Whether you’re in your RV a couple of weekends a year or you spend most of the year in your vehicle, your choice of fuel could affect your journey. Luckily it isn’t too difficult to figure out what type of fuel your machine needs and what works best for you. If you spend a lot of time on the open road, keeping that fuel tank filled is going to be a constant concern.
What kind of gas does an RV use? An RV uses unleaded gasoline or an unleaded gasoline/ethanol blend. Most manufacturers recommend no more than 15% ethanol in the fuel blend. Some RVs utilize diesel fuel which can be a more fuel-efficient option, though it may not be available in all areas. Always consult your vehicle manual before filling the tank for the first time.
While looking at different ethanol blends, diesel options and even Flex Fuel vehicles, it can be overwhelming when choosing the right fuel for your RV. It might even still give you pump-anxiety when you pull up to your first filling station when heading out towards adventure. Worry not. Once we’ve broken down the different kinds of fuel for you, it will all be made clear.
Gasoline Engines Are the Most Common
The market for second hand RVs is at an all-time high and the most abundant of those vehicles are powered by gasoline engines. This is good news for you because nearly anywhere you can drive, you can find gasoline.
If you keep an eye on that fuel gauge, you will never find yourself stranded from a lack of fuel. Regular unleaded gasoline with an octane rating of 87 is standard for most makes and models which is good news for your wallet.
Pros of Gasoline RVs
- Less expensive to purchase a gas vehicle – There are a lot of second-hand vehicles on the market for a great price.
- Less expensive to maintain – If something breaks it is going to be easier to get your machine into a mechanic, or even fix the problem yourself as less specialized knowledge and tools are required.
- Parts are less specialized and easier to find, even for older vehicles – There are a lot of parts on hand in most markets. You’re not going to have to dive onto eBay for that fabled fuel pump.
- Gasoline is cheaper and more widely available than diesel – Thanks to ethanol blends, gasoline goes a lot further than other fuel types and every station should have what you need.
Related reading: What is the Average MPG for an RV? Crucial Facts & Numbers
Cons of Gasoline RVs
- Less torque than diesel – Your vehicle is going to work harder to haul itself up steep inclines.
- Less torque means a harder working engine – This can lead to a louder engine and a less comfortable ride on those mountainous journeys.
- Ethanol mixes can cause issues in older machines – You may need to replace some lines, filters, and gaskets in the near future if using blended gasoline.
The takeaway here is that it is going to cost you less upfront and maybe even in the long run. A gasoline RV can make a great starter vehicle before you truly commit to the lifestyle.
Ethanol Content in Gasoline
Different fuel companies and their filling stations can utilize varying mixes of ethanol in their pumps. It is important to make sure you are filling your tank with the right blend. Lucky for you we’ve got a handy list of common blends and how they will affect your engine.
Note: Regular unleaded gasoline has no ethanol added and will say so at the pump.
This means that the blend is 9 parts gasoline and 1 part ethanol. It is a common complaint that using this fuel blend in older vehicles can cause damage to some of the old rubber parts as well as lines and filters.
You guessed it. 15 percent Ethanol with 85 percent Gasoline. This is the most common blend that you are going to see and this is increasing across all fuel companies. If you are hard-pressed to find Regular, this is your next best option in your older machines.
Flex Fuel, as it is commonly referred to, is a whopping 85% Ethanol derived from corn mixed with gasoline. Not a very common fuel type in RVs and most likely part of a custom build.
The good news is, if you accidentally fill your tank with Flex Fuel, one time, it should run fine and when the tank is topped off with regular or the correct blend, you should have nothing to worry about.
What About Diesel?
What about diesel, you ask? Diesel is the other great option for fueling your RV and an increasingly popular one at that. Diesel is commonly the fuel of choice for full-timers, those that plan to be on the road most or even all of the time. This fuel type certainly has its trade-offs.
Pros of Diesel Rvs
- Longer life – Diesel vehicle parts tend to last longer and perform better than their gasoline counterparts
- Can have higher resale value – Thanks to that longer life and less wear and tear, you can get a better price for your vehicle when you sell or upgrade
- More fuel economy – Less combustion means better efficiency, especially when a higher torque is required.
- Requires less maintenance and repairs – thanks to those more resilient and efficient design.
- More torque for climbing and towing – Better fuel efficiency in a lower RPM range can get you up that hill more easily.
Cons of Diesel RVs
- More expensive overall cost – Fewer options and a smaller second-hand market make it harder to find value vehicles.
- Diesel is more expensive and may not be available at fuel stations – Not all gas stations are set up with diesel pumps.
- Repairs and parts are more expensive – More specialized equipment requires more specialized knowledge when doing repairs and maintenance. You might not have a mechanic in town that can do the job.
- Parts can be harder to find – You may have to delve into eBay or the scrapyard for a part, which can be time-consuming and frustrating.
With a diesel vehicle, it is safe to say that you get more bang for your buck. If the lifestyle is one that you can’t seem to shake, perhaps a diesel machine will serve you well. Those that buy products to last will lean towards this option.
Which Fuel Type is Best?
Neither gasoline or diesel is inherently better than the other. With either vehicle, you are getting a great alternative to sleeping on the ground.
You’re going to get the same amount of living space, cab room, and overall a very similar experience. Afterall, an RV is best when it’s parked, engine is shut down and the chairs are put out beneath the shade.
It really comes down to your lifestyle and how much you use your vehicle. For weekend warriors and the budget-conscious, a gasoline-fueled machine is going to get you where you need to go without obliterating your bank account. And if you find yourself pretty handy, you may be able to keep it in tip-top shape on your own.
If retirement is in the books and the bank account can handle it, perhaps a diesel machine is the right choice, especially if the vehicle is going to see a lot of miles in its lifetime. It could help in the long run if you plan on exploring the inclines of the Rocky Mountains or perhaps the Appalachians.
Why We Bought a Gas RV Instead of a Diesel Pusher >> Check out the video below:
Take Care of Your RV and It Will Take Care of You
The best gas for your RV is the one that its engine is made for. There are trade-offs to all types, but make sure to check your owners manual to see the recommended gas. Then, drive off and enjoy the ride!
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