With fuel prices skyrocketing across the country, you may be concerned about your next big road trip. And rightly so! You may not know this but the average RV is driven about 5,000 miles each year. For us, it’s somewhat more.
Some rigs get only 5-7 miles per gallon (mpg) while other more fuel-efficient models can get up to 18-25 mpg. This is important because gas mileage efficiency can save you thousands of dollars over the lifetime of your RV (and maybe even on one long, road trip).
How you drive and take care of your RV can have a big effect on how much fuel you use.
The cost of RV driving
Most RVs average about 10 mpg. If you have not calculated your RV’s mpg or have an upcoming trip that you would like to prepare for, you may find this helpful:
Check your owner’s manual to see what the manufacturer says your mpg is.
Map out your entire route in miles.
Divide the total number of miles by the mpg of your RV. Then multiply that number by the average cost of gas in the region you’ll be traveling in.
Getting better fuel mileage in your RV
RVs are perfect for road trips but they can consume a lot of fuel. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to improve your RV’s fuel efficiency. Here are 13 tips to help you get more out of the fuel you buy.
1. RV size/weight
One of the most obvious ways to increase your fuel efficiency is by purchasing a smaller RV. If you want a better mpg, you need to go smaller and lighter.
On average, class A motorhomes will get about 6-13 mpg. Class B motorhomes will average approximately 18-20 mpg. And Class C rigs usually average 10-15 mpg. To learn more, read Meet the RVs: Find the Right RV Class for Your Travel Style.
If you already own an RV and don’t want to purchase a different one, there are other things you can do. We’ll cover those other options in just a bit.
2. Consider diesel
You can choose to a diesel engine in any class and see some fuel savings. Overall, diesel provides about a 30 percent increase in fuel efficiency compared to regular gasoline engines.
Diesel engines do require considerably more oil than gas engines, though. So there’s an added expense there. But you only need to change the oil once a year or every 15,000 miles compared to every 6 months with a gas engine. Also, the initial cost of a diesel motorhome will be higher than a comparable gas engine.
3. Trip planning
Plan ahead. Trip routes matter! You get better fuel mileage on highways than on winding backroads. If you’re trying to maximize fuel efficiency, select a route that avoids gusty winds and intersections as much as possible. Google Maps has a setting for this. It’ll show a little leaf next to the most fuel-efficient route when presenting your route options.
Many other apps, however, try to route you to your destination in the shortest way possible. But sometimes, these routes can have increased stops or mountainous roads. Some routes may be slightly longer but can save you fuel because you can drive smoothly and at a steady speed.
Do the little research before you go!
4. RV maintenance
Be sure to stay current on your RV maintenance. A dirty air filter can decrease your fuel efficiency by about 10 percent. A faulty oxygen sensor can be even more damaging by cutting your gas mileage by up to 40 percent.
By staying on top of your rig’s regular maintenance, you can avoid any hidden gas zappers.
I have a few helpful articles on maintenance:
5. Towing weight
The heavier weight of your RV, items that you pack, and any tow vehicles can affect your mileage. Avoid carrying items you don’t need. In other words, the heavier your rig, the less mileage you can get. This also goes for vehicles (toads) that you may be towing.
6. Maintain the correct tire pressure
Maintaining your RV’s tire pressure can profoundly affect your fuel mileage. Properly inflated tires can boost your RV fuel efficiency by up to 3 percent.
There’s usually a sticker in your door frame that shows what tire pressure you should use. Or, check your user’s manual.
Don’t fill your tires based on the psi number on your tires! That’s the maximum pressure your tires can hold, NOT the recommended pressure for your vehicle.
By the way, you should always check your tire pressure when the tires are cold, not after driving. And be sure to check the psi on EVERY travel day.
7. Check your oil
Keeping your oil at the recommended level for your vehicle helps maintain the efficiency of your engine. When your engine runs smoother, your fuel efficiency increases.
Keep your oil between the minimum and maximum marks on the oil dipstick to maintain your RV’s performance.
8. Watch your speed
Maintaining a steady speed and keeping that speed below the maximum for the road you’re traveling on can help with your fuel mileage. Driving too fast can cause your engine to be overworked, needlessly using fuel.
The greatest improvement comes with slowing down. The difference between 65 and 70 mph is surprisingly dramatic.
Overall, slowing down and maintaining a steady speed can prevent you from braking and repeatedly accelerating which also zaps your fuel.
9. Balance matters
RV owners can improve fuel economy by optimizing their RV’s weight distribution. Heavy items should be closer to the floor and RV owners should try to distribute their weight to balance front to rear and side to side.
10. Don’t idle excessively
An idling engine can eat up a ton of your fuel. If you make a stop that will last more than a few minutes, you’ll want to turn off your engine.
You also want to try and avoid hitting rush hour traffic in the cities through which you are driving. Not only will it save fuel but it will be less stressful.
Avoiding idling not only saves you money on wasted gas but over time it can also save wear and tear on your engine.
11. Mind your air conditioner
Another tip for increasing your fuel economy is to mind your A/C. Turning off the air conditioner and changing the A/C filters can also save you money.
Running the A/C adds strain to your engine especially when you are traveling at lower rates of speed. That strain equates to more fuel usage. In addition, replacing your A/C filters can reduce that strain on your engine and increase your fuel efficiency by up to 10 percent.
That might not seem like much, but combined with all of these other tips, a vast gas-saving!
12. Avoid rough terrain
Avoiding rough roads can also end up saving you money in the end. That is because unnecessary braking and acceleration can sap your gas.
Scan the roads for hazards, drive slowly, and use highways or smoother and well-maintained roads as much as possible.
13. Keep track of your fuel economy
A drop in your vehicle’s fuel economy can be a sign of engine trouble. Keep track of your fuel economy by noting the odometer reading and the number of gallons purchased each time you fill up. To calculate your fuel mileage, divide the number of miles traveled between fill-ups by the number of gallons purchased.
By following these few simple steps, you can prolong the life of your RV’s engine and save money on fuel and maintenance costs. Overall, being a smarter driver can make your RV lifestyle less expensive and more enjoyable.
We RVers may wander far and wide but it’s true for most of us that we end up with some favorite Go-To places―places that draw us back again and again.
Arizona is one of those places for us. And we know it is for many RVers looking to get away and explore during the winter.
That’s why I wrote these five articles:
- The Ultimate Arizona Road Trip: 25 Places You Must Visit
- 21 Arizona RV Parks You Must Visit
- The 12 Most Charming Small Towns in Arizona
- The Ultimate Guide to Arizona Public Lands
- Best Birding in Arizona: Tips on Where to Go, Species to See, and How to Identify
Speed was high
Weather was hot
Tires were thin
X marks the spot
—Burma Shave sign