Buying Fuel Sucks and RV’s Suck Fuel
There’s nothing worse than riding the fuel price rollercoaster when your on a road trip in an RV, buying fuel sucks and RV’s suck a lot of fuel! However, not traveling because of fuel prices is a cockamamie excuse for not traveling. So here we tackle one of our top questions: How Much Does it Cost to Fill up That RV?
Let’s face it…if you are willing to make drastic changes to your travel plans or not go somewhere because of fuel prices, you didn’t really want to go in the first place. I’m sure that sounds harsh, but let’s look at the numbers: On a 1000 mile trip at 10mpg you would use 100 gallons of fuel. If prices shot up from $3 a gallon to $4 that’s only $100 extra. Is that really going to make or break your trip? So let’s ditch the excuses and talk about how to soften the blow. Here are our tips for saving fuel and improving your MPG.
Don’t rush and avoid interstates! Go easy on the accelerator. Interstates are typically 70+ mph and at that speed you burn fuel like crazy. In general each 5 mph you drive over 60 mph costs you anywhere from 7 – 23%. Plus, back roads and small towns are the heart beat of every country, so don’t blow by them on the interstate! Travel is equally as much about the journey as it is the destination.
Get rid of junk, you can’t afford the weight. For every extra 250lb’s of stuff you’re carrying you lose 1-2%. Same goes for fluid in your tanks, don’t drive with a full grey tank or black tank, and if you’re only driving for 1-2 days there’s no need to fill your freshwater to the max. If you’re wondering: 1 gallon of water weighs approximately 8 pounds.
Stay tuned. A well tuned engine is up to 10% more efficient, properly inflated tires are up to 25% more efficient, good spark plugs are up to 12% more efficient and a clean air filter is up to 20% more efficient. That tune up just paid for itself!
Don’t idle! Do you know how many miles per gallon you get waiting in line or while you’re in the store?…Zero, so turn it off if you’re going to sit longer than 30-60 seconds!
Fuel up when it’s cool. At the pump you’re charged by volume; fuel is most dense at cooler temperatures and fuel pumps measure volumes of fuel, not densities of fuel. Filling up in the early AM is always better than filling up mid-day (unless it’s one of those crazy weather days).
The world wide interweb is your friend. There’s tons of information out there for FREE! Fuel apps such as gas buddy help guide you to the least expensive fuel station. Plus, there are new studies and information out all the time, use search terms like how to increase mpg and check sites like fueleconomy.gov and advance auto parts.
I have to agree with not idling to save fuel, BUT ONLY AFTER 3 – 5 minutes, especially after just pulling off the freeway.
Many diesels today are “turbo diesels”, these run hot (turbocharger especially), not allowing turbo to cool down may cause damage.
Consult your diesel operators manual, they built and dyno tested it, they know what is best to help you stay on the road, and not on the side of it.
Here is a link about the myths and facts of big diesel engine idling, something a lot of truckers do still today: http://www.nmenv.state.nm.us/aqb/GHG/documents/IdlingMythsandFacts.pdf
Did you guys use a gas card? I’ve been trying to find out what gas stations are most prevalent in Canada.
We do not use a gas card as we’ve found the prices vary greatly in each city, so being locked into one brand is not good. As for Canada, we do our best to NEVER fill up in Canada because the prices are 4x higher than the states.
Considering gas is kept underground where the temperature is pretty constant, I always thought the idea of filling up on the mornings instead of during the day didn’t make sense to me.
We have heard arguments in both directions…we really just fill up when it’s convenient and if it happens to be at a cooler time of the day, great.
Try Gasbuddy.com Go to their “Gas Price Heat Map” and it will color code the whole US according to gas prices. Then you can zoom in to where your at or where you will need to refuel down to each station. We use the free “app” and scout ahead to for better pricing.
Our last trip 2 weeks ago, gas prices were in the $3.89 / $3.99 range near Cincinnati Ohio, but along I-71 in Northern KY I noticed a small pocket of $3.39 to $3.25 gas at exit #44…From using my smart phone I could see the stations at the freeway exits were $3.59, but 1/2 mile down the road at the Kroger’s it was $3.25 plus I saved another 3 cents with my Kroger card. About a week later on the return I gassed up again at $3.09.
When I start a 1 or 2 week vacation I’ll scout out ahead for fuel stops at home using the “gas price heat map” to get a feel where there are lower fuel prices. You can easily save 20 to 50 cents a gallon this way.
I also keep my speed under 60 / 62 mph on the hi-ways. As Jason said traveling secondary roads where speed limits are 45 to 55 I can really gain 1/2 to 1 MPG….even with a few hills. My goal is to try to get 12 mpg….We have a small V-8 Toyota SUV pulling a 5,000 lb. 25 foot trailer. Our last trip I got 13 mpg Cleveland to Mammoth Cave KY (425 miles) and on the return I sneaked out a 12 mpg.
We love GasBuddy, that’s why we listed it as a must download app at the bottom of the article.
The reason you see big commercial vehicles like 18 wheelers idling is because you simply cant just turn it off without letting the engine cool down, otherwise you risk damaging the engine by inducing a drastic temperature change in a short period of time. It could cause some parts to warp or crack.
It’s the same reason why if you live in a cold climate, you should warm your car up in the winter before you drive it.
I’m looking for books on BC that aim at helping you find out of the way places and the most cost effective way of enjoying the great outdoors.
Are there a lot of RV parks in BC? How does one find them? For some reason I am having a hard time looking for what I need to know.
Ann, I am going to post this question to our canadian friends to see if they have some good suggestions. We have only stayed at provential parks and friends driveways in Canada. I will get back to you shortly!
I don’t think that filling in the morning makes much of a difference. The temperature in the underground storage tanks is pretty constant. Snopes is generous in assuming a 15 degree temperature change to arrive at the 1% change in volume, I can’t imagine it’s anywhere near that. While the air temperature can change 15 degrees from morning till noon, the ground temp wont.
I save a lot of money using the auxiliary diesel tank in the bed of my truck. Diesel price in my area are currently about $1.30/l which is about $5/gallon. When my truck is empty, I can cross the border to the US and fill up for under $4/gallon. I save over $100 per trip, and I’m only 20 minutes from the border. The tank also extends the range of my truck to around 2000km when towing my trailer, making any trip a lot smoother.
For a lot of Canadians in the Fraser Valley, an aux diesel tank will pay for itself within a year or two.
Dan, it’s a killer tip for our BC friends! Thanks for sharing. As for filling in the AM, you are correct about ground temps vs. air temps. We don’t go out of our way to fill in the AM, but when we need to fill up we always try to do it in the AM….just in case.
I always wondered why people with large vehicles idle. Is it wasted fuel for all large vehicles? I see 18 wheelers and , school/recreational buses do is all the time. Just curious and I know you will do the researh! : )
if MPG is an issue with the life style, it’s deffinetly time to move up to cruising. Vancouver to hawaii 2400 nautical miles ,fuel consumption zero. Welcome to vancouver , you can scuba dive in the morning and ski in the evening. If you get a chance visit the Gulf Islands, beautiful crusing.
Some of the ‘Hypermiling’ techniques can be used too. Many truckers already do them out of necessity. CleanMPG has some good hypermiling podcast episodes. Some of the techniques are impractical for large vehicles, but most work well. I can get up to 17 MPG in our Serrano (same MaxxForce 7 engine y’all have/used to have) using the techniques.
On that note; USA could drop fuel consumption 50% in just one day if only 25% of the people simply followed traffic laws and speed limits. Our problem with fuel is mostly a behavioral problem, not an ‘energy issue’.
Hypermiling is an exciting challenge (and sometimes illegal) and can definitely help keep you more alert when driving long distance!
About your fuel consumption note we agree, compound that with shopping and eating local and we’re talkin’ a major reduction in fuel consumption.
GasBuddy saved me $45. on a recent fill-up.
$45 bucks savings….Don’t you just love technology (sometimes)! That’s a free night of camping! Thanks for sharing.
Have a great time at the BC RV show.We are from A small village near the show called Harrison Hot Springs.We are in Casa Grande AZ for the winter.Take a umbrella as BC is very wet this time of year.Our travel buddies will be at the RV so Ill be telling them to catch your show.I watched your show when you purchased your RV so am glad to follow you on your journey.Have a safe fight and enjoy the show.
We’ll be in BC for one week to speak at the show, and handle the TV and radio interviews for the show. We too will be in Casa Grande, AZ towards the middle of Feb, maybe we can share some marshmallows over a warm fire? ….and yes….it is raining here now. 🙂
Great tips, although the one about fueling in the AM has been refuted. Here is a pretty good analysis:
Here’s a quote from the article: “Total Savings….1 year….$31”. For sure an interesting article, after reading I’d say the debate is still up for discussion :). Thanks for sharing, knowledge is power!
Frank Padilla, Jr
Just wanted to say we practice ways of saving fuel consumption. We have a Class C Tioga Ranger with aTriton V 10 6.1 liter engine and we manage to get 8-9 miles a gllon with out a toad. With our toad, a 2011 4 door Jeep Rubicon, traveling at 55-60 mph we manage to get 7.8 – 8 mpg.
Our main mantra is not to be in a hurry and plan our route.
Enjoy your newsletter. Have fun in BC
A Jeep is the perfect tow car for the adventurous (sometimes we get jealous when get to a road the Smart can’t handle), surprised it only effects your MPG by 1, that’s great! Your Mantra and ours are very similar. 🙂
Great tips! Although being from England I have to point out that however much your fuel prices have gone up recently, we have it way worse in the UK (and Europe in general), I just worked out that we are paying approx. $8.14 per gallon over here:-
1 US Gallon = 3.78541 litres
current UK petrol (gasoline) price per litre: £1.37 = $2.15
$8.14 per US gallon!
This might explain (along with the narrower roads and lack of car-park spaces) why we generally drive much smaller motorhomes over here – my current one being a diesel VW Vanagon (known as a T25 or T3 over here), which gets me 35+ mpg 🙂
Rick your VW’s over there are so much more fuel efficient than ours! We started RV’ing in a 1985 VW Vanagon, which we owned for 6 years and loved. That darn thing only averaged 14 MPG and it broke down ever few hundred miles! It was a sad day when we sold it, but we upgraded to our first class A motorhome and the rest is history!
Ah yes, sorry, UK and US gallons are different – my 1.6 diesel vanagon actually works out at about 29 miles per US gallon (but is VERY slow), and the petrol versions are more like 15 miles per US gallon – in the region you were getting 🙂
Welcome to Vancouver, sad to say it’s cold, wet, and gray out. Maybe that will change by the weekend.
Hopefully you will bring some sun with you. I hope to come out to the show, and maybe meet you both, as I do follow your blog. We bought our first trailer just over a year ago and thus I started finding out about RVer’s living full time. Our goal is to spend a few months a year down south. We have friends with a 40′ bus who spend 6 months in Arizona every year.
Look forward to meeting you! We’ll be available before and after our speaking engagements to answer any questions at the show, or if you want to meet up for a glass of wine or a local brew we’re always down for that.