Diesel vs Gas RV: Which is Best?

Diesel vs Gas RV: Which is Best?


George Cummings
November 20, 2021

When you’re in the market for a new RV, you might not realize that the type of engine it has can make a whole lot of impact.

Whether you choose a gas or diesel engine will impact its price, power, ongoing maintenance, and more, so it’s a decision you have to get right.

Is a diesel or gas RV better? There’s no right or wrong answer here, as it depends on the RV owners as to what features they prefer in terms of price, power, and performance.

The majority of RVs on the road today are diesel-powered but there are still some people who prefer the benefits of gas when it comes to their motorhome.

The pros and cons of diesel and gas RVs are the most important thing to factor in when choosing what engine is best for you and your camper.

To make the decision easier when buying a new RV, we’ve highlighted the good and bad of both engine types and a little more about how they differ, so you’ll have all of the facts you need.

The Diesel RV

The Diesel RV

As the most common RV engine type, most owners out there will tell you that the diesel approach is best.

Most likely, travelers who own diesel RVs are those who want to travel around the country and only spend short amounts of time stopping and seeing the sights, so most of their journey is done while driving.

The Pros

  • When it comes time to sell your diesel camper and upgrade, you’ll be pleased to know that the resale value is a lot higher than on a gas vehicle. This means less money is wasted over the period of ownership.
  • Ongoing maintenance for a diesel rig is few and far between which makes it perfect for people who like to travel to remote areas. Once it’s been serviced, you can go quite a while without needing to have it done again.
  • Although the cost of filling up your RV is more, it’ll last longer when you do. This suits people who like to travel remotely or want better fuel efficiency from whatever vehicle they own.

The Cons

  • When you do take your rig in to be serviced, you’ll be spending a lot more money to do so. The work done on them is more specialized and it may be hard to acquire parts that are needed for repairs, so be prepared to spend more in this area.
  • Because you have to purchase Diesel Exhaust Fluid, you’ll have to account for more torque offset created when you own a diesel camper.
  • To buy a brand new or second hand diesel RV costs a lot more than buying a gas one. If you’re shopping with a limited budget this could make a huge difference in the final purchase decision.

The Gas RV

The Gas RV

While gas might not be the most popular option for an RV, that doesn’t mean it should be discounted.

The best types of travelers to use an RV are those that spend a lot of time in their motorhome but prefer to camp for long periods of weeks and months, so there’s not as much driving happening and it doesn’t matter if the engine is left off for too long.

The Pros

  • The biggest bonus of gas-powered RVs is that they’re cheaper and if you’re trying to cut costs any way you can, having something that’s thousands of dollars less than a diesel engine can make a huge difference.
  • Ongoing maintenance costs of gas RVs are generally lower, depending on the issues that are being addressed. This is because the parts are more commercially available and not as specialized as those used in a diesel vehicle.
  • Filling the tank up in a gas RV is also cheaper and if you’re someone who does a lot of driving, this can pay off greatly over just a few months. However, consider that diesel RVs are the preferred choice of travelers who stay on the road a lot.
  • With a gas RV, you won’t have to worry about Diesel Exhaust Fluid (DEF). This is a special additive that must be purchased if you drive a diesel and it helps to convert the soot and emissions from the exhaust into something less damaging.

The Cons

  • Although the cost of the fuel is cheaper, it’s also less efficient to own a gas-powered RV. This means you’ll be headed to the pump more often which can end up costing money, so the savings might not be as impressive as you hoped for.
  • The maintenance schedule of a gas engine is more frequent which means you could spend more money if you tallied this up over the years. For this reason, gas owners are better if they spend long periods camping somewhere rather than doing lots of driving.
  • If you’re planning on selling your RV, you should know that a gas engine usually comes with a lesser resale value. You’ll lose more money selling it and in most cases, it’s more financially viable to stick with the one RV for a long time.

What You Need to Consider

Every RV owner has a unique set of requirements that they go by when looking for a new rig, and it’s likely that whatever yours are, you can use them to lead you towards either a gas or diesel one.

These are some of the key areas to think about and how they will each impact your decision.

Upfront and Ongoing Costs

Upfront and Ongoing Costs

An RV is a huge investment no matter what type you go with, and when it comes to gas and diesel, the gas is always cheaper.

However, the difference in price will vary dramatically when comparing different makes and models so it might not always work out that much cheaper to go with the gas option.

As well as the upfront costs, you also have to think about what you’re happy to spend in other areas.

The fuel for a gas engine is cheaper but it requires filling up more frequently. However, a diesel engine needs less frequent maintenance but when it does go in for a service, you can expect the bill to be a lot higher.

Repairs and Issues

Whether you have a gas or diesel engine doesn’t have the most impact on the quality of an RV, but it more depends on the make and model of it.

Some motorhome brands have better reputations than others, and some RV owners don’t take care of their vehicle as well as others, which all result in it needing more repairs down the line.

With that in mind though, gas-powered engines do tend to break down more frequently and may experience more issues. However, a gas engine’s parts are more easily available and cheaper to get.

Therefore, repair shops and mechanics will generally charge less to do the job, and you might find it easy enough to order the part for yourself and take the DIY approach.

Longevity of the RV

Longevity of the RV

As with any serious purchase, you want to be sure that you’re spending money on something that’s going to last.

When we compared the lifespan of a diesel vs gas RV, the clear winner is the diesel option, but that doesn’t mean it’s always going to last the longest.

When you compare the average rate of repair and rebuilding of the two types, a gas engine usually has to be rebuilt after 100,000 miles.

The diesel is the longer-lasting option and usually runs until 300,000 miles before it has to be rebuilt. Although there’s no avoiding rebuilding the engine in your RV eventually, it’ll happen less frequently with a diesel-powered one.

Power and Performance

When you think of an RV, it’s not the typical vehicle that you’d expect people to be worried about torque and power with, but you’d be wrong.

The power and performance of these campers will dictate how far they can travel and what areas they do well in, both of which can be a deal-breaker for an RV owner.

A diesel engine operates in an entirely different way to a gas engine and they use higher cylinder compression ratios, meaning it has more torque.

However, the gas engine has more horsepower in total which means it’s efficient and powerful enough on its own, and the high torque of the diesel model is better suited for towing.

Should I Go With Diesel or Gas?

Should I Go With Diesel or Gas?

There’s no clear-cut answer on whether a diesel or gas RV is best, although if you ask the majority of owners, they’ll agree that diesel has more of what they need.

To determine which is right, ask yourself these questions and you’ll find the answers point you in the right direction:

  • Will you be RVing full time or only for a few trips a year?
  • Are you going to be towing another vehicle behind your RV?
  • Do you stay in one place for a while or do more driving in your RV?
  • Are you prepared to do regular maintenance checks?
  • Do you plan on camping in areas where you can have maintenance and repairs done?
  • What size and model of RV are you interested in?
  • How much money do you want to spend on an RV when you first buy it?
  • What’s in your budget for ongoing costs like fuel and maintenance?
  • How long do you plan on owning this RV for and is there a future plan to sell and upgrade in the next few years?

After answering these questions and looking at the pros and cons that the engine types offer, you’ll likely have the best approach. As every RV owner is different and so too is their journey, you can weigh up what’s going to work with your traveling style best.

The Best RV Engine For You

Shopping for a new RV is an exciting time but it can also be a stressful one, with so many decisions you need to make to ensure you get the perfect rig.

Whether you choose diesel or gas power for your next RV, the choice should be determined by whichever can meet your specific requirements for power, performance, and price.

Related Questions

There are lots of features and specifications to weigh up when you’re in the market for a new motorhome and as one of the biggest purchases you’ll ever make, you want to get it right.

To help you out, we’ve got the answers to some FAQs about RV basics that can start you on your search.

How Much Should You Spend on an RV?

The price variation in RVs is massive, with the most basic trailers starting at $10,000 and ranging up to $300,000 for a top-of-the-line motorhome.

Most people spend around $40,000 – $100,000 on a decent quality RV that has all of the basics you’d expect to find in one of these traveling homes.

How Long Does an RV Last?

How Long Does an RV Last?

An RV that’s been well looked after should last around 20 years on the road, but there are some factors that can impact this.

Most importantly, the frequency in which the RV is used, how many miles it’s traveled, and the class rating of the RV will have the biggest influence on its lifespan.

Who Makes the Best RVs?

Some of the top-performing and best-selling RV brands are Gulf Stream, Airstream, Lazy Daze, Jayco, Pleasure-Way, and Northwood Manufacturing.

However, other brands are still considered favorites among RV owners and specific models of motorhomes that perform better than others.


George Cummings

George Cummings enjoys connecting with nature, meeting new people, and making friends from all over the world. RVing and camping create the perfect opportunity for [him/her] to take part in these activities. After spending several years on the road and exploring the great outdoors, George Cummings shares some of his best pieces of advice on how to make the most of your time while camping. TourTheOutdoors is his way of helping outdoorsy individuals like [him/her] start on a right footing with amazing recommendations and buying guides.