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What You Need to Know: RV Driving for Beginners

If you’re new to it (or even if you’re not) driving a Class A RV like a Newmar can present a challenge. Even if you’re been driving cars and smaller vehicles for a long time, it takes practice to get used to the quirks of such a large and heavy vehicle. These Class A motorhome driving tips will help you to stay safe on the roads and feel confident behind the wheel of your luxurious RV.

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What is a Class A Motorhome?

Motorhomes are divided into “classes” based on their size. The average, small RV that you see used for road trip vacations is probably a Class C RV. These smaller vehicles typically weigh between 10,000 and 12,000 lbs. Class A motorhomes are the largest class, and can weigh anything from 13,000 lbs. up to as much as 30,000 lbs.

Even a Class C RV can feel unwieldy and bulky to someone who is accustomed to driving a small car. Class A motorhomes are huge by comparison and they handle more like a bus than a car. The trade-off is that there is far more space inside them for home comforts, and many Class A motorhomes are just as comfortable and luxurious as a small family house.


How to Get a License to Drive a Class A Motorhome

The idea of an “RV license” is a bit of a misnomer. The rules on vehicle licenses vary from state to state. No state currently has an explicit law that relates to the driving of RVs. States do, however, divide their licenses up into classes based upon the weight of the vehicle that the driver is handling and, in some cases, whether or not they have a trailer.

The sheer size of Class A motorhomes means that in some cases a motorist may need a special license to drive one. It depends on the weight of the motorhome. Let’s imagine you live in Pennsylvania. If you are driving an RV that weighs less than 26,000 lbs., you don’t need a special license. If the RV weighs more than 26,000 lbs. you will need a Class B non-commercial license. If you have a trailer and the weight goes over 26,000 lbs., then you need a Class A non-commercial license.

Every state has different rules. Some states are more lenient than others. It’s a good idea to check the laws in your state and those you intend to regularly travel in before buying a large RV.


RV Handling Tips and Tricks

Once you’ve cleared up the legal aspects, the next challenge is to hit the road. It takes a while to get used to handling a large motorhome, but it’s worth it once you master it because you’ll be able to visit new places and see the sights in luxury, free from the constraints of a hotel.


Start with a Short, Easy Trip

Keep things simple for your first trip. As strange as it sounds, consider a “staycation.” The last thing you want is for your first trip in your brand new RV to be marred with stress, broken itineraries or worse, a broken-down vehicle. Drive on easy roads that you already know well and stay somewhere locally. Give yourself plenty of time to get used to how the RV moves, how well it handles hills, how much space you need to stop, and how it turns.


Tech Makes Life Easier

When you’re sitting in an RV, you’re higher up than you may be used to being in your sedan or even in a smaller motorhome. Your vehicle is also longer and wider, so you need more space to turn, and you’re heavier so your stopping distances are longer. You need to take all of that into account, and it can take a while for your brain to adjust when it comes to judging distances. You’ll also have blind spots that are bigger than the ones you’re accustomed to in the mirrors of a standard car.

The good news is that there are high-tech answers to some of these problems. Some Class A RVs, like many Newmar models, offer driving assist technology like back up cameras, lane tracking, and adaptive steering. They make parking, reversing and other maneuvers much easier.


Don’t Fight the Vehicle

Modern RVs have a lot of nice “quality of life” features such as power steering, auto-leveling, improved suspension and ABS. Take advantage of these. Be gentle on the steering, drive slowly and steadily, and give yourself plenty of space for any turns you need to take. Remember that ABS is designed to cut your stopping distance, but in a very heavy vehicle you still have a lot of inertia. 

If you’re nervous about handling an RV, consider taking classes. Many companies offer rentals and classes where you can practice driving in a controlled environment to build your confidence.


Take Regular Breaks

Remember that you don’t have to get to your destination on a fixed schedule when you’re on a road trip. If you’re held up for a while, that’s not a crisis. You quite literally have a house behind you. If you’re feeling tired, stressed or slightly worried, pull over at the next truck stop and take a break. Get your co-pilot to take over the driving for a while if they’re able to do so. If not, just take a nap, go for a short walk, and then start driving again.


Don’t drive in difficult conditions such as if there’s heavy rain, fog, snow or ice. If you don’t like driving late at night, rest. The point of owning a luxury motorhome is to do things on your terms. Take your time and get to your destination safely then enjoy your holiday.

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