First-Time RV Owner? Don’t Make These Classic Mistakes

There is a lot to be excited about for a first-time RV owner. You will be able to take trips to countless desirable destinations, you will have the chance to spend time with family and friends on vacation, and you will make memories that should last a lifetime. Even with all of those exciting possibilities, you want to be careful when you are first getting started in the RV world in order to avoid some basic mistakes. There are a number of ‘classic’ RV mistakes that are made by beginners, and avoiding these pitfalls will help you get the most from your experience.


Do Your Best to Avoid These Classic Mistakes
Do Your Best to Avoid These Classic Mistakes

Buying Everything in Sight

Perhaps the most-common mistake of all is simply buying everything you can find at your local RV or camping store. While there will certainly be a few accessories that you need to purchase in order to get started, many of what you see on the shelves is unnecessary and a waste of money. Since you will have just spend a large amount of cash on the RV itself (in addition to likely taking out a sizeable loan), now is not a good time to run out and buy a bunch of stuff you don’t need. The best way to get started is to buy only the essentials prior to going on a short initial trip. By taking a trip of just a couple of days, you can learn about your RV and determine if there are any other accessories you truly do need. Buying based on need, instead of just picking up things you see in the store, will save you money in time.

Failing to Unplug

This is one that most RV owners have done (or almost done) at least once. Of course, once you do it the first time, you are unlikely to let it happen again. When the time comes to call an end to your vacation, make sure you get everything unplugged and put away from around your RV. That means the waste hoses, water lines, power, and anything else you are running from the land into your rig. As a habit, take a walk around the entire RV prior to pulling out of the campsite to make sure you aren’t making this embarrassing mistake.

Leaving Loose Items Inside

Just like you need to make sure everything is unplugged and unhooked from around the outside of the RV, you also need to make sure everything is secure inside. If you leave even a couple of items loose when you head out onto the road, those items are sure to go flying once you get up to freeway speeds. Loose items inside the cabin of your RV can make for a dangerous situation, and they can also do damage to your rig. Take an extra moment before you leave to carefully review the inside of the RV and find a secure place for everything you are taking home.


  1. You really have some great posts to read I drive for a living and pull a 40 5rv the biggest mistake that I think a lot of people make when pulling a unit is they don’t look at their unit to see if it is level thus fore putting more pressure on the back axle of the unit they are towing I have seen more blowouts this year than ever because people don’t take the time to inspect their units and get them ready for travel

    • That’s a great comment. I had an expert tell me that keeping your camper level at all times is very important. Especially for the refrigerator. Being unlevel can actually keep it from running properly or at all.

  2. Watched as a travel trailer was pulling away with the awning out. All saves as we yelled and waved them down before they tore it off. We were amused saying that we would never miss that, but that was a great schooling day. The final walk around is more than a quick glance now. Tire pressure is so important with the ST tires. As soon as we get the rubber worn down we will replace with a better AT tire made for trucks /SUV. Thanks for the post enjoying the seasons living the RV lifestyle…

  3. This may be overdoing it but I make a check list and have it on a clip board, not only does it name the most important aspects of what should be done when leaving a site, it also has a list for what to pack, and on the bottom I have a spot for writing down just where I was on each specific place and a wish list for things I might consider purchasing for future trips( one thing is I purchased a inexpensive set of walkie talkies, so my girlfriend can talk to me while in backing into a location.

    • I have a to do list app on my phone that works wonderfully. I have two lists. One I check before I’m ready to pull out of my driveway to be sure I have everything I need and the second list is checked before pulling out of the campground to be sure there isn’t anything I didn’t do.

      • Could you send me both of your checklists. I’ve thought of compiling one but haven’t had the opportunity. Thanks

  4. we’re new to the RV life (8/9 was our 1 yr annivsary), I broke out the label maker & labeled EVERYTHING! Some labels are simple to show you what a switch is for, others with an arrow to show which a latch goes (locking door) & other labels have a “?” to make me check before I use…. for instance is Captains chair in upright position before extending slider!
    One of my friends thought the RV came with all these labels! I did it as a learning tool but I’ll probably leave them up indefinitely as its helpful! It’s overkill I know…

  5. I bought a set of the bands that have reminder duties on them and put them on my steering when I set up. They are like the slap bracelets I had as a child. I customized some of them to fit my needs as well. When I’m ready to leave…i take the bands off one by one to make sure I’ve completed everything before I drive off. Love them.

  6. Ditto on the departure checklist. Mine is laminated and I use a dry erase marker to check the boxes. Includes all connections & hookups, roof antenna, detachable satellite dome, windows & vents closed, any blinds that need to be up for travel, outside kitchen exhaust fan cover, cargo hatches, and pretty much anything that opens/closes or needs to be secured for travel. When breaking camp, people often stop by to make small talk making it easy to forget something. The checklist keeps me on track and has saved my bacon many a time.

  7. Having a CDL and working for a VERY safety concerned company, i usually do two walk arounds before pulling off. I look EVERYWHERE- Up and down to verify that everything is put up and disconnected. I also do a full walk through before pulling in my slides and anything loose is stored in containers or cabinets. All my cabinets are secured around the handles with hook and loop fastener strips to prevent cabinets from coming open. My dear wife says I take forever when preparing to leave but it has saved me from my making countless mistakes also.

  8. who ever is driving needs to make sure all this is secure, including outside storage doors. I depended on someone to do my check, and then while driving down the highway, a passing motorist honked and yelled one of my storage doors was open and flapping… luckily nothing fell out..

  9. My hubs is in charge of the outside and I’m in charge of the inside. I put all things away securely, even inside the cabinets, I make sure things can’t break loose. I bag up all my unused groceries in the pantry, which not only helps keep them from being knocked around, it all makes it easy for the kids to grab them to take them in the house upon our arrival back home. I also clean my camper after everything is put up so I don’t have to do it when I get home. We live in Texas so it can be quite hot without the ac on. Cleaning it at the campground insures I can do it with the camper still cold. Once I’m done, I sit and look everywhere to see if I can see anything I missed.

  10. Checklist – checklist – checklist!

    My wife made ours and we update regularly.

    There are several on the blogs, but they are just a start. Plus my DW and I split the close up job so we each have tasks and then we review the checklist

    Then do the walk around – both of you! And check the lights when you do!

    Be sure to add – putting down the TV antenna and check it to see it is in the correct position.

  11. Hi there…new to RV’ing and wondering about a generator. I have a 21′ Hornet (1979 model) and wondering what you might recommend for purchase? Or, if there are any other sites you frequent that address first time RV’ing…looking forward to a summer of fun, but wondering if I’m in over my head! Thanks!

    • Many options are available for generators but you’ll want one that generates at least 3000 watts so it will have enough power for your air conditioner to run while you operate other power grabbing items, TV, hair dryer, and such things. To be a good neighbor you will want to get a quiet running generator. It will cost more than a noisier one but may be in your interest. Also, you may want to get a generator that will run on gasoline or propane to keep your options open.

  12. PUT THE TV antenna down as one of the first things you do and when you do that, make sure you push the button to shut off the antenna booster.

    • If you have a wind down handle for the tv antenna, may I pass on an excellent hint given to us when we bought our first trailer. When you put the antenna up hang your RV keys on it. Every time you return to the RV hang them back there, then at the end of yourvstay you will be reminded to put down the antenna.