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Rig-Buying Consideration #4 — Maneuverability

RV Blog -- OverpassAre you one of those soon-to-be RVers who plans on delegating behind-the-wheel responsibility to your other half? Then I’m going to suggest that you’ll probably be bored by this post — because it’s all about choosing a rig based on how it handles. I apologize.

But I’ll further suggest that you should care (and I mean deeply) about the issue at hand — because if something happens to that built-in designated driver you rely on to chauffeur you around the country, your sorry ass is going to have to manage on your own. And you’ll want the process to be as easy as possible.

(I’m also chomping at the bit to suggest incredible irresponsibility when one does not actually know how to pilot his/her recreational vehicle. That, however, will be another post for another day.)

So let’s start with a look at how much RV you’re packing. While it may not be relevant in the land of phallic pleasure (no contest between ocean-motion and wave-crest) — size does matter in the nomadic world.

That’s because the bigger your rig, the more complicated basic steering activities (like backing up, changing lanes, parking, negotiating one-lane bridges, and fitting under a low overpass) become. Taller vehicles are less stable at high speeds, more susceptible to tipping on uneven ground. And the boxier your profile, the more wind you catch — bad for gas mileage (and staying upright in a storm). My shorter-roundier-more-aerodynamic Airstream is definitely easier to navigate than a huge motorhome or fifth wheel. (Those aluminum tanks can also withstand a hurricane-force gale without blowing over — so, bonus!)

Our next concern is how much room it takes to change course. Single- and-double-axles (wheels together mid-chassis) have an incredibly tight turn radius — mine can flip a bitch on most any major road. But once you move into a tri-axle arrangement, maneuverability goes straight down the commode. And class-Cs are the worst, with their tires spread wide like a call girl’s legs — you need a damn six-lane thoroughfare every time you want to go in a new direction! (I mean when you’re driving the motorhome. Not the hooker.)

Of course, towables ain’t perfect neither. Gracefully dragging that big an ass behind you, knowing how wide to make a turn, figuring out the right way to back the danged thing up — these all come with a steep learning curve. And some rigs are just flat-out harder to master than others. Travel trailers run a greater inherent risk of fishtailing in crosswinds or that “push/pull” when a semi blows by — those bastards will also jackknife like nobody’s business if you turn too hard while reversing. (Thank hitch-pivoting physics for all that.) Fifth wheels, though, are stable as a table — almost totally immune to tail-wag, and capable of functioning at a full 90-degree hitch-angle. (Just don’t plan on pulling them with anything but a truck.)

As with everything else in life, maneuverability is a trade-off — you just have to decide what you’re willing to compromise. Next time — where will you be able to park!

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