Tuesday, June 10, 2014

7 Ways To Lower Your RV Fuel Costs

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I’m getting ready to hit the road tomorrow to attend a camping rally.  Even though diesel prices are finally (delightfully) lower than gas, fuel is perhaps the largest item of any full-time RVer’s budget.  Now that I’m a retired penny-pincher, finding the best deal on fuel is increasingly important to me, so I thought I’d share some ways I’ve discovered to lower my fuel costs.

If you have any additional recommendations, please share in the Comments below!


1. Gas Buddy

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It’s amazing how much fuel pricing can vary from station to station.  I can sometimes find a 10 to 15 cent per gallon price savings by just by planning my fuel stops ahead of time. Gas Buddy offers a great free mobile app (for iPhone or Android) that shows stations either near your current location, or any location you designate.

While I use the mobile app most of the time, there’s one feature of their website that is REALLY valuable when planning long-distance RV routes—Gas Price Maps. 

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GasBuddy has this Gas Price Heat Map so you can get a general idea of which states/counties are cheaper than others across the entire US.  But, I really like the Map Gas Prices tool where you can select your fuel type and zoom the map in to particular routes you might travel to see current prices along the way.  Using this tool I can quickly determine if I should fill up before heading out, or just have enough in the tank to get me to much lower-priced fuel a few hundred miles further along my route.

Gas station prices are kept up-to-date by GasBuddy users via a brilliantly simple rewards program—the more gas station prices you submit, the more chances you get to win a $100 gas gift card awarded daily.  Fast, fun, and easy!


2. Murphy USA (Wal-Mart)

For the past few summers, Wal-Mart has been offering a fantastic deal on fuel at their Murphy USA gas stations.  From mid-May through Labor Day, you can save up to 15 cents/gallon when using a Wal-Mart credit card, or save up to 10 cents/gallon with a Wal-Mart gift card.

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Murphy fuel is usually a bit cheaper than other local stations to begin with, so getting an additional 15 cents off is quite a bargain! 

There are a couple downsides though —Murphy stations are usually smaller and much more crowded (so not a good idea for big rigs trying to fuel up at the busiest time of the day).  But if you happen to stay at a Wal-Mart with free overnight parking (use the excellent Allstays Camp&RV app on your mobile device, or their website state maps to find these), then you can usually slip your big rig into an empty Murphy station in the early morning or late night.  A nice way to thank the store for your overnight stay!


3. Good Sam / PilotFlying J RV Plus Card


It takes a bit of work to get the Pilot Flying J RV Plus card, but once you have it, some of the benefits can be worthwhile for RVers (such as up to 6 cents/gallon off of diesel, 50% off RV dumps, 10 cents/gallon off propane, and more).

First, you must be a member of the Good Sam Club ($20 to $25/yr), but this fee can often pay for itself with the numerous GoodSam and CampingWorld discounts you’ll get (FYI- some great new CW discounts have been added recently such as free RV dumps, 50% off propane on Tues/Wed, and $39 installation specials).

Once you have your GoodSam member ID, you can apply for the Pilot Flying J RV Plus card.  This charge card works a bit differently than most.  When setting the card up, you must provide a bank account & routing number so your monthly bill can be electronically auto-paid from your bank (Pilot Flying J will email you a monthly statement about 20 days in advance so you can review your pending charges and ensure your bank account has sufficient funds to pay the bill).  This card also requires that you punch in your “Control Number” (essentially, a PIN) whenever you use it.

If you’d prefer to avoid these added hassles and use your own credit card, you can simply use your GoodSam card to “Swipe & Save” for lesser discounts.  This seems to have now replaced the older Flying J RV Frequent Fueler program but offers similar savings.

In general, if I can find a Murphy station, or another station that is over 6 cents less than Flying J, I’ll go there. But if I also need propane or a dump, the RV Plus card can be a good deal.


4. Credit Card Cash-Back Rebates

Some general no-annual-fee Credit Cards offer cash-back rewards on fuel and other purchases.   One of the highest of these is the Chase Freedom Visa card with its 5% cash-back on various quarterly categories (5% Gas station discounts are available July-Sept and Jan-Mar).  So if you’re a summer vacation and snowbird RVer, this card might be perfect for you!  I also take full advantage of their Amazon.com discount during Oct-Dec!

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But, the downside is that Chase gets to decide which stores do and do not qualify for the 5% discount (those that don’t, only pay 1% cash-back).  For instance, Chase will usually only give the 5% discount to stand-alone retail gas stations (such as Shell, BP, Phillips66, etc) and not those at grocery and discount stores.

So, a  great “category-less” alternative cash-back card is the Capital One Quicksilver Visa.  It offers a flat 1.5% cash-back on all purchases all year long, and also does not charge foreign transaction fees so it’s a great option for international travel.


5. Grocery Store Gas (Safeway, Kroger, Meijer, Fry’s, etc)

If you’re staying in one area for a month or two, and notice that a local grocery store offers good fuel discounts with their discount card, it might be worthwhile to get one of these cards.  When I was in Arizona a few winters ago, I got a VIP card on-the-spot from Fry’s (Kroger affiliate) and was able to earn points with my grocery purchases to save 10 cents to $1 off per gallon on fuel at their gas station.

Paying for your purchases using a cash-back Visa (like the Quicksilver above) can provide even more savings!  Also, since many regional grocery chains are owned by the same national company, you can often use one card across the country for all of that company’s stores (such as Safeway).


6. Shell Fuel Rewards Card

A frequent partner with many grocery stores is Shell.  They have a Fuel Rewards discount card that can give you 3 cents or more per gallon (up to 20 gallons).  Paying here via a cash-back Visa card will increase your savings even more!


7. Increase your MPG!

A final, and very important, way to reduce your RV fuel costs is to simply focus on improving your miles per gallon.  There are numerous ways to do this:

  • Slow down!  RVs typically get their most-optimal fuel efficiency when driving 60 mph or slower.  So, take your time, drive with the grannies in the right lane, and take the extra time to sing along with a few more tunes!  Better yet, get off the Interstate completely and take some “blue highways”—the scenery will be a lot more interesting.
  • Check Your Tires! Make sure your RV tires are not under-inflated.  This not only could lead to premature wear and blow-outs, but you also may be giving up an extra mile per gallon.
  • Put Your RV on a Diet!  It’s amazing how MPG can improve by just doing something simple like driving with empty (or near-empty) tanks.  So, empty those waste tanks before starting your trip, and try to put as few gallons of water as possible in your fresh water tank.  Also, review your RV storage bins for any heavy items might not be needed (and can be left at home) for a particular trip.   Depending on your RV, you could save anywhere from 1 to 3 MPGs!
  • Consider “Toad-less” or “RV-less” trips!   While my default mode of travel is via my RV towing a Chevy Tracker “toad”, not every trip necessarily needs that combination.  I’ve taken a few weekend trips recently with just the View (no toad) and have been amazed to gain an extra 2 MPG by doing so!  Alternatively, it’s sometimes nice to take a break from RVing and just drive the car somewhere.  In my case, my Tracker gets about 7 more MPGs than the View!

I hope these tips help save you a few dollars and let you enjoy your summer RV travels more!  Do you have any other ways of saving RV fuel costs?  Share your comments below!

 

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11 comments:

  1. Yep, that pretty much covers it!

    We don't normally drive on the Interstate highways, but whenever we do we're amazed at the number of RV's who pass us doing well over 60 mph. We stay in the far right lane with the cruise control set at 55 mph.

    People driving at faster than 60 mph obviously don't care about the price of fuel, and unfortunately that's MOST people!

    www.travelwithkevinandruth.com

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    1. True indeed. I suppose if US fuel prices were more in-line with the rest of the world (i.e. higher), we'd finally slow down and learn to conserve it more. sigh...

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  2. Great post! Agree with you on every recommendation. 16 days into my trip, gasoline accounts for 92 percent of my costs thus far. Oy!

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    1. Wow that really high! Are you dining on bio-diesel perhaps?!!! Hopefully you'll get to some great seafood soon to balance out those fuel costs. Enjoy your PacNW trip!

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  3. Great post! One thing I am finding here in the PNW is how many stations don't advertize that their posted price is a CASH price, while I have found credit to be as much as 15 cents a gallon more! I am used to places like Love's that have "CASH" in big letters, but not so here, so I had to change my habits quickly,.

    Also, beware of the evil Bio-Diesel at Murphy's. I know you don't worry about it, but I still try to steer clear if I can...

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    1. Hmm, are the prices posted in GasBuddy showing the cash price? Or posted price? I've usually found GasBuddy pretty accurate.

      Strangely, when I filled up a Murphy's on this trip, I did not see any bio-diesel stickers on the pump. Bio is so widespread here in the Midwest that it's literally impossible to find a station not selling it, so the whole debate is rather a moot point for Winnies here (and, so far, most are still running just fine). While we'd all prefer to pump the pure stuff, I'm not going to stress out when it can't be found.

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  4. You are right on with the 2 mpg towing a toad, at least with me. I have needed my Samurai many times when busted down someplace. On a trip to the Grand Canyon I told my local shop to replace the belts. Some dummy left the bolts out of the shroud and we were stuck in St George Ut. for a week. Without my Samurai we would have been trapped at Sand Hollow State park.
    Since "Ninja" was following along it just meant a different adventure, instead of a pain in the bottom.
    Keep having fun,
    Upriverdavid

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    1. Totally agree! A toad is the best & fastest "emergency road service" available! Especially when traveling through remote locations with questionable cell coverage, it can be a life-saver!

      On my trip to Iowa this past weekend, since I was going along well-traveled routes and only staying a few days, I went toad-less and it was a nice change of pace to pull into a campsite without having to hook/unhook the toad. Loved the 16 mpg I got too!

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  5. "Do you have any other ways of saving RV fuel costs?"
    Yes.
    Stay home, looking longingly at that lovely Winnebago in the driveway that you can't afford to take anywhere because you're trying really hard to save up enough money to be able to retire in your RV.

    I KNOW there's something wrong with this picture... Sigh.

    ReplyDelete

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