Looking for adventure in Big Country, USA? Then you very well could end up behind the wheel of a recreational vehicle (RV).
In fact, RVs are more popular than ever, as there are 11.2 million U.S. households that own one, according to the RV Industry Association.
It’s common for potential RV buyers to rent a model before shopping for one – if just to get a sense of whether this lifestyle suits their style of wanderlust. It’s also a good way to acquaint yourself firsthand with associated RV driving challenges. With the latter in mind, here are some safety and logistical tips to consider for your first time RV rental:
1. Practice parking and turning an RV
Shortly after choosing the right RV, get acclimated to your new “big ride” in a safe, open space. Even if you’ve driven a minivan or large truck for years, you’ll find that the RV rental experience presents an assortment of new challenges. “Go to a mall when it’s empty or a big church lot on a weekday,” says RV expert Janet Groene, co-author of the book, Living Aboard Your RV. “At low speeds there, learn to use the mirrors, turn corners, back up and park. Familiarize yourself with the rear-facing TV view, if your RV has one. If you’re traveling with a partner, practice hand signals so you can help each other park and back up without resorting to shouting instructions.”
2. Initial inspection
Before heading out, do a walk-around of the RV to observe any potential problems. “Check your tire pressure,” says Groene. “Make sure all access doors are closed and no obstructions are in the way.”
3. Be aware of potential RV sway
You have one major safety advantage in an RV: elevation. You’re sitting higher than most auto drivers, which gives you a longer, wider view of the road. Use this to gain a greater perspective of what’s ahead, including any road obstructions, slowing traffic, accidents, etc. “You should give your full attention to the road, especially in an RV,” Groene says. “It has a higher center of gravity and lots of wind surface. Maneuvering provides many surprises and they are worse at speed or on windy days. Add a sudden blow-out to the picture and you’ll want both hands on the wheel.” If you’re towing an RV trailer use these tips to prevent RV trailer sway.
4. Increase your following distance
About 15 percent of RV auto insurance claims are caused by the failure to correctly stop and turn. RVs need plenty of distance to brake, as well as width to turn.
5. Check for low clearance signs
Always check clearance signs for tunnels and commercial buildings to assess whether your RV will fit underneath. “You should be constantly aware of your RV’s height in feet and inches,” Groene says. “Don’t attempt to go through a drive-through or indoor parking garage unless you’re absolutely certain you’ll make it.”
6. Balance load
An unbalanced RV is likelier to suffer a blowout, breakdown or braking/steering problems. Pack evenly so you don’t “overload” one particular section of the RV.
7. Research campgrounds in advance
In planning a long trip in the open country, go on the websites of RV campgrounds to make sure they’re right for your RV. “Many indicate whether they have pull-through sites and hook-up areas,” Groene says. “Pull-throughs allow you to drive straight to the RV section. Hook-ups are for connecting to electricity, water and sewer.” Check out these RV camping tips.
If the RV rental service does not offer RV insurance you may go through your car insurance provider. Learn about Nationwide’s RV insurance and ask your agent about adding the right coverage to your policy.