Is gas or diesel better for RV? (the pros and cons)

In this short guide, we will explain: Is gas or diesel better for RV? We will compare Diesel vs Gas RVs, including their level of pollution, maintenance and resale value. 

Is gas or diesel better for RV?

When considering if gas or diesel is better for RV, we will go ahead and say that we prefer diesel. Why? Because, first of all, diesel RVs are more fuel-efficient and are easier to resell when the time comes.

See the table below for the main differences between gas and diesel RVs:

Gas RVDiesel RV
UsageRecommended for caravans, trailers or vans – because they consume less fuel than a motorhome.More suitable for long distances and for langer RVs (e.g Class A RVs).
Purchase priceLower price than diesel engines because more gasoline engines are easier to clean.More expensive than gasoline models. 
Fuel pricesHistorically lower but tend to catch up with diesel prices.For years cheaper than gasoline, but less and less true in some states.
MaintenanceAn engine not very resistant therefore more frequent revisions. But inexpensive repairs.A motor that wears less quickly: a better life. But repairs can be quite expensive (especially some parts).
Consumption Consumes more than diesel but an effort is made (especially in vans and trailers).Consumes about 15% less than a gasoline motorhome but on condition of driving a lot (mechanical system).
PollutionSignificant CO2 emissions – gasoline cannot be said to pollute more than diesel.Significant fine particle emissions.
InsurancePrices are more affordable than diesel because of less risk.10 to 15% more expensive than to insure gasoline RVs (in particular because diesel vehicles are more expensive in the event of theft and damage).
Resale priceGasoline discount has slowed down in recent years.Generally better on the resale side because the engine is considered more robust.

Diesel or gasoline RV, what consumption?

In principle, diesel RVs consume less than gasoline, about 15% less. But for it to be meaningful, you have to see it in the long term. In addition, gasoline RV models have made real progress, it may well be that in a few years the difference in consumption will not be so great.

On the other hand, the fuel consumption of a vehicle depends a lot on its “good use”. Diesel and gasoline heat engines work differently: they are therefore suitable for different uses:

  • Gasoline is recommended for drivers who mainly cover short distances. Indeed, gasoline models consume less in town than diesel engines. Gasoline is perfect for short  trips.
  • Diesel is recommended for drivers who travel every day and mostly over long distances. It is often said that 20,000 km must be covered per year with a diesel RV to make it profitable.
  • If you use a diesel vehicle in town for short trips, the engine will not have time to heat up, so it will not run optimally, consume more than expected and deteriorate more quickly.

Buying gasoline or diesel RV: profitability calculation

The choice of fuel for your future RV must be made according to various criteria. Indeed, you must ask yourself a few questions in order to make the best possible choice, and compare the different options! 

How many kilometres do you plan to drive per year? In town or over long distances? Do you plan to resell your vehicle quickly? What budget are you prepared to put in your insurance? Can you deduct your mileage costs from your taxes? Do you have a brand or model in mind?

Once your need has been defined, you can make a profitability calculation. Several sites allow you to do this calculation for you, you just have to fill in the requested information (similar to the questions set out above) in the calculation tool. Calculating the profitability of vehicles that interest you will allow you to see which is the most interesting, and above all, the least expensive!

You can also do your own calculation. To assess the profitability of a diesel, there are different formulas. Here is certainly the most used:

[(Diesel Model Price – Petrol Model Price) x 100] / [(Petrol Consumption x Liter Price) – (Diesel Consumption x Liter Price)]

The result will give you the number of kilometres you have to cover per year before you start to amortize the additional cost of diesel on the purchase.

Pollution: diesel RVs versus gasoline RVs

Diesel and gasoline RVs pollute just as much, but differently. It is therefore not possible to say which engine pollutes the least. Progress has been made on both sides.

Although emitting about 20% less CO2 than gasoline engines, diesel engines emit a large amount of fine airborne particles and nitrogen oxides, which are particularly harmful to health. So, we often hear that diesel pollutes less than gasoline, but this is not true. 

On the one hand, the pollutant emissions are different, and on the other hand, the life cycle of vehicles must be taken into account. A 2017 study showed that taking into account the full life cycle of diesel vehicles, they would ultimately emit 10% more C02 than gasoline cars.

In contrast, the ecological bonus/penalty benefits diesel engines, since it is based solely on CO2 emissions (and diesel emits less than gasoline). Thus, for the same model, diesel vehicles are fiscally favoured over their petrol version.

It is expected that gasoline and diesel environmental taxes will ultimately be equivalent. But environmental measures are constantly being reviewed and communities can add more. We, therefore, advise you to refer to the measures implemented by your municipality with regard to diesel and gasoline vehicles.

Diesel oil in a gasoline engine: what are the consequences?

When you put diesel in a gasoline engine or vice versa, there is a fuel error. What are the consequences of this error?

  1. gasoline in a diesel engine: your car will first consume the leftover diesel and then, once it gets gasoline, it will start to “gasp” and you will certainly hear a clicking noise under the hood. This is mechanical asphyxia. In this case, switch off the engine and carry out an oil change.
  1. diesel in a gasoline engine: a less serious situation than the other way around, but can be problematic if the quantity of diesel exceeds the maximum rate of 10%. Below this threshold, your car is at risk of knocking and smoking until it resumes normal operation. But above this 10% threshold, it is essential to drain your tank so as not to damage your engine.

Oils are in principle miscible and compatible, so it is not catastrophic. It is still preferable not to make this kind of mistake again to avoid wear or breakage, and expensive repairs. If you do not start the engine as a result of your mistake, the damage will be insignificant.

The bottom line

Choosing the right RV also means finding the perfect engine + gearbox couple that will allow you a pleasant ride and that will not sacrifice your comfort, at the cost of high average consumption.

If you have any questions or comments about the content, please let us know.

FAQ on Is gas or diesel better for RV?

Which motorhome motorization to avoid?

When it comes to motorhome motorization, avoid choosing an engine of less than 130 hp. It will very often be far too small for a vehicle of this weight (often close to 3.5T for example for an integral)

What fuel for a motorhome?

Almost all motorhomes and converted vans run on diesel. But ecological constraints require serious consideration of new energy for our vehicles. Electricity, hydrogen fuel cell, LPG, CNG or biofuels.

Will diesel motorhomes be banned?

Yes, diesel motorhomes will be banned from 2030 onwards. RV and caravan manufacturers will have until 2050 to switch from diesel to zero-emission motorhomes. 


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