RV Height Clearance: Some Things to Think About

rv-height-clearance:-some-things-to-think-about

One thing that every RVer needs to be conscious of is the height of their rig. Unfortunately, not every RV will fit under every bridge or overpass. If you choose to ignore the height of your RV, you can experience disastrous results for your RV’s roof.This is true of all types of RVs from travel trailers and fifth-wheels to small Class B motorhomes and Happier Campers all the way to monster Class A motorhomes.

Here are some tips and information to remember about your RV’s height.

Figure Out and Know the True Height of Your RV

A man is lifting a metal box on the roof of a camper van surrounded by nature

The owner’s manual for your RV will list the actual dimensions of your RV and this includes the height. However, the height listed in the owner’s manual may not always include appliances and additions to your motorhome. For example, If you have a roof rack, a roof-mounted AC unit, or an antenna of some kind, then there’s a good chance the height listed in your manual will be inaccurate.

Instead of going with the number listed, or estimating how much your roof rack or roof-mounted AC unit adds to that number, get your tape measure out. Measure to the top of the roof from the ground when the RV is sitting on a level surface. From there, get on top of the RV and measure any items or appliances that are attached to the roof. Doing this will give you the true height of your RV.

Afterward, you need to make sure anyone who drives or tows your RV knows the true height of the vehicle.

It’s wise to write it down on a sticky note and put that sticky note right up in the cabin for quick and easy reference.

You could also write it on a slip and tape that slip to the windshield in the corner. That way it’s always within eyesight regardless of who’s driving.

Ways to Avoid Damage

Motor home ready to hit the open road

The best way to avoid damage, once you know the true height of your RV, is to make sure to never drive under anything that would potentially hit your RV. Common places to look out for low clearance are historic roads like the Blue Ridge Parkway, or covered bridges common in the northeast. Some gas stations too can have low covered areas that aren’t accessible to tall vehicles or trucks.

Here are a few extra steps you can take to ensure you avoid any accidents caused by your RV’s height.

Here are a few:

1. Drive Slowly Under Bridges

Even if you know your RV will fit, drive slowly. This is especially important if the clearance is going to be tighter than preferred. When you slow down, it will keep the RV from bouncing over bumps or otherwise moving up and down on its suspension. This can help ensure there are no issues as you’re passing under.

2. Choose the Right Route

Don’t drive a route where you know you could experience issues. Try to stick to roads that are bound to have high pass-throughs and overpasses. This will help keep you and your RV safe while in transit. Interstates aren’t always the prettiest roads, but they are usually the most efficient and offer plenty of space for bigger rigs.

3. Be Cautious

Caution Sign for RV Height Clearance
Image: Shutterstock

Take it slow and always err on the side of caution. Some bridges curve and the height measurement for clearance might be for the tallest part of the bridge. Others might be mislabeled entirely. Try to avoid anything that is within a foot or less of your RV’s true height. This may seem excessive, but when it comes to RV height-related issues, safe is always better than sorry. If you must proceed under a bridge that’s close to your RV’s true height, then do so with extreme caution.

4. Enlist Help

Gas stations and rest stops all have different heights. Most of the time, your RV will be fine but don’t take anything for granted. If possible, have a passenger in your RV get out to ensure you’ll make it under the overhang of buildings and rest areas. If you’re by yourself, ask a friendly passerby for help. Most people will be happy to give you the thumbs up or thumbs down, which is really all you need.

Bridge Clearance for Your RV’s Height

While many signs may dictate that your RV has plenty of clearance to pass under the bridge, take it slow. Some signs aren’t current or there may have been road repairs recently and the signs haven’t been updated to reflect the true bridge clearance. Bridges can sag over time and repaving of the road can sometimes add up to two inches, so never trust the sign at face value.

Use an RV GPS

RV GPS

As mentioned above, choosing the right route is imperative. This is made a lot easier by using an RV-specific GPS system. The routes programmed into these systems are designed specifically for RVers and their traveling needs. This means there will be routes highlighted with plenty of room for your rig. However, don’t trust them implicitly. Use your best judgement if you see an obstacle that seems low.

Always keep an eye on your true height and the height of the bridges, overpasses, and any other height obstacles while you travel. If you don’t want to invest in an RV GPS, then at least think about using an app. There are several RV route apps out there that can help. Smart RV Route is just one of many that can help navigate RV height-challenged routes by doing essentially the same thing as an RV GPS system.

When in doubt, take it slow. That breathtaking destination isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, so enjoy the ride.


Do you have any tips or advice about RV height clearance not mentioned here? Questions? Concerns? Leave a comment below!

RV height clearance - some things to think about

Wade divides his time among various outdoor activities in both urban and rural environments. An adventurer by nature, he is always up for a challenging hike, fun hunt, or day out on the water with friends and family. When he isn’t enjoying the outdoors, he’s writing, reading, or tinkering with motorcycles and cars.

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