There are certain aspects about traveling that become more important and this is about fuel.  Of course we all love to pay the least amount as possible for our gas that we put in our vehicles.  It certainly becomes even more important as it becomes nearly the largest single monthly expense for our family.  So, I feel like I have to write about my experience with fueling up including the process and how to save money.  I need to note that I have a diesel truck which is the most common type of tow vehicle for large travel trailers and therefore it’s a different game.

First of all, I have to say there is a huge stress (at least for me) when pulling a 40′ trailer behind you and at times you can pretty much watch the gauge go down.  Sometimes, mostly going through long stretches of wilderness, you literally have no idea how much gas you really do have to get you to the next location.  I suppose it’s in part to my “tiny” 26 gallon tank on my truck but we’ll ignore that.  I want to also say, Good Sam “discounts” are a huge rip off.  I’ll explain more, but Truck stops jack up their prices for the truck pumps about 20 cents.  The discount to stop is 8 cents.  Worth it? I think not.

A couple of problems with getting gas with a 40′ 5th wheel:

  • Obviously, the trailer is huge and it’s only a select few gas stations that will allow enough room to pull in and out with a trailer of this size
  • The gas stops are much more frequent pulling a 7 ton weight behind you
  • Truck stops suck! See below for more.
  • Diesel is not at every station

My advice, in short, due to the above problems.  Find larger fuel stations that allow a larger trailer by keeping a watchful eye out including cheaper prices and avoid truck stops.

Why I hate truck stops:

  • Fuel prices!  I once noticed that a diesel pump on the vehicle side was literally 14 cents cheaper than the truck side that I just filled up on.  This was at the same station!  How should this be allowed?  Ultimately, a truck stop is going to charge around 20-25 cents more per gallon versus other vehicle stations to give you the right to have that extra room.
  • The pump overflows my tank.  When filling up my tank, it uses a huge monster size spout.  I am pretty sure that every time, even on the slowest setting, it overflows my tank and spills all over before automatically shutting off.
  • Another huge problem besides their overpriced fuel, is how the trucks just park in the way.  Even asking other truckers, I feel like I can’t get a straight answer.  My question is, “Why in the hell is a trucker allowed to get fuel, pull forward just enough for the next guy to get fuel, stop and get out, and then disappear for literally 20-30 minutes?”  Literally it gets under my skin and leaves me fuming as I am stuck and can’t go anywhere with the big rig in front of me.
  • Credit Cards don’t always work at the pump!  There are times when I have to run in and prepay (super annoying to do) and then go in to get my refund receipt after filling up.  Or, I have to use another form of payment like my Gas Buddy Card (more below on savings).
  • They are generally dirty.  Enough said.

Saving Money!

Now that I’ve had a chance to vent a little about problems, what are some ways to save money?  That’s the important part, isn’t it?

  • Avoid the truck stops if you can.  As I mentioned previously, they have jacked up prices.  But if you have to, try to make sure you have a Good Sam discount card to enter into those Pilot or Flying J pumps.  It will take off 8 cents per gallon for diesel.
  • Use Gas Buddy!  They have a very convenient app that will show you most recent price postings from other travelers.  It becomes very valuable to see that if you stay on the current heading for just another mile, gas can be 10 cents cheaper if you just hang on for a moment.
  • Use a Gas Buddy Card.  They have been working out some kinks with the service but now it seems to be working great.  I signed up right away after it came out and it saves 5 cents a gallon to use it.  It comes directly out of your checking account that it’s tied to and saves that 5 cents/gallon.
  • Use a Credit Card with cash back rewards.  Some cards have at least 1% cash back while others will have promotions to save up to 5% cash back at gas stations.  5% of $2.80/gallon is $.14 off per gallon!
  • Fill up after you unhook.  When possible, fill up before you leave or after you arrive.  It’s much easier to maneuver the truck into smaller gas stations that generally have cheaper gas.  Not to mention, it’s much less stressful to get gas without the trailer attached.

Another important quick tip — DEF!

The newer diesel trucks require Diesel Exhaust Fluid, otherwise known as DEF.  This is recommended to be refilled about every oil change based on how fast someone would typically go through it and of course the tank size for DEF.  Towing a large trailer, however, seems to really guzzle down the DEF a lot faster and it becomes important to watch your levels.  If you get caught with out DEF, the truck essentially starts shutting itself down until you fill it back up.  Not a good scenario and certainly one I want to avoid.

To fill up your DEF tank, you could go the traditional route and buy convenient gallon containers from a retailer.  These DEF containers typically run at least $10-12.  When filling up my DEF tank, I need at least 3 gallons.  So, despite my desires to stay away from truck stops, they do come in handy.  There is a way to find it here:

The truck stops that have DEF will have a separate pump for it.  I’ve found that it needs to be a separate transaction from the fuel, but it’s only $2.79/gallon!  So, filling up around 3 gallons will save me about $25 each time.  Not bad for learning this little trick!  By now I’ve refilled at least 3 times so certainly it’s something to pay attention to.

I hope this helps someone out there!  It’s been a little bit of a learning process being on the road but one that certainly saves a bunch of money and headaches knowing how and what to do.  Sometimes it’s easier to just pull into those truck stops but if you keep a watchful eye out for some other bigger gas stations, it will be easier on the checkbook.

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