Driving an RV

graphic of traffic light

Let’s face it folks, most RVers jump out of their cars and get behind the wheel of a brand new motorhome for the first time—without thinking of the differences between the two types of vehicles. The same scenario holds true if you are pulling a 30-foot fifth wheel trailer with a pickup. Driving the vehicles may seem to be the same, but maneuvering the vehicles is vastly different.

Obviously, today’s RVs are a lot bigger, longer, and heavier than the family car. An RV is slower to accelerate, and is much slower to bring to a stop. And, of course, don’t forget trying to turn to make a tight right turn in a small town—without tearing down the light pole on the corner.

Driving an RV requires the same common sense and defensive driving tactics as driving the family car, but there are many aspects of driving an RV that are not immediately obvious to the “newbie” (a first-time RVer).

First, Some Basic Tips

Let me take a few minutes and acquaint you with some driving tips and techniques for your RV.

Have Proper Insurance. First and foremost is to have the proper amount of insurance on your RV. A large RV can cause a lot of damage, both to itself and when it hits something else. Please don’t delude yourself into thinking that the minimum state insurance requirements are enough for your RV travels. Most savvy RVers have insurance policies with minimums of 100,000/300,000, and many folks carry higher coverage amounts.

Get an RV Policy from an RV Insurance Company. Secondly, be sure that you purchase your RV insurance policy from a company that specializes in RV insurance—not from your local automobile insurance agent. Oh, sure, they will be glad to sell you a policy, but, in most cases, pity you the poor RVer who has to make a claim on that insurance, and, yes, even you, if you have to make a comprehensive claim. There are several reliable RV insurance companies, so do your due diligence first, before deciding on which one is best for your particular situation.

Know Proper Way to Set Your Exterior Side Mirrors. Before you jump in your new RV and drive off into the sunset, be sure that you have correctly set your side mirrors— both the regular mirrors and the convex mirrors at the bottom.

Large (Upper) Side Mirrors. Most folks really don’t know the proper way to set their side mirrors. First, move them “out” so that the side of your RV is barely visible at the inside edge, and then move them “down” so that the top of the roof at the rear is just barely visible at the top of the mirror. The idea is to maximize the critical areas beside you and behind you. Forget about trying to see a pretty sunset in your side mirrors.

Small (Lower) Convex Mirrors. I was surprised to learn that I didn’t know the correct way to set the small lower side mirrors on my motorhome. The small convex mirrors should be set so that they are as far “out” from the motorhome as possible while still just barely being able to see the side of the RV. These little mirrors are often life savers—showing you that a small car has suddenly driven up right along side you. When you are about to make a lane change, always check your lower mirrors for a vehicle beside you (that don’t show up in your larger mirrors).

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