Everything You Wanted to Know About Diesel Motor Homes

What to Expect

While the type of motor is obviously one of the main qualifiers of a diesel pusher, there are a huge variety of vehicles that fit this description. Generally speaking, though, these RVs can be up to 45 feet long, sleep 2-4 people, have a queen or king size bed, at least one sofa sleeper, and plenty of storage space. They usually have the biggest windows of any model, which makes for better visibility on a long trip, and a bus-style front that makes it easier to control.

The engine is always near the back, which is why it is called a diesel pusher, and can deliver a lot more torque for climbing hills and pulling larger tow vehicles or trailers.

The added benefits and features of these vehicles means they often cost more than their gas-engine counterparts. New prices can range anywhere from $250,000 to $600,000. Used models on the other hand can be as low as $40-$60,000, even for some of the higher-end models.

Of course, such large vehicles won't have the fuel economy of smaller models, but RVing isn't really about the drive so much as it is the destination. It may take a while to become accustomed to driving something the size of a bus, and the length and height of the motorhome may also impose some restrictions on where, exactly you can camp, but this is a chance to disconnect from the daily grind and get back to nature in style.

Why Diesel?

Diesel engines provide more torque, better braking and air-ride suspension, and can pull more weight than a gasoline version. They are also much more efficient, as gasoline engines usually run at 30% efficiency while diesels can covert over 45% of fuel energy into mechanical energy. These engines do not have a high voltage electrical ignition system, which means they are extremely reliable for a much longer time, and can easily adapt to a damp environment. (This can, however, present a few problems for cold-weather situations, but that is easily overcome with the right equipment.)

Diesel RV vs. Gasoline Engines

There are benefits to both diesel and gasoline engines for an RV, but it's important to understand the differences so you know which one fits your situation. The life expectancy of a diesel engine is usually around twice that of a standard gas engine, but any necessary maintenance or repairs are generally more expensive.

The costs for diesel fuel have also gone up significantly in the past few years, and these huge vehicles go through fuel pretty fast, so those costs can add up. However, the new models are more fuel efficient and quieter than ever before, and you may be surprised at the performance you get.

One major consideration is the size of your RV. Once your motorhome crosses the 35 foot length, a diesel pusher may be the best option because now there is so much RV that its own weight becomes a serious factor - even before you start filling it with your possessions. A gasoline engine may have the ability to get you to your final destination, but it would likely use even more gas to get it going.

How Do Diesel Engines Work?

These engines, like traditional gasoline engines, are based on internal combustion principles, but the major difference is that instead of causing the ignition with a spark, it uses the heat of compression. This process is what gives it such a high thermal efficiency compared to other types of engines. As the air in the combustion chamber is compressed it heats to around 550 degrees Celsius, and then the fuel is injected straight into it.

Because the ignition process relies on heated air, high speed diesel engines can be difficult to start in cold weather. The problem is normally addressed by small electric heaters inside the pre-chambers or resistive heaters in the intake manifold to warm the necessary components enough to allow a smooth start.

This process is also part of what causes the signature noise in the engine, often called diesel clatter or diesel knock. The recent developments in the industry, though, have gone a long way toward minimizing the noise by using indirect injection, controlling the injection timing and rate, and using exhaust gas recirculation (among other things). In other words, you can get all the power, torque, and efficient running without having to worry about the noise getting out of hand.

Know Your Vehicle

What are the specs of your motorhome? How far will it go on a single fill-up? What are the weight limits you can safely tow? There are a lot of questions that can only be answered by looking at the individual specifications for your model, but there are some generalities you can expect from this type of RV.

  • MPG - Large motorhomes may eat up a lot of fuel, but diesel engines are generally more fuel-efficient than gasoline RVs. This extra efficiency can help offset the costs of diesel fuel. The average gas motorhome usually gets around 6-10 miles per gallon, while a diesel RV should get you into the 8-14 mpg range.

  • Braking - Diesel pushers use air brakes. This means there're no brake fluids to deal with - meaning simplified maintenance - and they still provide plenty of stopping power to deal with the huge momentum of your RV.

  • Towing Capacity - The high torque of the diesel engine gives you a lot more horsepower at lower RPMs. These motorhomes are more efficient at pulling heavier loads and the activity puts less stress on the engine. Just check your individual guidelines to find what is considered a safe towing weight.

  • Loading - Proper and safe loading is an essential part of RVing. These motorhomes may be huge, but they're still designed to carry a maximum weight. Overloading it can cause damage to the tires, wheel springs, and possibly even the brakes and drivetrain. It can also cause the vehicle to use fuel more inefficiently and make it harder to handle.

This is just the start, though. It's almost impossible to make a decision on a motorhome by reading about its specs and looking at pictures. You shouldn't ever have to make your decision based solely on that information. You need to know what fits your needs, your personality, and your experience, and that means doing more than looking. It means getting out and really experiencing the different models for yourself.


Regular maintenance is essential to keep your motorhome running in peak condition for years. It is possible to do a lot of it on your own, but in some instances you will want to have some professionals take a look at it.

Be aware that in these instances you will likely have to take it to a truck service center because there aren't a lot of garages that can fit it in. These places likely have a higher overhead to maintain such large buildings, which could be reflected in the price, but if you intend to use your motorhome extensively, it will be worth it.

The larger the motorhome, the more work it will take to keep it running right, so when you're looking at a diesel pusher, be sure to keep that in mind. The size of your motorhome should be no more than you're willing and able to maintain.

Imagine the Comfort

Class A diesel motorhome are well known for their sheer comfort and convenience. You can escape the mundane world but bring all the comforts of home. There are a lot of great features and amenities that make these RVs stand out as a great choice for people who like to travel in style including:

  • A smoother ride on a powerful engine and quality suspension
  • A larger tank for water and fuel which makes extended dry camping much more viable
  • Bigger storage compartments
  • More room in the cockpit
  • More spacious living areas
  • Simple climate control
  • Personal restrooms and showers

You can expect to find a usable kitchen, a spacious bedroom, extensive bathroom facilities, and a nice place to enjoy your meals. A stove, microwave, refrigerator, and multiple televisions are common features, and there should also be a variety of other furniture from which you can sit back, relax, and enjoy your time away.

Of course, quite a few of these amenities can be found in many other RV models, but not to the extent that you'll find here. A lot of time and thought has gone into the interior of these vehicles, and you will be able to travel the country in complete comfort.

No Better Time to Be an RV Traveler

The simple freedom that comes from RVing is something that has to be experienced to fully understand, and it's never been easier to get into the lifestyle yourself. Whether you've dreamed of becoming a full-time RVer, trekking nonstop around the country to see new things and meet new people, or you just want a way to escape the cold north every year, there are a lot of great opportunities for you and your family.

New RV parks are popping up everywhere - there are currently more than 16,000 parks across the countries that accommodate RVs - and they range from the very simple campsites with the barest amenities to major RV resorts that offer a real 5-star experience.

Whether you disconnect from the distractions of the world by heading out to nature or simply by leaving your troubles behind for weeks at a time, the RV lifestyle is an amazing experience. You can stay for a week or leave your old life for months at a time - either way, the diesel pusher is the way to do it in style.

Imagine the Possibilities

The life of an RVer means waking up to the crisp, clean air of the Rocky Mountains. It means full-service tailgating at stadiums across the country. It involves falling to sleep to the soothing sounds of the Pacific Ocean and discovering new things every day. You'll be out there, surrounded by nature and experiencing things most people never will - and you will have all the conveniences and amenities of your own home.

There is a lot of freedom that comes with a powerful RV like this - the freedom to move, to go and do the things that interest you most. Whether that means visiting famous parks or sitting somewhere quiet and watching the leaves, there is a right RV for everybody. If you're serious about traveling, then these powerful, deluxe vehicles might just be the right choice for you.