Skip to Content

Diesel vs. Gas Trucks: Which Is Better for Towing?

Diesel vs. Gas Trucks: Which Is Better for Towing?

When it comes to towing, the age-old debate between diesel and gasoline engines reignites with fervor. Whether you’re hauling a boat for a weekend getaway, transporting heavy equipment for your business, or embarking on a cross-country RV adventure, the choice of your truck’s engine can make all the difference. Both diesel and gasoline trucks have their ardent supporters who swear by their respective advantages, but what does the science and performance data say?

In this comprehensive article, we’ll delve into the intricacies of diesel and gasoline engines, examining factors such as torque, fuel efficiency, maintenance costs, and longevity. We’ll also explore how these elements translate into towing capacity and overall performance. By the end, you’ll have a clearer understanding of which engine type best suits your towing needs, allowing you to make an informed decision for your next truck purchase.

So, buckle up and get ready to discover the ins and outs of diesel vs. gas trucks in the context of towing. Your perfect hauling companion awaits!

Diesel vs. Gas at a Glance

Let’s do just a quick overview of diesel vs. gas trucks before getting into the details. We personally have operated both gas and diesel engines for towing. In addition, Tom has extensive experience with maintenance, operation, and even heavy modification and rebuilding of all aspects of diesel and gas engines. We will be sharing our knowledge and experience.

Pro Tip: Before you fuel up, uncover Premium Fuel: Myth vs. Reality – Is It Still Safe to Use in Any Car?


Knowing the key differences between diesel vs. gas trucks can help you make an informed decision when purchasing a new tow vehicle. It still may come down to just what you can afford, but don’t go into the decision without knowing all of the facts first. Let’s look at eight important side-by-side comparisons of diesel vs. gas trucks.

Tom doing a diesel engine rebuild on a cummins 6.7
From light mods to entire rebuilds, we’re up for it! This was my latest project on our cummins 6.7

Power and Torque

Torque is the engine’s twisting capability needed to get mass moving. Diesel engines produce more torque at lower RPMs’s which means higher towing capacities compared to gas engines. This also means that diesel engines will be able to get a load moving and keep it going better. Hills will not slow the vehicle down as much and engine RPM’s will remain lower. Diesel engines also produce their peak torque at much lower RPM’s. This means that getting going and holding speed the engine will not need to to downshift as much.

A diesel truck won’t work as hard to pull an RV up an incline as a gas one. Some RV owners will tell you sometimes it doesn’t even feel like they’re towing anything because the diesel engine has so much power. They can also comfortably travel at higher speeds down the interstate.

This does not mean that gas engines cannot perform these feats; however, it will take a larger engine to match the same capability. Gas engines tend to produce more horsepower which is due to the higher RPM operation. Your gas engine can pull an RV up a hill but will be screaming, which means higher temps, more wear and shorter engine life in these applications.

towing with gas truck
The debate between diesel vs. gas depends on each persons needs from a tow vehicle.

Towing Capacities

In the diesel vs. gas truck debate, diesel will always win at the top end of truck tiers. Now that’s not to say that a gas engine cannot do it, In fact, gas engines weigh lots less and that weight can factor into its towing capabilities. To match diesel capabilities however a gas engine needs to get much bigger. In the past Ford even attempted to match its diesel for towing heavy with its 10 cylinder engine. Compare that to a diesel 6 or 8-cylinder that still outperforms it.

There is a reason that every semi truck is a diesel; when it comes to heavyweight operation, they are far superior. We will get into the specific differences that cause these performance improvements in a little bit.

Consider the type of travel you’ll have to make a good decision. And always know the RV’s weight and the truck’s capacity. Never tow anything over the towing capacity of your truck. This reduces the engine life and increases fuel consumption while also putting everyone in danger by ignoring the manufacturer’s warning.

Did You Know: While Dodge Ram used to be quite a popular truck brand, it is now two separate vehicle companies!

Fuel Economy

On average diesel engines are 20% to 35% more efficient than conventional gasoline engines, This is partially because diesel fuel contains 13% more energy than gasoline. When you put similar heavy loads on the engine sometimes the efficiency gain can be 50% or more.

The reason for better fuel economy goes beyond the higher energy density of the fuel. First of all diesel engines operate at higher compression ratios than gasoline engines. This leads to more efficient combustion. Diesel engines often have a longer piston stroke length compared to gasoline engines, which can contribute to more effective power generation and better thermal efficiency as well as torque generation. This thermal efficiency gain means a larger percentage of the fuel’s energy is converted into useful work rather than being lost as waste heat.

Truck towing an RV
Diesel trucks are the best for towing your RV.

Truck Maintenance

Proper truck maintenance improves the overall health and longevity of your vehicle. You may purchase the absolute best diesel or gas truck on the market, but you’ll have problems if you don’t take care of it. 

Generally, maintenance on gas trucks costs less. For example, you will pay more for an oil change on a diesel engine because they require more oil. You may also need to change the filters and the separator when getting an oil change on a diesel.

While a diesel will cost more for regular maintenance, maintenance intervals are usually longer for heavy use.

Towing Efficiency

As already mentioned, diesel engines can tow more, at higher speeds, and through various terrain than gas engines. They get better towing efficiency due to the increased torque and power. 

That 25 to 35% improvement in fuel economy frequently jumps to 50 to 100% fuel economy improvement when towing. This is due to the lower RPM’s the engine can operate at while towing.

They won’t have as much strain put on the engine or transmission. A diesel-powered truck will pull a 15,000-lb fifth wheel down the interstate just as effectively as pulling it through the Rocky Mountains.

Cost of Fuel

Diesel fuel comes at a higher price than gas on average. Typically it’s anywhere from 20 to 40 cents more in most places around the country. This should factor into your decision, especially if you plan to travel often. 

However, many RVers can get a trucker discount card to save on fuel. RVers with diesel engines often get cheaper fuel than those with gas trucks by using fuel programs like TSD Open Roads at the pump. Savings can range from 20 to over 50 cents per gallon.

Pro Tip: Save on fuel by getting one of these 4 Best Hybrid Trucks for Towing RV Campers.

Close up on a Ford truck
Before you decide which type of truck to buy, make sure to create a realistic budget.

Cost of Vehicle

Diesel trucks cost more upfront than gas — usually about $10,000 more. However, they also retain their value longer. 

When comparing similar vehicles, a used 2015 diesel truck will cost more than the gas counterpart. So whether you want a new or used truck, expect to pay more for one with a diesel engine.

Reliability and Longevity 

Diesel engines tend to last longer than gasoline engines overall. While this is a trend, there are lots of reasons for it. Maintenance is always critical for any engine, and a poorly maintained diesel engine can fail sooner than its gas counterpart. If maintenance is done regularly, however, diesels should last longer for many reasons.

First, as we mentioned before, diesels operate at lower RPM’s. This reduces wear on engine components. Diesel engines also have simpler operating systems. They lack any ignition system, valve timing, throttle plates, and many other components required for gas engines to operate. This simplicity means less to go wrong.

Despite the soot you occasionally see, diesel engines burn more completely and tend to build less carbon residues in the engines. In addition, they operate at lower temperatures, which helps with component fatigue. Diesel fuel itself also has lubricating properties instead of solvent properties, which cause far less wear. Finally, diesels are just built stronger because of their intended use case as industrial work engines. All of these combine into an engine that can last far longer than a gas engine when used for heavy-duty applications.

Personally our diesel truck with 250,000 miles has had no major issues with the engine and we would continue to use it for long trips. We have met many owners with 300-500k miles on their primary diesel tow vehicles.

What Are the Advantages and Disadvantages of Diesel?

The capabilities and longevity weigh in as the biggest advantages of owning a diesel truck. You can do more with a diesel without worrying about how much strain you put on the vehicle. And with diesel engines lasting 200,000 and 300,000 miles sometimes, you don’t have to pay for another truck anytime soon if you take good care of the one you have.

On the other hand, the biggest disadvantage is the cost. You’ll pay more upfront, at the pump, and for maintenance and repair. For this reason, many RVers choose gas trucks over diesel.

Pro Tip: If you own a truck camper and want to take it on your next adventure, find out Can You Leave a Tailgate on with a Truck Camper?

RAM 3500 truck
Diesel trucks cost more at the gas pump and to buy.

What Are the Advantages and Disadvantages of Gas?

As mentioned above, RVers choose gas over diesel mainly because of the cost. If you only have a budget of $50,000 and don’t want to buy an older diesel truck with over 150,000 miles, then you won’t have many diesel truck options. 

It also comes down to the monthly cost of fuel and maintenance. Knowing that one repair bill won’t thwart your budget can bring truck owners peace of mind.

You may also want to consider the payload, especially if you want a truck camper. Because a diesel engine weighs hundreds of pounds more than a gas one, it takes away some of the payload capabilities of the truck. So if you want to carry a lot of weight in the bed, you may prefer a gas option because of its higher payload capacity.

However, gas vehicles have fewer capabilities. Do you want to travel across the country and put hundreds of miles a month on your tow vehicle? If so, a gas truck may not work the best if you tow anything over 15,000 lbs. The strain on the engine could put you in a position to buy a new one in just a couple of years.

Pro Tip: We took a closer look to uncover Do You Need to Bulletproof Your Diesel Engine?

Black truck parked.
Head out on the highway in the perfect truck for you.

Are Diesel or Gas Trucks Better for Towing?

There is a reason that all semi-trucks on the road are diesel engines (sometimes natural gas but its the same engine). Diesel have better characteristics for heavy loads and are more efficient when pulling.

diesel truck towing

Towing with a diesel vs. gas truck depends on your needs. If you only tow a 33-ft travel trailer that weighs 10,000 lbs, a gas truck will certainly get the job done. And it will cost less. However, if you tow more than 15,000 lbs and do a lot of traveling, a diesel truck will suit you better.

When shopping for trucks, remember to keep safety as the top priority. You don’t want to endanger the lives of you or other travelers. You also want to protect the vehicle by not putting too much strain on the engine, axles, brake system, transmission, etc. Price and cost are certainly important factors, but don’t push safety to the side.

Pro Tip: Ditch the truck for van life with one of these 7 Best Vans for Towing RV Campers and More.

Think A One Ton Truck Is Big Enough? What Are The Differences And Why You Might Want A 550 or 5500?
Our latest truck is a 5500 series and only came in a diesel option

What’s the Best Option?

When looking at diesel vs. gas trucks, consider cost, safety, efficiency, power, and longevity. 

Additionally, make sure to take care of your truck regardless of whether or not it has a diesel engine or gas engine. Proper maintenance and care after your purchase will make a huge difference in its effectiveness and cost.

So are you in the market for a tow vehicle? Have you weighed all of the pros and cons of diesel vs. gas trucks? What’s the best option for your travel needs? Drop a comment below!

Become A Mortons On The Move Insider

Join 10,000+ other adventurers to receive educating, entertaining, and inspiring articles about RV Travel Destinations, RV Gear, and Off-Grid Living to jump-start your adventures today!

About Mortons on the Move

Tom & Caitlin Morton of Mortons on the Move gave up the stationary life for one where they are constantly on the move. They are full-time travelers, television hosts, and digital media producers.
They left their jobs, sold their house and possessions, and hit the road in September 2015 in their full-time “home on wheels”. Since then they have traveled the US, Canada, and even internationally by RV.
Now, they are Discovery Channel & PBS TV Co-stars of “Go North” on Amazon Prime Video, co-founders and instructors of RV Masterclass, and contributing authors for and an Arizona travel guide.

About Us

Sharing is caring!

John Lockhart

Sunday 3rd of September 2023

I'm currently towing a 5,000 lb trailer with a Silverado 3.0 Duramax. Mileage when towing is 10-12mpg, with no limitations on speeds or terrain. Running empty, that mileage goes up to 22-32mpg.

A rarely mentioned advantage to diesel for towing is the ability to get fuel without resorting to the convenience store madhouse at the pumps! I use my discount fuel card whenever possible, and fill at the truck islands with no worries as to whether I can easily exit the property, or get hit by some distracted minivan driver. I wouldn't want to do any extended travel towing with gas for this reason!

Edward Oare

Tuesday 29th of August 2023

Another advantage of Diesel is the Engine Brake......

Mortons on the Move

Thursday 31st of August 2023

Huge advantage!

Chris Skadberg

Tuesday 29th of August 2023

Great article regarding tow engine types. I've owned 2 Ram 1500's, both with gas engines. I used to pull a 27ft travel trailer with the first Ram. Now after purchasing a Ram 2500 Cummings & pulling my 26ft work trailer, the difference in pulling torgue is truly no comparison. Even the mechanic whom I've used for used was a die hard Ford Powerstroke fan, that was until he drove Ram 2500 Cummings while pulling their 20 snowmobile trailer up to the U.P.. I noticed 1day there was a Ram 2500 Cummings in his parking spot. So of course, I had to stop & question that. LOL He was extremely impressed with the get up & go torque. He said that he couldn't even tell that he was pulling a trailer. Needless to say, he is a converted Cummings fan now.

We are looking at purchasing a 46ft or 48ft Luxe Toy Hauler in the future along with a turn-key Ram 5500 from Bodywerks. We will be living in it full time & traveling the Country. My wife & I are looking forward to that day. But, also looking at all our stuff that will need new homes..LOL. come on kids, time for us to start our purge


Saturday 8th of January 2022

I have a 2013 Chevrolet Silverado LTZ 3500 with the Duramax diesel engine, and love it, except: The DPF (Diesel Particulate Filter) / DEF system. In my experience which concurs with some on line chatter, the DPF system reduces reliability over time (not milage) The truck is properly maintained, and I always use name brand DEF; however, over the spring and summer, it was out of service for more than a month due to DPF issues. Twice while on a trip, we had to return home to have the DPF system serviced. Even though I'm what most people would consider a conservative driver, I've never seen the milage numbers you mentioned; the truck gets about 12mpg, loaded, empty, up hill, down hill, or on the prairie.


Friday 7th of January 2022

2 things you forgot to mention that tips the scale in favor of a diesel truck. 1 because Diesel engines are heavier, they are much better in snowy/icy conditions, that extra weight over a gas engine is on the front wheels. And because diesels don’t rev up as quickly, there’s much less of a tendency to spin the tires.2 on 3/4ton and heavier trucks , Diesel engines come equipped with an exhaust brake. That 1 feature alone makes diesels the hands down winner. I live in the mountains and descending steep grades is an effortless affair! Modern diesel powered trucks are some of the most fuel efficient, least polluting, and powerful engines ever produced for the general public. And did I say the power was awesome? Love my 1 ton HD Ram! Thanks for the posts, keep up the great work!

Mortons on the Move

Tuesday 8th of March 2022

Good points! I agree our 1 ton ram has been one of the best vehicles we have ever owned.