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Can a Driving Simulator Or VR Teach You to Drive An RV?

Airline pilots learn to fly jumbo jets in simulators, so why can’t we learn to drive big rigs this way? I learned to fly a plane, race cars, and race drones, all in computer simulations, before putting it into practice. When I actually got in the driver’s seat, I already knew what I was doing, and everything went well. So, can we learn to drive RV’s this way? Lets take a look.

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What Is a Driving Simulator?

Driving simulators use technology to recreate the experience you have when behind the wheel of an automobile. However, you can be in a safe and controlled environment instead of being on the open road. Some simulators use computers or video game operating systems to power the software.

Users can have various controllers, including a realistic steering wheel, pedals, and gearshift. However, these can vary significantly by the driving simulator. Some of the most basic simulators utilize only a keyboard and mouse.

Pro Tip: There are some things a driving simulator can’t do. Discover The Truth About Driving an RV for the First Time before you hit the road.

What Does a Driving Simulator Do?

Driving simulators can have many functions. They can exist for entertainment purposes, including video games and other activities where enjoyment is the primary goal.

More robust systems can have more meaningful purposes. Some companies and education facilities use driving simulators for training and educating professional drivers. The drivers can practice specific situations or learn new skills without risk of injury or damage. Like we said before simulators are used in pilot training all the time. Some F1 racecar drivers learn new tracks in simulators.

In addition, driving simulators help with research. Scientists can use them to create a controlled environment where they can use various factors. Typically, this results in improved vehicle safety and efficiency. 

Learning to drive RV with driving simulator
Practice driving an RV in a safe environment with a driving simulator.

Benefits of Using a Simulator to Learn to Drive an RV

Whether you’re doing it for fun or as a professional, driving simulators have several benefits. Let’s look at the advantages of using these programs to learn to drive an RV.

Understand How A Vehicle Moves and Develop Muscel Memory

The biggest challenge with learning to drive a large vehicle is getting used to how it moves on the road. The rear off-tracking of the tires so far behind you or the movement of a trailer are very different from a small car and a simulation can get you comfortable with how they move.

In addition, building muscle memory of which way to turn the wheel, how square you need to make your turns, and when you need to initiate all takes practice. And yes, you can learn a lot of this in a simulator.

Unfortunately, there are not many RV-specific simulators, but even simple games come close to mimicking the actual physics of a vehicle. They can get you on the right path to understanding vehicle dynamics.

Cait from Mortons on the Move driving RV
Feeling comfortable driving a big rig takes time and practice. A driving simulator can help you practice off road.

Safe Environment

A mistake when learning to drive an RV can be hazardous and costly. You put yourself and others in danger and damage your rig extensively. It doesn’t take a significant accident to end up with thousands of dollars in repair bills.

Using a driving simulator lets you practice maneuvering in a safe and controlled environment. This can help you to get comfortable with how a trailer or larger vehicle responds during certain maneuvers. 

Customized Practice

Another benefit of using a driving simulator to learn to drive an RV is your ability to practice custom scenarios. You can customize the situation using an RV simulator to fit a specific campsite or circumstance.

In our experience, no two campsites are the same. There’s typically almost always something different that we need to worry about. Customizing your practice can help you prepare for nearly anything, including backing into a campsite.

Fuel Efficiency

The only time you don’t hear an RV owner complaining about fuel is when their rig is stationary. No matter what size of RV you have, there’s a good chance the fuel efficiency could be better. 

With a driving simulator, you can drive thousands of miles and not use a single drop of fuel. You’ll eventually have to get behind the wheel of a vehicle. However, technology can help you learn as many basics as possible to avoid unnecessarily wasting fuel. 

Cost-Efficiency

Between the fuel savings and the reduced risk of damages, a driving simulator could pay for itself. While the equipment can be costly, every dollar you save by avoiding an expensive repair or fuel bill is more money in your pocket.

However, be careful not to go overboard when investing in the hardware and software. Some professional setups can cost tens of thousands of dollars. This setup would be overkill if you’re only hauling a travel trailer to your local campground.

No Wear and Tear

Learning to drive an RV with a simulator can prevent wear and tear on your RV and various components. The more wear you put on your RV while practicing, the worse it’ll be when you can finally take it out.

You want to protect your investment so it lasts as long as possible. Being harder on your vehicle could result in the need for premature maintenance. If you’ve ever seen someone learning to drive a manual vehicle, you know what we’re talking about.

Pro Tip: New to RVing? We uncovered How To Get Started with RVing When You Don’t Know How.

Practicing driving RV
Whether you want to learn to drive a camper van or a fifth wheel, being able to practice maneuvering a big rig before you hit the road can help give you peace of mind.

Driving Simulators to Learn to Drive an RV

If you’re looking for a driving simulator to learn to drive an RV, there are a few basic simulators worth considering. Unfortunately, they are not lifelike and fully customizable. However, they also don’t cost thousands of dollars. They can do a fine job introducing the physics behind maneuvering massive rigs in different situations to help you gain confidence.

Camper Van Simulator

Camper Van Simulator is a driving simulator for entertainment, but it can help you learn to drive an RV with real dynamics and physics. It is on the Nintendo Switch platform, so the graphics will feel like a video game.

As you complete missions, you unlock more vehicles. You’ll maneuver your rigs through tight spaces and around obstacles to win.

One of the best features of this game is that it allows you to use various RVs and trailers. One lesson you’ll learn is that maneuvering a smaller trailer is typically more challenging than a bigger rig. Take note of the response and how touchy smaller trailers are when reversing.

Camper Van Simulator | Trailer (Nintendo Switch)

Driving Essentials XE

While not explicitly for RVs, Driving Essentials XE can still be a useful option. This game is for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One platforms. If you have a steering wheel and pedals compatible with these platforms, you can use them during this game.

When you get behind the wheel of an RV, even basic principles of driving are much more critical. The game allows you to practice hazard detection, distracted driving, and responding to weather changes. These forms of defensive driving can mean the difference between safe travel and a potential accident.

This program comes with 2.5 hours of training and various scenarios. However, you are then free to use it for unlimited practice. You can drive around and maneuver in multiple situations and environments to help hone your skills.

Driving Essentials - Announce Trailer | PS4

Alaskan Road Truckers

Many RVers dream of hauling their rigs to Alaska. However, the Alaska Highway can be challenging and unpredictable. Alaskan Road Truckers on the Steam platform allow you to get behind the wheel of a semi and maneuver it down the highway. While it’s not exactly like an RV, it can help you prepare for the various obstacles you’ll experience.

Alaskan Road Truckers | Episode 1 | We've Got A Great Big Convoy

City Bus Simulator

Once again, this is more of a game and not intended as an RV simulator, but if you want a full virtual reality experience, this Quest VR game is an easy way to hop into a fully immersive driver’s seat of a big rig. If you are unfamiliar with virtual reality, this might be a skip as the movement makes many people motion sickness.

However, I tested this game out and can attest the busses move very similar to a class A motorhome. Gas brake and steering can be a bit jerky, but you can get the general feel of how the bus moves. If you can master this game, then hopping behind the wheel of a large class A will be much easier.

Pro Tip: Use technology to your advantage. Find out How Can AI Help You RV?

bus driving simulator

Should You Use a Driving Simulator to Learn to Drive an RV?

We’ve shared some basic driving simulators to help you learn to drive an RV. However, it won’t be cost-effective for the average RV owner to spend thousands of dollars on a driving simulator. Instead, spending that money on a driving school or other resource may be better.

We’re not discounting the impact that driving simulators can have on a driver. One of the most complex parts of driving and maneuvering an RV is getting used to the change in physics. A driving simulator helping you get familiar with moving the wheel to maneuver the trailer when backing up would be very helpful.

Do you think driving simulators would be a useful tool for new drivers? Let us know in the comments!

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About Tom Morton

Tom, a Pacific Northwest native, is our technical genius. Born in Washington and raised in Alaska before settling in Michigan. He's the man who keeps our operation running, both figuratively and literally.

With a background in Electrical Engineering, Tom specializes in RV solar systems and lithium batteries. He made history as the first documented individual to use a Tesla battery module as an RV battery. Tom has personally assisted countless RVers with system installations and has educated thousands more through his videos and articles.

Cinematography is another of Tom's passions, showcased in his work on the Go North series. You can see his camera skills on display in The RVers TV show on Discovery Channel and PBS where he also stars as a co-host.

Tom's mechanical expertise extends beyond RVs to boats, planes, and all things mechanical. He's renowned for taking on maintenance and repair projects single-handedly and is often spotted underneath RVs, making him the technical backbone of our endeavors.

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