These Gas Mileage Tips May Save Some Money on Your Summer Trip
The best thing about RV life is going on adventures and traveling the country. But RVs are unfortunately not the most fuel-efficient vehicles. So when planning a trip, looking at the budget and comparing it to the current price of gas, you might be left wondering how to improve RV gas mileage.
Thankfully, there are a variety of ways you can improve RV fuel economy. Let’s take a look at the 10 best RV gas mileage tips.
Stay on Top of Maintenance
The first way to improve your RV’s mpg is to stay on top of RV maintenance. A poorly maintained RV can hurt fuel economy, not to mention the extra risk of it breaking down (an added expense).
If you have a driveable RV:
- Be sure to get your oil changed regularly and use the recommended type of oil
- Replace air filters and other filters on time
- Regularly check your brakes
Keeping up with regular maintenance and tune-ups will go a long way to improving your RV fuel economy.
Check Your Tire Pressure
While checking your RV tires is technically a part of maintenance, they’re important enough to warrant their own tip. Your tires are all that stands between your RV and the road – so it’s essential they’re in good shape and properly inflated.
When all four tires are at only 75% of the recommended pressure, your fuel economy drops by about 3%. When all four tires are at 50% of the recommended pressure, your fuel economy will drop by a massive 10%!
Always check your tire pressure before hitting the road and put some air in them if needed. You should also regularly rotate and balance your tires and replace them when they wear out.
It’s tempting to pack up everything you could possibly need for a trip, but all that extra weight can greatly impact your RV fuel economy. For every additional 100 pounds in your vehicle, your RV fuel economy drops by 1%.
To cut down on excessive weight, you can:
- Pack lighter and leave behind anything you don’t need
- Empty your water tanks down to ⅓ or less of their capacity
- Get a composting toilet and remove your black water tank entirely
- Replace older, heavier furniture with newer, lighter alternatives
- Get rid of any heavy tools that you probably won’t need
Be a Safer (and Slower) Driver
Being a safe driver won’t just keep you safe on the road. It can improve your RV fuel economy too. Rapid acceleration, sudden braking, and other unsafe driving practices can lower your RV mpg by as much as 30% at highway speeds!
Driving slower will also help you save money on RV gas. Every vehicle has a different optimal speed for fuel economy, but generally speaking, gas mileage rapidly decreases above 50 mph. By staying at 50 mph or below when possible, you can improve your fuel economy by as much as 14%.
Use Cruise Control
Next on our list of RV gas mileage tips is to use cruise control. You can easily improve your RV fuel economy by keeping a consistent speed, especially around 50 mph. (And because you’ll also avoid unnecessary acceleration and deceleration, it’ll help you save even more gas.)
Turn Off the A/C
Air conditioning is great for staying cool, but it can have a big impact on your RV’s fuel economy. On especially hot days, running your A/C can reduce your fuel economy by more than 25%.
The alternative is to open your windows. This works well at low speeds, but at highway speeds, the extra drag created by open windows also reduces your fuel economy.
As such, at highway speeds, your best bet is to either go without A/C or at least turn it down, so it isn’t working so hard.
Improve Your Aerodynamics
Keeping extra stuff on the roof is a convenient way to save space inside your RV. But hauling cargo on your roof also increases drag on your RV which lowers your fuel economy. In fact, a blunt rooftop cargo box can reduce your fuel economy by as much as 25% at highway speeds.
Moving that cargo inside your RV, installing a rear-mount cargo box that causes much lower drag, or leaving the extra gear at home will net you much better fuel economy.
Plan Your Route Ahead of Time
By planning out your route ahead of time, you can ensure you’re on the fastest, most direct, and thus most fuel-efficient route. Knowing your route will also help you anticipate and avoid heavy traffic, which can also negatively impact RV fuel economy. Pre-planning a route will also prevent you from getting lost or needlessly wandering, which causes you to use extra fuel unnecessarily.
Apps like RV LIFE Trip Wizard ensure you have the best (and safest) route planned which also includes finding RV-friendly gas stations.
Keep Idling to a Minimum
While your engine uses less fuel when idling, it still consumes fuel. In fact, idling can consume up to a half gallon of fuel per hour.
Because of this, if you’ll be stationary for more than a couple of minutes, you should shut your RV’s engine off. Restarting the engine only consumes 10 seconds worth of fuel, so it’s much more efficient to shut off the engine than leave it idling.
Avoid Roads in Poor Condition
When roads are in poor condition, your RV must work harder and consume more gas. Sticking to newer, better-maintained roads whenever possible will help you improve your gas mileage.
When planning your route, you can use tools like the RV LIFE Trip Wizard or Google Street View to help you get a sense of road quality. Also, consider what states you’ll be traveling through. Rhode Island, Wisconsin, and California are known to have the worst roads, while Kansas, Alabama, and North Dakota have the best.
How to Estimate RV Gas Costs
When budgeting for a road trip, you may also want to know how to estimate RV gas costs. Thankfully, doing so is pretty simple.
First, you’ll need three pieces of information:
- Your RV’s mpg
- Distance of your trip
- The current average price of gas (eek!)
Divide the length of your trip by your RV mpg, then multiply this number by the average price of gas. Alternately you can enter the average cost of gas and your RV’s info into RV LIFE Trip Wizard and it will keep a running cost as you plan your route. You can also input RV park prices, estimate daily food costs, and other expenses to get a complete estimate of your entire trip.
Now You Know How to Improve RV Fuel Economy and Save Money on RV Gas
Maximizing your RV fuel economy can save you a lot of money on a big road trip. And thankfully, there are plenty of ways to get better gas mileage out of your RV.
Now that you know how to improve RV gas mileage, you can save money on gas, and get even more out of your next road trip!
Jennifer lives with her husband in a 29′ trailer in Mexico. She is one half of DashboardDrifters.com and the founder of RVSpotDrop, a web service for full-time RVers. Jennifer Jennings has been RVing for 2+ years and writing about the RV and Van Life for 2+ years. Jennifer specializes in topics such as Lifestyle, van life, campgrounds features, destination features, and product lists.