Pulling into a gas station can be a high-stress ordeal for newbie Rvers; the challenge is maneuvering such a large vehicle around in a small space. If you drive a truck camper or a class B van, then most any gas station will do. But the bigger your rig, the more you need a gas station designed with big rigs in mind. And those of you pulling a big 5th Wheel, you need to keep an eye out for low clearance roofs over the pumps.
The best option for gassing up an RV is truck stops along the highways; they are designed with big rigs in mind, so easy in and easy out. Also, a truck stop will have both diesel and gasoline, which the average, big city gas station may not. The best strategy for fueling up your rig is to get clear of the big city and pull into a truck stop outside the city, along the highway or in a small town. Another advantage to truck stops is they sometimes have an RV dump station and water. Also, they may have showers, a mini-market, a restaurant, and a place to park overnight.
Also, small-town gas stations often have more room to maneuver, as they often serve both passenger cars and big trucks, since they may be the only fuel station for many miles, along the state routes and rural roads.
So, how do you find fuel stations appropriate for your RV? One of the most popular ways is to get a smartphone app, like Gas Buddy and Trucker Path. Gas Buddy is focused on the best price for gas, but it also filters for diesel, truck stops, and other gas station features. Trucker Path is focused on truck stops for commercial truckers. Both apps are free. Don’t use smartphone apps while driving, keep your eyes on the road! Use them for planning your trip before you get behind the wheel.
Google Maps can also help; bring up the map for your location, and type in “truck stops”, and it will bring up those near you. Websites like the Pilot/Flying J website, the Love’s Truck Stop website, AllStays.com, or findfuelstops.com.
It’s important to map out the fuel stops along your route before you hit the road; if you find yourself without a cell signal, your apps may not work. Write it down on an old fashioned piece of paper!
Know Your Range
When heading out on the road, you need to have a plan. First, understand of your RV’s mileage range. You don’t want to push it to the last drop! Don’t go below ½ a tank, and also, take roads signs like, “Next fuel, 150 miles” seriously. Also, keep in mind factors that can modify your range, such as driving into headwinds, getting stuck in urban traffic, and mountainous terrain. All of these factors can reduce you mileage.
The best plan is to make all the legs of your journey no longer than your mileage range; for example, plan to stop every 200 miles to top off the tank, and take a well needed break. Driving an RV will be a lot more stressful and tiring than driving a passenger car or truck.
Saving Money on Fuel
There are two ways to save money on gas, use less, and pay less.
To use less gas, don’t drive too fast. Your best mileage will be between 35 and 50mph. It is also safer to drive slower. Choosing a less traveled, state route, rather than the busy interstates, may allow you a slower pace to save gas. It’s often a more scenic route too. It also pays to avoid routes through big urban areas. City traffic stop and go traffic can really burn through the fuel in an RV, as well as add to your driving stress. Also, keep your tires inflated to the proper level, both for fuel economy and safety.
To pay less, there are a few strategies. One is to look for the lowest gas prices; Gas buddy is a good tool, as you can check fuel prices at individual stations on your route. Some people save on gas with a membership at Costco or Sam’s Club, but you won’t always find these on your route, and they are not always appropriate for RVs.
Some fuel stations may have a limit on how much gas you can pump at once, often 20 gallons. Also, if you pay at the pump with a card, it may cut you off at a certain amount, often $75. Sometimes, your gas may cut off for other unknown reasons. This is another good reason not to let the tank get too low before filling up. Before you pull out of the gas station, make sure your tank is actually full.
Also, it’s a good idea to keep cash on board, enough to fill your tank. Most fuel stations take cards, but their internet connection may be down. If so, they can’t process the card payments, and the more remote your destination, the more essential cash is.