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So Many Questions & No Idea Where to Start

driving a motorhome driving classes buying a motorhome drivers license rv driver safety

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#1 urinetintin

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Posted 18 February 2013 - 11:22 PM

My husband and I are highly considering becoming full-timers. My husband is still active duty Army and I am retired Air Force and we are currently stationed at Ft Meade, MD for the next few yrs. We just put our house on the market and are hoping it sells soon. We've been doing all sorts of research on the Internet about RVing and we know a few things so far, try it first, meaning take a vacation and see if it's for you. If you buy have your own knowledgeable mechanic go over every inch of the coach. And buy from a reputable dealership. What we don't know and desperately need to is: how in the world do we get our drivers license? Is there a "drivers education" for Class A motorcoaches? What are the safest or most durable Class A motorcoaches out on the market? My husband and I are pretty taken with the Tiffin Phaeton, what does anyone think about that brand? We have settled on a Diesel engine, we know that. What should we look for in a motorcoach? We're not just interested in the pretty interior, we want safety, security, reliability, value, etc. We don't need crystal drawer handles :0) Our price limit we're going for is no more then $300k. So please, any and all advice is welcome, especially how can we learn to drive one?! And a good rental agency so we can try it out? But mainly, our first step is our drivers license. Thanks for the help, much appreciated. Urine Tin Tin


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#2 DickandLois

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Posted 19 February 2013 - 02:25 AM

Welcome to FMCA !!!

The Drivers License requirements very widely from state to state. So start with your local DMV or the state of residents. Should you be considering renting one for a  trial run, check and see what they require for licenses. Often one can drive a fairly large RV on a standard drivers license.

The coach you are looking at because of its weight, length and air breaks often puts the owner into a  different class license. So that information is needed to get started, some states require a CDL or modified version of it.

Learning to drive one that large to start with can be intimidating. Just bet that you have school bus drivers in the area that would just love to give you driving lessons. They are also very good source of information on air breaks and driving a vehicle(s) with them.

FMCA often has classes of RV safety at the larger Rallies.

 

Thank You for your service.

Rich.


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#3 AndyShane

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Posted 19 February 2013 - 08:07 AM

I'm not sayin' a word 'til I hear more about the name :rolleyes:


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#4 dwightginnyputzke

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Posted 19 February 2013 - 08:18 AM

Rich,

 

You never want to have air breaks on a school bus but many school buses have air brakes.


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#5 urinetintin

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Posted 19 February 2013 - 12:36 PM

Rich,


Thank you for the quick response. My husband has been researching MD state laws and they do require you to have a special endorsement on your drivers license for that long of a coach, plus if the coach will have air brakes. It's just learning to drive one, how do most people learn. They can't all just sink all this money into a big 'ole bus and just get in and hope for the best right?! I mean, that's a lot of money. I want to be trained and fully aware of what I should be looking for. A Drivers Ed for motorcoaches. How did you learn to drive your RV? How did anybody? We do want to rent and we won't be able to afford renting a full class A motor coach, we're certainly not millionaires and most coaches seem very expensive to rent. Because we're military we do get to keep our state of legal residency and register our vehicles there as well, so while MD state tax for a new vehicle is 6%, we will be using our home state of NM which has a much lower tax rate. Thankfully we get that perk.

 

But yes my main questions are: where do you learn how to drive these things?! We don't want to sink a possible $300k and have no idea how to use our new home. So any suggestions on that would be appreciated. Are there RV manufactures that we should stay away from, ones that are known for cheap product, bad sales, yada, yada, yada. What do y'all think about Tiffin Motor Coaches? Are they any good? We want something safe, reliable, durable, something that will keep some of it's value, a company that's up to speed on technology, but mainly SAFE! What coaches do y'all suggest us taking a look at? What not to do, what did you learn with your first RV and would pass down to your children if they were interested in the life?


Thank you for the appreciation for what we do for a living, it's a wonderful compliment to receive and it's always appreciated. We love our country and we more so love serving it, so it's really a win, win for us. But thank you for your acknowledgement.
My nickname is from a little past time that my hubby and I enjoy doing called Hashing (has nothing to do with drugs). It's worldwide and it's been around since 1938. They call themselves a "Drinking Club with a Running Problem". It's a whole bunch of fun, you have to keep an open mind though cause they are the most politically incorrect bunch out there, but sometimes that's a relief. But we get nicknames from doing something stupid usually and the rest of the group finding out about it, hence Urine Tin Tin. Hashing is a ton of fun and great people, if you Google "Hash House Harriers" you can find out more about them.


Back on topic, again any and all suggestions, help, advice, anything would be greatly appreciated, especially learning to drive a big expensive bus. Where do all of the celebrity motorcoach drivers to go to learn to drive? I need a Drivers Ed, I really do.
Thanks so much!

Urine Tin Tin


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#6 tmoning

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Posted 19 February 2013 - 01:34 PM

Regarding where to learn to drive a motorhome ...

 

Go to the Recreation Vehicle Safety & Education Foundation (RVSEF) Web site -- http://rvsafety.com -- and click the "Driving Programs" tab.

RVSEF co-sponsored the RV Driving Safety program at FMCA's last convention, in Indianapolis.

The major objectives of the program are to increase driver awareness; identify drivers' abilities; understand and identify your vehicle(s); determine conditions that affect driving; and make participants safer drivers. The program covers the differences in vehicle size, height, and weight, so you will find it easier to hit the road in your motorhome.

In Indianapolis, the program was divided into two sessions of three hours each, and the cost was $20 per person. Everyone who completed the course received a certificate that may have entitled them to a discount on their insurance premiums.

As FMCA's Gillette, Wyoming, convention (June 19-22, 2013), approaches, check the convention section of FMCA.com to see whether this program will be offered there.

 

Here's a video called "Drive Your Motorhome Like a Pro," produced by RV Education 101.

 


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#7 lmsooter

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Posted 19 February 2013 - 02:34 PM

Welcome to FMCA!!  As Todd states, the RVSEF seminar is excellent.  I attended the one presented at the FMCA Convention March 2010 in Albuquerque, NM.  You might also contact a dealer in your area.  They might be able to refer you to someone who could take you through the basics. 

 

As far as a brand, we all have our likes and dislikes.  We had a 33 foot gasoline Class A Four Winds first.  Then when we decided to start full timing, we spent two years looking at larger motorhomes.  We started at the FMCA Convention in March 2010 and continued to attend every RV show and dealer location we could find within reasonable driving distance.  We looked at Fleetwood, Monaco, Tiffin, Winnebago, Newmar.  Shortly after we started looking, we developed a list of "must have" items - length, number of slides, etc.  Along with that was a list of "would be nice to have".  Just spend time really looking at a unit you are interested.  Don't just look at the finish of cabinets - look at the construction.  Look at interior decor - is it something you really like and can live with for a long time (changes can be expensive).  Do you have sufficient basement storage - think of the things you will want to carry with you as you travel.  Most Class A motorhomes are built on a top quality chassis and have Cummins or Caterpillar engines in the diesel powered units.

 

Good luck in your search.  Just take your time.


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#8 DickandLois

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Posted 19 February 2013 - 09:30 PM

Urine Tin Tin,

I must admit that the coaches we have owned over the years have gotten bigger over time. Started with a little 19 ft.Class C unit to a 34 ft Class A gas and up to a 40 ft. Diesel.

 

The first two we could drive with a standard class operators license, but things changed with the diesel. Not because of the length or weight class,but the air brakes! Had to prove I understood how they worked an how to test them for proper operation. With that skill mastered I can drive the current couch with the same license class I have used for years.

 

NOW, if we purchase a coach the is just a little longer and or heavier, will require I upgrade my license to an R classification.

A good question for your DMV might be, how should one go about getting the proper license for the coach you are interested in before spending that kind of money.

 

Regarding what Coach to buy, I have always considered how we travel and will the floor plan allow us to use the coach with side(s) in or out depending on where we set up for the night or longer.

 

As I mentioned,the difference in state motor vehicle laws are so varied and I could run into an issue if we change our home address in the future. Should our current state change there requirements, we will fall under a grandfather clause. With the requirement to pass a test and possibly a medical exam. Always a variable.

 

Rich.


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#9 AndyShane

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Posted 20 February 2013 - 01:18 AM

Hilarious!  I learned something new, will reciprocate.

 

KayCee and I were in your position 2 1/2 years ago, albeit starting RV'ing as an alternative to staying in pet-friendly hotels while doing dog competitions.

 

Unlike you, we wanted to start small to determine if we'd even like being alone in an RV for extended periods of time.  I mean, it isn't for everybody.  We were going to cut our teeth on a 30-some foot gasser first, then upgrade.  Along the way, my wife's tastes got pricier and then our neighbors discovered they couldn't sell their RV.  After they bought a Newell.  We rode to their rescue, and went from knowing nothing to rolling down the road in a 40 diesel pusher, in a flash.

 

One pearl I can offer (other than not including the Hash gig in the Teamwork/Followership block of your EPR), is to think about the value-added aspect of buying used.  

 

If you get a new coach, that $300K should purchase you about $360K of RV (buyers are paying at least 20% under invoice, normally).  Within five years, your lovely home will ring in at about $180K.

 

Plus, that first year of ownership normally involves lots of break-in challenges, trips to the dealer, and maybe even a couple of trips to the factory itself.  

 

If you buy a 2 or 3 year old unit that has been carefully maintained, that process will be finished and your $300K might buy a $500K coach.  Better yet, get the one that MSRP'd for $360K for $210K and invest the remainder for a rainy day.

 

I have mixed feelings about driver training.  You can read your way through most of it, give it time to sink in.  Getting the appropriate license in itself is part of a decent orientation program for stepping up to the bigger vehicle.  Here in Texas, I'll guess that 85% of RV owners are driving on the wrong license.  I'd fill that square ASAP, before you're swamped in the challenges of learning a new RV.

 

Really, long discussions with RVers and maybe a mall/church/school parking lot stint with a friend who owns a DP might be as helpful as trying to drink from the proverbial firehose during a short comprehensive course.  The wife and I bought a dozen orange rubber cones and murdured many in several sessions spent practicing in a school parking lot.

 

My wife and I joined a convoy of friends for our first trip, they helped us navigate our first KOA after a three-hour state highway journey together.

 

The act of driving seems to boil down to a few simple basics: stabilize in the middle of the lane and develop a sense for the space you take up by watching other vehicles.  Remember that all turns are squared, meaning that you're cognizant of where both of your back corners are.  A hard 90 degree right in traffic is the most challenging; there will be times when you either stop until that guy in the left turn lane backs up, or you opt for aborting the turn and going either straight ahead or left.  Be mindful of clearance top, side, bottom.  And, allow room for starting and stopping.  

 

As a newbie, restrict your driving environment.  Start out daylight only, no heavy traffic, no city driving.  Heck, you can do a whole vacation inside those three parameters.  Read up on how to set and use mirrors, how to work as a team when backing into sites.  We even extend slideouts as a team.  And, we treat the act of anyone other than the two of us offering marshalling/directions as a high risk venture to be avoided.  One recent trip, I resisted a staff member's impatient waving for me to keep turning, coming into a site.  Unbeknownst to him, he was trying to talk me into creaming a golf cart that was hidden from his view.  Take everything slowly, and use your partner.  I'm generally the one outdoors in the elements, the wife does all the delicate maneuvering.  The most critical hand signal is "Stop!"  Everything else is icing on the proverbial cake.  If my hand signals fail altogether, I raise a single index finger and make a slow circle.  That's a manual reversion of sorts: she mirrors my motion with the wheel, so that in essense I'm operating the rig by remote control.  We also use checklists.  Both our former Fleetwood Excursion and the current Beaver Patriot Thunder have 39 items to complete after the manufacturer's pre-trip chassis check, before being in motion.

 

There.  That's pretty much it.  Now, there will be a tsunami of other stuff, like pre-trip planning, checking systems, tracking maintenance, using a truckers' atlas, avoidance of night docking at first, learning not to make spontaneous diversions from your planned route, etc.  But, no driving instructor can cover all of that.  You'll scrape a street sign, maybe settle the steps onto a rock, drag the belly, or pull a lake that's formed atop a slideout into the coach with you.  There are a million lil' gotchas, reading people's accounts of experiencing them is about the only way to learn aside from having it happen in person.

 

You've probably already begun watching truckers' techniques, and have maybe ridden with an experienced RV'er.  As you drive your car, ponder what you'd do with three times the stopping distance and a 25 foot wheelbase, an 8 1/2' width not counting mirrors.  Get in the habit of looking for low-hanging wires, overpasses less than 14', tree limbs.  I'd say habit pattern formation reigns supreme.  

 

Best of luck.  Make sure you share the details of this great adventure with your FMCA friends!


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Defected from iRV2 in March 2012 after that forum suffered an outbreak of political bullying; once again contributing there as RVNeophytes2 effective Feb 6, 2013.


#10 Howde

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Posted 20 February 2013 - 07:25 PM

Welcome, Tin Tin!  We purchased a slightly used 2008 Tiffin Allegro Bay a couple of years ago and really enjoy it.  You might want to join the www.tiffinrvnetwork.com forum.  There is a LOT of information specific to Tiffin's but not exclusively for Tiffin owners.  There is also a classified section where you will often find some great deals. 

 

For driving lessons, check out www.betterrving.com for tips on driving, parking, marking your mirrors, etc.  This is published by Lazydays which has locations in Tampa, FL and Arizona.  They offer driving classes and you might want to call them to see if they will offer any elsewhere, such as at some RV rallies.  And that is another place to look for a driving class is RV Rallies - check out FMCA's website and also look at Good Sam's.  

 

I also would think if you buy from a large RV dealer, they would be prepared to offer some driving advice/tips/suggestions for you before you drive off their lot.  I've heard some semi truck schools will also provide lessons.  

 

You are doing the right thing to ask a lot of questions and learn from other's experiences.  

 

Wishing you happy traveling.


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#11 jfxg48

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Posted 26 February 2013 - 05:09 AM

UTT.... Don't obsess too much on the driving. A little practice will teach you a lot. If you've ever transitioned from a VW to a full-sized SUV, then you've assimilated a major size shift. You just have to learn where your corners are. In addition the the RV related suggestions from others, check for commercial driver training in your area. If you can take training for an interstate charter bus , your motorhome won't seem much different.

Regarding brands: as you shop you will learn the brand mames with the good reps and the respect of the industry. Tiffin is a very well respected name, and there are others. If you will be full-timing, I'd suggest selecting the highest quality you can reasonably target, then back off in age until you can afford it. I settled on this strategy shortly after we started looking, and it helped tremendously by narrowing the search early in the process. I also found the RV Consumer Group to be a very worthwhile investment. I would highly recommend a membership. They have developed a rating system based on quality and fitness for a particular usage, so you can promptly focus only on those models suitable for fulltiming. Check www.rv.org .

Good Luck with it all, and keep us posted. I'm also former USAF-- the only branch with a perfect record: we've never yet left one up there!

John & Diane
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#12 nitehawk

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Posted 26 February 2013 - 05:44 PM

I believe Foretravel in Nacogdoches, Texas has a driver training course--in one of their coaches, along with sales of new and used coaches.
For quality, workmanship, safety features and service they rank right up amongst the top five.
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#13 jontwork

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Posted 01 April 2013 - 07:32 PM

Regarding going full time RVing,  I suggest that you invest in a good used Class C or Class A and get your feet wet.  You can purchase a decent unit for under $15K if you do due diligence in researching the project.

 

If you don't want to screw up and make a bunch of bad decisions, then start into this slowly and take a while to figure out just what you REALLY want to do as, after you get into it, you may find out that your initial ideas go out the window when you actually start doing it on weekends or vacations prior to totally retiring and going full time. After you get it figured out, you can sell the first rig and buy the one you really want to do the job that you have now determined it has to do.

 

If you plan on playing tourist and have the money to constantly travel I would expect you to burn out within three years. Full time RVing can mean a LOT of different things.to different people.  Some fish, some play golf, some ride motorcycles, etc and people enjoy their hobbies.  Where you plan to travel can make a difference in expenses.  In the East, you will probably average $35+ per night which is over a $1000 a month for a place to park in a park. That's about 12K per year.  If you are affluent, that's fine.  I'm not, and our annual campground/RVpark fees are usually under $500 a year. My campsite views are much better than staring at other RV's in an RV park.

 

Are you going to take any toys along on your travels?  What? How you going to do it.  No toys, no fun. Everything depends.

 

Anyway, don't end up purchasing a new motorhome unless money is no object.

 

You are welcome to email me regarding the lifestyle.   

 

jontwork@gmail.com

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#14 TZEILE

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Posted 02 April 2013 - 12:21 AM

No matter what brand of motorhome you buy there will be problems. Houses don't do well bouncing down  our bumpy freeways. How those problems are taken care of is an important consideration and Tiffin has the very best reputation for supporting their products for years after the warranty has expired.

 

You will receive a list of technical support people at Tiffin and their phone numbers as part of your package. You will also get the extension of Mister Tiffin himself and he often answers his own phone. It was no accident that Tiffin was one of the few manufactures to make it through

the misery of the recession. And, by the way, the Phaeton is the number one selling coach in its class. I think you are on the right track.

 

Regarding driving a 40 footer, just remember where the front goes the back will follow but watch those low hanging branches and 

tight turns.  

 

Good Luck

 

Todd Zeile

Indio Ca.


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#15 LaBarre

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Posted 02 April 2013 - 08:43 AM

In hopes of not being off-base here, I think the first major question you need to answer is what State do you want do have as your "home base".  The answer to that question should be after considering many issues; insurance and tag renewal costs among them, and your choice will decide many of you questions.

 

All of the recommendations here are good but having gone through many stages of camping/RVing you should also consider the travel lifestyle you're planning to have.  We started with a pop-up camper and went to a 22' class C when the kids were young.  The C was very versatile (one 5 wk trip was with 5 kids and 3 adults).  Then we tried a pull trailer which we didn't like and quickly traded in for a 5th wheel which was the perfect rig at the time because my wife needed a place to stay while our new home was being built because our current residence sold in 3 days and I had to finish a contractual profession in a different State.  For staying in one place for more than a few days that rig was the best.  It was the most home-like of all of our rigs.  We now want to see more of the country and have moved into a diesel pusher and pull an Avalanche 4X4 for exploring and carrying what won't fit in the bays, like our bikes.

 

Regarding learning how to drive:  Many RV dealers offer driving lessons to get you started, but forums and talking to people and attending workshops at rallies can help you avoid the worst lessons experience might bring.  My wife felt much better about the possibility she'd have to drive after taking a course at Lazy Days. 

 

Good luck with your search for answers.  Always remember that one of the wonderful things about the RV lifestyle is how easy it is to make adjustments and that what ever mode you choose will depreciate.  That's why I've always bought used.


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