Learn To Drive A Motorhome: 15 Great Driving Tips (For Beginners)

In RV living by Christopher Schopf

I’ve always dreamt of owning a motorhome.  Being able to go wherever I wanted whenever I wanted while still having a home with me seemed like the ultimate freedom.

The problem is, thinking about actually driving a motorhome was never a dream.  Motorhomes are big and I’d always driven a car so I assumed they’d be hard to drive.

Luckily, driving a motorhome isn’t very difficult to drive.

Are motorhomes easy to drive?
Motorhomes may take some time to learn to drive but most people can learn it.  There is a learning curve to driving a large vehicle and there are many thoughts that new motorhome drivers need to keep in mind when driving a motorhome.

 

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Experience is always the best teacher and you’ll get better at driving your motorhome each time you drive it.

Here are our very best tips to help get you started!

1) Always Do PMI Before Hitting The Road

Camper exterior length

PMI (Preventative Maintenance Inspections) will help you find any issues your motorhome has before you hit the road.

Remember motorhomes are much larger than standard vehicles and as a result, problems can quickly become much larger in a motorhome than they would be in a standard vehicle.

Always be sure to check your tires, mirrors, brake lights, and turn signals before you head out on the road.

Fixing these problems at home might not be that difficult but once on the road, this could be an entirely different story.  This is especially true if you intend on visiting BLM land or some other remote area.

2) Know Your Turning Radius

The turning radius of a motorhome is different than the turning radius of other vehicles.

You need to recognize this and compensate for it before you make your turn.  In most cases, you’ll have to drive further a little further out on right turns and you may have to angle the opposite direction first before making either turn.

The same holds true for backing into spots and parallel parking.

3) Practice Driving On Empty Roads

rv on the road

While reading about helpful tips and taking pointers from professional drivers is a great way to get help driving your motorhome, it can never replace real experience.

The best step you can take to becoming a better motorhome driver is to drive your motorhome as much as possible.

When you’re first starting out, try driving on roads during the off hours.  If this isn’t possible, use infrequently traveled roads so you won’t have any other traffic to worry about.

Empty parking lots are also a great place to practice both driving and parking.

The easiest way to find these parking lots is to go to an office building on a weekend. 

Often times these offices are full during the week but are completely abandoned on the weekends.

4) Make Sure Everything Inside Your Motorhome is Secure

Distracted driving is dangerous driving.

While we all know that we shouldn’t use our cell phones while driving it is sometimes difficult to remember just how many unsecured items there are in a motorhome.

Always make sure you put everything in your motorhome away before you start your vehicle up.  Driving around town while kitchen knives and other dangerous objects roll around in the back of your motorhome is dangerous.

5) Make Sure Everything Outside of Your Motorhome is Secure

Additional antennae, satellites, staircases, jacks, sewer hoses, water hoses, and chock blocks can all be easy to forget about.  Leave them on or around your vehicle and you’ll have trouble driving before you even get out of your parking lot.

When you’re doing your PMI, take an extra few minutes to make sure you’ve properly secured everything outside of your vehicle.

6) Give Yourself Additional Breaking Distance

Motorhomes have larger brakes than regular vehicles but they also weigh a lot more.

The stopping distance on a motorhome is going to be much longer than it is in a passenger car or SUV.  Most experts recommend that you give yourself at least an extra 6 seconds between you and the vehicle in front of you.

Giving yourself more space between you and the vehicle in front of you helps. 

You need to make up for the fact that the vehicle in front of you will most likely be able to stop much quicker than you can.

7) Give Yourself More Time to Merge

A motorhome can’t get up to speed as fast as a regular vehicle.

Additionally, motorhomes are much longer than standard vehicles and you’ll need more room to maneuver your motorhome into traffic.  Because of this, you may end up having to wait a long time before you can merge onto the highway.

So look ahead and make sure you have a lot of space to merge.

8) Drive Slower

Airstream Motorhome learning how to drive it

Because a motorhome’s ability to stop, turn quickly, and react to dangerous situations is slower than a regular vehicle, it is always a good idea to drive slower.

Driving slower will give you additional time to react and will give other motorists more time to get out of your way if they need to.

If you intend to drive fast over a long distance be mindful of the rules regarding fast lanes and carpooling.

9) Plan More Rest-Time

Driving a large motorhome takes more focus and effort than driving a small sedan does.  This means you’ll get tired quicker and you’ll need more rest.  My recommendation is to give yourself twice as much time to make your journey as you would normally take.

This will give you plenty of time to stop and take short rests.

It will also give you additional time to drive slower.

10) Never Allow People to Walk Around Your Motorhome While In Motion

Just because you have a bathroom in your vehicle, it doesn’t mean you should use it while in motion.  Motorhomes have the same seat belt rules as standard vehicles in most states and you’ll want to make sure everyone is sitting down with their seat belts on at all times.

Besides, would you passenger really want to be in the bathroom at the time of an accident?

11) Be Mindful of Blind Spots

A motorhome’s size can cause many blind spots.

This is especially true with larger class C and class A motorhomes.  Before changing lanes or merging onto the highway, recognize that you may not be able to see certain areas next to or behind of your vehicle.

Change lanes slowly and use your turn signals so that other motorists will know exactly what you intend before you do it.

Driving like this will allow others to react to your actions when you cannot.

12) Take Turns Slowly

Tow car pulled behind a Class A RV

Motorhomes are taller than regular vehicles.  While a passenger truck or SUV might be up to six feet tall, a motorhome can often be twice that tall.  This changes its center of gravity and makes the vehicle much more likely to tip.

When turning or coming on and off of intersections, always slow your speed down to or even below the recommended speed limit. 

People behind you may get impatient and tailgate you but slow down anyway.  Slowing down could save both your life and their life as well.

13) Know Your Exact Height and Width

As we just mentioned, motorhomes are taller than your average vehicle. Here’s how to measure your specific models correctly.

Because of this, you’ll need to watch out for low bridges, low hanging wires, and overpasses.  You’ll also need to steer clear of most parking garages as well.

Additionally, you need to worry about the additional width of a motorhome.  A motorhome is often eight feet wide which puts it just at the legal edge for driving on a highway.  Because of this fact, you won’t have much extra space within your lane.

In fact, if the road is undergoing construction, you may not have any extra space at all.  Be mindful of this and try to stay in your lane.

If you are planning on driving through tunnels you should read these tips.

14) Use a Motorhome GPS

A motorhome or trucker’s GPS will help guide you away from low overpasses and roads that will not accommodate your large motorhome.

It will also provide you with extra guidance for finding rest stops, gas stations, and even RV parks.

This can help keep you safe and can also take some of the stress away from worrying about where you’ll be able to stop to get fuel and to rest.  You can plot out your course on your GPS in advance and plan all of your periods of rest before you hit the road.

15) Get Cameras and Proximity Sensors

Backup cameras, blind spot cameras, 360-degree cameras, and proximity sensors can make driving and parking a vehicle much easier.

This is especially true for motorhomes as you will have many more blind spots in a motorhome than you will in a standard car, truck, or SUV.

Cameras can help to guide you when backing up and changing lanes and proximity sensors can tell you instantly whether or not you need to hit the brakes.

In Closing

Motorhomes aren’t easy to drive at first but with a little bit of practice and common sense, they will get easier to drive.

Drive slowly, plan your trips carefully,  and practice before you head out on long trips and you shouldn’t have anything to worry about.  Within a season or two, you’ll wonder why you ever thought driving a motorhome could be difficult.