As full-time RVers, fuel is one of our biggest expenses. Big rigs aren’t exactly efficient and driving them around the country is far from cheap. Of course, this makes traveling full-time a bit more difficult for those of us who are on a tight budget.
In fact, we’ve learned how to cut our fuel costs nearly in half during our time on the road. For us, this means more money in the bank for exploring, and that’s never a bad thing.
Wondering how you can keep your monthly fuel costs down while still enjoying the traveling life? Here are our top tips on the matter.
1. Downsize your rig
The first and possibly most obvious thing you can do to cut your fuel costs is to downsize your rig. In general, the smaller your RV is, the less you’ll have to spend on gas, so if you can afford to lose some space, go ahead and do it.
Not only will you spend less on fuel, but you’ll also have more freedom, as you’ll be able to park in more places and do more exploring than ever.
2. Get bikes
Of course, you don’t only use fuel on travel days. In fact, many people use just as much gas exploring destinations in their big dually trucks as they do moving from one campground to the next.
If you’re frequently parked near grocery stores and other necessities, you might consider getting a bike. You can ride this during daily errand runs and save your gas for driving places that are a bit further from your campsite.
3. Slow down
The most effective way to save on fuel costs is to slow down your travels, making a point of staying in one place for a few weeks or even a month or two. Traveling slowly saves on fuel in two ways:
- You spend less per month getting from one destination to the next. In fact, you may not move your camper at all some months.
- Because you have more time to see the attractions in a given area, you’re less likely to spend every single day out sightseeing, meaning you’ll have more days that you don’t drive at all.
If you’re a new RVer, this may sound crazy. After all, there’s so much to see and do that slowing down might feel like a silly thing to do. However, it’s actually one of the best changes my family has ever made, and not just because it cuts down on our fuel usage.
You see, by going more slowly, we can really take an area in. We have time to get to know people in the community and we can even visit attractions more than once if we like.
This slower travel style also gives us time to have down days to run errands, do work, or even just rest. These days are just as important as the sightseeing days. Finally, going more slowly saves us money in another way. It allows us to pay weekly and monthly rates at campgrounds. These are usually much cheaper than nightly rates.
4. Choose destinations wisely
Where you are in the country will also affect how much you spend on gas. Some people don’t really take this into account, and others are completely surprised by the fact that gas can be $1.00 or even $1.50 more in one area than in another. By spending time in the areas where gas is cheaper, you can save quite a lot on fuel costs.
While I knew this to some extent already, our recent jaunt to California really solidified it for me. Everything was so much more expensive there that we left a full two months earlier than we had planned on. One of the most expensive things about our stay in California? The gas. It cost a full $1.50 more there than it did back home.
5. Use GasBuddy
While the cost of gas will usually be pretty consistent in any given city, when your vehicle uses a lot of gas, even a few cents’ difference per gallon can add up. Besides, when you’re driving on the highway, gas prices can actually change quite quickly as you enter and leave various cities and even pass over multiple state borders.
For these reasons, using a service such as GasBuddy can make a huge difference. GasBuddy will tell you where to go for the cheapest fuel in your area, and can even give information on stations you’ll come across several miles down the highway.
This is great because it removes the frustration of filling your tank only to see a much lower gas price a few miles down the road. This has happened to us more than once. It is one of our favorite free apps for comparing gas prices and free to use on their website.
6. Sign up for cards and programs
Did you know there are ways to get discounts on gas? Doing so requires signing up for loyalty cards, credit cards, and other services, but in many cases, it’s well worthwhile.
This article discusses some of the best gas reward credit cards out there. These cards allow you to earn points for purchasing gas. When you’re traveling often, these points can really add up fast and can then be traded in for awesome rewards such as cash, plane tickets, and gift cards.
As far as loyalty cards go, there are a few different gas stations that have good programs in place. We really like the Sheetz and Pilot/Flying J rewards programs, and Shell has a nice option in place as well. BP, Circle-K, Chevron, and Texaco are all also worth looking into. If you fuel up with them often, you should get at least a few cents off per gallon.
You may also want to track your fuel expenses on Fuelly