I’ve heard it said that if you want to get the most fuel mileage with your vehicle, don’t tow a camper. Look, the fact is that when you tow your travel trailer or fifth wheel, your fuel economy is going to suffer.
With the rising price of fuel, many RV owners are cancelling their weekend camping trips and spending more time at home. Instead of sacrificing quality time with your family, there are a few steps you can take to get every last mile out of a tank of gas.
In this article I want to share 7 easy tips you can follow to improve your fuel economy while towing your camper.
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- What Is Fuel Economy?
- How Aerodynamics Affect Fuel Economy
- 7 Tips To Improve Fuel Economy When Towing A Camper
- Does Premium Gas Increase Fuel Economy?
- Final Thoughts
What Is Fuel Economy?
Fuel economy, or gas mileage, is simply how far your vehicle can travel on a specific amount of gas and is often referred to as MPG (miles per gallon). Captivating, isn’t it?
No matter how well your gas mileage is in your tow vehicle, that number is going to plummet as soon as you hook up your travel trailer or fifth wheel.
One reason for this drastic drop is aerodynamics.
How Aerodynamics Affect Fuel Economy
RVs are not built to be aerodynamic. Most are nothing more than a square box with broad sides and no wind resistance whatsoever.
When you tow a camper, your vehicle has to work harder than normal to get that box to cut through the wind, thus lowering your fuel economy.
In addition to a camper’s shape, there are also a ton of things mounted on the roof that increase wind drag. Take a quick look on top of any RV and you will find vents, air conditioners, antennas, and other things like solar panels.
All of these things contribute to low fuel economy when towing a camper.
7 Tips To Improve Fuel Economy When Towing A Camper
Fortunately, there a few steps you can take to help improve your fuel economy when you’re towing a camper.
Don’t get me wrong, you won’t see a huge increase in MPG, but every little bit helps.
1. Plan Your Route
One of the best things you can do to increase your fuel economy is to plan your route ahead of time.
If possible, try to avoid high traffic areas. Sitting in traffic with the constant starting and stopping will ruin your fuel economy.
Sitting at a stand-still idling will also contribute to lower fuel efficiency when you’re towing a camper. Think of it this way, when you’re idling, you are getting zero MPG.
However, if you travel too far out of the way to avoid these traffic jams, you might end up wasting more gas taking the longer route.
The best way to plan your trip is by using RV Trip Wizard. Not only does it help map out the best route, but it will also help you pick the areas you want to stop for fuel.
2. Take Your Time
Some people have the idea that if they get to their destination faster, they will save money on fuel. That’s not how it works. When you drive at higher speeds, the engine in your tow vehicle has to work harder to pull your camper.
The rate that you accelerate also affects your fuel efficiency. Just remember, slow and steady.
Taking your time has more advantages than just saving fuel. It also gives you a chance to enjoy the scenery on your route.
You don’t have to drive 20 MPH below the speed limit and get the finger by everyone that passes you. But, if you can maintain a safe, reasonable speed, it can help increase your fuel economy.
3. Keep Up With Vehicle Maintenance
Keeping up with your tow vehicle’s regular maintenance is extremely important. Not just for gas mileage, but for the overall “health” of the vehicle.
You can increase your fuel efficiency by making sure the oil is changed, the filters are clean, and your tires are properly inflated and aligned.
If your vehicle is struggling to operate normally, it will use more fuel.
Don’t wait until the last minute to get these things done. If you have a long trip planed, take your tow vehicle to the shop to get it serviced.
4. Check Your Tire Pressure
Under and over inflated tires cause more than just poor fuel economy. They are also a major contributor to premature wear and blowouts.
By properly maintaining the tires on your RV and your tow vehicle, you can increase your gas mileage by 2-3%.
That might not seem like a huge difference. But when towing a travel trailer or fifth wheel, every extra mile you can squeeze out of a tank of gas is a big deal.
5. Lighten The Load
One thing we tend to do is overpack for an RV camping trip. It’s great to have all the extra gear and accessories to make your trip a little more enjoyable. However, all of that extra weight means lower fuel economy.
If possible, unload the things that you can do without. A lighter camper means your tow vehicle doesn’t have to work as hard to pull it. This in turn will give you better fuel economy as you head to your destination.
6. Avoid Traveling On Windy Days
Weather can have a huge impact on gas mileage, especially when you’re towing a camper. Like we mentioned above, RVs just aren’t built to be aerodynamic or resistant to wind.
If you get lucky enough to have a tail-wind, you might be able to let the wind do some of the work by pushing you down the road.
However, if you encounter a head-wind, your tow vehicle is going to guzzle the fuel trying to maintain a constant speed.
With that said, it’s far better, and safer, to avoid traveling on windy days if possible.
7. Buy A Smaller RV
Smaller campers are obviously lighter than huge fifth wheel campers. So, if you really want to see a huge increase in fuel economy when towing, consider a smaller camper.
I know this option isn’t feasible for most people. But, if you’re in the market for a newer camper, consider a model that weighs less than the current RV you have.
Does Premium Gas Increase Fuel Economy?
Can you increase your fuel mileage by filling up with a premium octane gas? No. The octane rating of fuel does not equal better fuel economy.
Premium gas is designed for high-performance and luxury vehicles that require it by manufacturers recommendations.
In fact, the Federal Trade Commission states that, “In most cases, using a higher-octane gasoline than your owner’s manual recommends offers absolutely no benefit. It won’t make your car perform better, go faster, get better mileage, or run cleaner.”
They go on to say that unless your vehicle is knocking, premium fuel is a waste of money.
So, unless your tow vehicle requires premium fuel, keep that extra money in your pocket to use on your next adventure.
In the end, when you’re towing a camper your fuel economy is going to suffer. But, by following these easy tips, you can stretch every last mile out of your gas tank.
The goal for every RV owner is to make the most of the time they spend with their family. And if you can save a few bucks here and there, it’s all worth it.
David is a U.S. Air Force veteran who currently lives on the Texas Gulf Coast with his wonderful wife of 26 years and their two furry companions, Gus and LuLu.
As an outdoor and RV enthusiast, David loves to spend his free time taking road trips and spending as much time as possible at the campground with the family in their 2018 Dutchmen Kodiak 201QB travel trailer