7 Major Mistakes People Make When Choosing An RV

by Joseph K. Clark

If the coronavirus has you going stir-crazy, there’s a good chance you’ve considered renting or buying an RV and taking a road trip. After all, an RV allows you to travel without exposing yourself to germy airports and hotels.

You wouldn’t be the only person to come up with that idea. In May, peer-to-peer rental service RVshare saw a 650% spike in bookings since the beginning of April.

But if you’re a first-time RV driver, there can be a steep learning curve to overcome. Before you hit the open road, make sure you don’t make one of these significant first-timer mistakes.

1. Believing bigger is better

Considering that you’ll spend a reasonable amount of time in your RV, you want to be comfortable. But that doesn’t mean you should buy the giant RV possible. Choosing something too small will make traveling feel claustrophobic.

“The mistake I made was thinking I needed more space than we needed,” said Angela M. DiLoreto, who travels nearly full-time in her travel trailer and blogs with her husband at Fitting in Adventure. “People compare the space to their houses; we spend a lot of time in the four walls of our home but little time inside the walls of an RV.” However, she said, the RV experience is about what happens outside those walls.

A smaller vehicle will be easier to drive and park and faster to set up and tear down. Plus, many national parks have length restrictions for camping, so keep this in mind when choosing the size of your RV.

2. Buying brand-spanking new

If you’re buying your RV, it might be tempting to lean toward the security of purchasing brand new. After all, new cars are in great shape and ready to roll, so you might presume RVs are, too.


“Unfortunately, this isn’t true in RVing,” said Georgianne Austin, communications director for Escapees RV Club. She said that legal advice shared in RVing circles is that buying an RV at least two years old is best. “The idea behind this is to let someone else deal with the fresh-off-the-lot issues, such as interior construction problems, chassis problems, etc., which surface during the first real ride with the RV.” This is often called the “shakedown” trip.

By purchasing a used RV, someone else has already dealt with those issues that arise with the first few trips and has hopefully had them fixed by the time you take over.

3. Failing to check the carrying capacity

Because RVs are big, you might think they can easily haul whatever you can fit inside. And you might believe that the bigger the RV, the more it can tow. Those misconceptions can cost you, said Kimberly Button, co-editor of Couch Potato Camping. “All RVs are different, based on their designs, but they are only designed to safely carry a certain amount of weight, known as gross cargo carrying capacity.”

Cargo carrying capacities can range from just a few hundred to several thousand pounds. Either way, that limit includes personal items (shoes, clothing, sports gear, etc.), food, water (including fresh, gray, and black tanks), updates or additions to the RV (solar panels, TVs, etc.), and passengers.

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