How Rising Gas Prices and RV MPG Impact the Cost of Your RV Vacation
Traveling in an RV can cut vacation costs by up to 62%, even when fuel and other expenses are factored in. But increasing gasoline prices may affect your travel budget and plans going forward. Here, we’ll learn everything you need to know about RV MPG, as well as how the fuel price spike will impact your upcoming trips.
In addition, we have prepared an RV MPG chart that compares the gas mileage of different types of motorhomes and towables.
We’ll also walk you through factors that affect RV fuel economy and show you a few tips to save money.
Let’s get started.
What is RV MPG?
RV MPG stands for miles per gallon. Put simply, it’s the distance, measured in miles, that an RV can travel per gallon of fuel. For instance, if you have a rig that returns 20 mpg and its fuel tank only has one gallon of gas or diesel in it, you’ll drive a distance of 20 miles before it runs out of fuel.
The Increasing Fuel Price is Putting a Renewed Focus on RV MPG
The rising fuel prices have brought RV MPG into focus. The nationwide average for regular gas is now $3.36 a gallon (February 28, 2023, according to AAA). Moreover, it’s diesel prices have soared, with the national average being $4.41/gallon. In contrast, U.S. regular retail gasoline prices averaged $2.17 per gallon in 2020 and $3.01 in 2021.
Since it now costs more to fill up the rig’s fuel tank, seasoned, newbie, and prospective RVers are now scrutinizing the MPG of different RVs before making travel decisions. Without question, those who own campers with low RV miles per gallon are feeling the pinch of high fuel costs more than those with highly efficient rigs. So, if you’re planning to buy a new camper in the near future, it’s time to put a greater emphasis on RV fuel mileage.
While RV MPG is an important budget factor to consider, the best way to save money on RVing is to rent one. Definitely, the cost to rent an RV is cheaper than owning one outright. On top of that, renting means you can always pick the latest and most fuel-efficient RV model.
Average RV Gas Mileage
Learning the RV average miles per gallon of different classes of motorhomes and towables will help you create a more accurate travel budget. Indeed, the numbers below will also allow you to discover the best RVs in terms of low fuel expenses. Keep reading to know what kind of fuel economy each RV kind gets.
Motorhome Gas Mileage
Motorhomes are the RVs that feature an engine that powers them, so they don’t need a tow vehicle. Here’s the gas mileage of different motorhome classes.
Class A RV MPG
Class A RVs resemble a bus. They are traditionally the largest and most luxurious offerings in the industry, with a length of 26 to 45 feet. Expectedly, they do not lead the pack in mpg, due to their size and weight. They see about 6-8 miles per gallon on average. Furthermore, their gas tanks have a capacity of about 70 to over 100 gallons.
Class B RV MPG
Also known as campervans, Class B RVs are the smallest of the motorized RVs. With a length of 15 to 26 feet, they are easy to maneuver and park even in tight areas. They offer the best fuel economy, with 15-18 miles per gallon on average. Usually, their tanks hold about 25 gallons of fuel, depending on the manufacturer.
Class C RV MPG
Class Cs are the compromise between Class A and B motorhomes. They are built on a van frame or truck chassis and measure between 21 and 41 feet in length. Class Cs get substantially better gas mileage with 10-14 average MPG. Generally, their fuel tanks hold somewhere between 30 and 70 gallons.
Towable RVs MPG
Towables are RVs that you pull behind your truck or tow vehicle. They don’t have an engine of their own, and therefore miles per gallon do not apply directly. However, the fuel efficiency of your tow vehicle is affected depending on the type of towable you pick.
Small Trailer RV MPG (Less than 25 Feet)
Trailers come in different sizes; the smallest include teardrop trailers, pop-up campers, and some travel trailers. Basically, the mileage of these campers depends on the size of the towable and the capacity and power of the tow vehicle. Expect a small trailer under 24 feet long to have an MPG of 16.
Big Trailer RV MPG (More than 25 Feet)
Big towables, such as toy haulers and large fifth wheels, will obviously cost more to run. Ordinarily, expect an average of 12 miles per gallon. The bigger it is, the more gas or diesel it consumes.
RV MPG and Cost for Average Trip ($USD)
Below is an RV MPG chart to help you figure out the cost of your trip.
|Class A Motorhome
|Class B Van
|Class C Motorhome
|Small Trailer (< 25 ft)
|Large Trailer (25+ ft)
* Assumed MPG of combined highway (80%) and city (20%) mileage for gas engine for 2020+ year models.
Note 1: A diesel engine would improve fuel economy by about 25%.
Note 2: MPG for trailers include an average tow vehicle.
Note 3: $3.14 gas price as of December 12, 2023.
Factors that Affect RV Fuel Economy
Apart from the size of the RV, there are many other factors that Affect RV MPG. Let’s take a look.
Generally, the heavier and larger the motorhome is, the worse the gas mileage. And the more weight the tow vehicle has to pull, the more its engine works, leading to increased fuel consumption. Note that the extra weight of the supplies, gear, and full water tanks will affect the mileage.
The constant fluctuation of speed will pull harder on your engine because it has to adjust to each variation, resulting in worse gas mileage. The optimal speed for maximum fuel efficiency in an RV is from 55 to 60 miles per hour. Anything faster or slower will negatively affect the gas mileage.
The front-end shape of an RV also plays a key role in the gas mileage you get. Specifically, a camper with a sloped hood and window and a smooth transition to the roof of the vehicle will allow the wind to pass with minimum drag, ensuring you get better gas mileage.
Road grade can help to increase or reduce your gas mileage. For instance, your RV’s MPG will increase progressively as you travel from uphill to a flat road grade to downhill. Steep and winding roads will harm mileage.
Driving into a strong headwind will affect the force needed to pull your rig forward, thus increasing gas consumption. However, your gas mileage may improve if you’re driving with a tailwind.
Your RV’s maintenance is another factor that affects the efficiency of the vehicle. For example, a tune-up can improve your gas mileage by 20%. So, change engine oil and air filters as recommended and get a tune-up at least once annually.
Hacks for Maximizing RV Gas Mileage
Record fuel prices don’t mean you have to cancel your trip or drastically change your camping plans. Use these tips to hack your way to better gas mileage.
Rent or Buy a Fuel-Efficient RV
If you own a fuel-guzzling RV, downsize to something smaller and/or better on gas mileage. Without a doubt, renting will obviously help you save more on gas since you can easily find campers with excellent fuel economy.
Keep Your Weight in Check
A heavily loaded RV will need more fuel to burn. So, carry fewer items, avoid traveling with full water tanks, and rent heavy gear closer to your destination.
Refine Your Driving Style
Aggressive acceleration and deceleration work against good gas mileage. Make slow stops and starts, use cruise control, and limit idling time.
Plan Your Routes
Avoid roads passing through congested city centers or those that experience snarl-ups, as idling affects fuel economy. Also, avoid steep, bumpy, winding, and unpaved roads as your engine will lose efficiency.
Take Advantage of RVing Apps
Use an app like Gas Buddy to discover the cheapest gas stations near you. Moreover, there are also route planning routes to help you find the most RV-friendly and uninterrupted routes that save your fuel.
Check Tire Pressure
Certainly, tire pressure has a huge effect on your miles per gallon ratio. Keep your tires at the proper pressure and check the tires for wear and tear. Preferably, use a tire pressure monitoring system.
Travel Closer to Home
Visiting destinations closer to home (aka, nearcation) and staying there longer will help you drastically reduce your fuel expenses.
Tour and Do Your Errands In a Tow Vehicle or Dinghy
Leaving your large motorhome or travel trailer at the campground and exploring with your more fuel-efficient dinghy car or tow vehicle can save you money at the pump.
Install an RV Fuel Economy Chip
Lastly, investing in a quality fuel economy chip can help you stretch out each gallon of fuel. This device monitors your driving habits and delivers wasted energy directly to the engine, simultaneously improving fuel efficiency and horsepower.
Estimate How Much You’ll Spend With an RV Gas Mileage Calculator
The rising cost of fuel is becoming a major deterrent for many people planning RV vacations. Fortunately, there are many ways to determine your trip costs, so you can prepare financially. One brilliant option to estimate how much you’ll spend on gas is to use an RV fuel cost calculator.
While it will give you an educated guess, you’ll also need to understand there are other factors that affect fuel economy, such as weight, speed, grade, wind, and the RV’s condition. But if you want to be in control of how much you spend on gas, consider traveling in a rental RV.
Renting an RV gives you the chance to pick the most fuel-efficient camper on the market!