Buying a new RV is an exciting, but also overwhelming time. There were definitely things that we wish we had known as we made our big purchase. We put together these rookie RV owner mistakes that we made and how you could avoid making them!
Rookie RV Owner Mistakes
It’s an exciting day when you get your first camper. If you have never had one before or are upgrading from sleeping on the ground, there are a lot of new things to learn. You have to learn to drive it (or tow it), you have to learn how to set it up, level it and get the electric/water/sewer connected. It will take some time to figure out where to store everything. There will be lots of things to learn, but there are some important things you will NOT want to learn the hard way.
Make sure you upgrade your mattress. ASAP.
Most camper mattresses are very (very very very) economical and not necessarily made for a good night’s sleep. Isn’t that a bit ironic? I mean, the whole purpose of an RV is to have your own home away from home, which includes a place to sleep. We dissected our camper’s mattress after our first few trips and found out that it was a combination of thin foam outer layers and a center that can only be described as a bird’s nest of weird plastic. We quickly upgraded to a quality mattress and have been sleeping like tired little campers ever since.
Read all about our experience upgrading our RV mattress.
Make sure you have the right towing vehicle.
While most campers these days are ultralight construction to save weight, and some fifth wheel campers are even touted to be half ton towable, do yourself a big favor and make sure your vehicle can handle all of the weight you are about to impose upon it. RVs tend to be our home away from home and we like to take everything with us. We started with a half ton truck with a tow rating of around 9,500 pounds and a camper that weighed in a little over 6,000 pounds with our belongings stuffed into it.
While the truck was physically capable of dragging it along behind us, we found that on long adventures the camper was really putting a toll on the truck. We had to pull over on two occasions to let the transmission cool down (I’ve never seen a transmission temp gauge move before that trip) and we warped the front rotors (pulsating brake pedal) trying to keep speeds down on long downgrades.
An upgrade to a ¾ ton truck was all it took to make our drive more enjoyable and a lot safer. If you’re only ever going to tow your trailer close to home, a lighter truck may be fine, but if you plan on any substantial trips, be sure to do some research and have a capable tow vehicle from the start.
Spend the extra money to get a sway control weight distributing hitch.
We decided when we initially purchased our camper trailer, that because the unit weighed less than half of the truck’s tow rating, we didn’t need the weight distributing hitch. The dealer was just looking for an upsell, right? WRONG!! Shortly after entering the highway for our trip home it was obvious that the trailer was pushing the back of the truck all over the road.
After a little research we found out how truly dangerous that was and stopped back at the dealer to have them install the weight distributing hitch. We opted for the Equalizer hitch with sway control bars and the ride was noticeably much better.
Know what your RV Warranty covers BEFORE you pull off the dealer’s lot.
Campers are NOT the same as automobiles. Campers do have warranties, and the dealer will most likely brag that there is a one year warranty, but be sure you find out exactly what that covers. The one year warranty generally covers the items in the camper that can be sent back to their respective manufacturers such as the microwave, refrigerator, hot water heater, etc.
It usually does not cover the camper itself. For that, I’m told by a local dealer, you have about 90 days to figure out if you have any problems. The dealer will have to submit the problem to the manufacturer to see if they will cover it. In some cases the manufacturer will not fix it and the dealer (you purchased it from) will step up to correct it to take care of the customer. Again, the warranties are not like cars in that you can take your Ford to any Ford dealer for warranty repairs. If you purchased your camper a long way from home, because it was a good deal, you may have to take it back that long way to get any repairs done. Just about every used unit is going to sold AS-IS with no warranty, so make sure to be extra thorough before you make a deal.
Buy RV toilet paper. Yes, it is different than standard-issue toilet paper.
We upgraded from tent camping to a pop-up and then to a travel trailer. Having our own bathroom was the most amazing convenience… until I was up to my elbows in crappy toilet paper during one of our trips. During our purchase, the dealer did warn us not to use residential toilet paper in our camper’s toilet. We purchased a few rolls of RV specific toilet paper and were shocked at how thin it was for the cost.
A few trips in, we ran out of camper toilet paper and needed to get some ASAP. We stopped at a dollar store and picked up the thinnest paper we could find (so it would dissolve like the camper stuff) and were back on the road. It wasn’t long before we noticed the toilet wasn’t draining properly and shortly thereafter, it was backed up.
Long story short, regular toilet paper does not break down. It turns into a clumpy, rock hard, butt-paper plug. Not only did it clog up the toilet, it must have attached to the level sensor, as we had issues with the sensor working properly for awhile. Over the course of the next year I would notice chunks of paper mache-like debris coming out of the drain when we dumped the dump (I have a clear elbow to see when the black water turns clear). So, whatever you decide you need or don’t need when you get into your camper, NEVER NEVER NEVER use anything but RV toilet paper. It will be one giant mess you will regret.
So, let’s hear it. Have you ever made any of this mistakes? Or have you ever made any RV mistakes not listed here that you care to share?
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