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A few weeks ago, I bought my very first RV. Sure, I’ve driven tractors, ATVs, motorcycles, boats, cars, and trucks. But that doesn’t make me particularly qualified to drive a 32-foot class C RV with a Jeep behind it. I want to feel as safe and confident as I can behind the wheel. Plus, I want to make sure I’m ready for emergencies. So after days of researching products, here’s my list of must-haves, with an eye toward driver safety.
Must-Have #1: Safe-T-Plus Steering Control
I picked up a Safe-T-Plus brochure when I visited the RV repair shop. Honestly, I didn’t know what it did or why it was important. According to the manufacturer, it is a steering control device “designed to reduce your motorhome’s ‘wandering’ effect caused by various road conditions.” When I asked about this device on a Facebook group, a number of RVers told me that the Safe-T-Plus makes driving more comfortable and lessens driver fatigue. It especially helps drivers manage side winds, over-steering, and front-tire blowouts.
Cost: Safe-T-Plus has an interactive map so that you can easily find the closest dealer. The quote I received from my RV repair shop was over $800, which includes installation. According to a manufacturer representative, if you go to the factory in Atlanta, Georgia, the cost is $517 and the installation is free.
Must-Have #2: Tire Monitoring System
Tire blowouts are a major cause of RV accidents, so a tire monitoring system is critical. There are several brands to select from. I went with 6-sensor system from Truck Systems Technology (TST). It comes with a color display, theft resistant cap sensors, and provides visible and audible alerts when it detects a tire issue.
Note: the manufacturer notes that it is for use on metal valve stems. Some Amazon reviewers cited problems when they tried installing the system on rubber valve stems. While you can replace the valve stems, it’s not an easy DIY project.
Must-Have #3: Compressor Kit
Now that you have your tire monitoring system, you’ll need a way to easily inflate your tires to the appropriate PSI. The Viair 40047 comes out ahead in most reviews. But it’s expensive ($277) and for a novice, setup looks confusing. In the end, I went with the Porter-Cable CMB15 oil-free compressor kit. The price was much more reasonable and it looks easier to use.
Must-Have #4: Portable Generator
If you don’t have solar panels and you don’t like the idea of being hooked up to campground power day after day (or ruining the sweet sound of silence with a noisy generator), then a portable generator is an excellent investment. The Rockpals generator is a great emergency backup system that powers up your home, and it can be charged by hooking it up to a solar panel, a wall outlet, or a car charger. I love the solar panel option and that it runs quietly and has no exhaust fumes.
The manufacturer claims that a single charge will power:
25+ Smartphone charges
5+ laptop charges
70 hours of lighting
4+ nights CPAP
Must-Have #5: Surge Protector
Imagine that you pull into a campground, power up your RV, and a power surge fries all of your electronics! Nightmare, right? Unfortunately, shopping for “real” surge protectors for RVs is a confusing process. Some don’t provide much protection at all. So do your research before you buy.
I opted for a higher-end surge protector, the Portable EMS-PT30X RV Surge Protector by Progressive Industries. I depend on my electronics to run my online coaching business, so this wasn’t an area I was willing to cut corners. The surge protector comes with a security locking bracket and you’ll want to use a bicycle lock to keep thieves from wandering off with your high-priced equipment.
Note: Select a surge protector for your specific RV amp hookup (30 or 50).
Must-Have #6: GPS for RVs
If you’re transitioning from a car to an RV, it might surprise you that there will be roads that are now off-limits to you because of the size of your RV. How do you avoid crashing into a bridge or getting caught on a road where you can’t make the hairpin turns? You buy a GPS unit that is specific to RVers.
Generally, it’s hard to go wrong with a Garmin GPS unit. They tend to be more user-friendly than other brands. For RVers, there are plenty of options to choose from, but they all carry a hefty pricetag. I went with the higher end unit, the Garmin RV 785, because it has a dash-cam. This will allow me to enable forward collision and lane departure warnings. And I will have documentation should I be involved in an accident. I like the other features as well:
Custom routing that takes into account the size and weight of my RV
While the water you get from an RV campground might be perfectly drinkable, you’ll want a water filtration system that will take out impurities, the taste of chlorine, and provide a safer water supply. The good news is that you don’t have to break the bank for a water filtration system.
The Camco 40019 RV Water Filter is one of the top-rated water filters for RVs. It comes with a flexible hose protector to prevent kinking and is super easy to use.
Recommendation: RV Driving School
In most states, RVers don’t need any special license or training to drive an RV, even though the RV might be as big as a bus. I recommend attending a driving school if you can. Here are the two main programs:
RV Driving School – Driving lessons in your own RV are offered for singles and couples over a two-day period. They offer seminars at RV rallies around the country and you can get trained at one of their locations (see map). Upon completion, drivers receive a certificate that might entitle you to a discount on your insurance premiums.
RV Basic Training – A one-day boot camp is their flagship program. They have a limited number of trainers (see map), but the trainers travel to your location (for a travel fee).
Dr. Brenda is a financial coach, educator, researcher, and sociologist. In addition to blogging at The Five Journeys, she is the founder of the Gutsy Women Club. Her passion is guiding people on their journey to financial freedom through coaching at DrBrendaMoneyCoach and online courses at DreamBigMoneyAcademy.com.
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