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Diesel Pusher vs. Gas Motorhome: Which Class A RV Type Is Better?

Diesel Pusher vs. Gas Motorhome: Which Class A RV Type Is Better?

So, you’re in the market for a motorhome but aren’t quite sure which one you should get. After all, there are so many different types of Class As alone, and sifting through all the information online can feel daunting. Should you buy a diesel pusher or a Class A gas motorhome? Which one will take you to all the places you want to go and not break the bank? Is one truly better than the other?

To help make your decision a little easier, we’ve put together a simple, easy-to-read list that highlights the major differences between diesel- and gas-powered Class As. Let’s dive in!

Not All Class A RVs Are Created Equal

At first glance, most Class A RVs look similar. They’re long, tall, and slightly intimidating. Nevertheless, there are many reasons why people love them—the ample headspace, the spacious layout, the large holding tanks, and that panoramic windshield. But when we really look at the details, it’s clear that some Class As are built better than others. 

Diesel pusher and Class A gas motorhome side by side
Diesel pusher engines are located at the rear of motorhomes, while gasoline engines are located at the front. The motorhome pictured on the left is a diesel pusher and the one on the right is a gas-powered Class A.

For example, less-expensive, gas-powered motorhomes have all the essentials, but they lack luxury and power. Will they have touch screen dashboards? High-end amenities? Will you be able to traverse mountain ranges confidently and comfortably? The answer to all these questions is probably not. And while there are always outliers, a diesel pusher tends towards higher-end features. Why you might ask, well most of it comes down to weight. Diesel rigs can carry more and thus higher quality and more amenities. This however has its pros and cons.  

Diesel Pusher vs. Class A Gas Motorhome

The following list highlights the significant differences between diesel pushers and Class A gas motorhomes. And while there are always exceptions, these are the most common characteristics you’ll find when comparing the two.  

RV Smackdown - Diesel vs Gas

Engine Power

When it comes to engine power, diesel is king. This is because diesel has a much higher energy density than gas does and a higher combustion pressure. As a result, diesel engines tend to have more torque than gas-powered engines.

Horsepower in diesel may however seem lower. This is because these engines have long strokes and move slower, but provide a lot of twisting force. While a gas engine might need to rev to 6000RPM a diesel will be around 2000.

That means that they can tow more weight, handle steep inclines, and go further with the same amount of fuel. More on that next!  

Fuel Efficiency

Before we get into fuel efficiency, here’s a friendly reminder to keep your standards low. After all, Class A motorhomes are practically buses, and whatever you choose, fuel will probably be one of your top expenses. But which one is better in this respect? 

Because diesel has a higher energy density, it tends to have a better fuel economy. For instance, the average gas-powered Class A tends to get between 6 and 10 mpg (and more like 3 mpg on steep inclines). In contrast, diesel-powered Class As tend to get 7 to 12 mpg.

You do however need to keep in mind that diesel rigs tend to be much heavier and are moving a lot more weight. Comparing apples to apple diesel tends to be on average 30 percent better on fuel.

Is this a huge difference? No. Will it actually save you money? That depends on the price difference between diesel and gasoline at any given time and how heavy your rig is.  

Class A motorhome at gas station
While gasoline is generally cheaper than diesel fuel, diesel pusher motorhomes have better fuel economy.

Purchase Price

This is where the gas class A stands out. Diesel pushers tend to be much more expensive than a gas-powered motorhome.

To put this into perspective, a brand new gas-powered Winnebago Adventurer hovers around the $200,000 range, while a new diesel-powered Newmar Dutch Star starts at just under $500,000. It’s nearly impossible to compare apples to apples here, but these are two comparable motorhomes that are generally popular and not too over-the-top. 

➡ Of course, if you purchase a custom diesel pusher, the price will be upwards of a million dollars or more. See for yourself: Million Dollar Motorhome Showdown: Is Newell Coach Better Than a Prevost?

Living Space

When it comes to diesel pushers versus gas Class A motorhomes, you really won’t experience much of a difference in living space between the two. Living space will be influenced by how long your RV is and how many slide-outs it has, but both gas and diesel Class As have plenty of options in this respect. 

Class A motorhome interior
Slide-outs make these big RVs feel even bigger on the inside.

However, we will point out that diesel pushers tend to have a bit more living space at the front of the vehicle. This is because the engine is in the back of the motorhome (hence the name, diesel “pusher”) rather than in the front. Thus, diesel pushers won’t have the bulky engine cover that gas motorhomes have. 

Diesel pushers also offer the longest coaches at up to 45 feet. These monsters provide the most living space possible.

Driving Experience

Once again the diesel rigs tend to offer the best on-road driving experience. Most of them ride on airbags and provide a smooth quiet ride because the engine is far behind you. They are much heavier however and tend to be much bigger overall making them more challenging to maneuver.

If you’re looking for a fantastic long-haul highway rig, the diesel stands out, but for nimble adventure, a gas motorhome might be a better choice.

driving a diesel pusher

Maintance and Longevity

Both gas and diesel class A’s will need to be regularly maintained for proper operation. While major engine maintenance on a diesel tends to have much longer intervals, on a motorhome they usually don’t see enough road time to make this worthwhile. Because of this maintenance needs to happen at regular intervals on both coach types.

In general diesel, motorhomes have a lot more maintenance requirements and will cost a lot more. From air systems and very expensive tires to large quantities of oil and transmission fluids, diesel coaches need more of everything.

RV maintenance

As for longevity, both coach types can last a very long time if properly maintained. Diesel engines have much higher longevity over the long haul, but most RV’s never see these types of miles. Proper maintenance of both the cassis and house systems is key.

Water damage is one of the leading causes of major damage to both types so be sure to keep up on the roof and seals.

Luxury Features

As mentioned before, diesel-powered motorhomes tend to have more luxury features than gas-powered ones. This is simply because manufacturers anticipate that their diesel-pusher customers will have deeper pockets and the coaches can carry the weight. These features can include everything from luxury cabinetry and high-end appliances to a “smart home” operating system. Really, when the price is no option, luxury features become endless. 

Tour a $2 Million Dollar Luxury RV! | 2019 Newell Coach Walkthrough seen at the 2018 Tampa RV Show

Towing Capacity

Remember how we told you that diesel pushers are more powerful? Well, this goes for towing capacity, too, and the differences are pretty dramatic.

On average, most gas-powered Class As can tow around 5,000 lbs. Thus, they’re able to easily tow a get-around vehicle (and for many people, that’s all they need). In contrast, most diesel pushers can tow between 10,000 and 20,000 lbs. This allows you to pull larger vehicles or even bring along a cargo trailer full of toys. 

➡ If you prefer a gas-powered motorhome but still want to bring your toys along, you’ll be happy to know that Class A Toy Haulers Exist! Here Are Your Best Options.

Diesel pusher motorhome pulling cargo trailer
With a diesel pusher, you can tow a large cargo trailer for hauling things like ATVs and adventure gear.

Depreciation

When it comes to depreciation, diesel pushers tend to stand the test of time. To put it plainly, diesel engines usually last longer and handle wear and tear a bit better than gas engines. Not only that, they are also built with quality in mind. Throughout the years, these factors have influenced the market, and because of this, used diesel pushers generally cost more than their gas-powered competitors. 

Storage

Diesel motorhomes also take the cake when it comes to storage. And while gas-powered Class As have plenty of storage themselves, their diesel counterparts are simply built in a way that allows for more. That’s because diesel pushers are typically built on a raised-rail chassis, providing more basement space and side storage. They can handle the extra weight better as well.

Diesel pusher storage
You won’t lack storage space in a diesel pusher motorhome!

Which Is the Best Class A Motorhome Choice: Diesel Pusher or Gas?

There is really no correct answer to this question, as every traveler will have different preferences, needs, and budgets. However, diesel-pushers are priced higher for a reason: they have better fuel economy, more power, increased longevity, and a plethora of luxury features. So, if a diesel-pusher is within your budget, it’s probably the better choice! 

Nevertheless, if you have affordability in mind, there are plenty of excellent gas-powered Class As to choose from that will not disappoint. Whatever you decide, we doubt that you’ll be kicking yourself for skimping on luxury features as you sit around the campfire with your loved ones. After all, your RV is just a vessel to get you where you want to go in comfort. 

Class A motorhomes in the desert

What if you’re buying a truck to tow a travel trailer or fifth wheel? Should you choose diesel or gas? Read our full analysis here: Diesel vs. Gas Trucks: Which Is Better for Towing?

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Marty Main

Monday 21st of February 2022

There is yet another consideration for motorhomes, heavy duty (Class 8 - semi) truck conversions verses a bus-like rear or forward engine motorhomes. Two major factors are safety in a crash and less expensive shop rates when servicing and repairs are necessary. Toterhomes (as the car racing crowd calls them) or Super C class motorhomes are much safer in head-on collisions. I've seen a YouTube video where a truck driver passed out behind the wheel doing 60 mph with a full 80,000 lb. load in his 53' trailer, crashing into an overpass bridge abutment and once cut out of the cab, WALKED AWAY! Every video I've seen of a Class A crash ended with taking the driver out in a body bag. A hunk of glass and sheet metal just isn't enough to protect those sitting in the front. I don't like those odds. Then there is the repair shop labor rates and the fact for rear-end engines, the servicemen are likely to trample through your coach to gain access to the top of your engine under your bed. Labor rates are often half-again more expensive for rear-engine "busses" than for front-engine trucks. So, what RVs have these heavy duty or medium duty trucks? Well, Super C class motorhomes and HDTs (heavy semi-truck conversions or medium-duty truck) pulling RV trailers (either 5th wheel or bumper pull). And in most cases HDTs with sleepers can be registered as a motorhome, allowing anyone to drive them without a commercial driver’s license and generally eliminating the need to stop at truck scales, not to mention saving a sizeable chunk of money come annual registration time. For anyone wanting to learn more see https://hhrvresource.com/ for an accumulation of useful info. We love our HDT.

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