Your day can go from good to awful in a matter of seconds by not knowing your RV height. Let’s buckle up and take a closer look at RV height and why you need to know it!
What Does RV Height Mean?
RV height refers to the physical height of an RV. Many manufacturers will list an RV’s height on the spec sheet. Knowing your RV’s height is essential, especially if you’ll be driving through urban areas or towns.
There’s an entire website dedicated to victims of an 11-foot-8-inch low clearance in Durham, N.C. A quick scroll through a few of their videos, and you’ll quickly understand why you don’t want to be the victim of a low clearance underpass in your RV.
Does RV Height Include the Air Conditioner?
RV manufacturers will often list a standard RV height for each model. This measurement comes from the highest point in the base model of the RV, which is typically an air conditioner. However, many consumers add air conditioning units to their RVs.
This second air conditioner usually sits toward the front of the RV. This placement creates a new highest point in the RV. It also invalidates the previous RV height, meaning consumers will need to verify their RV’s height themselves.
Many RVers select a low-profile air conditioner if they’re worried about the height of their RV. A low-profile air conditioner is approximately 9 inches tall, but a standard RV air conditioner can be 12 or more inches tall. The three inches may not seem like much, but it can make the difference between a tight squeeze and destroying your air conditioner or roof.
What Is the Maximum Height of an RV?
The maximum height of an RV is 13 feet 6 inches. This is a standard height restriction across the country. However, this doesn’t mean that you can drive on any and every street if your RV is below 13 feet 6 inches. Many urban streets have bridges created well before there were universal height restrictions.
How to Measure the Height of Your RV
To properly measure the height of your RV, you’ll need a measuring tape and some sort of ladder. First, hitch up your RV to your truck like you would when towing. Measure from the ground to the highest point on the RV. Measuring like this will likely require you to access the roof to add additional height from air conditioning units or items mounted to the roof. You can use a straight edge or level to put on top of the AC and get a better measurement on the tape measure.
Every inch matters when it comes to having an accurate understanding of your RV’s height. Inaccurate measurement can put you and your RV in danger. Take your time and measure twice.
One more thing to keep in mind when measuring height is the type of RV. If it has Air Ride at all (like diesel motorhomes) make sure it’s inflated up to its full height before measuring of you may be a few inches low.
Once you know your height its a good idea to print it out and stick it to the dash of your vehicle. You don’t want to be coming up on a low bridge and trying to remember if you are 12′ or 13′ tall!
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Why You Need to Know Your RV Height
If you plan to take your RV on new and exciting adventures, you might have to drive on unfamiliar roads. Here are a few instances when it’s beneficial to know your RV height.
Bridges and Underpasses
Two of the most common low clearances we encounter while RVing are bridges and underpasses. If you stick to interstates or truck-friendly routes, you’re unlikely to run into anything less than 13 feet 6 inches tall.
However, in a city, you could find many bridges and underpasses constructed before we had any standard height requirements. You’re more likely to encounter low clearances in the northeast, but there are sporadic instances throughout the country.
You may arrive safely at the campground and let your guard down. It’s easy to miss or not see awnings, especially if you’re unfamiliar with the campground and unsure where to go. Some campgrounds have special entrances for larger or taller RVs. Going to the wrong entrance can ruin your camping trip and incur an expensive repair.
While you’re unlikely to tow your RV into a parking garage, these can be issues for drivable RVs and even tow vehicles. Many parking garages in cities max out at 6 feet or 6 feet 6 inches. If you know your height, you can avoid these garages or look for ones designed to fit your vehicle.
Low-hanging limbs are one of the most challenging obstacles to avoid. There’s often no signage indicating these potential dangers. You’ll need to be alert to avoid them.
You won’t tend to run into this on interstates, but they can become an issue the closer you get to a campground. Many times campgrounds are located several miles off major highways along tree-lined routes. Low-hanging limbs can do extensive damage to your RV’s roof and sides.
Average Heights of RV Classes
While every RV is different, let’s look at average heights for some of the most popular classes of RVs.
Class A Motorhome
A class A motorhome is the tallest of all motorhomes and averages between 11 and 13′ 5″
Class C Motorhome
A Class C motorhome will have an average height of about 11 feet but vary between 10 and 12′
Class B Camper
A Class B camper averages 8 feet but B+ units can be as tall as 12′
Fifth wheels are typically 13 feet tall but vary between 11 and 13′ 5″
Travel trailers are usually around 10-11 feet.
How Do You Avoid Low Clearance on Your Route?
You want to avoid low clearances while RVing at all costs. Using an RV GPS or RV GPS app can keep you off low clearance routes. These are great options, especially where there’s a cell signal. Many RVers purchase an old school trucker atlas to help plan their routes and avoid low clearances.
Modern apps like RV Trip Wizard include navigation that can avoid low bridges. You can input your RV’s specifications and it will help you prevent deleting your AC on a bridge.
Researching your route in advance is essential to avoiding low clearances. Using resources like satellite or street view on Google Maps is also a great way to visit unfamiliar streets and locations before bringing your RV along.
There’s not much scarier while RVing than approaching a low clearance, especially if you aren’t expecting it. Take the necessary precautions to avoid low clearances. Be sure to know your RV height and plan carefully. Do you know your RV’s height? How do you plan your route to avoid low clearances?
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