Getting Back Outdoors: Cruising Through Your RV Summer Travel Plans Without a Hitch
As Steppenwolf's "Born To Be Wild" lyrics swirl in my head and encourage me to head out on the highway I, like thousands of others looking to escape from our stay-at-home routine, am searching for a way to travel and connect with nature while maintaining social distancing and control of my surroundings. And while buying an RV is not in my budget, renting an RV is the vacation option and travel alternative that I, and many others, have been looking for.
Last summer saw the start of the RV travel craze, with record numbers of people renting RVs for road trip vacations due to the pandemic. And it looks like RV trips are even more popular in 2021, according to data from JustAnswer. RV questions are skyrocketing with 85% more questions flooding the site compared to this time last year. JustAnswer received nearly 10,000 RV questions last summer alone -- and that was already a 75% increase over 2019.
Air conditioning, electrical problems, slide-out issues, and other mechanical challenges tend to be the most common queries -- along with driving advice -- according to JustAnswer RV Experts such as Brian Demo and Bill Poplin.
Top questions first-time or novice RVers have this year
Wondering what RVers like yourself are concerned about?
What should I consider before renting an RV?
What are some tips and tricks to running an RV?
What common mistakes can I avoid in driving an RV?
Q&A with Certified RV Technicians
Read on as Brian Demo and Bill Poplin (Certified RV Technicians on JustAnswer) give their top tips for first-time RV renters getting started.
Q: What should I consider before renting an RV?
A: Brian Demo: First, pick a reputable company. This might seem like a no-brainer, but there are many sites out there to use. Comb through the sites and pick the one that has the best reviews and rates. Keep in mind: some of these sites are just the "broker"; they take the money and complete the reservation while the RV owner sets up the rig and puts it where you want it, or you come to get it from their location.
Other companies have inventory for you to rent from. El Monte RV or Cruise America are two that come to mind. They have multiple RVs for you to choose from and take out on the road for your great adventure. When choosing a company that has inventory, again, you should check their reviews in your area.
Second, pick an RV that will fit your plan. Did you know you could rent a million-dollar RV to take a trip in? You could also pick a simple no-frills pop-up trailer. Though flashy is nice, it is not always the best way to travel. Think about where you're going and what you're doing to do. A 48' Tiffin RV is excellent, but you would be hard-pressed to get it into the campground in Yosemite National Park (meaning you won't). On that same note, you could have a problem with a pop-up trailer at Acadia National Park in late fall when temperatures drop below freezing at night. Find a happy medium that will fit your plan.
Third, plan your trip with the RV in mind. When you visit a hotel, you have a plan in mind, and it is not any different if you rent an RV. If you're going to rent a Class C motorhome to drive, you might want to check to see what the roads are like. If you're going to be hopping around campgrounds, make sure that they have what you need. You'd be surprised how many do not have sewer hookups or even power!
Q. What are some tips and tricks to running an RV?
A. Bill Poplin: Know how to use the RV. Do you know how to operate the slide-out, hook up the water hose, or hook up the tank drain line properly? A good company or owner will walk you through all of it. Make sure you are comfortable hooking up the RV to power and water, know how to operate the heat, air conditioning, generator, hot water, slide-out, and toilet, and know how to tell when your holding tanks are full and the proper way to empty them.
Remember that this is an RV—not a house: even large RVs have limits on the amount of fresh water that can be carried and a limited amount of holding tank space for wastewater. Use your resources wisely as things like dishwashing, showers, and excess use of the toilet can run you short of water-holding tank space quicker than you might think.
Use the toilet properly: if you are staying at an RV park where you have the luxury of full hookups, you still need to keep the toilet drain valve closed while camping and then empty the tank before hitting the road again. Remember to close the drain valves again after dumping. Always return the RV with the holding tanks empty so you are not charged a dump fee upon return.
Keep an eye on your battery power. Limit your use of lights, heat, and other accessories in the evening. Most modern RVs can go a full weekend on battery power if you’re conservative. The monitor panel in the RV will help you keep track of that. When the battery voltage gets down below 12 volts then it is time to recharge, either by driving the coach or running the generator.
Q. What common mistakes can I avoid while driving an RV?
A. Bill Poplin: It all boils down to driving carefully. Most modern RVs drive easily so it is possible to get a little overconfident. Remember that your rig fills up most of the lane so keeping it between the lines is critical. A lot of RVs also have quite a bit of rear overhang which can easily drag when going over uneven terrain or pulling in driveways so take it slow. Allow plenty of extra space when turning to allow room for that extra overhang. Also, if you drive a little slower you will be rewarded with better fuel economy.
About the RV Experts
Brian Demo, JustAnswer Certified RV Technician, is a retired U.S. Marine helicopter mechanic who has transitioned to a mobile Master RV Technician. After spending a little over a year RV traveling full-time, Brian decided he wanted to work on RVs while he was in the campgrounds to make extra money. When COVID hit, he joined JustAnswer as a way to continue this work digitally and he now answers hundreds of questions a week from RV owners and renters around the world.
Bill Poplin, JustAnswer Certified RV Technician, says he “grew up with a wrench in my hand.” Bill learned his craft from his father, an auto mechanic, and helped his dad as much as he could as a child and teen. Later he took a position as a line worker for Safari Motorhomes and from there, joined Marathon Coach as a technician. Bill is a Recreational Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) Certified Technician and has been with JustAnswer since March of 2021.
Do you have other RV questions that weren’t answered above? Ask an RV question on JustAnswer to get a personalized response 24/7 from certified RV Technicians like Brian and Bill.