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RV Height - How to Not Peel Off the Roof

Updated: Jan 7, 2023

My first Class A was 12 ft. 8 inches to the top of the air conditioner. As an RV newbie I was using my cell phone to navigate with Google and I obediently followed its directions down a narrow residential street lined with Live Oak trees whose branches were literally reaching across the road from both sides seeking to scrape my roof top appliances off. Thankfully, by slowly navigating the center of the road I was able to get through unscathed.

Now, with a Class C RV at 10 ft. 6 inches to the highest point, I still had not learned my lesson and continued to use Google directions. This nearly bit me when it navigated me to the wrong entrance at Stone Mountain Park in Georgia. While my height was OK, my width barely squeaked through the gatehouse opening with only 1/2 inch to spare.

Check out this video from

The Correct Tool for the Job

Your RV is simply not a car-sized vehicle. RV's and trucks require a specialized GPS tool that operates independent of cellular service which may be spotty or non-existent in some areas.

In addition ,the GPS tool should take into consideration the height, width, length (including towed vehicle) and weight of the rig to have a reasonable shot at navigating you reliably along the correct route to your destination.

I found the Garmin 895 to be the right tool for my Class C RV. The size and clarity of the display is easy to see at a glance and the directions thus far have been spot on.

That being said, I recommend using an arsenal of tools to plan your RV route.

RV Trip Wizard: I use this tool to do the initial route planning. Like the Garmin, the RV Trip Wizard takes into account your rig's physical parameters and works to route you accordingly.

Google Maps and Google Earth: I use these tools to perform street level views of areas of concern along the Trip Wizard recommended route. Such areas are: bridges, tricky intersections, and gas stations to determine if I can easily access the pumps given my length with the towed vehicle attached.

The data obtained from the above tools is then used to plot my course into the Garmin.

How to determine RV height:

The manufacturers list a height value on their specification sheets. However, not all indicate to what point on the RV roof that measurement was taken. It behooves us to make sure we know the true height of our RV.

Note: Some RV's have a roof line that is higher at one end than the other, such as a fifth wheel RV. Be sure to measure at the top of the highest point of the RV to have a correct clearance value.

Note: If your RV has air suspension be sure to have it aired up to ride height before making measurements.

1) Use a straight eight foot board and clamp a short level at one end.

2) Standing on a ladder at the side of the RV place the opposite end of the board on the top of the highest point on the roof which is usually an AC housing.

3) Holding the board such that the bubble indicates a level condition and with the help of a friend, measure the distance from the ground to the bottom of the level board.

4) Round this number up to eliminate fractions of an inch

5) Post the measurement on the dash for easy viewing in both Feet/Inches and in Meters for travel in Canada.

How tall is Too Tall?

The standard in the USA is 13 ft. 6 inches as the maximum vehicle height. You can safely navigate the interstate highway system at that height. The problem arises with residential and county road systems that have bridges and underpasses constructed before the 13 ft. 6 inch standard was implemented such as the 11 ft. 8in underpass from Durham, NC that is linked above.

Other Height Areas of Concern:

Bridges and underpasses are the most common concern but much damage has been done simply driving the country road to a campground as well as within the campground itself. Low hanging tree branches have claimed many an AC and rooftop TV antenna as well as vent pipes and covers.

In some older residential areas, power lines traverse the road and need to be watched out for. Your GPS will offer no help in these situations and as always there is no substitute for vigilance on the driver's part to navigate the road safely without damage.

Caution: While an RV or truck enabled GPS may 'think' that a bridge underpass has enough height for your rig, that may not still be true. Sometimes repaving of the road can and will raise the road height thereby reducing the clearance value. Hopefully the signage approaching the bridge will have been updated but the RV GPS may not have been.

Never blindly trust that the GPS is correct. Always know your height and always look for signage that indicates you have enough clearance to proceed.

Always approach obstacles that present a potential clearance challenge at a reduced speed allowing you the ability to stop safely and in time. Sometimes the signage indicating the clearance is positioned such that you do not have much warning.


I hope you have found this blog informative and useful to you.

If you are selling your RV and want to facilitate a quick sale it is good to have a recent Independent NRVIA Certified Inspection report on hand to share with prospective buyers.

If you are buying a new or preowned RV, be sure to hire an independent NRVIA Certified Inspector to give you the knowledge of the true condition of the RV before you buy. You can find an NRVIA Certified Inspector near you through the NRVIA web site locator.

Our primary objective at Sherlock RV Inspection Service, LLC is to serve you by making sure your RV is safe to occupy and all major systems and appliances are functioning as intended.

We are a mobile RV Inspection Service and will travel throughout the Southeast and beyond as needed. (subject to travel and per diem costs) Check out our web site to get to know us better and to preview inspection details and sample reports.

Safe Travels!

Ron Francoeur

Sherlock RV Inspection Service, LLC

Office: 352 – 224 – 9477

Cell/Text: 678 – 360 - 6883

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