One of the best ways to enjoy the outdoors is by piling into an RV with your friends and family and hitting the road. With an abundance of RV friendly parks and campgrounds, it’s easier than ever to travel and camp in the same vehicle!
But with that added convenience, there comes a cost. Aside from the upfront costs of RVs (regardless of whether you rent or buy), everyone deals with having to fill it with fuel to get from point A to point B. This can get expensive quickly depending on many different factors.
To start with, the average miles per gallon of an RV is about 10-20 MPG, depending on the class of RV that you’re driving. That number can go up or down depending on a lot of factors such as:
- RV class
- Driving habits
- Overall length and load of the RV
By the end of this guide to motorhome gas mileage, you will know how to get the most bang for your buck when you drive an RV this summer so that you’re able to visit all of the places you’d like to without running out of gas along the way!
Which RVs have the best gas mileage?
As mentioned earlier, there are a few different classes of RVs. Each one has its pros and cons, especially when it comes to gas mileage.
Class A RV
Class A RVs are the largest and often most luxurious RVs you can buy. They are ideal for those who spend a lot of time on the road every year. But not too much time on the road! Hopefully you’re planning on parking your RV at a campground for a while, as class A RVs get the worst gas mileage of all RVs.
Most class A RVs only average about 10 mpg, making them the least fuel efficient on the market. But why is that?
Well, first of all class A RVs are the longest and heaviest styles of RVs. This makes it so that the engine has to move much more weight than any other class of RV. They are also the tallest, which means that there is a lot more wind resistance pushing against the front of the RV, which slows it down and causes it to lose out on gas efficiency.
Class B RV
Looking more like a van than a bus, class B RVs have the best gas mileage for RVs. They are much smaller than class A and class C RVs and don’t offer as much living space, but that could be a good thing for you.
If you’re intent is to drive around as much as possible by yourself or with one or two other people, class B RVs can help you get out and see a ton of the world without breaking your bank account from constantly filling up at the pump.
Class B RVs average about 21 mpg, making them the most fuel-efficient RVs out there. What they lack in living space, they make up for in gas savings, making them ideal for those who crave solo adventure.
Class C RV
A happy middle ground between class A and class B is the class C RV. Class C RVs are great because they have a lot more living space inside of them compared to class B RVs, but they aren’t as gargantuan as class A RVs.
This translates into an RV that gives you plenty of space to comfortably sleep between 4-5 people while also getting a decent amount of gas mileage out of your RV. At 16.5 mpg, the class C gets about the same amount of fuel efficiency as the average pick-up truck. While this isn’t necessarily ideal for extended road trips, you’ll be able to travel around much further for less money compared to class A RVs.
Each of these averages are just that, averages. You’ll experience higher or lower mpg based on a few factors that you can control. So what are those factors that will help you gain or lose mpg in your RV?
How can you influence your RV’s gas mileage?
Aside from the class of RV, you can expect a few things to contribute to the gas mileage of your RV. Some of those factors include:
- Overall size
How does length impact mpg?
Length impacts mpg in that the longer the vehicle, the longer the drivetrain needs to be to properly power the vehicle. This means additional parts and complexity, which causes inefficiency in the system, thus translating to a general loss of efficiency.
When considering which vehicles will have the best mpg, consider how long the RV is. Obviously, class A RVs will be the least fuel efficient. But if you’re looking to maximize mpg in a class A, consider going with one that is a bit shorter than the other models to increase your engine’s efficiency and reduce how much you pay at the pump.
How does weight impact mpg?
Weight of an RV will impact how much you’re able to get out of your gas tank because of how much your engine has to work in order to move your RV down the road. The heavier the RV, the harder the engine will have to work, and the less mpg you’ll get out of it.
Class A RVs are the heaviest, followed by class C, and leaving class B RVs as the lightest. You can influence the weight even more by how much stuff you put into your RV and by whether your water tanks are full or not while you’re driving.
How does overall size impact mpg?
Wind dynamics come into play here when thinking about how overall size impacts the mpg of your RV. Think about how people moved around the world before gas powered engines were around. The most efficient way to move was by sail! Why is that?
Wind is incredibly powerful. People realized this and used it to their advantage by harnessing the wind with large sails. The larger the sail, the faster you could go.
This same idea translates to RVs, but in a negative way. When you’re driving down the road, you’re always going to be facing some resistance as you’re moving air molecules as you go. That resistance against the air slows your RV down, which translates to lower mpg.
The larger your RV, the less mpg you will get!
What are some tips on how to improve your RV’s gas mileage?
Well, the first thing that you can do to improve your RV’s mpg is to choose an RV that runs on diesel fuel. According to the US Energy department, diesel fueled engines are 10-15% more fuel efficient compared to gas powered engines. This means that you can get a few extra mpg by simply choosing an RV that runs on diesel.
Outside of that, here are a few suggestions of ways that you can directly impact your RVs mpg without having to go buy a new RV to get a diesel engine!
Only run the engine when you’re driving
Aside from being environmentally conscious, running your engine only when you’re driving saves on fuel consumption. Your engine, even though it may not be accelerating, burns fuel while you’re idling. So when you plan on stopping for more than 5 minutes, try your best to turn off your RV so that it doesn’t burn fuel unnecessarily.
Use air conditioning sparingly
One of the easiest ways to save on fuel and increase your mpg is to limit how often you use your air conditioning. While this may be really difficult to do when you’re RVing in hot environments, it is critical to saving your mpg.
Try bringing cooling rags and misting fans that run on batteries to stay cool instead of relying on your air conditioning. Consider cracking a window while driving on the highway to increase air flow in your RV.
If you need to run your air conditioning, leave it on for a designated amount of time and then turn it off once you’ve hit that time limit.
When you drive carefully, you avoid swerving, braking excessively, and accelerating too quickly. All of these things contribute to adding mpg to your RV.
Swerving makes you lose track on the straight line that you were going on, which causes you to meet additional wind resistance and decreases mpg.
Excessive braking means that you are going too fast to begin with, which can result in you needing to accelerate more frequently than necessary. Give plenty of space between you and the vehicle in front of you to avoid braking too much.
When you do need to accelerate, don’t floor the gas pedal. Apply smooth, consistent pressure and allow your RV to come to speed gradually. Keep an eye on your RPM gauge on your dashboard to ensure that you are getting at least 2000 RPMs when you’re driving, and at least 3000 RPMs when you’re going uphill. Higher RPMs can help alleviate strain on your engine and propel you up the hill faster, giving you more fuel efficiency in your RV.
Ensure your tires are properly inflated
One of the most overlooked aspects of driving any vehicle, let alone RVs, is driving with the proper level of air pressure in your tires. All sorts of things influence how much pressure is inside of your tires.
Temperature and altitude are the two most likely culprits to change your tire pressure without you realizing it. Whenever you are about to hit the road for the day, be sure to check all of your tires to make sure that they are inflated at the proper level.
Take a look at your owner’s manual, the inside of the driver’s side door, or the outside of the tires to get a look at the proper psi for your RVs tires. Carry a tire pressure gauge with you so you can check the pressure wherever you are. And consider investing in a portable air compressor so that you can fill your tires up no matter where you are.
Steer clear of traffic
Use your phone and GPS system to find the best way to avoid running into traffic. Starting and stopping in heavy traffic is terrible for mpg, as the constant accelerating burns up a ton of gas.
If you’re faced with the choice of taking a toll road that is traffic free and a freeway that is full of traffic, consider taking the toll road to save yourself from having to fill up at the pump sooner.
Engage cruise control
One of the easiest ways to increase your RVs mpg is by using your cruise control. Cruise control allows you to set and forget your speed, so you’re not constantly having to accelerate or slow down when driving on a long stretch of road.
Only use your cruise control when there is plenty of space to disengage it. Using it on windy roads is not advisable, as you’ll likely end up losing control of your RV when the speed of the corner requires you go slower than what your cruise control is set at.
Additionally, only use your cruise control when the conditions are dry. Never use it when it is icy, snowy, or rainy, as the cruise control will continue to accelerate, even if your tires aren’t in contact with the road surface due to sliding on ice or hydroplaning.
Drive a bit slower
Another super simple way to improve your mpg in your RV is to slow down a bit. A great way to find the optimal speed for your RV is to get on a large expanse of highway and record how long it takes you to run out of gas going at a specific speed. Record that number and repeat the process a few times to find the best speed to go when driving on the highway.
In general, 60 mph is an efficient speed for driving on long stretches of highway. Start there and play around with finding the best speed for your RV by doing the experiment discussed above.
Ensure your RV is properly maintained
Ensure that your RVs engine is ready to go with every trip by taking it to get regular oil changes and maintenance. By doing this, you’ll ensure that the engine stays clear of residue build up and runs efficiently throughout the life of your RV.
Something else to consider is using fuel additives that clean out your gas lines and engine compartments from residue build up. These are pretty inexpensive and easily purchased at any auto parts store. Consult your RVs user manual or the dealership for recommendations on the best fuel additive for your specific RV.
Choose light gear
As discussed earlier, weight has an impact on the fuel efficiency of your RV. To that end, think about the gear that you’re taking with you. How much does it weigh? Can you buy a lighter version of that gear? Is there a piece of gear that could serve multiple purposes so that you don’t have to bring along tons of items to take care of something that only needs one simple item to work?
Also consider driving with your water tanks empty. This is attainable if you’re camping at a campground with full electrical, water, and sewage hook-ups. Consider camping at a campground that has access to those types of campsites to save yourself a bit of money at the pump.
Saving some money on fuel for your RV can be a pretty easy and straight forward task when you know what you’re doing! Regardless of the size of your RV, there are plenty of things you can do to make sure that your wallet doesn’t suffer every time you need to fill your RV up.
Consider your driving habits and where you drive to avoid using excessive amounts of fuel. Pack your RV lightly so that you can maximize how far you can go on a single tank of fuel. And if you’re in the market to buy or rent an RV, consider your needs and where you plan on going. Sometimes bigger isn’t always better when it comes to RVs. Get what you need and enjoy your camping trip!