Class A motorhomes and fifth-wheel RVs can both reach lengths up to forty feet and beyond.
Many people believe that bigger is always better when it comes to their motorhome. Is this really true?
Instead of allowing a salesman to con you into purchasing the latest and greatest RV, here are a few of the facts that you need to know about these Class A motorhomes.
Is a 40-foot motorhome too big?
The extra space is certainly a perk, but many people find themselves frustrated by the inaccessibility of a forty-foot motorhome. These motorhomes are difficult to navigate, come with a lot of expenses, and are often restricted in RV parks and national parks.
This is because they are considered to be “too big” for a campsite.
However, they are great to have if you are able to find a place to park them for long periods of time.
Here are a few more things to consider for buying a motorhome that is over 38 feet!
Typical Regrets for People with Class A Motorhomes
Many people are drawn into the sales pitch that bigger is always better, particularly when it comes to their motorhomes. Class A motorhomes and larger fifth-wheels both reach lengths of forty feet or greater. However, many people who purchase these sizes have some of the same regrets that we hear over and over.
First and foremost, they find it frustrating that not all RV parks are built to accommodate these larger sizes.
Particularly if you are towing another vehicle, your total length from bumper to bumper might be greater than forty feet. If this is the case, you will find that many parks will be forced to turn you away, including some of the National Parks Service areas.
When you do find a spot that can hold your trailer, parking, it can be a real headache. Maneuvering and backing into a spot is a test of patience for an amateur driver.
As you might imagine, the cost to maintain a much larger motorhome is greater than it is to maintain a smaller one. You are bound to spend more on fuel and regular upkeep than you would with a smaller model.
If you are not looking to spend a lot in upkeep, purchasing a forty-foot Class A motorhome might not be the right fit for you.
What Are the Limitations You Face with Huge Motorhomes?
While the extra space found in a huge motorhome can be great, there are a lot of limitations placed upon you as well. This leads many RV owners to regret their purchase at times.
One of the major limitations facing owners of these Class A motorhomes is the restriction set by many national parks.
There are a few that have spots that can accommodate a longer RV, but a forty-foot model is often pushing it. Some parks like Acadia and Olympic National Parks have a limit of just 35 feet.
For more information on the limitations, you will face with National Parks, be sure to see our article here!
Another major limitation comes when facing winding roads and tunnels. For example, Zion National Park can only accommodate trailers that are nineteen feet wide due to the size of their roads and campsites.
Your motorhome may simply be too tall to fit through the tunnels or turns that crop up.
You have to plan your route thoroughly to make sure that you can make it to your destination safely.
You may also be required to have a special license to operate your motorhome.
How Hard is it to Drive a Class A Motorhome?
One of the first major things you need to tackle after purchasing a Class A motorhome is learning how to drive it.
It can take some time and practice to get used to the bulky setup and size of your new motorhome. Before you plan on taking it on a long journey, you need to be aware of a few things.
First, you should always know the turn radius on your vehicle. The way that a motorhome turns is bound to be different than the way your truck or minivan turns.
You need to understand how it works and be able to compensate for it at stoplights. In some situations, you may have to cock the wheel in the opposite direction before being able to make your completed turn.
Always take the time to practice on empty roads instead of busy streets through town.
Head out into the country and spend an afternoon practicing making turns, driving down narrow paths, and handling the twists and turns.
This is also a great time to practice merging into new lanes and braking. Both of these skills require more time than they do with other vehicles. Merging is harder because you cannot speed up as quickly, while braking is harder because you cannot slow down as fast.
Make sure that you give yourself ample space in both scenarios. Be sure to inspect all around your new motorhome for blind spots.
You are bound to find a few areas that are difficult for you to spot from the driver’s seat. Being aware of these areas allows you to take steps toward solving the dilemma with things like backup cameras, extra mirrors, and more.
For more basic driving tips, see our article – “Learn To Drive A Motorhome: 15 Tips (For Beginners)” here!
What Type of Driving License to You Need for 40 Feet Motorhomes?
Many people look at these extra-large motorhomes and wonder whether it is even legal for them to drive these without a special license.
You might be surprised to learn that most states do not require a special license. You can often operate a forty-foot motorhome with your standard driver’s license.
Of course, there are some exceptions to this rule. In some states, you need a Class B CDL to drive a single vehicle with a weight of over 26,000 pounds.
You might also need a Class A CDL for vehicles with a combined gross weight of 26,000 pounds.
States like these include:
- New Mexico
- North Carolina
In other states, you automatically need a CDL if your motorhome exceeds a certain length. For example, Wisconsin requires a CDL for vehicles longer than 45 feet, and California requires a CDL for vehicles over forty feet.
For specific rules on commercial driving licenses with motorhomes, be sure to visit our detailed guide!
What is the Maximum Length for Motorhomes?
Every state will have its own rules and regulations about the maximum length for motorhomes. For the most part, they all allow motorhomes to be a maximum of 45 feet long.
This is good news for those who want to go with a Class A motorhome.
However, this is not the case in every state. There is one exception to this rule, and it requires that your motorhome be a maximum of forty feet long.
Be aware that in states like New Jersey that only allow forty-foot motorhomes, you could be cited with a ticket for driving a longer model.
In other states, you will find a bit more leniency. You could be permitted to drive models up to 55 feet in length.
Here is a breakdown of the states that allow you to drive longer motorhomes:
- Florida (50′)
- Montana (55′)
- North Dakota (50′)
- Washington (46′)
- Wyoming (60′)
While it is perfectly legal for you to drive these longer motorhomes in these states, they may not be legal when you cross state lines.
Keep that in mind if you plan to do a lot of cross-country traveling when you purchase your new motorhome.
Also, even though many states allow for longer motorhomes, you may still be hard-pressed to find RV parks with spots big enough for your motorhome.
Most national parks will exclude RVs that are this size.
Can You do Boondocking With a 40′ Motorhome?
Many people dislike the idea of staying in pristine RV parks and prefer the feel of the great outdoors. This is why boondocking is so appealing to a wide range of people.
The question is, can you still boondock when you have a forty-foot motorhome, or is it limited to people with smaller models?
The good news is that you can still boondock, even with a larger motorhome.
As you might have already guessed, the number of places that you can stay is drastically reduced, though.
A small camper can fit almost anywhere, but it takes more preparation for a larger motorhome.
While it may not be the most convenient thing to boondock with a larger Class A or fifth-wheel, you do have one advantage. These larger motorhomes typically hold more water and can sustain you for longer than their smaller counterparts.
You might be able to stay out longer with a 40′ motorhome instead of a smaller model.
Purchasing a motorhome of any size is a major commitment, but you should know what you are getting into with a forty-foot model.
It certainly has its perks, but it has many limitations as well.
Weighing the pros and cons can help you to determine if this is a wise investment in your future.
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Morten is the founder of GoDownsize. He has filmed and interviewed people living in tiny houses and RVs since 2011. He grew up on the coast where his dad took him boating from a young age. He has completely rebuilt two RVs in which he travels with his family for months at the time. Read more about Morten here.