Aug 142014

Over the years I’ve given new and wannabe RVers a lot of advice to help them make the best choices, but today I thought we’d go in a different direction and we’ll talk about some things NOT to do.

We thought we had done our research, but starting out we made just about every mistake a greenhorn can make. Hopefully you can learn from us and save yourself a lot of time and trouble.

Trusting An RV Salesman – There’s a reason for the saying “If an RV salesman’s lips are moving, he’s lying.” I believe there are some honest RV sales reps in the country who care about putting customers in the RV that fits their needs, but then again, I still believe in the Easter Bunny, too. It’s a sad fact that far too many RV sales reps will tell you anything to make a sale. I’ve had them tell me tall tales that make Pecos Bill and Paul Bunyan seem believable, and make claims that are not just wrong, but ridiculous. Not long ago one told me that the four slide 42 foot diesel pusher he thought I really needed to buy would easily get 17-19 miles per gallon cruising down the highway fully loaded and pulling a toad. Perhaps the worst thing they routinely do is sell people trailers that are far too heavy for the trucks they plan to pull them with, assuring the unsuspecting customers that everything will be fine. In my opinion this is not just dishonest, it’s criminal.

Buying The Wrong RV – So what’s the right RV for you? I have no idea, all of our needs are different, and the longer we do this the more we all change. My friend John Huggins from Living The RV Dream always advises newbies to buy their third RV first. That’s good advice. If I could give a newbie one piece of advice on what to buy, it would be to purchase a used upscale model instead of a new entry level rig. No matter what you buy, if it’s new, you lose a ton of money the moment you drive off the dealer’s lot. Let somebody else eat that depreciation, spend those first months running back to the dealer to get things fixed, and have a better quality home on wheels for the same or less money than an entry or mid-level RV would cost.

Listening To The Experts – Every third guy on the internet RV forums is an expert. Just ask them. Sometimes I want to shake my head and laugh when I read the advice they so freely dispense, but more often I want to hang my head and cry. Just recently in on online forum a self-proclaimed journeyman electrician claiming to have over thirty years experience assured someone that they did not need any type of electrical management system or surge protector because, “by law, all RV park hookups must meet code and be in proper working order.” Yes, you do need an electrical management system. I can’t tell you how many RV sites we’ve had with bad power.

Buying A Campground Membership – In our first three months on the road we listened to a fast talking salesman and purchased an expensive campground membership that was a bad fit for us and a bad choice financially. I always tell new fulltimers to wait at least a year before they buy anything but Passport America, because it will take them that long to slow down and figure out their traveling style and likes and dislikes. And then, if you do decide to buy a membership, consider a used one, or something like a Thousand Trails Zone Pass to determine if membership campgrounds are right for you.

Thinking You Don’t Need A Checklist – “A checklist? We don’t need no stinking checklist! I’ve unhooked our campground utilities a dozen times. I got this!” Uh, no, you don’t. Trust me, sooner or later you’re going to pull out of a campsite without unhooking the water hose or electrical cord, or you’re going to forget to secure your fifth wheel hitch and ding the back end of your truck, or neglect to put your toad in neutral if you don’t use a checklist. Trust me, it will happen.

Not Knowing Your Height – How tall is your RV? Are you sure? Does the height listed in the rig’s specs include rooftop air conditioning units and satellite dishes and domes? Have you actually climbed up on the roof and measured? And do you have that posted on your dashboard? Sooner or later you’ll thank me if you do.

Trusting That Automatic Step – You open the door and that nifty electric step automatically goes out. How cool is that? Until it doesn’t. I know just how much it hurts when you step out into thin air and end up on your butt on the asphalt. If you’re lucky like me, the worst you’ll suffer is a bruised ego. If not, you may find yourself sitting in an ER with a broken ankle or worse, as several RVing friends we know have done.

Trusting Your RV Ladder – If you think you can hurt yourself when your automatic step fails, wait until you see how much damage you can do when the ladder on the back of your RV comes loose or collapses. A couple of years ago three of our readers suffered serious injuries while using RV ladders.

And Then There’s The GPS – Don’t depend on a GPS made for automobiles. Your RV is wider, longer, and heavier than a car and it can’t go places a car can. Get yourself a good truck or RV GPS. And then don’t blindly trust it, either. In a few weeks we’re going to the Harbor View Outdoor World campground near Colonial Beach, Virginia. I know from our last trip there that if we follow our GPS we’ll end up on a road where the bridge washed our several years ago and then have to back up on a narrow two lane road to find a way around it.

Don’t Freak Out – Sooner or later you’re going to make one of the mistakes listed above, or one of the dozens of others we’ve made. As long as nobody gets hurt and the damage isn’t too severe, laugh it off and get on with your life. Yeah, I know, it’s no laughing matter when it happens. Trust me, somewhere down the road it’s going to make one hell of a good campfire story!

Have you entered our latest free drawing yet? This week’s prize is an audiobook of Longnecks & Twisted Hearts, the third book in my friend George Weir’s excellent Bill Travis mystery series. To enter, all you have to do is click on the Free Drawings link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn Sunday evening.

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Thought For The Day – You can teach a cat to do anything that it wants to do.

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Nick Russell

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  7 Responses to “10 Things New RVers Should Never Do”

  1. I would also suggest newbies join the Escapees and take the Boot Camp class. Once you join (right now it’s on sale for $29) you can also get a discount on RV parks.

  2. as usual good advice. We have been fortunate in the 10 yrs we have had nothing major happen to the rig or toad. We both have made dumb mistakes and get pissed off but after awhile you just learn to laugh. We have the RV GPS and have learned not to trust it 100% since it has also gotten us into some sticky situations. This trip on back roads it tried to put us into corn fields a couple of times because they imagined a road there. Have a safe day everyone and travel safe

  3. Then there is this guy my wife knows very well that has been distracted by friendly neighbors and hooked the water hose to the tank flusher inlet. TWICE. He now tells other RV’s that the rule is to change your black tank every 3 years. She now watches him hook up every time. The fun of full timing.

  4. Yup…. agreed 100% with each and every one!!!

  5. Amen to the GPS remark. We have a Garmin Truck and RV model. Going to and leaving our last RV Park it insisted I go through a 9’9″ covered bridge with a 6 ton gross weight. We are 13’4″ and weigh 12 ton with the truck. I programmed in our next Park and it wanted to take me an extra 80 miles further than I could do it on my own.

  6. The biggest mistake we’ve made thus far is purchasing a membership CG. Not only did we not take your advise and wait a bit after beginning the FTing lifestyle, but we did the “double whammy” and purchased directly from the compnay. BIG MISTAKE!

    I know exactly the road you’re talking about near the Harbor View TT. I tend to look at Google Earth now when we make trip plans.

  7. Excellent information as always. We were given a one year zone pass by our RV dealer. I liked it so much I found one on Craig’s List for my sister and now I have to find one for us. Thanks!

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