If you are shopping for a new RV, then chances are you are wondering what to expect for MPG?
One quick look at even a small Class C motorhome can give you the impression that it’s a thirsty beast that will guzzle gasoline or diesel with reckless abandon.
Just what kind of miles per gallon can you expect from an RV? The answer can vary depending on a lot of factors.
For something like a large Class A motorhome with a gasoline-powered engine, you might be looking at something as low as 8 to 10 MPG. On the other end of the spectrum, if you were to say pull a small, lightweight travel trailer behind a diesel-powered light-duty pickup truck, you might be able to get as much as 25 to 30 MPG.
While weight is certainly one of the major factors influencing an RV’s MPG rating, it’s not the only one that counts.
In this article, we’ll take a closer look at how things like engine type, weight, size, length, maintenance, and other factors can influence MPG.
This might also include some tips to how to get the most out of every drop of fuel you put in.
Breaking Down RV MPG Expectations By Class And Size
While there are a lot of factors that influence an RV’s MPG, size and in particular weight, is one of the most important.
The following is a break down of the different classes and types of RV, and insights on the kind of gas mileage you might expect.
Motorhomes are essentially a spacious travel trailer and a tow vehicle in one.
They are typically large, most are bigger than a full-size one-ton pickup truck! There are three different class of Motorhome in the United States, defined by their weight.
Average Gas Mileage For A Class A Motorhome?
Class A Motorhomes are the largest of the three. These are the huge motor coach rigs you see eating up a whole lane as they chug along the highway.
Most weigh in excess of 26,000 pounds. Some havesomewhat efficient, yet expensive diesel engines and some have gasoline-powered motors.
Their fuel consumption can vary from as low as 5 to as much as 15 MPG.
Average Gas Mileage For A Class B Motorhome?
Class B Motorhomes are relatively smaller than Class A motorhomes, which translates into better fuel economy.
They can range in fuel consumption from 10 to 25 MPG, In general, you will get better fuel economy from a newer Class B motorhome than you will from an older one.
This is due to several factors including advancements in engine technology, and improved aerodynamic design.
Newer units also tend to pair the engine with the camper body more thoughtfully.
Average Gas Mileage for a Class C Motorhome?
Class C Motorhomes can vary in size to be a near rival to class A or Class B.
There are some that are even built on full-size van frames, while others are large and sleep motorhomes that nearly classify as a Class A.
Older Class C motorhomes tend to be less fuel-efficient. Especially those that are powered by naturally aspirated gasoline engines.
However, newer Class C motorhomes and those with turbo diesel engines can be relatively fuel-efficient. As a whole, they can range from as low as 10 MPG all the way up to 25 MPG.
With a diesel powered Class C motorhome you might get as much as 10 to 15 miles per gallon when you are driving at highway speeds.
For example, the Thor Freedom Elite 24FE averages round 13 MPG.
On the other end of the spectrum a heavier Class C motorhome with a gasoline engine might only get 6 to 10 miles per gallon. For example, the Forest River Sunseeker 2420 MSF averages around 7 MPG.
These numbers can drop significantly if you are driving up in altitude, or if you are facing a persistent headwind.
Trailers And Campers
While motorhomes are prized by many RV enthusiasts as a “Home on Wheels” there are many people who prefer large campers and travel trailers.
One of the big advantages here is that your tow vehicle takes the camper where you want to stay.
You can set it up as a sort of “Base Camp” then unhitch and use the tow vehicle to tour the surrounding attractions.
With an RV you either have to tow along a secondary vehicle, which increases fuel consumption, or you have to continually break camp to tour the area, driving a large rig around what might not be RV friendly roads.
Fifth Wheel Campers
They are typically the largest of the RV trailers. Some of the bigger units can even rival a Class A motorhome.
They are typically so large that you need a full-size pickup truck with a special hitch attachment in the cargo box to tow it.
With these, the tow vehicle itself, and how well it’s been maintained will determine the MPG.
Pairing the right size truck to the weight of your fifth-wheel trailer is critical. Even if you can technically move the trailer with a light-duty truck it could be unsafe.
At the same time, an under-powered truck’s engine will often get poor MPG as it will constantly have to run in a higher rev range, than a larger counterpart that is geared for the task.
There’s a wide range in MPG here. A lighter fifth-wheel trailer weighing in around 5,000 pounds towed by a four-wheel-drive half-ton pickup truck will get around 10 to 12 MPG on the highway.
On the other end of the spectrum a three-quarter or one-ton truck, with a diesel engine pulling a 15,000-pound fifth-wheel could get between 12 to 15 MPG on the highway.
I general, the lighter your fifth-wheel trailer, and the stronger, more efficient your tow vehicle’s engine is the better MPG you will get.
If you are contemplating a truck purchase with the fifth-wheel you might also want to factor in the increased cost of a large diesel truck engine vs gasoline when it comes to determining your long-term return on investment.
Travel Trailer Campers And Toy Haulers
This is the broadest category of RV accommodations. Some travel trailers are small, lightweight little campers meant to sleep two or three people, and weigh in less than 500 pounds. The lighter end of the spectrum can even be towed by a mid-size SUV.
Toy haulers are a niche in this segment. They are essentially an enclosed trailer that carries things like ATVs, UTVs, dirt bikes, and other outdoor gear.
When you get to where you are going, the rear of the trailer opens up, you drive the “Toys” out and then set the interior of the trailer up as your living accommodation.
They are very popular with seasonal hunters who seek their prey on public hunting lands.
Yet on the other end of the spectrum, there are some travel trailers that are long and luxurious enough to rub elbows with fifth-wheels and motorhomes.
These larger units typically need half-ton or even one-ton pickup trucks to pull them safely.
On the light end example, let’s say you have a small 500-pound travel trailer being pulled by asmallhybrid SUVmight see the standards40 to 50MPGreduce down to 30 to 35 MPG.
Of course, these numbers can also change if their intended route has a lot of mountains and hills.
In a heavier example let’s say you have a three-quarter-ton F250 with a 5.4-liter V8 gasoline engine, pulling a 10,000-pound travel trailer. With this setup, the truck might get around 9 to 12 MPG.
Popup Campers And Tent Trailers
These tend to be super lightweight and easy to tow. It’s essentially a low-profile trailer that you can tow behind an SUV or even a rear-wheel-drive sedan.
When you get to your campsite, you “Pop” the hardtop open, raise it up and expand out the canvas wings.
Some of the larger popup campers offer as much interior square footage as a mid-size, hard-sided travel trailer.
Because they weight between 500 to 2,500 pounds the fuel consumption on the tow vehicle can be very reasonable.
With some of the lightweight versions, you might only see a 5 to 7 MPG drop on a mid-size SUV.
What Other Factors Impact An RV’s MPG?
There are many things that can affect a vehicle’s performance that goes beyond weight,or increase the stresses that lower MPG.
This is a technical term referring to the number of times the vehicle’s driveshaft turns to move the vehicle’s wheels through one full rotation.
Pickup trucks with a high axle ratio are typically rated to tow higher weights. However, they also tend to have inferior fuel economy.
A Diesel or Gasoline Engine
Diesel engines tend to produce more torque and are more fuel-efficient. This means they will use less fuel to accomplish the same amount of work.
Yet diesel fuel tends to cost more per gallon, and vehicles with diesel engines tend to cost more than gasoline.
I know it sounds a little cliché, and it might even conjure up memories of driving lessons with your father, but your driving style can have a pretty significant impact on your RV’s MPG.
If you are the kind of person who likes to stomp their foot to the floor the instant a light turns green, it will inevitably reduce the engine’s fuel efficiency.
Even if you are towing a light travel trailer with what is also your Monday thru Friday daily driver, you need to make a conscious effort to break yourself of the bad habits inspired by commuter traffic.
How well you maintain your RV will factor into the MPG it yields in the short and long-term.
Of course, this starts with the obvious things like making sure you are getting oil changes as you meet the mileage requirements for the engine.
Yet it also extends to other aspects, like tire pressure, air filters, fuel filters and more.
Can Air and Fuel Filters Affect an RV’s MPG?
The process of an internal combustion engine relies on clean fuel and air mixing in the proper ratios.
When air is clogged by a dirty air filter or fuel is impeded by debris in the fuel filter it can gradually start to impact engine performance and fuel efficiency.
This is even more likely to be an issue with older gasoline-powered engines, where carbon deposits and engine wear also impact performance.
There are some conditions which can shorten the effective lifespan of a filter.
If you are frequently driving on dusty roads, and area that has a high pollen count in the air, the fine particulate matter in the air can start to clog air filters.
A fuel filter is more likely to accumulate debris if you frequently run your tank down to the fuel warning light.
This is even more likely to be an issue as the RV, motorhome, or tow vehicle ages, and ambient tank residue builds up.
Left unchecked a badly clogged fuel filter can even affect the fuel pump’s performance. Given enough time, it could even cause the fuel pump to fail, leaving you stranded!
An air filter is relatively easy to check. You just need to pop the hood, open the air filter house and look for debris, and clogged pores. This is something you should always do when you are getting ready for a trip.
Just how often you should change an air filter will vary from one engine and manufacturer to the next. How often you use your RV will also be a factor.
While some manufacturers will recommend going two years between air filter changes, there is nothing wrong with changing one out every spring as part of your annual maintenance process. The cost is usually minimal.
Fuel filters are harder to assess. There are some fuel filters that are nearly impossible for you to change by yourself.
Look in your owner’s manual to see what they recommend. Considering the sheer volume of fuel that RV’s go through in even a single trip, and the fact that most end up sitting in storage through the winter, you should never go beyond the manufacturer’s recommendation.
When storing your RV for the winter, you should also make sure to follow all the recommended steps for preserving the fuel system.
This typically includes using high-grade fuel and a fuel stabilizing agent.
Does Tire Pressure Affect An RV’s MPG?
I know it seems small, but even a slightly underinflated tire can have a major impact on an RV’s MPG.
When a tire has low air pressure it expands the footprint and increases the amount of weight that is placed on the treads.
This, in turn, increases drag and friction, which will make the engine work harder with every turn of the tire.
Over the course of a long drive, all these small percentage decreases can add up to one, two, or even five fewer miles per gallon on your fuel consumption!