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Tips for New RV Owners: How to Avoid the Worst Mistakes!

Tips for New RV Owners: How to Avoid the Worst Mistakes!

Why a whole post on tips for new RV owners? Well, purchasing an RV is a big deal! Think about it – a vehicle and a home are two of the biggest purchases a person makes in life. An RV is both, and there’s a double learning curve to go along with it.

This can be a bit overwhelming initially. So, we’re offering these tips for new RV owners in an attempt to help readers to avoid some big mistakes that many of us made as newbies.

We’ve been on the road full-time for a couple of decades now, so we’ve got some experience under our belts. But we also still remember what it’s like to buy an RV, hit the road, and move into RV life having never dumped a black tank.

So, RV newbies, we’ve got your backs!

Let’s jump into some tips for new RV owners.

What Do First-Time RV Owners Need to Know?

There are a number of things that are helpful for first-time RV owners to know. These encompass everything from how to drive the rig, to how to fill the RV fresh water tank, to how to dump the RV gray water tank, dumping and cleaning an RV black tank, and so much more.

For example, when connected to a sewer connection at a campground, should you keep your RV gray tank valve open or closed? These are important things to know.

RV gray tank valve open, but black tank valve closed. One important tip for new rv owners!

Should you keep your RV gray tank valve open or closed when your rig is connected to a sewer at a campground? Read our post for the details!

We can’t reasonably get everything you need to know into a single post without it being excessively lengthy. So, in this section, we’ll link to several specific posts on topics we’ve thoroughly addressed in previous posts, and then we’ll give you our top tips for new RV owners in the sections that follow.

Some of these will apply to all RVs, while others may be specific to certain types of RVs. Remember that you can simply search our website for posts that might apply specifically to your rig.

For example, if you own a Class A RV, simply head to The RVgeeks website and type “Class A” in the search bar, and start with the articles that most interest you. Alternatively, you can look to the right of the search bar and click the drop-down menu under the term “Category”, and go from there.

So, to begin this post on tips for new RV owners, we suggest that all new RV owners read our posts on the following topics – just follow the links!

How to Adjust RV Mirrors & Lane Control

Our post on how to adjust RV mirrors offers very clear information laid out in text, photos, and video. Better yet, the instruction comes from Peter, the half of The RVgeeks who is a former professional motorcoach operator and bus driving instructor with thousands of driving and teaching hours under his belt.

Peter was also the Safety & Training Manager for one of the largest tour bus companies in North America and taught hundreds of people to drive big rigs in the heart of New York City. Trust us, he’s got you covered.

Article about Peter Knize Bus Roadeo

Peter Knize, one half of The RVgeeks, behind the wheel of his MCI back in the day.

How to Drive an RV in High Winds

Anyone who has ever driven an RV in windy conditions will tell you that it’s stressful and white-knuckle inducing at the very least. It can also be downright dangerous.

For this reason, we suggest visiting our post on safely driving an RV in high winds. It’s wise to review this post before you find yourself struggling to keep your rig on the road in very windy conditions.

How to Avoid the Most Common RV Accidents

Here’s a post with information you don’t want to miss. The most common RV accidents are avoidable. Some of this is common sense, of course. But there’s also lots of important information here for new RV owners to consider.

Methods for Trailer Sway Control

Towing a travel trailer? Please don’t set out on your first camping trip without taking a look at our post on trailer sway control. It could be accident-preventing and even life-saving. An improperly-loaded travel trailer can set up a dangerous condition that could cause a serious accident!

An SUV towing a travel trailer down the road... tip for new RV owners... beware of trailer sway!

If you tow a travel trailer, be sure to check out our post on trailer sway control!

21 Tips for How to Stay Safe and Calm on the Road

We’ve got a post with 21 specific pieces of advice from a couple of guys who’ve been driving an RV for 20 years. We laid them out in a post on RV driving to help you stay safe and calm on the road.

How to Back Up a Motorhome

Our post on how to back up a motorhome will come in handy sooner than you think. Read the post and then jump in your RV and head to an empty parking lot to practice.

Tips for New RV Owners

Now that we’ve pointed you to some reading you can do at your leisure, let’s jump into our top tips for new RV owners!

Start Slow

So, you’ve got a brand new or new-to-you RV and you’re eager for your first road trip. Awesome! But don’t be afraid to start slowly and stay close to home as you’re getting used to the rig.

If there’s a private campground, state park, or RV park in your area, spending a night or two getting used to the RV without trying to drive for hours to get far away from home is a wise move. And trust us – you’ll have no less fun just because you’re close to home. Think of it like an RV staycation!

An RV parked on a grassy field

Before heading out on the long trip, try boondocking in a parking lot or even on your own property at home!

You’re bound to run into a few snags or questions, and it’ll also take some time to get used to driving the rig. So take it slow. Don’t go too far (or too fast) as you begin.

Test Every System on the RV

This is something that’s best to do when you’re in the shopping stage (new or used) so that you have a clear picture of the rig and its value.

Test every system. This will help you to identify anything that isn’t working properly, and it will also help you to learn how to use all of the systems on the RV before you’re away from home.

Test the plumbing including all sinks, showers (indoor and outdoor), and toilet. Test the propane stove – light it and make sure it’s working well. Test the air conditioner and the heater. Test every outlet to make sure they’re all functional. Have an inverter? Which outlets does it power? (on some RVs, it’s all of them… on others, just one!)

Test the rooftop vent fans – open them all and run them. Open and close the gate valves if possible to make sure they’re operating smoothly. If you can connect to a city water connection while you’re testing everything, do so.

A man testing a system from the exterior of his RV

Be sure to test every system on the RV ahead of buying if possible, and then again before you head out on the road to use those systems.

Learning how to manage all of the systems on your RV before you head out on your first trip is a great idea. If the private owner or dealership employee is showing you how to use everything on the RV, video all of that instruction so you have it to refer back to later.

If you buy an RV from a dealership, ask if you can stay in their lot overnight and into the next day so that you’ll have the opportunity to work out the kinks and ask questions.

Join Online Forums Specific to Your RV and to RVing in General

Facebook groups,, .io groups, and other online groups that are specific to your brand/class of RV all provide extremely valuable information from fellow RV owners and travelers. Take advantage of groups like these. They may turn out to be your absolute best resource.

Don’t Overbuy “RV Stuff” Before You Travel

Before you head out on your first road trip, you’ll try to think of absolutely everything you’re going to need, and you’ll probably overshoot the idea.

A family surrounded by boxes and packages

Don’t make the mistake of buying everything you THINK you’ll need in your RV… until you’ve actually spent some time in it!

Get away on a trip not too far from home (or even camp overnight in a Walmart parking lot) and use the RV before you grab too many supplies. We usually need far less than we think we need at first.

Although many locations won’t do this, it’s worth asking a manager at a nearby Camping World if you can overnight in their parking lot with your new RV to see what you need. Knowing that you’ll likely head into the Camping World the next day to buy, they just might allow you to do this. Call ahead!

Use Checklists

There’s a lot to remember when you’re traveling in an RV. You’ve got a home-on-wheels there. There’s a lot to do before you drive that rig away, and there’s a lot to do when you arrive at your camping destination.

You can make your own checklists or find some online. Our friends Rae & Jason of Getaway Couple fame have some really cool printable RV checklists in their shop that are very well thought out.

Split Up Chores and Double Check Important Tasks

If you’re traveling with a companion or several (children included), split up the chores that need attention before you hit the road and while you’re camping.

It’s also incredibly important to check each other, or even to double-check yourself, on tasks that are particularly critical… such as hooking up the RV and hooking up your towed vehicle if you have one.

Read Our 10 Pro Tips for RV Newbies!

This is how we get 10 additional tips into your hands without making this post too long! Our post on our top 10 pro tips for RV newbies is recommended reading for all new RVers.

For Our Veteran RVers: Are There Additional Tips You Wish You’d Known as a Newbie?

Drop us a comment and add to the discussion! Any help we can offer to our RV newcomers is always a bonus!

Geek Out with Us Every Week

Join our newsletter to learn about all things RV-related. Every week we offer free tips, tricks, product reviews, and more to our online community of RVers. So, whether this is your first time on the road or you’re a seasoned expert, we’d love for you to geek out with us!

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Tuesday 25th of July 2023

Experienced RVer, RV walkaround. Don't trust your eyes. You will see what you expect to see. Before starting the engine, get out and walk around the RV with one hand on the side. If your hand hits something, is that OK? If you have to step over something, is that OK? When possible, use a spotter if you go in reverse.

Travels with George

Monday 24th of July 2023

New RVer here!

We just got back from our first RV camping trip in our “new” 2016 28’ class C. We had a site with “city water” and sewer. I think we did great with the black and gray tank emptying, and black tank clean out but I’m not 100% sure what we’re supposed to do after camping with the “clean” water.

The fresh water tank was registering about 2/3 full while we were camping. When we got home I opened the (4) low drain valves including the one on the outside and opened the faucets until no more water came out from the drains (then closed them) and added a small amount disinfectant down the sinks. I also followed the directions to put a black tank disinfectant in the toilet. Does that empty hot water tank? Did I miss anything?


Tuesday 25th of July 2023

Hi George. What you do with your RV's fresh water system mostly depends on how long (and in what weather) your RV is going to sit between trips. If you're coming back from one trip, staying for only a week or two, and then turning around and going right back out. AND there's no chance of freezing weather that could result in a burst pipe... we'd likely not do anything with the fresh system. Leave it as is when you get back so it's all set to go when you're ready to leave next time.

That determination would change (and we'd do what you've done with draining the fresh tank and lines) if the duration of storage time between trips was going to be longer... or if the ambient temperatures where the RV was being stored were going to drop below freezing.

Also from what you described doing, it doesn't sound like you drained the water heater. For that, you'd need to remove the plug/anode from the outside of the water heater to drain it.

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