Gas or Diesel Motorhome: What’s Right for YOU?

The debate between gas vs. diesel motorhome engines has fueled many hours of debate within the RV community.

Snowbirds and full-time RVs in their winter home at Bella Terra RV Resort, Gulf Shores, Alabama  © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Snowbirds and full-time RVs in their winter home at Bella Terra RV Resort, Gulf Shores, Alabama © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Whether you are looking to purchase your first RV or considering an upgrade, it can be difficult knowing which way to go.

What Is the Difference Between a Gas and Diesel Motorhome?

Besides the obvious answer, the type of fuel that it uses, you may be wondering what advantages and disadvantages each type of motorhome offers.

If you are trying to decide between a gas or diesel motorhome, try to decide what features are most important to you.

How to you plan to use your motorhome? Will you use it on your summer vacation and weekends at the lake and then store it for the winter? Or will you use your motorhome for an extended period of time or as a permanent residence?

Long considered to have the most advantages, diesel engines typically have more power and increased torque compared to those that run on gas. With increased torque comes better towing capability and improved performance during hill climbs. If you are looking to purchase a large Class A or will be towing a boat or large SUV, then diesel may be your best option.

Some areas to consider when comparing diesel and gas motorhomes follow:

Price

Newmar Dutch Star Diesel Pusher and toad at Cajun Palms RV Resort which consists of over 300 Deluxe RV Spots,12 Chalets,and 25 Cabins. RV spots have full hookups, 30- and 50-amp, 70+ channels of digital cable, and on-site water and sewer. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Newmar Dutch Star Diesel Pusher and toad at Cajun Palms RV Resort which consists of over 300 Deluxe RV Spots,12 Chalets,and 25 Cabins. RV spots have full hookups, 30- and 50-amp, 70+ channels of digital cable, and on-site water and sewer. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The first consideration for many people shopping for a new motorhome is price. How expensive is the motor coach? First time motorhome buyers often decide to go with a less expensive gas motorhome than a luxury diesel coach.

There are, of course, various degrees of quality within each category. Depending on what you are looking for, the best gas motorhomes available on the market stack up favorably against some lower quality diesel units. There is a profound and noticeable difference; however,  between luxury diesel motor coaches and baseline gas motorhomes.

But for the most part, if you want to save money but still get a great coach, you’re probably looking for a higher-end gas model. If you have been saving for retirement in order to become a snowbird or full-time RVer, a luxury diesel pusher motor coach won’t disappoint.

Diesel coaches also tend to retain their value longer than gas motorhomes.

While diesel engines have their advantages, these come at a price. Gasoline engines are cheaper to purchase and also less costly to maintain. If you are strictly making your decision on initial cost, then look at your gas options first.

Fuel Efficiency

Diesel pushers are considerably more fuel efficient than Class A gas motorhomes partly because diesel fuel has a greater energy value than gasoline does. Its higher energy density means that diesel fuel offers up to 10 percent better fuel economy by volume.

Camping in a Diesel Pusher in O' Airy Zonie at Catalina State Park near Tucson. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Camping in a Diesel Pusher in O’ Airy Zonie at Catalina State Park near Tucson. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

One primary concern for recreational vehicle owners is maximizing engine power and efficiency. We all know how expensive fuel is, and because powerful motorhome engines consume fuel at such a high rate, on a cross-country trip or while driving through terrain, owners want to be sure they are getting the most out of their fuel consumption. While diesel fuel is more expensive than gas, depending on the model, it can be considerably less expensive in the long run to drive a diesel coach because of the improved fuel efficiency.

If you plan to put a lot of mileage on your motor coach, driving it across the country and living in it full time, you probably want to choose a diesel pusher. But if you are only taking it on vacation and testing out the RV lifestyle, it probably makes more sense to choose a gas engine Class A motorhome.

Comfort and Luxury

It’s natural to focus on the primary features when shopping for a motorhome. What type of chassis is the coach built on? Does the engine provide enough power? Am I getting the value I want at the right price point?

One thing you may overlook is the comfort that the interior offers. Some consumers have trouble focusing on the details until they’ve actually lived in their coach. They think they’ve spent ample time checking out the electronics, the bedroom, the restroom, the kitchen, and storage space. But once they own the coach, they realize it doesn’t feel like the way they thought it would.

This is less of a problem with quality manufacturers, where even Class A gas motorhomes at the lower price points may seem like luxury coaches.

A major concentration of snowbirds in Ol' Airy Zonie occurs each winter in the Tucson area. Pictured above is Diesel Pusher camped at Catalina State Park located in the Tucson-Oro Valley area. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A major concentration of snowbirds in Ol’ Airy Zonie occurs each winter in the Tucson area. Pictured above is Diesel Pusher camped at Catalina State Park located in the Tucson-Oro Valley area. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In a general sense, a gas motorhome typically offers less comfort and more little flaws that you may not notice until you spend an extended period of time in the coach.

Diesel motor coaches often offer higher quality interiors and superior components, which may be more important to a snowbird or full timer than someone testing the waters of the RV lifestyle.

In Conclusion

There are many areas where gas and diesel motorhomes tend to differ, though there are additional differences based on the manufacturer of the coach.

If you’re looking for a definitive answer about whether gas or diesel motorhomes are superior, you won’t find it here, because there is no absolute answer.

It depends on your lifestyle, available cash flow, and personal preferences.

And, also keep in mind that not all brands and manufacturers are created equal.

Worth Pondering…

Enjoy your journey—RV living is the freedom lifestyle.

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