Everyone gets excited about the cost of fuel (gas or diesel) and it certainly rates the most media attention. Fuel is expensive but your decision to start or continue RVing should not be based solely on fuel cost. Those costs can easily be controlled and reduced—allowing you to do a lot of RVing—and there are no gadgets or magic fuel pills involved! Let’s talk about saving—not spending money.
There are only three costs in RVing controlled by you (changed at your discretion)… these are fuel, campground, and food. Food costs are so personal that it does not warrant discussion. Think about it… any time you can significantly lower your RVing costs, you have an instant savings—real money that you keep. For example, any time you can save fuel, the savings are instant, i.e., you keep the money in your pocket.
I recommend you try thinking about future fuel costs from a different perspective. First, I don’t care what it “used to be” and I believe that fuel will never be as cheap as it once was. (Author Note… I’m not trying to open any political dialogue here.)
We headed to Alaska during the highest fuel prices in our history. Going through Canada on that trip, we paid over $6.00/gallon for diesel fuel. While at first this seemed like a crazy idea, we were actually on our way and the prices kept going up and up. So we did, too.
For my examples and although I hate to do it, I will use $3.50 per gallon as an average cost of diesel fuel. So, consider this…
Let’s assume you had planned and were willing to take that nationwide trip when fuel was $2.50/gallon. Now, it’s $3.50/gallon and you can’t afford that much!
Think differently. You were ready to go, even willing to pay $2.50/gallon so your increased cost is just $1.00 per gallon. All you need is to figure out how to save the equivalent of $1.00 per gallon and you will have met your original budget.
Saving Fuel Costs
First, the biggie… it’s easy to save fuel costs up to a 15% savings instantly! How? Slow down. Dropping our highway speed from 65/66 mph to 55/56 mph saved approximately 15% in fuel on our motorhome. I’m serious here and have the data to prove it.
A Personal Story… In 2004/2005, I collected accurate data on fuel consumption for our 42’ Monaco Dynasty. The data was read directly from the engine computer. We crossed the nation a few times so geography was not a consideration plus there were two drivers—Sandy (wife) and I trade driving about every 1.5 hours. Here are the actual numbers:
16,419 miles @ 65/66 mph = 7.0 mpg
6,524 miles @ 60/61 mph = 7.4 mpg = a savings of 5.7%
1,371 miles @ 55/56 mph = 8.0 mpg = a savings of 14.3%
This is incredibly easy to do, available to everyone, can be started instantly, and ensures your ability to RV more and farther for the same cash outlay. Don’t get all excited about having a fixed time—such as a two-week vacation—and don’t whine that driving 55 mph will shorten your trip. Consider my average speeds (also taken from the engine computer)…
- 16,419 miles @ 65/66 mph = the average speed was 42.8 mph
- 1,371 miles @ 55/56 mph = the average speed was 41.8 mph
Using our accurate trip data, driving 55/56 mph caused us to actually average only 1 mph slower over the total drive! You won’t have to bypass too many destinations going just 1 mph slower.
Reducing Fuel Costs
There are many other things you can do to save fuel costs through increased efficiency, saving cash outlay, or cash coming in (rebates). Consider the following list but the first four are the most critical in savings…
- Weigh your coach (each wheel position, adjust your load, and set correct tire pressure).
- Keep your tires properly inflated.
- Keep your load balanced.
- Don’t forget your tow vehicle—tire pressure, load, and cleanliness are a factor here, too.
- Plan to drive the coach fewer total miles for your trip.
- Plan longer side trips in the car.
- Lighten the load. RVers carry too much stuff. Remove the stuff you rarely use. Be proud of your horseshoe or brick collection, but don’t carry all of them with you.
- Unless you are boondocking for several days, never travel with a full tank of fresh water. For the single day or overnight trip to the campground, a 1/4 tank is plenty.
- Dump the gray and black (if more than 1/2 full) before you depart.
- Reduce engine idling time.
- Keep your vehicle serviced regularly and tuned if needed.
- Reduce the time you run your generator.
- Don’t run your generator to charge your coach batteries to 100%, take them to 90%.
- Wash your vehicles. Dirt on the surface creates drag and decreases air flow.
- Lots of RVers carry a credit card that provides cash back for fuel purchases. Some rebates are limited to 5% of some maximum dollar amount of charges.
Don’t dismiss these tips as not worth the effort. Each one will help a bit and some more that others. Sometimes the effort can be measured (like the 5% cash back) but fuel savings through increased efficiency cannot be easily measured (washing your RV). However, all of them will help and are cumulative in savings to you.
Remember our example?
You were willing to travel at $2.50/gallon but can’t afford $3.50/gallon fuel. So, with the instant 15% savings gained by just slowing down, $3.50/gallon fuel becomes $2.98 ($3.50 X .85 = $2.98). Coupled with a 5% cash-back card you have instantly and easily decreased your real fuel costs to $2.80/gallon when the pump reads $3.50/gallon ($3.50 X .80 = $2.80). At $3.50/gallon, that is a 20% savings! It works. It makes sense, it’s easy, and again, instant. We are getting closer, so hang in there.
Another Unusual But Real Fuel-Saving Tip
Assuming you know what your real mileage is (not the number you tell your friends), then use this to determine your real costs for campgrounds in slightly out-ofthe-way places. For example, let’s say you find a campground but it’s off your main route about 7 miles. Let’s use my mileage (above, in the “Personal Story”) of 7 milesper-gallon. So, driving to that campground takes one gallon of fuel and getting back to the main highway in the morning, another gallon. Those two gallons of fuel have a
value of $7.00 (using $3.50/gallon fuel costs). You should add that $7.00 to the cost of your campground. Now is it worth it? Plus, as fuel costs increase or if the campground is even farther off your route, this becomes more of a factor to consider.
You Can Afford to Go
You can easily control and reduce your fuel costs. Plus, your overall outlay for campground fees can be
reduced with minimal effort while not depriving yourself of any creature comforts. I am not anti-campground but I am pro-RVing. I want and plan to keep on RVing no matter what those costs are. Remember my Canadian legs of the Alaskan trip? We covered nearly 4,000 miles (6,437± km) at close to $6.00 per gallon. I guess I have some experience with high fuel prices that many of you haven’t gone through.
I know—you don’t know what you don’t know—so with two simple, easy, no-cost changes, you can keep on RVing. After all, that’s why you bought it!