Gas versus Diesel
At some point, you gotta make the hard choices. Chocolate or vanilla? College fund for the kids or boat with jet skis? Prozac or the genuine, mopey, sad-assed you? Someday there will be an RV powered by nothing but the heat of your anger and the mood of the Asian stock market, but, until then, the options are gas or diesel. Each option has its own benefits and drawbacks.
Below is a chart comparing three 2014 Class C Winnebagos. The View (diesel) and Trend (gas) are similarly-sized at about 24 feet, while the Minnie Winnie (gas) is about 31 feet. There are three types of engines in this sample chart: A Mercedes Diesel Sprinter (diesel), Ford E450 (gas), and Dodge Ram ProMaster (gas). This is just a small sample, to give you an idea of the pros and cons. We used the same manufacturer, Winnebago, not due to a preference for Winnebago, but only to keep that as a constant.
We've personally decided to go with a diesel sprinter. These engines, manufactured by Mercedes Benz, get an impressive 16-18+ miles to the gallon and have very good tow capacity (5,000 lb) due to high torque. The longevity of diesel engines is another thing to marvel at. Diesel engines have historically been expected to run 500,000+ miles. (On the other hand, does your engine really have to run for 500,000 miles when the life expectancy of your RV interior and exterior are less than half that?) Diesel engines are also generally regarded as retaining their value better than gas engines. (But see the chart above, where the gas-powered Minnie Winnie depreciated less than the diesel-powered View. Winnebago produces many more Minnie Winnies and is able to sell them at a lower price. Since the Minnie Winnie is priced so well in the first place, and is very popular for families, this may explain the lower depreciation.)
The downsides to diesel include the higher price. We are looking around years 2014-2015 and will likely have to pay at least $70,000. In comparison, we could get a new Minnie Winnie 31K for about the same price, or a 2014 for about $50,000. Another downside is that fewer mechanics work on diesel engines. If mechanical issues arise on the road, we might need to work a little harder to get a necessary part or find a qualified technician. It may also be harder to find diesel gas in remote places. Finally, the get-up-and-go may be reduced on the diesel due to less horsepower.
The biggest difference, though, is the feel in driving. At one dealership recently, Don-Michael test drove both a 2017 Winnebago View and a 2017 Winnebago Minnie Winnie. The View was priced at about $100k and the Minnie Winnie was $75k. The Minnie Winnie had much more living space. Inside the cab, the Winnebago View was quieter than the Minnie Winnie, but you could easily carry conversation in either. Each was easy to maneuver and was comfortable to drive. The road we tested them on had a bunch of potholes, yet both handled smoother than we expected. But, while the diesel-powered View felt tight and like driving a conversion van, the gas-powered Minnie Winnie was fairly wobbly and more like driving a mid-sized U-Haul truck.
We came in preferring the small diesel “Sprinter” vans from what we had read, and driving a couple of options only reinforced that for us.