We’ll say this right up front: Claims of dramatic savings using diesel fuel discount programs for RVs are wildly overhyped. Promotional articles you may have seen that tout huge savings of $0.60… $0.70… $0.80 a gallon are just plain deceptive. Even if someone you know personally tells you they saved that much, they’re not giving you the whole story… because they probably don’t even know the whole story!
With those bold statements out of the way, let us also make clear that these programs absolutely have their place in an RVer’s bag of money-saving tricks. They can and do save on fuel, and we often use them ourselves.
But are they really the end-all, be-all, go-to money-savers that so many “influencers” make them out to be? And are there other options that can offer even greater savings?
When you’re filling up an RV’s tank with diesel fuel, these are important questions to answer.
We’ve got a 43-foot diesel pusher with a hungry 150-gallon fuel tank to feed, so we understand sticker shock at the pumps. That’s why today’s post dives into the reality of diesel fuel discount programs and other available options to help us all save money at fuel stops.
Whether you’re driving a diesel-powered RV or pulling a towable behind a diesel pickup truck, let’s tamp down the hype and expose the truth about how to save cash at the pumps.
- 1) Are Diesel Fuel Discount Programs Worth It?
- 2) Pros & Cons of Diesel Fuel Discount Programs
- 3) Pros & Cons of Other Fueling Options
- 4) What RV Diesel Fuel Discount Programs Do We Use?
- 5) Real-World Diesel Fuel Savings
- 6) Our Conclusions On Diesel Fuel Discount Programs
- 7) Free RVing Tips, Tricks, Reviews, Giveaways & More
Are Diesel Fuel Discount Programs Worth It?
We’ve been on the road full-time in diesel-powered RVs for nearly 20 years now (2 years in our Bounder Diesel, and almost 18 in our Mountain Aire).
With that long experience in mind, we’ll give you our take on diesel fuel discount programs. We’ll also tell you which ones we use, and how we sometimes get better pricing by avoiding them altogether!
We’ll also share details on how to get started in discount fuel programs that will add to your fuel savings utility belt!
Here’s the thing:
Diesel discount fuel programs tend to only be useable at larger truck stops. This isn’t surprising considering the fact that trucking companies are the primary target audience of the diesel fuel discount programs. RVers are a relatively new (and significantly smaller) market for them to target.
The important thing to remember is that these truck stops typically have the highest fuel prices in their area!
So, saving $0.40 – $0.50 per gallon may sound great. But if the posted price is $0.50 – $0.60 per gallon higher than at some other nearby station (not uncommon at all), you’ll actually spend more using the “discount”!
It’s not unusual for the highest claimed savings to coincide with the most-inflated prices. If a company jacks up their pricing by a lot, it can afford to offer larger discounts, making the savings seem far more amazing than they really are.
That doesn’t mean you can’t save money with diesel fuel discount programs (you absolutely can)! But someone claiming that paying $3.20/gallon at a station with posted pricing of $4.00/gallon saved them $0.80/gallon may sound amazing. That is unless another nearby station is charging $3.25/gallon, which makes their actual savings only $0.05/gallon.
That is still cheaper, but only a fraction of what they crow about. They want you to assume that their savings are amazing without looking any further.
We see this overhyping of savings all the time. But what’s worse is when the nearby station is charging $3.15/gallon, making that $0.80/gallon “savings” a $0.05/gallon overpayment!
So, while joining a diesel fuel discount program (as we have) is likely worthwhile, you still need to be smart about when and where you use it.
If you really want to save money, it’s wise to consider additional options that might offer an even better savings opportunity. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution for every situation. As with most things, each choice has both pros and cons. Let’s break them down.
Pros & Cons of Diesel Fuel Discount Programs
Diesel fuel discount programs are increasingly marketing themselves to RVers. Typically, because the more users they have (and the more fuel sold through their program), the bigger discounts they can offer (and the more money they can make). Are they worth it? Let’s look at the pros & cons:
- Can be the least expensive price available in any given area (but again, not always!)
- When they are the lowest price around, it can sometimes be by quite a lot, making for considerable & worthwhile savings
- By design, truck stops are set up for easy in/out of larger vehicles, making it easy for RVs to access
- Faster fill-ups with high-speed pumps and nozzles
- Typically located on or near major highways, making them easily accessible for RVers using those routes
- You can fuel in a single transaction for a large amount, often without having to go inside the station
- Advance application approval may be required, involving disclosure of potentially sensitive personal & financial information
- RVers are almost always required to use the truck lanes to qualify for the discount, even if dedicated RV lanes are available
- Truck stop pumps and fueling areas are typically slimier than at regular gas stations (we wear gloves and watch where we step)
- Truckers work for a living, and we try to avoid making their job even harder by having to wait for an RV to finish fueling
- High-speed fuel nozzles can be so large that they sometimes barely fit into many RV and pick-up truck fuel filler openings
- The speed at which truck stop pumps can fuel makes spillage more common (hence the wet/slick fueling area)
- Small transaction fees can eat into the discount a bit
- The biggest con to us? The claimed “discounts” are misleading due to inflated truck stop prices!
Pros & Cons of Other Fueling Options
Aside from “traditional” diesel fuel discount programs, other options for saving money on fuel exist. What are the pros and cons of using them instead?
- The availability of cheaper overall pricing than diesel discount programs offer.
- No special application or program is required, and no extra card or membership is required.
- Availability in areas other than interstate highways (the most common location for truck stops is one we often avoid!)
- A typically cleaner environment means less potential for tracking slimy, smelly diesel fuel into your rig
- No blocking truckers who work for a living while we’re recreating
- Smaller nozzles are easier to handle and less likely to spill fuel due to their slower filling speed
- Additional discounts may be available at regular gas stations, too! (more about that below)
- Regular gas stations are often smaller/tighter to maneuver around (possibly the biggest plus for truck stops for some RVers)
- Having to fit your RV in among passenger cars (although diesel pumps are sometimes located at a separate fuel island)
- The need to do further research beyond simply using a fuel discount app
- Purchase limits may require 2 or 3 transactions (or a trip inside to arrange a higher preauthorization) to complete a large fill-up
- Smaller/slower fuel nozzles = more time spent fueling
What RV Diesel Fuel Discount Programs Do We Use?
Let’s look at a couple of the most popular discount fuel programs, both of which we belong to ourselves. But keep in mind that these are simply tools in our money-saving arsenal, not the be-all-end-all way we save on fuel.
Following those is our other favorite way to find cheaper fuel: Comparing all of them ensures we’re never falling prey to over-hyped discount claims and paying more than we need to.
TSD Logistics Open Roads Diesel Fuel Discount Program
We already mentioned that fuel discount programs aren’t always the best deals. That said, the TSD Open Roads Program has saved us a lot on fuel many times. We highly recommend that every owner of a diesel-powered rig consider including this option in their arsenal.
Here’s how it works and what you should know:
Be aware that signing up will require your social security number and providing bank account information (the “disclosure of sensitive personal & financial information” we mentioned above).
There are no membership or signup fees, and there’s no contract associated with the program.
Unfortunately, the application requires a US bank account, which may preclude many Canadians from participating.
Here are details you should know about using TSD Open Roads:
- You’ll receive an EFS discount card, which you must use when fueling up. You’ll need to answer a few questions and provide your code to verify that you’re the owner each time you use the card. This is usually done right at the pump.
- Your discount card will be tied directly to your bank account for the withdrawal of funds.
- The company charges small processing/transaction fees, which reduce your discount.
Here are the specifics:
- Their fee for personal vehicles is 10% of the per-gallon savings. For example, if the retail (posted) price is $4.00 per gallon and the discounted price is $3.50 per gallon, the fee will be 5 cents per gallon (10% of the 50 cents you saved). So your actual savings would be $0.45, not $0.50. Still good though, right?
- Depending on the specific fueling location, there’s also a transaction fee of either $.040 or $0.65. TSD says that this fee is required by their fuel partners and goes directly to that specific fuel merchant and not to Open Roads.
- Also, the Open Roads app shows all locations in the TSD discount network. If you choose to fuel at a location that’s not in-network, they’ll charge you an additional $1.00 per transaction. (Note that’s per transaction, not per gallon.)
- You must use the pumps in the truck lanes for the discount to apply. As mentioned, the truck pumps are usually messy and often wet with spilled diesel fuel.
- Using the TSD discount card usually means you don’t have to go to the cashier in order to pre-authorize the pump for a large fill-up, or do multiple fills to account for low per-transaction limits.
Join the Open Roads diesel fuel discount program from TSD Logistics to start saving money today! With average savings of between 30 and 40 cents per gallon off the listed pump price, you can't...Show More
Join the Open Roads diesel fuel discount program from TSD Logistics to start saving money today! With average savings of between 30 and 40 cents per gallon off the listed pump price, you can't lose!
Check out our article about RV Diesel Fuel Discount Programs to learn even MORE ways to save!
NOTE TO CANADIANS: to apply for the program you need to supply your social security/social insurance number and must have a US-based bank account with a US routing number. Open Roads links to your account and uses ACH to withdraw the funds for your purchase. US-dollar accounts at Canadian banks won't work.Show Less
Mudflap Diesel Fuel Discount Program
Mudflap is a free app for iOS & Android. We use this app as part of our money-saving strategy as well. It’s not as widespread geographically as some others (yet). But depending on where you travel most, it can provide the least expensive diesel fuel pricing in some areas.
Unlike discount fuel cards, there’s no application process (just download the app and setup a user profile) and it’s tied to your credit card for payment. That eliminates the need to provide banking or other personal information.
Mudflap is easy to use. You simply locate and select the station you want to fuel at using the app. Then click the “Get a fuel code” button. It will confirm the credit card you’d like to use, and then you swipe to get a fuel code.
When you arrive at the station, go inside and tell the cashier you’re fueling with MudFlap, show them the code on the app, and fill up.
Here’s a summary of how Mudflap works:
- There’s no credit check and no fees associated with using Mudflap.
- There’s no application process, and you don’t need to wait for an EFS card to arrive in the mail. You simply use the app.
- Mudflap is not linked to your bank account but instead to a credit card
- Unlike some fuel discount cards, you must go to the cashier in person to authorize fueling (again, after selecting the station and getting your fuel code in the Mudflap app).
- You’ll still need to use the truck lanes & pumps at truck stops, so many of the related pros and cons listed above still apply.
- On average, you’ll save about $0.40 per gallon, and the lack of transaction fees helps maximize that.
- Mudflap includes a number of independently owned stations where the savings may be quite a bit more than at larger truck stops, which typically have the most inflated prices in any given area.
Download the Mudflap Diesel Fuel Discount App and signup using our code (PE8310) to receive $10 of free diesel. Plus, continue using the app to locate even more savings on...Show More
Download the Mudflap Diesel Fuel Discount App and signup using our code (PE8310) to receive $10 of free diesel. Plus, continue using the app to locate even more savings on fuel! With prices as high as they've been, every little bit of savings helps!Show Less
GasBuddy (Diesel AND Gasoline)
GasBuddy is a free app for iOS & Android and is also available as a website for use on your computer.
GasBuddy helps you find the cheapest fuel prices (gas or diesel) in your area or on your travel route. We’ve been using it for years, and absolutely love it. Gone are the days when we leave a fuel stop (even in our car) only to see substantially lower prices right down the street! (We used to hate that so much! ????)
Here’s what you need to know about GasBuddy:
- There are no fees of any kind associated with GasBuddy. It’s simply a free app that shows all the gas stations in any area and their current gas and diesel prices (as reported by fellow users). This allows you to choose the station where you can fuel up for the least amount of money.
- The stations on GasBuddy aren’t limited to truck stops. In fact, most (pardon the pun) regular gas stations are included. That’s because GasBuddy is for everyone, not just RVers and truckers.
- There’s no need to use the truck lanes/pumps, so the stations are often cleaner.
- GasBuddy isn’t a discount program. It’s simply a way to find the lowest fuel prices around you.
- GasBuddy is crowd-sourced by users, so updates are provided by a massive team of people (like us)!
- However, we should note that the app offers a “Pay With GasBuddy” program, which provides a card with extra savings. However, there is a $100 daily limit and a $400 weekly limit, so it’s less useful for filling the tank of a large RV. But it can still save money on the first $100 worth of fuel we add to our tank when filling. With the price of fuel these days, we’ll take it!
If you’re driving a big rig or towing a large travel trailer or 5th wheel, you’ll want to keep in mind that stations shown on GasBuddy don’t necessarily offer the easy in & out that a truck stop does. So, you’ll need to do some research to determine if you can fit in (and get out!) when fueling a large RV.
When we find a station on GasBuddy with lower pricing than our discount fuel programs offer, we check to ensure there’s access for our big rig. We use Google Maps satellite view and Google Street View to scope the situation ahead of time to ensure we’re comfortable with it.
We understand that Peter has an advantage in this area, being a former bus driving instructor (in New York City, of all places) and multiple-time winner of professional bus driving competitions (yes… “Bus Roadeos” are a real thing)!
But there are plenty of typical gas stations that anyone can drive a large RV into… and out of. If you’re a confident “Big Rig” driver, there are lots of ordinary gas stations that you can easily navigate.
If you’d like to take advantage of lower prices when you find them at smaller gas stations, you can enhance your understanding of how large vehicles maneuver. Our video below on that topic is one we’re quite proud of.
Bottom line — don’t blanketly rule out all local gas stations without researching both price and accessibility first.
Real-World Diesel Fuel Savings
Here are three examples from our own recent personal experiences. These are all actual situations where TSD, MudFlap, or GasBuddy provided us with the actual least-expensive price vs the other two.
- Date: November 9, 2022
- Location: Channahon, IL
- Pump Price: $5.149/gallon
- TSD Open Roads Price: $4.869/gallon
- Discount: $0.28/gallon
- Best GasBuddy Price: $4.92/gallon (see image below for area prices)
- OPEN ROADS BEATS GASBUDDY BY $0.051/gallon (you read that right — only 5 cents/gallon in real savings, compared with the 28 cent/gallon discount they promote). Again, that’s because truckstop prices are usually highly inflated. Can you save considerably more than 5 cents a gallon? Absolutely! But the real-world savings are almost never as high as they claim.
- MUDFLAP: Nothing available in the area at all (They’re not as widespread as the others… yet!)
- Date: July 11, 2022
- Location: De Forest, WI
- Pump Price: $5.21/gallon
- Mudflap Price: $4.69/gallon
- Discount: $0.52/gallon
- Best Open Roads Price: $4.75/gallon (see image below for area prices)
- MUDFLAP BEATS OPEN ROADS BY $0.06/gallon
- GASBUDDY: Their prices were so far off that day, we forgot to get a screenshot! ????♂️
- Date: August 24, 2022
- Location: Kent, OH
- Pump/GasBuddy Price: $4.51/gallon
- Best Open Roads Price: $4.677/gallon
- Best Mudflap Price: $4.81/gallon
- GASBUDDY BEATS OPEN ROADS BY $0.167/gallon
- GASBUDDY BEATS MUDFLAP BY $0.30/gallon
- This is a prime example of an ordinary gas station beating BOTH Open Roads and Mudflap by a good margin, despite the bold claims of savings that are typical of many fuel discount programs. You just need to LOOK for them, and not assume that one program is best every time.
- Don’t forget that on top of the savings listed here, the “Pay With GasBuddy” program mentioned above can save you even more on your first $100/day and $400/week of fuel purchases.
Above and beyond the savings, using GasBuddy to find a smaller, non-truckstop place to refuel meant that we were in a much cleaner location. Regular gas stations are almost ALWAYS much cleaner than the truck lanes at a truck stop!
Our Conclusions On Diesel Fuel Discount Programs
If you primarily fuel up at truck stops for convenience and/or comfort, we suggest that diesel fuel discount programs are an absolute must-have. Without them, the posted “list” prices are so high, that you’ll be overpaying for no reason.
On the other hand, if you don’t mind doing a little legwork to confirm the prices and accessibility of smaller gas stations, you can sometimes save even more money by using GasBuddy.
That’s especially true for those who like to travel the way we often do… off the beaten path (i.e. as far from the Interstate as possible)!
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