Diesel vs gas engine for camping and General purpose

explore_ak

New member
Hello folks. I’ve done some searching around the forum on this topic, but also wanted to see what new products might be available that haven’t been covered before.

I am looking at doing a 4wd conversation on a either an e350 diesel or e250 gas van. It would be a multi purpose rig. Put a motorcycle in the back, truck type use, and day/weekend adventures, and to its fullest extent maybe a trip into Mexico. Now I’d like to have both auxiliary heat and cooling for year round use no matter where I go, and a rooftop ac unit would be my best option, but I want to put a high top on it, and would rather not have that much more height up there. Has anyone come across any option and which fuel source would be best?

Also, in the selection of fuel, does anyone have input on say not selecting diesel if ones going to be idling or slow crawling for awhile? Due to the exhaust smell?

Is there a difference in the towing capacity? I wasn’t able to find one through a quick google search.

Just trying to get an idea of which would be best overall for a multipurpose rig.
 

CampStewart

Observer
Modern diesels are experiencing a lot of maintenance issues and are more expensive to buy and keep running. When gassers have problems they are much cheaper to fix. I would only opt for diesel if I was towing very heavy trailers every day at high speeds at altitude with steep hills.
 
internet forum and fb group echo chambers have fueled (ahem) the idea that the only viable choice is a 7.3 Powerstroke. This is based on the supposed superior reliability and mpg of the diesels. It's gotten so bad that if two offroad vans are otherwise identical, the one with a 7.3 will have an asking price $10-20k more than the gas van. But if you watch those same forums and fb groups, you'll see that powerstroke owners often complain that the MPG isn't what they heard it would be, and that the power is lacking. Also, given that the mpg difference is usually in the single digits and that the cost of diesel and gas in the US have mostly leveled out, you'd have to drive the van something like 30k miles a year for 7 years (i did the math a while back but am too lazy to find it) to balance out the initial cost difference.

plus, like CampStewart said, maintenance costs are higher on the diesels.
 
Diesel is always superior to gas when moving heavy objects. However... even my little 1.9 TDI’s diesel rattle can really grow tiresome on longer trail rides. That being said I could never go back to gas. Exhaust smell depends on the tune and efficiency of the motor. Some belch out white Un-burned diesel, others burn too much and idle out black soot. I don’t think there is a difference in tow capacity but I cannot back that up (usually frame, wheelbase and braking ability determines such things). The 7.3 is a great engine but it’s incredibly noisy and demands an irrational premium these days when shopping for one.
 

vintageracer

To Infinity and Beyond!
In 1995 I purchased my first and only NEW diesel Ford F350 Powerstroke Automatic PU. At that time the 7.3 Powerstroke engine was a $4200 option over the 460 gas engine. Diesel fuel was cheaper than gasoline, diesel maintenance was more expensive than a gas engine with the diesel engine getting 4-5 MPG BETTER than than the 460 gas engine. Doing the math payout calculation at that time with diesel fuel CHEAPER than gasoline the calculation showed I would have to drive the truck 100,000 miles just to get to the break even point of purchasing the diesel engine over the gas engine. For me the 460 would have pulled everything I wanted to pull albeit the Powerstroke diesel certainly did pull it better.

My opinion is the toughest issue for most folks is the weekly GREATER out of pocket expenditure for gasoline to fuel a gas engine truck versus a diesel engine truck. You see all that extra money going for gas every week. You might be getting 4-5 MPG LESS with the gas engine truck HOWEVER in my case when diesel was cheaper than gas I STILL had to drive the diesel truck to a 100,000 miles just to get to the break even point with better fuel mileage and the higher maintenance cost of the diesel engine option. With diesel fuel NOW significantly more expensive than gasoline (20% in most places) that total mileage to break even number HAS TO BE much higher NOW given the EXCESSIVE COST OF THE DIESEL ENGINE option today which can be $3K-$8K over the best gas engine.

Given the better fuel economy, reliability, longevity and power of a modern GAS engines from a MATH calculation perspective today unless you REALLY NEED the torque and pulling power a diesel engine can provide it makes no "Cents" to buy a diesel engine truck for most folks needs. You may want it however most don't need it!

The reality is that very few people will keep their truck for 150,000+ miles that is now needed for most folks to break even on that 4-5 MPG's they get with the diesel engine and the extra maintenance that goes with it.

Ya I know you all are going to tell me "My Diesel" gets far more than 4-5 MPG better than the gas engine offered in your truck. Just like mentioned above by another poster there are all these BS high MPG claims for diesel engine trucks versus gas trucks however you never seem to actually know anyone who gets that kind of REAL MPG with their diesel truck? I didn't think so!

The same holds true when purchasing a USED vehicle and you are looking at the gas/diesel comparison. If you can't be honest with anyone else at least be honest with yourself. Do you REALLY NEED the pulling torque and power the diesel engine will provide given YOUR use of the vehicle OR do you just "think" you do? This is a very expensive question to answer!

ALL the BS above is from a person who currently owns 3 diesel trucks. 1 Powerstroke and 2 Cummins. I also own 3 gas trucks so I am not trying to blow smoke up your A$$ just my observations from real world ownership.

If you truly have a need to haul/pull heavy loads a LOT than there is nothing better than a diesel engine truck. If not buy a gas engine truck! The one real consideration for a diesel engine truck/van is the resale value when you decide to sell the truck. Resale value will be much higher just as it was when you overpaid that diesel truck/van when you originally bought it!

We humans are funny animals as the reality is ALL this discussion is about the perceived higher out of pocket fuel expense on a weekly basis you might experience with the gas truck versus a diesel truck. You are still paying that extra fuel expense with a diesel truck/van it's just that you are FINANCING that expense over 5-7 years if like most buyer's today you are financing that purchase of that new or new to you diesel truck/van. All this extra effort and increased monthly vehicle payment cost just lower your weekly out of pocket fuel cost. You just FINANCED that difference in lower weekly fuel cost into your monthly vehicle payment. How dumb is that if increased fuel mileage is your main goal????

Get over it and just remember how MUCH THAT EXTRA OUT OF POCKET WEEKLY GAS FUEL COST IS ACTUALLY SAVING YOU as you are not going to the drive that diesel truck long enough mileage wise to get anywhere near the break even point that causes a diesel engine truck/van to make "Cents" if all you are worried about is the better fuel mileage (MPG) you get with a diesel truck/van!
 
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ujoint

Supporting Sponsor
How new of a van are you looking for? last year of a diesel in the Ford is 2010 and that was the 6.0. The 7.3 is a much better engine but stopped in 03 and getting harder to find in decent condition.

If you do the math and compare gas vs diesel the gas ownership is always cheaper unless you're driving a TON and strapped to a trailer. I often tell people this: You know what we never have to work on? Gas vans.
 

Steve_382

Member
To me, the big difference is the noise of the diesel versus the quiet gas engines. I can start my V10 in the morning without waking the entire campground. Also, in my area, diesel is 20% more expensive than gas, so that eliminates part of the mileage advantage. As others mentioned though, if you need the torque, the diesel is the clear winner.
 

Oogs

New member
I had a diesel camper van w the 6.0 PSD. The power was great and I averaged 13.5 mpg. It also cost me a ton of money in maintenance and repairs...expensive repairs. I sold it and now have a V10 camper van that averages 9.5 mpg. I do miss the low end power of the diesel but I love how quiet the gas engine is, how much cooler the cab is w no turbo under the cowl and the cheaper maintenance costs. The V10 is so smooth and quiet and the $100 fill ups aren't too bad considering it's not a daily driver. When diesel shot up after 2004 I'd spend close to that to top off the 27gal tank. Now I can get well over 30gal for similar costs. The gas engine also takes half as much oil for changes.
 
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Hummelator

Adventurer
I bought a ram with the 6.7 Cummins. I really wanted a diesel for a long time. While I like the truck I doubt I'll every buy a diesel again. Why?
-More expensive to maintain.
-You need DEF fuild- and the accompanying issues should the system malfunction
-More expensive on initial purchase
- harder to find gas stations with diesel ( only slightly but still)
-at highway speeds certain gas engines can get similar mileage

Performance wise, one of the things I hate is the turbo lag.

However if you are towing heavy loads the Diesel engine is awesome. It I don't tow enough to warrant the cons (in my eyes) of a Diesel engine.
 
This whole discussion is "spun" by the fact that the 6.0/6.4 Navistar/Ford engines were dreadful mistakes; engineered on the back of a napkin. I never hear of similar regrets from owners of MB904-906 engines, MAN 6.9L engines or "even" Ivecos (made by the Fiat group). Of course they don't have petrol as an alternative but engines are simply not a problem in that size range. My engine in the Unimog comes from that era - I had exactly one problem - the EGR started leaking. Replaced under warranty with upgraded part, later removed and replaced by steel plate, oil analyses stellar since then.
Would anyone with a 6.0/6.4 DARE to drive their vehicle to India, Africa, Mongolia or South America, even Australia? Dick Smith tried at least to Siberia and Mongolia in a 6.4 powered Earthroamer and had some "mobility-kill engine problems" in the worst possible place - middle of nowhere in Mongolia with winter coming on. The truck was left in Mongolia all winter before being fixed!
I think this discussion might be a bit different if the subject were Cummins or Duramax diesels (Hummelator sums up the experience with a well engineered diesel with expected reliability but totally overpowered for the chassis - MAN and MB use 9,12 and 16 spd manuals behind that size motor which are huge, I have personally seen them, while Ram downrates the engine to protect the tiny by comparison G56 manual), also if the mfgs had sized and powered the engines a bit below the tire shredding range they are at now. A 360hp 940 ft-lb monster is only really appropriate for towing a 35' 5th wheel uphill at 70mph at 8000' asl. How often is that needed?
 
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Assari

New member
petrol is a lot lot harders to produce where as diesel engines are able to take a wide variaty of fuel qualitys to work with,

diesels are by far the better choice to have,

petrol engines are alot more complicated and liable to fail because more parts means increased chance of some thing going wrong also diesel it self is easier to store less dangerous to store and can can other fuels added to it to make it last, so , used cooking oil if filtered can be mixed in, the engine its self can be set up to run on pure cooking oil with out any diesel at all, also you get a much much better return for mpg on diesels

by the way i like diesel engines and fuel, lol

____________________________________________________________________________________________________
It is better to die on your feet than to live on your knees.
Cheers
 
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Dalko43

Explorer
@charlieaarons brings up a good point. The 6.0, and 6.4 to a lesser degree, Ford diesels are known for having reliability and efficiency issues in stock form. The 7.3l is considered more reliable and will likely return better mpg than what you'd get from an early 2000's gasoline v8, but its efficiency is nothing special by modern standards.

So, a little bit of context is needed when examining the pro's and con's of each engine type.

There are pre-2007 diesel engines from other OEM's (Duramax, Cummins, ect.) which are both reliable and relatively efficient, even by modern standards. Post-2007 diesel trucks will have more emissions controls. Some of those engines are more reliable and efficient than others, depending on the make and model year. But for what you're trying to do, a pre-2007 diesel seems more appropriate.

Maintenance will cost more for a modern, common-rail diesel. But do a little bit of research on the cost of parts and service items; the diesel-specific maintenance is maybe an extra $80-$180 annually depending on the engine. Common rail diesels are also somewhat sensitive to fuel quality. If you don't feel inclined to get in the weeds on that kind of stuff, a gasoline engine will provide a simpler ownership experience. If you're mechanically-inclined and/or want to learn, a good diesel engine will take care of you so long as you take care of it.

The whole pay-off issue: unless you plan on driving your vehicle +15k miles annually for the next 6-8 years, I wouldn't expect a pay-off from the diesel. When OEM's price out the more expensive engine options for trucks (like diesels) they're often looking at owners/operators who drive +30k miles annually and/or will be using their vehicle for long term (longer than 5 years) towing/hauling usage. Buy what you want and can afford. I'd encourage you to drive examples of both; the driving experiences are quite different, especially when heavily loaded.
 

F350joe

Adventurer
I’m going to bring up an important point in this debate that often gets ignored. The cost of ownership includes the price you SELL the vehicle for as well. Diesel trucks have great resale value so you recover a lot of your expenses when you sell. Not the case with a gasser. The pre smog diesels fetch a premium but when you sell you also fetch that premium. The cost of your trips increases with a gasser if you are doing long road trips even more so if your are hauling gear and doing 80mph. Getting 8 or 9 mpg is frustrating when your are trying to cover some ground and the speed limit is 80mph. I get about 15mpg doing 80 and with a small camper plus gear. I also do the passing rather than getting passed. Floor a gasser and watch the fuel level needle move. Diesel won’t care what your are hauling and will have no problem blasting up a long pass and stay well into double digit mpg.
 
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