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Is Driving a Class A Motorhome Hard?

Class A bus-like motorhomes are usually impressively large vehicles with very complicated systems. Some of the largest ones have all the same features of semi trucks and homes all in one. So you may be asking yourself if such a large complicated machine is hard to drive. We have plenty of experience so let’s look at just what it takes to drive a Class A motorhome!

What Is a Class A Motorhome? 

A Class A motorhome is probably what you think of when you imagine an RV—a 30′ to 45′ drivable RV with captain chairs in the front and a big bus-like window. These motorhomes will operate on gas or diesel engines and usually have a large towing capacity.

Therefore, you’ll see many Class As pulling a car behind them as they go down the road. Class As are some of the most luxurious and generally most expensive RV options available.

Class A flat towing car
Class As are known for their large, bus-like appearance.

In contrast to the Class C motorhomes, Class As don’t have the over-the-cab loft. Instead, they have huge windshields that provide great views when driving. Class As are typically longer than Class Cs, also and most have the front wheels under or behind the driver.

Is Driving a Class A Motorhome Hard?

Driving Class A motorhomes isn’t any harder than towing a large trailer. However, like towing a trailer it takes time to learn how they operate. Once you’ve learned the wheel cut and pivot point and technicals, then operating a motorhome isn’t difficult.

But if you’re learning how to drive one or considering purchasing one for the first time, give yourself plenty of time to learn the basics of driving before you take it out on the road for a camping trip.

Pro Tip: If you’re new to driving a big rig, you may be wondering Why Is My RV Steering Wandering? Find out!

How Do You Drive a Class A Motorhome?

You can learn to drive a class A motorhome yourself by watching videos then practicing with an experienced driver or just taking it to an open parking lot.

If you don’t want to teach yourself how to drive a Class A motorhome, consider driving school. This is a great way to safely operate a Class A.

Either way can be a good option, but please take the time to learn how your vehicle moves and the technical operations before hitting the open road. Were going to cover the basics that you will need to teach yourself.

HOW TO DRIVE A MOTORHOME/RV -- MADE SIMPLE

Terms to Know

It’s important to get familiar with certain driving terms if you decide to drive a Class A motorhome. The terms are:

Wheel Cut – How sharply the front wheels turn

Wheel Base – The length from the front axle to the rear axle

Steer Axle – Front axle controlled by the steering wheel

Drive Axle – Rear axle or front-rear axle if there are two

Pivot Point – The location at the drive axle where the RV will pivot during a turn

Rear Overhang – The length of the RV behind the drive axle

Off-Tracking / Swept Path – The separate path the rear wheels take when turning

Know The Different Technicals

Class A motorhomes generally operate a bit differently than your car or truck. Many times they have no park mode in the transmission and rely on a parking brake that you must set each time. If the coach is diesel then it probably operates air brakes and suspension with air. Air systems are very different than cars and must be understood prior to operating them. Read our articles all about air brakes and air suspension to learn more.

Dashes of Class A motorhomes also tend to have alot of switches and options. Many of these operate additional pieces like lights, steps, heaters, fans, and other aspects unique to a coach. Each type of coach is unique and you will want to know what every switch does.

class a motorhome control panel

Understand Your Pivot Point

Knowing the pivot point when driving Class A motorhomes is very important. This is where the RV will turn, which means everything behind it (the rear overhang) will swing out in the opposite direction.

This tail swing is often the cause of accidents because drivers don’t realize how far out the rear of the RV is swinging. They might clip a fire hydrant, take out a stop sign, or hit another vehicle with the tail swing.

Class A turning in Walmart parking lot
Understanding your pivot point will help you make safe turns and avoid accidents.

Tail swing isn’t the only thing to watch out for. Learn the 5 Most Common Causes of RV Accidents (and How to Avoid Them).

When driving Class A motorhomes, drivers must know the location of the pivot point to know when to turn. Just because the front of the motorhome is clear doesn’t mean the back is clear.

Pulling out of a fueling station is a prime example. Drivers need to pull forward to the pivot point before turning to avoid hitting the gas pump with the rear of the RV.

Wheels Are Behind You When Steering

When you’re driving a standard vehicle, the wheels are right in front of you. However, in a Class A motorhome, the wheels are actually behind you or right underneath you. This means you’ll feel the steering a bit differently.

When making a turn, you have to drive several feet ahead before turning. You’ll have to learn the “feel” of your particular motorhome, so this will take some getting used to. Once you learn how it moves you will actually find having the wheels behind you can actually help with maneuvering because it shortens the wheelbase.

Pro Tip: Need some driving practice? We took a closer look to uncover Can a Driving Simulator Or VR Teach You to Drive An RV?

Driving a Class A motorhome
Because your wheels may be behind you, you have to pull several feet forward before turning.

Set Up Your Mirrors for Best Visibility

When adjusting the mirrors, the driver needs to be in the seat, sitting just as they would when driving the motorhome. First, one inch of the flat mirror should show the length of the motorhome. The rest of the mirror should be showing the area off the coach. The bottom third should be showing the ground. 

Second, the convex mirror has to be adjusted manually. This mirror is designed to show the side of the motorhome and the back bumper. Don’t position it to show far beyond the motorhome.

When driving Class A motorhomes, one way to help owners is to take tape, pinstriping, or sticky dots to mark reference points on the side mirrors. Use a cone or other obstacle and place it at the back wheel on the pivot point about two feet off the coach. Take a small piece of tape and mark the mirror under the cone. 

How to Drive a Motorhome/RV — Mirror Adjustment & Lane Control

Again, the driver should be sitting in the seat and telling a second person where to put the marker on the mirror. This will aid the driver when making turns to know where the pivot point is. Anything above the marker is clear of the turn. Anything covering up the marker or underneath the marker is not yet at the pivot point.

After a while, you’ll know where this point is by instinct and won’t need the mirror markers anymore.

Off-Tracking and Rear Overhang When Turning

The rear wheels follow a different path than the front wheels when turning. This is called off-tracking. The longer the wheelbase (the length between the front axle and rear axle) and sharper the wheel cut, the greater the off-tracking. 

This is where knowing the pivot point and setting up your mirrors correctly are essential. By having your mirrors marked, you know how far you have to pull forward before turning to avoid clipping. Since the rear wheels don’t follow the front wheels, you can’t just turn like a standard vehicle.

How to Drive a Motorhome/RV — Driving Tips: Off-Tracking & Rear Overhang

Every car has some degree of off-tracking. You just don’t notice it when driving a smaller vehicle with little to no rear overhang. So you have to learn the off-tracking of your particular motorhome. There is no exact formula when making turns.

Pro Tip: New to roundabout driving? We took a closer look at Is Driving An RV Through a Roundabout Dangerous?

Practice Your Class A RV Driving Skills

One of the best pieces of advice when learning to drive a Class A motorhome is to practice. It’s different for every motorhome because the length, wheelbase, pivot point, wheel cut, and rear overhang are all different from model to model. Therefore, driving Class A motorhomes takes repetition. Even if you’ve owned a motorhome before, the next one may operate a bit differently.

Go to a large, empty parking lot. Grab some driving cones. Practice making right turns, left turns, and backing up. Get a feel for your Class A so that you can be confident when hitting the road.

Motorhome in empty parking lot
Empty parking lots are a good place to practice your Class A driving skills.

Still Nervous? Consider Class A Driving School

If you’re still worried about taking such a large vehicle out on the road, consider attending driving school. The instructors will guide you and help you gain confidence in your skills. The hands-on learning may be just what you need to get out and start making memories.

You’ll also leave knowing that you can safely operate your Class A motorhome. You, your passengers, and the other drivers on the road will be safe.

FAQS

A few other commonly asked questions about driving Class A motorhomes are listed below. Often, these questions deal with safety. Also, it’s always a good idea to do your own research to make sure you know the rules and regulations wherever you travel.

How Fast Should You Drive a Class A Motorhome? 

Class A motorhomes are designed to travel comfortably down the road. Driving Class As won’t feel much different than driving a large truck in terms of a smooth ride.

However, as with all RVs, it’s best to drive under the speed limit and remain around 60-65 mph for the best fuel economy. Whether it’s a gas or diesel engine, you’ll want to conserve fuel however you can.

Driving a class A on roundabout
You’ll likely need to drive at a slower speed than you’re used to when operating a Class A motorhome.

You also want to remain a reasonable distance behind the cars traveling in front of you to have a safe braking distance. Class A motorhomes don’t brake on a dime. By traveling a bit slower and keeping adequate space between you and other drivers, you’ll drive more safely down the road.

Are Class A Motorhomes Safe?

This question is the subject of hot debate in the RV world. According to Consumer Reports, “The driver’s portion of a Class A motorhome isn’t designed to meet the same crash safety standards as the van cab found in other motorhome types. The front two seats have shoulder and lap belts, but most of the other seats in the coach only have lap belts—and can face various directions.”

If traveling with children in car seats, this is a problem. Although many families figure out ways to travel inside a Class A, other families choose to drive separate vehicles for the added protection and appropriate use of seat belts.

Even if traveling with older teenagers or adults sitting in the rear of the coach, they’re still at risk of getting hit by flying objects if the motorhome stops suddenly.

In general, a Class A will not protect you in a crash like a passenger vehicle. Most don’t even offer air bags. Because of their design front tire blowouts are also much more likely to cause loss of control. Luckily their size and weight can help when considering a collision with a smaller vehicle. In general, the larger vehicle will experience a much less violent crash. Class A motorhomes are also rarely used as passenger vehicles and are operated much less decreasing the likelihood of an accident. Because they are not as safe, however, use extra care when operating a class A.

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➡ If you’re a passenger in a motorhome, it’s tempting to get up and move around while traveling down the road. However, it’s not the best idea, and here’s why: What Can You Legally Do In A Camper While It’s Moving.

Do I Need a Special License to Drive an RV?

In most states, you don’t need a special license. Since a CDL is for drivers of commercial vehicles, this type of license isn’t necessary. However, because of the size of some RVs and the varying rules and regulations across state lines, you’ll want to do your research to find out if your state does require a CDL to drive your motorhome. 

Hawaii, Arkansas, Connecticut, Kansas, New Mexico, Wisconsin, and Washington, D.C., require drivers of RVs over 26,000 lbs to have a CDL. But if your Class A motorhome is under 26,000lbs, then you don’t have to worry about getting a special license.

Is It Easier to Drive a Class A or Class C Motorhome? 

As mentioned earlier, Class C motorhomes are drivable RVs with an over-the-cab loft. They are usually shorter and weigh less than their Class A counterparts, so they are typically easier to drive. Because there isn’t as much rear overhang, the tail swing isn’t as wide, resulting in a smaller turning radius. 

Class C RV driving through Zion National Park
Some people feel more comfortable driving a Class C, but there’s still a learning curve with any RV.

Again, once you learn the pivot point, wheel cut, and the other essentials to driving Class A motorhomes, they’re just as easy to maneuver as any other RV.

Is Driving a Class A Motorhome Worth Learning?

If you’re looking to travel in luxury and comfort, learning to drive a Class A motorhome is absolutely worth it! They’re the top-of-the-line RVs full of residential amenities to help you travel in style. 

Whether you’re looking for an RV to take you on a few trips each year or you’re planning to travel full-time, a Class A motorhome will feel like a home. Just take the practice and preparation seriously before heading out.

It’s crucial to learn how to operate your particular Class A. Then you can enjoy the adventures ahead! 

You don’t have to spend a million dollars to get a modern motorhome with all the creature comforts you could want. See for yourself: These Are the Cheapest Class A RVs on Sale Today

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About Tom and Caitlin Morton

Tom & Caitlin Morton of Mortons on the Move gave up the stationary life for one where they are constantly on the move. They are full-time travelers, television hosts, and digital media producers.
They left their jobs, sold their house and possessions, and hit the road in September 2015 in their full-time “home on wheels”. Since then they have traveled the US, Canada, and even internationally by RV.
Now, they are Discovery Channel & PBS TV Co-stars of “Go North” on Amazon Prime Video, co-founders and instructors of RV Masterclass, and contributing authors for Hwy.co and an Arizona travel guide.

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