RVing is an incredible way to explore, and it opens up doors to all kinds of experiences and adventures. However, many new RVers don’t consider that RV travel requires skills, practice, and preparation. There are so many things to consider both when you’re buying an RV and as you get ready to head out on your first trip, so it can be easy to make mistakes that cost you time, money, or your pride. Fortunately, you can benefit from the knowledge base of experienced RVers to help make your inaugural trip a success—here are the top 10 mistakes to avoid for first-time RVers.
Mistake #1: Buying the wrong RV
It can be tempting to buy the first RV you look at in a rush to hit the open road. Many first-time buyers can be swayed by persuasive salespeople and end up buying a much flashier, bigger, or more expensive RV than they really need. Be methodical in your RV search. Make a list of your non-negotiables (i.e., it must have a king-size bed) and do your research to find a type and size of RV that makes sense for you and any travel companions who will be coming along. From there, you can start evaluating floor plans and different combinations of amenities. If you opt for a towable RV (travel trailer or fifth wheel), ensure that you choose one that works with the towing capabilities of your vehicle. The bottom line: do your research, take your time, and don’t let a salesperson talk you into something you don’t need or want.
Mistake #2: Not practicing driving and operational tasks before your first trip
Driving an RV—or towing a rig—can be quite different than driving your normal car. To minimize the stress of learning to drive your new RV, take time to practice driving it around in a big parking lot and then around town and on the freeway well in advance of your first trip. Get a feel for its turn radius, how it handles at different speeds, what it’s like to back up, your stopping distance, and so forth. It’s always a good idea to set up some cones and practice parking your new RV as well, both nose in and by backing in. You can certainly expect an audience at a campground or RV park, so definitely get some practice time in before you have to back into a narrow pad in front of a bunch of veteran RVers.
Additionally, practice operating all aspects of your RV ahead of time, including emptying the holding tanks, managing hookups, operating any slideouts on your rig, and so forth. That way you can identify if there are any issues before you hit the road and you’ll know what you’re doing so you can set up camp efficiently and competently.
Mistake #3: Over- or under-insuring your rig
Talk to an experienced insurance agent to ensure you have the right coverage. You don’t want to pay more than necessary each month, but you also don’t want to skimp on the premium and then be left in a lurch if something goes wrong and your insurance policy doesn’t cover it. Discuss your specific RV model (as well as any modifications you’ve made to it) and how frequently you’ll be using it with your insurance agent.
Mistake #4: Packing too much (or too little)
It’s hard to strike a balance between bringing everything you think you’ll need and not over-stuffing your RV. For your first trip, you may want to err on the side of bringing a few too many things, and then pare down your list on subsequent trips if you don’t use everything you brought. Remember that unless you are boondocking deep in the wilderness, you will probably be able to easily purchase anything you forgot to bring or find that you suddenly need. Most big box stores and hardware stores sell RV supplies and accessories plus virtually anything else you might need.
Mistake #5: Driving and traveling too fast
New RVers tend to go too fast in more ways than one. First, keep your driving speed reasonable. Driving fast will hurt your fuel efficiency, stress your RV’s engine, and can be dangerous especially if you aren’t experienced with driving a large vehicle. Secondly, maintain a slow and steady pace for your trip overall. It can be tempting to race around and drive hundreds of miles every day since there’s so much to see and so little time. However, this can quickly lead to burnout and it’s hard to adequately experience your destinations when you’re in a time crunch. Set a maximum daily mileage or drive time to help keep your pace reasonable and allow for some spontaneity and down time throughout your trip.
Mistake #6: Not having RV checklists
Make checklists for everything: getting the RV ready to drive, things to do once you arrive at a campsite, steps for emptying your holding tanks, periodic maintenance, etc. There are a lot of steps involved in RVing and it’s easy to forget crucial tasks without a checklist.
Mistake #7: Falling behind on maintenance tasks
Speaking of maintenance, be sure to perform it or have it done regularly and on time. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure as they say, and this certainly holds true for RV maintenance versus costly repairs.
Mistake #8: Failing to plan an RV-friendly route
Again, driving an RV is not like driving your regular car. There will be roads that you simply can’t take with your RV, whether that’s due to an extremely steep grade, narrow width, low overpasses or tunnels, or prohibitively expensive RV tolls. Fortunately, you can plan an RV-friendly route with ease using any one of the numerous route planning apps and websites that are now available.
Mistake #9: Not knowing the exact dimensions of your rig
In a similar vein, it’s essential to know the exact length, width, and height of your RV so you can assess whether it’ll fit through a tunnel or in a specific length-limited campsite. Many RVers create a placard for their dashboard with these important numbers so you aren’t scrambling to find them as you barrel towards a questionably low overpass.
Mistake #10: Being unaware of proper campground or RV park etiquette
Finally, make sure to educate yourself about proper campground and RV park etiquette. This will help ensure that you and all of your camp neighbors have a good time and maintain a peaceful, pleasant atmosphere.
If you're interested in becoming part of the RVing community, there are various options to choose from, including the availability of used campers for sale. Opting for a used camper can be a cost-effective choice, especially for individuals beginning their RVing adventure.
There are many potential pitfalls awaiting new RVers. Fortunately, you don’t have to learn everything the hard way—you can easily avoid these top 10 first-time RVer mistakes by ensuring that you choose the right RV, are well-versed in how to drive and operate it, plan an RV friendly route, and so forth. Now get out there and enjoy the open road!