Class B RV Diesel vs Gas – Which Is Better?

Fuel pump with diesel and gas options

It’s one of the many questions that people have when considering any type of RV. Since diesel or gas engines are available in almost any type of motorhome, it can be an area of debate. Making sure you get the right one for your needs is an important decision that shouldn’t be taken lightly. There are many factors that will determine which is best for you and the specific needs and wants you have.

A gas motorhome will be cheaper to purchase and maintain but won’t have the pulling power or longevity that a diesel engine will have. A diesel engine is a workhorse and is best for those who tow trailers or vehicles, drive mountain roads often, or haul heavier loads.

A diesel motorhome offers the power needed to drive almost any terrain. This can be important with larger RVs but is it necessary for smaller ones? Vans don’t usually haul items and don’t have nearly the payload of a larger RV.

However, there are still diesel options available for Class B RVs. You can easily find a gasoline engine Class B since this is standard but let’s look at the shortlist of options that you have when considering diesel.

Class B RVs With Diesel Engines

In the American market, you will only find plenty of manufacturers that off the Class B RV with a diesel engine. However, you can always expect them to be built utilizing only a couple of van chassis. These manufacturers will make use of the Ford Transit 3.2L Power Stroke or the Mercedes Sprinter 4 OR 6 cylinder diesel.

Although the RAM Promaster is a popular choice for Class B RVs, it does not currently have a diesel engine option.

You can purchase these as an empty cargo van if you intend to convert them yourself. You may also find manufactured models that have already been converted. The following list includes a few popular models that are possible options.

  • Coachmen Galleria
  • Airstream Tommy Bahama Interstate
  • Airstream Interstate 24GL, 24GT, 19
  • Winnebago Revel
  • Winnebago Era
  • Winnebago Boldt
  • American Coach – American Patriot
  • Leisure Travel Vans Free Spirit
  • Pleasure-Way Plateau FL
  • Roadtrek 2021 SS Agile

The Class B RVs on this list are very expensive models and are all built on the Mercedes chassis. This is what you will typically find when you are in the market for a van with a diesel engine. The cost of these rigs is almost always higher than what you’ll find with an RV that has a gasoline engine. Whether that price is worth it or not depends entirely upon your unique situation.

Why Are Diesel RVs Better Than Gas?

Diesel RVs aren’t necessarily better than gas RVs. However, they do offer some benefits over the gasoline option. A diesel engine can handle a heavy load better. You’ll be able to pull more weight, pass over mountain roads with no problems. It will last longer and maintain a higher resale value.

As mentioned above, there aren’t a lot of options for Diesel Class B RVs. The list gets even shorter when you consider affordable RVs. However, there are plenty of options available for Class A, C, and trucks that might be used to haul a trailer or truck camper. Let’s look in more detail at some of the reasons why a diesel RV is better than a gasoline RV.

They Generally Have More Power & Torque

A van with a diesel engine will likely be more capable of pulling heavy loads. This isn’t usually something that van-lifers are looking for but some may pull the occasional trailer and will need more pulling power to get the job done. It’s also good for larger vans that are fully decked out and are hovering around the top of the weight limit.

A fully loaded van that has substantial weight will be no problem for the power that a diesel engine provides. Consider this if you have a heavily loaded van or a larger family that will be traveling. This is one of the reasons you often see diesel engines in large trucks and buses. These vehicles have a lot of weight to carry and the diesel engine makes easier work of it than a gasoline engine ever could.

They Last Longer

A diesel engine is designed to withstand usage for a long period of time. They will generally have more longevity than what a gasoline engine can provide. They are great for highway driving and city driving alike. They can idle for hours and will perform better in stop-and-go environments than gasoline engines will.

When comparing a diesel engine to a gasoline one, you should expect the diesel to be the clear winner in the longevity department.

They Can Climb Hills Easier

The torque and power that a diesel offers will have you climbing hills without any problem. Rather than struggling to get over a mountain pass as you might in a fully-loaded gasoline van, the diesel one will do so with no problem. I have a gasoline RAM Promaster and haven’t had any issues at all with climbing up steep mountain roads but my van is fairly lightweight.

They May Be Better For The Environment

While both types emit bad things into the air, diesel engines have more complex emission systems than gasoline ones do. This is great news for those concerned with doing their part in producing less pollution. Their emission systems allow them to emit less CO2 which makes for a cleaner ride that you can feel better about.

While they are not perfect, they may be the better choice for those who are conscious of the environmental crisis we face. Of course, the best way to do your part in emitting less CO2 is to not drive at all. However, our world currently operates this way and relies on burning fossil fuels. All you can do is the best you can do and in the case of an RV, diesel may be the best choice in this department.

They Have Better Resale Value

Since a Diesel engine lasts longer, the resale value will be higher since parts don’t wear out as quickly. Besides that, there aren’t as many parts in a diesel engine so there is less that can go wrong. When you buy a vehicle with a diesel engine, you do so knowing that it is going to last for many years and many many miles.

Purchasing a diesel van with higher mileage isn’t as scary of a process as buying a gasoline van with high mileage.

Better Fuel Efficiency

While diesel fuel is more expensive, it burns more efficiently allowing the engine to have more power using less fuel. When you factor in the heavy load that a diesel may be pulling (or pushing), it is going to use less fuel in the process. If you have a heavy RV and travel large distances, this can be a way to fill up less and travel further on each tank.

If you only use your RV occasionally and do not travel long distances or over mountainous terrain, you probably won’t see much benefit. Petrol is cheaper at the pump and in today’s vans, the distance you can go on a gallon of petrol vs a gallon of diesel isn’t much less.

Why Choose a Gasoline RV Over a Diesel?

The diesel provides a lot of benefits as outlined above but a gasoline engine is what you’ll generally find in lower-cost and smaller RVs. It’s a faithful engine that also provides many benefits of ownership.

Ram Promaster V6 engine

They Are Easy To Find

Gasoline motorhomes are easy to find and are what you can expect to find the majority of the time you are searching. This is especially true of a Class B since they are small and don’t require as much power to propel them. A gas engine is a fine option for RVs with lighter loads.

They Are Less Expensive

The initial cost of the RV will be less if you choose one with a gasoline engine. Not only that, most people spend less money over the life of the vehicle. This is the way to go for most people who do not travel full-time or carry a heavy load. You’ll have to keep in mind though that if you plan to sell it later, a diesel will retain a higher resale value than that of a gasoline RV.

Lower Repair and Maintenance Costs

A gasoline engine has become the standard on the road, at least in the United States. For passenger cars and most work vans, you can expect a gasoline engine to be under the hood. Because of this, repair costs are low since parts are easy to get and nearly any mechanic can work on them. Beyond that, many repairs can easily be done by the owners. I have performed almost all maintenance on my Promaster myself.

A diesel engine isn’t as simple to repair and will usually need to be done by a qualified technician. They don’t have a lot of problems but when they do, you can expect to pay more than you would on a gas engine.

More Fueling Opportunities

Not every service station has diesel fuel available. You’ll have no problem finding gasoline but you may have to search further for diesel fuel depending on where you are at. According to a study by the U.S. Census Bureau, half of all service stations in the United States have diesel fuel available.

Easy To Service

A Class B RV with a gasoline engine can be serviced nearly anywhere. Ford and Dodge vans can be taken to most dealerships around the country as long as they can accommodate the height if it is a high roof. I have run into issues with dealerships that don’t have a door high enough to clear the high roof or don’t have a lift capable of holding the weight. In this case, there is often a commercial dealership they will refer you to.

In the case of a diesel, you will have a more difficult time finding a place to service it. It will also be more involved to do it yourself if you do not know the ins and outs of diesel engines. Gas engines are fairly easy to work on for qualified technicians and DIY-minded people.

Smooth & Quiet Ride

While the sound of a diesel engine can be like beautiful music to some ears, the quiet, smooth operation of a gasoline engine is the preferred choice of many. Even though today’s diesel Class B RVs have high-tech engines and are engineered better than ever, it’s hard to beat the smooth ride that you can expect from a van with a gas engine.

Driving in some of today’s models of vans feels like driving in pure luxury. While the Ram Promaster remains basic, the other options offered by Mercedes and Ford are designed with comfort in mind. You’ll feel like you are riding in a comfortable passenger car when you hit the road.

Bottom Line

Whether you choose a diesel RV or a gas RV, today’s models are solidly built and will provide you with many years of enjoyment. A Class B RV is small in size and usually does just fine with a gasoline engine. I have been more than happy with the 3.6L V6 in my Ram Promaster. It has plenty of power, gets great fuel mileage, and has been very dependable over the years.

All of today’s Class B RVs are capable of delivering a great experience no matter what they have under the hood.

If you choose a diesel option, you will pay much more since these are usually found in luxury models. In the end, both types serve a purpose and it will depend on your specific needs when determining which to choose.

Dan Collins

I consider myself an outdoor enthusiast. I love to travel and go to places that most people don't get a chance to go. I want to see it all and live life to the fullest while I'm alive. My camper van is helping me to do just that. I write about my experiences to help inspire others to do the same.

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