Weekly, the question of gas vs diesel RV comes up in the Fulltime Families FB Group. When every penny counts, gas vehicles seem like a better deal, but are you really losing all that savings in the long run, because diesel burns more efficiently?

Editor’s Note: While this article addresses mostly motorhomes, all the facts below apply to diesel vs gasoline trucks in the case of towables. 

The folks at Paul Everts RV Country have chimed in on the Fulltime Families blog to help us all make well-informed decisions.

In this blog post, we’re going to explore one of the first questions that commonly come up when considering the purchase of an RV. Which is better, gas or diesel? The answer? Honestly, it’s up to you! It can go either way and depends greatly on who you are, where you’re going, what you have to spend, and what is most important to you. Let’s start by defining briefly what diesel and gasoline are, and how the engines for each differs.

Diesel has a strong odor and is a combustible petroleum distillate used as fuel for diesel engines. Diesel is a nonvolatile fuel, which means that it can be stored for long periods of time without evaporating and its vapors are not flammable.

Gasoline is a volatile, flammable liquid mixture of hydrocarbons, obtained from petroleum, and used as fuel for internal combustion engines. Gasoline has a strong odor, and cannot be stored for a long time, as it evaporates. In a gasoline engine, fuel is mixed with air, compressed by pistons and ignited by sparks from spark plugs. In a diesel engine, however, the air is compressed first, and then the fuel is injected. Because air heats up when it’s compressed, the fuel ignites.

So, now that you know a little about “what’s what” and how they each work, how do you determine which one is best for you and your family?

Gas vs Diesel RVs - Fulltime Families

Photo credit by IADE-Michoko

Well, there are pros and cons to each, and only by doing some in-depth research and having a solid vision of what your intentions for travel are, will you find the answer for yourself. There are many advantages to having a diesel engine. Diesel engines have more power which translates to more torque, and means better towing capacity and stronger uphill acceleration. This also means you’re able to have a larger RV if that is something you’re looking for. The more weight you load into your RV, or the more you want to tow (think boats/cars/trailers) the more power you need, and a diesel engine will be the most cost-effective way to do this. Also, diesel engines are built to handle a more intense, long-distance type of driving than gas engines are. This means that if you’re using your RV full time
and moving a lot, or you are driving very long distances, a diesel engine will handle the workload better and will also hold up longer than a gas engine would be making like trips.

When maintained properly, diesel engines typically last about twice as long as a gasoline engine. Some of the disadvantages of a diesel engine are that a diesel-powered vehicle is going to cost you substantially more upfront to purchase. Diesel is more expensive than gasoline, costing anywhere from thirty cents to a dollar more per gallon depending on fluctuations and where you are geographically. You cannot always find diesel readily available at all service stations when needed, and therefore you must plan your trips carefully so as not to be stranded with no diesel available.

Cold weather can cause problems for diesel engines, and because of the more complex engine, you cannot take diesel to a regular mechanic for repairs. You’ll need a truck mechanic, and this will be much more costly to maintain and repair. Now, some pros to owning a gasoline-powered RV. A gasoline-powered RV is going to cost you less money upfront to purchase. Regular maintenance and fixes can be done by just about any repair shop, which can
be very important if you need repairs while out on the road. Someone with a little bit of technical knowledge and mechanical experience can take care of many of the minor maintenance issues on their own, potentially saving quite a bit of money over time. Gasoline costs less per gallon than diesel, and of course, you can find your gasoline at every service station. However, with a gasoline-powered engine, you do not have the power and torque of a diesel, and you may struggle with acceleration power through mountainous areas or if you are towing anything at all. The engine will suck a lot of gas to try to pull its weight on inclines, etc., and will burn through your fuel faster than a diesel would. Lastly, when purchasing a gas-powered RV, you may have to sacrifice a bit of luxury, as the larger, longer, more luxurious RV’s tend to be diesel to accommodate their weight and size.

Now that we’ve given you a few things to think about, and some information to get you started, it’s up to you to make the very personal choice as to which is the best option for you and your family. If you are dreaming of a large, luxurious motorhome to spend a lot of time driving through mountain passes, while towing your fishing boat, then a diesel is the way to go. But, if you are looking for a smaller, more affordable, easier to maintain RV, to use mostly on relatively flat land, then gasoline is likely the right choice for you. In the end, it all comes down to cost, convenience, and your plans for your RV’ing lifestyle.

If you would like more information on finding the RV that’s perfect for you, please come see us at RV Country.

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