What Are The Biggest RV Mistakes & How To Avoid Them?

Whether you’re new to the #RVlife or not, there are a few things we may forget that can be either small enough to not really matter or big enough for it to be either dangerous &/or costly for ourselves (or others). In this article, we’ll go through some of the biggest RV mistakes and what you can do to prevent them (or mitigate them) from happening.

Problem: Not Buying The Right RV For Your Situation

Solution: If you’re new and planning to buy an RV for the first time, you need to do as much research as you can. Also consider factors such as:

  1. Camping Lifestyle: This is quite important in considering an RV because you would want to know how much you want to invest in an RV. Do you plan to live in it long-term, or just use it on the weekends? Will it be just you staying in it or will you have family and friends? Things like that.
  2. Budget: Of course, setting a budget for your RV will totally depend on how much you really want to spend and your camping lifestyle.
  3. Infrastructure:
    • If a brand new RV: always check the specs of the vehicle and see if it fits your needs, based on your lifestyle.
    • If buying a 2nd hand RV: Get to know the history. Yes, it may be cheaper upfront, but you have to consider how much work you may need to put into it for any repairs or upgrades it may need.
  4. Level of comfort: Having an RV already is a comfort in itself as compared to just camping, but also consider the utilities you’d want to have (like hot water, air conditioning or a heater) depending on where you plan on camping.
  5. Space, Floor plan & Storage
    • Space: Having enough space to move around is important, especially if there’s more than one person living in the RV. You wouldn’t want to be bumping into other people or storage.
    • Checking the floor plan: Based on how many people will be in the RV, and how much storage you need, it’s important to check floor plan. It has to be practical and easy to move around in the limited space.
    • Storage: Having the amount of storage you need is dependent on your camping lifestyle. Sports equipment, hiking gear, bicycles can take up space. So does supplies like food, clothing and electronics.
  6. Driving ease

Even if you get the RV of your dreams that tick every box, driving it might be overwhelming, especially if you’ve never driven one before. There are always driving lessons available, but what matters most is you go slow, practice driving, and know your RV height and weight. I have a specific section just on this with tips which you’ll see in the next section.

Problem: Not Knowing Your RV Before Heading Out

Solution: Get to know your RV. Read your RV User Manual and also the User Manuals of each appliance (fans, heaters, AC, fridge, generator, etc.). Get to know each component (electrical system, water system, etc.) and where the pipes/wires start and end (if possible).

Read my other articles on this blog like What is the Standard RV Electrical Hookup or How Does Your RV Electrical System Work, and so many more so you can figure out your RV with much more ease.

Expert tip: Once you get to know your RV, make sure to also have spare components (fuses, light bulbs, etc.) and a toolbox (screwdrivers, wrench, electrical tape, duct tape, etc.) full of tools to do any minor repairs. This is important because as you will find out that things are always coming loose and a little thing such as a fuse can turn a minor incident into a big deal.

Problem: Not Knowing How To Drive An RV

Solution: As mentioned earlier, you can always take RV driving lessons. Driving an RV or a trailer will have some similarities to driving a car, but of course, except for the size/length of everything. Therefore, practicing is very important.

If you’re confident enough to get behind the steering wheel, always make sure to do a Pre-Driving Inspection (PDI) first before you get behind the wheel and start driving. Even the most experienced RV veterans make this mistake occasionally.

On the exterior of your RV, make sure that the:

  • Basement doors are locked and secure, anything attached on the outside such as bike racks are locked, and any door are secure and locked.
  • Levelling Jacks are up.
  • Nothing is in the perimeter of the coach if you are driving a motorhome.
  • Utilities (water, electricity, etc.) are disconnected and securely put away.
  • Your mirrors are properly set. The inside quarter should show side wall of your coach, and the convex mirror should show the road as well
  • Tire pressure is ok and no potential problems with them.
  • Once last check of your campground and your parking spot once you pull forward a few feet.

Part of the PDI includes checking everything indoors too. Make sure that:

  • All drawers/cabinets/doors are closed and if possible locked. Any storage unit with slide locks to have be locked too.
  • The fridge & freezer should be locked and put on 12 volt or propane. Nobody wants food flying around and making a mess.
  • Your main door is locked and bolted shut.
  • The lights, wipers, breaks are working.
  • The emergency break should be “on” when parked (and “off” when you’re going to drive)
  • You check the position of the driver’s seat so that it’s not too far from the pedals or the wheel, and the wheel position is in the right position for you to drive
  • You’re familiar with the height and weight of your RV/trailer so you don’t get stuck under a bridge or a tunnel
  • There are GPS specific for RVs so it can show routes that would be safe for your RV/trailer
  • But always use common sense since the GPS route may not always be accurate

Expert Driving Tips:

  • Have a Check list for inspecting everything before getting behind the wheel and start driving.
  • Underestimating the drive. Experienced RVer’s know that it takes longer to get anywhere, typically only 50-60% of the distance of a car would travel.
  • Go slow. There’s no need to rush if you plan your trip well.
  • Take your time. Even though you might worry about holding up traffic, it’s ok. It’s ok for them to wait so you can do your turns properly.
  • Plan breaks Every few hours of driving. It’s always good to have breaks if you are getting tired. Plan extra breaks if you have little kids with you as they can’t seem to last sitting a car seat for very long.
  • Turn Breaks in Short Adventures along the drive! On the way to your destination, there are typically plenty of sights to see, what better way to educate and entertain your kids along the way than to stop and explore.
  • Start looking for a place to sleep when dawn is coming or sooner. Traveling with your rig at night is not always ideal, so plan on finding a place before dark. Especially if you have young kids, they probably need to eat, play and sleep.
  • Limit distractions. Don’t eat, text or anything else that can distract while you drive.
  • Use the opposite lane when taking tight turns. (if your RV is long) Watch the back wheel as a gauge to see how much space you need while turning.
  • Allow enough breaking distance. Leave at least 10 seconds distance from the front of your RV while driving behind another vehicle. Not all RVs would have air brakes, so make sure to give an allowance.
  • Stay in the slowest lane. This allows other faster vehicles to pass without holding up traffic.
  • Frequently check side mirrors & cameras (if available). You’ll never know when a vehicle/motorbike might pop up, and this will help make sure you’re still in your lane.
  • Always assume people don’t see you. Always practice defensive driving since there may be irresponsible drivers on the road.
  • If changing lanes, slow down, signal on, slowly move to lane
  • Be aware of your blind spots. Take extra care of this while driving.
  • When going down a large hill, if without air brakes, use tow haul mode on your RV or Truck chassis to slow down your vehicle, rather than using your breaks as that can cause your brakes to catch fire.
  • Takes longer to breaks. When driving for long trips, do take longer breaks, such as having lunch or enjoying the afternoon at a stop. Go take a hike, or bike ride, go shopping. Just get a chance to stretch your legs and change it up a bit before you hit the road again.
  • Be wary of your RV/trailer’s overhang since the tail swing is something you’d want to prevent too much of.

Problem: Not Planning Your Camping Trip With Enough Details

Solution: No matter how much you’d want to “wing it” during any trip, it’s actually cheaper and less stressful (in the long run) to plan everything ahead of time.

Expert Planning Tips:

  1. Always check the weather (and the route). Some areas may be more difficult to drive through because of the rain, sleet or snow.
  2. Make reservations in advance. Even if you get to your dream camping grounds, they may be full and not have a slot available or would have size limitations. There are also some camping grounds that have dedicated spots for senior citizens, so keep that in mind.
  3. Find the route that will allow the height and weight of the RV. There may be routes that may need you to drive through bridges/tunnels with height clearances, or bridges with weight limits. There may also be routes that might be trickier to drive on with steep inclines or narrower roads. Planning this ahead would save you the hassle.
  4. Make sure there are enough stops for you to take a break.
  5. Be smart about what you pack.
    • Packing too much will mean additional weight in your RV/trailer. This may be cumbersome especially if you have limited space, or if you have to cross bridges with weight limits.
    • Packing too little as well can become a problem, especially if what you need isn’t readily available in the location, you’ll be camping in.
    • Always have backup supplies for medications and first aid supplies will always be a must, especially when camping in remote area.
  6. Plan your Meals and pack efficiently. Your RV fridge is not nearly as large as your home Fridge so planning meals and even prewashing everything just makes it easier when you stop along the way or when you arrive at your destination.
  7. Pre- & Post-care for your fridge. Preparing your fridge at least 24hours before your trip is ideal (follow your manufacturer’s instructions) so that any food you put in it won’t spoil. Make sure to defrost the fridge after use so that it doesn’t grow mildew
  8. Check all the equipment in and on your RV before the trip. On top of the Pre-driving inspection as I mentioned earlier, remember to do a regular maintenance check-up at least every few months up to once year.
  9. Bring Some Cash. Experienced RVer’s know that having a little bit of cash is always helpful, as you never know what might happen and you need a little cash, such as that campground that just doesn’t take credit cards or bank cards.

Problem: Not Properly Setting At The Camp Site

Solution: Camping with an RV isn’t just about parking it on one side and then realizing you are too far from the hookup or end up parking in a slanted area. Always make sure to:

  1. Level the RV, especially when you’ll be in areas with different temperatures/weather. Similar to what I wrote on how to level your RV during winter, it would be good to also make sure your wheels don’t get stuck in mud or loose dirt/dust/sand.
  2. Shade is always nice, especially if you don’t have an awning, but make sure that you’re not covering your solar panels if you have any. If you notice on your Battery Monitoring System (BMS) that your solar panels aren’t charging like they usually do, then this can be something you can look into.

Problem: Not Observing Proper RV Camping Etiquette

This section is really more about just being a good neighbor, especially when you’re at a campsite. It’s not just about being nice, but also being courteous not to be too loud and about respecting the peace and space other RVers are appreciating, just like you. Solution:

  • If traveling with kids, remind them to be mindful of the neighbours and that they don’t disturb them or get too loud.
  • If you plan to run your generator (or loud music), do make sure you’re not too close to another camper, or just park at the farthest spot available.
  • Closing your curtains at night not only creates more privacy for yourself, but will also prevent any curious eyes from peering in.

Camping etiquette also applies when you’re boondocking and you’re the only camper in the area. Do respect the area you’re in. As the saying goes “take nothing but photos, leave nothing but footprints.” Don’t leave trash lying around, or harass the wildlife in the area. There are a few more and you can dive into it more in this article on campground etiquette.

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