Burning Concerns
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20 Ways to Save Money on Gas for Your RV

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Burning Concerns
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Burning Concerns

Exploring in a recreational vehicle can be a memorable and budget-friendly way to travelcosting 21% to 64% less than other types of vacation travel for a family of four, according to a study some years back. As budget-friendly as this type of vacationing may be, the cost of gas when traveling by RV is no small consideration. At $5 a gallon, filling up a Class A motorhome, which holds anywhere from 100 to 150 gallons, means an entire tank can set you back $500 to $750 — so much for a budget vacation. In fact, the White House is even seeking a gas-tax holiday to ease fuel prices for motorists. With that in mind, we asked RV bloggers and travelers to share tips for saving gas. (When you do hit the road, keep these 50 Budget-Friendly RV Campgrounds in mind.) 


Related: 21 Ways to Get Better Gas Mileage

Reduce the Weight of Your Vehicle
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Reduce the Weight of Your Vehicle

Cut back on gas costs by packing only what you need or actually use, says Diana Hansen, who with her husband, Eric, has been traveling by RV on and off for the past 25 years and created the site Let's Camp S'More. Keeping a vehicle as light as possible is fuel efficient. "So many people ignore the gross vehicle weight limits and overload their motorhome," Hansen says. "Sure, it would be nice to take your favorite grill or an extra table, but most campgrounds have a grill available for use, and the campsite picnic table should suffice."


Related: 30 RV Accessories That Are a Waste of Money

Skip the Tow Vehicle
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Skip the Tow Vehicle

While you're considering weight as you prepare to embark on an RV journey, you may also want to skip towing a bunch of toys with your RV, suggests Hansen, who has owned five RVs. For instance, you can rent bicycles when you get to your destination rather than bringing your own. Hansen and her family also take public transport or use ride-share services when exploring a destination. "This reduces overall gas costs because you're not towing a heavy vehicle behind your motorhome," she says. 


Related: 12 Expert Tips for Saving Money on RV Living

Sign Up for Fuel Station Loyalty Memberships
Good Sam

Sign Up for Fuel Station Loyalty Memberships

Signing up for fuel station loyalty memberships is another easy way to cut back on gas costs. "Membership cards like Good Sam offer fuel discounts of as much as 8 cents per gallon at FlyingJ and Pilot stations," says Ronnie Dennis, a writer for Do It Yourself RV. Good Sam membership provides 5 cents per gallon off of regular gas and 8 cents off of diesel. GoodSam Club membership prices start at $29.

Credit Card Miles
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Look into Fuel Rewards Credit Cards

Still more gas discount programs are available with fuel rewards credit cards, Dennis says. The Shell Fuel Rewards Card from Citi offers a regular savings of 10 cents per gallon on fill-ups and 30 cents per gallon for your first five fuel purchases. The Chevron Techron Advantage Visa Card offers fuel credits (that are applied to your credit card statement) when you buy gas with its card.


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GasBuddy
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Use GasBuddy App

Here's a suggestion from nearly every RV expert interviewed: The GasBuddy app helps you find the least expensive gas near you. "Available as an app for both iPhone and Android, as well as an interactive website, many travelers rely on GasBuddy information to save a few dollars at the pump when it's time to refuel," says Georgianne Austin, communications director for Escapees RV Club, one of the oldest RV clubs in the United States. One word of caution: Before picking the cheapest station available, make it's equipped for RVs by having high enough awnings and plenty of room to pull in and out, Austin says. 


Related: You Won't Believe These 25 RV Horror Stories 

Maintain Proper Tire Pressure
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Maintain Proper Tire Pressure

Ensuring that tires are properly inflated can also help save on gas costs. "Under-inflated tires will burn through extra fuel due to the increased surface area and friction on the asphalt," Austin says. Because determining the correct pressure can be tricky, Escapees RV Club offers SmartWeigh, which provides members with RV weight safety and load management information and assistance. Membership prices range from $10 to $55.  

Calculate Your Mileage and Plan Wisely to Avoid Searching for Gas
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Plan Wisely to Avoid Searching for Gas

When mapping out a route, study the details. Begin by knowing how big your vehicle's gas tank is and how far it's likely to take you and calculate the miles you'll drive between destinations. "By planning your route and sticking to it, you'll be able to estimate how much you'll spend in gas, avoiding unpleasant surprises or high gas prices," says Luca Sumberac at CAMPERiD.com, an RV parts and accessories site. "Map out your stops to avoid driving around in search of a rest area or park and using up an unnecessary amount of gas. When it comes to long RV trips, every little bit you save counts and will be worth it in the end." 


Related: 26 Vacation Spots to Visit in an RV and Save

Calculate Your Mileage and Plan Wisely to Avoid Searching for Gas
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Identify the Most Efficient Route of Travel

Take your trip planning a step further by checking maps against satellite navigation apps such as Google Maps or Waze that identify the most efficient routes of travel based on current traffic conditions. "Take into account that in built-up areas, stopping and starting will use a lot more gas than cruising at a steady speed through rural areas," says Will Hatton, creator of the site The Broke Backpacker


Related: 12 Dangerous Roads You Should Never Drive in an RV

Highway Headaches
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Avoid Rough Roads

While you plot out your trip road, research road conditions as well. Driving on rough roads will eat up gas far more quickly because the vehicle will have to work harder to drive on a rough road.


Spend More Time at Each Stop
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Spend More Time at Each Stop

Instead of staying two to three days in one area, aim for a week if you have the time. "The less you drive your motorhome or tow your trailer, the less fuel you consume," Austin says. "You have more time to explore the area, try new restaurants, enjoy more of the outdoor spaces, or take in local entertainment."


Related: Best Restaurants for RV Road Trips

Refuel in Cheaper Locations
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Refuel in Cheaper Locations

Fuel prices are higher in California. If you know you're heading that way, stop in a neighboring state to fill up before entering California or other higher-cost areas. "The same thought process applied to areas such as national parks and rural areas, where fuel prices tend to be higher due to higher demand and less competition," Austin says. In other words, plan ahead and refuel where it makes the most sense economically.

Disability Accomodations
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Slow Down

Driving too fast can be expensive. "The easiest way to save money on gas when traveling by RV is by slowing down your travel pace," says RV travel blogger Brittany Wittig, creator of the site The Rolling Pack. She suggests aiming for driving around 50 mph. "When my partner and I first started traveling full time in our RV, we were bewildered by the amount of gas we were going through. We quickly realized that forcing a 3-ton vehicle to drive at 60 mph or faster was turning our motorhome into a total gas guzzler. We forced ourselves to slow way down, and our gas bill went down."

Another Word on Speed: Use Cruise Control
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Another Word on Speed: Use Cruise Control

Make maintaining a gas-saving speed easier by using cruise control. It improves overall fuel efficiency while reducing carbon emissions. According to fueleconomy.gov, speeding, rapid acceleration, and braking lower gas mileage anywhere from 15% to 40% on highways and between 10% to 40% in congested traffic.

Avoid Making Unnecessary Trips
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Avoid Making Unnecessary Trips

Unnecessary trips can cost you quite a bit in gas. "Before heading out in your RV to go to the store to buy something or to a restaurant for a quick bite to eat, really think about whether or not this trip is worth the fuel costs," says Matt Woodley, founder of the site MoverFocus.com, who regularly travels by RV.

Streamline Your Vehicle Exterior for Smoother Travel
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Streamline Your Exterior for Smoother Travel

When strapping belongings to an RV, it's best to reduce all the pockets and walls of material that can be caught by the wind. "Every bit of stuff you have on your roof will act as a buffer against the wind, causing your engine to work harder to maintain speed," says Zander Buteux of VacationRenter.com and an RV travel expert. "Help yourself out and smooth out what's on your roof, or put it off the back. I always grimace when seeing those big roof cargo bags flapping on down the highway." Consider buying a hard-shell storage box for atop your vehicle. They're streamlined and can help make for a more fuel-efficient trip over thousands of miles, Buteux says.

Limit Air Conditioning Usage
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Limit Air Conditioning Usage

Studies have shown that using a vehicle's air conditioner can affect fuel efficiency by nearly 4 mpg depending on the age and size of the vehicle, says Randy Berman of RVontheGo.com. "Staying cool and comfortable keeps drivers more alert, which is the safest way to drive, so picking and choosing the best times to turn off the AC and enjoy the cool open air depends on safety more than fuel efficiency," Berman says. "Driving in the evening, at night, or early in the morning when it's cooler outside would be the best times to crack the windows and avoid the heat." 


Related: 10 Tricks for Staying Cool in Your RV

Avoid Idling
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Avoid Idling

Allowing a vehicle to run when stationary is a waste of gas. If you're doing it to keep the air conditioning on, there are other, more fuel-efficient ways to keep cool. "You're better off parking in a shady spot and roll the windows down," Woodley says. Idling can drain a quarter to a half-gallon of fuel per hour, based on your engine's size and the air conditioner being used, according to fueleconomy.gov. Limiting the amount of time a vehicle spends idling will not only cut back on fuel expenses, but can also extend the life of an engine.  

Empty Wastewater Tanks Regularly
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Empty Wastewater Tanks Regularly

When selecting camping locations, find places that provide freshwater hookups and dump stations so you can empty your fresh and wastewater tanks, eliminating about 8 pounds per gallon of extra weight before traveling, suggests Greg Linsmeyer, regional operations director for Blue Water Development, a company that operates RV resorts.

Conduct Regular Maintenance
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Conduct Regular Maintenance

Properly maintaining an RV is not only safer, but can help reduce gas costs. "One of the best ways to save on gas money in your RV is to do standard and routine maintenance on it," says Jake McKenzie of Auto Accessories Garage, pointing to tire pressure and such things as the cleanliness of air filters as have a big impact on fuel efficiency. By some accounts, a clean air filter can improve fuel economy by up to 10%. An out-of-tune engine also affects fuel economy.

Plan Ahead To Avoid Peak Travel Times
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Plan Ahead to Avoid Peak Travel Times

If there's a long weekend coming up, or the weather has just turned for the better, roads are likely to be busy, which means traffic jams. Avoid them by planning better. "The No. 1 impact on fuel consumption is sitting in traffic moving at a snail's pace," says Jonathan Holmes, who writes for the outdoors blog Crow Survival. "If we want to get out for the weekend, we make sure to do all of our packing way ahead of time, which means on the day, we can literally get up and go." Holmes also suggests hitting the road early — like really early. "Before 7 a.m. is good," he says. "Earlier than that is even better. This means we can almost always be at our destination before most people have even left the house. And the roads are clear most of the way. It saves us a ton of time and fuel." 


Related: How to RV Without Going Stir-Crazy 


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