This post may contain affiliate links.
Ashley Mann spent three years living full time in a 38-foot, 5th-wheel RV with her husband Josiah and their cat, Kitty. Her favorite thing about RV life is the challenge of finding the perfect way to organize a space, and she loves seeing all the creative and clever ways people come up with to customize their RVs.
If you’re going through the trouble of renovating your RV, don’t neglect the outside! An RV exterior makeover can help your rig make a better first impression. Plus, it makes it much more photogenic.
In this article, you’ll find tips and ideas to help you make your RV as beautiful on the outside as it is on the inside, including:
- How to remove RV decals and where to buy new ones
- How to paint an RV exterior (whether it’s made of fiberglass or aluminum)
- The best brands of paint for RV exteriors
- How much it costs to wrap an RV
- And, of course, lots of inspirational photos!
How to Makeover Your RV’s Exterior: Initial Steps
When making over the exterior of your motorhome or travel trailer, you’ll want to start with a clean slate. Wondering where to start? Check out these insights …
Remove RV Decals
Getting rid of cracked and fading decals is often the first step toward an RV that you can be proud to drive. To make removing RV decals easier, most people purchase a handheld decal remover, which is a rubber eraser wheel that attaches to a handheld drill. You can get these on Amazon. Using a heat gun may help as well for particularly tough-to-remove decals.
- Vinyl wrap adhesive removal tool kit, 4 inch with groove and 3.5 inch pneumatic rubber removal wheel.
Thoroughly Wash and Wax Your RV Exterior
After you’ve removed the decals, you’ll want to wash and wax the outside of your RV before you do anything else.
Many RV owners take their camper to a truck wash to make it easier to reach the top of their RV for cleaning, but you can wash your RV at your campsite or in your driveway with the help of a cleaning kit with an extension pole.
- Enhanced Extendability and Detachability: The SEG Direct Car Wash Brush features an impressive telescopic handle that extends from 25.6" to 47.3", providing effortless cleaning of high and hard-to-reach areas on cars, trucks, RVs, and boats. The brush can be easily detached into four parts, allowing for easy length adjustment and convenient storage and portability.
A ladder helps, too. When we first became full-time RVers, I thought I wouldn’t need a ladder since there was one on the back of our RV. But I found it very difficult to scrub the nose of our fifth wheel as it was too low to reach from the roof and too high to reach from the ground.
So, I ended up buying a telescoping ladder. Not only did it help with washing our camper, it also made it easier to change exterior light bulbs and hang Christmas lights!
- ✔【Premium Aluminum Alloy】：RIKADE telescopic ladder using 6063 high strength and high hardness aluminum alloy tube, better quality and safer.
How an RV Looks with Decals Removed
Some people prefer the look of an RV without graphics, so they may remove their RV decals even if they aren’t cracked or faded. If you’re happy with how your RV looks after removing the decals and cleaning the exterior, you can stop right there with your RV exterior makeover!
Replacing RV Decals
If you prefer the look of an RV with colorful graphics along the side, you can actually buy new ones and add them yourself. Before you add new decals, you may want to consider painting your RV white if your RV exterior shows discoloration where the old decals were. (Read on for more info about painting an RV exterior.)
Amazon has quite a few graphics kits you can order in various colors, or you can shop for graphics designed to fit your particular RV model at a website specializing in RV graphics such as RVGraphicsStore.com.
The “swoosh” design decal is also not the only option out there. Personally, I love the look of mountain silhouette decals. These can be placed on the side or back of an RV (or both).
RV with Decals Removed and Door Painted
The people who renovated this RV decided to paint the door green after they removed the decals. They used Behr Marquee Exterior house paint, which they say has held up on their RV for over four years with no touchups needed.
Fiberglass RV Exterior Painted White
If your RV is older, the exterior may have become worn or yellowed with age. Decal removal may cause a noticeable difference in color around that area. The photo below shows this problem.
To get their RV looking new again, the owners of the one above painted it bright white using Rust-Oleum oil-based high gloss paint which they applied using a foam roller. As you can see below, the result was stunning!
How to Paint an RV Exterior
This is the basic process all of the people I talked to for this article followed:
- Remove all decals (unless you are painting them a different color than the rest of the RV).
- Thoroughly wash the exterior.
- Use a degreaser if needed on particularly grimy areas.
- Lightly sand the exterior to help with paint adhesion.
- Apply primer, then paint.
Several of the owners of the RVs pictured below told me they followed this tutorial, which goes into much more detail.
As for the best type of paint and primer to use for painting an RV exterior, it seems there are several good choices. The examples below include which paint options were used.
Will it hold up?
Any time you’re doing DIY renovations on a house-on-wheels, you probably wonder if all your work will actually hold up over time.
RVer Kate O’Phalen shared her results a year after painting her RV exterior. “One year later, and I’m very happy with how the paint is holding up. There are two tiny spots with chips: the front door and the hinge of our most-used storage door,” Kate said.
Considering she drove her fifth wheel all the way to Alaska with her family, I’m impressed that the paint held up so well!
RV Exterior Paint Ideas
Some RV owners get really creative with painting their RV exterior by using bright colors and designs – or even painting a mural on their RV. Check out these campers with painted exteriors for inspiration!
Trailers with Painted Fiberglass Exteriors
Here’s what the people who renovated this orange and white RV had to say about the RV exterior renovation project:
“The exterior of the trailer was a BIG job, but one I am so so pleased with. We started by removing the decals with a rubber attachment, which was probably the biggest task.
Then, we lightly sanded the entire exterior to help the paint stick properly. We tested a few paint options, but I believe we went with Kilz exterior primer, followed by the Behr exterior paint and primer. Then we used Behr exterior for the mountainscape as well.”
The travel trailer below was painted with BeautiTone porch and floor interior/exterior latex paint. They chose the colors “Happy Tune” blue and “Whooping Crane” white. The owner says, “It’s been four years with harsh Canadian winters, and the fiberglass looks amazing!”
To paint the green, gray, and white motorhome in the photo below, the owners used Behr Marquee exterior house paint. They said they’ve had no issues with it flaking or peeling so far.
The cab was already white, so they left that part unpainted except for the decal, which they did not remove but instead painted over.
Class C Motorhomes with Painted Exteriors
I’m in love with this Class C motorhome painted all black. (The interior is black too! I featured it in this article about RV interiors painted colors other than white!) The wood door was made by fastening wood planks and carriage bolts directly onto the existing door.
When I first saw this motorhome with its stunning pink, purple, and blue mountains, I thought it had been wrapped with vinyl, but nope, it’s painted! (However, I will share some photos of wrapped RVs later in this post.)
They too used Behr Marquee exterior paint, and they painted the mountains freehand!
Swipe through this slideshow to see the process of painting the mountain scene:
Painted Class A Motorhome Exterior RV Makeover
This Class A motorhome is truly a work of art! The owners used Benjamin Moore exterior house paint for this project. They say the paint has held up well – in spite of the RV being stored outdoors in Minnesota year-round.
They said the only thing they would do differently if they had the project to do over would be to use a semi-gloss paint sheen instead of the flat/matte finish they chose to make it easier to clean.
Aluminum RVs with Painted Exteriors
After renovating her own family’s travel trailer, Tina Tartt is now renovating campers to sell. Below is a side-by-side of what this travel trailer looked like before and after its makeover. It really shows how much a difference painting your RV can make! I love the mountain decal added as an extra detail.
The classy charcoal and white paint job by professional RV renovation company Wayland Ventures makes this 2005 travel trailer seem much newer than it actually is. (You can see more photos of this renovated RV here.)
Professional RV renovators @DeluxedDesigns chose the all-black look for this vintage Aristocrat Lo Liner. They used Rust-Oleum professional interior/exterior oil-based industrial enamel paint in flat black. They feel the flat black paint is hard to keep clean and would recommend a glossy sheen. But the client they renovated this camper for insisted on the flat finish, and I have to admit, it does look great!
A Little More Artistically Inspired Aluminum RV Exteriors
Here’s a fun one! Rachel of @RV.Family.Reno renovated this camper for a client. She wrote in an Instagram post that she originally used this painting technique on the refrigerator inside the camper. Then, she later decided to paint the exterior to match! She said: “My driveway is officially destroyed, but the art trailer is insanely amazing. And I’ll ruin my driveway over and over to make a dream come to life!!”
The owner of this next travel trailer actually didn’t remove the decals. Instead, they just sanded them then painted right over them with primer followed by Valspar exterior latex paint. She says the outline of the decals was still visible up close but was unnoticeable from five feet away. It was “a pain to get straight since the exterior was ridged, but surprisingly came out decent!”
She says the whole project cost her around $200. It has also held up great so far. She notes, “it has even gone through a pressurized truck wash twice, and nothing chipped off!”
An Airstream Used as a Canvas
I can’t write an article about RV exterior makeovers without including this iconic Airstream. If you follow its owners and their pet goat Frankie on Instagram or Facebook, you’ll see breathtaking photos of it parked in scenic locations, especially along the Oregon coast.
When I asked how the paint has held up, she said: “We only boondock, so we take it some crazy places and have done some bushwhacking. So yes, I do have to do touch-ups every now and then. I have also added new things to the mural after visiting places that were inspiring.”
Vinyl Wrap RV Exterior Makeovers
Another way to make an older RV look brand new again is with an RV wrap. How much does it cost to have an RV wrapped with vinyl? Of course, the price will vary from one location to another. But one vinyl wrap company told me the cost at their shop averages around six dollars per square foot of vinyl. They also have a base price of $4,500 to wrap an RV, not including upgrades and add-ons.
So as you can see, wrapping an RV costs quite a bit more than painting it!
This motorhome owner removed the decals himself before taking it to be professionally wrapped. He assumed there would be an extra charge to have the graphics removed and wanted to save some money. You would never believe these before and after photos are the same motorhome!
A vinyl wrap can be a good way to show off your personality, as with this patriotic motorhome wrap done by California-based vinyl wrap company TheWraptopus.com.
Are you inspired to do an exterior renovation on your RV? If so, leave a comment below!
For more articles about RV renovations, visit the RV Renovation Resource Page!