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Around the Campfire: RVers discuss ways to save on high fuel prices

Some folks around the campfire thought it was a joke. This week we talked about the recent jump in fuel prices and the “content-to-stay-in-the-campground” people thought we had to be joking. They just could not fathom the idea of $5+ per gallon to fuel their trucks! And the prices continue to rise!

Campfire consensus

Our campfire discussion might very well have become a ginormous gripe session, but instead, the attitude shifted toward potential problem-solving tips. The consensus? We all enjoy traveling in our RVs. We’ve made plans for upcoming trips. Are there ways to keep our plans intact without breaking our budgets?

RVers find a way to beat high fuel prices

We are a resourceful bunch. RVers, I mean. Over the course of the next hour or so, almost everyone had an idea (or two or three) that may help conserve fuel consumption or help access the lowest fuel prices as we continue on our RV journeys. Maybe a tip or two we discussed will help you, as well!

Rig ready

  • Tire pressure. Make sure your rig’s tires are properly inflated before you head out. Plan to regularly check tire pressure each morning before you continue traveling, too. (A tire pressure monitoring system is a worthwhile purchase.)
  • Clean and ready. Regularly check/replace your air filter, fuel injectors, oil, and oil filters. Clogged or dirty systems mean greater fuel consumption.
  • Engine modifications. If you have the skills and tools to make modifications to your rig’s engine, you may see some fuel savings. Modifying the computer, adding cold air intake, along with other adjustments may require the skills of a professional mechanic. Ask a trusted professional for advice on how to get greater fuel economy through engine modifications.
  • Proper fuel. No one wants to pay more for fuel than is absolutely necessary. That said, some RVers claim to get greater fuel economy by using a higher grade of fuel. Because every RV is different, you’ll need to decide this for yourself. Maybe experiment with one fill-up of a higher grade of fuel to see if it adds significantly to your mileage.
  • Extra fuel tank. Our truck has an auxiliary fuel tank in the truck bed. When we find cheaper fuel, we make sure to top off the extra fuel tank.
  • Pack carefully. To reduce your rig’s weight and use less fuel, pack only what you absolutely need. Economists say for every 100 pounds, your RV’s fuel economy decreases by 2 percent.
  • Reduce drag. Avoid using roof rack carriers or other add-ons that will increase wind resistance and lower fuel economy. Also travel with empty water/waste tanks, if possible, to lighten the load.

Driving adjustments

  • Slow down. Several folks said they saw a significant reduction in their fuel usage simply by backing off the accelerator a bit. Frank said, “If I drive 55 or 60 mph instead of 65 or 70 mph, I can save a lot of fuel.”
  • Accelerate slowly. “Punching it” when the red light goes to green is not a good idea, especially if you’re wanting to conserve fuel. If you accelerate gradually, you’ll realize more savings.
  • Steady as you go. Keeping to a constant speed will help conserve fuel, too. Some people around the fire say they always use their cruise control feature to keep a constant speed. Others disagree about using cruise control, but still try to maintain a constant speed.
  • Nix the A/C while driving. Several folks said they saved fuel by not running their vehicle’s air conditioner while travelling. More power to them, but I’m not sure I can do it. I suppose it depends a lot on the outside temperatures.
  • Anticipate traffic ahead. Carefully watch the traffic ahead of you as you drive. If you notice a slowdown, ease up on the accelerator in anticipation. An idling motor uses little fuel and by “coasting” you’ll also save on your brakes.
  • Turn off the motor. If you must stop for a train or an accident, save fuel by turning off your vehicle’s motor. (I should add that some folks claimed it used more fuel to restart their engines after a shut-down. We had no consensus around the fire on that.)
  • Plan carefully. Try to avoid traveling through large cities during rush hour. The constant stop-and-go traffic will eat away at your fuel savings in no time. Finding alternate routes can also save fuel if it means avoiding steep terrain or numerous stop-and-go points.
  • Unhitch to fuel up. (For fifth-wheels and travel trailers.) Take advantage of times when your tow vehicle is unhitched from the RV. You may be able to find less expensive fuel off the main highway, and without the RV attached you can access gas stations that are prohibitive when hauling a rig.
  • Camp closer. Plan to stay at campgrounds that are closer to home to save fuel. For many of us, just being away from the day-to-day routine is a vacation. Distance doesn’t always matter all that much once you’re settled in, fire up the grill, or toss your fishing line into the lake. More on that here.
  • Try boondocking. Admit it! You’ve always wondered what it would be like without hoses and wires tethering you down. Put the money you save in campground fees toward your fuel budget.
  • Extend your stay. Remain in one spot longer, if you can. Practice home base camping (see article) and thoroughly investigate the area around your campground before moving on.

Fuel prices savings programs and apps

  • Kroger grocery stores offer fuel points for discounts at its company-owned fuel stations. Find out more here.
  • Safeway grocery stores also have a rewards system that you can use to buy fuel. Research the details here.
  • The free, downloadable Mudflap app will save you up to fifty cents/gallon. Read about it here.
  • Not only will GasBuddy guide you to low fuel prices, but its reward system may also save you forty cents/gallon. Find out more here.
  • TSD/Open Roads can also save you money on fuel. Learn more.
  • Rewards apps like GetUpside and Receipt Hog offer cashback on things you buy. You can use that cash for fuel!

Keep a sense of humor

As always, some “funny folks” offered their own unique ways to save on rising fuel prices:

  • G.B. said, “Just don’t look at the cost. It’s all part of RVing.”
  • LeRoy offered: “We bought a team of Clydesdales. For now, the feed is cheaper!”
  • AJ suggests: “I save a lot of fuel by only driving downhill.”

Do you have suggestions for ways to stretch your fuel budget—funny or serious? We’d love to hear them in the comments below.

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Bill Fisher
6 months ago

We’re currently on an extended trip out West and the worst we’ve seen for diesel was what I paid yesterday in Furnace Creek (Death Valley), $10.00 a gallon! We are offsetting the higher diesel fuel prices by boondocking and cheaper places. The last three nights, for example, were $0, $7 and $7. That pretty much more than makes up for higher diesel prices.

Bob Weinfurt
6 months ago

All engines benefit from a few minutes of running at a lower RPM, no load, cool down.

wayne
6 months ago

Auxiliary tank can save you money. Helps us avoid buying fuel in California.it also removes the hassles and panic of having to find a good place to buy. We decide when and where in stead of circumstances dictating it.

DW/ND
6 months ago

Jeff and Tommy below are correct! After running an engine under load, whether gas or diesel – whether large or small – one should always let it run a few minutes to cool down the cylinders, pistons, bearings etc.. I always do this even with my Kohler engine in my garden tractor! (It is original and built in 1990 and used 12 mos of the yr!) Bottom line: fuel use or engine longevity? Cool it!

DW/ND
6 months ago

Over the past years, before we HAD to have reservations… I would try to plan point to point trips by the weather – namely the wind – which we have an abundance of in ND – MN. A tail wind vs a headwind makes a very large difference in fuel mileage – even a slight tail crosswind helps. Hard to do now with time sensitive reservations – but if you can……..

Jeff Arthur
6 months ago

Modern turbo diesels require a cool down cycle 5-15 minutes of idle before shutting off.
Check your owners manual

Tommy Molnar
6 months ago
Reply to  Jeff Arthur

I use my Banks iDash to watch the exhaust temps before shutting down. You are right. You shouldn’t just shut the engine off right away.

JohnM
6 months ago

We use the Kroger fuel discounts almost exclusively.
1. I got their Mastercard (free) two years ago and get an additional $0.55 off per gallon (the deal has now dropped to $0.25) Have saved well over $1,500.
2. I get gift cards for my Amazon, Lowe’s, Home Depot & Target shopping at Kroger and get additional 4X fuel points. Also gift cards for Xmas gifts.
3. We plan our fuel stops all over the West using the various Kroger affiliates – Fry’s, City Market, Smith’s, Fred Meyer, etc.
4. Filling up my diesel truck 36 gal tank using $1.55 off feels really good.
Just Sayin’

Kamperman-1994
6 months ago
Reply to  JohnM

I have done the same thing for years…To bad I’m stuck in FL (no Kroger)

Spike
6 months ago

The largest single impact is speed. That is why many trucking companies have their trucks limited to certain top speeds. I run around 60 mph on the interstates and it makes a large percentage difference in fuel consumption vs crazy speed limits like 75 or 80 mph! Also runs tires cooler and not as hard on the drive train.

Re: shutting off engine. UPS must think it saves. Drivers shut down, deliver your package, restart and go.

The article says to regularly check/replace fuel injectors. Even in harsh conditions, fuel injectors should be good to 100k miles, and can be life-of-the-vehicle parts. I get the point, but these aren’t cheap, so not to be replaced like filters, etc.

Al Rose
6 months ago
Reply to  Spike

I agree. I usually go 62-65mph in my class A gasser. When we leave on our next trip the first part of April I’m going to limit my speed to 60. I’ll keep track and see how much fuel it saves me. Our trip is 2,500 miles, so even if it’s only say .2 mpg over the entire trip it will add up a bit.

chris
6 months ago
Reply to  Spike

Speed is the mileage killer, which is why the 55 mandate in 1973. This latest gas price stuff is nothing compared to what we went through back then.

Bill
6 months ago
Reply to  chris

Not true. Every vehicle has a most economical speed, depending on the design – engine, transmission, rear end, body shape, weight, and load. Most American vehicles at the time were designed for performance, not economy. The old VW chassis was designed with the economical speed at the max speed, about 70 mph with the beetle body and about 85 with the Karman Ghia body, but it didn’t have anything in reserve for steep hills or passing. Over-the-road trucks are designed for highway speeds. The most economical speed is normally at the torque peak of the engine, in top gear, with the design load which is not usually the maximum load.

Joe
6 months ago
Reply to  Bill

All 36-40 HP for the Beetle doing 70 MPH? I could only wish, maybe going downhill with a 40 MPH tailwind!

Leonard Rempel
6 months ago

So far this winter we are averaging 12.9 mpg with our Chevy 3500 dually pulling a 35′ Montana 5th wheel.
Our secret? MAX towing speed of 50 55 mph. Our neighbour at a recent campsite with a nearly identical rig claimed he was only getting around 10 mpg. What was the difference? He always pulled his rig at 65-70 mph.
Slow down everyone, it’s not a race!
And yes, I carry two jerry cans to fill up when I get a deal from Gas Buddy.

chris
6 months ago
Reply to  Leonard Rempel

I just drove from Las Vegas to Arizona via Kingman on the I-40, doing 55-60, and getting passed by other RVs like I was sitting still. Saw gas around $5.25. And I can’t believe how bad the 40 is in places. Potholes in a freeway, and bridge abutments so bad it’s like driving off a cliff. It was so bad the grating on the stove flew off onto the floor.

Last edited 6 months ago by chris
Joe
6 months ago
Reply to  chris

I must have been right behind you. Just did the same trip last Tuesday to Clarkdale Arizona. Not only most of 40 but also part of 17 South. I have a handful of screws and nuts in the drawer. We usually drive around the 60MPH mark but I slowed it down to 50-55 so I wouldn’t shake the whole motorhome apart, even with the air ride it was a terrible experience!

Joe Goomba
6 months ago

“Extra fuel tank”. The added weight would cancel out any savings.

Tommy Molnar
6 months ago
Reply to  Joe Goomba

Yup. It’s easier to carry one or two of the yellow plastic diesel containers IF you think you may need extra fuel, or as you say, buy extra if you find a killer deal. Definition of “killer deal” changes daily . . . 🙂

chris
6 months ago
Reply to  Tommy Molnar

I’m not really sure a couple small containers will make that much difference, unless you really like to push it.

Tommy Molnar
6 months ago
Reply to  chris

I usually figure I can nurse our truck and trailer along and get 10 mpg, so two six-gallon containers are good for about 100 miles. I should be able to find fuel in that distance. This is using the containers for emergency fuel, not ‘investment’ fuel. 🙂

chris
6 months ago
Reply to  Tommy Molnar

Ok, but another issue with that is, do you use that fuel and replenish it every so often so it’s not years old by the time you actually need it?

Lori
6 months ago
Reply to  chris

When refueling we cycle through our cans about once a month. Put one can into the truck, top off the truck tank at the pump and refill the can, and to the back of the queue the now full can goes.

Tommy Molnar
6 months ago
Reply to  chris

If I fill a ‘can’ at the beginning of the trip, I stop somewhere along the way home and put it in the truck. Kind of a PITA because six gallons of fuel is heavy (and I’m old . . .). By the time we get home there’s nothing in the containers.

Bob M
6 months ago

The milage increase using a higher grade of gas may not be a cost savings overall. Not using air conditioning but opening your windows may not save gas either. Stay away from gas with 15% ethanol, you get poorer gas milage. Be cautious buying a F150 hybrid. I have yet to get the 24 MPG and some other owners are complaining on forums. Getting around 18 MPG and I have a light foot. Hate to see what I get towing.

Gary Broughton
6 months ago

In 97 went to Alaska and fuel was high, about $4, and was $5 in Canada. We’re gone for 80 days and 12000 miles but only drove about 55 and 50 or less looking at all the views.
The alternative is to stay home or stay monthly.

Bob Harker
6 months ago

I was interested in “Mudflap”, but it’s for Iphones only.

Betty Studzinski
6 months ago
Reply to  Bob Harker

And it’s only for diesel and reefer

Diane McG
6 months ago

And…it says you have to go to the fuel desk to show them the 4 digit code before you can pump. No thanks. Been there, done that, long ago. Why we use TSD & before that the Flying J/Good Sam card. Pull up, pump, go. Saves time and gets us out of the truckers, who are working, way.

Bob p
6 months ago

Using cruise control on flat level ground can save on fuel, but in terrain with rolling hills or worse big hills when the cruise control forces the transmission to downshift and engine rpm jumps up that is using more fuel. Instead I anticipate the approaching hill and slowly step on the accelerator to slightly increase the fuel without causing the transmission to downshift, just a slight increase in fuel can get you over a small hill without downshifting. Once over the hill take your foot off the accelerator and resume cruising. Manufacturers could make the cruise controls less sensitive to speed changes, but that would defeat the oil companies stock interests in the auto industry. That’s the big reason auto manufacturers don’t produce vehicles that get better fuel mileage than the government regulations require. Look it up, see how much auto stocks the oil industry owns.

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