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The Rules of Moochdocking: How to Be a Good Driveway Surfer

Being a mooch is generally perceived as a negative. But it doesn’t have to be. When we’re talking about moochdocking (also known as driveway surfing), there are some rules to follow that can turn that frown upside down.

We’re here to explain why driveway surfing doesn’t have to be akin to mooching and how you can make sure your moochdocking host will always want to welcome you back.

What Is Moochdocking?

Simply put, moochdocking is staying in your rig on a friend or relative’s property. This is, of course, with their permission.

MOOCHDOCKING MISTAKES - Driveway Surfing Etiquette - RV Life

It’s frequently in a driveway. That’s why moochdocking and driveway surfing are generally interchangeable. But it can also mean parking on the street (when municipalities allow) in front of a friend’s house or, even better, parking out on the back property of a family or friend with the space.

Generally, moochdocking doesn’t come with hookups. However, you’ll sometimes be allowed to plug into a 15-amp or 20-amp outlet for partial power and could be allowed to use the bathroom, shower, or other facilities. Truly mooching!

How Is Moochdocking Different From Boondocking?

Boondocking largely takes place on public lands and other commercial properties that allow free dispersed camping. This can include places like a Walmart or Cracker Barrel parking lot or rest stop, but you are not provided with power, water, or sewage hookups. Boondocking is self-sufficient dry camping, often in the middle of nowhere.

Moochdocking is similar, but always takes place with the permission of a friend or relative who’s allowing you to driveway surf, park out next to the barn on the farm, or the like. You shouldn’t expect hookups when moochdocking. But friends and relatives often allow the use of their bathroom, kitchen, laundry, and perhaps a 15-amp or 20-amp outlet for partial power.

Mortons moochdocking in fifth wheel
Camp for free and reconnect with friends and family while moochdocking.

What Are the Benefits of Moochdocking?

There are many benefits to moochdocking, some more tangible than others. The chief benefit, of course, is the price. As the name implies, moochdocking is free. When the price of everything is almost always on the rise, including campsites, a free stay is a tremendous financial benefit.

Driveway surfing is also a fantastic way to spend more time with friends and relatives without getting too overbearing. When your home is in the driveway, it’s easy to create a little extra space when visiting so that you don’t get on each others’ nerves. You’re also right there, ready to spend meals, evenings, or weekends together (if you’re invited).

As we mentioned, depending on the set-up where you’re staying, you might get some basic hookups or water-fill access. Many friends or family will at least have a standard outlet you can plug into and will often let you use their utilities. If you have a friend or family member who’s also an avid RVer, they may even have full hookups.

Pro Tip: Think you know all the rules of moochdocking? Find out if you are a terrible moochdocker!

RV moochdocking in driveway
There are a few basic etiquette rules you should always follow when driveway surfing.

The Rules of Driveway Surfing

As with boondocking, there are a few rules of etiquette to follow when moochdocking or driveway surfing. Taking advantage of someone else’s generosity isn’t only bad form, it may also make you a less welcome guest down the road. The moochdocker’s Golden Rule? Never show up unannounced.

Never Show Up Unannounced

This may seem like common sense to many, but cannot be overstated. Showing up out of the blue and then taking up the driveway is a sure way to start the visit off poorly. If you’re not told to leave immediately, your host will definitely be muttering in frustration under their breath.

Always ask your intended hosts ahead of time if you can stop and see them before assuming the answer is yes. They may have other plans or not be up for visitors. Giving them plenty of time to decide is the polite thing to do, and may help ensure a “yes” answer to your request. If they say no, also abide by their wishes.

Don’t Stay Too Long

Just as you shouldn’t show up unannounced, don’t overstay your welcome. While we all love to visit family and friends, we all have other things going on in our lives.

But how long is too long? That’s something best discussed with your host. It’s a good idea to lay out your stay ahead of time, at least for the most part, so they don’t think you’re disrespecting their hospitality.

Our motto: leave while they still want to you stay. It’s a better note to leave on than them wanting you to leave.

Don’t Let Your Pets Roam Freely

If you travel with a fur baby, make sure you understand and comply with your host’s expectations for pets. Don’t just assume that you can let them have free reign. Also, don’t assume they are allowed to come in the house; be sure to ask first.

Hand in hand with only allowing your pets to roam where your host wants, always clean up after your pet and don’t allow them to run amuck. Whether it’s you or your pet being a nuisance, it will surely affect your chances for a future moochdock and could stress your relationship with your host.

Pro Tip: If you like to travel with your furry friends, make sure you know these 5 Rules for RVing with Pets.

Don’t Dump Your Tanks on the Ground

If you don’t have a sewage hookup (most residential homes don’t have a dump station), you don’t have a place to dump your tanks. It’s that simple. There is a reason municipalities don’t allow you to just dump your holding tanks anywhere you like.

It is unsanitary, messy, and ecologically damaging. Don’t think that because you’re staying with a friend or relative that this changes. Only dump your tanks at a proper dump station or sewage hookup.

Mom washing dishes in RV while talking to son on a moochdocking trip
Don’t set up a full campsite in a friends driveway. Keep to yourself, stay clean, and respect any neighborhood rules.

Follow HOA Rules and Local Regulations

Having friends and relatives that allow you to surf their driveway is awesome. However, make sure you know any homeowners association (HOA) rules and the local regulations regarding RVs, whether parking in a driveway or on the street.

HOAs, in particular, can be finicky about RVs and big rigs parking in the driveway. It doesn’t matter if the homeowner is storing their own RV or if a friend is spending a day or two in the driveway. Many HOAs have rules that don’t allow parking large vehicles in driveways or in front of a residence. 

Local regulations don’t typically limit a homeowner’s driveway, but frequently limit or ban parking on city streets.

Make sure you know any rules and regulations, not only so that you don’t get ticketed or towed, but also that your moochdocking host doesn’t disobey the rules.

Get the Exact Measurements Ahead of Time

Get the exact measurements of your potential parking location ahead of time. It’s not great for anyone if your rig won’t fit the designated spot, especially if you show up late in the day. While many friends and family are well-meaning, they might not realize just how big your RV is. It falls on you to know how much space you need for your rig and then to ask your host for exact measurements of the location they plan for you to park.

Don’t forget to know how tall your RV is and what clearance your host has. Many folks who aren’t RVers don’t think about that tree limb hanging down to 10 feet over the driveway while your rig is 11-feet-3-inches tall.

Pro Tip: Be mindful of the ground type you’ll be parking on. If your RV is heavy, you may leave permanent ruts on lawns. Moochdock hosts may not realize how much RVs can weigh when they think of a potential parking spot.

Older couple smiling in doorway of RV while moochdocking
When done respectfully, your moochdocking hosts will be happy to have gotten to spend extra time with you.

Clean Up After Yourself

Just as you should clean up after your fur babies, you should clean up after yourself. After all, your host is being kind enough to allow you a free place to stay. You shouldn’t make it any more of an inconvenience for them than that.

Don’t leave trash strewn about, pick up pet droppings, and if you’re allowed use of facilities in their house, clean up after yourself there as well. 

We suggest taking it a step further and leaving the place better than you found it. Even if litter near your rig is not yours, dispose of it. 

Show Gratitude Before Leaving

Don’t forget to thank and show appreciation to your host for allowing you to stay on their property. That’s really the least you can do as a pleasant driveway surfer.

Take it a step further and truly express your gratitude by helping out during your stay. Offer to make dinner or do some chores. Perhaps there’s something your host has been putting off because it’s a bit too much for them to do alone. Helping them get things done is a great way to show appreciation.

It will also ensure you’re welcomed back with open arms.

Pro Tip: If you don’t know someone with a driveway for you to moochdock on, find out Can You RV Park Overnight on the Street?

Is Walmart Still an Option? RV Boondocking Unwritten Rules

Moochdocking: Enjoy a Stay With Friends and Family

As you can see, moochdocking really isn’t anything akin to the negativity associated with mooching. In fact, surfing a driveway can be an excellent way to reconnect with family and friends. 

Following a few simple etiquette rules and going out of your way to help offers opportunities for some amazing life experiences. Spending time with friends and relatives in a more relaxed way creates ways to take some of the financial stress off your travels. It also fosters situations where you can make a difference in someone’s day-to-day life.

Don’t be a mooch – be a moochdocker. Your traveling adventures and your relationships will be much better for it!

Have you ever tried moochdocking? Tell us about your experience 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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Phil Ruffin

Monday 22nd of August 2022

One other point about the weight of the RV besides leaving ruts in the yard. The weight of the RV on areas that might have sprinklers for watering the grass might collapse PVC pipes and cause expensive damage to the watering system.

Mortons on the Move

Sunday 28th of August 2022

Great point! We have seen more than one broken sprinkler from vehicle traffic.