I have received many, many questions from new RV owners and people wanting to get into RVing. It’s also a popular question on my weekly Tuesday night YouTube RV Q&A at 7 pm mountain time. Check it out here https://www.youtube.com/@trbowlin, and join us to ask any RV-related questions. A couple of weeks ago, I polled my live stream audience for their top tips for new RVers. I’ve compiled their recommendations for the new RV owner, along with my own, for you to keep in mind if you’re new to or considering purchasing a new to you RV. My first tip for new RV owners is to rent first.
I recommend if you are considering buying an RV that, you rent one first. Renting is a low-risk way to check out RVing without committing thousands of dollars. Plus, it helps you learn what things (conveniences) you want in an RV. It’s a real bummer to plop down $15-20,000 or more and discover the RV doesn’t meet your needs.
Renting an RV
Renting an RV can be a great way to explore new destinations and enjoy the freedom and flexibility of the RV lifestyle without the commitment and expense of owning your own RV. Here are some things to consider when renting an RV:
- Determine your budget – RV rental costs can vary widely depending on the size and type of RV, the time of year, and the rental company.
- RVs come in many different sizes and styles, so choosing one that fits your needs and preferences is important. Consider the number of people in your group, the amenities you need, and the type of terrain you’ll be traveling on.
- Plan your route and itinerary in advance to ensure you have enough time to see and do everything you want. Make sure to factor in travel time, rest stops, and time for setting up and breaking down camp.
- Before hitting the road, take some time to familiarize yourself with the RV and its features. Learn how to operate the RV’s systems.
- Make sure you know how to drive and park the RV safely.
- When packing for your RV trip, be mindful of weight limits and space restrictions. Pack light and bring only what you need, and make sure to secure all items to prevent them from moving around during travel.
- Follow RV camping etiquette – When camping in an RV, it’s important to follow proper etiquette and be respectful of other campers. This includes following quiet hours, cleaning up after yourself, and respecting campsite boundaries.
Renting an RV can be a fun and exciting way to explore new destinations and enjoy the great outdoors. Just be sure to plan ahead, choose the right RV for your needs, and follow proper RV etiquette to ensure a safe and enjoyable trip.
Popular RV Rental Companies
Here are some popular RV rental companies that operate in the United States:
- Cruise America – With locations across the country, Cruise America is one of the largest RV rental companies in the United States. They offer a variety of RVs, from compact models to large motorhomes.
- El Monte RV – El Monte RV has been in business for over 40 years and offers a wide range of RVs for rent, including Class A, B, and C motorhomes, as well as travel trailers and camper vans.
- Apollo RV Rentals – Apollo RV Rentals operates in multiple locations across the United States and offers a variety of RV types and sizes, including luxury motorhomes and camper vans.
- Road Bear RV – Road Bear RV specializes in renting Class A and Class C motorhomes, as well as camper vans. They have locations in several major cities across the United States.
- Outdoorsy – Outdoorsy is a peer-to-peer RV rental platform that allows RV owners to rent out their RVs to travelers. They have a wide variety of RVs available for rent, including motorhomes, travel trailers, and camper vans.
- RVshare – RVshare is another peer-to-peer RV rental platform that connects RV owners with travelers looking to rent an RV. They have RVs available for rent across the United States.
When renting an RV, it’s important to do your research and choose a reputable company that offers the type of RV you need and provides good customer service. Be sure to read reviews, compare prices and features, and ask any questions you have before making a reservation.
RV Rental Tips
Try out two or three different RVs and go to different places. This will help you learn what works best for your style of RVing. Some folks only camp in RV parks, some in Campgrounds, some off-grid (boondock) camp only, and some want to flexibility to do all three. Each scenario is best accomplished with an RV suited for this style of camping.
Remember, it costs more to outfit an RV for off-grid living than it does for one that will live on RV park-provided utilities. Why waste money on extreme solar and battery installs for your RV when you will never use them? I also recommend that you buy a used RV.
Roadside Assistance, Extended Warranties, and Self-insurance
Like all new vehicles, the second you drive an RV off the lot, you lose value. The other thing is that a used RV has had the bugs worked out by somebody else. Look for an RV that has been used but is in good shape. Many RV dealers offer extended warranties on newer used RVs, and depending on the terms of the warranty may be a good idea. Additionally, a roadside assistance plan is critical to have for any RV owner. Be very cautious and get the RV inspected when purchasing from a private party. See below for a discussion of the differences between the two types of coverage. In any case, an inspection is always a good idea.
RV extended warranties and RV roadside assistance are two different types of coverage. They offer different types of protection for your RV.
What is an Extended Warranty
RV extended warranties, aka RV service contracts, are intended to cover the cost of repairs or replacements for major components. They usually replace those systems when they fail or become damaged, not due to normal wear and tear. Usually, if there is no part to replace, the issue is considered maintenance, and the warranty does not pay. Know what you are buying!
These warranties are typically purchased from a third-party provider and can last for several years beyond the manufacturer’s warranty. RV extended warranties may help you avoid unexpected repair costs.
What is Roadside Assistance
On the other hand, RV roadside assistance provides emergency services such as towing, tire changes, jump-starts, and fuel delivery. This usually requires that the RV breaks down or becomes disabled while you are on the road. RV roadside assistance is typically offered as part of a larger membership program, such as AAA or Good Sam Club. This type of coverage can help you get back on the road quickly and safely without incurring additional expenses. As a new RV owner, I highly recommend you have roadside assistance anytime you are traveling with your RV.
In summary, RV extended warranties cover the cost of repairs or replacements for major components and systems of your RV. RV roadside assistance provides emergency services such as towing, tire changes, and jump-starts. Next, start small and trade up. When a new RV owner buys a used RV, an inspection is important.
Get the RV inspected
Before purchasing a new RV it is important for the new RV owner to get the RV inspected. Use only certified inspectors! The National RV Inspectors Association has a website where you can locate a certified inspector near you: https://nrvia.org/ . Take my advice if you purchase a high-dollar RV, get it inspected. This is particularly true if you are buying from a private party. Don’t buy someone else’s problems!
The New RV Owner Should Start small, trade up
The new RV owner should start with a smaller RV helps them get the hang of driving and or towing and maneuvering it. Remember that the larger the RV, the harder it is to navigate it and find places to park. Many national parks and public campgrounds have length limitations. For example, the length limit for recreational vehicles (RVs) in Yellowstone National Park varies depending on the specific campground and road in the park. Generally, the maximum length for an RV or trailer is 40 feet. But, some campgrounds and roads have lower limits due to their size or specific features.
For example, in the Madison Campground, the maximum RV or trailer length is 40 feet. However, at the Norris Campground, the limit is 30 feet. The Fishing Bridge RV Park has a limit of 40 feet for hard-sided vehicles and 35 feet for soft-sided vehicles.
It’s important to note that RV length limits can also vary by season and availability, so it’s always a good idea to check with the National Park Service or the specific campground before making reservations.
Also, starting small gives you a chance to figure out how and where you want to RV. You can upgrade to a larger RV once you feel more comfortable and become more sophisticated in the way you want to RV.
Before you hit the road, plan your route and stops in advance. This will help the new RV owner avoid surprises along the way and ensure a safe and enjoyable trip.
There are many RV satellite navigation systems available with specific information required to successfully navigate your RV. Most are features rich and allow you to set up the system with the specifics for your RV. So you can program things like height, weight, length, etc., so that the system will navigate you along a path with those settings in mind. It doesn’t recommend a path with a low overpass, a weight-restricted bridge, or something like that. They keep you out of trouble, so to speak.
Here are some popular navigation systems that will help you plan your trip.
Garmin RV GPS: These GPS devices are designed specifically for RVs, with customizable routes based on your RV’s size and weight.
TomTom RV GPS: TomTom offers RV-specific GPS devices with features such as lifetime map updates, voice-activated navigation, and 3D maps.
Magellan RV GPS: Magellan offers RV GPS devices with features such as Wi-Fi connectivity, built-in dash cams, and real-time traffic alerts.
Rand McNally RV GPS: Rand McNally offers RV GPS devices with features such as weather updates, roadside assistance information, and RV campground directories.
Learn how to set up and break down your RV
New RV owners should learn how to set up and break down their RV: Setting up and breaking down your RV can be time-consuming and complicated, but it is an essential part of RVing. Make sure to learn how to do it properly and practice it a few times before you go on your trip. Ask whoever you purchase the RV from to show you how to properly connect the RV to the park or campgrounds amenities. We’re talking about Power, Sewer, Water, and in some parks, Cable TV.
Sample New RV Owner Checklist
Here is a generalized new RV owner sample checklist for you to use when setting up your RV at a camp spot. Use it as a starting point and customize it to your specific RV.
- Choose a suitable campsite: Check its dimensions and ensure it’s big enough to fit your RV.
- Position your RV correctly: Park your RV in the center of the campsite. Level your RV using leveling blocks or jacks.
- Connect to electricity: Connect your RV to the electrical hookup at the campsite using a heavy-duty extension cord if necessary. Turn off all appliances before plugging in, and make sure you use a surge protector to prevent damage to your RV’s electrical system.
- Connect to water: Connect your RV to the water hookup at the campsite using a drinking water hose. Turn on the water and check for leaks. Make sure you use a water pressure regulator to prevent high-pressure water from damaging your RV’s plumbing.
- Connect to sewer: Connect your RV to the sewer hookup at the campsite using a sewer hose. Make sure the hose is securely connected to both the RV and the sewer hookup. Open the black water tank valve first and let it drain completely before opening the gray water tank valve.
- Stabilize your RV: Use stabilizer jacks or wheel chocks to prevent your RV from moving or rocking while you’re inside.
- Set up outdoor amenities: Set up your outdoor amenities, such as a picnic table, chairs, and a grill. Make sure you follow the campsite’s rules for using fires and grills.
Along with the checklist, here are some helpful tips to follow when connecting to power, sewer, and water at your campsite. I’ll start with connecting to power.
New RV Owner Tips When Connecting to Power
Hooking up an RV to power can be a bit complicated for the new RV owner, but understanding the process is essential for a comfortable and safe RV experience. Here are some things you should know about hooking up an RV to power:
- Know the electrical system in your RV – Before hooking up your RV to power. RVs typically have either a 30-amp or 50-amp system that will determine what type of electrical hookup you need.
- Use a surge protector – To protect your RV’s electrical system from power surges and other electrical issues. Check out my article on surge suppression for RVs here: https://www.trbowlin.com/2022/04/12/do-i-need-electrical-surge-protection-device-in-my-rv/
- Use the correct adapter – Depending on the type of electrical hookup, you may need to use an adapter.
- Turn off your RV’s electrical system before plugging your RV into power. This will prevent damage to your appliances and electrical components and help prevent electrical fires.
- Connect the power cord – Once you’ve turned off the power, connect the power cord. Ensure the connection is secure and the cord is free from damage or fraying.
- Turn on the power – Once the power cord is connected, you can turn on the power at the RV park or campground.
- Avoid overloading your RV’s electrical system. It’s important to monitor your electrical usage. Avoid running multiple appliances or electronics simultaneously, and be mindful of your power usage.
By following these tips and taking the time to understand your RV’s electrical system, the new RV owner can hook up to power safely and enjoy a comfortable RV trip.
Sewer and Water Hookup Tips for the New RV Owner
Hooking up an RV to sewer and water is an important aspect of RV camping. Here are some things you should know about hooking up an RV to sewer and water:
First, new RV owners should watch this video https://youtu.be/wUWGlm2gQfE on my YouTube Channel about maintaining your RVs holding tanks. Maintaining your holding tanks is the most important thing you can do to enhance your RVing experience. No one likes a smelly RV, and if you follow my tips in the video, your tanks will never stink!
You’ll need a sewer hose to connect your RV’s wastewater tanks (grey and black) to a sewer hookup. Make sure to use a high-quality sewer hose that is free of damage and does not leak. Sometimes you will be required to use a sewer hose seal.
It is a rubber ring used to seal sewer connections in RV parks. It is a round rubber ring that fits over the end of a sewer hose and creates a tight seal between the hose and the sewer inlet. This helps to prevent any leaks or odors from escaping and keeps the area around the RV park clean and sanitary.
To protect your RV’s plumbing system from high water pressure, it’s a good idea to use a water pressure regulator. This device will help regulate the water pressure in your RV and prevent damage to your plumbing system.
Connect the water hose – Once you’ve located the water hookup, connect your RV’s water hose to the hookup. Ensure the connection is secure and the hose is free from damage or leaks.
Turn on the water – Once the water hose is connected, turn on the water at the RV park or campground. Carefully follow any specific instructions provided by the RV park or campground.
Connect the sewer hose – To connect your RV’s wastewater system to the sewer hose, connect the sewer hose to the hookup and your RV’s wastewater outlet. Ensure the connections are secure and the hose is free from damage or leaks.
Dump the wastewater – I highly recommend watching the video I linked above on maintaining your holding tanks. Keeping the wastewater tanks working properly and odor free is not that hard if you follow the three simple steps I outline in the video!
By following these tips and taking the time to understand the sewer and water hookup at the RV park or campground, you can hook up your RV to sewer and water safely and efficiently. Next, practice driving and parking your new RV.
Practice driving and parking:
As a new RV owner, driving and parking an RV can be challenging, especially if you are new to it. Take some time to practice driving and parking in an empty parking lot or campground before hitting the road.
Find a nice big empty parking lot and practice towing, backing up, and parking. In the beginning, it can be quite intimidating towing or driving an RV Here are several tips that can help you improve your skills and feel more confident on the road:
Tips for learning to drive and tow an RV
- Get a backup camera system- wireless backup camera systems are invaluable to the new RV owner. They are inexpensive and greatly improve your ability to back up a large vehicle like an RV.
- Start in an empty parking lot – Find an empty parking lot with plenty of space and practice towing and parking your RV. Start with basic maneuvers like driving in a straight line, making turns, and backing up.
- Set up cones or markers – Place cones or markers in the parking lot to simulate obstacles or tight spaces. This will help you practice navigating around obstacles and improve your spatial awareness.
- Practice backing up – Backing up an RV can be especially challenging, so practicing this maneuver is important. Use a spotter to guide you, and practice backing up in a straight line and in different angles.
- Get familiar with your RV’s dimensions – Make sure you know the exact dimensions of your RV, including its length, height, and width. This will help you avoid obstacles and choose appropriate parking spots.
- Take it slow – When towing and parking your RV, take it slow and steady. Make sure to use your mirrors, signal when turning or changing lanes, and give yourself plenty of time and space to maneuver.
- Consider taking a driving course – If you’re new to RVing or want to improve your driving skills, consider taking a driving course or working with a professional instructor. They can provide you with personalized tips and guidance and help you feel more confident on the road.
Remember, the key to practicing towing and parking an RV as a new RV owner is to take it slow, stay focused, and be patient with yourself. With practice and experience, you’ll soon feel comfortable navigating your RV in different situations and environments.
New RV Owner Essential items
A popular question I get from new RV owners is, what essentials should I take? In general, when packing for your trip, essentials such as bedding, towels, cookware, and food top my list. As you camp more, you will discover more things that you have forgotten as a new RV owner. Don’t forget also to pack tools, first aid kits, and other items that might be useful on the road.
Take Essential supplies
- Ensure you have all the essential equipment and accessories for your RV, such as leveling blocks, wheel chocks, sewer hose, water hose, and electrical cord.
- First aid kit: It’s always important to have a first aid kit on hand, especially when traveling. Make sure it includes items such as bandages, gauze, antiseptic, and pain relievers.
- Maps and navigation tools: Even if you have GPS or a smartphone, it’s always good to have a backup plan. Bring a paper map or atlas and a compass.
- Tool kit: Bring a basic tool kit with a hammer, screwdrivers, pliers, and wrenches. You never know when you might need to make a quick repair.
- Camping chairs: You’ll likely spend most of your time outside your RV, so make sure you have comfortable camping chairs to relax in.
- Flashlights and lanterns: Bring flashlights and/or lanterns, as well as spare batteries, for when it gets dark outside.
- Kitchen essentials: Stock your RV’s kitchen with the essentials such as cooking utensils, plates, bowls, cups, and silverware.
- Clothing and bedding: Make sure you bring enough clothing and bedding for your trip, taking into account the weather and activities you have planned.
- Entertainment: Bring books, games, and other forms of entertainment
- Food and beverages: Stock up on non-perishable snacks and drinks, as well as food to cook in your RV’s kitchen or on a campfire.
- Personal hygiene items: Don’t forget to bring toiletries, such as soap, shampoo, toothpaste, and toilet paper.
- Campsite reservation information: Ensure you have all the information you need for your campsite reservation, including the address, check-in time, etc.
Be mindful of weight restrictions: Every RV has weight restrictions, and it’s essential to know what they are and to stay within them. Overloading your RV can be dangerous and cause significant damage.
Don’t overload the RV
New RV owners often overload their RVs. Overloading an RV can cause several problems, including:
- Safety risks: Overloading an RV can make it difficult to control, especially when driving on winding roads or in high winds. This can increase the risk of accidents and make it more difficult to stop the RV in an emergency.
- Damage to the RV: Overloading an RV can strain the engine, transmission, brakes, and suspension system. This can cause mechanical problems and decrease the lifespan of the RV.
- Poor fuel economy: An overloaded RV requires more fuel to operate, which can significantly decrease fuel efficiency and increase the cost of your trip.
- Legal issues: Overloading an RV can result in legal issues, such as fines or impounding of the vehicle. This can also affect your insurance coverage in case of an accident.
- Inconvenience and discomfort: Overloading an RV can make it difficult to move around and can limit the amount of storage space available for your belongings. This can make your trip less comfortable and less enjoyable overall.
To avoid these problems, it’s important to know the weight limits of your RV and to pack accordingly. Be sure to distribute weight evenly and avoid carrying unnecessary items. If you’re not sure about the weight limits of your RV or how to properly load it, consult the manufacturer’s guidelines or speak to a professional.
Getting organized makes your trip more enjoyable
Stay organized: As a new RV owner keeping your RV organized can make a big difference in your enjoyment of the trip. Use storage containers and organizers to keep things neat and tidy.
Organizing an RV’s storage can help maximize the space and make it easier to access the things you need. Here are some tips to help you organize your RV’s storage:
New RV Owner Storage Organization Tips
- Start by decluttering: Before you begin organizing, go through all of your belongings and get rid of anything you don’t need or use. This will help you make the most of your storage space.
- Use storage containers: Invest in storage containers that fit well in your RV’s cabinets and drawers. This will help keep items organized and prevent them from shifting around while you’re on the road.
- Use clear containers: Clear storage containers make it easier to see what’s inside, which can save you time when searching for items.
- Label everything: Labeling containers and drawers can help you find what you need quickly and easily.
- Use vertical space: Use shelves, hanging organizers, and other storage solutions that allow you to use the vertical space in your RV. This can help maximize storage space and keep items organized.
- Use space-saving products: There are many space-saving products available that can help you make the most of your storage space, such as collapsible containers, compact kitchen gadgets, and hanging organizers.
- Pack strategically: When packing your RV, put frequently used items in easy-to-reach places and store heavier items at the bottom to help distribute weight evenly.
- Keep things secure: Use bungee cords, straps, or other means to secure items while traveling. This will help prevent items from shifting around or falling out of cabinets and drawers.
Following these tips, you can create an organized and functional storage system in your RV that will make your travels more comfortable and enjoyable.
Be respectful of others
Finally, the new RV owner may not be aware of the rules of the road, so to speak. Remember that you share campgrounds and RV parks with others. Respect their space, follow the rules, and be mindful of noise levels. Here is a list of some suggested campground and campsite rules:
- Respect quiet hours: Many campsites have designated quiet hours when loud noises are not permitted. Be considerate of your fellow campers and keep noise to a minimum during these hours.
- Keep your campsite clean: Don’t leave trash or litter around your campsite.
- Respect other campers’ space: Don’t encroach on their space by setting up your equipment or belongings too close to their site.
- Follow fire safety rules: Ensure fires are only built in designated fire rings or fire pits. Never leave a fire unattended; ensure it’s completely extinguished before leaving.
- Observe pet policies: If you bring a pet to the campsite, make sure you follow the campsite’s pet policies.
- Use generators responsibly: If you use a generator, ensure it’s not disturbing other campers. Don’t run it during designated quiet hours.
- Be considerate with your lighting: Make sure your campsite lighting isn’t shining directly into other campers’ sites. Turn off unnecessary lights when you go to bed.
- Keep music and noise to a minimum: If you play music or make noise at your campsite, keep it to a reasonable level that doesn’t disturb other campers.
- Don’t disturb wildlife: Respect the natural environment by not disturbing wildlife or feeding animals.
- Follow speed limits: When driving at the campsite, follow the posted speed limits and watch out for pedestrians and other vehicles.
Above all, have fun! RVing is all about having fun and making memories. Relax, enjoy the journey, and don’t forget to take lots of pictures!
For more great maintenance ideas, check out these articles on my website:
- New RV Owner Top Tips
- Spring RV startup and maintenance
- Charging your RVs batteries from your vehicle alternator
- How to Sanitize an RV Freshwater Tank
- Top 18 Tips To Prepare Your RV For Storage