How Hard Is It To Drive An RV?Anthony Day
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RV living is more popular than ever for both retirees and entire families. Before you go out and buy an RV, you should consider how hard is it to drive an RV?
Buying a large home and settling down is becoming a thing of the past. More and more Millennials are choosing van life instead of leasing an apartment, but it isn’t just Millennials. Many retirees as well as entire families have decided to take their life on the road and live out of an RV. Even if that sounds like an adventure, you should make sure that you are prepared for the rigors of life on the road before you take off for the great outdoors.
An RV may be hard to drive at first, but it will get easier with practice. RVs are heavier, larger, slower, and have a wider turn radius than cars. However, all you have to do is go extra slow, give yourself room to brake, and have a spotter for parking. This will make driving an RV much easier.
You can make driving your RV easier by strategically planning your route ahead of time. This means avoiding stop-and-go traffic and finding alternative routes if your RV is too big to fit under a bridge. RV owners often have an easier time fueling up at truck stops instead of normal gas stations. Truck stops are designed for larger vehicles, so you will have an easier time fitting and positioning your RV.
General information on RVs comes from Togo RV, Camper Report, and Motor Biscuit. Expertise on braking in an RV was provided by Mark Polk via RV Business News. A first-hand account of driving an RV is from Bryce Cripe through Campanda Magazine.
Is It Difficult to Drive an RV?
Whether or not it is difficult to drive an RV depends on your experience. If you previously rode your bike everywhere or if your old ride was a smart car, then yes, it will be a big adjustment for you. If you have experience driving a semi-truck, towing trailers, or operating construction equipment, then driving an RV should be relatively easy for you.
The hardest part of driving an RV is the initial adjustment. RVs are significantly bigger than cars so they will accelerate and brake slower, have a wider turn radius, and the back of the RV may swing out when you turn.
Anyone can drive an RV as long as you get enough practice and exercise caution. Driving an RV is not that much harder than driving a car, it is just different from driving a car. Once you spend a few days on the road, you will get used to your RV.
Generally, newer RVs are easier to drive than older models because they have more intuitive controls, more safety features, and they run more smoothly.
Tips For Driving an RV
Much like driving a car, there are a few things that you can do to make the experience easier. The best way to make driving an RV easier is practice. You will be able to adjust to the large vehicle over time. Here are 6 beginner tips for how to safely drive an RV:
- Know Your Height and Width
When you’re driving a car, you don’t have to worry about the height of bridges or tunnels. However, RVs are both taller and wider than normal vehicles, so you may not fit in certain spaces as easily.
Before you start a trip, take a measuring tape and measure the total height of your RV, including any air conditioning units or storage on the top. Measure the length and width too. Write all your measurements on a sticky note and keep it on the dashboard. This way, when you see clearance signs for bridges, overpasses, and tunnels, you will know if you can safely fit through or if you need to go around.
- Secure All Your Belongings
Unlike a car, you are carrying a lot of additional weight in your RV. The basic vehicle itself is normally over 5,000 pounds before you pack your belongings. Due to the number of items in the RV, the center of gravity will be different than it would be with a car. The load can affect acceleration and braking.
Before a new leg of the trip, tie down all your belongings to keep them secure. This will make it easier to safely accelerate and brake. It will also keep you from being distracted by falling items in the back.
- Utilize Your Extra Mirrors
In a car, it is enough to check your mirrors then glance over your shoulder during a lane change. Because an RV is longer than a car, your blindspots will be much bigger. This means that a quick glance over your shoulder might not be enough to spot a car in your blindspot.
RVs come with additional mirrors, sensors, and cameras for this exact purpose. Utilize these tools to make safe turns and lane changes. For new RV drivers, it can also be helpful to have an extra set of eyes. You can ask your passengers to help you look out for other cars.
- Give Yourself Room to Brake
The larger the vehicle, the longer it takes to brake. According to Mark Polk, an RV expert and educator, there are 4 factors that come into play when you brake in an RV.
Perception time and reaction time describe how long it takes you to realize that you need to stop and then the time it takes to move your foot to the brake. If you were traveling 55 miles an hour, your vehicle would travel an additional 240 feet if it took you 3 seconds to react and apply the brakes.
After you brake, there is brake lag in which the brakes take a few seconds to engage in response to you pushing the pedal. Finally, there is stopping distance, which is how long it takes your vehicle to come to a complete stop after you engage the brakes.
Most drivers only think about stopping distance when they decide how much room to put between themselves and other drivers. However, you also need to give yourself the time to react, which means giving yourself extra room.
The best rule of thumb for following distance is that you give yourself 1 second of distance for every 10 feet of vehicle length. Then you should add 3-5 seconds of distance to factor in your reaction time.
A great tip for first time RV drivers is to drive behind a large semi-truck. Semis are one of the few vehicles on the road that are larger than RVs and will stop slower than RVs. When you drive behind a semi, you will have more time to stop than you would if you were driving behind a car.
- Search For RV-Safe Driving Routes
When you are driving an RV, you will need to plan out your route more thoroughly than you would if you were in a car. This is because RVs may have difficulty on steep roads due to their weight. It is best to pre-plan your route to avoid low tunnels, narrow bridges, and steep inclines.
You will also need to plan where you will be stopping for gas. Most gas stations are designed for standard-sized cars, not for RVs or larger vehicles. You may not be able to fit in the fueling areas very easily. It is best for RV drivers to fuel up at truck stops, which are able to accommodate larger vehicles.
- Make Small Adjustments When Steering
Because RVs are so large, any jerk of the wheel can send your vehicle careening into the next lane over. When you drive your RV, work with the power steering by making small adjustments. This is even more necessary when you are driving on wet roads or in storms.
It can be tempting to seize up and grip the wheel until your knuckles turn white, but that will do more harm than good. When you drive your RV, just remember that you are in control and that the vehicle is your friend. Work with your RV instead of trying to muscle the steering wheel around or trying to force it up to a speed that it doesn’t want to go.
Why is Driving an RV So Different From Driving a Car?
If you’ve already taken your RV out for the first leg of a trip, you’ll probably notice that it is a very different kind of driving from driving a car. In his article for Campanda Magazine, Bryce Cripe reflected on how RVs are different from cars. Some differences are to be expected, for example the larger turn radius, tail swing, and slower braking.
However, Cripe also noted that RV miles are different from car miles. After 75-100 miles, the driver will start to feel fatigued from driving the RV. This occurs because driving an RV is often more strenuous than driving a car. The controls require more reaching, driving requires more awareness, and your RV will not be able to cover distances as fast as a car would.
When you are on a trip in your RV, be sure to stop for a break every 75-100 miles. Not only is this an opportunity to discover an amazing roadside diner, it will allow everyone to stretch their legs. The driver may want to shake out their arms and get refreshed for the next part of the journey.
Cripe advises families and couples traveling in RVs to:
- Enjoy the journey without rushing.
- Accept that RV trips are slower than car trips.
- Take frequent breaks that last at least an hour.
- Factor breaks and your driving speed into your travel plan.
- Give yourself plenty of time to get to your destination.
- Understand your limits for travel distances.
Cripe discovered that his preferred distance for RV travel is around 250 miles. Trips longer than 300 miles were too much. Your family’s travel limits will depend on how many people are in your RV, as well as their ages. It will also depend on the RV driver’s experience with driving large vehicles and the amount of practice that they have had in that RV.