Recreational vehicles come with a variety of RV rules, regulations, and road restrictions. From bridge height clearances to allowable cargo weights, it’s important to know where you’re going and what kinds of road restrictions to be prepared for along the way.
It’s not feasible to document every single state rule, regulation, and road restriction for motorhomes and travel trailers here. Instead, this post will help guide you in what to research so you, your passengers, and your RV travel safely.
(This post is NOT intended as legal advice—be sure to check the most up-to-date local, state, and national rules and regulations before heading out on the road!)
RV Road Restrictions for Length, Width, and Height
Traveling across the country can get tricky because rules and regulations vary by state. The length of your trailer or motorhome, for example, can go from legal to illegal, just by passing over an imaginary line in the road.
Remember that RV length is different than trailer length. An RV is a drivable recreational vehicle and a trailer is anything towed behind a vehicle with an engine, which can include travel trailers, fifth wheels, Happier Campers, toads, boat trailers, and more.
Maximum underpass heights vary from 13.5 to 14 feet, but you’ll still need to be aware of where these are on your route in the event of an exception to the rule. Maximum legal lengths for RVs vary from 40 to 50 feet, but this doesn’t include the length of a toad or trailer towed behind your RV.
It also doesn’t apply to the combined length of two vehicles, such as when you’re towing a travel trailer or fifth-wheel. When you add a towable (a boat or travel trailer, for example) behind an RV or a truck, you’ll typically be limited to a maximum length of 50 to 65 feet, depending on the state.
When it comes to width, this is actually pretty standard across the entire country. The maximum allowable width for most RVs is between 8 and 9 feet. In most states, the maximum width is 8’6” but there are several exceptions that depend on the width of the roadway you’re traveling on.
Completely overwhelmed? Don’t be. We recommend installing a Rand McNally GPS system in your RV. Their GPS units have integrated many RV road restrictions and regulations so you can stay updated on the varying heights, lengths, and widths of vehicles allowed on the roads you’re hoping to explore.
While we’re at it, some states also require larger vehicles to stop at roadside weigh scales to ensure they don’t exceed the maximum weight for which the road ahead is designed. Check state regulations to know if you need to stop at scales along your route.
Licensing Rules and RV Regulations
The most important thing to recognize with RV licensing rules and regulations is that they are state-specific for the most part. You’ll need to adhere to the regulations in the state where your RV is registered, which means you don’t have to go to the DMV to take a special test when you cross a state border.
In general, unless you’re transporting hazardous materials or driving an exceptionally heavy class A RV, the odds favor your ability to drive an RV anywhere with a standard driver’s license.
But some RVs are big. Like, really big. Bordering on the size of a semi, big. Some states require special licensing if your rig is particularly large (usually in excess of 26,000 pounds) and includes certain safety features (see air brakes).
Please note that this likely won’t apply to you unless you’re driving one monster of a Class A RV. Also, some states that require a commercial driver’s license (CDL) for vehicles over 26,000 pounds still offer exemptions for recreational vehicles.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration sets basic guidelines for vehicles that require a CDL, but some states enforce stricter requirements. In most states, a CDL is only required if your vehicle is used for commercial activity.
Some states may ask that drivers of larger RVs complete a test to receive an additional endorsement on an existing license. Endorsement requirements vary by state and will depend on your RV’s type, weight, and size.
So to reiterate, a special license won’t be required to drive most RVs. Still, we recommend checking with your state DMV’s website to make sure you’re following all licensing rules and regulations for driving your specific RV.
If you’re towing a toad, a boat trailer, or really anything behind your RV, you’ll need to be aware of additional towing regulations along your route as well.
This is most common when trailer weight exceeds 3,000 pounds but, again, it will vary from state to state. These devices are all designed to enhance the safety of your trailer and protect other drivers on the road.
For those towing a travel trailer or fifth-wheel, it’s generally illegal for passengers to ride in the trailer or fifth-wheel during towing. There are, however, several states that allow passengers to ride in fifth wheels as long as the proper safety precautions are in place.
Once again, you’ll need to examine state regulations for everywhere you plan to travel. Otherwise, you’ll wind up learning about them once you’re pulled over and it’s already too late.
Parking RV Regulations
As RVers, we sometimes need an intermediate place between camping destinations to pull over and spend the night. That means we need to be familiar with state, county, and municipal ordinances pertaining to overnight street parking.
Some cities and states will restrict your ability to parallel park on the street and sleep in your RV overnight. Others forbid long-term RV street parking even if it’s on the roadway right in front of your residential home.
Designated rest areas on the side of highways and interstates are usually a good bet for overnight RV parking when you are between campgrounds. That being said, you’ll be competing with fellow RVers and semi-truck drivers for space at these locations.
There are also private businesses that allow overnight parking. Examples include Walmart, Cabela’s, Bass Pro Shops, Cracker Barrel, and Costco. There are also select Camping World locations in places like Savannah, Georgia and Charleston, South Carolina that allow overnight parking. Some Cabela’s locations even have dump stations you can use for a small fee.
Although all of these businesses have locations nationwide, overnight parking policies are typically subject to manager discretion. For example, many Southern California Walmart locations no longer allow overnight parking. In fact, the number of Walmart parking lots that allow overnight parking has decreased by as much as 20 percent in the last decade.
In addition to these private businesses, some casinos, travel centers, and public parks allow overnight RV parking. Keep in mind that overnight parking regulations at these locations will be state-specific, so do your homework before relying on them in a pinch.
RV Road Restrictions for Carrying LP Gas
Some roadways around the country won’t allow vehicles carrying LP gas to travel between select points. This is especially common on tunneled highways in places like Maryland, Massachusetts, and New York.
If an accident occurs in a tunnel, having a bunch of vehicles carrying flammable gas sitting next to each other is a recipe for disaster. Even though your RV’s propane system is designed to be very safe while you’re traveling, you’ll still need to take alternate routes to avoid tunnels and other sections of road where transporting LP gas is prohibited.
Campground RV Rules
After all of that, campground rules can seem minor, but they’re still very important. Every campground has restrictions that they’ve put in place to try to ensure the safety and comfort of all their guests.
This includes restrictions on RV length, gathering firewood or bringing firewood from other locations, generator use, quiet hours, how your pets should be handled, and much more.
Generally, most campgrounds will accept RVs from 20 to 40 feet in length. Across the thousands of campgrounds in the U.S., the average permitted RV length is 27 feet. Some locations will allow longer rigs, but longer RVs can typically have more difficulty finding accommodating campgrounds.
Campgrounds and national parks that restrict carrying in non-local firewood aren’t just going for a cash grab. Firewood can carry invasive species that spread to new areas through RV travel. It’s one way that the Emerald Ash Borer got around, which has been wreaking havoc on ash trees across the country.
Most campground quiet hours are between 10 p.m. and 6 p.m. and generator use is also prohibited during these hours. However, national parks tend to be stricter on these hours and some don’t allow generators at all. So be sure to check with your campground host for their specific rules before assuming standard hours for quiet and generator use.
In terms of pets, you can generally expect campgrounds to require that your pets remain on a leash when they leave your RV. Six feet seems to be the maximum acceptable length for pet leashes, but some pet-friendly campgrounds may allow longer runs for pets hanging outside of RVs.
Otherwise, expect campgrounds and national and state parks to restrict things like glass containers and fireworks. And while it should go without saying, we’ll say it anyway: if it’s illegal, don’t bring it with you.
Please keep in mind that most of these rules, regulations, and road restrictions have been put in place in the interest of protecting your safety as well as the safety of your passengers and other drivers on the road. Failure to adhere to RV rules, regulations, and road restrictions will have consequences.
It could result in fines or even the loss of driving privileges in the case of serious or repeated offenses. For campground rules and parking regulations, you may end up having to relocate before you’re ready to do so.
Some of these rules may apply to your rig, and some may not. If you have questions, the experts at Camping World will be happy to help outfit you with a rig that meets your every need—and the rules of every state in which you intend to travel.
NOTE: This article has been edited to clarify some language regarding special licensing.