'Round The Campfire

Diesel vs. gas motorhome

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More from Outdoor Living Newsletter February Outdoor Living Newsletter

I'm looking to buy a new motorhome. I'm not sure whether to buy a gas or diesel powered one. Do you have any advice?

Dear RVer,

That is a question frequently asked by people who wish to join the growing number of RVers, and that is a very wise question. Knowing the differences between a gas and a diesel-powered motorhome is the key to coming up with a smart choice. Let us discuss the important qualities of a motorhome and how each type stands up to these properties.

1.  Price to purchase

Generally, diesel RVs are about double the price of gasoline motorhomes. The average gas motorhome is within the range of $68,000 to $130,000. You may check Ford and General Motors for gasoline motorhomes that are affordable and of great quality; while for diesel motorhomes, popular brands are Fleetwood, Monaco and Newmar.

Class A motorhome parked in a mountain setting
Class A motorhome parked in a mountain setting

2.  Maintenance and operating costs

A gasoline motorhome is easier and cheaper to maintain and operate than a diesel motorhome because gasoline parts are less costly, and service is also less expensive. The mechanism of a gas RV is also easier to work on, with some components being DIY-friendly. As for a diesel motorhome that runs on a rather complicated mechanism, DIY may be limited to replacing the air filter; for most other problems, you'd have to bring your diesel RV to the mechanic to be serviced. Gasoline is cheaper than diesel, which counts a lot especially when you go on frequent RV and camping trips.

3.  Fuel-efficiency

Diesel motorhomes are more fuel-efficient than gasoline RVs because of their economical injection method that results in greater mileage. Although the price for diesel fuel is considerably higher than gasoline, that cost may be offset by the mileage gain. A gas motorhome yields about 6-10 miles per gallon, while a diesel RV goes as far as 8-14 miles per gallon. The Diesel Page, an information website for General Motors diesel trucks, claims that driving a diesel engine can save you as much $1500 for every 100,000 miles compared with driving a gas engine.

4.  Towing capacity

A diesel motorhome has more torque than a gas motorhome, which enables it to reach a higher horsepower at a lower RPM, and makes for a smooth driving experience - especially when towing. Diesel RVs also perform more efficiently at higher altitudes than gas motorhomes and are better-equipped to carry heavy loads. Ever noticed how most trucks are diesel-powered? This is because diesel engines can do the job more efficiently, with less strain on the engine.

In addition, diesels are quieter when driving because the engines are mounted in the rear.

5.  Storage space

Diesel RVs have raised rail frames, which offer more storage space under the RV than gas RVs.

6.  Brakes

Gas RVs have disc brakes, diesels have air brakes. The advantage of air brakes is that they have no fluid to house or cool, they have simplified brake maintenance, and more power to stop with. Air brakes also run what's called a "Dead man", so if you lose your air pressure the parking brake engages automatically - which is essentially a safety mechanism to prevent the vehicle from moving when the brakes aren't.

With disc brakes, if you lose fluid you've lost your brakes.

An additional advantage is that air brakes can dissipate heat more effectively than disc brakes, thus preventing your brakes from "fading" or failing.

7.  General comfort

Diesel RVs ride on smooth, air ride suspensions. Gas RVs have spring and shock suspensions. Gas RVs have spring and shock suspension that typically offers a less smooth ride. Diesels are quieter when driving because the engines are mounted in the rear.

8.  Transmission

Diesel RVs have a wider range of transmission options than gas RVs. The benefit is that different transmission options allow consumers the ability to select transmissions that have several different gear ratios. These multiple gear ratio transmissions are useful as they allow you to run your engine at low RPMs, thus reducing wear and tear on your engine, as well as saving you fuel. Gas RVs, on the other hand, generally have standard 4-speed automatic transmissions.

9.  Weight

Diesel RVs have a higher GVW rating than gas RVs, which allows for you to have more slides (extensions) than gas RVs

10.  Depreciation rate

Diesel engines generally run three times as many miles before requiring major engine work than gas engines. One of the reasons is that the engines run at a lower RPM than gas engines, which means there's less strain on the engine. As a result diesels depreciate at a slower rate than gas RVs. The purchase price of a diesel RV is generally higher than gas powered RV, but if you're planning on holding onto the RV for a long period of time, you should consider it an investment with a greater return than a gas motorhome.

Choosing a motorhome that is right for you depends largely on your preferences and requirements, with money being a major consideration. A diesel powered RV may cost more, but it could prove to be a more worthwhile investment if you look at it long-term. However, if you're planning to go on just occasional RV and camping trips, say once to twice a year, a gasoline motorhome is a great choice. Good luck in making your decision and enjoy your motorhome. Happy RVing!

Copyright ©2011 Camping Road Trip, LLC

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2 comment(s) so far...

You stated: As for a diesel motorhome that runs on a rather complicated mechanism,

Diesel engines are actually much simpler than gasoline. No ignition system, plug wires, spark plugs and related components. Also, most diesels work on the 4 stroke concept with the exception of some Detroit models. Diesels simply get their ignition from compressing the air/fuel to a much higher pressure. A diesel injects fuel directly into the combustion chamber whereas a gas engine injects fuel in the intake just before the intake valve. There are some gas engines experimenting withh injecting fuel directly into the combustion chamber but so far I know of none in operation.

By gwcowgill on 2/18/2011 2:08:37 PM

Poorly researched. The MOST popular diesel rigs are Tiffin and Winnebago, and Tiffin's Phaeton is THE most popular diesel pusher. And NEITHER Ford nor GMC manufacturers any kind of motorhome. And plan for plan, the diesel adds about $50,000 to the purchase price - NOT double. And there is more to consider for load than just slides - far more. Our 2006 Itasca Sunrise 36 ft gas rig had about the same or more Gross Carrying Capacity (GCC) than our current 2012 Tiffin Phaeton 40 ft diesel.

By DaveViolette on 8/8/2013 4:14:25 PM
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