Before we dive right into how to find propane while out on the road in your RV, it is important to know some basics regarding how your rolling home uses propane.
What Runs Off Propane in Your RV?
Unless you are in a propane-free RV, like the Winnebago Revel, your rolling home will likely at least use propane for heating and cooking.
Most RV furnaces run off propane. So, if a cold front is coming, you’ll want to be sure you have a full tank of propane. You also need propane to cook on a gas stove. Unless you are skipping hot meals or cooking outside on a grill, this is another important reason to keep an eye on your propane tank.
When dry camping (without hookups), your propane may also run your water heater. And, depending on the type of refrigerator in your RV, propane may also power your fridge when camping with no electricity. Propane will also run your propane-equipped generator when dry camping if you desire use of A/C, etc.
Be sure to check your owner manual to know what you will need propane for in your specific RV.
Fixed vs. Removable Propane Tanks
Your propane tank will either be fixed or removable. Most often, motorized RVs will have a fixed propane tank. While towable RVs usually have removable propane tanks.
If you have a fixed tank, your RV will have to be present in order to refill your propane tank. But, if your tank is removable, you’ll just pop the tank out, put it in your tow vehicle, and head off to fill it. Your RV can stay behind at your campsite.
If you have a fixed tank, you’ll be driving your RV over to get the propane refilled. Pretty easy, but just remember to think of your RV’s size and note what side of your RV the tank is on for when you arrive. We suggest checking the satellite view of Google Maps to make sure you fit down the road the propane filling station is on.
It is also a good idea to call ahead to make sure they can accommodate you, since not all places are equipped to fill propane tanks on-board RVs.
They also usually ask everyone in the RV, including pets, to wait outside the RV while propane is being refilled, as a safety precaution. So, have a plan to remove any pets, if needed.
Where to Find Propane
One of the most common places to refill your propane tank is a travel stop. Travel and truck stops, like Flying J and Love’s, are great options. If you’re traveling in a larger RV, especially with a fixed tank, you can count on having plenty of space to maneuver, since these stops can fit large trucks.
At some of the stops, you’ll simply push a button to notify an attendant that you’re outside at the fill station waiting for a propane refill. At other stops, you’ll just go inside and let them know at the counter.
In suburban areas and some rural areas, you can look out for certain retailers to fill propane. ACE Hardware and Tractor Supply are two very common options that are usually easy to find.
If you’re in Canada, Canadian Tire is a go-to store for propane.
In all of these cases, it’s best to call ahead because most locations will refill propane, but not all. You’ll also want to remember you might have to wait for a store employee who is trained to fill propane to be available. Once in a while, they may be new to filling propane, and this might also cause a bit of extra waiting.
Some popular areas for RVing can be remote or between large cities. If you don’t want to drive all the way into town, you may want to check some of the local businesses – like hardware stores and gas stations. If the area is popular with RVers, the need is a common one, and it shouldn’t be too hard to find propane.
The only thing to keep in mind is that hours may be shorter than you’re used to. Try to avoid dropping in on weekends or in the evening, if you can. These are the times you’ll most commonly run into a “Closed” sign.
If you see there’s a propane fill station, but you don’t see much activity, just walk inside, or look for signage with instructions. For example, in some small towns, the shop owner might be working on some vehicle maintenance in the garage, rather than working the counter. At businesses that small, they’ll usually let you know with a sign how to get their attention.
Some campgrounds have propane filling stations. If you’re running low, you can always book your next stay at a campground that fills propane.
Keep in mind that sometimes this is a more expensive option. They’ll often still sell you propane even if you won’t be staying at the campground. So, this could still be an option if you’re between destinations.
Other Places for Removable Tanks Only
For those of you with removable tanks, you could always do a “tank swap” at many regular retail stores. While this can be convenient, you’ll probably find that it is a more expensive option. Also, it’s common that the tank won’t actually be filled as much as at a propane fill station (to allow for expansion).
You can swap your empty tank out for a filled one at stores like Home Depot, Lowe’s, and national supermarket chains. Many gas stations and small hardware stores also offer this.
Additional Propane Tips
You can plan ahead for finding propane by downloading apps like Park Advisor. You can also buy an RV-specific GPS which will point out the nearest propane fill stations near you, or along your route.
As you travel, be sure to keep an eye on your propane tank level. You’ll be able to check propane levels on your RV control panel, your tank’s gauge, or both. If your tank doesn’t have a gauge, you’ll need to keep track of how much propane you’re using yourself.
Give yourself a bit of a buffer, so you’re not scrambling for propane. Sometimes you’ll find a propane fill station is out of propane, or the attendant that knows how to fill propane is out sick. Though not very common, it does always seem to happen when you’re running especially low on propane!