RV travel can be a rewarding and liberating experience, but RV travel can also have its fair share of headaches and roadway stresses along the way. Discovering ways to smooth out a travel route or easily being able to find a place to spend the night can make a world of difference, especially when you are trying to enjoy your hard-earned vacation. Buying the perfect RV GPS for you and your RV can be an important investment, and you will want to make sure that you have done your research to select what will be best for you!
There are several things to consider when shopping for an RV GPS. In addition, it is also important to understand the advantages of owning a GPS, versus simply using maps on your mobile phone, a paper road atlas, or the old TomTom in your commuter car. Beyond those advantages, you are also probably wondering, is an RV GPS better, how does it work, and what features should I be looking for?
Together, we will walk through the many advantages of using an RV specific GPS, how these devices work, what features should be considered, and the different models that are available on the market. If this does not answer all your RV navigation questions, you may seek the answers in our Frequently Asked Questions section, located at the end of this article.
Advantages of owning an RV Specific GPS
A wide array of GPS systems is available on the market, with the most popular being the free Google Maps app, which you can install on your mobile phone. Google Maps is a great option, if you are okay with the smaller screen size, data usage charges, and the possibility of the GPS system failing when you are out of cell-signal coverage area. This system does offer wonderful updates to the maps, the option to layer in traffic conditions, as well as very specific written and spoken directions.
Nevertheless, many free options out there do not take into consideration all the aspects of driving an RV. They may take you down routes that include tight turns, U-turns, low underpasses or clearance areas, small roadways, bridges with weight constrictions, or congested downtown routes with no large vehicle parking areas.
Having an RV specific GPS system can help you to avoid all the problems listed above, and more! Most of them allow you to use route planning and have spoken direction features. Some of them give you the option of saving addresses and locations for future use, fuel management options, and will even give you recommendations for places to stay, complete with the correct RV hook-ups. An this is not all, having an RV navigation system will usually allow you to program the weight and size of your recreational vehicle, camper, trailer, or truck, so it will be able to guide you down the most drivable and fastest possible routes.
How Does an RV GPS Work?
Between the satellites, ground stations, and receivers, your GPS will be able to navigate and locate destinations quite easily. Some high-end and high-tech receivers can pinpoint locations within inches, giving your RV navigation system unbeatable precision. However, most of the new versions of RV GPS that are on the market will have features far beyond simple navigation. Depending on the amount you are willing to invest in a GPS for your RVing experience, you can find a GPS with additional features, including Bluetooth, text-to-speech, and even weather updates.
Common RV GPS Features and What to Look for Before Buying
Several different RV specific navigation systems are available on the market today, and some of these can be rather pricey. With that in mind, it is a good idea to consider what exactly you want the GPS to do for you.
The first thing to consider when purchasing an RV GPS is – how easy is it to install and how easy is it to actually use when you are on the road? You may want to look into how fast the device can load information and maps as well, so you do not have to wait a long time for it to load each time you are looking up something new. Another consideration of easy use is – does it has a touch screen or buttons outside of the screen? In general, touch screen controls tend to be easier to use than button controls, and last longer too.
Beyond that, you will want to look into the specific unit, to see how easy the device is to mount and/or install. There are some rather complex RV Navigation systems on the market, which require a specialist to install correctly, but others are as simple as a suction cup mount onto the windshield.
Frequency of Travel
How much you will want to spend on a GPS for your RV trips, will largely depend on how often you are planning to travel. If you plan to simply take one road trip each year in your RV, then there may be no need to get a high-end device, you may well get away with simply using Google Maps or another GPS app on your cell phone! However, if you plan to travel in your RV every vacation or are retiring and transitioning to a life on the road, then it is best to look for a device that will last a long time, offers lifetime map updates, and has all of the features that you desire.
Size of the GPS Device
This becomes a necessary consideration mostly when you need a specific screen size and portability functions. If you are looking for an RV Navigation system that is easy to consult while driving, then you may want to consider one with a larger screen, and possibly even getting a sunshade attachment to protect against glare.
In general, a screen size of five inches or larger is easy to see at a glance and allows you to keep your focus on the road while driving. Some people will look for a GPS that is small enough to carry in a purse or pocket. This may limit the screen size (depending on the size of the purse), so it will be up to you, as to which is the most vital element to choose for your GPS – screen size or portability.
Memory space on your RV GPS is only really important if you are looking for a device onto which you can load points of interest or extra maps (not preloaded). Some navigation systems come with a micro or SD slot, which will allow you to load other necessary items for your trip.
This special feature can be a decisive factor for some people when buying a GPS, because not having to split one’s focus between keeping one eye on the map on the screen and the road ahead, keeps everyone much safer while traveling. The text-to-speech on most GPS devices will announce directions such as turns, vital intersections, or sudden re-routing, to keep you updated as you drive. It is also important to note the volume levels available on the device. Some of the cheaper options may come with the text-to-speech option, but this will be of little to no use, if you cannot hear it over the noise of the road.
Wi-Fi and Bluetooth Capabilities
A navigation device with Bluetooth capabilities is not really necessary, but it can make some things a lot easier. You can pair it with your smartphone to dial phone numbers and take phone calls handsfree. As for a built-in Wi-Fi, this does not necessarily make your GPS a hotspot, but it does allow for a variety of other features, including checking weather updates, fuel prices, traffic conditions, or even checking your email when on the road.
Predictive Data Entry
If anything, having a predictive data entry feature will allow for faster and easier location searches. When entering city names and certain addresses, the on-screen keyboard feature will highlight and display commonly searched places, after you type just a few characters.
Maps and Navigation
Now, this is likely the most important feature to consider when deciding which GPS to use during your RV adventures. This is the very reason you wanted such a system after all. Buying a GPS that has uploadable and updateable lifetime maps is very important, to ensure that you stay up-to-date no matter when or where you travel. In addition to this, you will want a device that has the ability to show traffic conditions, as well as potential hazards for your RV.
Types of GPS
The type of GPS you invest in for your RV will largely depend on two things: the price you are willing to pay and the specific features you want it to have. If you are looking for the most affordable options, other than the free Google Maps, there is a downloadable app specifically designed for RV navigation, called the CoPilot, which sells for about $60. This is downloadable to your mobile phone or even a tablet, if you need a larger screen. If you want a device that is strictly for use in your RV, then we suggest looking into brands like Garmin, TomTom, Magellan, and Rand McNally. All of these companies make GPS devices that are specifically designed for RVs, campers, or even truck drivers.
Frequently Asked Questions
If you are looking for the lowest prices and the best deals, then you should look online at websites like Amazon and eBay. However, if you aren’t as concerned about the price, and want to support smaller, local business owners, consider your local computer or camping store. You may also be able to find an RV GPS in the stores of large chains like Wal-Mart and Best Buy.
Yes, definitely! Especially if you are looking at any of the cheaper devices. However, many warranties only last for about five years on many of the devices on the market, and only cover issues under very specific conditions. In this area, we recommend that you fully understand the warranty agreement, to be sure you get what you paid for in the end.
Yes and no. Be careful, especially when buying online, check to see if the device you are buying is still being produced. Some brands that advertise lifetime map updates, will stop providing them once the product is discontinued. However, with the more reliable companies, such as Garmin, you can be sure of receiving updates for as long as your device operates.
In the end, you need to look for a device that can get you where you need to go, without worrying about the fine details like weather and road or traffic conditions. This can be an overwhelming task, but with proper research and understanding of your needs as a traveler, you will be able to find the GPS that is a perfect fit for all your RV adventures! If you have any nagging questions regarding specific models of RV GPS, consider calling the respective company’s customer service lines and asking them directly. This way, you will get answers fast and from a reliable source.