To Cover or Not to Cover: The Pros and Cons of RV Covers


When RV season rolls to a close, you’ll park your vehicle at a storage facility or perhaps even in your own backyard. There your RV will sit, exposed to the elements for months at a time. You’re thinking an RV cover would be a good measure of protection, but surprisingly, a few of your fellow RV buddies are staunchly against using covers. That has you wondering, what are the pros and cons of RV covers?

RV covers are advantageous in the following ways:

  • They protect metal elements from corrosion and rust
  • Vehicle won’t be damaged by the sun, rain, wind, or snow
  • Less maintenance work to do when you unpeel the cover
  • A cleaner RV at the end of the winter

These RV cover downsides must be kept in mind as well:

  • Cheap covers can be more trouble than they’re worth
  • Often won’t protect the tires 
  • Setup could be considered an inconvenience 
  • Not all RVs are easily covered, especially bigger ones

In today’s post, we’ll elaborate more on the above pros and cons of RV covers so you can decide whether using one is right for you and your vehicle. You’re not going to want to miss it, so let’s get started! 

The Pros of Using an RV Cover

We’ll begin with the upsides of RV covers, as there are plenty of these. 

Anti-Corrosion and Anti-Rust Measures

It should come as no surprise to you that the overwhelming majority of your RV is made of metal, especially the exterior. What can happen to metal without proper care? It can corrode or rust.

A type of corrosion known as atmospheric corrosion occurs when metal meets water or other acidic substances. Yes, water that falls from the sky as precipitation–be that rain or snow­–is indeed acidic. 

Steel or iron has iron particles that will corrode from the moisture and oxygen in the water. Worse yet is that rusting will soon follow. If corroded steel’s iron particles spend too much time amidst vapor, humidity, and other sources of moisture through water, those iron particles are overtaken by the acidity of the electrolytes in the water. 

What happens next is the oxidation of the iron particles, creating Fe++ from dual sets of electrons. These electrons travel across the steel, making cathodic areas where hydroxyl ions can be borne. When Fe++ particles meet hydroxyl ions, you end up with hydrous iron oxide or rust. 

The worse the moisture around the metal, the further accelerated the corrosion and rust can be. 

If you take your RV to a specialty mechanic, they may be able to use chemical or mechanical methods to remove corrosion. That said, even these methods can be ineffective if the corrosion is severe enough. You’d have no choice but to get whole parts of your RV replaced, if not the entire exterior. As we’re sure we don’t even have to tell you, this wouldn’t be a cheap job.

What about rust? The same is true of a rusted RV exterior. Smaller spreads of rust can be repaired out, but when rust has gotten severe to the point where it eats through parts of your RV’s sheet metal, you have no choice but to get those parts replaced. 

Protection from the Elements

Rust and corrosion, while extremely troublesome, would be the least of your problems if you choose to forego an RV cover. You would have a whole laundry list of issues that would occur if your RV sat unprotected for four to six months. Here’s that list.

  • Sun fading: The sun is a harsh mistress, with penetrating UV rays that can lead to a lot of destruction. One of the less serious issues is the exterior of your RV fading, and perhaps the interior too depending on how much sun your RV gets over the winter. Also scary is how the seals of your vehicle can begin breaking down if they drink in enough sun. A winter or two out in the elements can degrade the very structure of your RV. 
  • Oxidized fiberglass: Do you have a lot of fiberglass surfaces across your RV? These too don’t do very well when left out in the winter with no protection. The fiberglass can begin to oxidize, creating a bland, dulled look that’s unappealing. 
  • Weather wreckage: What can’t Mother Nature do? Anytime it rains and your vehicle is unprotected, you’re increasing the risk of your RV ending up corroded and/or rusted from the acidity of the water. Wind can snap exterior parts off your vehicle if the gusts are strong enough. Snow will settle atop your RV, rusting your metal surfaces and possibly causing leaks as the snow melts. 
  • Decal damage: Are your particularly proud of your RV’s external decals? You won’t be for long if you skip a cover. The sun can fade these decals in a jiffy, and prolonged exposure could cause more serious harm to the point where your RV decals crack. 

Less Spring Maintenance 

Every RV owner must commit to a consistent maintenance routine. You just worked really hard a couple of months ago preparing your RV for winterization. You don’t have to have to turn around in the spring and do as much work again.

Yet that could be just what happens if you don’t use an RV cover for your vehicle.

You’d have to treat rust and corrosion, for starters. You would also have to ameliorate broken seals, faded parts, and your fiberglass, all of which is avoidable through a cover. Since any fluids left in the RV may have frozen, you’ll have to warm up your vehicle’s interior to unplug the gaps that frozen fluids can leave. Otherwise, your engine might not get enough fuel to even start. 

The cold weather can gradually suck the air out of your RV tires, leaving them flat and in need of a replacement. Your battery, if you didn’t take it out of your RV, will also certainly be dead by this point. All this adds up to more work you have to do in the spring.

Fortunately, using an RV cover can save you the above labor. 

Your RV Comes out Cleaner and Ready to Use 

You’ll also dedicate a lot of time to spring cleaning, as your RV will be filthy by the time you come back to it. It did, after all, just withstand several months of time out in the cold with no cover. You’ll find a combination of dust, acid rain, bird droppings, tree sap, and other environmental accumulation covering your RV. This debris can actually break down some components of your vehicle the longer it sits untouched. 

Had you put a cover over your RV, you’d be rinsing down your cover, not scrubbing and scouring the surfaces of your RV. 

The Cons of Using an RV Cover

Although to many RVers, the benefits of covering their vehicle is clear, not everyone feels the same way. Here are some downsides of using an RV cover that may resonate with you.  

Cheap Covers Are Not Really Better Than No Cover at All

We RVers are a creative bunch. You might have come up with a few workable DIY solutions for your RV toilet or bed, but a handmade or repurposed cover? That cheap tarp you had lying around in the backyard collecting dust isn’t made for your RV. Since it’s ill-fitting, all it takes is a strong wind and it will rip the cover right off your vehicle.

Before that happens though, the cover could scratch your windshield and fiberglass exterior, leaving dings and marks. 

Also, since you’re using a tarp instead of a specialized RV cover, your cover won’t have any UV protection, nor will be it waterproof to protect from rainwater and snow. Wind can also easily gust into the tarp and destroy what’s underneath it. You might as well use no cover at all for how little your tarp can do to protect your RV. 

Most RV Covers Don’t Include Coverage for the Tires

Your RV tires are built to withstand a much heavier load than your average vehicle, so they’re quite tough and durable. Most RV tires are made of a combination of chemicals, namely carbon black, silica, and rubber compounds. 

Yet your RV tires don’t last forever. You’ll replace the tires every three to six years, and you want to get the max time out of them. Driving on the same tires for too long can cause a flat, as can off-roading onto treacherous terrain. Poor tire care can also shorten their lifespan. 

That’s why it’s interesting to you that as you did some initial research into RV covers that none of the covers you saw offered coverage for the tires as well. Indeed, you often have to buy separate RV tire covers, which just means more money and more hassle. You’d rather just protect your tires rather than the whole RV. 

Using a Cover Is Inconvenient to Some

Another downside to using an RV cover is the inconvenience of it all. The highest-quality covers can cost over $300, which is quite expensive. You already funnel a lot of cash into your RV, so if you can save a few bucks here and there, you’d like to. That’s why you’d prefer to skip buying an RV cover if you can.

Even outside of the cost of the RV cover, putting one on isn’t exactly the easiest thing. You have to finagle with the cover and get it on just right, and­–depending on the size of your RV­­–putting your cover on might not even be a one-person job.

Once the cover is on, you still have to wrestle with it a few months from now when you want to take the cover off. The whole thing is just a giant pain you’d rather not have to deal with. 

The Bigger the RV, the More Challenging the Cover Situation 

All the above is assuming that your RV is a standard size. Once you get into bigger Class A RVs, your troubles only grow. First, there’s the issue with even finding an RV cover that fits your behemoth of a vehicle. The only covers available at that point are very expensive. You might even have to look into getting an RV cover custom-ordered, and who knows how much that will cost.  

Also, now you have twice or thrice the cover material compared to a standard RV cover, which means putting in twice or thrice the effort to get your cover secured on your vehicle. You really do have better things to do with your time.

To Cover or Not to Cover: Which Is Best?

Now that we’ve talked about the pros and cons of using an RV cover, do you really need to throw a cover on your RV?

As annoying and expensive as it can sometimes be, yes, it’s better to use a cover. Your cover should be good for several years once you buy it, so it more than pays for itself by that time. Plus, the relatively small fee you paid for the cover pales in comparison to what you’d spend to replace or repair parts of your RV from outdoor damage. 

If it’s the inconvenience of setting up an RV cover that’s holding you back, then having a second or even a third person to help you will make the job go by much faster. If it’s your inexperience in putting on an RV cover that’s an issue, we’ll share detailed instructions on what to do in the next section.

Some RV owners believe that using a cover creates the perfect breeding ground for mold and mildew to thrive underneath. In actuality, foregoing a cover gives you a greater chance of seeing mold or mildew in and around your RV. 

Why is that? Most covers are weatherproof and offer sun protection, as we discussed. When you use an RV cover, it will maintain interior temperatures at around 80 degrees Fahrenheit by deflecting the sun. Without a cover, temps can reach 144 degrees or higher. The warmer and darker the environment, the happier mold and mildew will be to spread.

You might think you’re safe if you park your RV beneath a roof or another shaded structure, but this isn’t a good alternative to a cover. The angles of the sun will change over the weeks and months, increasing your vehicle’s risk of exposure. Snow, wind, and rain can all blow in as well, leaving your RV exposed.

Unless your RV goes two months out of the year when you’re not using it, then you’re better off with an RV cover every time.

How to Apply an RV Cover

Okay, so at this point, you’re thinking it’s best if you buy an RV cover. You’ve never worked with a cover though, so you need some pointers on how to put it on. As promised, here are some steps you can follow alone or with a buddy to secure a cover to your RV.

Step 1: Unfurl your RV cover fully on a flat, soft surface like grass. Look for the cover’s front while it’s laid out and orient your cover so the front is accessible.

Step 2: Climb your RV ladder and ensure any antennas are lowered.

Step 3: Wrap something gentle around protruding RV parts. You can use bubble wrap, foam, or even blankets secured with tape or bungee cord. The items you want to cover are external air conditioning units, RV bumpers, mirrors, or anything pointed or sharp. Failing to pad these items could lead to tears in your cover.

Step 4: Head down the RV ladder, grab your cover so the front is near you, and climb back up the ladder with the cover. Drape the cover over your RV, pulling some of it taut. 

Step 5: Begin stretching the cover over the corners of your RV, beginning with the front corners and then the ones in the back. 

Step 6: Make sure some excess cover material drapes near the back of your RV. Then, climb down the ladder, attach your ladder caps, and tug the cover in place over your RV’s rear bumper.

Step 7: Attach your included cord to secure the cover to your RV. Focus on the four corners of your RV as you do so.

You’re all done! 

Final Thoughts

Preparing for the RV offseason is just as important­, if not more so, than readying for the active season. One aspect of offseason care is using an RV cover. Although some RVers say a cover is an inconvenience, a high-quality, waterproof, and UV-proof cover is the only way to truly protect your RV from the elements. You can avoid seal cracking, decal damage, fiberglass dulling, rust and corrosion, and other harm, even if your RV sits idle for months. 

We hope this article convinced you to try an RV cover if you’re not already doing so. Best of luck! 

Geoff Southworth

I am a California native and I enjoy all the outdoors has to offer. My latest adventures have been taking the family camping, hiking and surfing.

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