RV FAQ's & Tips: Fuel

This section of the web site is a collection of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ's) and Tips about RV's and the RVing lifestyle.

How much fuel does an RV consume (mpg)?

RV fuel consumption is affected by vehicle weight, engine size, fuel type, driving habits, gear ratios, wind resistance, topography, and numerous other factors. Without knowing a lot of details about an RV, it is impossible to estimate a narrow mpg (miles per gallon) range. Here are some generalities:

  • When towing very small trailers, fuel consumption of the tow vehicle will increase slightly or may be negligible.
  • Class B motor homes should have slightly higher fuel consumption than the van they are built on.
  • Smaller Class C motor homes and trailers will consume about 10-15 mpg.
  • Large motor homes and trailers will range between 6-13 mpg.

The most accurate way to determine fuel consumption is to join a discussion group and ask others who own similar units to the one you are considering.

Look up current fuel prices in your area

Gasoline or diesel costs can be a significant portion of the RV travel budget; reduce your costs by filling up at the cheapest station. We found the following Internet resources to be the most complete:

Enter your zip code on the above web sites and they will list current fuel prices in the area.

Does an engine tuner (chip) reduce fuel consumption?

Most engine tuners focus on increasing horsepower. Tuner manufacturers are hesitant to promise reduced fuel consumption (increased mpg), and some even disclaim this in their ads, but many users report a gain of 2-3 mpg.

Reduced fuel consumption is realized by those who continue to operate their vehicles in a similar manner as before the tuner. Those who take advantage of the additional horsepower by accelerating aggressively or racing up steep hills, will almost certainly see no reduction in fuel consumption.

Our Ford F-550 truck came with the Superchips tuner. With the tuner installed, we gain 3 miles per gallon while not towing, and 2-3 while towing on flat highways.

Why is it called a chip? Today, most engine tuners are installed as software through the engine diagnostic port. Years ago, tuners were only available as micro chips, which had to be physically installed into the engine control circuitry. For this reason, engine tuners are still referred to as chips, and vehicles modified with a tuner as chipped.

Before considering a tuner for your vehicle, please read the warnings in the Fuel Consumption section of Large RV-Towing Truck Issues.

Is diesel fuel cheaper in truck stops?

In our experience, diesel fuel tends to be a little cheaper in truck stops compared to passenger vehicle gas stations.

Some states add an additional tax to private vehicle diesel, which makes the price posted at truck stops appear considerably cheaper. Don't let this fool you—if you pull into a truck stop and you don't have a commercial license, they will add the tax on top of the posted price. One such state is Oregon, where non-commercial vehicles pay an extra $0.24 per gallon in 2005.

Do truck stops welcome RV's?

Truck stops welcome recreational vehicle operators as any other paying customer. However, keep in mind that their main customer base is the professional truck driver. Observe common courtesies while fueling, such as:

  • Use the "auto" section, if it can accommodate your RV
  • If the truck stop provides an "RV" section, be sure to use it
  • When fueling in the truck lanes, clear the island as soon as your tanks are full

For more on this topic, please see Truck Stop Fueling Etiquette.