Remember that first time you got behind the wheel of a car? You probably gave your parent or teacher whiplash as you drove the brake pedal through the floor. You wanted to cry as you tried to look in the rear-view window, around your shoulder, and in front of you—all at the same time—while trying to dodge other cars, feeling like a zebra in a pack of lions. But, like riding a bike, once you got the hang of it, it was smooth(ish) sailing.
Well, welcome to your first time (or first time in a long time) driving a Class A RV.
Let’s face it. Driving an RV can be intimidating, especially that first time behind the wheel. But, going for your first RV trip doesn’t have to be. In fact, it can even be fun.
We have some tips to make that first experience one you’ll never forget. And we mean that in a good way.
Practice makes perfect — Your first time driving a car, now that we’ve brought up those traumatic memories, was probably not on a major highway at rush hour. It was probably in the parking lot of your high school, or some other huge, pavement-slathered space where you were unlikely to hit anything or, more importantly, anyone. This is a good place to start your RV journey. It’s boring, easy, and hard to mess up, and that’s exactly what you want right now. You need to get used to an RV: Your turns will have to be wider, it will take longer to brake, and parking will be a problem. A large parking lot helps you get a feel for it all.
As you learn to drive an RV, you may even want to practice in a lot during windy, rainy, or snowy weather, too.
Make adjustments until you’re comfortable — This is also why the parking lot is a good place to start. You want to think of your RV as a pair of jeans with the new stretch fabric. It’ll take some time to adjust. Push or pull the seat back, tilt your mirrors, and remember that you’re going to be behind the wheel a long time: This isn’t a vehicle you’re gonna use for a run to the gas station for some gum. You may also need to pull over at a rest stop a few times to make additional adjustments once you’ve hit the road, and that’s OK too.
Weather or not — Pay attention to the weather forecast, and don’t be afraid to postpone or even cancel your RV camping trip if the weather looks bad. It’s hard enough driving through a hard rain, snow or ice pellets in a small car, let alone an RV. When you get better at driving the RV — you look like you belong in one of those “Fast and Furious” movies in the high school parking lot. In other words — you can take on any driving conditions. But until then, it’s OK to know your limitations.
Put down your smartphone — Really? You’re trying to read this WHILE YOU’RE DRIVING YOUR RV IN THE PARKING LOT? It’s amazing how many drivers text, talk, or play poker on their phones while they’re trying to drive. You need to watch out for those drivers while you’re getting use to driving RVs. You definitely don’t want any kind of distraction while you’re trying to wield an RV, let alone from someone sending you puppy dog emojis.
Take a deep breath — Like semis, drivers don’t always love RVs. They will try to pass you, sometimes aggressively, and even carelessly. Rather than fight this onslaught of rudeness, you need to do the opposite. You need to be as kind and courteous as you can. It will save you many close calls, perhaps a crash or two, and you’ll feel more relaxed. You may even enjoy your next RV road trip, which is, we think, the point.
Take your time — Speaking of deep breaths, don’t let those other angry drivers push you into going a little faster than you like. You’re supposed to take your time in an RV. Why else did you get it? You don’t hear others talking about a station wagon lifestyle, do you? A family RV is a comfortable living room on wheels where you can cook and shower. You’ll also get better gas mileage, and your relaxed attitude will be twice as safe as those drivers who need to listen to a yoga tape while they drive.
Know your literal limits — Your RV may not fit in that tunnel, just like Winnie the Pooh didn’t fit in Rabbit’s house after he ate too much honey. Know the exact specifications of your vehicle, and that way you won’t have a nasty surprise when you visit a campground or fill your gas tank.
Know the law — Some states may require you to get a special license to drive your motorhome, and you may not be able to travel on all the roads those little VW Beetles can drive. Check the laws, and yes, they are different in each state. By the way, who decided that was a good idea?
Stay to the right — During your RV travels, keep to the far-right lane when you drive. You’ll be able to see better and know when you’re veering too far off the road without a terrified driver screaming at you.
At Fleetwood, we try to make the driving experience as stress-free as possible. That’s why select units offer a Technology Package to alleviate some concerns. While the package includes a Collision Avoidance System to help drivers, other standards (on select units) include a 7” backup color monitor, telescopic steering column, and smart steering wheel.
While these are great additions, always make sure you’re prepared for a tech-less road trip, just in case.