Driving a motorhome or towing a trailer is a different experience than driving a car, to say the least. When we first hit the road we felt like we were driving ridiculously slow compared to the other vehicles.
So, how fast should an RV drive? Most RVers keep their rigs around 55-60 mph or 85-95 km/h on the highway. This is for optimum control and fuel efficiency.
Drivers will find the specific sweet spot for their rig where they find the balance of speed and gas mileage. We found ours to be around the 55 mph mark and discovered some interesting RV speed tips along the way.
Going the Speed Limit
Most interstates in the US are posted at 70 mph. It’s definitely not recommended to go this speed in a motorhome or while towing a trailer.
While you might feel like a tortoise, you surprisingly don’t lose that much time and can possibly gain some decent fuel efficiency.
For example, if you had a 200 mile drive one day, it would take you 2 hours and 50 min going 70 mph in your Corolla, assuming you were doing the speed limit. If you were in your RV and your sweet spot is 58 mph then that same 200-mile drive will take you 3 hours and 27 min.
Those 40 extra minutes really aren’t going to make or break your day and you may even pick up an extra MPG or two by going slower. When you are averaging 8-10 MPG that extra fuel efficiency can be a 10% gain!
I’d rather save a little on gas then arrive somewhere 40 minutes sooner. RV’s tend to chug fuel faster than college boys chug beer so anything that helps you increase your miles per gallon is a huge help.
If you are towing anything you will want to watch your speed even more carefully since you have another large mass to worry about now too. Check out our article Towing with Your RV to find out what you should know to stay safe.
Watch for the Yellow Speed Signs
When driving my Corolla, I hardly ever paid attention to the yellow speed signs you see near curves. I mean they are just suggestions so who cares.
In an RV those signs are serious indicators of what’s to come. PAY ATTENTION!
If you see a yellow sign saying 40 mph and the speed limit is normally 60, it means there is a big turning coming up so your butt better slow way down!
It’s much safer for you and the other drivers on the road to ease off the gas pedal when you see those signs. Motorhomes have a much higher center of gravity and are more prone to tipping.
If you take these curves at speed, even your normal, reduced speed, you are asking for trouble. You probably will come out of the curve in one piece but there will have been a lot of shifting of your cargo inside your cupboards.
There are a few things to remember while driving your rig that might help your fellow drivers hate you a little less. Always drive in the right lane.
This is where us slowpokes should stay unless in the unlikely event you are passing someone. Some states even have a “slowpoke law” where you can get a ticket for driving too slowly. So as much as possible stay in the right lane.
If you are on a 2-lane road and you notice a line up behind you or even just that there hasn’t been a safe passing place for a while then it’s good manners to pull over and let people pass by.
Just make sure you are doing this in a safe spot. You’ll want to find a spot that has enough room for you to stop safely, has good visibility for when you pull out again and is wide enough that other drivers can get by you.
It’s never worth it to try to pull over when you aren’t comfortable with the spot. Pull-offs with big drops between the shoulder and pavement are dangerous if you are going to quickly and can lead to tipping danger and tire blowouts.
Learn more about why RV tires blowout in our detailed article and even ways to prevent it from happening.
Posted Truck Limits
In general RV’s aren’t subject to the semi-truck specific speed limits. In all honesty, you will probably be going slower than them anyways and will be passed by the semis.
However, some states do require RVs to adhere to the truck speed limits. These states include but are not limited to Arkansas, California, Idaho, Indiana, Michigan, Oregon, and Washington.
The weather should always play an important part in setting a speed for your journey. No matter the vehicle you are in!
If heavy rain is in the forecast and you don’t HAVE TO be somewhere then maybe just wait till the weather perks up.
If you do have to get somewhere during poor weather then slow down even more. You may feel that you are going at a snail’s pace but it’s better to be the tortoise than the hare.
Visibility isn’t the only thing affected by rain. When the rain hits the pavement it will mix with the oil and other crud on the road making for some slippy conditions.
If your rig is blessed with cruise control, or better yet functional cruise control, then don’t touch that button. As handy as it is on a clear, dry day it can be very dangerous to use when the weather sucks.
You can’t respond as quickly when your foot isn’t on the pedal and your cruise can start to accelerate automatically at just the wrong time possibly causing an accident.
4 Ways are Your Friends
Hey, keep your mind out of the gutter and on the road! I’m talking about your four-way flashers.
These lights are for more than when you break down on the side of the road. They are a great way to indicate to other drivers when you are going much slower than usual or your usual at least.
Four way flashers can be used in multiple scenarios:
- climbing a steep grade – you will definitely be going slower than normal here and feeling like the little engine that could
- entering the highway – it takes a lot more time to accelerate up to speed in a big rig
- pulling off the road – if you are pulling off the road for any reason, whether you have an issue or to let people pass, indicating you are pulling off then putting on your 4-ways will let the drivers behind you know what’s up
- poor visibility – this should be done in all types of vehicles, not just RVs, if there is heavy snow, rain or fog your flashers can help other drivers to see you better and will signal them to be cautious
Take a Brake
No, I didn’t spell brake wrong, I’m referring to your stopping distance.
A vehicle’s stopping distance is affected by its weight and speed. The faster you drive to more distance you need to stop. The heavier you are the more distance you need to stop.
Remember your high school physics? Momentum = mass X velocity
The greater your momentum the more room you need to stop and since you are already in a big vehicle your speed can greatly affect your ability to stop quickly.
A 10 MPH difference in speed can take you easily an extra 50 feet to stop!
So leave plenty of space between you and the car ahead of you.
Take Your Time
The most important thing to remember when driving in an RV was best said by country singer Terri Clarke “Baby the livin’ is all in the gettin’ there.” So take your time, stop often to stretch and enjoy the sights, and arrive at your destination safely.
Interested in learning more about safely driving your RV, check out my article The Top 15 Tips for Driving an RV.
Recommended RV Safety Products:
These are just a few of the products we like and recommend to use to help keep you a little safer on the road:
- RV tire pressure monitors (Amazon) are an inexpensive and simple way to check your tire pressure quickly during your daily walk around. Make sure to buy ones that show the right tire pressure for your tires.
- Portable Air Compressor (Amazon) a real lifesaver when the nearest service station is an unknown distance away. This one is perfect for RVs, can reach over 100 psi and can even be directly connected to your battery
- Rearview Camera (Amazon) not all RV’s are equipped with a rearview camera. Having on that gives you a good view behind you at all times is very important for safety. This camera package comes with both a rearview and a dash camera plus a display screen at an affordable price.
Do you need a special license to drive a motorhome? In most states, you do not need a special license if your motorhome is under 26,000 lbs. California does require one if you are longer than 40 ft and Wisconsin if longer than 45 ft.
Is it hard to drive a motorhome? While not specifically hard to drive, it is different from driving a car or SUV. It takes practice to get used to how a motorhome handles and its larger size.