What’s so Different about Driving a motorhome?

7 tips for driving a Class A motorhome

Class A motorhomes are the largest motorhomes on the road. After all, you’re bringing all of the comforts of home with you. While these roomy RVs might seem intimidating to drive at first, it doesn’t take long to get the hang of it. Plus, many luxury motorhomes are already designed with ease-of-use and driver comfort in mind, so there isn’t as much of a learning curve.

Class A motorhomes at RV dealer © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Still, it’s important to understand how to handle a vehicle of this size, especially when you drive one for the first time. To help you get started, I’ve compiled a top 7 tips for driving a motorhome to help you safely and confidently drive your diesel pusher motorhome to your next adventure. With these motorhome driving tips, you’ll be handling your RV like a pro in no time.

Class A motorhome near Page, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

1. Make Sure You Have the Right Class of Driver’s License

Depending on your state (or province), you may be required to get a Class A or Class B (commercial or non-commercial) driver’s license before you can legally drive a motorhome that weighs over 26,000 pounds.

A commercial driver’s license is a driver’s license required to operate large or heavy vehicles.

Class A Motorhome at Wahweap Campground in Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Every state issues different types of licenses, so it’s not always as simple as, “Do I need a commercial driver’s license (CDL) to drive my RV that weighs over 26,000 pounds or not?” 

Related: Buying an RV

The question looks a little more like, “Do I need a special license, and if so, in what cases, and what kind?”

Class A motorhomes on Newfound Gap Road in Smoky Mountains National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Several examples follow:

  • In California you need a Class B non-commercial license to drive a vehicle weighing over 26,000 pounds
  • In North Carolina, New Mexico, Nevada, and Pennsylvania you need a Class B license for a single vehicle over 26,000 pounds; you need a Class A license to drive a combination of vehicles that weigh over 26,000 pounds
  • In Texas you need a Class B non-commercial license to drive a vehicle weighing over 26,000 pounds

Since regulations do change it is recommended that you contact your local DMV if your rig is close to 26,000 pounds or more.

Class A motorhomes on Utah’s Scenic Byway 12 © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

2. Know How and When to Brake

It’s important to understand that the larger and heavier the vehicle, the longer it can take to stop. You’ll need to plan ahead and give yourself plenty of time to slow down and come to a complete stop, even in normal weather.

Class A motorhome at RV dealer © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

It’s also important to keep in mind that hot brakes don’t work as well and they wear out faster. To keep your brakes from overheating, avoid riding your brakes and use your gears to downshift (engine brake) when driving downhills. If you do start to notice a smell coming from your brakes, pull over when it is safe to do so and give the brakes a chance to cool off before continuing your drive. This is especially important when driving in the mountains.

Related: 10 Questions to Ask When Choosing the Perfect RV for Your Family

A good rule of thumb is to descend a hill in the same gear (or one gear lower) than used to climb the hill.

Class A motorhome at 12 Tribes Casino RV Park, Omak, Washington © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

3. Leave Enough Following Distance

Since it takes longer to brake, you’ll also need to make sure you’re leaving sufficient following distance between you and the vehicle in front of you. The general rule of thumb in normal weather is to leave one vehicle length for every 10 mph. So if you’re driving 60 mph, leave six RV lengths in front of you.

For a 40 foot motorhome, that means leaving 240 feet of space between you and the next vehicle on the road. However, you’ll need to leave even more space if driving during inclement weather like rain, snow, or fog. Even if the road doesn’t look slippery, it’s always best to slow down and leave plenty of room.

Related: Meet the RVs: Find the Right RV Class for Your Travel Style

Some RVs include technology to help the driver mitigate potential accidents. For example, some models are available with collision mitigation technology, adaptive cruise control, and adjustable following distance control—all to take the guesswork out of your drive.

Class A motorhome on Utah’s Scenic Byway 12 © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

4. Stay in the Right Lane

Most motorhome drivers find themselves driving at slower speeds than the rest of traffic—and that makes sense. The ideal speed to drive an RV is around 55-60 mph—the so-called sweet spot for RV fuel efficiency. However, the speed limit on most US highways is between 65-75 mph. Traveling in the far right lane allows you to drive your RV at the optimal speed for your own safety and fuel economy while allowing other drivers to pass on the left.

Related: Meet the RVs: The Towables

Staying in your lane can be somewhat challenging for high-profile RVs which can be prone to drift when there are crosswinds. Newmar’s Comfort Drive feature prevents this type of drifting with adaptive steering that automatically adjusts to help you stay in your lane—without requiring a death grip on your steering wheel. That said, it’s always wise to keep both hands on the wheel.

Class A motorhome on Newfound Gap Road in Smoky Mountains National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

5. Understand Your Tail Swing

Once you get the hang of it, driving straight in an RV can quickly become second nature. Getting used to turning might take a bit more practice since you also need to take your tail swing into consideration.

Class A motorhome at Columbia Sun RV Park, Kennewick, Washington © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

What is a tail swing? For every three feet behind your rear axle, you have the potential for one foot of tail swing heading in the opposite direction. So, if you’ve got 12 feet behind your back wheels and you want to take a sharp right turn, you need to be aware of what’s immediate to your left. When you’re just starting out, it can be helpful to have a spotter outside the vehicle to guide you as you practice turning and parking.

Know your clearance; Colonial Parkway, Virginia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

6. Know Your Clearances and Plan Your Route Accordingly

Diesel pusher motorhomes aren’t just longer and heavier, they’re also taller and wider than any other cars or trucks you’re used to driving. Because of this, your RV may not meet the clearance requirements for certain overhangs and it may be more challenging to navigate narrow roads in older towns.

Know your clearance; Blue Ridge Parkway, Virginia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Be particularly aware of low overhanging trees, the height of tunnels and overpasses, and the clearance at fuel stops. But don’t let that hold you back. It just means you’ll need to plan ahead and stay aware as you drive which are great things to make a habit of anyway, no matter what type of vehicle you’re driving.

Know your height; Parke County, Indiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

There are navigation tools and technologies available to help alleviate some of the planning for you. After inputting your coach’s dimensions, they can plan the best routes for you based on them.

Class A motorhomes at Newmar Service Center, Nappanee, Indiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

7. Don’t Drive Tired

When you’re driving a Class A motorhome, there’s a lot to be aware of as you’re driving including your following and stopping distances, your turn radius, your overhead clearance, and more. Plus, you’re probably driving long stretches at a time. Driver fatigue is one of the biggest dangers on the road especially when driving a big rig, so stay safe and avoid driving when you’re tired.

Some roads are best not traveled in a Class A motorhome © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Conclusion

Driving a recreational vehicle is an extremely rewarding experience. Now that you know these Class A motorhome driving tips, there’s no limit to where your RV can take you.

Worth Pondering…

Speed was high

Weather was hot

Tires were thin

X marks the spot

BURMA SHAVE

Yes, YOU Can Drive an RV: What YOU Need to Know

RV driving for beginners: All the tips you need to drive an RV for the first time

If you’re new to it (or even if you’re not) driving a Class A motorhome can present a challenge. Even if you’re been driving cars and smaller vehicles for a long time, it takes practice to get used to the quirks of such a large and heavy vehicle. The following Class A motorhome driving tips will help you to stay safe on the roads and feel confident behind the wheel of your luxurious RV.

Class A motorhomes at Vista del Sol RV Resort, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

What is a Class A Motorhome?

Motorhomes are divided into “classes” based on their size. The average, small motorhome that you see used for road trip vacations is probably a Class C. These smaller vehicles typically weigh between 10,000 and 12,000 pounds. Class A motorhomes are the largest class and can weigh anything from 13,000 pounds up to as much as 30,000 pounds.

Even a Class C motorhome can feel unwieldy and bulky to someone who is accustomed to driving a car. Class A motorhomes are huge by comparison and they handle more like a bus than a car. The trade-off is that there is far more space for home comforts and many Class A motorhomes are just as comfortable and luxurious as a small family house.

Class A motorhome interior © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Do I need a RV License?

The idea of an “RV license” is a bit of a misnomer. The rules on vehicle licenses vary from state to state and province to province. No state currently has an explicit law that relates to the driving of RVs. States do, however, divide their licenses up into classes based upon the weight of the vehicle that the driver is handling and in some cases whether or not they have a trailer.

The sheer size of Class A motorhomes means that in some cases a motorist may need a special license to drive one. It depends on the weight of the motorhome. Let’s imagine you live in Pennsylvania. If you are driving an RV that weighs less than 26,000 pounds you don’t need a special license. If the RV weighs more than 26,000 pounds you will need a Class B non-commercial license. If you have a trailer and the weight goes over 26,000 pounds then you need a Class A non-commercial license.

Every state has different rules. Some states are more lenient than others. It’s a good idea to check the laws in your state or province and those you intend to regularly travel in before buying a large RV.

Class A motorhome at Tom Sawyer RV Park, West Memphis, Arkansas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Handling Tips and Tricks

Once you’ve cleared up the legal aspects, the next challenge is to hit the road. It takes a while to get used to handling a large motorhome but it’s worth it once you master it because you’ll be able to visit new places and see the sights in luxury free from the constraints of a hotel.

Class A motorhome on Utah Scenic Byway 12 © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Start with a Short, Easy Trip

Keep things simple for your first trip. As strange as it sounds consider a “staycation.” The last thing you want is for your first trip in your brand new RV to be marred with stress, broken itineraries or worse, a broken-down vehicle. Drive on easy roads that you’re familiar with and stay in a local campground. Give yourself plenty of time to get used to how the RV moves, how well it handles hills, how much space you need to stop, and how it turns.

Class A motorhome at Columbia Riverfront RV Park, Woodland, Washington © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Tech Makes Life Easier

When you’re sitting in a Class A motorhome you’re higher up than you are used to being in your sedan or even in a smaller motorhome. Since your vehicle is also longer and wider you need more space to turn and you’re heavier so your stopping distances are longer. You need to take this all into account and it can take a while for your brain to adjust when it comes to judging distances. You’ll also have blind spots that are bigger than the ones you’re accustomed to in the mirrors of a standard car.

The good news is that there are high-tech answers to some of these problems. Some Class A motorhomes offer driving assist technology such as back up cameras, lane tracking, and adaptive steering. They make parking, backing up, and other maneuvers much easier.

Class A motorhome at Whispering Oaks RV Park, Weimar, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Don’t Fight the Vehicle

Modern motorhomes have many nice “quality of life” features such as power steering, auto-leveling, improved suspension, and ABS. Take advantage of these. Be gentle on the steering, drive slowly and steadily, and give yourself plenty of space for any turns you need to take. Remember that ABS is designed to cut your stopping distance but in a very heavy vehicle you still have a lot of inertia especially on downward slopes. 

If you’re nervous about handling an RV, consider taking classes. Many companies offer rentals and classes where you can practice driving in a controlled environment to build your confidence.

Class A motorhome on Padre Island National Seashore, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Take Regular Breaks

Remember that you don’t have to get to your destination on a fixed schedule when you’re on a road trip. If you’re held up for a while, that’s not a crisis. You quite literally have a house behind you. If you’re feeling tired, stressed, or slightly concerned, pull over at the next rest area or truck stop and take a break. Get your co-pilot to take over the driving for a while if they’re able to do so. If not, just take a nap, go for a short walk, and then start driving again.

Don’t drive in difficult conditions such as heavy rain, fog, snow, ice, or excessive wind. If you don’t like driving late at night, rest. The point of owning a luxury motorhome is to do things on your terms. Take your time and get to your destination safely then enjoy your holiday.

Class A motorhome at Coastal Georgia RV Resort, Brunswick, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Worth Pondering…

No matter where we go in our motorhome, that sense of independence is satisfying. We have our own facilities, from comfortable bed to a fridge full of our favorite foods. We set the thermostat the way we like it and go to bed and get up in our usual routine.

Meet the RVs: Find the Right RV Class for Your Travel Style

Recreational vehicles take many different forms—from small and simple tow trailers to mobile mansions with king-sized beds and granite countertops

Consumer preferences have changed drastically since the start of the pandemic with travel being no exception. Thousands of Americans and Canadians have opted out of airline tickets and hotel reservations in favor of RVs, a safer method of travel that allows for self-contained excursions with a bedroom, bathroom, and kitchen all on-board.

Class A motorhome © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

If you’re here, you’re probably wondering if the RV lifestyle is for you. Good news—it most likely is! Because RVs offer so much variety in form, function, and value there’s bound to be an RV that suits your lifestyle and travel needs. Just like families, RVs come in all shapes and sizes. From large class A motorhomes and fifth wheel trailers to compact pop-ups and camper vans, there is an RV that will fit your lifestyle. From weekend getaways to touring the great outdoors to working from the road, there’s an RV for every family and every budget.

When deciding between different types of RVs, it is important to understand the features and amenities associated with each and the pros and cons. The categories are not super difficult to grasp. Motorhomes come in Classes A, B, and C and trailers break down into fifth wheels and travel trailers. I’ll dive right into each category including its pros and cons, model details, features and amenities, and approximate cost. In today’s post we’ll focus on the three classes of motorhomes.

Class A motorhome © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Class A Motorhomes

Class A motorhomes are built on specially designed motor vehicle chassis. This type of motorhome often includes multiple slide-out rooms. Class A motorhomes offer as many luxuries as the average house—and in some cases more! It is not uncommon for these coaches to include a king-sized bed, two bathrooms, washer and dryer, a large living area with sofas and reclining chairs, a dining table, a television, a fireplace, and a fully equipped kitchen with a dishwasher, microwave, oven, stovetop, residential refrigerator and freezer.

Class A motorhomes are popular with those who spend considerable time on the road including snowbirds and full timers and anyone with a mobile lifestyle. Due to their size and weight, these coaches are not suitable for all travel routes. The largest class of motorhomes, they can be powered by either gas or diesel engines. Towing a car behind the motorhome is an important consideration since running errands is easier in a smaller vehicle—you will not want to pack up the entire coach simply to go do some local site-seeing or shopping.

Class A motorhome © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Model Details

  • Length: 26-45 feet
  • Cost: $150,000-$1,000,000+
  • Sleeps: 2-8

Typical Features & Amenities

  • Ample living space and storage
  • Full-sized bathroom
  • Residential kitchen
  • Full entertainment system
  • Can tow another vehicle
Class A motorhome © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Pros:

  • Contain all living amenities on board
  • Spacious and potentially luxurious
  • Does not require a towing vehicle and can tow another vehicle
  • Lots of storage space

Cons:

  • High cost of purchase, insurance, and service
  • Poor fuel-efficiency
  • Often need to be parked offsite when not in use as many communities do not allow them in driveways or parked on residential streets
Class A motorhome © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Class B Motorhomes

Class B motorhomes also known as camper vans feature the conveniences of a furnished motorhome. They are built using an automotive manufactured van or panel-truck shells. Class Bs are easy to drive, park, and maneuver and include standard home-like amenities including a bathroom, sleeping area, and basic kitchen. What sets them apart from regular vans is that they are equipped for camping. Class Bs are best suited for users who have a smaller budget, need a smaller vehicle, or want a mobile base for their outdoor camping activities.

Class A motorhome © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Model Details

  • Length: 16-21 feet
  • Cost: $110,000-$200,000+
  • Sleeps: 2-4

Typical Features & Amenities

  • Bedroom
  • Kitchen
  • Shower and toilet
Class A motorhome © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Pros:

  • Easy to navigate in traffic and park
  • Fuel efficiency is high relative to other RVs
  • Lower initial cost

Cons:

  • Tight living quarters, limited storage space
  • Limited creature comforts
  • No space for features like laundry, dishwashers, and other larger appliances
Class C motorhome © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Class C Motorhomes

Class C motorhomes are ideal for families and groups of friends who want the adventure and flexibility of spontaneous vacation along with the convenience and amenities of home. Built on an automotive van frame with a wider body section attached to the original cab, Class C motorhomes are easily recognizable by the over-the-cab portion that is often an optional sleeping area. Many models have slide-out rooms.

Class C motorhomes © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Model Details

  • Length: 25-35 feet
  • Cost: $110,000-$200,000+
  • Sleeps: 2-8

Typical Features & Amenities

  • Loft for extra sleeping space
  • Kitchen and bathroom facilities
  • Bedroom
Class C motorhome © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Pros:

  • More affordable than Class A motorhomes
  • More spacious than Class B motorhomes
  • Reasonable fuel efficiency

Cons:

  • Less spacious than Class A motorhomes
  • Fewer amenities than Class A motorhomes
  • Less affordable than Class B motorhomes

An apology: Why no image of a Class B motorhome? After searching through my vast photo file I came up blank and having made a decision early on to avoid the use of stock photos, and for this I apologize.

Worth Pondering…

No matter where we go in our motorhome, that sense of independence is satisfying. We have our own facilities, from comfortable bed to a fridge full of our favorite foods. We set the thermostat the way we like it and go to bed and get up in our usual routine.

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A comfortable bed to sleep in after the day spent playing at the lake? A kitchen to prepare your family’s favorite meals? A shower to clean up in after a long day on a hiking trail? A home away from home in all your favorite places?

Fifth-wheel trailer with tow vehicle at Leaf Verde RV Park in Buckeye, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Do you want a big rig or a camper van? Will you drive a Class A or a bus conversion? Should you explore a Class C, or will a travel trailer work well with your truck? In the beginning, there are lots of questions. Yet asking questions is a good thing!

Class C motorhome at Wahweap RV Park, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Arizona/Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

You’ve decided you want to experience the RV lifestyle. Or maybe your family’s needs have changed and it’s time for an upgrade. With so many RVs to choose from it can be overwhelming. Don’t worry! Ask yourself these questions to help make the decision easier.

Travel trailer at Picacho Peak State Park, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Do You Have a Tow Vehicle?

If you have a tow vehicle then you’ll want to narrow your search to RVs within your vehicle’s towing capacity. Don’t forget to add the weight of passengers, cargo, and liquids to the dry weight of the RV. You don’t want to fall in love with an RV only to determine that it exceeds your vehicle’s maximum capacity to tow safely.

Toy hauler fifth wheeler and tent trailer at River Run RV Park, Bakersfield, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

How Many Beds Do You Require?

Sleeping arrangements in RVs range from plush king size beds to fold out beds. Think about how many your RV needs to sleep, and also the bedtime routine. Some people don’t mind turning dinettes or sofas into beds every night while others consider a designated pre-made bed for each person a must.

Truck camper at Saguaro Lake, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Where Will You Camp?

When most people think of RVing they think of campgrounds, but RVs open up a whole world of different types of adventure and exploration. Some RVs are better suited for boondocking or off grid camping with larger holding tanks and generators or solar panels. Perhaps you plan to use your RV to tailgate at sporting events. If your goal is to spend as much time as possible in national and state parks then length will be a consideration.

Boondocking near Quartzsite, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

What Amenities Do You Require?

Some buy an RV because they no longer want to sleep on the ground and want more protection from than what a tent offers. But creature comforts don’t stop at a roof and a bed. RVs are available with numerous amenities including gourmet kitchens and state of the art entertainment centers. Make a list of your most important amenities and prioritize.

Full service site including 50-amp electric service, water, sewer, and cable TV © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

What Activities Do You Enjoy?

Hobbies and activities will help you narrow down your RV search. Sport utility RVs, or toy haulers, provide space for ATVs, golf carts, and bikes. Since some RVs offer more storage space than others, consider where all that gear will go.

Taking everything with you! © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

How Much Space Do You REALLY Need?

This is different for every family. Do you plan to use your RV every weekend all summer or for extended trips? Or is it going to be an every once in a while outing? Do your kids need their own bedroom? Do you need your own bedroom?

Scamp travel trailer at Lost Dutchman State Park, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

What Is Your Preferred Floor Plan?

Visit RV shows and dealerships to get an idea of what floor plan will work best for you family. Spend time in the RVs. Sit on the couches. Lay on the beds. Walk into the bathrooms. Imagine cooking in the kitchen. Ask for brochures to take home. Most dealerships are happy to let you spend time in their RVs because they want you to be happy with the RV you choose.

Teardrop trailer at Distant Drum RV Park, Camp Verde, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Consider Maintenance and Repair

All RVs have maintenance and repair issues from time to time. New models come with a warranty where manufactures and dealerships take care of the repairs for a set amount of time. Pre-owned RVs are typically sold “as-is” meaning all repairs are your responsibly.

Class A motorhome (Diesel Pusher) at Columbia River RV Park, Portland, Oregon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

What Is Your Style of Travel?

Do you like moving every night or do you prefer to set up and stay at one campground for a while.

Airstream trailer at The Barnyard RV Park, Lexington, South Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

What Is Your Budget?

Just as there is an RV for every lifestyle, there is an RV for every budget. Decide on a budget before beginning your search. Pre-owned RVs are a great option for a limited budget.

Taking it all with you at Whispering Oaks RV Park, Weimar, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Buying an RV will be one of the best decisions you’ll make for your family. At the end of the day or a long weekend, spending time together and creating memories are what is important and that will happen in any type of RV.

Worth Pondering…

Quality is never an accident; it is always the result of intelligent effort.

—John Ruskin