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Nomadic Perils: Navigating the Dangers of Full-Time RVing

People choose the full-time RV lifestyle for several reasons. Some people find it cheaper than owning or renting a home. Others have work that takes them across the country. And others love the travel lifestyle and enjoy visiting national parks and other attractions. We started full-time traveling to make a lifestyle change and find somewhere new to live, and we fell in love with it!

But how safe is full-time RV living? Today, we’re diving into this topic and sharing five dangers of living in an RV. These hazards are worth considering before you decide if this lifestyle is right for you. Let’s dive in!

Luxury Living On Wheels: The Ultimate Tour of Our Customized Monaco Motorhome
This is our home on wheels! We have been full-time since 2015

Can You Live in an RV?

Certain cities or counties don’t permit living in an RV. Usually, this is to control the homeless population. But generally, you can live full-time in an RV if you have a domicile address. This is your legal address, where you’ll vote, register vehicles, and file taxes.

Not everyone who lives in an RV travels. RV parks all over the country allow long-term parking or offer annual rates. Some people own the land where they park their RV. We have property in Michigan and Florida where we can settle down for longer periods if needed (no house however).

Other people have jobs that allow them to travel, like nurses or gate guards. They’re in one place for several months and then take a job at another site for several months. Other RVers choose workamping to support this lifestyle. They find jobs at campgrounds in exchange for a free or reduced campsite for a season or longer.

There are also full-time traveling RVers who go where they want when they want. These travelers are retired or work remotely or have jobs not tied to one location.

Caitlin from Mortons on the Move in front of RV
While living in an RV brings endless adventures, there are also some dangers that come with the nomadic lifestyle.

Is Living in an RV Dangerous?

Regardless of whether you’re stationary for long periods or are traveling every week to a new location, there are dangers of living in an RV. Full-time RV living requires learning the ins and outs of RV systems to stay safe. You must learn how to safely use propane to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning. You must pay attention to your power source to prevent electrical fires. Hazardous weather is much more dangerous in an RV than in a sticks-and-bricks house. And of course, RV’s are vehicles and require much more diligence to move your home down the road safely.

But if you learn how to handle dangerous situations and what to do should problems arise, you can eliminate the most typical dangers of living in an RV. We don’t mean this article to scare you. It’s intended to teach you. Most people decide that the potential hazards of the RV life are worth it to enjoy living debt-free, doing what they love, or traveling to new places.

Pro Tip: Can you identify the differences between weekend roadtrippers and full-time RVers? Check out our Guide to Identifying the ‘Lifers.

Is Traveling in an RV Safe?

For RVers who travel full-time, there are additional dangers to consider because you’re moving more frequently. According to the CDC, vehicular injury is the second most common cause of serious injury leading to loss of years of life. When you’re stationary in a home, you don’t have to worry about tire blowouts, engine failure, or broken leaf springs. If you travel in an RV, be diligent in maintenance and prepare for repairs.

But it’s not only the inconvenience or expense of these repairs that is worth noting. Problems on the interstate can be hazardous. A tire blowout can cause an accident. A failed engine can strand you in a remote area for hours. These are risks you take when you travel. Of course, you try to maintain your RV properly, but sometimes things like this simply happen.

In addition to these issues, traveling in an RV can add to the danger of an unknown area. It’s crucial to scout out a location before deciding to stay overnight. You should never remain anywhere you feel uneasy. This isn’t only when staying in a Cracker Barrel or Bass Pro Shops parking lot. This is also true when boondocking or booking a campground.

However, these dangers of living in an RV are worth it for people who have chosen this travel lifestyle. They’re willing to put in the extra effort to choose a safe location for camping, spend more money on upgrades to reduce repairs and stay on top of their RV maintenance to prevent a hazardous situation.

RV boondocking
To stay safe while RVing, it’s important to know what dangers to look out for before you hit the road.

6 Common Dangers Of Living in an RV

With all our years on the road, we have seen a lot of good and bad. Overall we don’t want to scare you away from the RV lifestyle as it has mostly been amazing. However, lets look at six of the most common dangers of living in an RV we have seen. If you’re considering this lifestyle or planning a long cross-country trip, you’ll want to understand each danger and how to avoid it.

1. RV Fires

Danger:

RV fires can start quickly. These vehicles aren’t made of bricks. Most include wood, fiberglass and have lots of fuel in very close proximity. Electrical wires run through walls and can get damaged, propane can leak and fuel can spill. Open flame exists in propane fridges and ovens all resulting in potential flames that can engulf an RV instantly.

How to Avoid:

Electrical fires are common due to incorrect work, improper fusing (replaced with the wrong size) or wires wearing through and shorting. If you blow a fuse install the correct size and never short out the circuit. If you have weird electrical problems don’t ignore them.

RV propane fridges also have open flames in the back of them and can be fire-hazardous if foreign material builds up in them. Always open the back of the fridge (from the outside access panel) and check for debris before each trip. We have seen bugs, leaves, and bird nests in fridges that can catch fire.

Never use candles inside an RV. Ensure that you have at least one fire extinguisher. Depending on the size of your rig, you might want to place several conveniently throughout the RV.

Always have a smoke alarm and propane detector on board. If you have more than one living space have a smoke detector in each room, just like a home.

Always completely extinguish campfires. You don’t want embers floating toward your RV during the night.

Finally, keep the stove area clear. Don’t put up curtains or hang anything near an open flame.

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LESSONS LEARNED FROM OUR RV FIRE * MUST WATCH * | RV Fire Safety

2. Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Danger:

The CDC states that at least 420 people die in the U.S. from accidental carbon monoxide poisoning. Tens of thousands of others rush to the emergency room. Because of the small space of RV’s and the burning of fuel to power the fridge, generator, stove, and furnace CO poisoning is a higher risk than in a home.

How to Avoid:

NEVER stay overnight in an RV without a carbon monoxide detector. These devices save lives. If yours starts beeping because it’s time to change it, don’t put it off. Do it immediately.

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If you drive a motorhome, routinely inspect the exhaust system. If you use a generator for boondocking, position it away from the RV to keep the fumes from entering the space. Inspect your windows, seals, and slides regularly to ensure there are no cracks or holes. This is essential maintenance to consider when weighing the dangers of living in an RV.

Finally, when using propane-burning appliances, always have a blue flame. A yellow flame indicates a lack of oxygen and a potential leak. Find the problem and correct it as soon as possible.

RV post fire
RV fires can start quickly and cause major damage.

3. Theft

Danger:

Sadly, we live in a world where theft is common. Not only do you have to protect your RV from getting stolen, but you also need to keep your personal belongings inside and outside the RV safe. Owners of travel trailers must keep people from stealing their hitch. Anyone who travels with a second vehicle must prevent auto theft.

How to Avoid:

Always lock your RV. Don’t make it easy for someone to get in and out with your valuables. Upgrade your locks since the basic locks aren’t very strong.

Consider getting an alarm system. Install motion-detecting lights. Anything you do to make it harder for someone to steal your RV or stuff will help. It’s also worth getting an Apple AirTag. Should someone steal your RV, these devices can help authorities locate it.

Park in safe locations. If you pull up to a Walmart and feel uneasy, leave. It’s not worth it. The same is true for boondocking areas or campgrounds. 

Finally, put your outside gear away as much as possible. People are less likely to steal it if it’s out of sight. Use a bike lock and hitch lock to prevent theft of items you can’t store.

Pro Tip: We found the 4 Best Trailer GPS Tracker Options for Stolen Camper Recovery to keep your rig safe.

RV Security - RV Security & Safety Series Part 1 | Tips and Recommendations from the Mortons

4. Wildlife Threats

Danger: 

One of the reasons RVers enjoy traveling is to see wildlife in their natural habitats. This also poses a potential danger of living in an RV. You’re more likely to encounter wildlife camping in a grassy or dirt area than sleeping in a sticks-and-bricks house. From snakes and ticks to bears, these animals can injure you or your pets, destroy your property, or transmit diseases.

How to Avoid:

If you’re in areas with high bear populations, use bear-proof containers if keeping food outside or keep it inside the RV. Always put away food scraps and trash. Keep your campsite clean to prevent wildlife from making an appearance.

Research to learn about what animals live where you are. Familiarize yourself with where these animals live, how they act, and what to do should you encounter them. Keep your dogs on a leash and teach your children about wildlife safety.

This research is part of the fun of traveling, moving from desert, to mountainous terrain changes so much and its neat to learn about new areas. Just having a general sense of caution is the best approach. Dont approach animals no matter how cute they are.

5. Weather Conditions

Danger:

Living in an RV means paying close attention to the daily weather. RVs likely can’t handle severe weather. A tree could crush an RV. A gust of wind could send an RV reeling. Whether you’re stationary or traveling, the dangers of severe weather are serious.

How to Avoid:

Pay attention to branches if you park near trees. Any dead limbs could fall on your RV, causing damage. You don’t need a huge gust of wind for this to happen.

Start looking at the weather several days before your travel day. If there are threats of storms or high winds, leave early or stay a day later. If you must leave on a specific day, head out early to give yourself plenty of time and drive slowly. Pull over and wait it out if necessary.

Keep a weather radio in your RV. Download local weather apps. Research weather conditions in various locations around the country during different seasons and plan accordingly.

Pro Tip: Track changing weather with ease by using our guide on How to Set Up an RV Weather Station.

RVing in Dangerous Weather - Tips from Tom

Crashes

Danger:

RV crashes tend to happen less frequently than car crashes because they spend less time on the road in general. However, per the time they spend on the road, the incident rate is very high. We are going to say incidents because not all result in crashes, but tire, suspension, engine, steering, and hitch problems are common. Motorhomes also do not have the safety equipment that cars have and are not crash-tested, making them much more dangerous in an accident. Unfortunately, we have seen and heard about plenty of incidents that have caused damage, totaled or injured RVers.

How to Avoid:

Almost all of the accidents we have seen could have been avoided. Many times improper maintenance, incorrect setup or improper operation have come into play. Excessive speed increases the chance of a crash even more with an RV than a car because they are more prone to wind and road conditions.

Know your RV weight limits and never exceed them. Always tow with proper hitches rated for your RV and have sway and weight distribution for travel trailers. Ensure you properly load weight in trailers and don’t exceed limits. Additionally, always make sure brakes are in good working condition, and be sure tires are properly inflated and not too old. Drive slower and take your time. Avoid driving in severe weather and pull off if you are ever uncomfortable with conditions.

Basically, we recommend you learn as much about the type of RV, setup, and driving as possible before setting out. Many times people dive into it before they fully understand the setup and get in trouble. We have linked to a lot of articles on our website that focus on the major problem areas. In addition to subscribing to our newsletter, we will send you a bunch of information you need to know.

RV road accident
This accident was due to improper weight distribution in a toy hauler (note the motorcycles in the back) sway setup and flipped the vehicle.

Can Living in an RV Make You Sick?

Although it isn’t common, living in an RV can make you sick. If you start to have trouble breathing, notice skin irritations, headaches, or feel burning in your eyes, nose, or throat, these may be signs of severe problems stemming from your RV.

While carbon monoxide poisoning is the most typical health hazard, it’s not the only danger of living in an RV. Formaldehyde off-gassing is common in newer RVs since the chemical is in RV walls, floors, and ceilings. Vent your RV with open windows and fans as much as possible.

Mold is another problem since moisture is an RV’s worst enemy. Open up all the windows to ventilate the RV and use air conditioning regularly in humid climates. Spray all visible mold with pickling vinegar. You might have to call a professional if the mold is extensive.

Is Staying in a Campground Safer Than Boondocking?

Neither type of camping is safer than the other. It all depends on the location. There are shady campgrounds and shady boondocking spots. We share some of our scariest boondocking experiences in this article. You can read about our terrifying moments with high winds, sketchy neighbors, and drug deals. We’ve also had our bikes stolen at a boondocking location.

What’s most crucial is reading reviews. Talk with other RVers to get their feedback on locations. And no matter what, never stay where you feel unsafe. If you’ve enjoyed a few nights at a campground but get a new neighbor that gives you a strange vibe, pack up and head out. Stay vigilant even after you’ve set up camp. 

RV parked at campground
Whether you’re staying at a campground or boondocking, stay on alert for safety concerns.

Other Challenges Of Living in an RV

The dangers of living in an RV aren’t the only challenges. Beyond health issues and safety, full-time RVers also deal with constant maintenance and repairs, homeschooling challenges, sharing a small space with multiple people, and balancing work and play.

Privacy is almost non-existent, and this can be hard for many people. Working remotely in the same space where you eat or the kids play can be a struggle. The allure of traveling around the country with your family often creates an illusion. When you get into this lifestyle, the reality is some challenges can make full-time RV living a nightmare.

Is Boondocking Dangerous? 9 Frightening and Odd Boondocking Experiences In 5 Years Full-time RV Life

Full-Time RVing Isn’t for Everyone, Know the Dangers Of Living in an RV

Don’t believe everything you see or read on social media. The full-time RV lifestyle isn’t all sunrises and summit hikes. It’s not always cheaper; often, it’s more expensive. One RV malfunction can derail your plans for weeks. The dangers of living in an RV, like fires and weather, are real.

But if you’ve decided this lifestyle is for you, you’ll learn how to handle all the challenges and hazards of RV living. Often, it’s more about education, learning how to prevent problems, and managing them once they appear. We hope this article has started that learning process for you! 

Have you ever thought about the dangers of living in an RV? Would you add other risks to our list? Tell us in the comments!

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About Cait Morton

Co-Founder, Logistics Queen, Business & Content Manager, and Animal Lover

An Upper Peninsula of Michigan native (aka a Yooper), Caitlin is the organization, big-picture, and content strategy queen of our operation. She keeps everything orderly and on track.

With a background in Business Management, she supports and helps channel Tom’s technical prowess into the helpful content our readers and viewers expect. That’s not to say you won’t find her turning wrenches and talking shop – RV life is a team effort. She keeps the business and the blog moving forward with a variety of topics and resources for our audience.

Believe it or not, she is rather camera shy, though she co-hosts the Mortons’ personal videos and The RVers TV show.

Caitlin’s passion lies in outdoor recreation and with animals. Some of her favorite things to do are hiking, biking, and getting out on the water via kayak, SUP, or boat.

She also loves the RV life due to the fact that you can bring your pets along. Sharing information about safely recreating outdoors with your whole family – pets included! – is very important to her. Because of this, Caitlin spearheaded the launch of HypePets in 2023.

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Penny Leisch

Thursday 14th of September 2023

As an RVer for over 20 years, I would add another caution. Know the local laws if you travel with pets. Some areas still have breed laws that are very strict. You don't want your dog confiscated because you stopped at a park to relax and didn't know that breed is illegal in that town. It's sad, but it's still a reality. There are some strange and strict laws out there for pets. It doesn't always matter if you are passing through or just visiting family. We have also run a nonprofit rescue for 8 years and have done foster and rescue work for longer than we've been in RV life. The best advice is to do your homework about your destinations and routes when you have any animal that may be considered a dangerous breed.