RV Gas Mileage: How to Get the Most Bang For Your Buck – Part 1

Here at Guaranty RV, we’re excited that lower gas prices are getting more and more RVers out on the highways and into the campgrounds of America. But we also know that fuel efficiency is always a concern when it comes to RVing—making camping and road trips both comfortable and affordable is at the core of why we love RVs. No matter what gas prices are doing at the moment, we want to make sure our customers know how to choose their perfect RV with the best possible fuel economy in mind.

At the end of 2014, the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association commissioned a study on RV Vacation Cost. Not surprisingly, the study showed that RV vacations cost significantly less than other forms of travel, even when you factor in fuel prices that were significantly higher in 2014 than they are now. The study looked at two hypothetical vacations—one with a couple and their two children, and another with two adults—in nine different scenarios lasting three to fourteen days, and took into account all the major costs of taking a vacation. They looked at folding campers, lightweight travel trailers and a variety of motorhome types. RV travel came out ahead in every category in regard to overall vacation cost, even when taking ownership costs and fuel into account.

The key to this kind of vacation success is doing your research and really thinking about what your family needs. So if you’re in the market to purchase a first RV or upgrade your existing model, and fuel efficiency is important in your decision making process, read on for some things to consider.

Lifestyle vs. Economy: MPG Isn’t the Only Consideration
There are obviously a number of factors that go into fuel efficiency in an RV, including RV size, weight, age and the type of fuel your motorhome or tow vehicle uses. It’s easy to say that a smaller, lighter RV is going to get you better gas mileage, whether you’re driving a motorhome or towing a travel trailer. But that doesn’t take into account the balance between lifestyle and economy—the math isn’t as simple as savings-at-the-dealership + savings-at-the-pump = RV-happiness. The key to the RV satisfaction equation is getting the right RV for you, both in terms of economy and lifestyle. This gets more complicated as we age and our families change. For example, when the kids were small and you needed plenty of room for those family camping trips, the most cost-saving and effective RV might have been a simple pop-up camper with loads of sleeping options that you could tow behind your SUV or minivan… and that might even be a perfect camping solution for some of us for the rest of our lives. But once the kids are grown and it’s just the two of you, there are other options that may be more ideal, and it’s important to think about those as your needs change. You need to consider how much MPG is worth to you personally, and you need to factor in upkeep, living space and usability.

The truth is, if you’re not happy in your RV, you won’t use it as regularly as you would otherwise, and what a waste of good money to have your RV sitting in your driveway instead of at a great campground! When we talk about living space and usability, we’re not just talking about the square footage you’ll get in that awesome travel trailer or motorhome. Do you have good kitchen storage? Is the shower big enough? Do you have a walk-around bed for easy access? Do you need space for a CPAP machine? Is the TV in a good spot for viewing? In other words, is it a space that feels good to be in and works well for you? The easier it is to use your RV, the more you’ll use it and get your money’s worth out of it, whether gas prices are high or low.

Similarly, upkeep can mean a lot of things beyond the usual yearly maintenance items that RVs require. In motorhomes, for example, diesel engines, which often provide better fuel efficiency and last hundreds of thousands of miles, usually require more maintenance to keep them running in top form. The same thing can be said about your tow vehicle in the case of travel trailers, fifth wheels and pop-up campers—even if you purchase a super lightweight towable that should give you the best in fuel economy, you’ve got to keep up on the maintenance of your tow vehicle or your MPG will suffer dramatically when you get that extra weight behind it. As engines age, their efficiency deteriorates, so take into account things such as the cost of engine maintenance and tire replacement when you’re figuring out which RV is right for you. You don’t want to purchase something based on fuel economy alone that will wind up disappointing you in the long run because of constant maintenance costs.

Pre-Owned vs. New
It’s always a good idea to check out pre-owned inventory when you’re considering an RV purchase because you can often find that perfect towable, motorhome or truck camper at the best price. But remember that the age of your RV is also a big factor when it comes to fuel economy. Generally, newer models are going to be built to be more fuel efficient and require less maintenance. Of course, there are some exceptions to this rule, but if fuel efficiency is key to your purchase decision and you’re looking at pre-owned models, you may want to limit your search to newer RVs in order to cash in on the more recent innovations in weight and fuel efficiency. Although you may pay more up front, the savings in fuel and maintenance can actually be key to long term affordability.

With all of this in mind, come back again next week when we’ll look at different types of RVs and the ones that get the best gas mileage in their class. And feel free to give us a call If you have any questions.

Be sure to check out part 2 of our blog for more information.

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