Fuel costs can be one of the largest budget categories for RV road trips. Since buying our class A diesel pusher in 2013, we’ve searched and tested many ways to save on diesel fuel. Keep reading for 7 simple ways to maximize RV fuel savings without sacrificing your adventure.
Table of Contents: How to Find the Best RV Fuel Savings
- Should I worry about saving money on RV fuel?
- 7 Simple Ways to Save on RV Fuel
- 1. Price Shop
- 2. Fuel Rewards Programs
- 3. Drive Less
- Stay Longer
- Minimize Miles Driven
- Use More Fuel Efficient Options
- 4. Regular RV Maintenance
- 5. Lighten Your Load
- Holding Tanks Strategies to Manage Weight
- 6. Don’t Drive Crazy
- What is the best speed for RVs?
- 7. Join a Fleet Program for Group Rates
- Fleet Fuel Discount Options: TSD & MyDieselSavings
- Referral Link to Sign up for TSD Fuel Discount Program
- Summary: RV Fuel Savings
Should I worry about saving money on RV fuel?
Yes, take it from this retired accountant, you should absolutely try to save money whenever you can. This includes everyday purchases like RV fuel.
Our motorhome’s diesel tank is 125 gallons which means a $0.16 savings per gallon translates to $20 more for the next adventure. Honestly, we don’t usually drive out of our way to save money on fuel but we do look for savings along our route. Jump here for our 7 simple methods for maximizing RV fuel savings.
We recently drove 4,000 miles from the northwest tip of Washington across the country to visit friends and family in eastern North Carolina. On this trip, we spent over $2k in RV diesel fuel. The total would have been exponentially higher if we didn’t use the savings methods detailed below.
What is the gas mileage on an RV?
Every RV gets different gas mileage based on its engine, size, cargo, and route. However, no RVs are considered fuel-efficient. It is safe to expect single-digit miles per gallon in most RVs.
Our motorhome, Pippi, provides comfortable living but she gets notoriously low fuel economy. She is a 37′ Class A diesel pusher and has most of the comforts of home including a washer/dryer. Read more about Pippi and how she got her name here.
On downhills with a swift tailwind, we can get 9 miles per gallon but in regular driving conditions, we average 7 miles per gallon.
Fuel costs are one of the largest RV-related expenses in our full-time travel budget only second to RV maintenance. We have discovered several methods to save on RV fuel without compromising our adventures.
7 Simple Ways to Maximize RV Fuel Savings
Until Telsa starts building fully electric RVs, buying fuel is unavoidable.
However, since buying our motorhome in 2013, we have discovered a few methods to save on RV fuel. Most of our recommendations to save on RV fuel can be applied to diesel or gasoline rigs.
1. Price shop for the best RV fuel savings
This is a controversial recommendation. Many RVers are willing to pay extra for the ease and convenience of truck stops.
I find retail prices at truck stops to be very overpriced. If you want the convenience and ease of always filling up at truck stops but want to save money, jump below to our #7 way to save.
Complete details on the TSD diesel discount fuel card can be found in The Best Diesel Fuel Card for RV Owners: Save Big Money with TSD Fleet Rates.
Kevin is very comfortable driving Pippi so we are willing to go to regular filling stations to save money. As a rule of thumb, we do not detour more than a couple of miles off our route for fuel.
We use the free GasBuddy app to find the least expensive fuel along our route. GasBuddy allows users to toggle between gasoline or diesel fuel and cash or credit pricing.
Do not blindly drive a big rig into an unknown area. We use Google map satellite and street view to scout new service stations. Below is a sample route for a retail fuel station. It is best to know your route into and out of the station before arriving.
2. Join a Rewards Programs
Many companies have fuel rewards programs that offer per gallon discounts.
Pilot and FlyingJ offer a free MyRewards program but we have never spent enough to reach the fuel discount rewards level. Good Sam offers the following discounts to members at Pilot and Flying J locations:
- $0.05 off per gallon gasoline
- $0.08 off per gallon diesel
- $0.01 per liter of gasoline or diesel in Canada
- $2.50 off dump station fees
- $0.05 off per gallon propane
GasBuddy offers a free discount program card linked to your bank account. The card is accepted at 95% of gas stations and discounts up to $0.25 per gallon are automatically applied.
Through the free BPme app, users can get $0.05 per gallon rewards for every fuel purchase at BP and Amoco locations.
Costco generally has great fuel prices but there’s a catch. The fuel pumps require an active membership card or a Costco gift card. If you aren’t a member, ask friends and family with an active Costco membership to buy a gift card using your money.
Do you use any other fuel rewards programs?
3. Drive Less
This may sound silly but the best way to spend less money on RV fuel is to buy less fuel. There are a few ways to save fuel: stay in each location longer, plan routes to minimize fuel use, or use more fuel-efficient transportation when possible.
When possible, we love to stay in each location for at least two weeks. Longer stays allow us to become more familiar with an area and experience it more like a local. An added bonus, we save time, money and energy moving the motorhome.
If staying at a campground, ask about monthly discounts. Many campgrounds offer extreme discounts for long-term stays.
Minimize Miles Driven
When planning our travel routes, we use Google maps to determine the most direct route. More often than not, we chose the route with the least total mileage.
However, sometimes we drive a few extra miles for a scenic highway or a unique roadside attraction. We try to save fuel but it’s about the journey.
Use More Fuel Efficient Options
We find it most economical to drive our fuel-hungry motorhome to one location, park for a week or two and then explore in our towed car or on our bicycles.
Driving a scenic highway is more relaxing and enjoyable in our sedan than in our 37′ motorhome. We can easily stop to explore wherever we want in our car which is not the case in our motorhome.
Our hybrid car provides a 20-mile range on electricity before switching to the fuel-efficient gasoline-powered engine. We consider our electric fuel as being free because we use our RV solar to re-charge when possible. Go here to read more about RV solar basics and our installation.
Bicycles are a great option if you don’t travel with a separate vehicle. We’ve ridden our bicycles around many cities and love the cardio benefits of pedaling to our destination.
4. Regular RV Maintenance
Regular RV maintenance is important to keep your engine running at its peak. Poorly functioning engines often have lower than expected fuel economy.
Dirty filters can cause the engine to use more fuel. Dirty filters make the engine work harder. Eventually, they may become clogged if not changed. Clogged filters can cause permanent engine damage. Regular rig inspections help identify potential issues before permanent damage is done.
Low tire pressure or unbalanced tires can impact fuel economy. We use a Tire System Technologies tire pressure monitoring system as an added safety precaution. Sensors on each valve stem, including our toad vehicle, constantly communicate the pressure and temperature with a small display on our motorhome dash.
5. Lighten Your Load
This is life advice in addition to an idea for fuel savings. More stuff means more work.
Both for you and your RV, more stuff means more work. Seriously, your RV will work harder and burn more fuel if it has to carry more weight.
Exceeding a vehicle’s rated cargo weight limit can be very dangerous. It also burns excess fuel to carry the heavy load. Pack only the essentials and leave the extra things behind.
As full-time RVers, we regularly review our possessions and purge items we no longer use or need. If possible we share these items with friends or family. If not, we sell online or donate to local thrift shops.
To learn more about full time RV living, check out the What Everyone Wants to Know about Full Time RV Living: Top 23 Questions We Get Asked.
Holding Tank Strategies to Manage RV Weight
Also, consider holding tank levels when hitting the road for your next RV road trip. Driving with full tanks adds hundreds of pounds of cargo weight.
One gallon of water weighs 8.34 pounds. Our freshwater tank adds over 700 pounds when full.
The best strategy we’ve found is to empty waste tanks when leaving campgrounds to reduce weight. If traveling between campgrounds, we only travel with a third of our freshwater tank capacity. Generally, we empty our waste tanks before leaving and fill up fresh water as close to our destination as possible.
6. Don’t Drive Crazy
One more bit of life advice, don’t drive crazy.
RVs are not high-performance vehicles so leave your racecar driver personality at home. Flooring the gas pedal at each green light will drain your fuel tank much faster than slowly accelerating. RVs will not win any road races so take your time at stoplights and accelerate gently to save fuel.
Maintaining a constant speed on the highway will improve your fuel economy. Always use cruise control if you have it.
What is the best speed for RVs?
Faster isn’t better when driving an RV. Most RVs perform their best at speeds between 55mph and 65mph. RV fuel economy drops drastically at faster speeds. Camper Reports state that 63 mph is the ideal speed for RV travel but each rig is different.
After extensive amateur testing, we find Pippi performs best at 67 mph. If the speed limit is 80 mph, you’ll find Pippi cruising at 67 mph in the far right lane.
RV travel is about the journey as much as the destination so slow down, improve your fuel mileage and save some money.
7. Join a Fleet Program for Group Discounts
Have you ever wondered why truck stop posted diesel prices are so high? Me too.
Compare a truck stop’s posted diesel price with the grocery store pumps across the road and you’ll commonly see a 20¢ difference. It’s because truckers don’t pay the posted price. They are like the retail store Kohl’s, they mark up the posted price so they can offer discounts without losing money.
Fleet programs negotiate lower rates on diesel fuel. It is a group discount that most professional drivers utilize. Now fleet fuel savings are available to RVers as well.
Fleet Fuel Discount Options: TSD & MyDieselSavings
We are aware of two fleet programs available to diesel RVs, the TSD fuel savings program and MyDieselSavings. At this time, there are no similar fleet programs for gasoline. TSD Logistics is working to develop a gasoline discount program.
MyDieselSavings requires a $10 application fee and a $2 transaction fee. We do not like this pricing model. To overcome the fees, the savings would need to be substantial. Discounts are not clearly disclosed until you pay the application fee.
TSD Logistic’s fees are based on your actual fuel savings. We prefer TSD because they do not require a contract or monthly fees. They only get paid when they save us money. Applying for the TSD fuel savings program is free. TSD fuel discount cards are issued by EFS and must be used in the commercial truck lanes.
Some RVers have both a MyDieselSavings and a TSD membership. However, at this time we are happy with just the TSD fuel savings program.
We share everything you need to know about the TSD Logistics RV fuel savings program in our article The Best Diesel Fuel Card for RV Owners: Save Big Money with TSD Fleet Rates.
Please comment below to let us know if you’ve found a different fleet program for RV fuel savings.
If you sign up for the TSD fuels savings program using our link, we will get $25 in fuel after you’ve spent $500 with TSD.
Entering Trying to Unwind as your referrer in the application costs you nothing extra and will help fund our future adventures.
It’s a great way to say thanks for the free RV travel information we share on Trying to Unwind and it doesn’t cost you anything.
Summary RV Fuel Savings without Sacrificing the Journey
Buying fuel is an unavoidable part of any road trip. Finding RV fuel savings helps spread our budget further. We are able to enjoy more adventures and spend less using these simple methods.