasing a hood deflector is very strong indeed.
There is actually a relatively wide range of brands and manufacturers to choose from. AVS, Lund, Mopar and WeatherTech are very popular.
How to Install
This varies a bit by model, but most shields only require a screwdriver (no drilling) and an included double-sided adhesive. The whole process should require 10 to 15 minutes.
Here is an installation video of the popular AVS Bugflector Shield. As you will see, it’s very straightforward.
For those that prefer to read, here are the actual instructions.
Twenty years ago the biggest downsides to hood protectors were their clunky looks and negative impact on mileage.
Now, most protectors are custom molded for specific makes and model (custom fit) and look great. They also have almost no effect on fuel efficiency.
Is a hood deflector worth it? That is a personal decision. Given all the benefits and reasonable price, if we had a late model truck, we would definitely install a hood protector. If you drive on roads with loose gravel and debris, you should probably buy one regardless of vehicle type…car, SUV or truck.