Husband’s dream RV is wife’s “gas hog” nightmare



Dear RV Shrink:rvshrink
We are looking at a 38-foot motorhome that is like a McMansion on wheels. It has all the creature comforts of home. It has been my husband’s dream for years.

Don’t get me wrong. I love it too, but I can’t get over the poor gas mileage. I keep thinking every time we drive five miles it’s going to cost us whatever a gallon of gas costs. It seems absurd.

Am I just thinking too hard?  Are we nuts buying this gas hog? —Gas Math in Maitland

Dear Gas Math:
I would say you are not thinking hard enough. You have to do the math several different ways and see if this RV, or even the RV lifestyle, is going to work for you. I can tell you your fuel bill is, in most cases, not going to be your biggest expense.

Most people with a rig your size are pulling a toad. Your gas-hog expense is going to get you from point A to B; from there you will be driving the toad.

I suggest you sit down and run through what you would like to do for a six-month trip. Figure your mileage, your gasoline costs, camping and maintenance. That will give you a better picture of what your costs are going to look like overall.

Many of your costs are not going to change whether you stay at home or travel. You will still eat, heat, cool and entertain.

You should also compare your trip expense with other travel options. Figure the same trip without the motorhome and add the expense of rooms, meals and fuel. Try doing the trip using a train and a berth. Compare it to some organized tour package.

All these travel methods can ring up dollars quickly. Running the numbers may make you feel better about how you plan to travel and the cost of getting the beast down the road. —Keep Smilin’, Richard Mallery a.k.a. Dr. R.V. Shrink


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Gene Bjerke

If your main concern is cost, why are you buying a McMansion? We travel in a top-of-the-line Class B. We get 18-20 mpg, dry-camp frequently, and are perfectly comfortable. If space is most important to you, you have to realize space costs. A smaller rig can be just as comfortable and offer all the amenities at a lower cost. You pays your money and you takes your choice.


When we first looked into The RV lifestyle, we were told by some friends who had been at it for a time the following: It gets pretty good gas mileage for a home but lousy gas mileage for a car. Enjoy the times you have and all of the country you will see.

Since then we have been from Alaska to Key West , San Diego to Prince Edward Island Canada and haven’t even started to make a dent in what there is to see.

Mary - Oklahoma

If it’s your hubby’s dream, then just go with him and enjoy it!!

Jerry X Shea

All the comments above are correct. One other important point. Don’t think of gas mileage as “driving to work each day.” Right now we are into our 6th week (of 8 weeks) in one spot. Talk about great gas mileage – ha. You will not be driving down the road 365 days a year. As stated, you will drive your McMansion to a destination and then drive your car around to see the sites. Be sure to pencil in the fact that you are on an extended vacation when you RV. You will be paying to park, admission to attractions, you will eat out to try cultural food of the area, attending RV Rallys, etc. Gas is not your only financial concern.

Richard Warnke

We also drive a 38′ motorhome with a 496 cubic inch gas engine, coupled to a six speed transmission. We regularly pull about 3500 pounds of towed and have the coach loaded to the max.

Over all, we average over eight miles per gallon. That means we drive 60% farther on a gallon of fuel than does the fine lady who wrote the question.

How have we cut our fuel expenses?

Several factors.

First, my wife and I both drive with a light foot. No jackrabbit starts. As long as we aren’t holding up traffic, 55-57 mph is fast enough. Don’t use the cruise control unless the road is really level. Watch the road ahead so that we don’t race up to the red light and have to jam on the brakes. In fact, watch the road ahead so that we almost never use the brakes on expressways. (Brakes destroy the inertia one pays to create with fuel.)

We’ve improved the efficiency of the drive train by adding a Banks system to allow the engine to breathe easier.

Then we pay less for fuel. We use the Gas Buddy app on the phone to find good gas prices — of course, making sure our rig and towed can negotiate the gas station. Next, one of our credit cards (Sam’s Club Mastercard) gives us a 5% rebate on fuel purchases in the USA and Canada, plus 3% on campgrounds. Also we’re signed up with some oil companies’ frequent purchaser discounts.

In this way, with limited $$$ resources, we’re able to enjoy full-timing, including driving our motorhome 25,000 to 30,000 miles per year, taking in many beautiful sights of God’s creation.

I sincerely hope our unseen friends in their 38 footer can do the same.

Loretta Roach

I drive a 34 foot RV and pull a Ford Focus and I routinely get 10 miles per gallon on most roads excluding mountainous terrain.
The trick to reasonable gas mileage lies in how much you have in your storage bays. If you have not used it in a year get rid of it!

Tommy Molnar

Ditto, Richard Davidson.

Richard Davidson

We have been driving that “Gas Hog” for 10-15 years, in the cheap fuel days through the unbelievable $8/gal days and back to the now $2.1/gal days. In every case and in every period you have to take into account not only cost but comfort. How much is it worth it to you to know who slept in that bed the night before? To know for sure that it doesn’t have bed bugs. How much is it worth it to you to not have to pack and unpack a suit case every couple of days and hope you have everything you want with you? To us, these things more than compensate for the cost of fuel. We just got home this year from a 5+ month trip across the USA from south Florida to southern California and up all the way to the farthest corner of Washington State and back and we figured we spent on fuel and campground costs about $8K to $9K. That’s for 5+ months. Add in another $2k for eating out and seeing the sites we wanted to see, doing it all in the comfort , security and familiarity of our home on wheels and I just do not think there is any better way to travel. Try and add up 5+ months of hotel nights alone and see what you come up with. Then add in car rentals or taxi fees, restaurant costs, air fair costs (and hassles). You WILL find out it’s cheaper to RV.