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Calculating The Fuel Cost Of A Cross Country RV Trip

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Fuel Is Just One Factor in a Cross Country RV Trip, But It’s A Big One

With fuel prices soaring, you might be getting worried about your summer travel plans, particularly if you’re planning a big cross country trip. In this case, you may be wondering about the average fuel cost of a cross country RV trip. Honestly, we can’t give you a precise answer to this question, as it really depends on a number of factors.

But, if you take the straightest route possible from one end of the country to the other, a good middle-ground for 2022 is around $2000 ($4000 round-trip). That is, of course, right in the middle. Large motorhomes will cost more, and small campervans may cost considerably less. Rather than go with our estimate, though, you may want to calculate the cost for yourself. Below you will find some ways to figure up your approximate fuel cost.

The Definition of A Cross Country RV Trip

When trying to determine how much it will cost you to drive cross country, the first thing you have to figure out is what exactly you mean when you say “cross country.” This might mean driving from North Carolina to California in a straight(ish) line for some. For others, cross country might mean driving from Florida to Washington or from SoCal to Maine—both trips require more driving than the aforementioned straight line across. 

Decide where you want to end up and figure out how many miles that is from your starting point and write this number down. 

Example: Greenville, NC to Los Angeles, CA is 2,627 miles.

Map from Road Trip USA showing several major cross country routes including the Southern Pacific, Route 66, The Loneliest Road, The Oregon Trail and More.
This map from Road Trip USA shows some of the many popular cross-country routes to choose from.

Finding RV Gas Mileage

The next step in finding your fuel cost for a cross country trip is figuring out how many miles per gallon your rig gets. Some people have already figured this up and can tell you the answer off the top of their heads. Others have trucks or motorhomes that will tell them how many MPGs they are getting at any given time. Still, others out there will have to figure this out the old-fashioned way. 

If you are among those who will have to find your gas mileage manually, you will want to start by filling your gas tank and recording the miles on the odometer when you fill up. Then, go on a short trip, making sure you are towing your trailer or car if that is how you will be traveling cross country, and ensuring your RV is loaded as it will be for your big trip. You will want to make sure this trip uses at least half a tank of gas. At this point, you can head to a gas station and fill up. Make a note of how many gallons of gas you put in and how many miles are on the odometer when you fill up the second time. 

To find your MPG:

  • Subtract the first odometer reading from the second. This will give you the total number of miles driven during your short trip.
  • Next, divide the miles driven during the trip by the number of gallons of fuel you put in on the second fill up.
  • The result is the number of gallons per mile your rig gets on average under those driving conditions. 

Example:

  • The first odometer reading was 45,600. The second odometer reading was 45,740.
  • Total miles driven: 140.
  • The second fill up was 20 gallons.
  • 140 miles / 20 gallons = 7 MPG.

This number will change based on your load or road conditions. But this test does give you a good idea of what to expect. 

Calculating The Total Fuel Required For Your Trip

First, divide the number of miles in the trip by the average MPG your rig gives you. Doing this tells you about how many gallons of fuel you can expect to purchase.

Example: 2,627 miles ÷ 7 MPG = 375.28 gallons for this trip.

Research Gas Prices Along Your Route

The final piece of the puzzle is figuring out how much you can expect to pay for fuel along your route. This is the most challenging thing to figure out because fuel costs are constantly changing.

The manual option for finding the average fuel cost on your trip starts with figuring up how many miles you can drive on a tank of gas and then deciding where you will stop for gas based on that. Alternatively, you can use a trip planning service like RV LIFE Trip Wizard RV trip planner and input your tank size and MPG, and it will tell you where you need to stop for fuel along the way. You can then use the planning features to find RV-safe gas stations and add them to your route.

You can use an app like GasBuddy to determine what gas prices are like at each stop. When estimating, your best bet is to note the current price and then round that up by at least 50 cents to give yourself a nice cushion. 

RV LIFE Trip Wizard makes planning gas stops easy.

Finding the Average Fuel Cost For Your Trip

After checking gas prices at each stop and rounding up by 50 cents per, you add them all up and divide them by the number of stops to find the average price per gallon. 

Example: Your total trip is 2,627 miles. Your fuel tank holds 40 gallons, meaning you can drive approximately 280 miles on a single tank of gas (based on the 7 MPG we figured up earlier). You plan to stop for gas every 250 miles to be on the safe side, so you will stop for gas 11 times. 

Stop NumberCurrent Fuel PriceRounded Up $0.50
1$4.05$4.55
2$4.29$4.79
3$3.89$4.39
4$3.99$4.49
5$4.39$4.89
6$4.29$4.79
7$4.69$5.19
8$4.57$5.07
9$4.67$5.17
10$5.09$5.59
11$5.19$5.69

All of the rounded-up numbers together come out to $54.61. $54.61 ÷ 11 = an average price of $4.96 per gallon.

Another option is to do an internet search for the average cost of gas in the US and use that to figure your approximate fuel cost.

Figuring the Fuel Cost of a Trip

To find the approximate cost of fuel for any given trip, you will need to know three things:

  1. The number of miles you’ll be driving.
  2. The average cost of fuel along your route.
  3. How many miles per gallon you can expect your rig to get.

So far, we have discussed how to get these numbers but not what to do with them. If you multiply the number of gallons by the cost per gallon, you will get the approximate cost of fuel for your entire trip. So, miles ÷ MPG = number of gallons, and the number of gallons x cost per gallon = total cost of the trip. 

Example: 2,627 miles ÷ 7 MPG = 375.28, and 375.28 x $4.96 = $1,861.38. So in this particular case it would cost around $1,861.38 to drive across the country. 

Tool to Help You Determine Cost Of Your Cross Country RV Trip

Don’t want to do all the math yourself? RV LIFE Trip Wizard can help! This is an amazing RV trip planning tool that helps you find places to stay, helps you choose the route that is best for you, and even helps you determine the total cost of fuel (along with campsite fees and other expenses) for any given trip. In addition, it can sync your route to the RV LIFE RV Safe GPS app on your phone for easy navigation throughout your trip.

This is extremely beneficial if you want to know what to budget for your RV getaways and makes planning much easier! Check out the video below to see how you can use RV LIFE Trip Wizard to get accurate estimates on your cross country RV road trips.

How Do You Budget Your RV Travels

Whether you will be using a spreadsheet, pen, and paper, or an RV trip planning solution like RV LIFE Trip Wizard, we’d love to know your favorite method for estimating the cost of driving an RV cross country. Share it with us in the comments.

9 thoughts on “Calculating The Fuel Cost Of A Cross Country RV Trip”

  1. One main thing you have left out. That is the miles you drive once at your destination.
    That is the unknown.

  2. I have found that signing up for gas apps can help save up to 45 cents per gallon. Standard saving is .05 cents per gallon along with store freebies. This is not the credit card offers. It is fun to see the price per gallon go down on the pump before you fill your tank.

  3. Just finished a nine month trip from Michigan to Nova Scotia to San Diego and back. Fuel cost for the 13000 mile trip was ~ $5200 and camping averaged $35 per night over the trip( includes free sites and high priced sites to get the mean) that does not include fuel cost for the toad which added 4K miles. 31’ Class C Leprechaun. With Equinox toad

  4. This article has some handy info on that. The Best Diesel Fuel Discounts For RVs

    Thanks for reading. 🙂

  5. Seriously, this article is way too long and overly complicated. Simplify: https://www.calculator.net/fuel-cost-calculator.html

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