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Gas or Diesel?

May 6, 2011 by · 11 Comments 


Deciding whether to purchase a diesel or gas motorhome can be tricky business if you’re not familiar with the ins and outs of what each offers. While there are a number of advantages to owning either, there can also be some disadvantages to owning each depending on how you plan to use the motorhome. In the midst of a tight economy, those looking to purchase a gas or diesel motorhome want to ensure they’re making a wise investment. The last thing RV enthusiast wants to do is spend a ton of money on a motorhome, only to find it’s not going to meet their traveling needs.

To help guide potential motorhome buyers on their search, here is a quick run-down of how both gas and diesel motorhomes differ when it comes to a variety of areas.


When it comes to power a diesel coach is the clear winner. Diesel coaches have more power which provides more torque which increases towing capacity. If you plan to haul a boat or vehicle behind your motorhome, a diesel coach would likely perform much better.


There is no question about it.  A gas motorhome costs significantly less – $80,000 to $100,000 – than a diesel coach. Also, the price of diesel fuel is more than gasoline.  These are both things to consider. Also, if by chance your vehicle needs to be serviced, many mechanics charge twice as much per hour to work on diesel engines.

Engine Longevity

This is yet another area a diesel coach comes in ahead of a gas coach. Diesel motorhomes are built for high mileage – it’s that simple. While a gas engine in a RV will last somewhere between 100,000 to 125,000 on average, a diesel can hold its own from anywhere around 250,000 to 500,000 miles. So basically, if you plan on putting more than 100,000 miles on your RV a diesel coach is probably your best bet.


These days, motorhomes come in lengths of 42 and even 45 feet, and models that large are going to need a powerful engine to pull them. Since these large models need more power, it’s no surprise many of the more luxurious motorhomes are diesel coaches.


This is also another area affected by power. Since a diesel motorhome has more power, weight has less of an impact on the miles per gallon than it does with a gas motorhome.


Generally, the smaller diesels (Class C motorhomes) get better mileage than gas models. This is simply due to the fact a smaller diesel engine can provide enough power to power a smaller motorhome. For example, some Class C models get around 18 to 22 mile per gallon while similar gas models only get about 12 mpg.


As you see, gas and diesel engines both have their advantages and disadvantages. Ultimately, the decision on which type to purchase should reflect how you plan to travel. If you take all of the above mentioned areas into consideration when deciding on what type of motorhome to purchase, you and your family will have no problem enjoying your next RV-adventure.

About the Author: Darrin Michael has worked professionally in both the journalism field as well as the RV industry. He currently serves as the marketing director at Dave Arbogast RV Depot in Troy, OH, where his duties include everything from website design to SEO operations to daily blog writing.


11 Responses to “Gas or Diesel?”
  1. GK says:

    One thing to keep in mind is that diesel isn’t universally more expensive. There are a small number of places in the US where diesel is cheaper than gas, and diesel is generally cheaper across Canada.

    However, I wouldn’t recommend looking at cost or consumption in isolation. You need to look at cost of the fuel as well as the consumption together. Paying less per gallon for gas, but burning more of it, could make a gas-powered unit more expensive overall. It depends on the relative consumption of the units you are looking at.

    The other issue for some people is availability of the fuel. Finding diesel along Interstates and major highways isn’t an issue, but if you get off the beaten path, finding diesel can occasionally be more challenging. I haven’t found a service station yet that doesn’t sell gas, but I’ve seen plenty that don’t pump diesel.

    Another availability question: does the unit you want even come with a diesel? So far, finding modest Class Cs and Class Bs with diesel can be a challenge. Gas if far more common in Class Cs, from what I’ve seen. On the flip side, I have yet to see one of those really large, luxury Class A’s with anything but diesel. If you want gas, it really isn’t an option.

    Another question is maintenance and repair: finding a diesel mechanic in some instances may be a challenge at times, whereas mechanics who work with gas regularly are more prevalent. For those who want to maintain their own engines, then your own experience and comfort will come into play, and there are lot more people familiar with gas engines vs. diesels.

    On power: diesels not only put out more torque, it typically comes on at lower RPMs and holds it longer across the entire rev range. Gas engines, though, do put out more horsepower, which usually translates in the ability to achieve and maintain speed. However, at the speeds most motorhomes and tow vehicles operate, that probably isn’t an issue (unless you are determined to try to run 10 second quarters in your Jayco :-) ). Torque is definitely your friend when it comes to moving mass.

  2. Patti Faustini says:

    Great article , and timely! We’re on the road to Montana and our new (to us) Winnie View is religiously getting 21. 98 mpg! One leg we only got 19 mpg but it was all uphill and we were running ac a lot. Now, before we go berserk with joy, I have to acknowledge, as you pointed out, you pay more for a diesel engine up front. So it all probably comes out in the wash in the end. But we’re thrilled anyway!

    Happy tales, Patti

  3. George says:

    Thanks for the insight! I’ve been looking at Winnebago gas and diesel motorhomes, and have had trouble picking. I think I’m leaning more toward the diesel. I plan on keeping my motorhome for a long time, racking up a lot of miles. I think a diesel makes more sense. Just pray diesel prices don’t go any higher!!

  4. Brad says:

    Good information. I have a diesel truck to pull my 38 foot 5th wheel. I have talked with folks who pull with gas engines and they are not happy. Their MPG is bad with the gas engine. In my area, diesel is now priced the same as regular grade gas. I noticed last night that the price of gas went up 7 cents at some stations but they kept the price of diesel unchanged.

  5. Bill Amick says:

    Another big safety factor in favor of diesel motor homes is air brakes. All of the heavy trucks you see on the highway have air brakes. They are more powerful, reliable and lower maintenance than hydraulic on a heavy weight vehicle. Most gas motorhomes, even Class A’s, come with vacuum boosted hydraulic brakes. Most diesel Class A’s come with air brakes. With or without a brake kit on the towed vehicle, a Class A motorhome towing a full sized car or SUV is much safer to drive with air brakes than hydraulic. The ready availability of air brakes was the biggest factor in my purchase of a diesel Class A..
    If initial cost is a factor, I’d rather have a 5 year old diesel with a100,000 miles than a brand new gas model.

  6. ISA says:

    You have missed out on one of the more important facts of gas v. diesel and that is the ongoing cost of maintenance and / or upkeep.

    It is considerably more expensive to service a diesel coach than it is a gas by a factor of at least 5. Service on a gas coach is usually less than $100, a diesel about $500.

    The ongoing cost of fuel for a gas powered coach is also considerably less.

    If your financial well being / budget is being strteched then you are better off with a gas powered coach.

  7. Ray Gondek says:

    I have a Gas driven 35 foot class A, The one thing I have noticed is accessibility to a gas pump. Alot of stations just don’t build with enough room to accommodate a large Gas driven vehicle like a motorhome, where as Diesel pumps are set up with the room because of the Large Trucks.

  8. Kelly says:

    In the last 8 years, my husband and I have had 2 gas & 2 diesel 2500HD GMC trucks. We pull a 30 foot SunnyBrook 5th wheel trailer. I can tell you that there is a difference in a gas engine compared to a diesel engine. When we would travel up hill, our gas trucks would sound like they are going to blow up due to the engine revving so much. With our last 2 diesel trucks, when you go up hill, it sounds like a kitten purring and it just coasts up the hill. A couple of weeks ago, we figured out the fuel mileage between a gas and diesel, with diesel being 25 cents higher than a gas. Guess which one came out being cheaper, the DIESEL. You might have to pay more to get them fixed, but if you maintain your vehicles, you will come out ahead. You diesel goes a lot further then your gas. Good luck in whatever you decide.

  9. Bob says:

    I disagree with the statement “So basically, if you plan on putting more than 100,000 miles on your RV a diesel coach is probably your best bet.” I can buy a complete replacement for my 8.1 litre gas engine for under $7,000 (or have the existing engine rebuilt for even less). Considering the cost for the diesel option, I could replace my gas engine about 10 times before I reached the break even point. The fact is, I doubt that anyone has ever put sufficient miles on an RV to justify the cost of a diesel engine over gas. There are certainly advantages to the diesel engine, but miles per dollar is not one of them.

  10. John says:

    Another benefit of a diesel is leveling. Diesels have air suspension which when dumped lower the body about 2.75 “. This allows the rig to be leveled easier.

  11. Don’t forget to use a quality line of lubricants on your diesel.

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