When you’re looking for a new RV or exploring the idea of buying a used RV, it is crucial to consider factors such as fuel economy and dependability. But no factor is more important than finding an RV that matches your size requirements. And for many people that means getting the most size and space for your money.
Understanding RV width is an important concept to understand before purchasing your road trip fun machine. While it seems simple, RV width can be quickly become complicated by slide outs and other factors. And more importantly, is the width of your RV legal in your state or in states where you intend to travel?
So, what is the maximum legal width of an RV in each state? While the average width of an RV is 8 feet 6 inches wide the legal limit differs from state to state. The majority of states have a legal limit of 8 feet 6 inches. But, in some states, the legal limit is only 8 feet. And in one state it’s a whopping 9 feet.
You can use this article as a guide to understanding RV width legal limits and learning how to properly measure the width of your RV.
How Wide Can My RV Legally Be?
RV size restrictions are going to vary from state to state. In some cases, they may even differ depending on the RV park or campsite. While most states draw the line at 8 feet 6 inches, some states allow up to 9 feet while others limit you to only 8 feet in width.
This is because of the size of the roads in any given state. For example, the District of Columbia places a width restriction at 8 feet, primarily due to their notoriously narrow streets. However, on the contrary, Hawaii allows RVs up to 9 feet in width because of their overall lack of road traffic and wider roadways.
8 feet 6 inches (or 102 inches) is the maximum width for an RV (excluding mirrors, awnings or safety equipment) in every state except the following:
8′ Maximum Width States
- Delaware (Motor Homes are 8′ Max Width and Travel Trailers are 8’6″ Max Width)
- New Mexico
- New York
- Washington, D.C.
9′ Maximum Width States
Many states also allow for safety equipment or mirrors to extend 6 inches beyond the maximum width of the RV. So, in most states, your maximum width with mirrors is actually 9 feet.
You should know the requirements in your state, so you buy an RV that is street legal. But you might also want to keep the width restriction laws in mind in other states while planning your travels. It is important to note not only the requirements of the states you will be traveling to but also the states you will be traveling through as width requirements can still be enforced even if the RV is in transit.
How is RV Width Measured?
It is essential to know the size of your RV for many reasons. First of all, you will want to be able to register your RV with the Department of Motor Vehicles in your state. If it doesn’t meet the state’s size restrictions you may be unable to register the RV. It can also be practical for measuring for a protective cover. Or to ensure your vehicle is going to get through specific clearances.
Measuring your RV can seem like a daunting task at first but don’t fret for it is really quite simple.
Width is measured by measuring from one side of the RV to the other of the widest part of the RV. You do not measure side mirrors, light covers, slide-outs or awnings when measuring the width of an RV. Consulting the owner’s manual is really only suggested as a last resort if you are unable to measure your RV for whatever reason. This is because different manufacturers have their own methods of calculating dimensions of the RV, and they may not correspond to the measurements you need.
When measuring height, how you measure this is going to depend mainly on the purpose you are measuring for. If you are measuring your RV for a cover than you should measure from the top of the RV all the way down to the middle of the wheel of the trailer, this will ensure that the cover is tall enough while not dragging on the ground. If measuring to ensure you can make it under a clearance than you would measure from the top of the RV all the way to the ground.
Measuring length is pretty straight forward. Just measure from the back bumper to the front bumper. Since this will likely be a rather long distance, it is a good idea to make sure your tape measure is taut when measuring to ensure you are getting an accurate measurement.
Examples of Widths of Class A, Class B, Class C, Travel Trailers, and 5th Wheels
Understanding the different classes of motorhomes is essential in your clear understanding of RV width. Class A RV’s are typically around 33 feet long, ranging anywhere from 12-13 feet in height, and are about 9 feet wide pushing the legal limit in some states. Class A RV’s are tricky because these are really the only type where there could be legal issues depending on your state.
If you live in a state where the width requirement is 8 feet 6 inches, and you opt to purchase a wider RV, you could find yourself encountering several obstacles. Class A RV’s are classified by any motorhome weighing over 26,000 pounds. Another item to note about class A RV’s is that they require a Class B non-commercial driver’s license, unlike the traditional Class C license.
Class B motorhomes are the smallest RV’s available they are typically around 20 feet long, stand 7-9 feet tall, and are about 8 feet wide, which meets the size requirements in most states. These RVs are popular because of their compact build, which makes them easier to drive. And they don’t have any special licensing requirements.
Class C RV’s fall in the middle of the Class A and Class B RVs. They are typically around 28 feet long, 8 feet 6 inches wide, and 10 feet high. This is a good compromise because it offers the compact maneuverability of the class B while providing enough space for 6-8 people. The Class C weighs anywhere from 12,000-20,000 pounds. You could be required to get a special license if you are towing anything behind the RV, which brings your total weight to over 26,000 lbs. since a Class B license is needed for anything over 26,000 pounds.
Travel trailers are known to be lighter even though some have several slide outs. The width varies, but a travel trailer width ranges anywhere from 7-9 feet, making it legal in almost every state. The size of travel trailers differs quite a bit. There are travel trailers as small as 10 feet and as big as 30 feet long.
Fifth wheel trailers are also extremely popular amongst adventure seekers. Much like the travel trailers, they vary in size but are traditionally on the larger end of the scale. They typically comply with most state requirements at around the 8 feet 6-inch mark in width.
RELATED READING: For a complete guide to all types of RVs and their sizes check out our article “What Are RV Classes? – All Types and Styles Explained”.
Factors to Consider When Choosing RV Width
Obviously, if you are reading this, you are probably anxious to purchase a new RV, and you have lots of options to consider. Take your time and weigh the positives and negatives when picking your RV. The width is probably something you never thought of when searching for a new RV. So, be sure to consider things like what state you are living in and where you will be traveling. Understanding state restrictions will be a critical piece of information when purchasing an RV.
Besides the legal requirements, it really comes down to personal preference. If you want your RV to be a luxurious getaway and you’re willing to get a Class B non-commercial license then a Class A motorhome may be for you. However, if you are looking for something a little smaller that is easier to maneuver on the roads, then perhaps a travel trailer or class B would be right for you. Class C and many travel trailers range in the middle of the pack in terms of size and provide maneuverability while still offering lots of space for a larger group of travelers.
How Slide Outs Affect RV Width
Slide outs are a convenient feature often included with several classes of RVs. But they can add additional weight to the RV. This doesn’t affect the width requirements, but as mentioned earlier if the vehicle exceeds 26,000 pounds, then you may need to obtain a Class B non-commercial license to drive the RV.
Each Slide out can add up to 1,500 pounds to your RV, which could be the difference maker between needing a Class B or a traditional Class C license. Slide outs are a nice feature to have if you can afford it but obviously come with their downsides too. Slide outs are not included in the width measurement of your RV so that is one aspect that you shouldn’t need to worry about when considering whether or not to purchase an RV with slide outs.
RELATED READING: Another important factor to consider is the weight of your RV. For more info check out our article called RV Weight Explained – Travel Trailers, Motorhomes, and 5th Wheels.
Hopefully, you will have found this article to be a good beginner’s guide to RV width. Just remember before purchasing an RV to research the rules and regulations regarding RVs in your state and any states where you will travel as these rules will aid in your decision.
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