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What is RV Fuel Anxiety And How Do I Prevent It?

Published on March 3rd, 2021 by Patrick Buchanan

Do You Have RV Fuel Anxiety?
Do You Have RV Fuel Anxiety?

What Is RV Fuel Anxiety?

The media is buzzing these days with talk of EV range anxiety. This is the fear or anxiety faced by owners of electric vehicles, aka – EVs. It’s related to the uncertainty of how far you can drive on a charge and could you be stranded somewhere before you find a charging station? So what is RV fuel anxiety?

RV fuel anxiety is not wholly about running out of fuel at an inopportune time, though there are elements of that. It’s more about finding fuel in time and the uncertainty of getting your motorhome, travel trailer, or 5th wheel in and out of the fuel station and back on the road.

What Drives RV Fuel Anxiety? 

RV fuel anxiety is driven by several factors. We’ll look at a few. Some of these factors may apply more to new RVers, some will not. Circumstances can dictate that any of these factors could crop up and cause concern.

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Knowing if you can get in and out safely for fuel is key to preventing RV fuel anxiety
Knowing if you can get in and out safely for fuel is key to preventing RV fuel anxiety

Fuel Capacity and MPG

RVers, particularly new ones, often don’t comprehend the full scope of their fuel capacity and miles per gallon. They may not know or be familiar with how large the fuel tank is on their new or rented motorhome. When they do fill up the fuel tank, the large quantity of fuel they just paid for can give them a false sense of security, particularly if they don’t realize how low the MPG really is.

While there are certainly exceptions to the rule, most of us can count on a miles per gallon of between 8-12 for most RV and trucks pulling RVs. Suddenly that new RVer that just emptied his or her wallet a few hours ago is looking at an almost empty fuel tank wondering where the heck are they going to find fuel next?

RV Size and Navigation

RV fuel anxiety is also driven by not knowing what your fuel destination looks like. This can apply to all RVers. How many pumps are there? How high is the roof/awning over the pumps? Is there a diesel lane? Is there an RV lane? How big and how sharp of a turn is the turn-in to the station? Will there be a busy intersection? Will I have to make a U-turn?

For all but the smallest of campers, these are real and concerning questions. Heading down the road with the gauge nearing empty, knowing you need fuel and spinning all of those questions around in your head, you can’t even enjoy the drive.

Ways To Prevent RV Fuel Anxiety

The way to prevent being overly anxious about fueling up is to be prepared. First, you want to remember to figure your distance based on your fuel capacity, less a reserve amount. Figure out what’s comfortable for you. For trucks pulling a travel trailer or fifth wheel, that might be 5 gallons. That gives you anywhere from 40-60 miles of buffer when seeking fuel. For motorhome owners that have an onboard generator, that reserve should always be ¼ of your overall fuel capacity. This will allow the generator to continue to run if needed, but gives you a quarter of a tank in an emergency.

Satellite View and Street View

Scouting out the locale with satellite and street view before you leave on your trip will prove to be highly beneficial. You can know in advance what the layout of the fuel station is, and the roads and intersections in play around it. You can go down to street view and get a drivers eye view of what the height limitations are above the pumps. Sometimes you can even read the posted height limit.

Plan Every Fuel Stop

RV LIFE Trip Wizard shows you exactly where you will need fuel on your entire journey

Ultimately, the only way to travel with zero RV fuel anxiety is to have every fuel stop planned ahead of time. This can be daunting if not impossible on your own. However, with a tool like RV LIFE Trip Wizard, you can plan every fuel stop 100% in advance and leave that RV fuel anxiety at home. 

RV LIFE Trip Wizard, part of the RV LIFE Pro tools, uses your RV’s fuel capacity, reserve, and MPG settings you enter to show you exactly where you will need fuel on the trip you have planned in RV LIFE Trip Wizard. You can use the built-in tools to get a satellite view or street level view of your planned fuel stop to ensure easy access in and out. You can “fill up” your tank virtually in RV LIFE Trip Wizard, and add those fuel stops to your trip. 

That planned trip, complete with the fuel stops you have added, is also shown on your GPS enabled mobile device, in the RV LIFE GPS & Campgrounds app, also included in RV LIFE Pro.


RV fuel anxiety is a real thing, but it can be cured. With careful planning and tools like RV LIFE Trip Wizard, you can enjoy every mile, not sweat them.

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17 thoughts on “What is RV Fuel Anxiety And How Do I Prevent It?”

  1. My truck has a 50 gal tank. I rarely use over 35 gal in a day of driving. Most days I unhook and fuel after arriving at a campsite and always start the day full. There are many great options with tall and wide fuel lanes if you want to fuel hooked up.

    I guess I had a little “fuel anxiety” planning my first trip to AK but once I got on the road there was abundant fuel options.

    The good news is you have your home with plenty of food and water with you.

  2. In my first trip across country in a 34′ gas Class A I learned about fuel anxiety on a Sunday morning in Ft. Worth with less than 1/4 tank. First find a gas station that is open, then see if you can fit… After that lesson learned, I started looking for a station at 1/2 tank!

  3. Great article, Pat. My grandfather traveled during the 1960’s and always said never go below a half tank of gas. I have always remembered his advise and when I travel I stop at least every 80 miles to get gas. But my vehicle only gets 6 MPG and 5 if I’m driving with a headwind. My trip planning is just as you have illustrated in this article. I have the RV trip wizard on my phone but haven’t activated it yet. I see now how very useful that app can be. It will save me a lot of time in planning my routes in the future.

  4. This is almost exactly what I have been doing for years. I plan every gas stop in advance and since I have a gas powered Class C with a toad I try to find stations that have pump lanes parallel to the building. If I have to settle for a station with lanes perpendicular to the building I check to see if I can get a pump lane with the pumps on the same side of my gas fill and also provides an available exit to the side of the building. Using satellite and street views have been a real help in doing this.

    We used to have a 40′ fifth wheel pulled by a diesel truck so any truck stop on the interstate would work; however, as I’m sure you’ve experienced, if the truck stop is busy you may get stacked up in a line that will put a real dent in your planned travel time. Being 3rd or 4th in line can cost you a lot of time. Also, we found with the diesel that it’s better to stick to the interstates as it can be hard to find byroad stations that accommodate a big diesel rig.

    Thanks for the article.

  5. When traveling I have made it rule to fill up a between 1/2 & 1/4 on the fuel gauge this is for 2 reasons
    1.. gives a rest break for driver and walk break for co-pilot 2.. never have to worry about fuel anxiety.

  6. On occasion, I do enjoy some of your articles. I hate all of the Google ad and popup crap that gets in the way, though. I know you’re out to make $$ on your site, and your opinions, but the pop up ads are distracting from your message, and a negative to me. Just my humble opinion. I wish you the best. Thank you.

  7. Hard to believe that Flying J’s, Loves and other don’t consider the RVer when they build or renovate their stations

  8. To me, a GPS google map street view would be necessary for most big RV’s. Or be willing to gas can it..
    I am very much against ignorance and unwilling people that are rude in full stations. Including parking lots that are consumed by rv drivers that waste spaces by how they park.

  9. If you have a diesel rig, you can use the truck islands at the truck stops, which reduce or eliminates some of that anxiety. Indeed, if you’re driving a large diesel motorhome or fifth wheel, that’s where you want to go. Unfortunately, RVTrip Wizard does not separate truck stops from other fuel stations that I can tell.

  10. Start the day with a full tank! When you are at 1/4 tank, start looking for a gas stop. I learned this after pulling a travel trawler 7K on the road last year back and forth the US.

  11. We ran out of fuel pulling our travel trailer between Ca and Texas. There is a stretch that has no gas at all. We decided to always fill up when we get to half a tank. We also purchased a 5 gallon tank , also a siphon. Sometimes the gas stations were closed down that we were approaching!

  12. And dont forget the dreaded “next fuel 100 miles” sign. Lol.
    I always carry an empty 5 gal fuel can just in case the next gas stop is not accessable to my truck and 30 ft trailer.
    I could fuel 10 gals manually and that would give me close to 90 miles. Also can take another 5 gals as safety.

  13. Good advice, I always scout my fuel stops before travel days. With my average fuel consumption I can estimate when I’ll need fuel and then starting with Gas Buddy I find the potential stops with the best price and check Google Maps, Earth and Street View to see if I can get in and out with our 35′ fifth wheel. When that low fuel alert chimes I’ve got no anxiety since I already know where I can stop and save some $ too.

  14. 33 foot RV. “How in the world did I get in this mess and how am I going to get out”. Are those people in that class “B” laughing at me?
    Great advice.

  15. The best way through any anxiety is practice.
    Fuel the coach… 100 miles….. fuel the coach… 100 miles repeat for a weekend. By Monday you will be an expert!

    Constantly practicing and believing in yourself are the keys.

    Be safe

  16. I mysself have taught myself to fill the tank when it is slightly below 1/2 a tank and I Now think my wife has figured this out when we back tracked to a Forestry camp and luckily someone was working on a Saturday and their limit is 3 gallons so I took it and thanked him, I offered to pay for it and he said no but if I drive carefully which will be my wife well make and we did with what we had was around 2 gallon n their 3 gallons made it to a Service station where we could fill up and dump our tanks which made my day. I keep wondering if my wife has learned her lesson.

  17. I use Pilot/Flying J as they partner with Good Sam I get 7 cents a gallon off. They are great Truck stops, who also have DEF on the same pump you fuel with, always easy in and out.


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