After a harrowing experience on a recent road trip, I learned that your RV height is the most important thing to know before driving off the rental lot

Sophie-Claire Hoeller
·3 min read
Sophie RV
This compact Class C RV is one of the smallest ones you can rent at 20-feet long and 12-feet high. Sophie-Claire Hoeller/Insider
  • Knowing the height of your RV is critical, which is something that I learned the hard way recently.

  • Not every road is RV-friendly: Low bridges and overpasses can determine what routes you can and cannot take.

  • Google Maps and Waze don't allow you to filter routes by vehicle height or weight, though special RV apps do.

  • Planning the route turned out to be the biggest stressor during a recent road trip to Acadia National Park, Maine, and the RV's height was mostly to blame.

  • Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.

Know. Your. Height.

I cannot stress the importance of this enough.

Ahead of my recent RV rental — the first time I had ever as much as set foot in a recreational vehicle — I had a lot of fears.

I was worried about driving something so large and unwieldy; I was concerned about the bathroom situation, and about dumping the tanks; I was terrified by the many blinking lights on the control panel I didn't understand.

However, I never really thought about the height of the RV as something to be aware of.

I didn't come across any mention of height being noteworthy during my copious rental research, and I don't remember the rental agent really making a point of its importance during our brief orientation.

Whatever the reason, our RV's height wasn't seared into our brains — but it should have been.

Know the height before you go

Barely 20 minutes into my road trip to Maine with a friend, I understood its importance.

That's because, barely out of the city, we almost lopped off the top of our 12-foot-high RV going through an overpass that claimed a 9'7" clearance.

We were in the middle lane only a couple dozen feet from the overpass when we saw a sign announcing its low clearance. From that distance, we weren't sure we would clear it, and we began to panic.

But by this point, it felt more dangerous to brake abruptly or swerve into another lane, especially because the roads were quite busy.

After eyeballing that the overpass looked just tall enough, we decided to keep going and held our breaths.

Luckily, we were right. I think we were saved because we were in the middle lane, where the tallest part of the rounded tunnel was.

Turns out, the height of our RV was really the main thing complicating our road trip: Our height restricted where we could drive, and planning our route turned out to be the biggest stressor, in my experience.

low bridge
You have to watch out for low bridges and overpasses when driving an RV. yevtony/Getty Images

Not every road is RV-friendly, which is why you need to be aware of your RV's width, weight, and height, as well as the clearance of any tunnels or bridges you might encounter on the way. 

Annoyingly, technology was of no help.

Google Maps and Waze don't allow you to filter routes by vehicle height or weight. While Gary Lewis, who runs RV boot camps for new drivers, told me that some newer RV models and trucks have a special GPS that takes these measurements into consideration when planning a route, our older model did not have that luxury (or any GPS for that matter).

For a whopping $20, we downloaded a special RV app that only shows RV-friendly routes but quickly abandoned it when it repeatedly crashed and added multiple unnecessary hours to every drive.

Instead, I recommend a low-tech solution to this problem.

Know your height before you go, plan your route taking this key piece of information into consideration in advance, and keep your eyes open for signs advertising low overpasses or other height and weight restrictions before taking any turns or exits.

Read the original article on Insider