You probably already know that it’s crucial to pay attention to the local guidelines when taking a travel trailer across state lines. But did you realize that the width of your camper matters just as much as the height? And how wide is a travel trailer, anyway?
There are many reasons why you should look specifically for a camper that falls within the accepted parameters for the area in which you’ll be traveling. In this guide, we’ll take a look at them all.
Here’s how you can stay abreast of local laws and have a safe and enjoyable adventure while you’re at it.
How Wide Is A Travel Trailer On Average?
The average width of a travel trailer is 8 feet, or 96 inches. If the unit is marketed as a compact or “lite” trailer, it might measure between 6 and 7 feet across.
Remember that these measurements don’t take slide-outs or safety equipment into account. Units that have these accessories might measure a bit wider than 8 feet.
Is There A Limit To How Wide A Travel Trailer Can Be?
As a matter of fact, there is. Most states don’t permit any travel trailer that measures more than 102 inches across to travel on its highways. Again, these laws may vary somewhat depending on what state you’re in, as you’ll see in the reference guide below.
The reasoning behind this is simple. If the trailer is any wider, it will take up too much space on the road. On two-lane highways, it might even stray into the opposite lane. Maneuvering an RV is difficult enough without having to worry about that. Additionally, some areas might not even have enough clearance to allow you to pass.
When you’re planning your trip, you’ll want to know the state laws in advance so you can avoid any potential problem areas. For your convenience, here’s a reference guide containing information for each state or territory in the US.
|State or Territory||Maximum Width|
|District of Columbia, New Hampshire||96 inches|
|Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, New Jersey||96 inches (102 on some federal roads)|
|New York||96 inches (102 on qualifying or access highways|
|Alabama, Alaska, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wyoming||102 inches|
|Arizona||102 inches (some exceptions apply)|
|Illinois||102 inches (96 in select areas)|
|Hawaii, Kansas||108 inches|
What this means is that you can legally operate a travel trailer measuring 102 inches across in most US states except for New Hampshire. The District of Columbia is the other notable exception. Otherwise, you should be fine as long as you stick to roads that are federally owned.
If you like to travel off the beaten path, take careful notice of the state laws for the areas in which you’ll be driving. Rural roads can pose a real hazard when you’re operating an RV or travel trailer.
One caveat: If you’re operating a vehicle that measures wider than 102 inches, you’ll need an oversized load permit. While there’s a very small chance that you’ll actually be caught and ticketed for the offense, it is a possibility.
Do Manufacturers Actually Sell Oversized RVs?
By now, you’re probably wondering why manufacturers would create and sell RVs that don’t fall within the designated range. It turns out that the Department of Transportation is mostly to blame for the discrepancy. Here’s why.
At one point, the DOT increased the size limitations on federally controlled highways in an effort to boost interstate trade. They reasoned that since these interstate highways are larger to begin with, they could accommodate the extra space.
As a result, RV manufacturers decided to build bigger and more luxurious models, evidently forgetting that the standard roads in some states would still be off-limits. If you’re worried that your travel trailer won’t be allowed on certain roads, make sure to purchase one that measures no more than 96 inches across.
How The Styles Compare
Is a travel trailer any wider or narrower than the competition? Let’s find out. First of all, you should understand the distinctions between the different types of motorhomes and other campers.
Motorhomes are divided into three classes: A, B, and C. Class A models look like large buses, with a long, sleek profile that doesn’t separate the cab area from the living space. A class B motorhome is also referred to as a camper van. While these also have a single layout with no distinction between the cockpit and the living area, class B models are much smaller.
Class C motorhomes can be identified by the separate cab section, which sits beneath an upper berth that’s typically used to house a bunk area. With this layout, the driver and passenger don’t have access to the living space.
Meanwhile, travel trailers don’t have their own driving controls at all. Instead, they’re attached to a separate towing vehicle via a hitch. Because they can be detached from the vehicle once they’ve been parked, they’re a good option for campers who like to explore in their vehicles from time to time.
Fifth wheel travel trailers are similar, but they have a special setup that requires a certain type of towing vehicle, usually a pickup truck. They have a raised forward section that sits over the bed of the truck. This upper segment usually contains the master bedroom area and gives the living space the feel of a small apartment or cottage.
Teardrop trailers are the smallest option available, unless you want to get into pop-up campers. They’re designed for adventurers who want a no-frills camping experience, but aren’t interested in sleeping on the ground.
Here’s the rundown on the average width of these respective RV types.
|Type of Camper||Class A Motorhome||Class B Motorhome||Class C Motorhome||Fifth Wheel||Travel Trailer||Teardrop Trailer|
|Average Width||102 inches||84 inches||100 inches||102 inches||96 inches||60 inches|
A Word About Slideouts
Some travel trailers and RVs are equipped with slideouts, which are designed to increase the overall living space and make the camping experience more enjoyable. While you can’t engage the slideouts until the unit is parked, they can make or break the experience if your campsite or parking spot is particularly narrow.
If the travel trailer has a slideout, it can add up to three feet on that side. Often, models that have this feature will offer more than one slideout, and they’re usually positioned on opposite sides. That means your travel trailer might be up to six feet wider when the slideouts are engaged.
When you’re choosing a campsite, it’s best to err on the side of caution. Don’t rely on the towing measurements. Instead, assume that you’ll need a parking spot with at least five extra feet of clearance on each side. That will give you plenty of room to engage the slideouts without damaging the RV or encroaching on your neighbors’ space.
How To Park A Travel Trailer
Now that you’re aware that the laws for towing RVs can vary from state to state, let’s walk you through the procedure for safe and efficient parking.
For starters, choose a level spot for parking. You can’t park a travel trailer on an incline. For one thing, you might cause damage to the refrigerator if the grade is too steep. What’s more, even if the slope is gradual, you’re bound to notice a bouncing sensation when you walk around inside.
Once you’ve eased the rig into your desired position, unhitch the towing vehicle. Some people prefer to wait until the trailer has been stabilized before they remove it, but this way, you won’t have to match the stabilizers to the hitch height. It also frees up the vehicle so another adult in the party can make a run to town for extra drinks and snacks.
Position the stabilizers according to the manufacturer’s instructions. We would recommend bringing a power drill along to crank down the stabilizer jacks, since it can take all afternoon if you try to do it manually.
Unless you’re boondocking, you’ll want to take this opportunity to check the adapter to make sure it matches up with the power connection. 30-amp service is standard, but some units are equipped with 15- or even 50-amp service. If you don’t have the correct adapter, you can’t hook the trailer up to the park’s power source.
If you’d like a practical demonstration on how to park your travel trailer, here’s a video to help you understand the procedure.
Remember: You can never be too prepared when it comes to things like travel trailer height and width. Take all your measurements in advance, and add several feet to this number when choosing a campsite. It’s better to err on the side of caution than to realize you don’t have enough space to park your camper when you arrive at your destination.
Best of luck, and happy camping!