Let’s say you have done your research. You’ve dug deep into the sometimes mysterious, yet always rewarding underbelly of the world of RVs and you’ve decided that a motorhome is the best fit for your family’s needs.
Of course, a motorhome is one thing on the screen and something else in the real world. Especially when it finally comes time to get behind the wheel and take your motorhome on the road.
Driving a motorhome for the first time can be a little bit of a challenge, even for someone who may have spent decades driving cars and pickup trucks.
There are a lot of details that come into play from the very first instant you take it off the dealership’s lot or out of the private seller’s driveway.
The last thing you want is to make a major investment in the motorhome of your dreams only to crash it or be pulled over a few minutes after signing on the dotted line.
In this article, we will take a look at some helpful tips to both get you ready to drive a motorhome for the first time, as well as things you need to be mindful of from the very first second you sit behind the wheel.
This includes things like factoring in the type and size of the motorhome, as well as driving tips, and minor legal issues that might need to be addressed to be truly “Road Legal.”
Which RV Is the Easiest to Drive?
Motorhomes are broken down into three different classes. These designations are based on key criteria like length and weight, based on both federal and state transportation regulations.
Below are the three motorhome classes, and how difficult they are for inexperienced drivers to maneuver.
What Is It Like To Drive A Class A Motorhome?
These motorhomes are engineered and built using heavy-duty materials in the frame and chassis.
Many use the same frame or chassis of a commercial bus, which allows them to be as long as 44 feet or more.
They offer plenty of storage, sleeping space and amenities that you can’t find in smaller motorhomes.
However, they are also big, bulky and can be challenging to navigate through tight campsites and small gas stations.
Some states require that you have a special driver’s license endorsement to legally drive a Class A motorhome.
Some of these regulations are based on weight, and others are based on length. So, be sure to familiarize yourself with the motorhome transportation laws for your states as well as any states you plan to visit in the reasonable future.
Some of the challenges of driving a Class A Motorhome include the overall size when it comes to making turns and navigating through tight campgrounds.
You also have to pay attention to the local weather forecast and beware “Wind Warnings For High Profile Vehicles.”
You might also need to drive past standard gas stations and stick to only using truck stop fuel stations. Especially if you have a Class A motorhome that has a diesel pusher engine.
What Is It Like To Drive A Class B Motorhome?
These motorhomes are more like robust camper vans. Many of them use the same kind of frame and chassis that you see in tradesmen vans and transit vans.
Then the side walls are often upgraded and other amenities are woven in. A few of the best Class B motorhomes will even have things like a slide out section or a wet bath.
Of all the motorhomes, most experienced RV drivers will argue that Class B motorhomes are the easiest RV to drive.
Most states don’t require any sort of special licensing, or drivers license endorsement to legally drive a Class B motorhome. However, some insurance providers may ask for extra insurance.
Some of the challenges of driving a Class B motorhome come in the form of wide turns and body leanings as the suspension tries to deal with the weight distribution if you need to take a banked turn on the highway at speed.
Though this is a minor concern as Class B motorhomes tend to be the easiest to drive
What Is It Like To Drive A Class C Motorhome?
Despite their letter designation, most Class C motorhomes are larger than Class Bs and a few of the largest Class C motorhomes even rub shoulders with their larger Class A brothers.
With that in mind, they tend to offer the best of both worlds when it comes to the balance of how luxury, comfort and space affect size and driving difficulty.
Some smaller Class C motorhomes are arguably as easy to drive as a camper van or a Class B motorhome.
Some of the challenges of driving a Class C motorhome are very similar to those faced by large Class A motorhomes.
You will need to plan on making wide turns as well anticipate the need for greater braking distance.
If you have a tall Class C motorhome with an overhead bunk of loft, you will also need to pay attention to high wind warnings for tall profile vehicles.
Getting A Feel For Driving A Motorhome For The First Time
This is another one of those times where practice makes perfect, or at least practice makes for improvement.
Just like when you were 15 years old and practicing for your learners permit, the mall parking lot on a quiet Sunday morning is a great place to get a feel for how your motorhome handles.
Though this doesn’t address the fact that you are still going to have to get it home from the dealership’s lot or the private seller’s home.
15 Tips To Remember When Driving A Motorhome For The First Time
Bringing your motorhome home for the very first time is arguably as thrilling as it is frightening. Especially if you have never driven a motorhome before!
You can use the following motorhome driving tips to help improve your chances of a smooth, risk free first drive.
1: Pick A Time When The Roads Are Quiet
Friday during 5 o’clock rush hour is not the ideal time to get behind the wheel of a motorhome for the first time.
Instead try to pick a time that is more in the early afternoon on a weekday, when people are at home or back at their offices after lunch. Also factor in how long your drive will be.
If possible try to choose B-roads rather than main highways and other roads with a lot of traffic.
2: Check & Double Check Your Mirrors
Even the most well-designed Class B motorhome will still have significant blind spots. So, take your time making sure your mirrors are perfectly tuned to your driver’s position.
If possible, try to have another person with you in the cab to help keep an eye out for cars and other road obstacles.
3: Go Slow
Slow and steady wins the race, and it also helps you drive safe. This is not the time to try to pass someone in the outside lane.
Stick to the slow lane, go the speed limit or perhaps even 5 miles per hour under it.
Pay attention to how the motorhome moves on the curves and be prepared to take wider than average turns.
4: Get To Know Your Motorhome
Just like when you get a new car, truck or van, it takes a little bit to get used to how it handles compared to what you’ve been used to.
This really is one of those times where an hour or three in a quiet mall parking lot on a Sunday morning will go a long way toward keeping you out of or helping you get yourself out of white-knuckle moments in your RV driving future!
5: Taking Your Motorhome On Your First Trip
Ideally, you want your first trip in your motorhome to be relatively short.
Try to plan up something like a midweek overnight trip, or perhaps a long weekend, for your first adventure, rather than a cross country odyssey.
While you are on the road try to keep the following tips in mind.
6: The Slow Lane Is Your Friend
Even if you drive your car in the fast lane on your average morning commute, you still want to keep your RV in the slow lane as much as possible when you are on the highway.
This will give you plenty of time to see obstacles coming, and prepare for curves or having to brake.
7: Accelerating And Braking Distances Are Longer
Motorhomes weigh more than even heavy-duty one-ton pickup trucks.
So, if you absolutely do have to pass someone, or merge onto a highway via an on ramp be prepared for it to take longer than you expect to get up to speed.
When it comes to braking, it will also take longer. Sometimes much longer.
Pay close attention to flashing yellow lights that tell you the upcoming stop lights are about to turn red.
If someone pulls ahead of you a little too close on the highway, do your best to slow down until their rear bumper is no longer inside of your minimum braking distance.
8: Plan In Advance & Use RV GPS Apps
Modern day GPS mapping technology has evolved by leaps and bounds in recent years.
To the point that there are even RV planning apps available with some of the most popular GPS systems.
This lets you find the safest and most efficient route from Point A to Point B.
Some of the best RV GPS mapping apps will even include things like low bridges, active road construction and other common road obstacles.
Double-checking your route before setting off will spare you a lot of the last second accidents that doom some RV vacations.
9: Pay Attention To The Weather
As we mentioned earlier high winds can pose a major threat to tall profile vehicles like Class A and Class C motorhomes.
Ideally, you want to get in the habit of checking the weather at night as well as the next morning before setting off for the day.
You might want to also get an app alert or weather warning device that is set to monitor the weather based on your GPS location.
10: Pay Attention To Any And All Height Signs
Make sure you know your motorhome’s maximum height and then add a few inches in your mind’s eye just to be safe.
While obvious tunnels and low bridges with clear signs on them will come into play, even something as simple as the height restriction at a fast food drive-thru or the awning of a fuel station can just as easily come into play.
If you can’t immediately see a height sign at a drive-thru, gas station or ATM, it’s best to park and walk up rather than risk an accident, or enduring a messy backup scene.
11: Choose Your Fuel Station Wisely
You might not even think about the overhead awning when you go to fuel up your car or SUV at a gas station.
Though a lot of the tallest Class A and Class C motorhomes can be too tall to safely drive under shorter gas station awnings.
Even the ones that the motorhome will fit under might have very tight corners and blind spots that make it very hard to drive in or out again.
If possible, try to stick to truck stops and commercial gas stations for buses and over the road semi trucks.
They are specifically designed to let tall vehicles enter, fuel up and exit with ease.
A lot of them also have stores that hold common RV supplies and restaurants where you can get a good meal without having to try to cook in your RV kitchen while driving down the road.
12: Beware Of Tail Spin When Turning
A lot of new motorhome drivers focus hard on the direction they are turning, and for good reason. You don’t want to accidentally crash into someone or something in the other lane.
Though where you are going is only part of the equation. The “Tail” or rear section of the RV behind the rear wheels also swings out and can be a real hazard to vehicles driving through the threatened lane.
13: Consider Investing In A Backup Camera
Some newer motorhomes come with backup cameras installed in the rear or sides of the RV that make it easier to reverse into a tight campsite, or just back into your own driveway.
If your new motorhome doesn’t have a backup camera, you might want to consider investing in having one installed.
At the very least, you should recruit someone to serve as a spotter for you any time you put your motorhome in reverse.
14: Get On The Same Page With Your Spotter
If your motorhome doesn’t have a backup camera, you don’t want to invest in one, or you simply appreciate having a second pair of eyes, you need the services of a trustworthy spotter.
Though backing up a 40-foot long RV is not the time for metaphors and vague descriptions.
Take the time with your spotter to make sure that you both understand the hand signals and terms you will use when it comes time to back up your motorhome.
This will eliminate confusion, stressful in-the-moment arguments, and reduce the risk of a costly accident.
15: Take Into Account Your Trailer Or Tow-Flat Vehicle
A lot of motorhomes come with the horsepower and towing package to let you pull a trailer or flat-tow a runabout vehicle.
Not only does this add to the overall length of your rig, and affect the driving dynamics, but it also needs to be accounted for any time you reverse.
Even the most experienced motorhome drivers will take the time to unhitch any flat towed vehicle or trailer before reversing their motorhome.
Taking four or five extra minutes to do this will save you a lot of headaches when backing into your campsite.
Motorhomes represent one of the best ways to take the comforts of home with you on your RV adventure. Though they certainly do drive differently than a car, SUV or even a full-size pickup truck.
Picking the safest possible moment to drive your new motorhome home, will give you the breathing room and time you need to practice in a quiet mall parking lot, or taking laps around the block.
Once you are on the road, take the time to plan your trip, stay abreast of the weather, and taking it slow will help keep you safe.
When it comes time to back into your campsite, get any trailers out of the way, and then recruit a separate set of eyes or a camera to help you carefully reverse your rig into the perfect place.