Update: May 6th 2020
What are the best RVs for fuel economy? While there are exceptions for each class, on average Class B motorhomes, or Camper Vans, are the most fuel-efficient RVs with an industry average of 18-25 miles per gallon. Class C motorhomes are next with an average of 14-18 mpg, with Class A motorhomes coming in third at 7-13 mpg. My suspicion though is that the question you are actually asking is what is the best fuel efficient RV “for me”, and that is a little more involved answer. There are many factors to consider when shopping for the best fuel economy including brand reputation and overall cost of ownership. Maybe the most important factor is how you’ll be using your RV, because each class does have a specific set of features that appeals to a different type of camper. The good thing about the variety of RVs offered by the industry is that whether you plan to take a few short trips a year, an extended annual vacation, or it’s going to be your new residence at least part time, there is a fuel-efficient RV for you. We scoured the internet far and wide and we have compiled a list of the consensus top performers.
Let’s start in alphabetic order by vehicle class, sorting our selection of the best fuel economy motorhomes by the average mpg.
Best MPG Class A RV–
Class A RVs are traditionally the largest offerings in the industry in terms of physical size, and therefore thanks to the laws of physics they do not lead the pack in mpg. Their size can make them harder to navigate in urban conditions, but often a tow car or dinghy alleviates that issue. Class A Motorhomes are often designed for long term use once you have reached your destination, and not a variety of short weekend trips over the course of a year. Therefore, the focus is on creature comforts that seek to make your stay more comfortable, much more like a high-end resort versus a tent. King beds, residential appliances, and residential furniture are all designed to make your experience more enjoyable. Unfortunately these features often add overall weight which is the enemy of fuel efficiency. However, some Class A offerings are more fuel efficient than others.
Newmar Dutch Star – 8 to 11 MPG
One of the RV industry’s most iconic names from one of the most iconic manufacturers, the 2020 Dutch Star is available in 13 unique floor plans which combine high-end features and amenities, elegant styling, and plenty of power. With all this to offer, it’s easy to see why Dutch Star has remained Newmar’s best-selling coach for several years in a row, and one of North America’s most popular diesel coaches, too. The Comfort Drive Steering system, Newmar terms it “the ultimate driving experience”, makes driving one of these large coaches remarkably easy, reducing driver fatigue and helping the motorhome track true down the road with computer aided steering. And you can count on each and every Dutch Star being 100% custom built and handcrafted because Newmar believes that “Quality Results Take Quality Time”.
Thor Palazzo – 10 MPG (up to 12.9 in ideal circumstances)
The Palazzo has four different floor plan options that are all unique with features specifically designed to maximize your enjoyment and meet your needs on the road and at the campground. This diesel pusher Class A is engineered with your comfort in mind, so whichever floor plan was made to fit you, you’ll feel at home no matter where the road may take you. Built on the tried and true Freightliner XC-S chassis with the Atlas Foundation system and powered by the Cummins ISB 6.7L diesel engine, this attractive Class A is as powerful and reliable as it is attractive. The air ride suspension and leatherette captain’s chairs make this coach comfortable to drive and comfortable to camp in. Couple the industry tested drive train with a luxurious interior, name brand residential appliances, and a multitude of entertaining options and you have the formula for an industry leading diesel pusher, the Palazzo!
Of course, these are diesel powered coaches which are often the highest mpg motorhome in their class, providing up to a 30% boost in fuel economy when compared to a gas engine. The Mercedes Sprinter chassis is great example of this, and we will see that when we talk about Camper vans here in just a moment. The fact of the matter though is if you stay in the larger, more residential style Class A motorhomes you are not going to find any real wild swings in fuel consumption between brands or models, no matter if it is a gas powered or diesel powered RV.
Best mpg Camper Van (Class B RV) –
Class B RVs, or Camper Vans, are a favorite of outdoor adventurers but are also a favorite of RVers who want a smaller motorhome that is easy to maneuver in urban areas and even park in your own driveway. They are built on a van chassis that has not been modified like a Class C. They utilize an existing work type van body and build a self-contained RV within its constraints. The size constraints mean in some models you will find a wet bath vs dry and a fold down bed vs fixed, but they are engineered to offer the same camping experience as the larger RVs on a smaller scale.
Roadtrek Sprinter RS Adventurous – 20 MPG
Beautiful clean lines, stunning color options and subtle finishes make the RS Adventurous a sight to be seen. Built on the renowned Mercedes-Benz Sprinter Chassis and designed for life on the open road, the RS Adventurous makes taking in the sights an enjoyable and comfortable experience for all. It is large enough to hold all your travel essentials while small enough to let you enjoy ease of parking and driving no matter where your journey may take you.
Winnebago Travato 59G – 20 MPG
The Travato is the top-selling Camper Van in North America for a reason. Several reasons, actually. Not only is it from one of the best known and longest tenured RV manufacturers, it’s built on the Ram ProMaster van chassis. Energy and fuel-efficient systems make the most of the Travato’s ample power. And streamlined features are designed to keep you traveling even when the elements – and the road – are less than forgiving. Extend camping season with the fuel-efficient Truma Combi Eco Plus heating, above-floor waterlines, heated tanks, roof and sidewall insulation and available dual-pane acrylic insulated windows.
Best mpg Class C RV-
Class C RVs are often the choice of younger families because they are more affordable to purchase and maintain but still offer the home away from home benefits like a fixed bed and full lavatory. Class C motorhomes traditionally offer ample sleeping options, and can pull a car or boat with relative ease. They are built on what is called a “cut away chassis”, usually meaning the motorhome started its life as a van with the back half removed. This means they are smaller and more easily maneuvered than the larger Class A offerings, but they have not had to sacrifice creature comforts for size constraints, like the Camper Vans mentioned above. These vehicles are more designed for a variety of short weekend trips over the course of a year, than long extended stays, but can serve nicely on extended camping trips as well.
Winnebago Navion Motorhome – 18 MPG
This Class C Motorhome from Winnebago has been a fuel economy favorite for years; getting 18-20 miles per gallon! The Winnebago Navion is proof that good things come in powerful, efficient packages. Built on the proven Mercedes-Benz Sprinter chassis, but featuring body modifications for improved accommodations, the Navion is available in three floorplans. Each floorplan has a driver side slide out that expands your living space with the touch of a button. A full galley makes meal prep a pleasure, while swivel cab seats provide added seating options in the lounge and dining area. Each floorplan features a different bedroom layout in order to fit your unique lifestyle. Follow your own road without sacrificing the finer things in life, in the Winnebago Navion.
Winnebago View – 16.5 MPG
Also built on a modified Mercedes Sprinter chassis and featuring three unique floorplans the Winnebago View is as versatile as it is attractive. Showcasing boundless freedom combined with upscale comfort, the View is designed to create memories that last lifetimes. With luxurious details and features throughout, the View’s industry-leading amenities promise an unparalleled Class C experience. The diesel-powered Mercedes-Benz Sprinter chassis includes advanced safety features like active brake assist, lane keeping assist, and the MBUX touchscreen infotainment system with interactive voice interface, navigation, Wi-Fi hotspot and more.
We would be remiss if we did not touch on the vast array of towable RVs available from the industry today. Granted, a towable RV does not have an engine of their own, and therefore miles per gallon do not apply directly. However, you can affect the fuel efficiency of the tow vehicle depending on the type of towable you choose.
Lightweight Travel Trailers
The RV Manufacturers have a number of light weight RVs marketed under brands like “Ultra Lite”, “Hyper-lyte”, “Super-Lite”, and “Extreme-Lite”. Of course, Manufacturers recognize that a huge market opportunity exists to sell trailers to folks who own an SUV and light-duty truck. They want to produce products that will comply with towing specifications for as many vehicles as possible while ensuring the trailer will not push the tow vehicle too much during braking.
The primary factor affecting trailer weight is the length of the coach. Most light weight travel trailers range in length from 22’ – 30’ long and weigh under 6,000 pounds. Most of these lengths can be easily towed by any half ton and greater pickup without worrying too much about torpedoing your fuel economy. This is not to say that some configurations (ie. a 30’ long trailer with two slides, tanks full, and a half ton, gas powered pickup) won’t have noticeable fuel mileage and performance loss, but most configurations will pleasantly surprise you how little loss to fuel economy there is.
As you can see in the charts below, we’ve compared the length and weight of a number of affordable “ultra-lite” type trailers to one another and also to trailers over 30’ long (with and without the “ultra-lite” badge). The shorter the length of the trailer, the lower the weight. This is great for fuel economy but there can be fewer amenities (ie. number of beds, tank sizes, insulation).
Trailer weight becomes a real factor for light duty pickups, cargo vans and especially SUV’s. That being said, a 6,000 pound trailer should be easily towable by most half ton pickups but please consult your owner’s manual to ensure you do not overload your tow vehicle with a trailer that is too heavy. Guaranty has a handy link to a trailer towing guide here. In the case of SUV’s, many of them have tow capacities under 5,000 pounds. Fortunately, there are many trailers available for that weight restriction. You will need to trade off length of the trailer (ie. size) and slide-outs (often called bump-outs) in order to get the RV dream, but that may not be a huge factor depending on the amenities you require (ie. living space, beds, tank sizes). The author enjoys kicking the kids out to sleep in the tent so he can get a good night sleep anyway.
Trailers under 20’ long are a great option for SUV’s or non-heavy duty cargo vans. As you can see in this handy chart of various trailers under 20’ long, the weight falls well within typical tow capacity of an SUV according to Trailer Life’s Tow Guide. Assuming a V6 engine or greater for the tow vehicle, the fuel mileage loss, although noticeable, will be much better than you might expect.
It’s worth noting that you will not likely notice any difference in fuel economy if you’re using a one-ton pickup to tow a 30’ trailer or less. Same is true for truck campers. Unless you’re towing a toy hauler (heavier duty structural steel), large fifth wheel or trailer over 30’ long, you will typically weigh under 6,000 pounds dry (ie. without the water tanks full and luggage). Weights under 6,000 pounds might be noticeable to the driver of a one ton pickup but typically it’s hard to tell there’s even a trailer behind you that is being towed. There is virtually no performance loss (ie. ability to accelerate/decelerate or corner) and it would be equally difficult to notice less miles per gallon. With a ¾ ton pickup and a light weight trailer, there could be a slight loss in fuel mileage but it’s not usually very noticeable. For instance, with a diesel ¾ ton pickup you would be hard pressed to notice more than a couple miles per gallon less fuel economy. Of course, how you drive (ie. fast, slow), the grade of the surface (uphill or flat) and whether your RV has all the water tanks full, will affect mileage.
Best Fuel-Efficient RV –
As we conclude our list of the best RVs for mpg a few patterns arise. Diesel options are often the most fuel efficient, and size reduces fuel efficiency. Winnebago does a good job of offering fuel efficient RVs in all the classes, but they are not the only manufacturer to offer fuel efficient options. But, as we surmised at the beginning, any RV search is really about which Class of RV is right for your unique circumstances. Maybe you only take a couple weekends trips a year, but during the holidays and for football tailgate season you need as much room for your friends and family as you can get. Then a Class A might be the better choice even though you may not fit the traditional Class A owner demographic. The same can be said across all the classes and that is why we suggest knowing your camping style and then look for the one of the motor homes, or towables, listed above that suits your needs.