Gas or Diesel Motorhome: Which is Better?

Which is better, a gas or diesel motorhome? That’s one of the biggest questions RV buyers need to answer. It’s important to ask and answer before buying a motorhome.

“Should I get a gas or diesel motorhome?” It’s a question that will repeat itself through the ages as long as we have fuel.

Maybe electric or another option will be added to the comparison charts in the future. In other countries, propane is a cheaper fuel. It’s used in many hybrid cars although it is rarely used in the U.S. and Canada  For now, it’s gas versus diesel.

RVers love to argue about the best RV fuel. Gas versus diesel motorhomes is the topic of many campfire circles. But we can’t argue until we understand the features and benefits of each type.

Let’s take a look.

A gas-powered motorhome © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Gasoline powered motorhomes

Gasoline is the most used fuel.  It is easily combustible which allows for quick starts and fast acceleration.  It is also the leading contributor to pollution. According to AAA, nearly 1/5 of all emissions come from vehicles. Your engine determines which grade of gasoline you can use. You have regular (87), premium (91), and mid-grade (89).

A diesel-powered motorhome © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Diesel powered motorhomes

Diesel is more fuel efficient. In traveling, you can usually go about 20 percent farther on a gallon of fuel than gas-powered vehicles. This is one reason why you will see most truckers with diesel engines. It also produces less carbon dioxide. But, it still creates nitrous oxide which causes smog.

There are six things to consider. I’ll go through them one by one.

A gas-powered motorhome © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

1. The mechanical basics

For those who might not know the difference between diesel and gas engines, it’s worth spending a little time talking about the basics.

Without being overly technical, the first and perhaps most notable difference is the thermal efficiency of diesel engines which refers to the work that can be expected to be produced by the fuel put into the engine. As mentioned above, a diesel engine is about 20 percent more thermally efficient than a gas engine. That means a 20 percent increase in fuel economy.

Diesel engines also run at a much slower RPM (revolutions per minute) than gas engines. Slower RPM translates to less wear and tear and a longer life cycle for the engine.

Further, increased thermal efficiency also translates to more power and torque. A diesel engine’s high torque application is very beneficial for hauling heavy loads.

Gas engines, on the other hand, deliver a much higher volatility point but a lower flashpoint. A spark controls the combustion of a gas engine. Diesel engines do not use a spark but what’s called a compression combustion engine.

Essentially, a gasoline engine is a spark-fired combustion and a diesel engine utilizes compression.

Now that you have some background on the differences between gas and diesel engines, let’s look at the pros and cons of each about RVing.

A diesel-powered motorhome © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

2. Costs of gas vs diesel motorhomess

The first consideration for many people shopping for a new RV is the price. Simply put, does it fit your budget?

On the whole, diesel-powered motorhomes are much more expensive than gas-powered motorhomes. For that reason, first-time motorhome buyers often decide to go with a less expensive gas-powered RV rather than a diesel or luxury unit.

However there are various degrees of quality within each type. Depending on what you are looking for, the best gas motorhomes on the market stack up against some lower-quality diesel units.

However, well maintained diesel engines have a longer life than gasoline ones and can still perform reliably after extensive mileage. This means diesel-powered motorhomes tend to retain their value longer and have higher resale values than gas-powered units.

A gas-powered motorhome © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

3. Differences in mileage

As mentioned above, the second factor to take into consideration is the fuel economy. After all, fuel is expensive and adds up over time. Here are the main differences in mileage between gas-powered and diesel-powered rigs.

Gas-powered motorhomes:

  • Depending on chassis, gas motorhomes will have between 80-100 gallon tanks (Class A) and 20-30 gallon tanks (Class B)
  • Average of 6-10 mpg (Class A), 10-14+ mpg (Class B and Class C)
  • Widespread availability at all fuel stations
  • Less expensive than diesel
  • Gas has an odor when burned; the smell can fill the cabin
  • Gas has a shorter shelf life due to evaporation

Diesel-powered motorhomes:

  • Depending on the chassis will have between 80-150 gallon tanks
  • Average of 6-18 miles per gallon with Class Cs and A motorhomes getting less, Class Bs and B+ RVs getting more
  • More expensive than gas
  • Diesel is available at most but not all stations but maneuverability presents a problem for most diesel pushers (Class A motorhomes)
  • Diesel has better fuel efficiency meaning less frequent refills at the pump
  • Diesel burns cleaner than gas
A diesel-powered motorhome © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

4. Maintenance

Gas engines are easier to maintain and repair compared with their diesel counterparts. If you have a general knowledge of gas engines, you can probably do the bulk of the repairs and maintenance yourself.

A downside of a gas engine is that it runs at higher RPMs meaning it will always be working harder than a diesel engine. Running at higher RPMs allows for a smoother, quieter ride with faster acceleration but more frequent upkeep is required.

Diesel engines are considerably more expensive to maintain and require specialized training to service. Diesel engines run at a lower RPM meaning slower acceleration and lower top speeds but less strain on the engine and you can drive more miles between servicing.

A diesel-powered motorhome © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

5. Oil 

All engines require oil. Diesel-powered engines use a lot more oil than gas-powered engines but the oil only needs to be replaced once a year or every 12,000-15,000 miles (depending on the chassis). You’ll need to change the oil in a gas engine every six months or less.

In a gas engine, if you know how to change oil you can do it yourself. Diesel oil changes are more complicated, so you’ll probably have to take it to a professional mechanic to do the work.

A diesel-powered motorhome © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

6. Speed and towing ability of gas vs diesel RVs

Gas-powered engines typically have higher horsepower and less torque so you can accelerate and maintain higher speeds. However, having less torque adds more strain on the engine while towing and climbing inclines.

Diesel-powered engines are designed for higher torque at lower speeds but are not as fast as gas engines. More torque means slower acceleration speeds but greater towing power and ease in steep inclines.

As you can see, there are some pros and cons to both styles of engines but ultimately the decision for you boils down to personal preference and your budget.

Are you planning on carrying a toad? Do you frequent the Rockies and the Northwest Mountains? Having the power to climb hills with a load lends to diesel-powered engines.

Or are you planning on RVing without a toad and in relatively flatter areas such as Florida and Louisiana? In that case, a gas-powered engine would work well for you.

A gas-powered motorhome © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Gas or diesel: The bottom line

Simply put, the bottom line on gas or diesel comes down to your particular situation and preference.

YOU are the most important factor when it comes to the best RV fuel option. 

All the miles you drive, where you drive, how you manage your fuel usage, cost of ownership, how long you plan to keep your RV, resale value, and your RV maintenance habits affect you more in the long run. Hopefully, if you already own an RV, it meets your needs. 

We are RVers! We aren’t like everyone else already and neither does our fuel use have to be like everyone else’s. Whether we choose a motorhome that uses gasoline or one that uses diesel, the RV itself should match our travel needs. 

Every RVer’s bottom line is different. If you don’t plan to travel as many miles or aren’t concerned about resale value then a gas-powered RV might suffice for you.

Worth Pondering…

Get your motor runnin’
Head out on the highway
Lookin’ for adventure
And whatever comes our way
Yeah Darlin’ go make it happen
Take the world in a love embrace
Fire all of your guns at once
And explode into space.

Born To Be Free, words and music by Mars Bonfire

Tips on How to Get Better Fuel Mileage in Your RV

Here’s advice on how to get better fuel mileage in your RV

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.

Class A motorhome in northern Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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. 

Google the average cost of fuel in the area you are traveling. This matters because the fuel price is much higher in California and Washington than it is in Texas and Louisiana

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. 

Class C motorhome on Utah Scenic Byway 12 © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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.

Diesel Pusher at Sea Breeze RV Park in Portland, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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!

Motorhomes at Mount Rushmore National Memorial, South Dakota © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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. 

Check air pressure every travel day © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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. 

Balance the weight in your RV © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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!

Tear drop trailer in RV park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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. 

Fifth-wheel trailer at Picacho Peak State Park, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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:

Worth Pondering…

Speed was high

Weather was hot

Tires were thin

X marks the spot

—Burma Shave sign

How to Travel Safely with a Big Rig

Big RVs are packed with amenities and camping comfort but they also call for added planning and a bit of flexibility when you’re on the road

Traveling in a large RV offers perks beyond just added floor space. Big rigs host large fresh water and holding tanks, residential refrigerators, roof space for solar panel setups, and power generators—allowing for extended stays in dispersed and non-serviced locations. Bonus amenities such as washers and dryers, full-sized showers, king-size beds, multiple living spaces, and extra storage capacity can typically be found in RVs that are longer than 35 feet. 

Big rig driving Newfound Gap Road through Great Smoky Mountains National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Whether you’re a weekend traveler, a part-time RVer, a snowbird, or live in your rig full-time, navigating roads and campgrounds in a big rig often entails a bit of extra planning.

RVs are long, wide, and difficult to maneuver. But, don’t forget—RVs are tall, too. This means when it comes to overhangs, bridges, canopies, and power lines, you have to be careful; RVs and low clearances don’t play well together. Here’s what you can do about it as an RV driver starting with knowing the exact height of your rig.

Overpass on Colonial Parkway in Virginia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Not how tall the owner’s manual says it is but how tall it really is? You simply have to go out and measure it yourself. This way you know for sure and that helps you better plan your traveling route without worrying about losing your satellite dish under a lower-than-expected bridge or underpass. The highest clearance is typically found toward the center of an underpass.

Always check the weather forecast when you’re driving or towing your big rig. The flexibility to leave a location early or late depending on wind or precipitation conditions could save you from a frightening driving experience or serious accident.

Consider weather conditions © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

It’s especially prudent to consider weather conditions when planning to traverse a route with numerous sharp curves or steep grades. Big rig engines are subject to overheating when pushing or pulling up long grades. When the outdoor temperature is high, the risk of engine overheating rises. If you don’t have a substantial braking system on board or the weather is not optimal, routing around long or steep downgrades may be worth the added time and fuel. 

Related article: 5 Tips for Safe RV Travel

Big rig driving Utah Scenic Byway 12 © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The taller and longer the RV, the more susceptible it is to strong crosswinds. The National Weather Service says that winds of 30 miles per hour will make it difficult to drive high-profile vehicles. If wind speeds are any higher, namely higher than 40 miles per hour, it’s best not to drive big rigs. A crosswind that strong can easily knock over these taller vehicles.

Before you set out on a trip, be sure to check wind advisories along the route. If you know where and when there will be inclement weather you can modify your route, postpone the trip, or find a safe place to hunker down and wait out the weather.

Big rig driving north on US 89 to Page, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Consider commuting with empty holding tanks. Not only do full tanks decrease fuel efficiency and tax an engine, but added liquid weight can decrease braking efficiency. 

RVs have advanced in both design and size but not all campgrounds were built or have been upgraded to accommodate large or heavy rigs. Confirm that a campsite can accommodate a big rig by verifying that both the campsite you’ve selected and the access roads to that camping space can support your rig’s overall length, width, weight, and ride height.

Big rig camping at Canyon de Chelly National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

If the campsite pad is dirt or grass, make sure you have the correct tools to level your rig. Heavy rigs and their levelers are known to sink into soft pads—including asphalt. Wet weather can further impact a site’s ability to support larger rigs.

Related article: Yes, YOU Can Drive an RV: What YOU Need to Know

When researching, consider the campsite’s stated length and width. Look out for any mentions regarding vegetation overgrowth or low-hanging tree branches. Be prepared to respect the boundaries of established campsites. It’s necessary to choose another option if you suspect or realize your rig might negatively impact campsite conservation. 

Covered bridges and big rigs don’t mix © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Keep reports of a campsite’s grade in mind. Most refrigerators need to be level to function properly but RVs with longer wheelbases (especially Class A motorhomes) can be difficult to level in a site with a moderate grade or more. 

Check out the campground’s official website, read reviews left by previous travelers, utilize satellite-based mapping tools, and/or contact the RV park to confirm the accuracy of the information. 

Not a good camping site for a big rig © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

If you arrive at the entrance to your destination and are concerned about accessibility, scout the area. While this practice is typical for RVers with big rigs exploring dispersed camping areas, it’s also good practice when pulling up to any campground with dubitable access. Unhooking a towed vehicle, dropping your tow-behind RV, or walking the route may seem like a hassle but it can save you stress, time, and money.

Driving fatigue besets many big rig drivers more quickly than when driving an automobile. Also, big rig-accessible rest stop locations aren’t as readily available, especially on secondary highways. Planning possible break locations ahead of time at rest areas, truck stops, or big box store parking lots makes for a more enjoyable and safe journey.

Be aware of overhanging trees when selecting a camping site for a big rig © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Big box stores and grocery chains typically feature large lots with ample, big rig-friendly parking options during local operating hours and are often within walking distance of restaurants and coffee shops.

Related article: I Did What My GPS Told Me

It’s in everyone’s best interest that large RV operators move slowly and methodically even if that means holding up traffic. When the opportunity to allow more agile vehicles to pass arises, it’s courteous to permit that.

Oops! This could have been a disaster! © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Careful research when traveling with your large rig will lead to an enjoyable and safe adventure. Equip yourself with a plan, a backup plan, and flexibility for all your big rig travels.

Related article: What’s so Different about Driving a motorhome?

Worth Pondering…

In the spring, I have counted 136 different kinds of weather inside of 24 hours.

—Mark Twain (1835-1910)

10 Questions to Ask When Choosing the Perfect RV for Your Family

The first barrier to living the RV life is discovering which type of RV is right for you

A comfortable bed to sleep in after the day spent playing at the lake? A kitchen to prepare your family’s favorite meals? A shower to clean up in after a long day on a hiking trail? A home away from home in all your favorite places?

Fifth-wheel trailer with tow vehicle at Leaf Verde RV Park in Buckeye, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Do you want a big rig or a camper van? Will you drive a Class A or a bus conversion? Should you explore a Class C, or will a travel trailer work well with your truck? In the beginning, there are lots of questions. Yet asking questions is a good thing!

Class C motorhome at Wahweap RV Park, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Arizona/Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

You’ve decided you want to experience the RV lifestyle. Or maybe your family’s needs have changed and it’s time for an upgrade. With so many RVs to choose from it can be overwhelming. Don’t worry! Ask yourself these questions to help make the decision easier.

Travel trailer at Picacho Peak State Park, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Do You Have a Tow Vehicle?

If you have a tow vehicle then you’ll want to narrow your search to RVs within your vehicle’s towing capacity. Don’t forget to add the weight of passengers, cargo, and liquids to the dry weight of the RV. You don’t want to fall in love with an RV only to determine that it exceeds your vehicle’s maximum capacity to tow safely.

Toy hauler fifth wheeler and tent trailer at River Run RV Park, Bakersfield, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

How Many Beds Do You Require?

Sleeping arrangements in RVs range from plush king size beds to fold out beds. Think about how many your RV needs to sleep, and also the bedtime routine. Some people don’t mind turning dinettes or sofas into beds every night while others consider a designated pre-made bed for each person a must.

Truck camper at Saguaro Lake, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Where Will You Camp?

When most people think of RVing they think of campgrounds, but RVs open up a whole world of different types of adventure and exploration. Some RVs are better suited for boondocking or off grid camping with larger holding tanks and generators or solar panels. Perhaps you plan to use your RV to tailgate at sporting events. If your goal is to spend as much time as possible in national and state parks then length will be a consideration.

Boondocking near Quartzsite, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

What Amenities Do You Require?

Some buy an RV because they no longer want to sleep on the ground and want more protection from than what a tent offers. But creature comforts don’t stop at a roof and a bed. RVs are available with numerous amenities including gourmet kitchens and state of the art entertainment centers. Make a list of your most important amenities and prioritize.

Full service site including 50-amp electric service, water, sewer, and cable TV © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

What Activities Do You Enjoy?

Hobbies and activities will help you narrow down your RV search. Sport utility RVs, or toy haulers, provide space for ATVs, golf carts, and bikes. Since some RVs offer more storage space than others, consider where all that gear will go.

Taking everything with you! © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

How Much Space Do You REALLY Need?

This is different for every family. Do you plan to use your RV every weekend all summer or for extended trips? Or is it going to be an every once in a while outing? Do your kids need their own bedroom? Do you need your own bedroom?

Scamp travel trailer at Lost Dutchman State Park, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

What Is Your Preferred Floor Plan?

Visit RV shows and dealerships to get an idea of what floor plan will work best for you family. Spend time in the RVs. Sit on the couches. Lay on the beds. Walk into the bathrooms. Imagine cooking in the kitchen. Ask for brochures to take home. Most dealerships are happy to let you spend time in their RVs because they want you to be happy with the RV you choose.

Teardrop trailer at Distant Drum RV Park, Camp Verde, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Consider Maintenance and Repair

All RVs have maintenance and repair issues from time to time. New models come with a warranty where manufactures and dealerships take care of the repairs for a set amount of time. Pre-owned RVs are typically sold “as-is” meaning all repairs are your responsibly.

Class A motorhome (Diesel Pusher) at Columbia River RV Park, Portland, Oregon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

What Is Your Style of Travel?

Do you like moving every night or do you prefer to set up and stay at one campground for a while.

Airstream trailer at The Barnyard RV Park, Lexington, South Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

What Is Your Budget?

Just as there is an RV for every lifestyle, there is an RV for every budget. Decide on a budget before beginning your search. Pre-owned RVs are a great option for a limited budget.

Taking it all with you at Whispering Oaks RV Park, Weimar, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Buying an RV will be one of the best decisions you’ll make for your family. At the end of the day or a long weekend, spending time together and creating memories are what is important and that will happen in any type of RV.

Worth Pondering…

Quality is never an accident; it is always the result of intelligent effort.

—John Ruskin

The RV Purchase Experience

How RV dealers can better engage the consumer

If you are a first time RV shopper, you might be surprised—and a little overwhelmed—at the vast number of options available.

Once you have decided on the type of recreational vehicle (travel trailer, fifth wheel, motorhome), you’ll need to consider the length and floor plan that best suits your needs.

Moving from the old to the new motorhome. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

There is something for everyone out there and dealers to sell you the RV that is the best fit for your needs.

AVALA, a Rollick Company, recently released the results of their recent survey of 3,000 consumers engaged in the recreational vehicle buying process from 2017-2018.

These results are included in their whitepaper, “The Recreation Shopping Experience: Why Customers Buy and How to Ensure They Buy From You.”

The old and the new at our RV dealer © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Four major themes were explored in the survey: Brand consideration and switching, dealer follow-up, satisfaction drivers, and why people leave the market.

While the results of the survey are intended to assist dealers in their sales process, it also holds interest for the RV consumer.

According to the study, 81.2 percent of respondents seriously consider purchasing other brands, 43.1 percent of dealers suggested other brands, and 67.6 percent of respondents purchased the brand they originally inquired about. 

It was an easy decision not to change brands when we decided to upgrade to a new model. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Somewhere along the purchase process, consumers are being persuaded to switch brands. One reason for this is the dealers’ goal to sell the consumer the product that best fits their needs, not necessarily the brand they initially inquired about.

According to the data, the RV buyer took an average of 198 days to make a purchase. This is a long purchase cycle that begins with the initial contact at a dealership. There are many nurture opportunities within that time span.

However, only 57.5 percent of dealers continued to follow up after their initial contact with a potential buyer. And, on average dealers only followed up once with RV consumers following the initial contact.

Inside the new coach © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

The survey showed that consumers were mostly satisfied with their RV dealer experience in all areas except for price. Price is a challenging topic because it can change over time and due to customization can be difficult to determine a final cost to the consumer.

The survey results suggested that dealers can do a better job of communicating an accurate price early in the relationship so that consumers begin the purchase process with reasonable expectations. Providing an accurate price at the beginning of the process helps the consumer build trust in the dealer and have reasonable expectations. This trust creates brand and customer loyalty.

At Las Vegas RV Resort out new coach is clean again © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Areas where customers reported satisfaction included facility cleanliness, product knowledge, staff timeliness and communication, availability to answer questions, and product availability.

The survey found the number one reason consumers decide to no longer purchase a recreational vehicle or to purchase a different brand is because of price. The second most common reason is because they found another brand that better meets their needs.

The snowbird lifestyle at Gila Bend KOA © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

On a scale of 1 to 5,  5 being the highest, consumers reported that when purchasing a recreational vehicle, the experience ranked a 3.2—about the same as their experience shopping in similar industries (like automotive). This still leaves plenty of room for improvement.

An RV is no small purchase, and the best dealers and manufacturers are run by those who understand what it takes to create a lifelong customer. A connection like this is the result of a total dedication to transparency, integrity, and responsiveness.

You are only as good as you make your customers feel. If you make your customers feel special you will stand out above the crowd.

The snowbird lifestyle at Vista del Sol RV Resort in Bullhead City, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

In the interests of full disclosure, we currently own a 2019 Dutch Star diesel pusher. This is our fifth Newmar motorhome and Midtown RV in Penticton, British Columbia, is our trusted dealer. Yes, great customer service matters.

Worth Pondering…

Without a customer, you don’t have a business—all you have is a hobby.

—Don Peppers