Motor home on a road at night

What You Need to Know About Driving an RV at Night

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Motor home on a road at night

On the Night Watch

This article originally appeared on

There may be times when you travel by motorhome that you find yourself needing to drive at night. Perhaps you just have a small way to go before arriving at your destination, or you’re driving during the shorter winter months. You may even choose to travel at night because you’ll encounter less traffic and because heavy winds tend to subside after dark. If you’re traveling with children, they often wind down after dark and may even fall asleep while you drive. It can be an exciting feeling driving past sleepy towns and knowing you’re one of a few people still out on the road while the world around you snoozes.

Related: 22 Important Things to Consider Before Buying an RV

Motor home and sunset
Marc Dufresne/istockphoto

Driving an RV Safely at Night

Regardless of the reasons why you find yourself driving your motorhome at night, the idea may make you nervous if you’re not used to it. We have some tips to keep you and your precious cargo safe while you’re driving in the dark.

Related: Make RV Trip Planning Easy

Night in RV Camper Van

RV Nighttime Driving Tips

Many of these tips apply regardless of whether you’re driving a small car or a large RV, and this is a helpful list for everyone who finds themselves driving at night! Some of these tips involve preparations you need to make before you leave on your drive, and some are things you need to do while you’re actually on the road.

Related: 12 Dangerous Roads You Should Never Drive in an RV

Woman at the back of her van sorting clothes

Before You Go

Staying safe while driving an RV at night starts even before you hit the road. Take these pre-trip tips into account when preparing to head out on an adventure after the sun goes down.

Related: The Complete & Simple RV Preparation Checklist

Ethnic young man sleeping in camper van

1. Get Plenty of Sleep

You don’t want to get drowsy on the road. Make sure you’re well-rested before you leave on your drive. Be willing to stop and make accommodations – perhaps at a rest stop or truck stop – to sleep if you need to along the way. While you’re on the road, have your seat upright rather than leaned back and relaxed. Keep the temperature a little cooler than usual. If you can, enlist a partner to sit up front and talk with you to keep you engaged and awake. Plan to stop and stretch your legs and get a snack that will give you energy. Stay hydrated.

Related: How to Get a Better Night’s Sleep in Your RV

Camper Van RV Washing
RV Windshield

3.) Check Your Wipers

Windshield wipers that don’t wipe properly also make it hard to see in the dark. Make sure yours clear your windshield smoothly and don’t leave any streaks.

Camper Vans RV Travel

4.) Check Your Headlights

Along with making sure your headlights are clean, make sure they’re adjusted to shine where you need them. You may also find that RVs and trailers that are loaded and heavy will cause the headlights to shine at a different angle that an unloaded motorhome, so test your headlights while your rig is fully loaded before you start.

Related: The Ultimate Guide To RV Lights

checking RV tires

5.) Do a Basic Maintenance Check

Breaking down on the road is a pain at any hour, but can be especially hard at night. Check your tires, oil, and other basic equipment to make sure it’s in good working order before you leave. You can’t prevent every mishap but you can cut down on the odds if you make sure your RV is in good working order before you go. Having the number of a 24/7 roadside service available is also a good idea.

Related: RV Maintenance Checklist

Traveling couple. Driver's POV

On the Road

Driving an RV is new territory in the first place. Driving an RV at night is a whole different ballgame. While you’re on the road, practice these safety tips to help you drive at night.

Related: The Basics of Operating an RV for First Timers

driving car in night city, hands of driver on steering wheel

6.) Go Slow

Since you can’t see as far in the distance at night, you have less time to stop when you see an obstruction. Plan to drive more slowly than you normally do – a vehicle driving 65 mph needs 50 more feet to stop than one traveling at 60 mph. When you’re planning how far you will drive, add in extra time so you don’t feel pressured to drive too quickly to get there.

Camper in Mountain Fog

7.) Use High Beams and Fog Lights

Drive with high beams on when you’re the only vehicle on the road (don’t use them when there is oncoming traffic because you’ll blind other drivers). Your fog lights illuminate a low, wide area, so use them even if it’s not foggy.

Related: 10 Ways to Reduce Condensation in RVs

Camper under the stars

8.) Cut Down on Inside Lights

Inside lights can impair your ability to see the road and vehicles outside your RV. Cut down on cabin lights and other devices that may be a distraction inside. Dim your instrument panel – if it’s too bright, your eyes will have to adjust as they switch from the panel to the road outside. Make sure your GPS screen is on night mode as well.

Deer in headlights

9.) Watch for Animals

Watch for deer and other animals on the road at night. If you see them, don’t swerve – you could lose control of your vehicle, run off the road, or hit another car or guardrail. Brake to a controlled stop. Here are more tips to avoid hitting a deer at night. The best plan is to go slow and keep your eyes peeled in areas where you may encounter wildlife.

Motorhome RV Park Camping

When You Arrive

Make sure you have a plan in place for how you’ll set up at your destination. If you’re headed to someone’s house, make sure they know what you’ll need to set up the RV (and make sure they’ll be awake when you get there). Be mindful of neighbors and keep your voice low.

If you’re traveling with kids, have all their evening things together in one bag so they can easily brush their teeth and get ready for bed. You may even want to have them get pajamas on and brush their teeth before you leave. Nothing is more frustrating than arriving at your destination, tired and wanting to sleep, and having to rummage through your things to find what you need!

Follow these other tips to make sure your setting yourself up for the best trip after a long night of traveling.

Related: 25 Mistakes to Avoid When Buying an RV

RV-Specific GPS is a Must

10.) Have an Extra Set of Eyes

While GPS devices are handy, they’re not always accurate. If you’re headed to an out-of-the-way campground or wilderness area, it can be helpful to have a partner who can spot signs and help you find your way to the campsite.

Related: 32 RV Accessories to Make Road Life More Luxurious

Camping under the night sky
Larry Crain/istockphoto

11.) Make Sure the Campground Will Be Open

Some campgrounds or parks close their gates at a certain time, or don’t take arrivals after a certain hour. Check ahead of time to be sure you can get to your site, and know the campground number in case you end up arriving late.

Related: How to Set Up Your RV at a Campground the First Time

RV Camper Van Camping in the Middle of Mountains

12.) Book a Pull-Thru

If you’re arriving late, a pull-thru site is going to be much easier to set up than a site that requires you to back in. If you do have a back-in site, get out of your RV and manually inspect the spot before you drive in. Check for branches and for obstacles you might hit in front before you begin to drive. Keep in mind that the area will not be well-lit and try to make sure the space is as clear as possible.

Related: The Top 25 Kid Friendly Campgrounds in the US

pocket LED flashlight lies on a sand

13.) Have Lights Handy

Keep several flashlights and extra batteries where you can get to them easily to help you while you set up. You may need to use them to find your site number, and you’ll want your travel partner to flash them on any obstacles while you’re trying to park.

Related: 10 Essential Camping Flashlights & Lanterns 

Caravans and mobile homes of holidaymakers under stary sky along wooden walkway to base of Mount Maunganui

14.) Be Mindful of the Neighbors

If you arrive late at night, keep your voice and activities to a minimum. If you can avoid hooking up sewer or water, wait until morning to do that. Be careful of making too much noise or shining too many lights late at night.

Related: Bucket List RV Trips for 2021