Gas vs. Diesel Motorhomes: Which RV Should you Buy?

A lot of people who are attracted to motorhomes ask the question, which is better a diesel or gasoline engine?

The truth is that both have their own strengths and arguable weaknesses.

A diesel motorhome tends to have more torque and towing power as well as better fuelefficiency, though they tend to have inferior acceleration.

Whereas a gasoline engine offers you better acceleration for things like merging into highway traffic, but it might not have the power to confidently flat-tow a car behind it. 

To truly understand which is the better option for you, we are going to have to take a closer look at several factors that go into choosing a gasoline or diesel motorhome.

This includes things like your travel style, how much you want to tow, and even the size of the motorhome you are interested in buying. 

The Different Motorhome Classes & Their Common Engine Types

There are technically three different classes of motorhome. Each has models with gasoline engines as well as diesel engines. 

Class A Motorhomes

Class A Motorhomes
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These are the largest of all RVs and are known for their size and luxury features. Most are built on bus chassis, which are heavy and cumbersome.

Many people who purchase Class A Motorhomes also like to tow a car or SUV behind them.

This makes Class A Motorhomes more likely to have a diesel engine. Though there are still a few gasoline models out there to consider. 

Class B Motorhomes

Class B Motorhomes
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Most of these motorhomes are built on large van chassis that make them easy to drive.

Sometimes referred to as a “Camper Van,” Class B motorhomes tend to have just as many models with gasoline engines as they do diesel engines. 

Class C Motorhomes

Class C Motorhomes

They range in size between Class A and Class B motorhomes. Some of the smaller models use the same transit van chassis that you see on Class B motorhomes.

They to have an equal split of gasoline and diesel engines. Though the larger Class C motorhomes that nearly rival their lumbering Class A siblings tend to have diesel engines, which provide them with superior towing power as well. 

Things You Should Consider Before Buying A Gas Or Diesel Motorhome

If you are relatively new to the RV experience you might not have a clear idea of how you will most often use your new motorhome.

It might help thinking about your reasons for wanting to get one. This will help you dial in not just the size of motorhome you are looking for, but the key mechanical features and specifications you should prioritize. 

Are You Thinking About Living In The Motorhome In The Long-Term?

Are You Thinking About Living In The Motorhome In The Long-Term

Some people live in their motorhome full-time and enjoy the adventurous lifestyle that RV travel has to offer.

Though seasonal workers, construction workers, and tradesmen who need to stay on a remote job site all look to motorhomes to let them live with some semblance of home comfort for months at a time.

So-called “Snow Birds” who live in the northern states and Canada during the summer might also want to adventure in the southern “Sunbelt” states during the cold months of winter. 

If this sounds like you, then chances are you will be looking for a larger Class C or a Class A motorhome.

Many people who take this route will prioritize a motorhome with a diesel engine that allows them to flat-tow a car or an SUV with them.

This is a great way to set up camp for weeks or months at a time, and still have a runabout vehicle to tour the countryside and run errands. 

Will You Be Taking Short Vacations?

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A lot of RV enthusiasts will take shorter vacations in their RV. This might be a long weekend up at the lake lot or a week-long excursion to a popular tourist destination.

In a scenario like this, the size of your RV may be strongly influenced by the size of your family and their desired comfort level.

If you will frequently be traveling during peak times like Memorial Weekend, the Fourth Of July, and Labor Day Weekend, you might want to lean toward a gasoline engine, which is more forgiving in stop-and-go traffic. 

Will You Frequently Travel On Interstate Highways?

Will You Frequently Travel On Interstate Highways

The interstate highway system might be one of the most efficient in the world, but it’s also wrought with a lot of junctions, interchanges, on and off ramps that call for an RV to rapidly accelerate.

In these times a motorhome with a gasoline engine will come in handy for getting onto and off the interstate.

Not to mention enjoying the added pep you will want when moving out of the slow lane to overtake and pass someone. 

Will You RV In The Mountains?

Will You RV In The Mountains

If you frequently drive through mountain passes to get to your intended destination, then you might want to lean toward a motorhome with a diesel engine. They tend to have more low-end torque for battling steep inclines.

However, if you are going to be staying at altitude, then you might want to give preference to a gasoline engine, which doesn’t suffer as much performance loss after 7 to 10,000=feet. 

Will You Be Towing A Boat Or Car Behind Your Motorhome?

Will You Be Towing A Boat Or Car Behind Your Motorhome
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Motorhomes are big burly vehicles, and even the most nimble can still be a hassle to pull in and out of a tight campsite.

This is why so many motorhome owners tow a car or SUV behind their RV. When they get to their campsite, the vehicle is unhitched and you will have a runabout car to enjoy the local sites.

Even if you don’t want to flat-tow a vehicle with you, a lot of RV owners want to bring boats and toy trailers with them to enjoy everything mother nature has to offer. 

If this sounds like something you are interested in doing with your motorhome, you might want to lean toward a model with a diesel engine.

That way you have the torque and horsepower to tow anything within reason.

Though there are still some motorhomes with powerful gasoline engines that will still get the job done. So, long as you are willing to sacrifice some fuel economy. 

What Are The Pros & Cons Of A Motorhome With A Diesel Engine?

The Pros & Cons Of A Motorhome With A Diesel Engine

In general, diesel engines have a superior lifespan compared to a similar size gasoline engine.

This translates into not just a longer life and less maintenance, but it also improves the resale value if you decide to upgrade or downsize 5 to 10 years down the line. 

The Benefits Of A Motorhome With A Diesel Engine

  • Superior Low-End Torque – The low-end torque offered by a diesel engine makes it better for climbing hills and towing heavy trailers or cars behind it. 
  • Balanced Throttle – Diesel engines tend to have a more consistent rev range, which spares you from having to step on it all the time. This spares your foot while reducing wear and tear on the engine. 
  • Fuel Efficiency – Diesel engines tend to be more fuel-efficient, which translates into better total MPG as well as fewer fuel stops. 

The Potential Drawbacks Of A Motorhome With A Diesel Engine

There are a few drawbacks or “Cons” when it comes to a motorhome with a diesel engine.

You will need to factor them into your travel style before deciding whether or not a diesel motorhome is best for you. This includes things like:

  • Initial Cost – Motorhomes with diesel engines tend to carry a higher price tag. So, you will have to prepare to pay more upfront in the initial purchase price if you want an RV with a diesel engine.
  • Costly Repairs – Diesel engines might last longer than gasoline engines, but when a motorhome’s diesel engine breaks down the repair bill tends to be higher and the repair takes longer to complete. 
  • Less Available Fuel – In certain parts of the country, diesel fuel pumps are few and far between. Not all gas stations carry diesel fuel. Depending on where you live, you might need to plan your fuel stops limited to the truck stops where over the road big rigs fuel up. 
  • Lower Top End Speed – A lot of diesel engines have a lower power band in the high rev range, which means they don’t get up to highway speed as fast as a gasoline engine of the same size. 

What Are The Pros & Cons Of A Motorhome With A Gasoline Engine?

The Pros & Cons Of A Motorhome With A Gasoline Engine

There are a few benefits and drawbacks to motorhomes with a gasoline engine, which means they aren’t ideal for everyone. 

The Benefits Of A Motorhome With A Gasoline Engine

  • Lower Initial Purchase Price – Gasoline engines tend to cost less, which means they won’t have such a heavy influence onthe initial purchase price as much as a diesel engine will. 
  • More Affordable Repairs – There are more certified mechanics who know their way around a gasoline engine than specialist diesel mechanics. This makes it easier to find someone to handle engine repair, as well as faster turnaround time for parts and lower cost for labor. 
  • Cheaper To Maintain – Gasoline engines also tend to be easier to maintain. Some of the routine maintenance can be even done by an experienced amateur, which lowers the overall cost of upkeep. 
  • Better High-End Speed – If you need to make quick moves to get onto an interstate highway or pull out of the slow lane to pass another vehicle, as gasoline engine will have superior high-end acceleration. 
  • Easier Fuel Stops – In some parts of the United States and Canada diesel fuel can be hard to come by. Whereas pretty much all gas stations will have quality high octane gasoline for motorhome engines. 
  • Handling Cold Temperatures – Cold temperatures are less likely to affect a gasoline engine. This can be a major factor if you want to use your new motorhome in the mountains or as a hunting base camp in late fall to early winter. 

What Are The Potential Drawbacks Of A Gasoline Engine?

  • Low-End Torque – IF you need to climb steep hills or you want to use your motorhome to pull a boat out of a steep launch or take a cargo trailer up an incline, a gasoline engine is more likely to deliver underwhelming performance. 
  • Poor Fuel Efficiency – Gasoline engines tend to have a worse fuel economy. So, while you might pay a little less per gallon at the pumps than diesel, you are also likely to have a higher mile per gallon rating with a motorhome with a gasoline engine. 
  • Less Reliable Around Water – If you like to take your RV to places with a lot of water, the more complicated electrics of a gasoline engine can sometimes be fouled by water. This is more likely to be an issue if you are launching a boat at a primitive boat launch. 
  • Lower Resale Value – Motorhomes with gasoline engines tend to have a lower resale value than their diesel counterparts. This can be a factor if you plan to upgrade or downsize within the first five years after purchasing your new motorhome. 

Should You Buy A A Gas Or Diesel Motorhome?

For the average RV adventurer, the differences between gasoline and diesel engines might seem minor.

In truth, it’s when you start to do more specialized things like flat towing or driving in the mountains that they start to show their strengths and weaknesses a little bit more. 

If you are thinking about getting a large Class A motorhome, and you want the low end torque to flat-tow a car or SUV behind it, then you might want to start looking at models with a powerful diesel pusher engine. 

If you like to travel on interstate highways, where you need the high end acceleration to do things like merge and pass other motorists, and you are interested in an easy to drive Class C or Class B motorhome, then you might want to prioritize a model with a gasoline engine.

Last Updated on by Aaron Richardson

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