If you’re thinking of purchasing an RV or have just bought one, then your biggest concern probably is how you’re going to drive the RV and whether it’s going to be hard or easy to drive one. Well, RVs are not very difficult to drive; however, its size can affect the driveability of the RV. However, with a bit of common sense, practice and driving skills, you can handle an RV easily.
Types of RVs
RVs come in varying types, shapes, sizes, weights and lengths and you must find one that you find easy and comfortable to drive.
Class A RVs
These are quite huge in size, around 25 to 45 feet in length and weigh around 12,000 to 30,000 lb. depending on the model. These are heavyweights among motorized RVs and usually have king-sized beds, a full-fledged kitchen, dining area, washroom, washers and sofas. The large size of the Class A RV reduces its maneuvering flexibility significantly.
Class B RVs
These are mid-sized RVs around 17 to 23 feet in length and weighing around 4,000 to 9,000 lb. Known as camper vans, although not as large as Class A RVs, Class B RVs still have decent storage space and sufficient room for dining and sleeping. The size, structure and design are very similar to an SUV or minivan, which makes it very easy to maneuver Class B RVs.
Class C RVs
This is a mid-range RV that features the luxuries of Class A RVs. They usually weigh around 10,000 to 20,000 lb and are around 21 to 28 feet long. Not as spacious as Class A RVs, the Class C RV contains dining areas, a separate washroom and king-size beds. Class C RVs offer better maneuvering, especially within the city, but are still difficult to maneuver on narrow roads.
Travel Trailer and Fifth Wheel
These are the most popular types of towing RVs among the various RVs. You can use an SUV, car or truck to pull the travel trailer, which is around 20 feet in length. However, the fifth wheel is quite huge, around 30 feet in length and needs a 4×4 truck to pull it. Any RV that is more than 15 feet long will be difficult to drive. Fifth wheels are more stable as they are larger in size. Whereas, travel trailers are more flexible to maneuver and easier to handle; however, the smaller size makes the load of the travel trailer unstable.
Generally, Class B RVs are easiest to drive because of their compact size and driving flexibility. They are quite affordable and the steering grip is also very good. Driving a Class B RV is similar to driving an SUV or minivan.
What Makes RVs Difficult to Drive?
RVs in general are quite easy to drive and navigate too, especially if you’re an experienced driver. However, if you are a first timer and have never driven an RV before, then you may find driving and maneuvering an RV difficult because of the following factors:
The size of the RV is a very important factor that contributes to the maneuverability and smooth driving experience. Usually, towable RVs are very large in size, as well as weight, which can make it quite difficult for you to make a U-turn or park. Even motorized RVs can be challenging to drive when it comes to taking U-turns or sharp turns because the probability of hitting a vehicle when taking a turn is quite high.
Larger sized RVs are more difficult to stop than smaller vehicles because the force in the RVs is so strong that it takes time for the RV to completely come to a halt when you apply the brakes.
Field of View
RVs have a much larger field of view because of their large size as compared to minivans and SUVs.
RV Driving Safety Tips
Driving an RV can be quite a daunting experience for new owners. However, with time and practice, you will be navigating, making turns and parking your RV like a pro. Here are a few tips that can help you get started on your RV-ing.
Understand Your RV’s Size
Driving an RV is not like driving a car and can affect your route planning; the fastest route may not be the best route for your RV. You need to be aware of your RV’s weight and height. This can impact where you can or cannot go. Make use of an RV-specific GPS device or road atlas to plan your routes so that you are aware of low bridges, road height clearances, hairpin bends, obstacles (like tree branches) and other restrictions. When you’re considering potential routes, also take into account the maneuverability.
Just as the RV’s height, you must be aware of the RV’s width and its length, especially when you’re parking. When parking, make sure that you have parked the RV properly without leaving a lot of space between the curb and the vehicle, parking block, etc.
Will you be traveling through heavy traffic? Yielding and merging need patience and driving in heavy traffic means that you must be aware of all the other vehicles around you, especially in your blind spots. Also, getting gas can be a bit tricky. Ensure that you pick a gas station that has plenty of room for maneuvering around the parking areas and pumps.
Take Wide Turns
When driving an RV, you need to take wide turns, especially right turns as you will be against the curb. Taking sharp turns could get your rear tires onto the curb or you could end up tracking over some person’s lawn.
To avoid a collision, it is best to stay in your own lane and pull farther out into the intersection before you begin to turn. Keep watching your rear-view mirrors and keep close to the center lane. Keep a watch for impatient drivers trying to zip around you.
Always drive your RV slowly and safely, and enjoy the journey. Avoid driving fast. Firstly, the reason for this is that with the weight behind you, you will need more time to brake and if you’re going very fast, the time to brake can increase exponentially.
Also, you must maintain more distance from the vehicles that are in front of you so that you have time to react. You can also reduce fuel consumption by around 20% by reducing the highway cruising speed of your RV from 75 to 55 mph. So, it’s a good idea to relax and enjoy the time that it takes to get to your destination.
Understand When to Brake and Keep Your Distance
Whether they are towable or motorized, RVs take much longer to stop and so it’s very important to know when you’re going to apply the brakes and ensure that the road is clear when you’re applying the brakes. It is very important to maintain a distance of at least 40 feet from other drivers to ensure a smooth and safe driving experience because RVs are not meant for tailgating and being very close to other vehicles can intimidate other drivers.
Back Up Carefully
Get out of your RV and look around before backing up. Don’t be in a hurry and take your time while you back up the RV. If possible, get someone to help you outside. While backing up, it is a good idea to use a walkie-talkie or your mobile phone to communicate with your ground person. Plan your communication with the person on the ground so that both of you understand the hand signals and directions.
Maintaining Your RV
Maintaining your RV will make the vehicle safe. Conduct regular inspections and preventive maintenance of the RV’s systems, especially the ones that can cause an accident. Before a trip, always make a checklist and inspect these items each time you set off on a journey.
- Check the hoses and belts for cracking
- Check the tires is they have proper tread depth and air pressure
- Headlights, taillights and turn lights
- Towing and hitching equipment
A leading cause of RV accidents is tire blowouts. This can be caused by using old tires, under-inflated tires or overloading. To avoid blowouts, make sure to double check your tires, travel at the right speed and ensure that the tires are not overloaded.
Know the kind of brakes your RV has, whether they are hydraulic brakes, air brakes, electric brakes or mechanical brakes. Learn how to care for them and ensure that they are in top working condition.
Check the Weather
Before you start off on an RV trip, it is extremely important to check the weather conditions. Typically, poor weather is a common reason for RV accidents. RV driving can be dangerous in the case of rain, ice, fog and high winds. In order to avoid bad weather, make sure that you factor in extra time for delays caused by unforeseen storms, etc.
If you’re driving and the weather turns bad, then it is a good idea to pull over at the next exit or into a pitstop. If there are high winds, the best option is to get off the road and wait until the wind stops. After a storm, when you get back on the road, look out for downed power lines and debris. Avoid driving through standing water because you don’t know how deep the water is.
Before you head out on an RV road trip, take time out and practice turning with the RV in an open field or empty parking lot. Place some cones and practice parking, parallel parking and maneuvering the vehicle. If required, sign up for an RV driving course. Spend time and get to know your RV and your limitations. This will ensure that driving your RV is more fun and safer too.
Differences Between Driving an RV and a Car
Even if the state that you live in does not have any special license requirements to drive an RV, you must understand that driving an RV is not the same as driving a truck or car and as a first-time RV driver, you need to get a fair amount of practice to familiarize yourself with your RV and how it handles. Here are a few key differences between driving a car and an RV that you should be aware of before you get onto the road.
- The view of the road from the car is very different from the road view in the RV. You cannot see much of the road in front of you when you drive an RV and you must keep this in mind. You must never take your eyes off the road at any time.
- RVs are much longer compared to cars and so turning corners can be especially difficult. The RV has around 2 to 2.5 feet of tail swing while turning. So, you must keep this in mind.
- The RV needs lots more fueling compared to your car and even the process of the fueling the RV is different. Always stop at gas stations that are specifically meant for larger vehicles to prevent any damage to your RV while fueling at the gas station.
- Roads like highways, freeways and interstates require that larger vehicles must maintain a speed 5-20 miles slower than smaller vehicles like cars. So, make sure to check the road signs around you and if you’re planning to drive through another state or a new area, do your homework so that you observe the local laws.
- When you stop in your RV, you should be able to see the white line in front of you so that other vehicles can see and are able to move around you.
It is extremely important to practice safe driving, especially when you’re driving something as large as an RV. So, if you have never driven an RV before, then make sure that you are familiar and comfortable with the vehicle before you head out. With time and practice, you will be a confident RV-er.