Tales From the Road
floop/istockphoto

RV Nightmares: From Annoying to Messy to Costly

View Slideshow
Tales From the Road
floop/istockphoto

Tales From the Road

RVs are loads of fun — until they're not. If you're debating whether or not to hit the road in an RV, consider some of the nightmare stories that can happen while on the road — from losing important items to being lost in flood or fire danger zones. Whether you're considering buying or renting an RV, learn from the experiences and mistakes of others, and at the very least prepare as best you can to handle anything that comes at you other than that big open highway.

Related: Why You Really Don't Want to Buy an RV

Sewage Catastrophe
JFsPic/istockphoto

A Sewage Catastrophe

A running toilet at home makes continuous noise, but a running RV toilet will spew. RV Travel blogger Chuck Woodbury cautions would-be buyers to look at the floors when considering buying a used RV. "The toilet was the culprit," he says of one couple's problematic used RV. "The valve malfunctioned and opened inside the toilet and the water flowed. The couple didn't check the toilet and went out for two hours while the sewage from the black water tank flowed up and out."


For more great RV articles, lifestyle stories, and money-saving tips,
please sign up for Cheapism's free newsletters.

Trash Disasters
221A/istockphoto

Tossing a Husband's Ashes Out With the Trash

It's easy to lose something important in the tight confines of an RV. Laura Fahrenthold learned that the hard way, as she wrote in "The Pink Steering Wheel Chronicles: A Love Story," about spreading her husband's ashes while on an RV trip across the U.S. and Canada. While on the journey, a bag of her husband's ashes accidentally went out with the McDonald's meal trash — requiring a dumpster dive to get them back.

Fire Risks
njpPhoto/istockphoto

A Gas Station Fire

When an RV hits a gas pump, the resulting fire can kill. RV blogger AxleAddict shared a scary story on the website about one RV driver's costly mistake: "An older gentleman who purchased a shiny, new motorhome had never driven a big rig before. ... He chose not to take an RV driver training class. Shortly after heading west, he pulled into a truck stop to fuel up. Because his driving skills were so poor, he cut the turn into the pumps too close, hit them. They caught fire and so did his coach. Both were totally ruined."


Related: How to Save Money on Gas for Your RV

Dirty Dumping
sshepard/istockphoto

A Terrible Mess at a Dump Station

Author Susan Shumsky lives in an RV and has encountered problems in teaching her family how to use some of the trickier features. "On one occasion I taught my grandnephew how to use the dump station," she said. "The poor kid was trying to dump the black water tank, but he hadn't attached the hose securely. What ensued was a waterfall of crap spewing everywhere! A decade later he told me the experience had traumatized him for life!"


Related: Boondocking and Other RV Terms You Need to Know

Asking for Towing Trouble
MCCAIG/istockphoto

Brake Failure Flips a Camper

When pulling an RV instead of driving one, the brakes are crucial and need to be checked constantly. YouTuber SimplyRVing shared a story of a brake fail nightmare that resulted in her camper flipping. Before getting out on the road, make sure your brake controller is properly configured. (If you're unfamiliar, the brake controller is what turns on the trailer brakes when you activate the tow vehicle brakes.)


Related: Renting a RV? These Are the Features You'll Want — and Some You Won't

Pinned Partners
Hirkophoto/istockphoto

Pinned by an RV

Make sure to be aware and prepared when unhooking a towed vehicle. Once when bloggers Heath and Alyssa Padgett unhooked a car they were towing behind their RV, Heath didn't put the car in park position. It pinned him against the RV, and Alyssa couldn't hear him over the sound of the air conditioning. Luckily, Heath was rescued by a neighbor before he was crushed. 


Related: Rookie Mistakes First-Time RV Drivers Make

Runaway Rides
alekseystemmer/istockphoto

A Runaway Ride

Shumsky warned of the risks of parking on an incline, recounting a time when her RV was parked in a friend's steep driveway. When her travel partner tried to move the RV, he didn't expect the trailer to keep rolling. "We discovered the trailer was down the hill about 100 feet, smashed against a tree. Sean explained that the trailer started to roll and he tried to hold on to it. He hadn't put any chocks on the wheels, because he assumed that somehow the trailer was equipped with magical brakes."


Related: Dangerous Roads You Should Never Drive in an RV

Rough It During Short Stays
Onfokus/istockphoto

A Pricey Power Blowout

Travel Inspired Living blogger Tonya Prater was a full-time RVer whose stay at one camp ruined her refrigerator. "A power surge knocked out our converter box, circuit board, and refrigerator," she said. "Something that could have been avoided if we'd purchased a $100 surge protector for our older camper. Instead, we had to pay for repairs, replace the refrigerator, and stay in a hotel for several nights while the RV was being repaired."

Bumpy Rides
djedzura / istockphoto

A Bumpy Ride, a Sick Kid, and a Trip to the ER

Not all RVs have good suspension systems. Sleep science coach Bill Fish said that after renting an RV for a vacation, the bouncy ride had him and his family flying out of their seats. "Game pieces flying, no chance of trying to make any meals, and our youngest had unrelenting car sickness. I got a cut on my lower back due to a spring in the seat that turned into a staph infection and ended up in the ER." Although he and his family survived, he says he will never drive an RV again.

Transmission Trouble
leezsnow/istockphoto

Transmission Trouble

Shumsky discovered a clueless road service technician created more problems than he solved. When her RV stalled going uphill, she called for towing assistance. "A guy showed up to tow me up the mountain to Elko to get the RV fixed. But he didn't disconnect the transmission, and he drove very fast up the mountain at breakneck speed. The entire transmission had to be replaced. And by towing the RV improperly, he bent the frame of the RV." Years later, that bent frame resulted in an electrical fire that nearly set the RV on fire.


Related: 32 Lies Your Mechanic Has Told You

What if the RV Breaks Down
IlexImage/istockphoto

Stranded With Mechanical Trouble

One of the biggest RV nightmares for anyone is being stranded in a strange or desolate stretch of road. Fahrenthold had an RV breakdown due to overheating while in New Mexico, but was lucky enough to find an honest mechanic to help.

Slide Problems
Paulbr/istockphoto

Underwear Trapped in a Slide

A hydraulic or electric slide room is an add-on to an RV that moves outward from its side wall to make more interior living space. A slide can be a nice perk, but also can be unsafe and have other types of problems as well. Bloggers Heath and Alyssa share on their site how a stuck slide caused them to be unable to access their underwear.


Related: 32 RV Accessories to Make Road Life More Luxurious

Car in the natural tunnel of trees on a country road.
VladK213/istockphoto

Low Clearance, High Cost

Knowing your RV height clearance is another bit of intel that you need to consider when hitting the road. "Many RVs sit high, so when you put that kind of height together with an overhanging branch, you've got the recipe for problems," RV blogger AxleAddict writes. "One newbie was pulling out of a park and forgot to look up. Even though she was driving slowly, her roof hit a heavy tree branch, and she was unable to stop in time to keep it from doing major damage. ... It was a very expensive repair."


Related: Thinking About Buying an RV? Read This First

seniors reviewing bills
AJ_Watt/istockphoto

Almost Bankrupted by an RV

Usage and maintenance bills can add up for RV owners. One couple nearly went bankrupt due to owning an RV they couldn't really afford. Travel blogger Bill posted his tale of woe on The Virtual Campground. "Six months of being flat broke, with over $15,000 in credit card debt, $30,000 in school loan debt, and $30,000 in debt on our RV, were unlike anything we've ever experienced. It was truly rock bottom."


Related: The Most Outrageous Luxury RVs Money Can Buy

... And Policy Limits
Pattanaphong Khuankaew/istockphoto

Running Into Policy Limits

Most RV manufacturers have limited parts and labor-only warranties. Consider investing in a supplemental insurance policy to cover breakdowns, and displacement and lodging charges that can happen. One irate poster in the RV Forum wrote about the nightmarish experience of his RV breaking down, only to learn his new RV policy covered only fixing the part — not the $2,600 spent trying to get his family and belongings back home.