Most of us have stepped in and out of our swimming pool. You could jump or dive in, but you want a controlled means of exit instead of having to climb out. The average RV door leaves you in a similar, precarious position unless you have steps that make it easier to get in and out. What many don’t realize is that there are a number of styles and designs when it comes to RV steps. We’ll explain what these options are and the pros and cons of each.
What’s an RV Step Actually?
The RV may have steps that take you from the living section to the door outside. However, an RV step takes you that literal next step out (or three) outside of the RV down to the ground. Its objective is to give you a smooth transition. It allows you to carry loads up without struggling. It may allow you to maintain your balance and climb down without worrying about falling down. Let’s look at the main types of RV steps on the market.
Types Of RV Steps
01. Portable RV Steps
Portable RV steps have several points in their favor. They’re generally cheap. You can choose one as wide or narrow as you’d like, including one far wider than your RV door. You can buy it and then put it in place almost immediately. A side benefit of portable RV steps is that you can take them with you, whether you want it to help you get into a trailer or move them to another RV.
One downside of portable RV steps is that you have to put it in place before you can use it. This may mean you have to exit the RV without steps before you get the portable RV step out of storage and install it. The alternative is for the portable RV step to take up limited storage inside the RV and be placed before you step outside the RV. In either case, it adds to the list of things you need to do when you park the RV. It also creates the risk that you accidentally leave it behind or back over it.Most portable RV steps have fixed legs. This means you can adjust the height or location of the legs. If it is 12 inches high, it states that way. They may or may not have legs that can be folded up, either, for easy storage.
A. Adjustable-Leg RV Platform Step
An adjustable-leg RV platform step can be considered portable, since it is separate from the RV and not capable of being mounted to the body of the RV like automated electric RV steps. It typically has just one large “step” instead, but it is large enough to give you space to maneuver. Depending on the platform, it could support 2 people or one person with a cane or walker. The adjustable legs generally allow you to raise or lower the height of the platform step. This is invaluable if you need a step that is a certain distance or elevation from the exit of the RV for the sake of accessibility.
B. Folding RV Step
A folding RV step always folds up for easy storage. This may be folding up of the legs so that the platform step can be stowed away under bags and boxes. Or the steps may fold up like a step ladder, allowing you to stow away a multi-step platform. Pay attention to the dimensions of the step when collapsed rather than assuming fold-up guarantees it will be as small as the space you have for it.
C. Porch-Style Steps with Handrails
Porch style steps with handrails are ideal for those with bad balance, limited mobility or concerned about safety. A young child or elderly adult can hold onto a secured handrail as they navigate the stairs. The stability of the stairs depends on the manufacturer of the product and/or its assembly, so do be careful in that regard. Most of these steps are made of metal, making them stronger but heavier than plastic steps.
D. Solid Plastic Box Steps
Solid plastic box steps may be a single step, have two built in steps or even have three steps. In general, the more steps it has, the narrower each step is. The biggest advantages of solid plastic box steps are relatively low price, the fact that you don’t need to be assembled and can’t collapse due to mistakes in assembly or loose screws. A few plastic box steps are highly visible because they are made from bright yellow plastic. A few models have slip-resistant strips on them. However, the plastic steps by definition are going to be more slip-prone than an open metal mesh step.
02. Permanently-Installed RV Steps
Permanently installed RV steps are those that are permanently attached to the RV. This eliminates the need to get it out and set it up at each stop. It guarantees you can’t lose it. However, this typically raises the cost of the step and adds installation costs to the total cost of ownership.
A. Manual RV Steps
The manual step can take several forms. The simplest form is a step and its supporting frame welded to the body of the RV. It is permanently affixed there. You can’t move it without calling in another welder, and that includes adjusting its height. Conversely, the step can handle a high load and will never slip. Most manual RV steps are a single step mounted on the vehicle like the step bars you see on trucks, though two and three-step models exist. A few resemble ladders. The manual, permanently installed step does require you to be careful when parking with it so you don’t damage it by hitting a curb.
B. Automatic Electric RV Steps
Automatic electric RV steps sometimes resemble the handicap lifts and other retractable hardware. Push a button, and the metal step framework extends. Now you have your one large step fold down or a full staircase expands out. You don’t have to do any work beyond assembly and mounting, though that can be outsourced to a professional if you can pay for it. The biggest downside aside from cost is the power requirement. They’ll use up batteries, including house batteries. If there is no power, the steps may fold up against the RV and keep the door closed or just not work. The alternative is getting one with a manual release, though that means you have to physically work to extend things or let it all slam into place, potentially damaging components.
03. Popular Different Sizes
A. 2 Steps
Two steps generally equal a shallower step than a single step. For most people, this is ideal.
B. 3 Steps
3 steps give you a generally shallow step spread over a larger area. That’s ideal for those who can’t raise their knees very far or are manipulating a walker and cane. Just make sure the surface area of each step is large enough for you to work with.
C. 4 Steps
In very tall RVs, you may need four steps to get in and out. Note that the four step ladders and staircases are big by default. And on an incline, they may leave you with a trip hazard instead of an aid in and out of the vehicle.
D. 5 Steps
A 5 step staircase is rarely required unless you have an elevated platform or very limited mobility. These stairs may be so shallow that you can get a rugged wheelchair up and down them. Or you can easily move across them with a walker. It really depends on the design. Be careful that you don’t end up with a de facto ladder.
04. Differences in Old and Modern Use
A. Step Above
Step Above RV steps is much more secure and stable than earlier RV steps. Early RV steps were like cheap ladders that almost bounced as you walked on them. Step Above steps never bounces or wobble. The manufacturer has several models that come with support bars or holes on which you can mount one later.
B. Solid Step
Solid Step is one of the top manufacturers of three and four step RV steps. One point in their favor is the electric and gas-powered models that extend and retract the longer stairwells. They have models that automatically adjust step height and angle when it touches down, ensuring a flat, stable step every time. One concern is that they use a latch to hold them into place. If the latch breaks, you could be stuck with extended steps though you want to drive away.
GlowStep is made to maximize stability. It is one of the best choices when you’re getting out of fifth wheels and tall trailers. Some models have built-in handrails. Most of their models fold up against the RV for a minimal profile while driving. The scissor mechanism holds them securely in place when retracted and holds them in place when extended, too.