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Sandra VanDenburg
January 31, 2023
136 views

Average Miles Per Gallon of Our Beloved Bus Conversions – How to Do Better

Is it even financially manageable anymore to travel in a bus conversion? 

The price of fuel has been climbing year by year, month by month.  This article was inspired by comments from our Bus Nuts on the BCM Forum and our Facebook Community Group

Is traveling in a bus conversion worth the price? I know our Bus Nuts are screaming at me “Hell, yes, it is!” And as a full-timing Bus Nut and dweller, I couldn’t agree more. It will take a lot more than high fuel prices for me to park this bus for good.  Besides, if you were to travel, even in a fuel-efficient car, your hotel/motel costs as well as the cost to eat all of our meals out, would be much higher than traveling in a bus conversion.  But let’s see what kind of mileage we have going for different types of motors and transmissions. 

Now, I will get yelled at or at least fussed at if I don’t mention that there are a multitude of factors that can affect your buses fuel mileage, things like; the air pressure in your tires, the weight of the bus, the weight you are towing, what you have on the roof or hanging off the side, are you traveling on level ground or in mountainous terrain? Are you driving at highway speeds or in stop-and-go traffic? The list goes on and on. 

Okay, so the data tells us some of these engine types are not getting as good of fuel mileage as others are getting. 

Now, what is left to do, then to do better?  I think we should investigate some ways to increase our fuel mileage.  A lot of these you guys probably know, but this magazine is for all kinds of Bus Nuts, even the ones just getting started. So, let’s see if we can teach any new dogs old tricks and old dogs new tricks. Better yet, let’s just learn.

Complete your regularly scheduled maintenance.

Replacing a dirty air filter can increase your mileage by up to 10%. 

Use the correct weight oil for your engine and the climate you travel in.

If you opt for synthetic oil, you can increase your average MPG by more than 2%.

“A faulty oxygen sensor can reduce mileage by up to 40 percent.” – KOA.com

Buses are designed to optimize efficiency between 55 and 65 MPH.  So, drive those speeds and you will get the optimal fuel mileage for most buses.

Don’t accelerate too fast, i.e., no Jackrabbit starts!

Set your cruise control on level ground if you have it to keep your speed steady. 

“Slow, gradual acceleration and deceleration are easier on your engine, your brakes, and your wallet.” -  ToGoRV.com 

On city streets, try to “cruise” or hit as many green lights as you can. The more you stop, the more you have to accelerate.  Slow down as you are approaching a yellow or red light to try to time it so you do not have to completely stop.  If you have a Jake break, use it.

Avoid idling your engine for too long. 

If you are sitting in a parking lot or waiting for a train to pass, or the draw bridge to return to normal, you can shut off the engine. However, shutting down your engine for a one-minute stop at a traffic light will do more damage than it is worth, and you will also be buying a lot more starters.

Keep your tires inflated to the factory specifications. 

Not only does this increase your fuel mileage by up to 3%, but it also reduces uneven wear or even just plain wear and tear on your tires. 

Have your bus front end aligned. 

 “Improper alignment can reduce fuel efficiency by as much as 10%.” - Investopedia

Think about the weight of your vehicle, tow equipment, and tow vehicle.

Every pound you add to your rig has a negative impact on your fuel mileage.  Think about it. Even the small stuff can add up. Cough, cough record collections, or even print magazine collections.  Even full fresh water and grey and black water tanks can reduce your fuel mileage

Fill your fuel tank when it is coolest outside. The morning and evening of each travel day are best. 

“Fuel is dispensed by volume. If you fill your tank when it is coolest outside—early in the morning or late at night, and avoid the heat of the day—the fuel will be denser. As a result, you will get more fuel for the same amount of money.” – Investopedia 

No Air in, No air on. 

By not running the A/C you save on fuel mileage. Just as well, if you keep the windows closed you will maintain the aerodynamics of your bus. Wait…are buses aerodynamic?  Not really, but every little bit helps.

Stay in one place longer.

Try to keep the large vehicle hunkered down more often. Make camp and enjoy the area you are in. 

Try and get to know an area intimately instead of breezing through places. 

As they say, take time to smell the roses. 

Try filling up when you see a low price on fuel.

Use money-saving gas apps like Gas Buddy, Gas Guru, Waze, etc. 

Join loyalty programs and use them when you can. 

Become familiar with the combined taxes of fuel in each state and try to avoid the states with high fuel taxes.

Stay on BLM (Bureau of Land Management) land or the Army Corp of Engineers campgrounds rather than the more expensive RV parks.

The worst thing you can do for a bus is to let it sit for long periods of time.  When that happens, seals dry out, fuel gels, tires rot, etc.  You really should operate your bus at least monthly to keep everything lubricated and working and this includes running your generator, if you have one, under load.

When fuel prices are hitting record levels, as they were last summer, fuel mileage is more important than ever.  It hurts every time you fill your tank. However, if you are a full-timer, hobbyist, traveler, or weekender almost all will agree it is worth the sacrifice.

Some of us don’t pay a mortgage or rent, just camping and membership fees. The magnificent nature, scenery, and wildlife we get to view because of these diesel beasts are well worth it in my opinion.  What else would I be spending that money on?

“Nobody is getting any younger, just go!!” – Bus Warrior 

Article written by Sandra VanDenburg
Sandra, who was born and raised in Sacramento, California, has always felt a strong desire to explore. Along with her husband and their two children, aged seventeen and five, they have been traveling across America in their 1995 Thomas Saf-T-Liner (The Enterprise).Recently, their daughter joined the United States Air Force and is undergoing training to work on F-15s, leaving two adults, a young boy, a cat, and a dog aboard the enterprise.In September 2019, Sandra began working at Bus Conversion Magazine as an Administrative Assistant and Sales Representative, getting stories from Bus Nuts from all over the world. This family of wanderers has no plans of slowing down anytime soon, as they have been bitten by the travel bug and are eager to explore more.

You can follow the @Buslivin adventure on FacebookInstagram and YouTube.

You can also contact Sandra via email: Sandra@BusConversionMagazine.com

Click HERE to read other articles by this Author
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