Tips for Driving a Motorhome for Beginners

If you’ve decided that you want to give a motorhome trip a go, the prospect of getting behind the wheel of a larger vehicle can sometimes be quite daunting. It’s natural to feel a little out of your comfort zone when you’re used to driving a smaller vehicle, so we’ve put together some tips that should help build your confidence on the road. It’s actually much easier than you might think. 

Take your time 

The first tip is to take a deep breath, make sure you’re calm and take your time. When heading out on the road for the first time, leave early so you're not rushing to your destination and try to plan things so that you’re driving at quieter times of the day. This will give you more space on the road, especially busy motorways and you won’t encounter so many frustrated commuters who are running a little late. If you do find yourself with a few impatient drivers behind you, wait until you find a safe place to pull over and let them pass. Don’t feel intimidated into driving at speeds you’re not comfortable with. 

It’s also a good idea to give yourself a little more time than usual at service stations to rest. You’ll need to be more focused when you’re driving a vehicle you’re not used to, especially one the size of a motorhome, so you’ll get tired more quickly. On particularly long trips, it’s also a good idea to travel with multiple drivers so you can share the work. 

Know your vehicle’s dimensions

It’s important that you’re familiar with the height of your vehicle. This is especially important when it comes to low bridges and tight tunnels which your motorhome might not be suitable for. 

Chances are, the vehicle will also be longer and wider than you’re used to, so take extra care when coming up to tight corners or junctions. At junctions, it’s usually best to wait until the way is clear in both directions as the vehicle might swing out a little further than you were expecting. You’ll need to take corners quite widely or you risk catching the rear of the motorhome on the curb. 

The extra width also means that you might find yourself straying towards the middle of the road. If you’re struggling with this, have a practice in your car, driving more on the nearside than usual. It shouldn’t take too long to get used to. 

Know your vehicle’s weight

You’ll also need to know how much your motorhome weighs as larger vehicles have different speed limits on certain types of roads. Check the government’s website for up to date information on this.

Park facing outwards

Another top tip is to park facing outwards where possible. You’ll probably find that you have less visibility through the back of the vehicle than you’re used to and you might miss a pedestrian walking behind the motorhome even when using the mirrors as much as possible. If you park facing outwards, you give yourself much more visibility when you’re pulling away again. You can always ask one of your passengers or even a pedestrian to give you a hand while reversing into a parking space. 

Be aware of limited visibility

On the note of visibility, you won’t be able to see as much out of the rear as in a car, which can be a bit odd at first. Before you set off, make sure the mirrors are correctly angled for you and keep checking them so you’re aware of what’s around you at all times. If you’re driving a little slower than some of the cars on the road, they can appear behind you quite quickly, so take extra care when changing lanes on dual carriageways or motorways. 

If you find that you’re really struggling with visibility and can’t manoeuvre confidently when, say, changing lanes on the motorway, extra mirrors might help. There are blind spot auxiliary mirrors available which can be clipped onto your existing wing mirrors, increasing your vision. Plenty of motorhome owners use these and they can also make parking that little bit easier too.  

Give yourself more time and space

Motorhomes can be heavy vehicles and need more time to brake than cars. You’ll need to give yourself more room than you’re probably used to between you and the car in front and start braking earlier. Generally, it’s just best to take everything a little more slowly when you’re driving a motorhome. This approach will also save you money on fuel.

Unless the motorhome has a very powerful engine, you’ll probably notice a significant difference in the time it takes to accelerate up to higher speeds. Take this into consideration when joining motorways or dual carriageways. You may need to give yourself more room than you’re used to. 

Try and stick to main roads

Plan your journeys ahead and try to stick to the main roads. Navigation systems tend to be set up to offer the quickest route, however, they may send you down narrow country lanes, through tight tunnels and under low bridges, all of which might make your journey quite tricky. 

Rather than inputting a destination into Google Maps, it’s better to sit down and plan your route so you know what’s coming, can avoid any roads that aren’t motorhome-friendly and can visualise the journey. There are sat nav systems designed specifically for larger vehicles like motorhomes which make things easier.

Be confident and draw on your existing driving experience

Finally, be confident! If you can drive a car, you can drive a motorhome. Be confident in your driving ability, give yourself more time and space and much of the rest is simply common sense. If you don’t feel ready to go on a trip behind the wheel of a motorhome, there are courses available that will help build up your confidence. These are run by the likes of the Caravan and Motorhome Club and you’ll be guided by experts who have usually been driving motorhomes for many years. 

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