a common rv newbie mistake is buying the wrong camper

11 Most Common (and costly) Mistakes That New RV Owners Make

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Making mistakes is a part of everyday life. We all make at least one mistake every single day. It’s no different when it comes to RVing. As a newbie, or rookie, you are going to make several mistakes that millions of RVers have made before you.

Being new to the RV world can be overwhelming, stressful, and sometimes embarrassing. But don’t worry, we have been in the same boat. There isn’t one RV owner out there that wasn’t a newbie at some point.

man getting frustrated

One of the wonderful things about the RV camping community is the willingness of veteran RV owners to share what they have learned along the way and the mistakes they made, so hopefully you won’t do the same.

In this article we are going to share the 11 most common, and sometimes costly mistakes that new RVers make.

Let’s jump in…

Buying New vs. Used

The first most common, and costly, mistake that new RVers make is buying a brand-new camper versus buying a used one. As a beginner, it’s always a good idea to start off with a used RV. Afterall, if you’re not positive that you are going to enjoy RV camping, you will be throwing several thousand dollars right out the window.

Like new cars, new RVs begin to depreciate as soon as they are towed off the lot. Buying a new camper never makes sense, financially. In fact, they can lose up to 20% of their value instantly.

If you are interested in saving thousands of dollars on your camper, consider these tips when buying a used camper from a private seller.

Choosing The Wrong Camper

Many new RV owners fail to understand the towing limits of their vehicles and make the costly mistake of purchasing a camper that is just too heavy to tow safely. Don’t let the salesman convince you that your tow vehicle can handle the weight. He’s just trying to get another RV off the lot.

a common rv newbie mistake is buying the wrong camper

Take the time needed to research the towing capacities of your tow vehicle and get a good understanding of what you can and can’t tow. It may be time consuming, but your research will pay off and you will become an expert on towing with your specific vehicle.

Jumping In Feet First

There is a certain learning curve when it comes to owning an RV. Some things you will learn as you go but be sure to do your diligence and research before jumping in headfirst. We have made several mistakes, some costly, by not learning ahead of time.

Do a few practice runs of hooking the camper to your tow vehicle at home, making sure you have everything latched, locked, and plugged in. In addition, practice hooking up the water, electric, and sewer hoses.

Be sure you know how certain equipment inside the camper works as well. Do you know how to turn on the refrigerator? Water heater? Furnace? Can you change out the propane tanks if needed?

If you are going to make any huge mistakes, or if you find something not working properly, this is the place to find out.

There are several resources for new RV owners online like Facebook Groups, forums, and of course, YouTube.

Leaving The Awning Out During Bad Weather

Leaving the awning out on your camper during severe weather is a common mistake made by new RV owners and veteran RVers alike. A good rule of thumb is to always bring the awning in if you plan to leave the camper unattended for any period of time.

storm clouds on the horizon

High winds and heavy rainfall can play havoc on your awning in a matter of minutes. If you decide to leave the awning out during a slow, steady rainfall, be sure to tilt it to one side to allow for proper drainage. The last thing you want is for your canopy to be destroyed by accumulating rainwater.

Using Stabilizer Jacks For Leveling

There is a common misconception when it comes to RV stabilizer jacks. These jacks are not for leveling your camper. They just simply aren’t designed to manage that kind of weight. They are designed to keep the camper more stable and prevent some of the rocking you will experience.

We have witnessed new RV owners using impact drills on these jacks to a point where it lifts the camper off the ground. It’s only a matter of time before they have a complete failure and end up replacing the jack.

This same scenario happened to us while we were leaving a campground. A neighboring camper decided he would take it upon himself to help us tear down. (Big mistake.) In the process he used his drill to raise one of our stabilizer arms.

The only problem was he had the drill going in the wrong direction. So, instead of raising the arm, he was digging it further and further into the ground until the threaded rod completely stripped out.

Of course, once the damage was done, he was nowhere to be found.

Not Learning To Back The Travel Trailer

One of the most common newbie mistakes is not learning how to back in your travel trailer. I have to admit, I fought this one tooth and nail when we first started out. I was always embarrassed if I noticed someone watching as I see-sawed my way into the site. We’ve all been there.

Practice makes perfect. A great way to practice backing your camper is to go to a large, empty parking lot, set up a few cones, and practice until you feel comfortable.

Another common mistake beginners make is not using a spotter while backing into the campsite. Make sure you take your spotter to the parking lot with you to practice so you are both on the same page.

Driving Too Far For A Weekend Camping Trip

Most new RVers tend to make the mistake of driving too far in one day. Of course, as a new RVer you won’t know your limits until you have had at least a few bad experiences by overdoing it.

We have settled on traveling no farther than 200 miles on a long, three-day weekend. For the typical two-day weekend, we cut it back to 100 miles.

Most beginners are weekenders and typically start their journey after work on a Friday afternoon. If you travel too far, you put yourself in a situation of arriving after dark.

Exhaustion from the drive, coupled with darkness, can lead to other, more costly mistakes. (Imagine backing your RV into your campsite and not noticing the low hanging branch that destroys you’re A/C unit.)

We cover this in more detail in the article Top 5 Tips For A Stress-Free Weekend RV Trip.

Packing Too Much Stuff

Kellie and I are as guilty as anyone of making this common mistake made by new RV owners. I think it’s human nature to pack everything you think you might need, just in case.

overpacking is a common rv newbie mistake

The fact is, if you are going to the campground for the weekend there is just no need to pack every kitchen gadget you have. There is also no need to fill storage space with clothes for every type of weather, or enough food to feed a small army.

Failing To Use Checklists

As a new RV owner, one of the first mistakes you should avoid is failing to make, and use, a checklist. Not every RV is the same and there isn’t really a one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to making a set-up and departure checklist.

These checklists will help you keep track of all the different steps you need to take before driving off in your camper, as well as setting up your camper at the campsite.

There are several websites that offer free downloadable checklists and there are certain apps that you can install right on your smartphone. Use these as a guide when making your own checklists.

The app we use is called RV Checklist. You simply open the app and check off each item as you go. The best part of this app is it’s free and you can customize each list to fit your needs by downloading it into an Excel spreadsheet.

Not Planning The Route

Not planning the route to your next destination can leave you in some undesirable situations, to say the least. Traveling in a motorhome or towing a camper is much different than traveling in a car or truck.

wrong way highway sign

If you are new to RVing, there are certain things you might not be aware of. For instance, if there are low clearances from overpasses or narrow roads along the way, you might find yourself in a situation that takes you hours to get out of. Finding a safe place to turn around when towing a camper isn’t always easy.

Know your RVs height and weight and put these numbers on the dashboard of your tow vehicle for a quick reminder.

Not Performing Basic Maintenance

Every RV needs routine maintenance, and you don’t want to make the costly mistake of not keeping up with it. By taking care of small tasks, like proper tire inflation, air conditioner maintenance, and roof inspections, you can extend the life of the RV and prevent costly repairs down the road.

Your camper should have an owner’s manual that lays out the recommended intervals for specific maintenance items. If you don’t feel comfortable with certain tasks, find a certified RV tech for assistance.

In Conclusion

One of the best parts of RV camping is the people. We have met some fantastic folks since we bought our first camper and some we still stay in touch with. At the end of the day, owning an RV is a never-ending cycle of learning.

We all make mistakes. The goal is to admit them, learn from them, and share them with fellow RVers so they can hopefully avoid the same ones.

At least you’ll have some great stories to tell your family and friends.

If you find yourself in a campground and have questions, most RV owners are more than willing to lend a helping hand. Or you can drop us an email…

See you at the campground…

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