Veteran RVers offer advice for new RVers

We asked some veteran RVers over on RVtravel.com what advice they had for newbies that they wish they knew when they first started out. Of course they had some great advice.

The #1 piece of advice for new RVers? Don’t buy new

Out of all the replies we got, the #1 bit of RV advice for newbies was to never ever buy new. Especially for a first-timer who may not understand their RV needs or who may discover upon trying it out that they don’t actually like RVing at all. As RVs are depreciating assets, buying used is sound advice.

Richard D. offered this: “DO NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES BUY A NEW RV. Buy the best quality you can afford as a used unit a few years old. (I prefer the 10-year age when the price has depreciated significantly, but a high-quality unit is still very serviceable.)”

Eric K. added Your first RV should be a cheap used one. There is no better way to learn about RV systems than the constant need for repairs (RVs are rolling fix-it lists). If you want to continue RVing after an old, used RV experience then go ahead and invest in something better. If not, how much can you lose if you decide RVing is not for you and you have to sell it?”


Have realistic expectations

Another theme that kept coming up in the responses to this question was realistic expectations. When you are a new and inexperienced RVer who has been subjected to endless sales propaganda, it’s easy to look at the RV world through rose-colored glasses.

RVing is awesome, but it’s not all good all the time. Here’s what some of our readers advised:

“RVing is not like traveling from motel to motel or from one Airbnb to another. Towing is more stressful than driving a single vehicle, and backing an RV into a camping site and setting it up or breaking it down involves work. Be committed to what RVing involves before purchasing an RV.”
—Carl W.

“Start slow. Start now. Borrow, rent or buy used while you are learning what works best for you. Just accept that you will make a few mistakes and likely change your equipment as time goes along. Enjoy the process.”
—Robin C.

“Be patient. Don’t expect to do everything and go everywhere on the first trip. Don’t think you have to stock your camper completely from the start. Wait and see if you need a service for 12 dishes or three sizes of cast iron pans. Your needs will change with every trip.”
—Betty D

“Don’t make the mistake of thinking RVing is cheap. Things break, they are expensive to fix, and do not depend on getting into a service center in a timely fashion. You should be handy at fixing things and be diligent in learning your RV and how to properly care for it.”

Expect a learning curve

A lot of comments concerned the need for new RVers to be patient, slow down, and learn as much as possible about their rigs and RV life in general. Living in an RV is substantially different than living in a bricks-and-sticks home, and there is a learning curve before you get fully up to speed.

One reader, Dennis G., advised taking advice from social media groups with a grain of salt, as those were opinions from people who may or may not know what they are talking about. I concur with this good advice. Dennis then followed up by saying:

“I think the best place to get answers is from one of the experts that write for this newsletter! How’s that for a good suggestion?” (Thanks, Dennis!)

Mobile life

“Take short trips locally to figure out how to use everything. It will let you see what you need and don’t need. Then have fun and enjoy.”
—Lisa A.

“Practice in your driveway to learn how all your features operate. Use YouTube to look up any problems you have as someone has probably had the same problem and will show how to fix it.”
—Dick K.

“Know the height of your rig, not by reading the manual, by measuring! I measured mine at 10’6″ and while I passed under a bridge marked 10’8″ and I was sweating bullets!!!”
—John M.

“Create and use a checklist every time you arrive at a campsite and every time you depart. This is especially important for departure. Five miles down the road is too late to suddenly fear having forgotten a critical step.”
—Robert S.

“The one story I always tell ‘newbies’ is about when I was in a dress, on my knees dumping my waste tanks. Always, always, give your sewer line a tug before pulling that black waste valve. I didn’t and it wasn’t seated entirely. I will let your imagination complete the picture of the result. Goes without saying, there was a lot of clean-up involved and some clothing that ended up in the trash.”
—Nancy L.

Brad G’s lack of learning cost him big time. In order to save others from the same “rookie mistake” he writes:

“If your RV has a slide-out, don’t do what I did when I first had my motorhome. My 31′ Class C Winnebago has a 19-foot bump-out. I was parked in my driveway which has a ‘slight’ incline at the end of the drive. I extended the bump-out without first lowering the self-leveling jacks. Long story short, NEVER extend your slide without first lowering your auto-leveling jacks OR cranking down your 4 corner jacks. This mistake of extending the slide before I leveled the unit bent the track system on the slide and cost me $1,500 to have it repaired. No, I did not have the repair done at Camping World; another piece of advice for those new to RVing.”

Maintenance advice for new RVers

A lot of people wrote about maintenance and they’re not wrong. RVs need CONSTANT upkeep. Many of you stressed the need to either be mechanically inclined yourself, or have a partner who is. Alternatively, find a reliable RV repair person you can trust, because things can and do regularly go wrong.

Michael E. said it best with this comment: “If I were to impart any wisdom to new RVers… be prepared for a fair amount of maintenance… both preventive (washing and waxing, winterizing) and repairs. For me, though, it’s well worth it!”

A lot of people recommended the “University of YouTube.”

I concur you can learn how to do a whole lot of RV repairs and maintenance by watching YouTube videos. Don’t underestimate this invaluable resource.

Lastly, Dick B. mentioned this important tip: “Monitor your tires, they are easy to forget.”

Right you are Dick. So very many RV issues have their origins in tires, including under- or over-inflated tires, or worn tires. Tires support your travel. Never skimp on tires and even if the treads look good, tires should still be replaced every few years. I learned this the hard way with an explosive blowout when unbeknownst to me, the truck I bought at Car Max was outfitted with tires older than the truck itself.

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