Upgrading Your RV: Are Fancy Leveling Systems Worth It?

Are you finding that spending time and money on basic RV upgrades and accessories like leveling blocks, stabilizer jacks, and tire chocks to keep your rig stable at campsites is cramping your style. You’ve seen those automatic RV leveling systems at the RV show or in YouTube videos, and they sure look slick. But are those fancy push-button contraptions really necessary, or are they just an expensive toy?

How Automatic Leveling Works

Before weighing the pros and cons, it helps to understand what these systems actually do. RV leveling systems use electric motors and hydraulic pumps to extend and adjust leveling jacks at the touch of a button. There are a few different types:

  • 4-point systems have four jacks, one at each corner. They provide stability but can’t lift the wheels completely off the ground.
  • 6-point systems add two more jacks midway along the RV body for even better stability.
  • 4-point auto-leveling systems can get all 4 wheels in the air for maximum stabilization and comfort inside.

Advanced options can self-level by automatically sensing deviations side-to-side and front-to-back, bringing the RV to the desired level position with little input needed from you.

The Benefits: Why Consider an Upgrade?

Okay, so how exactly do these gizmos make RV life better? Here are some of the key benefits and conveniences:

Quick and Easy Set Up

With a push-button auto-leveling system, gone are the days of lugging around stacks of lumber for leveling blocks or cranking manual stabilizer jacks by hand until your arm feels ready to fall off. Just press a button and your RV is leveled and stabilized in under a minute, without breaking a sweat. Talk about cool technology making camping easier!

Enhanced Stability and Comfort

Having all 4 wheels lifted off the ground provides maximum stability, reducing shake and rocking as you move around inside. Auto-leveling gets the RV perfectly level, preventing annoying floor sloping. This allows fridge doors to close properly, avoids spilled drinks or slides, and lets you sleep soundly without feeling like you’re tilting out of bed.

Flexible Site Positioning

Not having to worry about getting parked exactly right opens up options. Auto-leveling lets you tuck into off-kilter sites between trees and position the RV door where you want, instead of where the manual jacks reach.

Reduced RV and Site Damage

With enhanced stability, there’s less stress on the RV frame and fewer impacts from movement shaking things loose. You also avoid digging holes and tearing up the site parking area trying to situate leveling blocks just right. This reduces wear and tear.

Peace of Mind in Wind, Rain, and Storms

More stability brings added security, especially when the weather takes a turn for the worse. You’ll rest easy through wind gusts and thunderstorms, confident your RV will stay upright and protected.

Higher Resale Value

Upgraded tech features like auto-leveling help RVs retain value. You’ll recoup more of your investment when it comes time to trade up to a new rig down the road.

The Costs: Factors to Consider

Of course, with the benefits come increased costs. Here are some important considerations when budgeting for an RV leveling system upgrade:

Equipment and Installation Expenses

A basic 4-point system can run $2500-$4000 for the components, while a premium 6-point auto-leveling system will cost $4000-$7000. On top of that you need professional installation, which typically adds another $1000-$2000 for labor and wiring. So you’re looking at a total of $4000-$9000.

Weight and Capacity Limitations

The hydraulic jacks and pump motors add considerable weight, around 100-300 lbs. Make sure your RV has sufficient cargo capacity to handle the extra load. And know the leveling system weight ratings and maximum RV length and weight capacity to select the right model.

Electric Power Draw

The motors pull a lot of amps, 8-10A per jack during leveling. Make sure your RV alternator, house battery bank, and shore power hookup can supply sufficient electrical capacity. Upgrade if needed.

Maintenance and Repair Costs

Like any mechanized system, auto-levelers can break down over time and will need periodic maintenance. Hydraulic fluid leaks, blown fuses, stuck jacks, and electrical shorts can happen. Repairs can run $200-$1000 for parts and labor. Know the warranty terms.

Risk of Damage if Misused

Improperly operating the system by overriding safety features or over-extending the jacks can potentially cause equipment damage or even tip the RV. Take the time to learn proper leveling procedures.

Diminishing Returns

You reach a point of diminishing returns where the extra cost may not be justified. A 4-point system provides most key benefits. Six jacks look awesome but may be overkill. Consider your needs.

Key Brands to Consider

If you decide to take the plunge after weighing the pros and cons, here are two top auto-leveling brands to consider:

Lippert Ground Control 3.0

  • Features auto-leveling front and rear plus manual side-to-side leveling
  • Can lift all 4 wheels off the ground
  • Use phone app for control in addition to panel
  • Around $4000 installed

Bigfoot Hydraulic Leveling System

  • Fully automatic 6-point leveling
  • Lifts all wheels for maximum stability
  • Features aluminum jack pads to prevent sinking
  • Around $6000 installed

Both offer advanced self-leveling operation and stability. Look for at least a 1-year warranty.

Make the Best Choice For You

Like most RV upgrades, advanced leveling systems offer convenient high-tech benefits, but at increased cost. Carefully examine your budget, feature needs, and how you plan to use your RV. For occasional weekend and vacation trips, a basic 4-point system may suffice, while frequent extended travel or full timing could justify deluxe auto-leveling. Proper site selection and parking technique can also minimize the need. Think through the pros and cons outlined to decide if fancy push-button levelers are really worth stretching your dollars.

About Author