gas vs diesel for towing a fifth wheel

Gas vs Diesel for Towing a Fifth Wheel: Which One is Better?

Peter Wade

A fifth wheel provides a more spacious and comfortable living space than a travel trailer. It makes sure you get all the comfort features without taking the space of a full-blown wheel. Many RVers dream of hitting the road with a fifth wheeler in tow. But there is a debate about gas vs diesel for towing a fifth wheel. Which vehicle is better for towing your dream RV?

Some people think that buying a heavy-duty, up-for-anything truck will solve the problem because it can tow anything, irrespective of having a diesel or gas engine. It’s true, but you can get better service in terms of driving comfort, road performance, and fuel economy if you can choose the right towing vehicle. A brief discussion about different aspects of diesel and gas towing vehicles will help you understand their differences better.

Gas vs Diesel for Towing a Fifth Wheel: Which One is the Best?

Travel trailers are easy to tow and fifth wheels are the most stable of RV types. This RV type is more aerodynamic to reduce swaying at the time of driving. But that doesn’t mean that one size fits all. One truck cannot be good for all fifth wheels. You need to choose the towing vehicle depending on the terrains you are going to explore and a few other variables.

So, what are the factors that you should consider when buying the towing vehicle for your fifth wheel? We’ve covered the key variables that actually matter when towing a fifth wheel trailer.

Total Expenses

If you are thinking about initial costs, gas engines are the right option. They are less expensive than diesel-run engines and their maintenance expenses are lower too. Gas as a fuel also costs less than diesel.

gas truck towing a fifth wheel
Gas vehicles are priced lower than diesel units.

But the fuel efficiency of gas engines is so good that they provide the best value for money at the end. The superior fuel economy makes sure that a huge price difference at the upfront gets compensated for over the years of driving. You can save even more by changing the fuel filter and making the oil change by yourself. While the diesel exhaust fluid (DEF) is slightly costlier than gas, it does not create any huge difference in the big picture.

The maintenance expenses of diesel vehicles are higher, but they rarely show any problem. They just ride like a dream without making any noise and displaying any mechanical issue for year after year. Also, their resale value is much higher than their gas counterparts.

Towing Capacity

The undisputed winner in this section is the diesel engine. Due to yielding a vast torque output, diesel-run vehicles can tow heavy-duty RVs, including the giant fifth wheelers. Besides, they can outperform any gas-run vehicle in terms of longevity. However, gas vehicles can tow heavy fifth wheel trailers too, but their diesel counterparts are ahead by a good margin.

The trailer’s weight also plays a big role in deciding between gas vs diesel for towing a fifth wheel. For one half a tonne fifth wheel, a 3/4-tonne gas engine is enough. The truth is a diesel unit in the same weight range won’t even feel that there is something towed at its back. But you should think about the thousands of dollars in the price difference between the two types. If you have a light fifth wheel, investing in a gas vehicle will be a wise decision.

Load Capacity

While diesel engines are ahead of the gas engines at almost every section (except for the upfront costs), their load capacity is slightly disappointing.

They can tow heavy trailers, no doubt about that. But these weighty vehicles cut on the load capacity, which means that you cannot carry a lot of things even if you need to. If you are towing a fifth wheel, go for a one-tonne diesel vehicle. A 3/4-tonne unit can still tow a 5th wheel but cannot carry much stuff.

Terrain Type

Where do you want to take your fifth wheel? The answer to this question is a significant factor in deciding about gas vs diesel for towing a fifth wheel.

Diesel vehicles are equipped to dominate over almost all types of terrains. You can go anywhere with it and conquer almost every possible scenario. They are especially excellent for mountainous areas. For mountains, rough terrains, and a high number of miles, you can rely on a diesel engine without giving a second thought.

diesel truck towing a fifth wheel
Diesel vehicles are the best for hilly areas.

But there is no need to spend such a big amount of money on a diesel vehicle if you camp occasionally or decide to stay close to your home. For plain, smooth terrains and low miles, gas engines are undoubtedly the better choice. They pull fine and stay stable on flat roads, but the speed keeps dropping on steeper inclines. They downshift constantly on mountainous roads, which prevents acceleration. But diesel vehicles will handle these routes with ease, without a single downshift. They have no competition in hilly grades and above 500-foot of elevation.

The Bottom Line

From the above discussion, it becomes clear that you must consider these variables when deciding between gas vs diesel for towing a fifth wheel. The rule of thumb is considering the distance, terrain type, and weight of the towable trailer.

If you own a massive fifth wheel trailer and intend to do camping over long distances, a diesel is the best choice despite having a higher price tag. Otherwise, there is no need to spend that amount of money. Gas vehicles are also capable of towing a fifth wheel without compromising much with riding comfort and handling performance. Remember that most areas in the United States have plain lands and are lower than 5,000 feet. So, gas engines will work just fine in the majority of America. On the other hand, diesel is certainly better for hauling commercial stuff. You can use for towing your personal trailer too if you have that kind of budget.

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