Tractor Fuel Vs. Reefer Fuel 

Tractor Fuel vs. Reefer Fuel (2024 Comparison)

When operating any vehicle, checking the type of fuel it uses is a must. Adding the wrong fuel to the vehicle will cause poor engine performance and eventually damage it. We’ll discuss two main types of fuel in this article- reefer fuel and tractor fuel. 

Tractor fuel is reserved for any vehicle in construction, such as trucks and semi-trucks, while reefer fuel is ideal for any off-road vehicle. You can use both fuels in the same car, but reefer fuel is not to be used in any vehicle driven on public roads. 

Here’s more information about reefer and tractor fuel to help you identify and understand its uses. 

CategoryTractor Fuel Reefer Fuel 
Types Gasoline, Diesel, TVO, Lp GasUltra low sulfur fuel 
Cost $3.8 per Gallon(gasoline), $5.9 per Gallon(diesel) $2.9 per Gallon 
Taxes24.4 cents per Gallon (diesel ), 18.4 cents per Gallon (gasoline) No Road Tax 

What is Reefer Fuel?

What is Reefer Fuel?

Refer fuel is a distinct type of fuel only used on off-road vehicles. It’s conspicuously dyed red to distinguish it from standard fuel types. Since it is only usable for vehicles operating off roads, reefer fuel is not subject to road tax. 

That automatically makes it a viable solution for farm use or construction on private property. You can also use reefer fuel to maintain the temperature in refrigerated trucks.

The laws on reefer fuel for road vehicles are strict, and if you’re found operating on reefer fuel on the road, you can attract fines of up to $10,000 or more. 

What is Tractor Fuel?

What is Tractor Fuel?

Tractor fuel is a kind of diesel made to fit local climate conditions.  In the 20th century, tractor fuel was considered a type of low-tier diesel like kerosene.

But it is now a number two diesel, somewhere between diesel and gasoline during the distillation process. 

Tractor fuel should not be confused with fueling a farm tractor. That farm vehicle uses reefer fuel. You can use tractor fuel on any vehicle as it is effective, particularly under extremely hot climates. 

Perhaps the only drawback to tractor fuels in cold climates. As the temperature drops, it thickens and may damage components of your car. The most common issue is the engine not starting or stalling. 

If you ever experience thickening of the tractor fuel, consider using number 1 diesel until the weather gets warmer.

Interchanging between number 1 and number 2 diesel types has no side effect on your engine, so it is safe to switch during winter. 

What Are The Different Types of Tractor Fuel?

What Are The Different Types of Tractor Fuel?

Tractor fuel is sometimes clear or greenish to show that it is an ultra-low sulfur diesel. Here are some of the types of tractor fuels. 


It was popular in the 1970s and used on farm tractors built after the Second World War. Diesel quickly replaced gasoline due to costs, although it is used today in small equipment like lawn tractors. 


It is one of the first and oldest types of fuel used in tractors. The first diesel-powered tractor was used in the 1930s which later was improved into crucial agricultural equipment in the 1950s. 


Kerosene was popular in the 20th century and used in all-purpose engines. But farmers experienced engine overheating, which was not enough to support combustion. It was later replaced by gasoline. 


This fuel was crucial for farm tractors just before the Second World War and was used alongside other fuel types on “all fuel” engines. 

LP Gas

Liquified propane was mainly used in the mid-19th century in agricultural tractors. It was less expensive than gasoline, therefore it gained popularity fast. But diesel soon became the primary fuel for tractors as the companies made more diesel-engine trucks in newer models. 

What is a Reefer Fuel Tank?

What is a Reefer Fuel Tank?

Reefer tanks are storage units for reefer fuels. They are massive and usually placed on the rear end of the truck or vehicle. A standard reefer fuel tank has about 50 gallons capacity, but it can be as big as 200 gallons (in train cars).

Most trucks with reefer fuel come with a tank built in a different compartment from the regular gas tank. 

A reefer tank burns fuel slowly, and a full tank can last for several days before running out. 

What is a Reefer Tank Used For?

What is a Reefer Fuel Tank?

Reefer fuel is used to maintain temperature or refrigerate goods during delivery. Perishable goods always need to stay at certain temperatures before going bad. 

Temperature-sensitive goods also need reefer fuel to maintain the low temperatures and keep the whole trailer under the right temperature. 

How Long Does Reefer Fuel Last?

How Long Does Reefer Fuel Last

Typically, reefer fuel lasts for four to five days, but if you open it every time it may only last for a day or two. A reefer fuel’s rate of consumption depends on the average temperature and the truck capacity. 

For instance, a truck capacity of 2,500 cubic feet can fuel a driver for about 7 hours non-stop.

Of course, it depends on the temperature of the environment as warmer climates reduce the run time. Your tank lasts for longer if you leave it closed for a few hours. 

Reefer Fuel Vs. Tractor Fuel: The Key Differences

Reefer Fuel Vs. Tractor Fuel: The Key Differences


Reefer fuel is considered effective because it has a cheaper cost per gallon. With no road tax deductions, the price of reefer fuel is low everywhere, particularly in states with soaring road taxes like Nevada and Kansas. 

The cost of reefer fuel per gallon is about $2.97 to $2.99 per gallon, while the price of a normal number 2 diesel or tractor diesel is $5.60 per gallon.

The difference is huge and translates to approximately $2 to $3 per gallon. The U.S Dept. of Energy states that an idling truck wastes fuel and uses and burns an average of 1,600 gallons of fuel per year. 

Off-road vehicles can save lots of money by using reefer fuel. A typical Kubota truck can save up to $3,900 using reefer fuel.

If you consume about $3,510 gallons of fuel per year, the savings increase to $7,560 per year, as long as it doesn’t move on the road and has a little idle time. 


Another big difference between the two is their purpose for different vehicle types. 

Reefer fuel is typically used for any vehicle to regulate temperature, particularly food transportation. Semis and trucks are popular reefer fuel vehicles, but some off-road vehicles also include vans. 

Tractor fuel hosts a bigger number of vehicles. It is used for all purposes other than temperature maintenance and is commonly used in construction vehicles like trucks and bulldozers.

Such vehicles are not purposely to transport food, therefore they do not need any reefer fuel. 


Any vehicle owner knows fuel is taxed under the Federal Highway Administration, currently capped at 24.4 cents per gallon for diesel fuel and 18.4 cents per gallon for gasoline.

These taxes cater to rest stops, road maintenance, and other services that benefit drivers, passengers, and pedestrians.

Trucks pay a $550 highway tax for all vehicles with a gross weight of 55,000 pounds and operating from 5000 miles to 75,000 miles on the highway. 

However, since reefer fuel is not allowed for road use, it is exempted from the tax. You’ll only pay for sales tax which does not apply to all states. Some states like Washington do not have a sales tax on reefer fuel due to their road charges.

The distributor may impose a small levy (less than $0.1) on reefer bought wholesale. 

If you’re caught driving reefer trucks on a public road, you’ll be heavily fined for evading road taxes. Officials know how to identify reefer fuel since it has red dye and leaves stained residues on the tank. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

Is reefer fuel expensive?

On average, you may purchase reefer fuel at $3 per gallon. That’s a bit cheaper than tractor fuel because it is exempted from taxes.

So, as long as reefer fuel remains free from taxes, you don’t have to worry about purchasing this fuel. 

Is reefer fuel the same as diesel?

Reefer fuel has the same components as diesel, but you cannot use it on public roads and highways. It has a conspicuous red dye to distinguish it from other fuel types and prevent misuse.

Diesel is mainly used to power vehicles, but reefer fuel is designed to maintain refrigerators in reefer trucks. 

How long does reefer fuel last?

Reefer fuel is used to maintain the temperature in trucks and can last from 3 to 5 days, depending on the temperature and the size of the fuel tank. 

Is a reefer fuel tank big enough?

Yes. Most reefer trucks come with huge reefer tanks that can hold up to 60 gallons of fuel. When full, the tank can last you up to five days before you think of refilling.  

Final Words

Final Words

Understanding the difference between reefer fuel and tractor fuel will keep you on the right side of the law. The Federal Highway Authority can fine as much as $10,000 if you’re found using reefer fuel on public roads.

Fortunately, this guide makes it easier to know what is legal and how to differentiate the two fuel types.