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20 Common RV Mistakes

Updated on February 4th, 2024

Owning an RV can give you a lot of freedom. You can hit the road without having to leave behind any of the comforts of home.

However, not everything about RV living is easy. In fact, many rookies experience some embarrassing setbacks. Here are some of the most typical RV mistakes people make.

Some of these seem elementary, but they do happen. It’s easy when you have an RV to overlook some things when planning, traveling or currently camping.

So when you go on a trip, make sure you keep your eyes open for these things.

They are:

Parking In The Wrong Place

Just because you have a house on wheels doesn’t mean you can park it wherever you want. Many places don’t allow RVs to park in their lots overnight.

Don’t just assume that you can park your RV anywhere. Make sure you are clear as to where you can park it.

You don’t want to get a knock on the door in the middle of the night asking you to move. This can put you in quite a predicament.

Not Reading The Owners Manual

An RV isn’t like a car. Because of this, you really need to read the owner’s manual. Familiarize yourself with how all of the controls work.

A frustrated woman reading a needlessly complicated how-to manual.
A frustrated woman reading a needlessly complicated how-to manual.

You need to know things like how to operate your slide-outs, dump your waste and level out your RV. Don’t just assume that you will learn how to do these things while you are on the road.

Read the owner’s manual several times, and take notes if need be. This will ensure that you know how to operate your RV before you hit the road.

Driving Off Abruptly

Before you drive off, you need to prepare to do so. Typically many RV owners forget to do a walk around of their RV looking for any mistakes.

Don’t just drive off abruptly. You need to walk around the outside of your RV to make sure that you pick up your wheel chocks, disconnect your sewer lines, take the antenna down and make sure your tires are fully inflated.

Always take the time to walk around your RV before driving off. By failing to do a walk-around, you could damage expensive equipment.

Failing To Prepare for A Trip

You may be spending weeks at a time in your RV. Because of this, you need to prepare for your trip. You should prepare in the following ways:

-Start by creating a budget. Determine how much money you will need for things like fuel, food and campground reservations. Don’t forget to put aside a little bit of extra money for emergencies as well. 

-You really need to plan your route. There may be some places that you aren’t able to easily get to because of the size of your RV. You don’t want to get stuck in an awkward predicament because you didn’t plan your route ahead of time.

It can be pretty stressful if you get lost. 

-Make reservations well in advance. It’s not uncommon for campgrounds to fill up quickly. If they don’t have a space available for you, they will deny you entrance.

Many campgrounds have pretty strict requirements. They won’t accept RVs that are of a certain age.

Some campgrounds will also have restrictions pertaining to pets and children. You need to know all of this information before arrival.

Once you know where you want to stay, make your reservations. This will ensure that there’s space for your RV.

Not Planning Enough Time

RVs don’t move as fast as cars. Because of this, it may take longer to get to a destination than you anticipated.

Many rookie RV drivers don’t plan enough time. They can easily get behind schedule, and they may miss things because they didn’t plan the appropriate amount of time to get from one destination to another.

Don’t assume that you will be going the speed limit the whole time you are in your RV. In fact, many times you will be driving a lot slower than this.

Don’t try to rush to each destination. Allow yourself some leeway in your schedule so that you don’t feel pressed for time constantly.

Ignoring Problems

While you are traveling, things may go wrong. After all, there are quite a few parts that keep your RV up and running.

If you notice a problem, don’t ignore it. This can lead to you being stranded.

Take the time to figure out what is wrong. In some instances, typical RV mistakes need to be taken to a mechanic.

While this is inconvenient, it will keep you from being stranded on the side of the road. You can lessen the likelihood of breakdowns occurring by having your RV maintained regularly.

Before going on a long trip, take it to the mechanic to check for any potential issues.

Buying An RV That’s To Small

Another typical RV mistake is buying one that is way to small! RVs aren’t cheap. Some consumers try to save money by purchasing the cheapest RV that they can find.

Once they are on the road, they tend to find that their RV is just too small. Never purchase an RV solely based on the price.

Make sure it is large enough to actually meet your needs. Take into account who will be traveling with you.

You don’t want to feel cramped during your time on the road. You’re better off having too much space instead of not having enough of it.

Not Stopping For Gas Enough

It can be a pain trying to put gas in an RV. Many gas stations aren’t set up in a way that makes it easy for large vehicles to get in and out of.

Don’t forego stopping for gas because you don’t want to deal with this. If you don’t fill up when you can, you run the risk of running out of gas.

someone pumping gas into their camper

This is especially true if you will be traveling to remote areas. Know your gas mileage, and make sure you map out gas stations on the way.

Failing To Store Your RV The Right Way

Unless your RV is your permanent home, you will need to store it at one point or another. Make sure you store it the right way.

If it will be stationed at a destination where it gets cold, make sure you winterize it. Completely empty all of your tanks.

If your RV won’t be stored in a garage, figure out another way to cover it. It may be a good idea to purchase a removable carport to keep it under.

An RV cover can also provide some sort of protection. By not taking the time to store your RV properly, you run the risk it getting damaged.

This is a very common and typical mistake people with an RV make!

Not Being Prepared For An Emergency

Emergencies will happen when you are on the road. If you are in a remote area, it may be difficult to get help.

This is why you need to be prepared. Make sure you have an air compressor that can be powered by your cigarette lighter.

It’s also a good idea to have a tire patch kit. Just make sure you know how to use it ahead of time.

Have a fully stocked first-aid kit with you. It should include everything from bandages to gauze.

Keep a tool kit on hand. You would be surprised how many times you will need a screwdriver or pair of pliers while you are on the road.

Keep a fire extinguisher in the kitchen area. It will prove to be very beneficial if a fire occurs.

While no one wants to think about emergencies, it’s better to prepare ahead of time so that you can deal with one if it does occur.

Getting Sleepy Behind The Wheel

An RV can be a very dangerous piece of machinery when there is a sleepy driver behind the wheel. Before setting out for the day, make sure you get plenty of sleep.

Allow for time to take a nap if needed. When you start feeling sleepy, pull over. It’s not worth getting into a wreck because you were trying to get to your destination quickly.

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Using The Wrong Type Of Toilet Paper

A clogged toilet is a big deal in an RV. Many clogs happen because the wrong type of toilet paper was used.

An RV’s toilet and sewer system are different than the ones at your home. Because of this, you need to use toilet paper that dissolves quickly.

Purchase toilet tissue that’s made for RVs. This will help prevent it from clogging your toilet or your drains.

Make sure you also have a plunger on hand. This will help you fix a clogged toilet quickly.

Mounting To Much Weight On Your Bumper

When you are traveling, you may want to bring an item with you that you have to mount to your bumper. In many instances, you can do this, but need to do it in a smart way.

Your RV’s bumper is only able to support so much weight. It’s a good idea to get bumper supports.

They will allow you to support the extra weight, and you won’t have to worry about destroying your bumper in the process. If you think an item is too heavy for your bumper, then it probably is.

It just might be a good idea to leave it behind.

Foregoing A Backup Plan

Not everything will go as planned during your travels. You will need to have a backup plan.

Know what you will do if you breakdown. Have the number of the person you need to contact to get your RV fixed.

You should also know what your warranty covers and where acceptable service centers are. Make sure you have this information readily available just in case you need to get to it quickly.

Not Taking Into Account Your Size

Your RV is a lot bigger than an average vehicle. It can be difficult to figure out how to park or turn around.

Miscalculating your size can cause you to hit something. Until you get used to your RV, it’s a good idea to use a spotter to notice any typical mistakes.

When you need to park it, have one of your travel companions get out of the RV to help you. They can help guide you into your parking spot, and they will keep you from hitting something.

two bikes on the back of a camper

If you have a backup camera, utilize it. While you shouldn’t depend on it fully, it can at least help keep you from inadvertently backing up into something.

When you are driving your RV, be mindful of curbs. Don’t take them too fast.

You may need to slow down well under the speed limit. This will help you get around a curve safely, and you won’t tip your RV. It’s better to go around a curve too slow than too fast.

Leaving Items Lying Around

Your items will get jostled around while you are driving. You need to make sure everything is secure.

This will keep your items from getting ruined, and it will keep you safe as well. Don’t think that because you put items in cabinets they will be secure.

These doors can fly open easily when you are turning a corner. It’s a good idea to invest in latches to keep them closed.

Bungee cords can be very beneficial as they can help secure large items. Before you get behind the wheel to drive to your next destination, walk through your RV.

Look for items that need to be secured, and then take the appropriate steps to keep them securely in place.

Spending Too Much Time Trying To Find A Campsite That’s Perfect

Each campsite probably has some perks and disadvantages. Don’t spend too much time trying to find the perfect spot.

In reality, this simply doesn’t exist. If you will just be spending one night at a campground, you really shouldn’t spend a lot of time trying to decide which campsite is best.

It’s more important that you get settled quickly.

Staying Secluded

You can meet a lot of friends while you are traveling. Try not to stay secluded.

Talk to other RV enthusiasts when you are camping. You guys can talk about the trials and tribulations of RV life, and you can give each other some insider information.

You don’t have to socialize with others every single day, but you should make it a point to at least be friendly with those you meet along the way.

Forgetting About The Battery Disconnect Switch

Many RV rookies forget about the disconnect switch for their battery. Unfortunately, this just leads to an RV that won’t start.

Make it a habit to turn off your RV’s batteries before you step foot outside of your RV. The last thing you want to happen is to be stuck out in the middle of nowhere with a dead battery.

This is another typical mistake made by people whose new to RVs!

Issues With The Slide Outs

Slide-outs are great, but you may find that you have a lot of issues with them. These issues tend to occur when extending or retracting them.

When you are extending them, make sure you have enough clearance outside. You don’t want to inadvertently hit anything.

When it comes time to retract them, move everything in their path out of the way. You don’t want your personal possessions to get crushed.

In conclusion, RV living has a lot of perks. However, there are some things that can go wrong along the way.

By trying to avoid the typical RV mistakes mentioned above, you can make your time in your RV more enjoyable and memorable.

Related Questions

  1. What are some common places where parking an RV overnight is not allowed?

Common places where parking an RV overnight is generally not allowed include residential streets and neighborhoods due to local laws, and commercial spaces like shopping centers, which often prohibit overnight parking.

Furthermore, many public parks, beaches, and rest areas also have restrictions on overnight RV parking to maintain safety and preserve the environment.

  1. What are some key things to check during a walk-around of an RV before driving off?

Before driving off in an RV, it’s important to check the tire pressure and condition, ensure all the lights and signals are working, verify the fluid levels (oil, coolant, and transmission), inspect the hitch and towing equipment, and make sure all external equipment like awnings and satellite dishes are properly stowed.

It’s also critical to check that doors, windows, and storage compartments are secure, and no leaks or unusual noises are coming from the RV, indicating potential mechanical issues.

  1. What are some considerations when planning a route for an RV trip?

When planning a route for an RV trip, it’s essential to consider the size and height of your RV, as this can limit which roads, tunnels, and campgrounds you can access, as well as the availability of RV-friendly facilities such as propane, dump stations, and power hookups along the route.

Additionally, it’s important to account for travel time and distance between destinations, ensuring you have enough rest breaks and overnight stops, keeping in mind seasonal weather conditions, and taking into consideration popular attractions or scenic routes that you may want to explore.

  1. What are some common mistakes people make when buying an RV, and how can they be avoided?

Common mistakes when buying an RV include not thoroughly researching the RV’s make, model, and maintenance history, and failing to consider the total cost of ownership beyond the purchase price.

These can be avoided by doing diligent research about the vehicle, conducting a professional inspection before purchase, and budgeting for insurance, maintenance, fuel costs, and other expenses associated with RV ownership.

  1. What are some essential items to have in an RV for emergency situations?

In an RV for emergency situations, it’s essential to have a well-stocked first-aid kit, a multi-tool, a fire extinguisher, emergency food and water supplies, flashlights with extra batteries, road flares, a tire repair kit, and a portable weather radio.

Additional items like a back-up power source, maps, a compass, emergency blankets, and an emergency whistle can also be critical in varying circumstances.

"Of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt."
-- John Muir
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