Measuring a travel trailer can be difficult.
The problem is that there are so many different ways to measure the length of a trailer, and it’s hard to know which one is right for you.
In this post, we’re going to break down the ways you can measure your travel trailer, and show you how to do it with ease.
Here’s how to measure travel trailers
- You can measure a travel trailer from the ball mount all the way to the back bumper
- The RV Industry Association (RVIA) states that a travel trailer’s advertised measurement should be the livable floor plan measurement. This does not include the ball mount or bumper, so an advertised length of 25 feet may actually be a total of 28 feet.
Since there’s no fixed convention on which measurement is used, travel trailer manufacturers can advertise their trailers in whatever way is best for them.
If you’re looking for a way to measure the length of your travel trailer, here’s what you should know.
How to read manufacturer measurements
Manufacturers make trailers with living spaces that aren’t rectangular – they may bow out or curve – making it hard to pinpoint exact measurements like width and length.
For this reason, most manufacturers will include a few details in their measurements. Some trailers, for example, may have exterior features with lengths that push the total length to a foot or two more.
Here’s what you should look out for when reading manufacturer measurements:
Exterior width – this includes any awnings and protrusions from the side of the trailer.
Exterior height – this includes the highest point of the ceiling on any slides, including sofa beds.
Exterior ground clearance – if your trailer has a tall exterior, you may need to account for a higher ground clearance when driving over curbs and dirt roads.
The Airstream Globetrotter has very specific measurements on the website:
Winnebago also has very specific measurements:
A few tips on measuring your campground site or a national park site
If you’re going to a campground or a national park, be sure to check the site’s policies on measuring travel trailers. Most public campgrounds will permit a maximum length of 35 feet, so if your trailer is longer than that, it may not fit into your campsite.
At some national parks – including Big Bend, Grand Canyon, Great Smoky Mountains, and Yellowstone – trailers longer than 35 feet are prohibited.
If you’re staying in a national park for an extended period of time where there’s no limit on how long your trailer can be, consider driving or parking outside the park to move in and out more easily.
Most people measure their RV before they arrive to get an idea of how big it is. You should always measure your travel trailer at home before you leave so that you know if it fits in the campsite.
If you don’t have access to a measuring tape, here’s what you can do:
Measure the length while standing between the coupler and the back bumper. From your toes, measure to where you would park the hitch ball on an RV dolly.
Another way to measure is by standing between the coupler and the back of the trailer (with slides both open and closed). Measure from one end wall across to another.
Remember that not all manufacturers use standard measurements, so even if your trailer is the advertised length, it may be a few inches longer or shorter.
When to measure your RV
Since you’ll have to measure before you arrive at the campground, it’s hard to know when you should do this. Generally speaking, it’s best to measure early in a travel trailer’s life – a new trailer should be measured before every trip.
If you’re using an RV that you’ve owned for a while, it’s probably best to measure the travel trailer at least once before your next camping trip.
In addition to measuring when buying or renting a new travel trailer, you should also check dimensions when choosing sites at public campgrounds and national parks. Measuring your travel trailer before you go on a trip will ensure that it fits in the campsite and park – and that you’re not disappointed when you arrive.
How wide are typical travel trailers?
One question that comes up when buying a travel trailer is how wide they are. This should be one of the first questions you ask if you’re interested in purchasing or renting an RV.
When looking at travel trailer width, it’s important to know that some models may have bowing out walls – meaning what looks like 10 feet may be more like 9.5 feet. This bowing may take the form of extra wall space at the front or back since it doesn’t take up floor space.
When you measure the floor of your travel trailer, be sure to account for any bowing out walls – these aren’t included in manufacturer’s measurements.
The AAA has a great resource on allowed travel trailer widths(https://drivinglaws.aaa.com/tag/trailer-dimensions/).
How to find out if your travel trailer is wide enough
Some of the major amenities of a travel trailer – like slide outs and window space – also take up extra width. When choosing a travel trailer, you’ll need to choose one that’s big enough to accommodate your needs (and those of your family).
To find out if your favorite model is too narrow, start by measuring the floor. Remember that manufacturers sometimes use a bowing out wall when measuring, so be sure to measure from side wall to side wall.
If you have a slide out in your travel trailer, put it into the full-wall position and see how much space is left in front of or behind it. This will tell you if there’s enough space for you to enjoy your slide.
How tall are typical travel trailers?
The height of your RV is important because it will affect what kind of roads you can drive on and how much head room you have inside.
The height of a typical underpass in the United States is 13 feet 6 inches, so your RV needs to be well below that!
Is there any way around having low ceilings? It’s possible to find RVs that have high ceilings. In these RVs, the ceiling will rise from a few feet off the floor to several inches above your head – meaning that you’ll have more room in the RV without having to stoop over every time you walk through a door.
Of course, taller travel trailers are not as maneuverable as shorter ones – so if you want a shorter RV, consider one with high ceilings.
Also, some RVs have roof-mounted ACs and manufacturers don’t always include this in the height measurement. That’s why it’s always safer to have a good amount of play between the maximum clearance you have and the height of the trailer.
How long is the tongue on travel trailers?
The length of the tongue on a travel trailer will vary greatly depending on which type you purchase. By and large, travel trailers have two kinds of tongues: short and full-length.
Short tongues make it easier to pull smaller RVs through turns, while full-length tongues make it easier to control longer trailers.
Tongues may also be curved or straight. A curved tongue makes it easier to maneuver a travel trailer onto an angled campsite, while a straight tongue is better for pulling the travel trailer up a steep hill.
Ideally, you want to have a tongue that’s at least half the length of your car plus a few inches.
Knowing measurements before buying an RV
There are a number of reasons why you need to have accurate travel trailer measurements before going shopping. In addition to saving time, it also prevents disappointment when you arrive at the RV dealership or campground and find that your new home on wheels isn’t what you expected.
Measuring in advance will help you gauge your RV’s maneuverability. If it’s too long, it may be difficult to turn or pull up a steep hill.
It will tell you if the RV is too short for your needs – whether those needs are for space or amenities like slide outs and roof decks.
It will help you determine whether or not the travel trailer will fit in the RV campsite or your garage.
It tells you if the travel trailer is wide enough to accommodate your needs – for example, those who have mobility problems will want a wider RV with more space between side walls.
Manufacturers may use a different method of measuring their trailers than the one described here. Always check measurements before buying or renting an RV, no matter what method the manufacturer used. For safe measure, add some