7 Beginner RV Mistakes (That You Can Avoid)

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Jason and Rae Miller upset about all the beginner RV mistakes they have made

If you are new to RVing you will have a few beginner RV mistakes. There are so many things to learn when you first start RVing it can be overwhelming. The good news is that everyone makes mistakes and most are willing to share. These are 7 mistakes that we made and are sharing so you don’t make them as well.

Not fueling up before you go

Do you know how annoying (and not to mention scary) it is trying to tow a 40 ft trailer through a gas station filled with cars and people? We made this beginner RV mistake our first day on the road.

It’s especially awful when the fuel lanes are pointing towards the storefront so you need to make a few tight turns to leave. People also seem to think that because you are moving slowly and carefully that they should try and zip around you so they can get back on the road.

Save yourself the hassle and gas up the night before.

If you drive a class A or need to fill up while towing, seek out truck stops. They have a higher clearance and truckers know everyone needs their space.

We also recommend checking out the TSD Fuel card if you have a diesel for huge savings at the pump.

As a side note, be considerate of truckers as well. Stay out of their way, don’t block pathways or intersections, and move away from the pump when you finish fuelling.

Pack food!

We made this beginner RV mistake a couple of times. Thinking we had a fairly easy drive ahead of us, only to get delayed for one reason or another.

Normally places with healthy food are in smaller shopping centers and drive-thrus or are just plain unhealthy.

Can you imagine trying to park a fifth wheel in a crowded shopping center? No, don’t even imagine it, it’s not fun. Or, have you been driving for what feels like a million miles with no food in sight? Looking at you West Texas!

Do yourself a solid and pack a lunch and snacks no matter how short you think your drive is. We use this awesome little Thermos lunch bag to keep our drinks and food cool in the car.

Thermos Trailsman 36 Can Tote, Cream/Tan
Thermos Trailsman 36 Can Tote, Cream/Tan
Large front zippered pocket for Extra storage; metal bottle opener; Adjustable shoulder strap that is removable

Have an extension cord

Camco PowerGrip 30-Amp Camper/male RV Extension Cord | Features a Durable Heat-Resistant PVC Construction with 10-Gauge Wires and a Flexible Design | Rated for 125 Volts/3750 Watts | 25-Feet (55191)
  • EXTENDED LENGTH: Increase the reach of your RV's electrical outlet with this 25' 30-amp RV plug. A camper must-have—...
  • HIGH CONDUCTIVITY: Rated for 125 volts/3750 watts, the RV power cord features 100% copper 10-gauge wires for superior...
Camco 50-Amp Camper/RV Extension Cord | Features Power Grip Handles, Copper 6/3 + 8/1-Gauge Wires, and Rated for 125/250 volts/12,500 watts | 30-foot (55195)
  • Extended Length: Extension cord extends 30-feet long, providing the necessary length to power your RV
  • Flexible, Safe and Durable Construction: Extension cord is extremely flexible. Coated with a heavy-duty flame retardant,...

Whether you’re using 50 amp or 30 amp cord, just have an extension on hand.

This beginner RV mistake was because it had never been something we even thought of needing, until we pulled into a campsite in the heat of Las Vegas and began setting up, only to discover the electrical box was waaaaaay in the back.

Shocker, our cord didn’t reach. Trust us when we say it’s not fun hunting down an RV parts store after a long day of travel. Since it was Sunday, nowhere was even open!

Thanks to our friendly neighbors for letting us borrow a cord for the night so we could use our A/C overnight in Las Vegas Thousand Trails!

Buy an RV tire air compressor!

VIAIR 450P-RV/45053 Automatic Portable Compressor, Tire Inflator Kit, Air Compressor for RV, Truck, Jeep, and SUV Tires, Portable Air Pump Kit, RV Accessories, 150 PSI/1.80 CFM
  • Tire Inflator Kit: Say goodbye to tire troubles with the VIAIR 450P-RV Automatic Portable Compressor. Our air compressor...
  • Easy-to-Use: Featuring a built-in pressure cut-off sensor, the automatic portable air compressor is ideal for...

Dealing with tire issues is almost inevitable, so just be prepared as possible. We found out the hard way in week 9 that not all air compressors are created equal.

A gas station air compressor didn’t have what it needed to top off our trailer tires and we actually lost even more air.

Luckily for us, there was a commercial tire shop a few blocks down the road that could get us in working order. After that experience, we were convinced we needed an air compressor.

It took going to 5 different gas stations in Louisiana to find a working air compressor to finally learn our lesson with this beginner RV mistake and get us to cough up the bucks for the Viair that was recommended to us.

Do a comprehensive PDI

We hope you’re reading this before you buy your RV because this is key. Do a thorough PDI walkthrough when you pick up your rig!

We did a ton of research for things to look for in a walkthrough, and we inspected our rig for hours. Unfortunately, we got quickly overwhelmed without a checklist and they snuck two major issues by us.

The main issue was our oven didn’t work and it took us over 6 months to find someone who could fix it. We did get really comfortable using the convection oven microwave though.

It’s harder to get warranty work done when you move every week, so make sure you’re not heading out with issues with a thorough PDI inspection. 

Don’t freak out when using your furnace for the first time

The first time we started our furnace the fire alarm went off. It was over 80 degrees in our rig when we did our PDI so we skipped testing the furnace (See previous beginner RV mistake).

During our shakedown trip, we had a cooler morning so excitedly tested the furnace. The smell of burning quickly filled the RV and the smoke alarm started blaring.

We opened all the windows and turned off the furnace. A quick inspection showed nothing wrong but a quick Google search told us that we were not the only ones to experience this.

The furnace sometimes has an oil residue, dust, or sawdust in it when new that will burn off during the first use.

It took us about a month to get the smell of burning to stop completely when using the furnace.  

Use an RV specific GPS

Using Google Maps, Apple Maps, or Waze is great in your car or truck but a huge beginner RV mistake. They just don’t have what you need when driving an RV. We used to use CoPilot which has specific options available for your RV like height and length.

We now use RV Life GPS which is included with our RV Trip Wizard / RV Life Pro subscription. It has a better interface and usability then CoPilot. It even has a scary loud beep when you are heading toward a bridge that is too low.

My favorite function is that you can also modify your preference for roads. This allows us to set Interstates as the preference when in a hurry or two-lane country roads when we want to see some of the beautiful countrysides.

If you prefer a standalone unit, we have heard good things about the Rand McNally RV Tablet 85. It comes with a dashcam included and the ability to add a backup camera feed.

Those are our seven beginner RV mistakes that you can easily avoid! As we continue to make mistakes, we will continue to share them with you. Which mistake did you find most beneficial? What mistakes have you done?

Last update on 2023-11-30 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

  1. great, thanks, I have added it to my list. what version of Copilot are you using, is it a downloaded app for your phone, or do you use a separate GPS

    1. We have it on our phones but recently installed it on a small iPad laying around. Since the iPad didn’t have GPS I bought a Garmin GLO (https://amzn.to/2JFRmmp) that supplies GPS via bluetooth. I love having a bigger screen mounted to our window.

  2. Awesome post, we just started our year long adventure in our class A, and we have experienced all of these issues in just under 2 months. We actually took our RV to camping world after the furnace set off the smoke detector thinking there was a huge issue! We are currently in Washington D.C. and wish we had our RV specific GPS already, but it’s shipping to our next destination!

    1. Right! I feel like the dealer should do that in the PDI or they should have a warning about the furnace. Google saved us the headache of bringing it back to the dealer but we were just about ready.

  3. Would putting nitrogen in the tires work? My husband used to check the air in our car tires weekly, take them to the gas station around the corner and fill them up, until he put nitrogen in all of our cars, bikes and even lawn mower. If the tires get low, compressed air can be added until a place with nitrogen can be located. Is this something you might recommend?

    1. That sounds like a great plan! Our trailer tires were Nitro-filled from the factory and we see less fluctuation with them. We will probably never take them to a nitro place to get purged and refilled though because using our Viair compressor (even weekly) is less of a hassle to me than trying to find a nitro place that has room for me to navigate my trailer. Now if I could get a portable nitrogen compressor we might be on to something!!!

  4. I’m am engineer and can go through all the reasons NOT to concern yourself with nitrogen but I’ll spare you and simply state the following brief facts: 1) Air is 78% nitrogen and 21% oxygen. They are very similar in thermal performance and molecule size. Why do you think swapping 1/5th of the gas in your tire will make any difference? 2) The ONLY reason the tire industry puts nitrogen in tires is a marketing scam to get you to return regularly to the tire store so they can have the opportunity to sell you something. Get a Viair compressor and forget about what the tire store put in your tire.

  5. I just purchased my 1st class rv, and it all seems a bit intemidating. There is so much to learn and know.

    1. I agree Clarice, but take it slow and you will learn as time goes. As many people have said before creating a checklist of things you MUST remember will help out. This was our first purchase as well and it just takes doing it to learn. Feel free to ask us anything and we will try to help out. You got this!

  6. Be sure to join RV forums online. Have a wealth of KnowledgeBase solutions to most common problems. When posting: give specifics of your problem, make and model number. No need to go ballistic when a problem arise on-the -road. Solution is just an inquiry away.

    1. Brand specific Facebook groups are very helpful. Coleman owners and Forest River Owners Group are 2 that I am familiar with. RVers are a helpful lot.

  7. Jason, I believe the first video I watched of the two of you was in the beginning when your rig almost rolled over the edge! So maybe for me, it’s forgetting to chock the tires! Wow, how you’ve had so much fun since then. As always, I’m so very proud of the two of you !

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