Whether you’re already an RV owner or are considering purchasing one, getting familiar with the RV shipping process is important. Nearly 40 millions Americans use recreational vehicles and many of them still get confused between different pieces of information, some of which can be false. Indeed, the shipment of your home away from home can get complicated and stressful.
One sure way to minimize that is to do your homework. We compiled essential information and tips in one place so you can have an ultimate, reliable guide to transporting your recreational vehicle.
RV Shipping Weight vs. Dry Weight
RV owners usually get confused between shipping weight and dry weight. The distinction is pretty simple.
Shipping Weight, also known as the Curb Weight, is the total weight of your vehicle including all its equipment such as full water and fuel tanks as well as propane bottles. It does not, however, include personal belongings and passenger weight. The details about other add-ons such as driver’s weight may vary so it’s best to contact the manufacturer and check this information beforehand.
Dry Weight is the total RV weight minus additional equipment, add-ons, passengers, personal cargo, and all else that did not come out of the factory with the RV. Though straightforward, there might be exceptions in this case too so, as with shipping weight, check with the manufacturer and shipping agent what is be included in advance.
RVs can vary in size, model, and shapes which can complicate the transport. At A-1 Auto Transport, we have specialized RV transport service and state-of-the-art trailers to ensure a safe and efficient delivery. Our trained and experienced staff can handle numerous types of recreational vehicles, including:
- Travel trailers
- Hybrid trailers
- Fifth wheel trailers
- Pop up campers
- Class A, B, and C motorhomes
- Folding camping trailers
- Camper vans
- Converted buses
- Teardrop trailers
- Toy haulers
RV and Trailer Shipment
Roughly speaking, recreational vehicles are motor home variations. Equipped with some of the home amenities, they can be motorized or non-motorized. The three main shipping methods for your RV are hauling, towing, or drive-away.
- Towing is suitable for trailers. The type of truck for towing depends on the size of the trailer. For example, mid-sized models between 18 to 25 inches long are towed by pickup trucks and SUV, while larger models up to 40 inches ling require a purpose-built tow vehicle or a highway tractor. Double-check that the trailer has the necessary hitches for hooking it up to the truck.
- Hauling is a good option for non-motorized recreational vehicles and trailers. Hauling a recreational vehicle can be a headache as it calls for special types of carriers including a flatbed truck and a low boy truck. They usually cost extra because they are intended to haul bigger vehicles and heavy machinery. Specific equipment and hitches are often involved in the loading process.
- Drive-away service is certainly the most economical option for transporting operable motor homes. Most RVs are too large for being shipped on regular carriers, thus require special equipment that costs much more. A licensed and insured driver will get behind your wheel and deliver your vehicle from point A to point B. Drive-away is suitable even for cross-country moves. However, this method may be undesirable for customers trying to avoid mileage increase, reduce wear and tear, or transport a non-operable RV.
When it comes to RV shipping, the main factors that influence the shipping cost are the size and weight of your RV as well as the distance it needs to travel. For this reason, simply googling the cheapest RV shipper rarely produces working results. That’s why if the initial price seems too good to be true, it probably is.
In order to receive an accurate quote from any shipping company, you will need to provide both locations and exact dimensions of your RV, including weight. This information will ensure accuracy and help shipping agents find the optimal options for you and your vehicle.
Finding the Right Shipping Company
One of your biggest decisions will be finding and picking the right auto shipping company. Make sure you ask around, look up transporters online, read reviews and, if possible, talk to a representative. Yes, the cost is a crucial factor but don’t make it the only factor.
A reliable, secure transport company should be registered with the Department of Transportation and have proper insurance. For your own safety, you can ask for proof of insurance and details of their policy so you can check what’s covered.
You can check with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration if the transporter is authorized to handle your RV. To do this, you’ll need the company’s DOT number and Motor Number. Bear in mind that while many companies offer RV shipping, not all are authorized or trained to do it. Make sure the company holds the necessary certification and offers the RV shipping service.
Last but not least, read online reviews. It’s a quick and helpful way to find out whether the customers’ experiences align with what you’re seeking.
Insurance and Inspection
The importance of insurance cannot be overemphasized. It’s important to review the terms of coverage which are included on the Bill of Lading and shipping contract. There may be some limitations or exclusions, which is normal, just make sure you familiarize yourself with them. An exclusion of certain terms does not mean you need to look for another auto hauler. Instead, you can acquire supplemental policy for an additional cost.
Also, make sure you or someone in your stead can be present during the inspection. Prior to transport, the driver will conduct an examination of the vehicle’s condition. Be attentive and review any notes prior to signing the inspection report. This is also the best time to take photographs of your vehicle and document pre-existing visible damage.
Check your RV thoroughly upon arrival, make sure there are no new damages. Compare the condition with the pre-transport report and photographs. This will facilitate a successful claim, which should be filed as soon as possible, if necessary.
Before you hand over your RV, follow the certain preparation steps and applicable rules and regulations. Preparing the best you can, will contribute to the smoothness, efficiency, and safety of the transport. Below are the general prep measures. You can acquire a full and accurate list from your shipping company.
- Check that the breaks, lights, turn signals, and other essential features are functional.
- Remove all personal items.
- Secure anything that may fall off during the journey. Take down any decorations, if possible.
- Secure all doors, cabinets, and windows. If they do not close, you can tape them to prevent them from flying open on the road.
- Disable your alarm.
- Disconnect the gas and power supply to all electronics.
- Inspect all fluids: engine oil, transmission fluid, coolant, power steering fluid, etc.
- Check everywhere for leakages and fix them prior to shipment.
- If shipping in cold seasons, add antifreeze in the water tanks.
- Check and charge the battery.
- Ensure all tires are safe and functional. They should not be deflated or have cracks for safety purposes.
- If your vehicle has air brakes, verify the air pressure is set.
- Clean your vehicle outside and inside.
- Prepare an extra set of keys for the shippers.
If you RV has any idiosyncrasies, tell the shipping company about it. Any additional information about the vehicle and its condition may be crucial so make sure you communicate it all clearly. This includes emergency procedures. A failure to do so may result in delays and the transporter’s refusal to take on the RV.
The RV shipping process is different for each type and size. Specialized expertise and experience are needed to handle each vehicle properly and minimize damage. That’s why picking the right shipping company is the most important step. A licensed, professional transporter is well-versed in the field of recreational vehicles and can provide high-quality service with minimum headache.
At A-1 Auto Transport, we have been moving RVs throughout the United States for more than 25 years. Licensed, bonded, and insured, we can handle any type of vehicle with care and at a competitive price.
Written By:Joe Webster
Joe Webster began his journey in the auto transport field by attending the University of Southern California (USC), where he graduated with a Bachelor of Business Marketing.
After college, he started his career in the auto transport industry from the bottom up and has done virtually every job there is to do at A-1 Auto Transport, including but not limited to: Truck Driver, Dispatch, Sales, PR, Bookkeeping, Transport Planner, Transport Manager, International Transport Manager, Brokering, Customer Service, and Marketing. Working with his mentor Tony Taylor, Joe Webster has learned the ins and outs of this industry which is largely misunderstood.
With over 30 years experience in the industry, we've been helping people ship their vehicles, motorcycles, RV's, heavy equipment, household goods and more across the country or overseas without a hitch. Ask us anything.