10 Newbie RV Mistakes You Can Avoid

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We’ve been living and traveling in our RV since 2016. During that time we’ve made every mistake in the book and seen hundreds of other campers make the same mistakes.

Here are 10 common newbie RV mistakes you want to avoid. If you are a new RV owner, you can easily avoid these common errors. Just read this guide and do as we say not as we did.

Mistake 1: Leaving the Black Tank Open

Arrow pointing to closed RV waste valve

Many new RVers mistakenly assume that they should leave their gray and black tank open when parked at a full hookup campsite. In reality, leaving the black tank open is a bad idea for two reasons.

First of all, it stinks. If you leave the tank open, your neighbors will be hit with a foul odor every time you go to the bathroom.

Secondly, leaving the tanks open is a less efficient way to empty and clean them. When dumping the holding tanks, dump your full black tank first, then dump the full gray tanks to clean out the hose.

See our beginners guide to RV holding tanks for a step-by-step guide to tank maintenance.

Mistake 2: Not Using Sewer Hose Supports

RV sewer hose setup mistake

Another common newbie RV mistake is not using sewer hose supports (or using them incorrectly). These supports sit under the sewer hose to keep it flowing downward.

If you just let the hose sit on the ground, waste will get stuck on the way out and the hose may clog. If the hose clogs, you can manually lift the hose to help the waste flow down. However, it is much simpler and less messy just to let gravity do its thing.

One mistake we see all the time is campers using sewer hose supports, but letting it dip down and go back up right at the sewer outlet. For an efficient flow, you must set up the supports so the hose is always angled down.

Mistake 3: Not Using a Checklist

Woman using RV travel day checklist

We use our setup and departure checklist every time we arrive at a new campsite and every time we leave a campsite. Whenever we’ve stopped using a checklist, we’ve always regretted it.

In our first few months on the road, we used a checklist religiously. However, as we got more comfortable setting up and breaking down our campsite, we stopped double-checking ourselves.

When we stopped using the checklist, things started breaking. Dishes flew out of unlocked cabinets, the shower door got banged up and a roll of paper towels got stuck under our slide.

Use a checklist when you are new to RVing and continue to use your checklists no matter how experienced you are. Download our free, printable RV travel day checklists before your first trip.

Mistake 4: Trusting Google Maps

GPS giving instruction to take U-turn.

Google Maps can be a great tool for RV travelers. Its live traffic features notify you of upcoming crashes and traffic delays. However, this popular app was not designed for RVs.

New RVers who use Google Maps for their directions will likely find themselves faced with impossible U-turns and low clearance bridges. In our first year on the road, we had to back half a mile down a narrow road after Google Maps led us to an 11-foot bridge we could not drive under.

Instead, only use Google Maps for live traffic updates. For directions, use an atlas or an RV GPS, such as RV LIFE Pro.

Mistake 5: Putting Maintenance Off

Man on RV roof to perform RV AC maintenance.

One mistake we never made was putting off routine maintenance. RV maintenance is critical to keep your RV out of the shop and on the road.

Routine maintenance should be started as soon as you pick up your new RV. Ignoring your RV’s upkeep can lead to serious issues. For example, RV campers who do not check their seals could end up with major water damage.

Download our free RV maintenance checklist to make sure your RV stays in tip top shape.

Mistake 6: Buying Too Many Gadgets

RV campsite with lots of gadgets.

Many excited new RVers hit the store and buy all the latest camping gadgets before they take their first trip. This is a mistake.

It is much better to start with only the essentials, then purchase new gadgets as the need arises. New RVers who buy too many gadgets all at once will find themselves limited on storage space and spending hours setting up their campsite.

Even worse, they might spend a lot of money on gadgets they never use. When we moved into our RV, we bought way too many outdoor accessories when all we really needed were two camping chairs. Start simple and only buy new stuff when you are confident it will be used.

Mistake 7: Ignoring the CCC

RV weights and tire pressure stickers

Do you know the CCC of your RV? Or do you even know what the CCC is?

CCC or cargo carrying capacity is the maximum weight your RV can hold without exceeding its gross weight rating. Exceeding the CCC by overloading your RV with too much stuff can cause damage to your RV’s axles and lead to an accident.

Keep track of the weight of everything coming in (or out) of your RV. To be cautious, we try to stay at 75% or less of our RV’s CCC. A sticker on the side of your RV should include all the weights and weight ratings for your rig.

Mistake 8: Leaving the Outdoor Lights On

Couple and pets sitting outside RV at night.

Many new RVs come with outdoor spotlights or colored LED lights under the RV. Many new RVers leave these lights on all night long.

This is a great way to get your neighbors at the RV park to dislike you as your lights may shine directly into their bedroom window. It is also a great way to drain your battery if you are boondocking.

To be a good neighbor, only keep outdoor lights on when you are outside and make sure they are turned off before quiet hours start.

Mistake 9: Counting on Campground Wi-Fi

Internet for RV Living

Many RV parks advertise free Wi-Fi as one of the many amenities included with your stay. In reality, free campground Wi-Fi is often spotty and slow.

When we first moved into our RV, I telecommuted to a job that required frequent video conferences. Free campground Wi-Fi would have never been reliable enough to keep my job.

If you plan to work during your RV trip or just want to be able to stream TV, you must bring your own high-speed internet. Mobile hotspots and Starlink internet are both solid options.

Mistake 10: Planning Long Drive Days

Fifth Wheel RV driving

Another newbie mistake we made during our first year on the road is planning super long drive days. We would make reservations hundreds of miles away and only give ourselves 1 or 2 days to complete the drive.

These long drive days stressed us out, and led to us driving faster than we should have. We now only plan drive days that are 5 hours or less. We sometimes drive further if we are feeling good, but we never put pressure on ourselves to travel faster.

We hope you are able to learn from our mistakes and enjoy smooth RV travel days. If you are ready to learn more about RVing, see our 100 lessons learned from 8 years living in an RV.

Happy Camping!

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