For those of us with little or no experience in the RV world, we believe that the only obstacles to hurdle in our full-time RV living dream is the tether of our homes and careers. We incorrectly assume that once we unload the four walls and roof and score a mobile job, we just need to purchase that shiny new RV and then it’s just us and the open road. And if you’ve done your homework, you may be right! But if you’ve been a lazy student, you may find it is you, the open road and a provincial police or ministry of transportation officer!
As we found out as our nomadic adventure begins, cutting the apron strings of your previous static life involves more than a real estate transaction and a job interview. Most of what I’m about to share you’d think someone would have informed us. A truck dealer salesperson if you are hauling. An RV salesperson if your RV dream is a fifth wheel or large Class A. But the truth is, the onus is on you, the buyer to do some analysis and discover all these dandy little gems yourself. Buyer beware! As a collective, our society puts more research into which smartphone or laptop we’re going to buy, instead of items we will be spending thousands, if not tens of thousands on. And the truth is, we just may not know, what we don’t know! I’ll let that sink in for a moment.
So to get those gears a churning in your head, here are 8 considerations you should make before you begin spending on that travelling dream of yours.
Class of Driver’s License
Because many RVs are being built for full-time living or extended stays, they are larger and heavier than ever before. With some of these new behemoth class A motorhomes or fifth wheel RVs, many Provinces/States have had to make concessions to ensure those who are getting behind the wheel are equipped to handle such big rigs. In Ontario, our home Province and the pinnacle of ridiculous regulations you need to be a rocket scientist to understand, you may be required to obtain a class A restricted or D licence, depending on the weight of the motorhome, tow truck and/or trailer independently and combined. Not all Provinces/States have a cluster fuck of rules like Ontario, and thankfully with reciprocity in place, you only need to ensure you are classified properly in your home Province/State.
Again, another surprise to us and as per above Ontario is the leader of silly governance, but if your class A motorhome, or tow vehicle exceeds 6000 kg (13,228 lb.), you will need to have an annual inspection of the vehicle and obtain that special yellow sticker so the cops or MTO officers don’t chase you down the highway.
Large heavy-duty trucks, think Ford 250, 350, 450 or Ram/GM 2500, 3500 are considered commercial vehicles in Ontario, even if used for personal use and regardless of whether you are towing or not. Their capability exceeds what the Province of Ontario considers to be a car or small truck and therefore must be registered accordingly.
Maximum Weight & Towing
This point is linked back to items 1 & 2 and is where many RV enthusiasts get themselves in trouble. In Ontario, you may tow an RV under 4600 kg (10,141 lb.) with a Class G licence, which is a standard licence required to drive cars and small trucks. If the weight of the towed vehicle exceeds this number, you may still be able to tow the RV under a Class G exemption for fifth wheel haulers, provided the combined total weight of towing and towed vehicle do not exceed 11,000 kg (24,251 lb.) and the towing vehicle does not exceed the 6000 kg weight limit described above. Should that bolded, italic and not be true, you are looking at a special drivers and vehicle licence and registration, annual inspections, medicals and possibly daily logs. And although these are the rules for Ontario, most Provinces/States have similar rules with varying annoyances.
Yes, there are maximum heights of vehicles you may drive/pull, even on highways, freeways and interstates. In Ontario, the maximum height of your vehicle, including any type of RV, must not exceed 4.15 m (13.6 ft.). If your setup is beyond this height you will be required to obtain a permit. However staying within this limit doesn’t mean you have nothing to worry about. These restrictions only really imply that you may clear most bridges/underpass, not a guarantee that you will. And the responsibility is on you, as you’re hurling down the road at 115 km/h (70 mph) to determine whether you will actually fit.
Most low-lying structures are noted with signs to forewarn that you may want to travel around or use another route. Ignore these signs and get wedged and your insurance company will be paying for the damage and you may even get a ticket to add insult to injury.
You’d think that this wouldn’t be an issue, but with many wide-body, class As and fifth wheels, it is possible you may be wider than allowed. Ontario allows you to drive most roadways provided you are within the 2.6 m (8.5 ft.) limit. Beyond this and you will require a “wide load” permit before travelling. A simpler method might be ensuring your purchased RV stays within this limitation which seems to be a standard across most Provinces/States that have a specific regulation regarding width.
Although most large insurance companies do insure RVs, what you may not know is that they may not insure your towing vehicle. A large truck considered to be a commercial vehicle (Ontario again), may not be added to your current auto insurance policy. Your new Ford 450 may need a separate insurance policy altogether. Best to check with your insurance agent about the costs associated with owning a heavy-duty before putting that 20% down payment on your new dually truck.
Another area that needs to be considered is what will you be towing. Many envision their large class A, followed by their incredibly cute jeep, followed by the fishing boat, followed by a large line of vehicles waiting to pass. And although towing in tandem (double, triple tow) has a green light in many places, there are some Provinces/States where it is illegal! If you are going to tow in tandem it is best to check before you cross Province/State lines and risk your trailer or new boat impoundment being the least of your worries.
The last, but not least item you need to research prior to hitting the open road, are the weigh scales we all know exist and assume are only for tractor/trailers hauling commercial goods. In some Provinces/States, you are required to pull into the scales when those lights are flashing regardless of whether you are hauling commercial goods or not. Personal or rental vehicles including class A, truck/trailer combo and moving vans are required to pull in to be inspected. And for the record, the inspection isn’t just the weight of your setup. It can include the height of all vehicles and the classification of your driver’s licence as well.
Although this article was weighted heavily in Ontario’s BS, it is a warning to research the rules and regulations of your home Province/State before even spending a dime on that RV setup. No sense buying that new truck/fifth wheel combination only to find out you now need a new licence, annual medical and are bound by the rules of large tractor/trailer operators!
Once properly certified and registered, you should have no worries in the event you see flashing lights in your side mirrors. And if all this research leads to nothing else, it may just inspire you to make a move to a less annoying province to use as your home base! Happy Travels!
~ True North Nomad
Any rules, regulations I may have missed you want to share? Comment below.
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