Knowing the fuel mileage you can expect from your recreational vehicle (RV) allows you to plan trips and budget accordingly. Here’s what you need to know about RV fuel economy, the available classes and how to improve your RV or camper’s fuel efficiency.
The Importance of Understanding Fuel Efficiency for RV Owners
You need to know the average mile-per-gallon (mpg) rating for your RV, as this tells you how far you can travel on a single tank. Additionally, knowing how many miles per gallon (mpg) your RV gets lets you predict your total cost of travel.
Factors That Influence the Fuel Economy of RVs
Numerous factors determine the average miles per gallon for an RV. Expect the following characteristics to impact how far you can travel between refueling trips:
- Size of the RV
- Shape of the RV (aerodynamics)
- Weight of the RV
- Fuel required for power (gas or diesel)
Types of RVs and Fuel Efficiency
An RV’s type determines what you should see after refueling.
RV Classes and Their Fuel Efficiency Characteristics
Each variety has its own advantages, and these RVs offer different fuel efficiency ratings.
Class A RVs will give you roughly six to 10 miles per gallon due to the massive size of the motorhomes. Some vehicles rank in at a maximum of eight miles to the gallon, so it’s worth researching if you’ll purchase an RV in this category. Note some Class A models have 150-gallon tanks.
Expect a Class B RV to provide 18 to 22 miles to the gallon. These vehicles are smaller than their Class A counterparts and are referred to as sleeper vans, mini RVs or micro campers. The vehicles feature less room for passengers and furniture. It’s common to find Class B RVs with tanks offering 25-gallon capacities.
Class C RVs give you a similar experience as Class A models with amenities, but the campers are attached to a regular truck chassis. This configuration is different from the charter-bus layout of Class A RVs. With a Class C motorhome, you’ll get around 10 to 15 miles to the gallon.
Motorhomes, Travel Trailers and Fifth Wheels
RVs and campers have different names based on their sizes and wheel layouts. Consider these mpg estimates for multiple designs:
- Motorhomes: A sizable motorhome provides a six- to 10-mile-per-gallon fuel rating.
- Travel trailers: You could see upwards of 16 miles per gallon with a pull-behind travel trailer.
- Fifth wheels: Fifth-wheel trailers let your vehicle provide 10 to 12 miles per gallon when attached.
Factors Affecting the Fuel Efficiency of RV Types
Physical characteristics and environmental conditions will influence performance and mpg.
Fuel ratings are solid reference points for selecting a vehicle, but travel speed, the weight of your loaded RV and wind resistance will affect how far you can drive per gallon of gas or diesel fuel.
Primary Factors Affecting RV Fuel Economy
These factors can change RV gas mileage.
Weight and Aerodynamics
The materials used to manufacture your vehicle, the number of passengers you travel with, interior furniture and the personal belongings you bring will influence fuel mileage.
The aerodynamic capabilities of your RV can help or hurt mpg. Attaching gear and equipment to the outside of your vehicle may result in increased wind resistance.
Engine Size and Power
RV engines differ between models — even ones produced by the same manufacturer. Check out the horsepower rating before purchasing.
Driving Habits and Techniques
Inconsistent traffic patterns, frequent braking and heavy acceleration cause your RV’s average miles per gallon to be lower than expected. Keeping travel speeds the same can improve fuel efficiency.
Terrains and Driving Conditions
Rough roadways cause your RV to work harder than it needs to for consistent acceleration. Operating your vehicle in cold or freezing temperatures also reduces fuel economy.
Use of Accessories and Appliances
Some RVs let you use cooking appliances, electronics and accessories when the vehicle is turned off. These systems require backup generators. In many cases, generators run using fuel from the same tank as the engine.
Miles Per Gallon and Different RV Classes
Review the following to learn why Class A, B and C RVs feature contrasting mpg ratings.
Class A MPG Factors
Class A motorhomes offer six to 10 miles per gallon because of their weights and lengths. These are some of the largest motorhomes on the market capable of towing cars, trucks and SUVs. The additional surface area of Class A RVs makes it easy for winds to interfere with acceleration. This property, combined with the extra weight of beds, sofas and kitchen appliances, causes you to use more fuel.
Some Class A vehicles to explore include the:
- Forest River Berkshire, which gets 12.5 mpg
- Newmar Dutch Star, which gets 11 mpg
- Winnebago Grand Tour, which gets 11.3 mph
Class B MPG Factors
Class B campervans see different fuel efficiency levels depending on tire sizes and cabin space availability. These vehicles are designed for smaller groups, but you can still find Class B RVs with kitchens, sleeping areas and washrooms. The more amenities crammed into a campervan, the less fuel efficiency you can expect.
Best-selling Class B campervans for mpg are the:
- Winnebago Travato, which gets 22 mpg
- Roadtrek Zion, which gets 21 mpg
- Airstream Interstate, which gets 18 mpg
Class C MPG Factors
Class C RVs are fastened to a truck frame and front end. The main factors determining Class C RV gas mileage are the engines and required fuel grades. Ethanol-blended gasoline can be less expensive, but these initial cost savings usually come with decreasing fuel economy. Choosing engine models that run on diesel may improve efficiency.
Favorable Class C motorhomes are the:
- Coachmen Leprechaun, which gets 10 mpg
- Thor Motor Coach Tiburon Sprinter, which gets 20 mpg
- Tiffin Wayfarer, which gets 14 mpg
Travel Trailers and Fifth-Wheel MPG Factors
Most travel trailers provide better fuel economy than fifth-wheel models. Travel trailers’ reduced weight helps you conserve fuel and put less stress on engine components. However, a fifth-wheel trailer may be necessary to distribute weight at the back of your towing vehicle.
Check out the Happier Camper HC1 travel trailer and the Jayco North Point fifth-wheel to drive with fuel efficiency in mind.
How Can Fuel Additives Help Improve Your RV’s Fuel Economy?
You can improve the average miles per gallon for an RV using the right fuel system cleaner. Deposits and dirt can coat your vehicle’s fuel injector, making it difficult for the engine to regulate how much fuel is necessary for power.
Removing harmful deposits between connections is as easy as following your owner’s manual maintenance recommendations and selecting effective products for gasoline and diesel engines. Adding the correct amount of cleaner to your RV’s tank lifts filth from fuel injectors, fuel lines and the combustion chamber.
Fuel additives have the potential to boost acceleration capabilities, keep fuel efficiency at its highest and promote healthy idling.
Benefits of Improving RV Fuel Economy
Prioritizing your RV’s gas mileage offers a long list of advantages:
- Spend less money: Better gas mileage translates to fewer stops at the pump.
- Limit carbon emissions: Burning through less fuel releases less carbon dioxide.
- Enjoy a better driving experience: You can focus more on having fun rather than planning where you’ll refuel.
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