“Which is better, a diesel or gas motorhome?” is a question we’re asked frequently. When it comes to the diesel vs gasoline motorhome debate, there is no easy answer. What's right for you will depend on how you intend to use your motorhome. Let's look at the pros and cons of both diesel and gas motorhomes to help you decide which is right for you.
Gas Pros & Cons
Since the majority of vehicles run on gas, doesn’t it seem like gas is the better fuel option? Here are the pros and cons of a gas-powered motorhome.
Let's start with the price of an RV. The price of a gas-powered motorhome is quite a bit less than a diesel motorhome. In addition to paying less at the dealership for a gas-powered motorhome, you'll also pay less at the pump. There is usually a substantial difference between the price of gas and diesel, with gas being a lot less per gallon. Gas also burns cleaner than diesel, so you're doing the environment a favor by choosing a gas motorhome! And if you find yourself needing maintenance or service on your rig, you can find a mechanic just about anywhere for a gas engine and it's usually less expensive to repair than a diesel motorhome.
The cons for a gas motorhome are mostly in the layout. The engine is up front which can create a few issues. Not only is it louder in the cabin, but during the summer months the heat from the engine can make the cab very hot. There is also the bump, or “doghouse,” between the driver and passenger which can restrict movement. Since the engine is up front, the generator is typically near the back where the bedroom is. If you’ve gone off the grid and have to use the generator at night, it can be pretty noisy when you’re trying to sleep. Gas motorhomes have a leaf and spring suspension. This equates to a rougher ride with more bounces over bumps and sway back and forth from wind. While this is not a huge deal, you will definitely notice the difference. The biggest con for gas RVs is that they’re less powerful and depreciate in value faster than diesel RVs.
Diesel Pros & Cons
When you think of diesel engines, do you think of big powerful semis or school buses? I know I do. With all the power that diesel provides, why isn’t every motorhome running on diesel? There are definitely pros to a diesel rig, but there are some cons as well.
One of the best things about a diesel motorhome is how long it retains its value. The reason for this is that it runs at lower RPMs, which puts less strain on the engine. Less strain means longer life. But that’s not all these lower RPMs do for these engines. The increased torque in diesels means much more power! They generally have a higher GVWR and 10,000 more pounds of towing capacity! Not only are these engines more powerful, they’re located in the back which is why you will sometimes hear them called “diesel pushers.” With the engine in the back you won’t have the heat from the cab or the engine noise to deal with up front. As you’re cruising down the road you will notice that you get a much smoother ride with a diesel rig. This is because they have air suspensions, which inflate and deflate to keep the rig more stable as you encounter bumps or strong gusts of wind. You’ll find that driving a diesel offers more of a luxury feel than a gas motorhome.
The biggest con when it comes to a diesel motorhome is the sticker price and the drag on your wallet. They tend to be priced higher than gas models. Not only is the initial cost of buying it higher, but typically diesel costs more per gallon. So even though they’re more fuel efficient, you may end up with higher fuel costs. Also, diesel emits more pollutants than gas. For a long time it was believed that it was actually a cleaner burning fuel, but this has been discovered to be untrue. To counteract this, you have to purchase diesel exhaust fluid (DEF) to help reduce the mono-nitrogen oxides that are released. DEF costs about $4-$5 per gallon, but since 2.5 gallons will get you about 800 miles, this isn't a huge added expense. The last con to driving diesel is that it can be hard to find a diesel mechanic. Because they are few and far between, you could be looking at greater maintenance and service costs.
Ultimately, both gas and diesel motorhomes have their share of pros and cons. When choosing which is right for you, determine how far you’re traveling with it and how strong you need it to be. If you’re touring the country or full-time RVing, go diesel. The slower depreciation per mile will offset the higher price. If you’re just planning on using it for occasional camping trips and storing it for the winter, then a gas motorhome may be right for you.