Pros & Cons Of A Diesel Pusher Motorhome Or Diesel RV

diesel-pusher-RV-by-Rennett-Stowe.jpg Is there a diesel pusher RV in your future?

Every Class A motorhome owner I’ve ever met lusts for the day when they, too, can become a member of the elite group of RV owners that motor down the highway in a fully decked out diesel pusher motorhome.

The diesel pusher motorhome is the crème de la crème of RVs. They are known for their soft, comfortable ride that will quietly deliver you to that next dramatically beautiful destination.  You know you’ve made it when you arrive in a diesel pusher motorhome. 

Ok, lets get back down to Earth and look beyond the hype.  What exactly are you getting for that huge price difference between the standard front engine gas operated motorhome that’s been working fine for the past few years?  A new Class A gas model motorhome will set you back up to about  $150,000 these days. A step up to a diesel pusher motorhome will quickly jump that price tag to $300,000, with custom diesel pusher motorhomes easily running into 7 figures. 

Yes, there is a much higher level of luxury and glitz involved in the upgrade to a diesel pusher motorhome. 

For example, heated tile floors, huge flat screen TV’s, built-in ice-makers, and on-board electrical plants large enough to light a small city become standard equipment. 

Lighting and finishing materials tend to look like you are on the Las Vegas strip with mirrors and neon, seemingly, on every surface. 

Diesel Pusher Operating Costs 

Operating costs on a diesel pusher motorhome will take a very large leap upwards, as well.  A standard gas engine motorhome RV would require a $3 oil filter and 5 to 6 quarts of oil every 5,000 miles or so.  A diesel pusher motorhome will cost you a minimum of $100 to be serviced.  Oil capacity is measured in gallons instead of quarts, and filters come in multiples on most diesel engines. 

Unfortunately, diesel fuel prices tend to cost more per gallon than unleaded fuel.  Combine that with the fact that the larger and much heavier diesel pusher motorhome is going to get approximately 6 mgp to 7 mpg on a good day and your fuel expense will be nearly double what a RV running on regular unleaded fuel would be.

Diesel Engine Repair

Repair work will be more expensive. For any engine repairs, you will need to take the motorhome to a truck stop service center, and more often, the specific dealer brand for your drive train.  Jiffy lube is no longer an option.   With an extremely complex electrical system, trips to the original dealer may become routine as time goes on. 

Everything about a diesel pusher motorhome is going to cost you more money.  For example, this is a commercially rated vehicle. Diesel pusher motorhome tires are huge and cost at least a couple hundred dollars apiece. 

Diesel Pusher Accessibility

With a diesel pusher motorhome that is low to the ground, and up to 45 feet in length, most RV parks that are off the beaten path have now become inaccessible. The weight involved in your diesel pusher motorhome would sink it to the axles the first time you accidentally wander off the pavement and onto a soft sod lawn. 

In the event you do make this mistake, you’ll need to contact a towing service with an extra heavy duty tow truck to put you back on solid ground. This will cost, at least, a couple hundred dollars.  

Engine Longevity: Diesel vs Gas

With all of the expense, there is one very important positive aspect to owning a diesel pusher motorhome.  Diesels have longevity going for them over regular gas engine models.  Diesel engines in diesel pusher motorhomes generally have the complete same caliber drive train as over-the-road long haul tractor-trailers. 

The service life of most large diesel engines is about 500,000 miles before any major repair will be necessary.  With an expected lifetime of 1,000,000 miles or more, a well maintained diesel pusher motorhome will last you a lifetime.

When it’s all considered, the cost of ownership of a diesel pusher motorhome… expensive.  Being able to enjoy the status and luxury of a diesel pusher motorhome… priceless.

More About Diesel Pusher RVs

The following articles will help you decide whether or not to buy a diesel pusher:


Curtis Carper

Curtis Carper

I’ve been involved in RVing for over 40 yrs -- including camping, building, repairing, and even selling RVs. I’ve owned, used, and repaired almost every class and style of RV ever made. I do all of my own repair work. My other interests include cooking at home, living with an aging dog, and dealing with diabetic issues. If you can combine a grease monkey with a computer geek, throw in a touch of information nut and organization freak, combined with a little bit of storyteller, you've got a good idea of who I am.

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  • Carlos Martinez

    You’re so kind of letting us have your insight on this subject. I can’t claim all your experience and interests, but I’d love to add some ideas on the diesel “extravaganza”, which I very much enjoy. I suppose that in the States there was something like a ban of all diesel things for more than 50 years. I’ve never heard about people driving diesels, with the only exception of locomotives, heavy machinery and lorries. I just can imagine, without any fact to support my assumption, that the Government decided many years ago to ban all imports of diesel personal or recreational vehicles into the US.

    My assumption is based on our family experience starting in 1963 when I first became aware of the cars we owned. My Granma had a 190D Mercedes. Granpa had a larger 220D. We went everywhere in Dad’s Pug 204, a wonderful everyday experience. Weekends were the time for open air in the roaring two-seater… a fantastic red-and-chrome Austin-Healey MKIII. Later on, and after around 570,000 miles, we got to our first VW, the Golf. It lasted (well, the engine, since the rest of the car was only an ectoplasmic reference to the real thing we bought) 700,000 miles when we decided to terminate its life… it may go some other 200,000, but it was falling apart. Then came the typical large-family item: a squarish Volvo that gave us more than 500,000 miles of unrelentless joy.

    When I came of age, I decided to go for the diesel passion myself. My first 4,000 mile trip was in a beautiful Mercedes Caravan. But 4,000 were just the warming up for a diesel. The thing endured the most gruesome adventures off the road and it climbed and dived, and swung and crawled its entire life without a hitch for 525,000 miles before being replaced. Not that it was in bad shape. I guess the engine could have gone for some 500,000 more.

    I decided to keep my ordinary commute in diesel fashion, so I went to a Passat Combi, then to another Golf, then to another one, then to the GTD, and all I can say is… well the ruggedness and reliability of diesel cars, trucks, caravans and so on, is so good that just for that reason, the savings in the long run are huge. And not for that one reason only. Its sturdy and almost indestructible nature, paired with a huge torque, super low emissions and high mileage, make of these vehicles the most reliable as of now.

    There may be a reason why you can’t buy a BMW, a Mercedes, a Fiat, a VW, a Pug, a Citroën, a Nissan, a Jeep, a Ford Fiesta, a Volvo or whatever brand comes to your mind, in the States. There must be some weird financial interest in the government to ban the introduction of diesel cars to the US. Maybe it is because they’re much cheaper to run, and they last an eternity. Our Caravans -motorhomes, are used for 10 to 15 years. Our cars can go on in the family for 30. I know I saved a lot of money just by deciding going for diesels. My diesel GTD gives me TWICE the mpg than my petrol GTI… and they’re both as fun to drive.

    Since our motorhomes seem to last forever, are extremely powerful and comfortable, guzzle less fuel than a petrol one, are twice as green, and have an extremely low cost of maintenance, I question myself and America: what’s wrong? Why even bother with petrol engines and super low-mileage auto-transmissions. I think it’s time to look under the bonnet.