One of the best things about owning an RV? The ability to take an entire tiny home and move it from one place to another. That said, driving an RV is also a little bit nerve-wracking, especially if you’re an RVing newbie.
Fortunately, there are ways to make your RV diving experience safer and less stressful. Knowing these tips before you hit the road and giving yourself plenty of time to practice will make driving your RV feel much more comfortable so you can fully enjoy being on the road.
Ready to learn some of those RV driving tips? Let’s dive in.
Plan an RV-Friendly Route
Before you hit the road, you need to ensure your route is RV-friendly. Steep grades can be terrifying and dangerous in a big rig. Likewise, low-clearance bridges and bridges with low weight limits can cause major problems. Avoiding these sorts of issues will help ensure your drive is as stress-free as possible.
One way to go about this is to use the RV Trip Wizard service, which will take your RV size into account and create a route accordingly. Another great tool is a trucker’s atlas, which will show you which roads are accessible to trucks. Obviously, if a semi can make it, your RV can too, making this an excellent resource.
Watch the Weather
Rain, snow, and high winds can all make driving your rig 100% more challenging and more dangerous. In the days leading up to your trip, watch the weather forecast for adverse weather conditions. If your travel day looks like a rough one weather-wise, you might be better off leaving a day early or a day late if at all possible.
If the weather is going to be bad for the entirety of your trip, rescheduling may be your best bet. This will help keep you safe, but it might also save your trip, as camping in rain and snow is not nearly as fun as camping in the sunshine.
Adjust Your Mirrors
Before you get out on the road, take a peek in those rearview mirrors. RVs are nearly impossible to see around without mirrors, making your rearview mirrors invaluable when driving your RV. Make sure you can see properly to change lanes on both sides. You may also want to spray some RainX on the mirrors in case a bit of rain does happen to catch you.
You’ll want to do this before your first trip out, of course, but you’ll also want to double check your mirrors before future trips as well, as they can be bumped and moved accidentally while the vehicle is parked.
Do a Walk Around
Another thing you’ll want to do before you drive? A walk-around of the vehicle. Look at the tires to make sure they’re still in good condition and check your tire pressure. Look for open storage bay doors. You’ll also want to check that your steps are in and your antennae are down. Also, make sure you look at your water, sewer, and electric hookups to be sure they are detached and put away.
Walking around inside is also a good idea. Make sure the fridge, drawers, and cabinets are clicked shut. Remove everything from the table and countertop so nothing falls down while you’re on the road, and be sure windows are closed. Making sure everything is in its place will help ensure you can focus on driving rather than needing to think about the stuff moving around behind you.
Insist on Seat Belts
Obviously, you will want to be wearing a seatbelt while driving your rig. That said, your passengers may be tempted to walk around your home-on-wheels. This is not something we recommend. Not only is it super unsafe to be unbuckled, but just as with things falling and rolling around behind you, people walking around as you drive can also be incredibly distracting.
For this reason, it’s best to make a rule right off the bat that everyone must be seated and belted while the RV is in motion. If this is a consistent rule from the get-go, everyone will be much more likely to follow it for the duration of your RVing adventures.
Avoid Driving When Tired
Driving when tired is never a good idea. This is especially true when you’re behind the wheel of a big vehicle such as an RV. The good news? Your RV has just the thing you need when you’re tired: a bed.
If you feel sleepy while cruising down the highway, simply find a safe place to pull off and get some shut-eye. (Some rest stops allow overnight stays, and places like Cracker Barrel, Walmart, and Cabela’s tend to be friendly toward RVers looking to rest.) You’re sure to feel better after a good rest, and you and your family will be much safer with a well-rested driver behind the wheel.
Make Wide Turns
One of the most common mistakes new RVers make? Attempting to make tight turns. You’ll get a better feel for how much space you need to turn as you drive your rig more, but go wider than you think you need to in the beginning and always make sure to watch both sides of the RV as you turn.
Because RVs need to make such wide turns, it’s best to stick to large, roomy parking areas at first. The aforementioned Walmart and Cabela’s are usually good bets, and truck stops tend to be ideal gas stops.
Take It Slow, Stay Right, and Leave Space
Nobody has ever won a race in an RV. This isn’t a bad thing. It can be fun to take it slow and really take in all the sights. Besides, going slower makes driving your RV safer. In fact, many don’t recommend going faster than 55 or 60 mph with a big rig or when towing.
Because you’re going to be driving slowly, be sure to stay to the right and let others pass. Turn on emergency lights if you find yourself climbing up a hill slowly, and always keep an eye out for the right lane to become an exit-only lane so you can get over as necessary.
Finally, we also recommend leaving lots of space between you and the vehicle in front of you. Remember that your RV is quite heavy, and even when you’re going slower than the rest of traffic, it will likely take you more time to come to a complete stop should you come upon a traffic jam.
Know Your Size
Speaking of being heavy, it is super important to know your size when driving your RV. Carefully planning your route will likely steer you clear of low clearances and bridges not meant for large vehicles. That said, there is always the chance you might accidentally make a wrong turn or miss something in the planning process. In these cases, knowing your height and weight could save your rig or even your life.
Of course, knowing how tall you are and how much you weigh is only half of what you need to do. You’ll also need to watch for signage indicating low clearances, bridges with weight limits, and other challenges.
Practice, Practice, Practice
Finally, our most important tip: practice, practice, practice. Nobody is born knowing how to drive an RV, and the only way to get completely comfortable behind the wheel of your rig is to drive it. Head to a large, empty parking lot and practice turning to get a feel for what your turn radius is like. Practice backing up and parking in the lot as well, using the lines on the ground to make your imaginary “campsite.”
Once you’re comfortable driving in the parking lot, do some driving on low-traffic roads with few obstacles before you hop on the highway.
By keeping these tips in mind, you should be able to hit the road in your RV with confidence and reach your destination safely. Of course, you’ll need to buy the RV before you can drive it. That’s where National Vehicle comes into play. Check out our many RV listings right here on our site to find the perfect home-on-wheels for you!