When people think of living in a van full-time, they usually think it means you have all this spare cash laying around because you’re not paying rent anymore. While living in a van can save you money, it all depends on one big factor; how much you’re spending on fuel.
Vans are large, heavy vehicles that are not very fuel economic. They’re definitely not going to cost you the same in fuel as your Toyota Yaris, that’s for sure. For example, the 2019 Ford Transit is stated to get 14mpg in the city and 18mpg on the highway and the 2019 Nissan NV would get you 11mpg in the city and 15mpg on the highway. This is just the “stated” fuel consumption and so should be taken with a pinch of salt.
There are ways to get better fuel economy on your van though. We’ll run you through the most important ones that can have the biggest impact on your fuel consumption, and in turn your budget!
1. Watch That Junk in Your Trunk
The weight of your vehicle has a huge impact on fuel consumption, so you should keep the weight as low as possible and only carry what you need. If you’re going to convert your van yourself you can do this by choosing lighter materials to work with. Instead of using heavy duty wood paneling to cover the walls and ceiling why not try a lighter plywood or use vinyl flooring instead of wood.
2. Small Things Make a Big Difference: Keep Tires Inflated
By inflating your tires to the recommended pressure, you can increase your fuel economy by 3%! That might sound like a small number but, trust us, if you’re living in your van full-time this can save you hundreds of dollars.
3. Adulting at its Finest: Get a Tune Up
By keeping your van well maintained, you’ll increase the engine’s efficiency and save on fuel. It doesn’t have to be anything major, just new plugs and wires will make a difference. A high-flow air filter will also improve the efficiency.
4. Cruise Control is Your New Best Friend
Once you’ve driven your van for a while you can figure out which speed she feels most comfortable at. Whichever speed she can maintain without putting too much pressure on the engine will give you a better fuel consumption. If she’s happiest going 60mph then stick to that, enjoy the view, take in your surroundings and avoid going any faster than this. Use cruise control if you have it whenever possible.
5. Mind Your Speed
When you’re driving around, be mindful of your acceleration and deceleration. If you come to a gentle, rolling stop at traffic lights and accelerate more like a grandma rather than a teenage boy showing off to his crush you will be amazed at how much money you can save on fuel! You might gain a few tailgaters though! How Stuff Works goes into more detail about economically driving.
6. Reduce Drag (Aerodynamically, Ru Paul Can Stay)
Becoming more aerodynamic is never a bad idea. Rather than packing all your goods up in a roof rack, try and fit it inside the car instead. Surprisingly, it’s more fuel efficient to turn on the AC rather than open the windows too, that’s a bonus!
7. No Loitering
Idling along in your van can spike up your fuel consumption by as much as 45%! If possible, plan your routes to avoid congestion and busy areas. Even if it takes you a few miles out of the way it’ll be worth it on your bank balance as nothing puts as much stress on your engine as stop-and-start traffic.
8. Be Cool
Driving when it’s cool outside actually helps your fuel consumption! Something about cold, dense air helps with mileage and power so you might need to become an early bird or get used to evening drives to save as much as possible on your fuel. Driving in cooler times in the summer will save you money on AC too, 2 birds and all that!
9. Go for the Combo
This one needs a little planning. If you know you’ll need to go to several places throughout the day, try and combine your trips. This means your engine only needs to warm up once. Taking a few short trips from a “cold start” on your engine can use twice as much fuel as combining your trips and doing it all in one go. Planning is always a good plan anyway; you might even cut the distance you’re traveling.
10. Travel at the Highest Gear
This might sound odd, but you should travel in the highest gear you can. This makes sense when you think about it because it puts less pressure on your engine as you drive.
11. Switch to a Synthetic Motor Oil
A motor oil with less viscosity is said to improve fuel consumption because it reduces friction and your oil gets to where it needs to go quicker and more efficiently. Most fuel-saving oils will improve your fuel economy by 1 or 2 percent over the next grade of oil.
Is it Worth the Hassle?
Okay, we’ve walked you through some ways to improve the fuel efficiency of your campervan and it may seem like a lot to remember but most of these things will become second nature to you after a while. We have to say, it is 100% worth the hassle considering you could be saving hundreds on fuel every year, just look at TerraClean’s breakdown. Just think of all the cool extra things you could do with that money!
Apart from driving more efficiently and enhancing your vehicle for better fuel consumption, you can also look at saving money on fuel simply by checking out the cheapest places to refuel. Nowadays there’s an app for everything and you can use something like Gas Buddy or Waze.
Now you know how to get the most out of your fuel and your van, what are you waiting for? Get in that van and cruise smoothly and in a controlled manner into the sunset.