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An important part of traveling in an RV is the propane tank, but most people do not come across filling propane tanks on a regular basis. For this reason, if you are new to RVing, figuring out how and where to fill your propane tank can be a bit overwhelming.
In this guide, you will find all the information you need to figure out the best propane refilling options.
Propane Tank Importance while Dry camping
If you are new to RVing, you may be wondering why your propane tank is so important.
Well, depending on your RV, the propane can be responsible for any number of key functions. Pretty much all RVs use propane to run the heat and the stove.
This means that if it is going to be colder out or if you plan to use your stove for cooking rather than a fire or grill, you are going to need a full propane tank. You do not want to wake up in the middle of a cold snap without any heat.
Furthermore, if you are dry camping (camping without hookups), your RV will likely use propane to run your water heater, power your fridge, and run your electricity and AC.
If you want to go dry camping, you should make sure that your RV has the capability to run your water, electricity, etc. off of your propane. You will be able to find specifics about what your propane tank can power in your owner’s manual.
If you are interested in forgoing propane entirely, there are some models available that do not require propane to run.
Difference Between a Fixed and Removable Propane Tank?
There are two main kinds of propane tanks that your RV may have: fixed or removable.
If you have a motorized (drivable) RV, the propane tank is likely a fixed tank, though you can double-check this by either looking at it or checking the owner’s manual. On the other hand, most towable RVs have a removable propane tank.
- If you have a fixed propane tank, you will have to leave the campsite and take your entire RV to the fill station. On the other hand, if the tank is removable, you can leave your RV where it is and take the tank in your vehicle to get it refilled.
- There may be more options when it comes to filling the tank if it is removable, as not all stations are designed for large RVs with fixed propane tanks. For this reason, if your tank is fixed, it is best to call ahead to make sure that the station can accommodate you.
- Another thing to keep in mind if you have a fixed tank is that all people and animals will likely be required to get out of the RV while the attendant is filling the tank. This is a very common safety protocol, so you should have leashes or carriers ready for any pets that are with you when filling the tank.
Where Can You refill Propane Tank?
Propane tank in RV can be refilled at travel stops like flying J’s, Lowes or at retails stores like Costco. You can also refill at small business, gas stations and campgrounds. Retails stores like Home depot, Walmart can also exchange empty propane tanks.
One really great place to fill up your propane tank is at a travel or truck stop. Common travel stops that usually can refill your propane are Flying J and Love’s, though there are others as well.
You can generally find these stops somewhat close by no matter where you are, so with a little bit of planning, you can fill up your propane between campgrounds.
A major benefit of travel stops for propane refilling is that they are designed for large trucks to maneuver around. This means that even if your propane tank is fixed, you should be able to get your RV into position easily.
At some travel stops, all you have to do is push a button, and an attendant will come out to fill your tank. At others, you will just go inside and up to the counter to ask for an attendant.
In suburban and rural areas, you will likely be able to find a retail store that will fill up your propane tank.
Retail stores that commonly refill or exchange propane tanks are Amerigas, ACE Hardware, Tractor Supply, Costco, Ferrellgas, Home Depot, Walgreens, Walmart, U-Haul, Chevron, Shell and CVS.
Refiling at Costco
Costco is a great store to do shopping in bulk. But, as you know it requires membership that costs $60/year or $120/year for gold membership. Costco does have service for propane refill.
The refiling of the propane is normally located in the parking lot near the tire service station. However, do note that this service is not available at Costco locations. You do need to check on their website before visiting.
- The process is simple, you visit the propane station with your empty propane tank and let the service personnel to refill it.
- The service person will check for the expiry date on the propane tank and if valid, will proceed with the refiling.
- While they are refilling it you need to wait to give them some time. It should not take more than 15 minutes max.
- Once they are done with refilling you can make the payment and take the tank with you.
Do they also do propane exchanges? Well, I haven’t seen such a service in the stores that i visited but it may be there in some locations.
They also sell propane tanks 10-50 lbs but again this may not be available at all locations. You can check on their website and order online as well. Propane refilling costs vary from location to location just like diesel and gas. Normally its between 2.10 to 2.45 per gallon.
If you are in Canada, you can also look for a Canadian Tire store. If you are choosing to look for a retail location for your propane, it is important that you call first because while many of them fill up propane tanks, not all of them do. You should also call to check to make sure an attendant trained to fill your tank is currently working.
Another thing to keep in mind is that you might have to wait a little longer at a retail store. Generally, there are only a few attendants trained to fill propane tanks, so you will have to wait for one to become available.
The process may also take longer if they are currently training a new attendant. For this reason, it is better to go to a retail store for propane when you have plenty of time and not when you are in a rush to get somewhere.
You are traveling and do not know what propane refill retail stores are near your location?
No worries! Just search for RV propane refill stations near me and search engine should give you handful of options nearby. That’s how I try all the time when I am traveling to different states.
When you are in more remote areas, you may want to turn towards local businesses for your propane.
If you are an area that is particularly popular with RVers, it should not be hard to find one.
Start by looking at local hardware stores and gas stations. However, smaller businesses may have tighter hours than you are used to. Try to go during a weekday rather than in the evening or on the weekend because many small businesses close early or do not open on the weekend at all.
One thing to keep in mind at a small business is that the attendant likely will not be waiting for you.
Sometimes the only person working is the owner, so they may be out working on a car or in the back.
Look around for signage or head inside. Even if you cannot find them right away, there are generally some sort of instructions on how to get their attention/notify them that you are there.
If all else fails and you are in need of some propane, you can check campgrounds.
Many campgrounds that allow RVs have propane filling stations right there. This is really convenient if you are staying there; however, propane at the campground is often significantly more expensive than propane elsewhere. You end up paying a lot for the convenience.
Keep in mind that many campgrounds will fill up your propane tank even if you are not staying at their campground. This can be helpful if you really are in a pickle and cannot find propane anywhere else.
You can generally figure out if a campground has propane by looking on their website. You can also just call the campground, and they should be able to tell you if they have it, the hours that they are open, and about how much it will cost.
Swapping the propane tank
If you have a removable propane tank, you have a couple more options. Rather than filling your propane tank, you can do something that is called a tank swap.
This is when you give a store your empty tank, and they give you a full one.
Many retail stores such as Home Depot, Lowes, Walmart and other national supermarket chains offer this option. Some gas stations and small hardware stores will also let you do this.
Swapping out your tank rather than refilling it is extremely convenient and easy, but it can be much more expensive.
The new tank may also not be as full as a tank that you refill as they allow room for expansion. If you are planning to tank swap, you should still call ahead to make sure they have tanks available.
Additional Propane Tank Tips
- There are different apps, such as Park Advisor and RV-specified GPS, which can help you figure out where different fill stations are near you or along your route. This can help you plan out when and where you will fill your tank ahead of time.
- You should keep an eye on your propane tank level. There will likely be a gauge or spot on the control panel that will tell you this information, but if not, you will need to track how much you are using yourself. If you run out of propane in the middle of the night, you will likely not be able to fill it up until at least the next day.
- Just like people say that you should not let your gas tank get below a quarter of a tank, you want to give yourself a buffer when it comes to propane in case your nearest fill station is out or the attendant trained to fill tanks is not there that day.
With a little bit of planning, you should be able to find a place to fill your propane tank wherever you are. While travel stops are often the easiest when you are on the road, it is also pretty easy to find a local business that can help you if you are staying in one spot for a while. The most important thing to remember is to always call ahead and give yourself a buffer, so you do not run out unexpectedly and end up in a pinch.