Why Do Diesel Pusher RVs Cost So Much More Than Gas Motorhomes?

diesel pusher rvs cost

Diesel pusher RVs cost significantly more than their gas-powered counterparts. Here’s a breakdown of the differences.

Over the years, many motorhome enthusiasts and prospective buyers have asked, “Why do diesel-powered coaches cost so much more than gas-powered motorhomes?” This is often heard at RV shows, in dealer showrooms and over the campfire.

Well, perhaps one of the misleading assumptions is that the cost difference lies primarily between gas and diesel engines. While it’s true that a diesel engine is a more expensive engine to buy, the differences don’t stop there.

Let’s look at two similar length class A coaches, one a V10 gasoline-powered motorhome, and a 6-cylinder, 8.9 liter-diesel pusher.

More than Horses

diesel pusher rvs costWhile both of these vehicles have about the same rated horsepower, this cannot be said about the engine torque. Torque, of course, is the force that helps the vehicle start moving from a stop and pulls it up steep hills. The diesel has substantially more torque, 1,200 ft/lbs to 457. With over 160 percent more twisting power, the diesel engine requires a far heavier mount and frame. That same high torque needs a much more robust torque converter and transmission.

Likewise, the entire driveline, mount and supports must be upgraded greatly to handle the power. The chassis frame channels must be of a heavier gauge to alleviate frame distortion. A much larger capacity drive axle is needed to deal with the higher torque and added weight of the heavier diesel engine. All of this requires larger, higher load capacity tires.

Diesel pushers, for the most part, are equipped with air-operated brakes and air suspension. The brake components are heavy duty, most linings will last for several hundred thousand miles. The air suspension requires a network of pneumatic devices, regulators, leveling valves and computerized control modules.

Power Plant Particulars

Now, let’s look at some of the engine-only comparisons. The diesel, with its high compression ratio, requires two large engine batteries to drive a far larger starter motor. It also is equipped with a built-in air compressor. All current motorhome diesel engines are intercooled and turbo charged.

When all is said, the diesel pusher ends up with as much as 30- to 40-percent more GVW (gross vehicle weight) capacity.

We have only looked at some of the items that justify the far higher price. But it’s clear that a diesel pusher is not just about fuel and engine differences.

Peter Mercer – Justifying Your Buying Dollars

Find both diesel and gas models at Camping World.

Leave a Reply

36 comments

  1. Anonymous

    I am an old diesel mecanic, I love diesel’s. Tell me how to buy one.

    -2
    • Peter Mercer

      Peter Mercer

      There are plenty of diesel powered motor homes out there for sale. New and used diesel pushers come in many sizes and budgets. Your mechanical experience can be of great help in accessing the right unit. Thanks for your comment and good luck.

      -1
  2. Anonymous

    thanks.

  3. Anonymous

    Hi Peter. Thanks for the update on diesel pushers motorhome. Do diesel engines get better MPG than gas engines?

    Robert
    [email protected]

    -2
    • Peter Mercer

      Peter Mercer

      Robert, Yes, diesel engines do get better per gallon fuel mileage than gas when considering pound for pound. However, you must take in account the greater weight of the DP. The DP may get less mileage than a lighter gas giving an observer the impression that the gas rig is more economical. This is incorrect when the weight is figured in. The physics of diesel fuel’s much higher BTU’s per gallon translates to more power given the same measure of fuel. So yes, the diesel engine is capable of getting better fuel mileage.
      Thanks for taking the time to comment.

  4. Anonymous

    What about diesel motor homes that are not pushers?

    • Peter Mercer

      Peter Mercer

      I presume you are referring to a class A diesel front engine. These are not common, nick-named FRED (Front end diesel). Generally those that were made were powered by Cummins ISB diesel engines. They were relatively low torque/horse power units that did not require the type of heavy chassis of a pusher. Because of this the weight was similar to a gas powered rig. The fuel mileage these can deliver is far better than a similar sized gas coach.
      I hope that answers your question. Thank you for that thought.

      • Anonymous

        I have driven both and quickly became tired of the diesel’s turbo constantly whining in my ear. I now have a ’99 ISB pusher which has plenty of power and excellent fuel economy 10.5-11mpg even pulling a Jeep Grand Cherokee. It is so quiet having the engine so far away from where I sit. The ride dynamics are also much better due to airbags and where the weight is distributed over the wheels.

        • Peter Mercer

          Peter Mercer

          The Cummins ISB engine is a very good fuel conserver, great engine. Rear mounted diesels are hard to beat when it comes to cab sound. Thank you for your comments.

  5. Anonymous

    Because of the extra weight, does a DP offer a smoother ride than a gas MH?

    • Peter Mercer

      Peter Mercer

      Yes, in general a diesel pusher has a far superior ride. This is primarily due to the air suspension. And yes, they are considerably heavier. Thanks for taking the time to comment.

  6. Anonymous

    I have a question in regards to our Winnegago V10 30′ Vista. I want to pull my 2 horse trailer with it and can’t seem to find any real info on this. We are towing at this time our 2014 Equinox without any problem. I know you go by the weight, etc. But I am trying to find somebody that has actually towed a horse trailer.
    Thanks in advance
    Michele

    • Peter Mercer

      Peter Mercer

      A 30′ coach powered by a Ford V-10 should have no problem pulling that load. However, you must verify the total loaded trailer weight is within the designed specifications, including tongue weight. Contact your dealer or the manufacturer to confirm this.
      Thank you for your question.

  7. Anonymous

    How does the new class C Tiffin DIESEL on the Mercedes-Benz delivery truck chassis compare to the same size GAS models? Ace K

    • Peter Mercer

      Peter Mercer

      The Mercedes Sprint chassis is a great fuel mileage performer. Yes, they generally will run more economically than that of a comparable gasoline powered rig. One caution here is the fuel type. Diesel fuel only with a maximum of B-5 bio fuel. Many stations serve B-20 which may well damage the engine. Mercedes does not cover warranty for such damage.
      Thank you for bring up the Mercedes powered units.

      • Anonymous

        I was under the impression that B-5 is the standard of diesel for autos and trucks , numbers above that indicate a Bio fuel??? I have a sprinter chassis class C with the Mercedes diesel and have no trouble finding fuel in the USA Canad or Alaska (home)

        • Peter Mercer

          Peter Mercer

          It is good you are aware not to exceed bio-diesel blends above B-5. The problem is, not every owner is totally aware of this. There are non-bio fuels available in North America. Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us.

  8. Anonymous

    Thanks Peter. I knew most of this, but you filled-in some blanks for me. About the only camping/RV options I have not owned is a camper. I wanted to end with a class A diesel-pusher, but was coming up short on money as I get ready to retire. There are “low-cost” diesel pushers out there. Palazzo is one, but I had to give up on the turbo-charger. Some lower-cost DP’s do come without one. I miss it, compared to the performance of my F350. About same engine size, but noticeably more power for acceleration and on long-steep grades when turbo-charged. Still; 35ft coach, CRV toad, and hydralift/MC combination moves just fine. Spent only $150K! (new models are now a little prettier and $160K). Invested another $8K in steering and suspension upgrades by an expert specialty-shop, and now I have a very nice rig for me. It can be done at reasonable cost!

    • Peter Mercer

      Peter Mercer

      Glad you found the piece of interest. There is really little wrong with a natural aspirated diesel engine. If it lacks some get-up-and-go, it will still get up the hill, maybe just a bit slower. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this.

  9. Anonymous

    A diesel will last a lot longer than the gas because the gas motor will labor so mush more than the diesel will. Diesel also get better mileage than the gas motor. Everything you said about motor homes also go’s for pickup trucks.

  10. Anonymous

    Well worth the read!!

    • Peter Mercer

      Peter Mercer

      I’m glad you found it of interest. Thanks for the thumbs up.

  11. Anonymous

    I have been told, by my Cummins service shop Manager, that a diesel engine stuffed into the back of a diesel pusher coach will have a much shorter life expectancy than the same engine used in the front of a truck where it will have much better cooling (air flow around the engine and radiator out front instead of at the back). This after major rebuild involving a fried turbocharger and cracked exhaust manifold at ten years and 150,000 miles.

    • Peter Mercer

      Peter Mercer

      Most of today’s diesel pusher engines work well in the pusher application. If a rear diesel suffers any damage due to poor ventilation, there is a flaw in the RV manufacturer’s design. I’m not aware of any units that fall in this category. Thanks for your comment.

  12. Anonymous

    I have a 2006 Damon Daybreak with the Triton V10. I have heard “vapor lock” an can be an issue with gas motors at higher altitudes and do DP have any problems at higher altitudes? We would like to plan a trip west across the Rockies but have been leery bc of the fear of being stranded.

    • Peter Mercer

      Peter Mercer

      No, diesel powered motor homes are not adversely affected by high elevations. Vapour lock issues on a gasoline engine should be addressed by your service shop. Thanks for taking the time to comment.

  13. Anonymous

    One correction to the article needs to be done. It states that “most brake linings will last several thousand miles”. As I have learned several means about 3. Lets hope any motorhome’s brakes, whether diesel or gas will last more than several thousand miles.

    • Peter Mercer

      Peter Mercer

      You are correct. that was a typo. It should read “Several hundred thousand miles”. 300,000 or so miles is common on many diesel pushers. Thank you for your eagle eye!

  14. Anonymous

    Would your also cover the actual operation and maintenance costs associated with each style? Gas or diesel mpg is just part of the equation. Shouldn’t fluid changes, filters, parts and required maintenance are at different intervals and be factored into the equation? Just what is the comparative cost ratio of operation per gas vs. diesel to gain that addition torque, HP and ride comfort? One thing overlooked was interior noise levels. Even between both fuel engines the diesel usually operates at lower RPM’s for the same torque. That equates to less engine rev and especially on front engine designs a quieter drive. V-10 owners know all about their engines screaming (between driver and passenger seats) as they climb long hills and mountains. Down hill you get the benefit of engine compression braking. Also as I have learned the hard way, if you pull off for the night and have to run a generator, then engine vs. generator placement is important. The front engine design (both gasser and diesel) places the generator in the back (near your bedroom). A RED (rear engine diesel) places the generator up front under the nose. Not only will that diesel generator also run at less rpms, but it is located away from your sleeping quarters. Quieter-yes! Then again there’s also the additional cost of a second diesel engine for that generator. I’m unaware of any manufacturer that would build a MH with a generator power by different fuel from the the drive power plant.

    • Peter Mercer

      Peter Mercer

      This piece basically only addresses the value difference of diesel pushers vs, gas powered rigs. Maintenance will be discussed in a future piece as it encompasses a totally different set of issues.
      Some class A units were built with a diesel power plant and a propane powered generator set. Thanks for your input, and we will be getting to the maintenance discussion soon.

      • Anonymous

        I have a Fleetwood Discovery with a propane power plant. I love being able to pay $1.50-$1.80/gallon for propane (no road tax) when diesel costs $2.50-3/gallon. No stale gas problems and no generator shut downs if my driving tank is below 1/4.

        • Peter Mercer

          Peter Mercer

          There can be advantages to having a propane fired genset, Many folks don’t want to deal with two fuel types. You may be surprised how economical a diesel generator is. Thank you for sharing your opinion with us.

  15. Anonymous

    PLUS…THE DIESEL’S GET BETTER GAS MILEAGE!

    • Peter Mercer

      Peter Mercer

      Yes, pound for pound the diesel engine will operate consuming less fuel than that of a gas unit. However, remember it is pound for pound. Most diesel pushers are far heavier than their gas powered comparative sized unit.
      Thank you for your thought and comment.

  16. Anonymous

    Diesel models inevitably cost more because higher end features become standard in most diesel models. Every part that goes into low torque gas model must be compromised or avoided to reduce weight. I don’t think twice about bringing extra items on an extended trip that I might need because my diesel won’t complain. High speeds, strong head winds, long climbs or heavy payloads could result in a disastrous overload of a gas model’s engine. I can travel for hours on the interstate at 75mph climbing up to the Rockies, pulling a Jeep and still get 10-11mpg. Longevity of the powertrain and durable components will help preserve usefulness and value of high mileage diesel motorhomes built with components designed to last in high mileage commercial trucks. Gas models do not even factor into mydecision when buying a motorhome.

    • Peter Mercer

      Peter Mercer

      I agree with much of your thoughts. However, gasoline powered coaches also fit some people’s application better than that of a DP. The main point here was to breakout the high cost associated with DP’s. Thank you for taking the time to comment.