10 Beginner Mistakes to Avoid For First-Time RVers

Owning an RV is one of the best ways to embrace your sense of adventure and get into the great outdoors. From road trips and…

Owning an RV is one of the best ways to embrace your sense of adventure and get into the great outdoors. From road trips and camping weekends to temporary or full-time living, RVing opens up a ton of possibilities!

However, owning an RV is also a big responsibility, and there are just as many things to avoid as there are to do. Knowing which mistakes to avoid is important if you want to have smooth travels and make the most of your RVing experience.

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1. Overestimating Travel Speed

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Something you’ll soon learn is that traveling takes way longer when you’re doing it in an RV. For instance, if you can usually make a certain trip in three hours, you should plan for it to take at least four or five, depending on the size of your RV. In general, the bigger and heavier your RV is, the longer your journey will take.

2. Forgetting Your Pre-Trip Safety Checks

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Whether you own a travel trailer, motorhome, camper van, or any other type of RV, they all require pre-trip safety checks. A lot can go wrong when you hit the open road with your big rig, so it’s essential to run through everything that could go wrong before you embark.

For motorhomes, make sure the brakes, engine, and mechanics are working properly. With a travel trailer or fifth wheel, double-check that your brake cord is connected and that your brakes and lights are in working order. You should also check the tire pressure and tread on your RV and towing vehicle.

3. Neglecting RV Maintenance

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In addition to your pre-trip safety checks, there’s also plenty of ongoing maintenance involved with owning an RV. It’s important to check the tires, axles, suspension, and mechanics regularly to ensure they’re good to go.

You should also check the roof and window seams on a regular basis to make sure there aren’t any leaks. Finally, it’s a good idea to have a certified RV technician check your plumbing, HVAC, and electrical systems periodically to ensure you won’t be without electricity, air conditioning, or indoor plumbing for your next trip!

4. Don’t Forget About the Tow Vehicle

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If you own a travel trailer or fifth-wheel camper, your tow vehicle is just as important as the RV itself. Therefore, it’s essential that you choose the right vehicle for your needs. Important things to consider are towing capacity, gas mileage, longevity, and passenger space.

Additionally, once you have the right towing vehicle for your needs, it’s important to take care of it with regular maintenance and mechanical checks. You should have your vehicle serviced as often as you have your RV serviced so that they both remain in good shape.

5. Plan Your Route

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Depending on your RV’s size, route planning is absolutely critical to a smooth trip. Many highways have vehicle size restrictions due to low clearance tunnels, steep terrain, winding roads, or weight-restricted bridges.

For instance, on a recent road trip, I was towing our travel trailer through Massachusetts and New York. I was using the Google Maps GPS on my phone, which doesn’t account for vehicle height, length, or width. As a result, I nearly drove down a state highway riddled with low overhangs that my RV never could have made it under.

The only reason I caught the issue in time was that I was paying attention to road warning signs and then stopped to ask for help. If I had done a better job of planning ahead, I could have saved several hours of driving time and a ton of stress.

6. Overloading Your Vehicle

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Another of the most common RV mistakes people make on their first RV trip is overloading their RV and towing vehicles. In addition to potentially putting you over your tow vehicle’s towing capacity, overloading can put an RV or tow vehicle over its payload capacity. This increases the risk of getting into an accident, blowing a tire, or experiencing mechanical failure.

7. Running Out of Gas

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Few things are more embarrassing or inconvenient than underestimating fuel consumption and running out of gas on RV trips. Unfortunately, it’s also one of the most common mistakes that an RV owner can make, especially when you’re traveling in the middle of nowhere.

It’s happened to me on several occasions, which is why I always travel with a five-gallon can of gas, just in case! Remember, it’s always better to err on the side of caution and refuel when you’re at a half or quarter tank than running your rig close to empty.

8. Driving Too Fast

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One of the biggest learning curves for those new to the RV life is that you can’t go as fast while driving or towing an RV as you usually can. No matter how good your brakes are, it takes significantly longer for an RV to stop than it does for other types of vehicles. Therefore, it’s essential to drive at a slower pace, both for your own safety and for those around you.

9. Forgetting to Make Campground Reservations

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Whether it’s your first trip or your tenth, you should never forget to reserve a camping spot wherever you plan to stop. Camping and RVing are more popular than ever, which means campgrounds and RV parks fill up quickly. This is especially true with higher-end RV parks or extended-stay campgrounds with seasonal campers.

10. Improper RV Setup

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In addition to all the mistakes you can make before you hit the road and while you’re driving, there are also mistakes you can make when you arrive at your destination and set up your new RV for the first time.

The biggest mistake you can make during setup is not properly leveling your RV. This will make for an uncomfortable camping experience and make it difficult to dump your holding tanks.

Aside from improper leveling, you should also be wary about where you park your RV. If you’re too close to other campers or your water or electrical hookups, you won’t be able to fully extend your slideouts. However, you also need to be close enough to your hookups to use them.

22 Tiny Campers That Pack a Punch for Epic Road Trips

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Tired of the tent-pitching hassle, dragging cooking gear around, misplacing tent pegs, and the discomfort of sleeping on the ground? Ever glanced at a luxurious RV and thought, “That’d be nice, but without the big price tag and complex upkeep?” Welcome to the world of micro campers!

These compact wonders are easy to tow, set up in a snap, and won’t break the bank. Plus, they’re usually small enough to tuck away in your garage.

11 Best Small RVs That Are Perfect for Couples’ Adventures

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Embracing life in a small RV comes with a heap of perks! You’ll find them a breeze to park and navigate, not to mention the lighter hit on your fuel budget.

The market is bustling with options for compact RVs, ranging from sleek Class B campervans to the slightly roomier Class B Plus and Class C models.

The best part? These pint-sized campers pack in all the essentials you’d expect in their larger counterparts – from climate control to wet baths, cooking facilities, and beyond. It’s all about big adventures in small packages!

Author: Jalin Coblentz


Jalin Coblentz has spent the past three years living full-time in an RV with his wife and their Goldendoodle, Harper. They have traveled and lived in more than a half-dozen different states, including New Hampshire, Ohio, Maine, Michigan, Florida, Montana, Colorado, and Utah, living life one campground at a time. When he's not hiking, golfing, or walking the dog, Jalin enjoys writing about the ups and downs of RVing and helping others who are interested in pursuing a similar path.

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