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RV Diesel Fuel Discount Programs: Don’t Buy The Hype!

RV Diesel Fuel Discount Programs: Don’t Buy The Hype!

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.

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.

A drawing of a man thinking beside a diesel fuel pump's price window

It’s important to know that most diesel discount fuel programs apply to large truck stops, which usually have considerably higher fuel prices than other nearby fueling options.

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:

Pros

  • 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

Cons

  • 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!
RV Diesel Fuel Pump Handle - They can be so large they can be a tight fit... and dirty, too!

The high-speed diesel fuel nozzles at most truckstops are so large they can be a tight fit for some RV fuel filler openings. And their fuel lanes (and the nozzles, too) are FAR more likely to be coated with slimy diesel fuel.

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?

Pros

  • 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)

Cons

  • 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:

First, you need to sign up for the TSD Open Roads program. If you have questions, you can contact customer service by email, chat or phone (800.275.5089).

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:

  1. 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.
  2. Your discount card will be tied directly to your bank account for the withdrawal of funds.
  3. 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.
TSD Logistics Open Roads RV Diesel Discount Program
Open Roads: Save Money On Diesel Fuel!

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.
$10 Free Fuel
Mudflap RV Diesel Fuel Discount App
Get $10 In Free Diesel + Ongoing Savings!

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!

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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.

TSD Wins!

  • 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!)
RV Diesel Fuel Discount programs can save you plenty!

Screenshots from 11/9/22 in Illinois, from left to right: GasBuddy (best price: $4.92), TSD Open Roads (best price: $4.869). With Mudflap coverage less than some other programs, no stations in this area were offering their discounts. To clearly see the details on pricing in the area, click on the image above to see a larger version.

MudFlap Wins!

  • 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! 🤦‍♂️
TSD Open Roads RV Diesel Fuel Discounts aren't always the best prices!

This is a screenshot of the TSD Open Roads RV diesel fuel discount app from the area we were located on July 11, 2022 (we’re the blue dot). Even though Open Roads routinely makes the boldest discount claims, they aren’t always the best prices! And on this day, GasBuddy was far enough off the best price that we didn’t even record it.

GasBuddy Wins!

  • 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 programsYou 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!

Plenty of ordinary gas stations have plenty of space for Big Rigs!

This was just an ordinary gas station, which we located on GasBuddy on 8/24/2022. We scoped out on Google Satellite & Street View, so we knew there was plenty of space to maneuver our Big Rig. We saved about $0.17 – $0.30 per gallon over two major diesel fuel discount programs that promise huge savings. And the place was a lot cleaner, too, which is typical of fuel islands at regular gas stations vs the filthy conditions often found at truckstops.

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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Gay Travel Enthusiast (Jason Carpp)

Tuesday 17th of January 2023

I'd like to breathe clean air as much as anyone, I'd go for any alternative fuel that doesn't pollute the environment. But I'm not ready or willing to go *completely* electric. I'd prefer hybrid power, either Gasoline/Electric hybrid or Diesel/Electric hybrid. What do you think?

Gay Travel Enthusiast (Jason Carpp)

Wednesday 18th of January 2023

@TheRVgeeks, I'd buy a diesel/electric hybrid powered vehicle if it can be offered in a driveable size, anywhere between 2.4 and 6.6 litres of engine displacement.

TheRVgeeks

Tuesday 17th of January 2023

Yeah, we'd love a hybrid or range-extended electric (like a Chevy Volt), too. Would eliminate any worries about range!

Gay Travel Enthusiast (Jason)

Saturday 14th of January 2023

It's crazy that diesel fuel would cost more than gasoline fuel. I don't get why it costs more than that of gasoline. I remember when Diesel cost less than Gas.

Gay Travel Enthusiast (Jason Carpp)

Saturday 21st of January 2023

@TheRVgeeks, I agree. I don't get why they do that, raise the cost of Diesel fuel above that of Gas. I've always loved diesel powered vehicles. If nothing else, I love the clattering noise the engine makes while running. I like the relative durability compared to a Gasoline powered engine. I like the torque rating of a Turbo Diesel engine vs. a Gasoline Turbo engine, and last, but not least, I like the fuel economy of a Diesel powered vehicle vs. a Gas powered vehicle.

Gay Travel Enthusiast (Jason Carpp)

Saturday 14th of January 2023

@TheRVgeeks, Right? I know car makers are being required to emit less polluting emissions. Believe me, I'd like to breathe clean air as much as anyone. But I fail to see how this is supposed to reduce pollution.

TheRVgeeks

Saturday 14th of January 2023

We keep thinking the same thing! Diesel fuel requires less refining than gas, so shouldn't it be cheaper? If it's a supply & demand issue, there have always been more gasoline-powered vehicles in the US than diesel, so what's changed?

Mel Kraft

Wednesday 11th of January 2023

Very good article. We are planning a trip across Canada, West Coast to East Coast this summer. We have Gas Buddy and use it regularly plus the CostCo discount membership card. Hadn't heard of MudFlap and will look into it also. Enjoy you articles. All the Best, Mel Kraft

TheRVgeeks

Wednesday 11th of January 2023

Glad you liked it, Mel! And hope you have a fantastic time on your cross-Canada trip! We've done that before ourselves... and there's so much to see all along that route. Plus we just LOVE the Maritimes. Cape Breton Island is one of our absolute favorite places on Earth. So beautiful, the people are so friendly, and we LOVE the Acadian music all over the place. Make sure (if you make it there) that you attend a ceilidh (pronounced "KAY-lee") if you can. Music to set your toes tapping... and dancing. Just too much fun.

Now that we're done waxing poetic about Canada 😉🇨🇦, not sure that Mudflap will be any help on that trip. We think they may only have providers in the States at this time.

JRW

Tuesday 10th of January 2023

We drive a 40 foot DP and before that Class A Gasser, and 5th wheel/Dodge Ram 1 ton diesel P/U. We have been using Gas Buddy, TSD, and MudFlap. I use all three to research prices both on the road and before hitting the road.

I factor in the associated sur-charges when deciding where we are going to fuel. Gas Buddy is the best for identifying universal prices, while TSD and Mudflap focus only on truck stop prices.

I use several google apps to scope out non-truck stop stations to determine if my rig can negotiate getting in and out of the pump area. I fuel at Costco's that have diesel that's priced right. I don't have a Sam's card only because I had paying for access to Sam's when Walmart sells the same products for the same price. Having said that, pump prices at Sam's often beat Walmart. Again access by big rigs can be an issue.

I live in Northeast Florida and can't think of any grocery stores with loyalty programs that also sell fuel on site. However, I belong to grocery chain loyalty programs that do sell fuel and will fuel up at those stations if the price is right.

Several members of Entegra Owners forum suggest that using a credit card that returns a certain percentage of fuel costs can also meet or beat Gas Buddy, TSD, and Mudflap discounts.

The key is researching the stations on your route, determining if they sell DEF at the pump and accessibility to both those stations AND their pumps.

Remember, life is not just a journey....its and adventure!

Craig

Sunday 8th of January 2023

We have both the TSD an GoodSam cards. We also use Gas Buddy. Will look into MudFlaps. Our best success is a hybrid method. We scan all our options. ALWAYS use satellite view when going to a new station. With a 35’ HM and Toad you must know what you are getting into before you stop.

Surprised you did not mention the most important aspect of these programs. Most all require you to link an account. But it is risky to link you bank account. So we opened a dedicated checking account in our same bank. We can electronically transfer funds into it from our main account. Then we linked the dedicated account to our discount programs. That way if something should happen, they will only get what is in the dedicated account and not have access to our main accounts.

TheRVgeeks

Sunday 8th of January 2023

Great idea, Craig! Setting up a dedicated bank account could come in handy for a LOT of situations like this.

John S.

Sunday 8th of January 2023

@Craig, A 'dedicated account' is a very good idea.

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