RV First Time Driver: Is It Hard to Drive a Motorhome?

Everyone and everything has a first time. And it is understandable that you would be nervous when you take the wheel of an RV for the first time. Your nerves are going to go off and make you wonder if you can do it. The good news is that driving an RV is not as bad as it may seem.

Is it hard to drive a motorhome? Not really but it would depend a lot on the road conditions you face when you take your first turn at the wheel. A flat, mid-west highway is a lot easier to drive on than a mountainous road connecting Idaho to Oregon. The trick is not to be intimidated by the vehicle you are trying to operate.

To learn how easy it is to drive an RV for the first time, just continue to read our article. It is filled with constructive information to help you have the confidence you need to get behind the wheel of an RV and take it for a spin

How Easy is It To Drive an RV


The salesman may say it drives like a car and for the most part they may be right. With automatic transmissions, power brakes and other features, you can drive an RV like a car. You also have very comfortable chairs to sit in as well.

One of the first tricks you should be wary of is the height clearance. If you know how tall your RV is then when you get to an overpass or a tunnel, you should be able to navigate your way underneath with confidence.

If you don’t know how tall your RV is, then you may have trouble negotiating the road as you will be too worried about hitting the bridge or tunnel ceiling. One aspect you may find helpful would be the power adjustments to your seat.

You can get the right tilt, rotation, forward and backward movement you need to see the road clearly without being made uncomfortable or tense. Then just adjust your outside driving mirrors to make sure you can see the edge of your RV on both sides clearly.

Once this is done, you can drive down the road between the lines like you would a car. A big windshield also provides you with a great view of what is happening around you.

With these advantages you should not have too much difficulty driving an RV for the first time.

How Hard is It To Learn to Drive an RV


It is not hard to learn to drive an RV. There is no clutch or stick to operate so you do not have to worry about missing gears or pushing the clutch at the same time as the gas pedal.

Then you should not try to go fast. It takes a while to learn how to drive an RV and get comfortable with its size. Take your time, drive a bit slower than experienced drivers would go and make sure you learn your vehicle as you go.

After that, you need to keep your nerves in check. It is okay to be nervous when you first sit in the driver’s seat but not too nervous. Being too nervous will interfere with your operation of the vehicle and contribute to many rookie mistakes you will eventually make.

A Class A RV will come equipped with air brakes. These are a little different to work than a normal car brake system. They do take a little longer to be applied, and your RV will take longer to stop so plan ahead before you brake to ensure you have enough room. Once you get used to them, you should be okay.

The trick to learning to drive an RV is to remember that it does not respond like your SUV, pick up truck or sedan. The size, shape and features all are different and require an adjustment to your driving skill-set.

How Can I Learn to Drive an RV

The best way to learn how to drive an RV is to practice first. Forget about taking it out on the road if you never have driven one before. Your practice should be done in the big parking lots or wide open farm spaces where you are in no danger and you should not hit another vehicle.

The key is to take your time. Master one part of the RV’s differences at a time. If you try to master them all at once, you may end up with a nervous breakdown and never enter the driver’s seat again.

There are some factors that you should be aware of as well. Here is a shortlist of them because they will influence your driving:

1. It is a heavy vehicle - far heavier than anything you have driven before. That means it won't move as fast or stop as quickly as your car.

2. it is a very tall vehicle - you need to learn to watch for power lines and other clearance obstacles like walkways and overpasses.

3. The wind can be a problem - because the RV is big, tall and boxy, the wind can influence it and make it sway from time to time. You need to be ready to counteract wind gusts by having a firm grip on the steering wheel.

4. Rear-end and bottom clearance may affect your driving - steep hills, tall curbs or driveways can have your rear end scraping or bumping. These sudden jolts may surprise you and make you do something you shouldn’t. Be ready for them so you can avoid unnecessary responses.

5. Watch your turning - RVs need a wide turning radius to make the corner. You have to learn how to compensate for this. Also, forget about doing any U-turns.

6. reverse can be tricky - try to park where you do not need to use the reverse gear. RVs are very hard to see what is behind them

Driving a Motorhome For The First Time


It is an experience. This can be either good or bad depending on how you drive your RV. But think about it. You get a bird’s eye view of your surroundings, you can see the scenery a lot better and you be comfortable as you drive.

All of these factors make driving an RV for the first time a thrilling and exciting time. Your biggest worry when you are on the highway is keeping the rig between the lines. With the help of the large side mirrors, you should be able to do that with ease.

You already have the practice in doing that when you drove your car or larger vehicle. Doing it with an RV is just the same but with a little heavier and larger vehicle. In other words, it isn’t going to be that hard.

The key to keeping your RV between the lines is to focus on the road about 4 or 5 car lengths ahead of you. This trick is said to help you naturally move to the center of the lane.

Another thing you should think about as you are going down the highway is that the semi-trucks may cause a little wind and suction issue as they pass your rig. Your correction for this situation varies and depends on the weight in the RV and its size.

We said earlier; you need to drive your RV slowly the first time out. As you can see, there are a lot of issues that you need to adjust to and going too fast will not allow you to adjust correctly to those issues when you face them.

Driving a Motorhome After 70

We are not talking about 70 mph here. Once you reach the age of 70, you are going to find that there will be some new requirements and restrictions you have to endure and obey.

About 90 days before you reach that magic 70 number, you should receive a letter that you need to renew your license. Don’t ignore it as your license will be automatically canceled once your birthday arrives.

Once you reach that 70-year-old mark you may not be allowed to drive 8,000 pound to 20,000-pound rigs anymore without a medical exam. Also, if you are older than 70, you may have to recertify your driver’s license every year.

Different countries and states will have their own rules on this issue. It is recommended that if you have an older family member who likes to drive; you check with your local state DMV and get the straight story on driving a motorhome after the age of 70.

Usually, as long as the senior citizen remains in good health, they should have no problem driving their RV to where they want to go.

Some Ways Age Affects Driving an RV

This is an important section to include here as every RV driver is not the same. Some may feel healthy enough to drive but miss the signs that tell them they should surrender the wheel to a younger more healthy driver.

Here is a shortlist of mitigating factors:

1. Night vision is going - this would mean that you should not drive after the sun has gone down for the night

2. Strength and balance issues - as you get older your strength tends to weaken and your balance also decides to leave you. These factors will play a role in how you drive when you're older.

3. Medical issues - older RV drivers are more vulnerable to these conditions and they may affect eyesight, hearing, and motor skills. All of these conditions would make driving an RV more difficult.

4. Slower reflexes - responding to wind gusts, big rigs passing, and other road hazards will take longer as the reflexes slow with age.

5. Road attitude - older drivers may not be so flexible and may see things that are not there. Their interaction with other drivers could get a little risky when these factors come into play.

Driving a Car vs Driving a Motorhome

This is an easy question to answer as driving a car is far easier than driving a motor home. There are several reasons for drawing this conclusion. Here are some of those reasons:

  • The car is easier to handle - it is lighter, smaller, and has a better steering radius.
  • The car has better brakes - they engage faster and help the car stop quicker than the air brakes in an RV.
  • You can see around your car easier - road conditions should not surprise you and you can back up a lot easier when you use a car. You have a rearview mirror that lets you see what is behind you or you can turn in your seat to get a better view.
  • The car is faster than an RV - it has a better pick up, better speed capability and can respond to road conditions and hazards a lot quicker.
  • The car is easier to maneuver - it is hard to steer an RV through city streets, make tight corners and other narrow road conditions. Your car should handle those road issues without batting an eye.
  • The car is cheaper to maintain - your fuel costs are lower, you can go further on a tank of gas and get better gas mileage. Also, parts are far cheaper when something breaks as are oil changes and so on. Many people know how to repair a car where relatively few know how to repair an RV.

Following Distance When Driving a Motorhome


When you learned how to drive a car, you were taught to keep about 2 seconds between you and the car ahead of you. To do this, you pick a landmark, post or some other visible feature and wait till the car in front passes it.

Then you go one thousand and one, one thousand and two. When you hit two and you pass the landmark, then you are at a safe driving distance. But while the same technique works for RVs, you need a lot more time between you and the vehicle in front.

If you are driving your RV and you only count 2 seconds when you pass the same landmark, then you are too close. You should extend the gap to 4 seconds when driving your RV behind another vehicle.

That time frame is good if you are driving at 40 miles per hour. For every 10 miles an hour faster than that benchmark number you should add another second to your count.

But we must say that this method works best if you are on the open road. It will not work and is very impractical if you are driving on city streets. When you get off the open road and have to make your way through complicated city road traffic, forget the counting. Just drive a lot slower than you normally would.

Leaving a 3 to 4-second gap between you and the vehicle in front not only will make drivers behind you very angry, it opens you up to having other drivers cut in front of you. In cities, you will have to be flexible and judge the nature of the traffic to determine a safe distance between you and the vehicle in front of you.

What is the Motorhome Speed Limit


This will vary from state to state and country to country. Sometimes states regulate the speed of larger trucks and include RVs in that category. So instead of following the normal speed limit signs, you have to follow the speed limit posted on the truck speed limit signs.

The speed limits between states range from a low of 45 to a high of 75 mph. To find out the exact speed limit, you need to travel as you cross state lines just click this link.

There is one more consideration to take into account when trying to make your destination as quickly as possible. That is your tire speed rating. Some special trailer tires have a speed rating of 80 miles per hour give or take a mile or two. But that is not the standard.

Most special trailer tires may only allow you to go 65 mph. You should check with your tire dealer on how fast your RV’s tires can go at one time.

Motorhome Driving Tips

Driving a motorhome is not always as easy as it sounds. That is why it is always a good idea to get some tips to help you navigate your way through the country. There is a big difference between driving an RV and a car and the tips while similar at times are not always the same.

Here are some tips to help you drive your RV:

  • Plan ahead - know your route, know your turns and make sure you are in the right lane you need to use well ahead of the time you need to use it.
  • Forget U-turns - even in a Class C RV you should learn how to turn right several times instead of trying to make a U-turn on a city street.
  • Get help parking - having someone look behind you and give you the all-clear is way better than trying to park blind. Also, you can stop backing up, get out and look for yourself so you do not hit another vehicle.
  • Take the time to adjust your seat before you get the RV in motion. Having the right settings keeps your concentration on the road and what is around you instead of on your seat’s position.
  • Practice and practice some more - they say that practice makes perfect, and it does. It also helps build your confidence up. The more confidence you have the better your driving. The only thing you have to watch out for is becoming overconfident.
  • Learn a better braking method - when going down steep hills there is a tendency to step on the brake and leave your foot there. This may eventually burn your brakes out so you need to learn to pump your brakes.
  • Brake before you enter curves and hills - an RV can turn over faster than you think. If you hit a curve or a hill too quickly, you are going to have problems. The rule of thumb is to slow down to 10 mph below the suggested hill or curve speed.
  • Weather changes in a blink of an eye - always be aware of the weather report along your travel route. While the sky may be blue in the valleys, it can turn to snow quickly in the mountains.
  • Be patient - when you are in traffic you are going to have to learn a lot of patience. No one likes following an RV and they will speed up and cut you off to get around you. You just have to sit there and be prepared for this event.
  • Watch your right turns - your rear tires will cut more sharply than your front tires will. You need to give them a lot of room to make that corner and not climb the curb. Also, you have to watch out for those vehicles that try to pass you on the right side as you are making your turn.

Some Final Words

It is not hard to drive an RV, even on your first time. All you need to do is control your nerves not be intimidated by the vehicle and take your time. You need to get good before you get fast so drive a little slower until you have mastered all the ins and outs of operating an RV.

Once you get the hang of it, driving an RV is like driving a car only slower, more cumbersome and harder to maneuver. It just takes practice to master handling an RV as a pro does.

Then watch out for those crazy drivers who like to take advantage of your wide turning radius and pass you on the right. Make sure your turn signal is on and watch your mirrors to avoid accidents.

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