Many RVers learn through a process of trial and error – and a costly one at that There are many things I wish I had known when I bought my first RV that would’ve saved me money and countless hours of labor.
We’ve compiled a list of the biggest RV mistakes to avoid, as told by real campers. We’ll hear their often-harrowing stories and provide simple solutions to help you avoid spending unnecessary money or wasting time you’ll never get back repeating the same mistakes.
But new mistakes are always being made, so if you have any advice to share with your fellow RVers, drop your mistakes and advice in the poll below.
RV Mistakes to Avoid When Buying or Trading-In
Not everyone gets it right the first time they purchase an RV. We asked RVers everywhere to tell us what they regret about their past RV buying choices.
“Not buying the toy hauler we wanted before the big price increase.”
Solution: Take advantage of deals for new or used toy haulers when they come up. You never know how long they’ll last!
“Not buying a 5th wheel.”
“Not getting an RV sooner.”
Solution: Use our RV Buying Guide to start your RV buying journey today!
“Not being able to afford a camper.”
“Not buying the Airstream first!”
Solution: Discover Camping World’s nationwide selection of Airstream campers.
“We traded in our camper for a new one during a camping trip! Shew, DON’T EVER do that! No place to leave all the stuff when cleaning out the old to put into the new!! And it was during a hard rain!”
Solution: Trade in with Camping World, and we’ll help you organize the move into your new RV so you don’t get caught in the rain.
RV Mistakes to Avoid When Packing Up
There are many resources to help you with trip planning, but make sure you avoid these costly mistakes before hitting the road:
“Was getting the camper ready to go to the Richmond NASCAR race. It was dark, we wanted to pull it into the driveway, so in the morning, we just had to get in and go. I asked my wife to close the slide and awning. She said everything was done. I didn’t do a walk around as I always do. As I started to pull the camper out from beside the house, I heard a noise, stopped the truck, and asked what the noise was. The wife yelled, “The awning”! The awning hit a tree…luckily, it didn’t do too much damage.”
Solution: Always perform an RV walkaround before driving.
“Not realizing we dropped the camper keys in the driveway until we got to camp!”
Solution: Make a checklist for setting up and breaking down your campsite. It’s a lot to remember without one.
“Hubby pulls out from under the awning, gets ready to pull onto the road, and the camper comes out of fifth wheel hitch……lands on truck bed/tailgate!!!! Luckily nothing was hurt too bad!!!”
Solution: Learn why this is the most common mistake new fifth wheel owners make and download our fifth wheel checklist to ensure it doesn’t happen to you.
“I didn’t realize that my camping reservation at Morro Bay had been canceled. It was summertime, and I had to go all the way to Paso Robles to find a place to spend the next few nights.”
Solution: Double-check reservations before you leave, and always have a backup in mind. Use Good Sam’s Campground Directory to find nearby RV parks in a pinch.
“Losing the crank to raise the pop-up camper then get to the campground late in the afternoon with no store nearby to purchase one.”
Solution: Contact your camper’s manufacturer for the best crank handle replacement options.
“Left the pull-down steps down and drove down the street.”
Solution: Always walk around your RV before hopping in to drive, but also keep our guide to RV steps handy in case you need to replace yours.
“Forgetting to lock the hinges on the back ramp of my toy hauler.”
Solution: Double-check those locks and ensure you know safe practices for packing a toy hauler.
“We got to camp and had no pots and pans to cook with, so we used tin foil.”
Solution: Explore Camping World’s selection of cookware to help you prepare culinary delights at the campsite.
“I’d have to go with getting 5hrs from home on the first travel day of a three-week long trip and pulling into the campground after driving all day getting set up and going to get pajamas on and realizing you left all the laundry at home for the entire three weeks and then having to find a Walmart and go clothes shopping for a whole family at 8 o clock in the evening.”
Solution: Many RVers keep a dedicated set of clothing and toiletries in their RV. That way, all you need to pack is food and recreation gear, and you’re ready to hit the road.
“Going through a hurricane.”
Solution: Head for higher ground somewhere inland. Or use this hurricane preparedness checklist for RV, boat, and home.
“Not emptying the tanks before starting the trip.”
“Was leaving our first NASCAR race in our first motorhome. Emptied black tank and never filled toilet back up with a little water n chemicals. Hit I95 at about 70mph, and the smell was the absolute worst. 3 or 4 lanes of traffic with nowhere to pull over and no idea what had happened until later.”
Solution: Refill your RV toilet with water and chemicals to create a vapor barrier between your holding tank and RV bathroom. Read more tips for maintaining your RV toilet here.
RV Mistakes to Avoid When Driving
Some people wonder if you need a special license to drive an RV. The short answer is no, in most cases. But here are a few mistakes to avoid when you’re driving or towing an RV for the first time:
“Pulling a pop-up over the railroad tracks a little too fast, the camper got unhitched and hit the bumper of my new SUV. I learned a valuable lesson that day!”
Solution: Ensure you follow the proper steps for hooking up a travel trailer.
“Flat tire with a bad spare in the middle of nowhere.”
Solution: Enroll in Good Sam Roadside Assistance for 24/7 emergency breakdown support.
“I left the water pump on, and a tall bottle in the sink moved and turned on the water. Thankfully, all the water went down into the gray tank, but we had to stop at the dump station to get rid of the water in the gray tank and refill the water tank.”
Solution: Your safest bet is to travel without anything in the sink. If you do, ensure everything is flat, and consider using a dish drainer to secure and protect items from falling.
“Backing into a tree not once but three times.”
Solution: Check out our review of the Trailer Life Pathway Wireless Backup Camera for improved visibility when navigating your RV.
“Two tire blowouts on the same day. The insurance company called it two separate incidents with a $500 deductible for each.”
“Using GPS to get to a new campground with our camper was not wise. It took us down a narrow one-way gravel road next to a roaring river about 1 mile, then over a small sinkhole. We could not avoid the sinkhole or turn around, so we went for it. After another ½-mile, we came to a locked gate. Luckily there was just enough room to turn around and return the way we came, including over the sinkhole. Not cool…..”
Solution: Explore our selection of GPS units for RV road navigation.
“Getting left behind at the gas station in VA on the way to FL. I took the dog for a walk to potty, and my husband thought I was sleeping and drove off down the road and back onto Route 95 South in Emporia.”
Solution: Do a headcount before leaving camp, gas stations, rest areas, and anywhere else you might accidentally leave someone behind.
RV Mistakes to Avoid When Parking
After a long drive to reach your destination, parking is often the final step before you can finally relax. But take heed of these RV parking mistakes before you relax too early:
“We got settled into our campsite with a neighbor occupying the site next to us. They HAD a beautiful trailer. As I watched, another camper pulled in and tried backing his trailer into my neighbor’s already-occupied site. Backing the trailer into theirs. He may have been drunk. There was significant damage. My neighbor’s wife was inside their trailer when it happened.”
Solution: Install one of the best wireless RV backup cameras to improve parking visibility.
“Trying to back a 36-foot 5th wheel into a spot in a state park that was angled the opposite direction of the road.”
Solution: Read our tutorial on how to back a trailer into your campsite.
“After pulling my camper for several years without any issues, I used my daughter as a “backer,” and she let me hit a rock.”
Solution: Show your spotter our tutorial on how to guide an RV.
“Backing into a tree not once but three times.”
Solution: Check out our review of the Trailer Life Pathway Wireless Backup Camera for improved visibility when navigating your RV.
RV Mistakes to Avoid When Setting Up Camp
The fun is about to begin when you’ve reached the campground. But make sure you avoid these big mistakes before you relax and unwind.
“Not having a camper.”
Solution: Find your nearest Camping World dealership to start your RV buying adventure.
“We hooked the street water connection to a sealed black water tank. The tank got so full it swelled and started to come out of the bottom of the camper. No real damage except for having to drain the tank and remount it. Luckily for us, the tank had no waste in it, so only water came out, but it was pretty embarrassing.”
Solution: Know how to hook your RV up to power and water properly.
“On a hot 90-degree summer day, finished leveling, unhooked, dropped stabilizers, and realized my hookups were farther than expected and my stuff didn’t reach.”
“No wheel chock on a nice tiny little small slope. It stopped on my hitch with no damage, but it’s a reminder for sure.”
Solution: Always use wheel chocks to secure your towable RV before disconnecting from your tow vehicle.
“Camping at our first county park and didn’t know we had to fill up with water at the water station. We found our spot, backed in, and leveled out before noticing. My husband was so mad, but I took it as a lesson learned.”
Solution: Check the amenities before setting up camp, or know how to fill a fresh water tank using an alternative method.
“I was at a site with my old trailer, and after unhooking, I forgot to chock the wheels. The next thing I knew, it was slowly rolling, and I was able to hold it from the coupler and yell at my wife to put it behind the wheels. Now I have a routine, and it will never happen again.”
Solution: Follow our tutorial for properly leveling and stabilizing your RV every time.
“Trying to open a slide on the trailer with a tree in the way.”
Solution: Always check for proper clearance before extending RV slide-outs. But you should also know how to manually retract slide-outs in an emergency.
“Not putting our awning at an angle on our first camping trip. We had a major rain storm, and the awning filled with water and was torn off the camper.”
Solution: The safest bet is to retract your awning when it’s raining or windy. Here’s our complete guide to RV awnings for tips on repairing, maintaining, and replacing an RV awning.
“Not knowing my brand new septic hose had inserts inside it to block the flow. I thought was plugged when draining a couple of different times, so fluids between the valve and hose spilled out a couple of times at the dump station splashing on me…wearing flip flops…then I finally noticed the cap in the hose…”
Solution: There are several styles of sewer hoses for RV use. Familiarize yourself with yours and ensure you wear the proper protective equipment before use.
“Putting the slide out without checking all the cabinet doors were still closed and broke off one of the kitchen doors.”
Solution: Follow our step-by-step tutorial for properly extending and retracting RV slide-outs.
“Forgetting to lower the tailgate when pulling out from our 5th wheel. After that incident, I would always take the tailgate off when towing.”
Solution: Replace your existing truck tailgate with a fifth wheel vent tailgate.
“Parking my RV on top of a very active ant colony!”
Solution: Keep several insect repellent solutions in your RV to prepare for the unexpected.
“Arriving at the campground and driving around twice to pick the best spot. Backed it in, set her all up, and started to make a fire when I noticed a yellow tag. Dang site was reserved!”
Solution: Check out these tips for picking the right campsite at a campground, but always make sure your preferred spot isn’t already reserved!
“Pulled into a riverside resort where we would stay for 9 days. They gave us a site next to a site with 3 Harleys parked there. Asked for another site, and the lady said, “Sure, any site that’s not a waterfront site; it’s going to rain all week”. We moved, which turned out to be the lowest point on the campground… and it rained all week. Had 8” of standing water through our entire site ALL WEEK. The Harley guys loaded up and left 3 hrs after we set up.”
Solution: Check the forecast as part of your routine for selecting the right site in a campground.
RV Mistakes to Avoid at the Campground
The campground can be a tough place to make an embarrassing RV mistake. Learn from these campers to keep your RV park neighbors happy:
“Having a tent!”
Solution: Explore Camping World’s nationwide inventory of new and used RVs.
“A monster monsoon in the desert started rolling in at a distance, and a few of us campers stood there watching it, thinking it was further than it was. Within a few minutes, it hit us with a downpour and wind as we watched my awning rip cleanly from my trailer and shear the brackets off my golf cart. I still have to wonder if that wasn’t a small tornado.”
Solution: Check weather forecasts early and often using your preferred smartphone app or weather radio. Retract your awning at the first sign of heavy wind or rain, but know how to choose a replacement awning if you repeat the mistake above.
“It rained 3 days and three nights while we sat in a tent! Rained my boat full of water and sunk it! That was 1970, and I haven’t been camping since! My idea of roughing it is a Hampton suite on the second floor with no elevator!”
Solution: Check out our guide to luxury RVs to learn why RV living can be far from rough.
“Air conditioner failed at midnight on a Sunday in 113-degree weather.”
Solution: Know tips for keeping your RV cool without A/C in an emergency.
“We were up in Rocky Mountain National Park when I discovered that the propane line under the trailer had been (mysteriously) severed .. with no way to fix the problem! Fortunately for extra blankets!”
Solution: Ouch! This is a good reason to install an automatic propane shut-off safety device. But you’ll need an appointment at a nearby Camping World service center to fix that severed line.
“A camper next to us at the campground had grandkids overfill their waste tank and it backed up into their shower. They began trying to drain it into buckets and bins before deciding to hitch up and head to the dump station.”
Solution: Check your tank level indicators often and ensure you know how to empty your RV’s holding tanks properly.
“Getting up in the middle of the night to pee only to discover a bear outside my tent. I was shaking.”
Solution: Find your perfect RV so that leaving the safety of your camper to use the restroom is no longer necessary.
“Tearing apart our camper trying to find the blockage in the kitchen sink….smelled like a stable and overflowing! I kept asking my husband about the secondary tank ….but he insisted we did not have one. After a point, I asked him to come outside and tell me what the pull valve under the slide-out was for……..yep…secondary tank….”
Solution: Take the time to get oriented with your RV and all its systems before your first trip. We offer an RV orientation at our service centers for new RV owners.
“So far, running out of propane on our maiden voyage. It was in January too!”
Solution: Always know where the nearest propane refill service is located, especially when camping in the colder months.
“Forgot I had the valve open to the black tank flush. Flooded the bathroom almost.”
Solution: Follow our tutorial for the proper procedure to use your RV’s black tank flush.
“Telling our group don’t worry about dinner on our first night, I’ll make chili. Had everything except any seasonings and my Dutch oven.”
Solution: Add these seven campfire soups to make in your Dutch oven to your recipe list.
“Building campfires!! The wife and I suck at it!”
Solution: Consider these four alternatives to the open flame.
“Husband forgot to close the washer and dryer valve hooking up to city water first time out for the year. The bedroom was totally flooded.”
Solution: Learn everything you need to know about RV washers & dryers before installing one. And ensure that the valve is closed before hooking up to city water.
“Burning all the toilet paper trying to start a campfire to cook a package of hot dogs for supper only to discover that she had left the hot dogs sitting out and her dog ate them all while she was busy burning up all the toilet paper.”
Solution: Make sure you have a healthy stock of RV toilet paper on hand if you also use it as a fire starter. Better yet, use a dedicated fire starter and save the toilet paper for its intended purpose.
RV Mistakes to Avoid When Boondocking
There’s much to learn if you’re new to boondocking, but avoiding these RV mistakes will make your off-grid camping trips much more enjoyable.
“Camping with no hookup and forgetting to fill the water tank. And me getting the stomach virus.”
Solution: Become familiar with the best ways to get clean drinking water in your RV.
“Generator failed on a week-long camping trip in Southern Florida.”
“Finally parted with the money to buy a really nice big canopy for camping. It started raining, so we had it over all of us in our camp chairs and our small fire so we could stay out even though it was raining. We went to bed, and the next morning, it turned out that this expensive canopy was not for rainy weather. It wasn’t made to drain, so the weight of all the water made the metal arms break…collapsing right into the fire to finish it off!”
Solution: Always retract your awning and collapse your canopy tent before heading to bed if it’s raining or any inclement weather is expected overnight.
“That time I stayed at a paid campground.”
Solution: We love boondocking too! Here are some easy ways to find boondocking spots for your next trip.
“Campsite burnt up after we thought we put the campfire out.”
Solution: Follow this advice on fire safety for RV travelers.
RV Mistakes to Avoid When Maintaining Your RV
Downloading our maintenance reference handbook is the best way to track your RV’s service needs. As a close second, avoid repeating these RV maintenance mistakes:
“Drilling a hole in the metal frame that held in the AC unit to drain water because it wasn’t at the right angle from the manufacturer. It was the window-type ac. I hit the coolant line, pssssss, scared the bejeebers out of me. Thankfully I know a retired plumber that fixed it for me!”
Solution: Schedule a service appointment with a certified RV technician for major repairs.
“When my roof started to leak, I tried to seal it with Flex Seal in the middle of a storm before giving up and throwing a trap over until the storm subsided.”
Solution: Make a comprehensive RV roof inspection part of your annual maintenance routine to avoid being caught in the rain with a can of Flex Seal and a tarp as your only tools.
“Didn’t know the kitchen had a separate gray tank. Thought the sink was plugged. Called a plumber.”
Solution: Learn a bit more about how RV water systems work.
Have you made any major RV mistakes that aren’t on this list? Use the post below to share them!