Fuel is typically the largest or second largest expense in an RV vacation. We use several strategies to help reduce that fuel cost. This article will highlight those tips we use as well as a couple that others use to help control fuel costs when hauling a towable or driving a motorhome.
The primary tip we have to reduce fuel costs is to slow down. RV travel is about both the journey and the destination. Slow down and enjoy the scenery as you drive between locations.
Slowing down while driving will also save wear and tear on your RV. There are some studies that show if you cut your speed by 10 miles per hour, can improve fuel efficiency by up to 25%, particularly with a diesel engine. With this in mind, we rarely drive over 60 miles per hour even when on the highway. We have friends that will try to keep up with that left lane traffic, but we would rather go slow, enjoy the scenery, and keep the extra dollars in our pocket.
Keeping up with the preventive maintenance on your vehicle will also help with saving on fuel costs. Follow the recommended maintenance schedule for your RV and/or tow or towed vehicles. Many of them have recommended fluid change schedules. It is a good idea to follow them. Additionally, getting a fluid analysis performed on your vehicle annually will let you know if you need to implement different maintenance schedules on your fluids including engine oil, transmission fluid, and coolant. J.G. Lubricants is a company that can perform this analysis. We equate it to getting blood and urine collected during your annual medical physical. They analysis can pinpoint problems that are not yet obvious and you can correct them before they become major problems and improve your fuel economy.
Maintaining the appropriate tire pressure for all of your tires will also improve fuel efficiency. Check your pressures before every trip and monitor them as you go.
A great investment is a tire pressure monitoring system. This will allow you to monitor the pressures and temperatures of the tires while you are driving. Not only does this help detect problems with the tires, it also assists in keeping the tires at the appropriate pressures saving you money in your fuel costs.
Find the Best Price
There are several Apps and discount programs you can use to save on your fuel costs. We use Gas Buddy to compare prices in the area and are able to go to a fuel station that offers the lowest price. This app is free and can save you hundreds of dollars. You can also earn points towards gas when you enter fuel prices. As an example, we were in Tucson, Arizona and the price of diesel varied by as much as 50 cents per gallon within a five-mile radius. Near Long Beach, California, using the app, we found a 46 cent difference in diesel prices in a three-mile radius. When the average price is $4 per gallon, a 46 cent savings in huge.
There is a new app called Get Upside that offers rebates if you get fuel at participating stations. We have used this on the East coast. As of the writing of this article, the app had participating stations in Texas, Florida, DC, Maryland, Virginia, Delaware, North Carolina, South Carolina and New York. To participate, download the app, claim your offer for the best gas price, pay with any credit or debit card, and snap a photo of your receipt through the app. Once you receive the threshold in your account, you can get the money back through PayPal, cash, or gift cards. Some restaurants and grocery stores also participate.
If you have to use truck stops, become a Good Sam member and the Pilot RV Plus Cards one of the best ways to save money on fuel and other RV-related products. Some of the benefits include:
- $.10 off each gallon of bulk propane at Pilot Flying J,
- ½ off RV dumping fee at Pilot Flying J,
- exclusive coupons and special deals from Pilot Flying J,
- discounts of at least $.05 off every gallon of gas and $.08 off every gallon of diesel in the United States.
- discounts of at least $.01 off every liter of gas and $.01 off every liter of diesel in Canada.
There is also a Pilot/Flying J app that is handy to use when driving. It allows you to see where the closest Pilot/Flying J is to your location and the amenities at the location including RV lanes, dump station, and propane.
If you have diesel there are two options on Fleet Cards (same as the over-the-road truckers use). They can really help you save tons on every fill-up using them. These have to be used in the diesel truck lanes, but we actually prefer those lanes anyway with our fifth wheel. TSD Logistics has the better savings of the two cards, but some folks have told us that there aren’t as many locations that take it. We haven’t found that to be a problem, but we do stick to interstates more often. They have a great app you can use on the go to find stations that accept it. We’ve seen savings range from $0.20 to $0.60 off per gallon. Another program is My Diesel Savings. We haven’t personally used this one, but friends of ours recommend it. The savings are typically around $0.05 to $0.15 per gallon and they don’t have an app, just a website.
External Fuel Tanks
To avoid paying the higher fuel costs associated with truck stops and Interstate gas stations, some RVers that tow with a pickup truck choose to install an external fuel tank in the bed of the truck. The extra fuel can get them between destinations. It is then possible to unhook the trailer or fifth wheel at the campsite and use an app like Gas Buddy to find the best price for fuel. This is a great way to save on fuel costs as long as you are able to make the initial investment in the cost of the external tank.
When you get to your location, get out and walk or use bikes when practical. We were staying at an RV park in Tucson that had over 600 spots. Several people drive to the pool or up to the restaurant instead of walking or riding a bike. We walk. By doing this, we get to meet people and it saves fuel.
Some RV parks offer shuttles to attractions or are near public transportation. Take advantage of these. Not only will it save you on fuel, but it will also save you on parking costs.
Learn More Money Saving Tips
There are probably 100 other ways to save fuel, but these are some of the tips we use. Hopefully, a couple are useful to you and you are able to save a few bucks on this expensive part of RVing.
We also created a program called Full-Time RV Finance to help you save money and get control of your finances while traveling full-time. Learn the process we used to pay off $137,000 in only 2 years!
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