One of the greatest debates for new RVers, and seasoned RVers alike, has to be the impossible to settle Gas vs. Diesel!  Is a Diesel RV better than a Gas RV?

We take this question head on in what we’re calling the RV Smackdown Gas Vs. Diesel.  We sat down with the Fleetwood design and engineering team, chatted about our take on Gas vs. Diesel and told them we wanted to shoot a simple, easy to understand video that put a Gas RV head-to-head with a Diesel RV in the hopes of making a simple comparison that any potential buyer would understand.

diesel vs gas

For our comparison we’ve selected a gas powered 33C Bounder and a diesel powered 33D Excursion, both motorhomes are 2015 models.  We selected these 2 RVs because they’re about as similar as you can get in length, layout and features.  To keep this comparison simple I’ve narrowed it down to what I think are the top 6 differences between these RV’s.

1. Front vs. Rear Engine

Gas RV

Diesel RV

  • The engine is in the front which is louder and produces more heat in the driver’s area.  This can be a good thing in the winter but a bad thing in the summer.
  • Having a conversation in here isn’t a problem; you just have to speak up a bit, especially during acceleration or climbing hills.  Once you’ve reached cruising speed it’s not so bad.
  • Because of the noise you may want to upgrade the speakers in the driver’s area if you want to hear the music while driving. You should also invest in a noise cancelling Bluetooth headset if you need to make phone calls while en-route.
  • The doghouse that covers the engine can be a nuisance when entering and exiting the driver’s area.
  • With the engine in the front the generator is mounted closer to the bedroom, which means sleeping and running the generator at the same time might be a problem if you’re a light sleeper, for us a generator hum can actually be soothing as it drowns out other noises.
  • The rear engine keeps the cabin quiet making the drive a little more peaceful, but there will always be road noise, squeaks, creaks and vibrating pots that will make themselves know during travel.
  • Talking with your co-pilot during acceleration is not a yelling match, which is nice.
  • The speakers are crap in almost all RVs (its true, the only awesome sound system we’ve seen in person from the factory was in an American Coach at the Louisville RV Show) so if you’re an audiophile and want to really jam you’ll still need to replace the speakers, but if you’re cheap and lazy like us you can at least hear the music in the Excursion.
  • No doghouse here but there is a step up in the bedroom so you lose some headroom if you’re over 6’ it may be an issue.
  • With the engine in the back the generator is up front which is great for sleeping, but other than that there’s not much of a benefit here.

 

2. Power

Gas RV

Diesel RV

  • Ford 6.8 Liter V-10 Engine; Torque 457lb-ft @ 3250 rpm; horsepower 362hp
  • Torqshift Transmission with 5 gears
  • Hitch Rating 5,000 pounds
  • Engine runs at higher RPMs making the driver’s area lounder and warmer and decreases the longevity of the engine. (both gas or diesel engines should way outlast the “RV House”)
  • Tow/Haul Mode helps reduce gear hunting and uses the engine to help control vehicle speed when descending hills.  It “helps” but its no match for a long steep grades.
  • Mountain Speeds – 6% incline for 1 mile average speed of 30 mph.
  • Cummins 6.7 liter Engine; Torque 660lb-ft @ 1600 rpm; horsepower 300hp
  • Allison Transmission with 6 Gears
  • Hitch Rating 10,000 pounds
  • Engine doesn’t work as hard (lower RPMs) so there’s less wear and tear.
  • Engine will last longer.  (both gas or diesel engines should way outlast the “RV House”)
  • Engine Brake/Engine Retarder makes descending steep grades (mountains) much safer.
  • Mountain Speeds – 6% incline for 1 mile average speed of 50 mph.

 

3. Chassis

Gas RV

Diesel RV

  • Ford F-Series Super Duty Motorhome Chassis
  • Multi-Leaf Springs and Shocks with variable-rate jounce bumpers – Ride is fine but the coach will roll, sway and bump a little more.
  • 50-degree wheel cut – good turning radius
  • Anti-lock Disc Brakes (ABS) – if hydraulic line is cut brakes will be lost.
  • Electronic Truck Horn
  • RV Sits higher from the ground
  • Feels like driving a Truck which can be stressful on long hauls.
  • Typical Ford truck gauges, controls and steering wheel.
  • FCCC Motorhome Chassis
  • Air Ride Suspension with Stabilizing Beams provides a smoother ride with less roll and sway.
  • 60-degree wheel cut – best turning radius
  • Air Brakes are a safety upgrade, when air is lost in the line the brakes will automatically engage to stop the RV.
  • Air Horn is louder for emergency
  • Dumping the Air bags makes leveling at the campground easier
  • RV sits lower to the ground
  • Feels like driving a “town car”, in my opinion it’s less stressful of a drive.
  • Upgraded controls and gauges

 

4. Fuel Economy

Gas RV

Diesel RV

  • 80 gallon tank
  • Less Fuel Efficient (estimated 8mpg)
  • Gas can be found everywhere
  • Gas is Less Expensive per gallon
  • Gas pumps can take a long time to fill up from empty to full (about 10 GPM).  Fill up should take around 8 minutes.
  • Gas Tank fill is located in the back of the RV near the middle to make fill-up easier, I’m not sold on just how easy it is to perfectly pull up to the pump and stop with the tiny pump hoses at typical gas stations.
  • No DEF necessary
  • 90 gallon tank
  • More Fuel Efficient (estimated 10mpg)
  • Diesel is “almost” everywhere
  • Diesel is more expensive per gallon
  • Truck diesel pumps are very fast (about 60 GPM).  Fill up should take under 2 minutes.
  • Dual Tank fill so it doesn’t matter which side of the pump you pull up to, or at truck stops you can fill from both sides at the same time!
  • Must use DEF in a separate tank for all newer engines to meet emissions regulations; DEF is often a hassle to locate, and it’s expensive.

 

5. RV Maintenance 

Gas RV

Diesel RV

  • Less Expensive to maintain – Both the hourly rates for technicians and the parts are usually less expensive.
  • Most any shop that can work on a Ford Truck can also work on the chassis side of a Gas RV.
  • Repairs are usually completed more quickly and greater access to parts nationwide.
  • If you’re handy you may be able to perform certain tasks such as oil change, fuel filter, brakes, etc.
  • Shorter service intervals meaning more stops for routine maintenance
  • Typical Oil change pricing
  • More repair costs in the long run because the engine is working harder at higher RPMs.
  • Ford cannot service the Cummins Generator
  • More Expensive to maintain – Specialized Diesel Chassis shops, parts and technicians equal higher rates and prices.
  • To work on this Chassis/engine you’ll need to locate a Freightliner and/or Cummins service center, there are plenty across the country but a fraction compared to the Ford Service Centers.
  • Don’t expect to work on this engine unless you’re a certified technician.
  • Can be driven further distances between service appointments which means more time travelling and less time in a shop.
  • Uses 3x more oil than a gas engine so an oil change isn’t cheap!

Service intervals are one of the biggest differences between these two RVs, here’s a snapshot of the regular maintenance schedule recommendations from each of the manufacturers:

Ford V10

FCCC ISB / Allison 2100

Engine Oil/Filter 6 months/7,500 miles
6 months/5,000 when towing
12 months / 15,000 miles
Transmission Oil 60,000 miles 4 years / 150,000 miles
Transmission Filter 60,000 miles 2 years / 50,000 miles
Engine Coolant 6 years / 105,000 miles 2 years / 60,000 miles
Air Filter 30,000 miles Air Filter Indicator
Spark Plugs 97,500 miles N/A
Fuel Filter No service required With Every Oil Change
Particulate Filter N/A Clean every 200,000 miles
DEF Filter N/A Replace every 200,000 miles

 

6. Purchase Price

Gas RV

Diesel RV

  • $133,805.00 Bounder 33c MSRP
  • Approximately 30% savings off MSRP
  • $192,478.00 Excursion 33d MSRP
  •  Historically better resale value


Now to be upfront and fully honest we’ve owned 3 different class A diesel RVs, we haven’t owned a gas RV unless you count our little VW Vanagon.  Although, our first “big” RV was a Damon Avanti front engine diesel that was built on a Workhorse chassis so it was very similar to the ford RV chassis that gas RV’s are built on (so what I’m trying to say is we’ve got a little experience with an RV that drives like a gas motorhome).

A few misconceptions we had about Gas vs. Diesel RVs:

  • We sat down with the Fleetwood engineering team to bounce our ideas off them for both the video and this more detailed article. We were surprised with their comments on a Gas RV; we assumed they’d say Diesel is the Best way to go, Gas sucks…Halfway through the our meeting the engineers were arguing amongst each other on which was better! I felt like we had behind-the-scenes access to a Siskel and Ebert movie review, it was truly an experience I won’t forget and it’s made us look at Gas RV’s completely differently.
  • We thought the build quality of a Gas RV was inferior to that of the Diesel RV, which isn’t true at all when comparing the Bounder and the Excursion. The walls, the structure, the amenities inside, combo washer-dryer all the way down to the TVs are almost identical in these two motorhomes. Now granted, many entry level RVs are not built to the quality standards of either of these two RVs, so our quality misconceptions aren’t entirely untrue.
  • Although a Diesel may perform better in the mountains a Gas engine can handle cold weather and high altitude better, something about DEF freezing, Compression Ratios, thinning fuel and a bunch of other stuff that was way over my head.

The quality and build of these 2 coaches are pretty similar, should you decide to go for gas you’re not getting a lower quality product it’s really just configured differently. For us when it comes to driving comfort, features and mountain performance the diesel wins hands down, but throw in the 30% price difference and the choice isn’t so clear cut for everyone. Really, it’s all about how and where you plan to travel.

 

So what works for you?  Share your thoughts and your RV model in the comments below, we’re seriously looking at testing out a Gas RV for our next home on wheels and we’d love to hear your thoughts.

 

Disclaimer – These comparisons are generalized differences between these two specific RV models. This article and video are for entertainment purposes only, and even though we discussed these differences with the Fleetwood team we are solely responsible for this content. A big thanks to Fleetwood RV for making this article and video possible. As always our opinions are our own.