Best RV GPS: Control Your Routing Preferences
Find the best route to your favorite camping destination with any of our top picks for the best RV GPS
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BY Norah Tarichia / LAST UPDATED ON May 10, 2019
RVs follow a different set of laws on the road when navigating through different routes due to their weight and size. For that reason, standard GPS units are not efficient in meeting the needs of most modern recreational vehicles. That’s why you need one of the best GPS units for RVs to help you maneuver through sharp curves, narrow roads, state borders, lateral winds, and overhead trees, among other stressful situations. Here’s our buying guide for some of the best RV GPS units that will make traveling and locating destinations easier.
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All of our reviews are based on market research, expert input, or practical experience with most products we include. This way, we offer genuine, accurate guides to help you find the best picks.
Why Buy an RV GPS?
- Convenience. If you are a lone traveler, it may get hard to rely on your smartphone for directions. Furthermore, you may find yourself pulling your RV to the side a couple of times to read the information on your smartphone. Most RV GPS tablets typically have a larger screen than most smartphones, and you won’t have to strain your eyes to read the directions; the information is typically presented in a clear manner and in a well-lit background.
- Focus on the road. Some RV GPS systems come with voice command software, where the driver speaks out his intended destination, and the system speaks out the directions for the driver to follow. Therefore, the driver doesn’t have to keep on checking the screen for any changes in the route and can also experience hands-free calling via Bluetooth.
- Entertainment. Most GPS units have a large storage capacity where you can store your music for entertainment when you are on a road trip. Some have FM receivers that provide you with entertainment from your favorite radio stations, and with Bluetooth functionality, you can play the songs that are on your smartphone.
- Stay on the best roads. RVs are large and heavy, and for that reason, they need to stay on roads that will help the driver avoid low bridges, heavy traffic, narrow roads, weight limits, and roads with plenty of cyclists. Most GPS systems feature live traffic and weather updates, and you will always know what to expect on a specific route.
- Access the best RV amenities. Most RV GPS systems for travel come preloaded with millions of points of interest. They essentially help the driver access amenities such as hotels, restaurants, service shops, gas stations, recreational centers, and health centers.
Garmin is one of the best manufacturers of GPS navigation systems for the marine, aviation, automotive, and fitness industries. It has more than 30 years of manufacturing experience and operates in over 60 countries worldwide. The company is currently based in the United States and one of its best-selling RV GPS systems is the Garmin RV 785 GPS Navigator.
TomTom is a multinational organization that manufactures navigation and mapping products. The company manufactures cameras, fleet management systems, GPS sports watches, and vehicle GPS systems from its headquarters in Amsterdam, Netherlands. One of its best-rated GPS systems for RV and trucking is the TomTom GO 520 GPS Navigation Device.
Rand McNally is a renowned brand that consistently delivers when it comes to top-notch navigation tools and aids. Rand McNally has more than 150 years of experience in the manufacturing industry, and its tools are made from the best-in-class technology to promote mapping accuracy and road safety. One of its prime RV GPS navigation systems is the Rand McNally TND 740.
RV GPS Pricing
- Under $150: Most RV GPS systems at this price range only offer basic navigation features. You may find either some GPS tablets from a few high-end brands that are old versions or refurbished tablets.
- $150-$300: Budget around this much if you are looking for a GPS unit that offers advanced navigation features with a few frills like voice-command software, live traffic updates, Bluetooth functionality, and large storage capacity.
- Above $300: This is the price range for most new and improved GPS tablets from high-end brands. The tablets carry an RV user-specific interface that’s meant to help an RV driver find the easiest, fastest, and most fuel-efficient route to their destination. However, most have a short battery life due to the extra features.
A large screen is easier to read and manipulate than a small one. You will also spend less time reading directions on a large screen. A large screen, however, takes up a lot of space on a dashboard and may block your view, especially if it’s at the center of the dashboard. Go for a small screen if you always drive with a passenger; they can read the directions for you, and it’s more economical.
Your GPS unit should let you stay up-to-date with traffic to help you save on time. This feature will come in handy, especially if you commute on a strict schedule or a fixed route. You will get an update if there’s a road closure, accident, speed trap, or anything that may cause you delays. The traffic tracking feature capitalizes on location and real-time tracking to provide you with accurate traffic information.
The gadget ought to have easy-to-learn controls and simple features. Otherwise, the driver’s concentration will be shifted from the road to the gadget. Simplicity in operation entails voice-operated software, touchscreen operation, zooming feature, accurate routing, Bluetooth functionality, compatibility with other devices, and other driver assist features that keep the driver’s eyes on the road.
- Battery Life: If you don’t mind having your GPS tablet always connected to the power backup in your RV, then battery life shouldn’t be a big issue for you. However, if you need a portable GPS that you can use away from your RV, look for a device with a battery life of at least two hours.
- Storage Capacity: Go for a GPS model with a lot of memory to accommodate new software, points of interest, maps, or music. In addition, it would be a bonus if the GPS tablet has a memory expansion slot; it can help you store more information if your GPS system has limited memory.
- Mounting: The RV GPS system should have a steady arm that connects the device to the suction cup. You should mount it in an area where you can view the tablet easily. Moreover, the device should be easy to attach and detach from the mounting system.
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- Avoid buying GPS systems with a gooseneck arm. They tend to vibrate a lot when the vehicle is in motion, and it gets worse when you get on a rough road. The tablet could also fall off and crack if the suction cup comes loose.
- Always ensure that your smartphone is within 33 feet from the GPS tablet if you would like to maintain a perfect connection between the two.
- Always ensure that your GPS device’s data communications is enabled to improve signal acquisition time. This will enable your device to give you an accurate estimation of your expected time of arrival and traffic updates in a given location.
Q: What general issues should I expect when using an RV GPS?
A: One common problem you may encounter with high-performance GPS navigation systems is short battery life. Also, some GPS systems have a loose micro SD slot and a poor display. Check if the product has a warranty or purchase a GPS tablet from a reputable source to avoid such inconveniences.
Q: Is an RV GPS reliable at camping sites with overgrown trees?
A: It depends on how good the signal receiver is. Some GPS systems perform poorly in areas with large trees, tall buildings, or tunnels, as they are blocked from getting a clear signal. However, if you have a portable GPS system, you could walk around before the battery dies and get to a higher or clear point where the GPS system can get a signal.
Q: What should I do if my smartphone doesn’t connect to the GPS?
A: If you are sure that the GPS unit is Bluetooth compatible, turn both your smartphone and the GPS off and turn them on again. Turn on the Bluetooth on your smartphone and try to reconnect it again. Alternatively, download the GPS system manufacturer’s app on your smartphone and try reconnecting to the GPS tablet via the app.
We chose the Garmin RV 785 GPS Navigator as our best pick since it is a top-quality product with a large screen and RV-specific routing technology.
If you would like a decently priced device that performs just as well as most high-end products, you should buy the TomTom GO 520 GPS Navigation Device.