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6 Ways To Save Money On Fuel While RVing

Jeffrey Beall

6 Ways To Save Money On Fuel While RVing

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.

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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.

fuel
Invest in some bikes for short day trips. Photo by Isriya

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:

  1. You spend less per month getting from one destination to the next. In fact, you may not move your camper at all some months.
  2. 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



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12 thoughts on “6 Ways To Save Money On Fuel While RVing”

  1. We buy gift cards (Cracker Barren & Chick fil A) at Kroger to get 4x fuel points. Pay with Costco Citi card to get cash back. Then pay for discounted gas with same card for 4 percent more cash back. On current trip paid less than $1/gal several times and will get nice check from Costco at end of year–yet again!

  2. I live in Montana were the speed limit is 80 on the freeway, 70 on most 2 lane roads. I drive my 25 foot MH 60. It does concern me that someone not paying attention may rear end me.

  3. Very good suggestions offered. One suggestion I offer is if you are keeping a log for fuel mileage, add a column to list the brand you purchased so that you can see which brands give you the best mileage. I consistently saw 2 miles per gallon less on the cheap Sam’s Club fuel. And I get the best mileage when using Shell or Mobile. I stopped using Sam’s Club fuel. Lastly, Google what each states charges for tax on fuel. Georgia has a low tax and their fuel is cheap. California has a crazy high tax which is why their gas is so expensive. I fuel up before leaving Georgia and fuel up before entering California.

  4. I’m surprised that getting off the freeway to get fuel can also save a LOT of money. For example, there’s a Safeway just a short mile off I-90 in Spearfish, SD, with fuel that is 20-30 cents per gallon cheaper than any gas station along the freeway. I often find that fuel in town just a few blocks from the freeway is much less than at stations along the freeway. Every station in town is not always convenient when towing a trailer or a TOAD to get into out of. but drive along a little farther and you can usually find a more accessible station that is just as inexpensive, if not more so. And, you get to see a little of the town or city you happen to be in.

    Finally, I also installed a large fuel tank in my tow vehicle–which means I only have to stop once per day even on long driving days. Sometimes, I get fuel in the morning, early, since I’m usually up early anyway instead of in the evening. Or I can drive a few miles down the road/highway looking for cheaper fuel, too. before I need to fill up.

    I also use the Costco Cashback card–BUT it doesn’t give the high rewards at some stations (like grocery store fuel stations). When you’re pumping $100 of fuel at a time, it adds up!

  5. We tried the Pilot/Flying J card. Their $ limit was too low for an RVer. Two fillups for us would have us over their account authorization. Besides, almost everywhere there is a Pilot or Flying J, there is a cheaper competitor across the street. We shredded that card and closed the account immediately. We use Gas Buddy and also Sam’s Club. Right now in Sacramento the price difference is anywhere from $.40/ gallon to $1.40/gallon cheaper on diesel at Sam’s club. Note: Not all Sam’s Clubs have fueling stations and not all that have Fueling stations carry diesel. It has been a huge help to us and worth driving a little out of our way. I also like the Good Sam Credit Card as it provides about a 45 day billing cycle which delays our need to pay it off immediately.

  6. Everybody has to do what works best for them and their rig. I was told when I bought my motorhome in 2003 not to drive it over 65, and I have experimented over the years. My gas mileage goes down about at mile per gallon if I drive 70, so I don’t. Folks are welcome to pass me, and I stay in the right lane and let them. I don’t let Camping World work on my rig any more, and I compare prices before I buy anything. I do use my Pilot discount for gas and propane, when a station honors it, but many do not. When I am traveling through different states during the day, the Pilot website shows me the gas prices of stations on my route, so I know the cheapest place to buy. (Gas Buddy is helpful, but sometimes I end up driving many miles out of my way to get to the cheapest station in the area.) I use the Bank of America Travel VISA for the best value on points refunds for travel purchases and the Amex Blue Sky credit card is my back-up. If this information helps you, please use it. If not, please ignore it. Let’s all be civil to each other.

  7. We acquired Pilot gas cards, but soon found out that unless you are RVing in a diesel coach, access to the gasoline pumps at Pilot is all but impossible for a Class C. Most seemed to be designed for cars and pickup trucks, not a 28′ RV towing.

  8. 50 MPH on the Freeways will get you cussed out, shot at, run over and/or killed. At my age I’d rather go 65 or 70……….every minute is precious !!!

  9. Rewards for fuel purchases and camping sites are very few as of the past years as Good SAMs club/ Campingworld are no longer there to help recreational or full time campers. All that is wanted is your money with NO real return for your investments. Pilot/FlyingJ do not give enough monetary discount for their higher costing fuels.Have travelled with a wide assortment of RV’ssince the early 70’s and things are changing with less discounts for anything. Enjoy what is presently available .

  10. I use a Costco Visa card with 4% cash back, and I installed a 60 gallon tank on my truck for more options on shopping around.

  11. When towing my 2007 16 ft. ‘Scamp’ trailer with my 2004 Dodge Grand Caravan, ‘sweet spot’ for towing seems to be around 50 m.p.h., where I get about 16 to 17 m.p.g..

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