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Life in a recreational vehicle or mobile home is not for everyone — but those who choose it often love it. There’s a sense of freedom, being able to travel the country and set up home just about anywhere. One of the ways of maintaining a sense of coziness in an RV is keeping all the creature comforts that you’d find in a stationary home. That is why many people with RVs get satellite dishes.
What is an RV satellite dish?
An RV satellite dish is essentially a mobile receptor that lives on your vehicle. Instead of running a cable wire through your home that delivers an internet connection or TV broadcast to your home, an RV satellite dish receives the necessary signal from satellites orbiting the earth. In the case of the internet, radio waves bouncing back and forth from your RV dish and satellites in low earth orbit are used to send and receive data. A signal is sent from the satellite to a network operations center, then is beamed to your dish. Your actions are sent back to the satellite — and the messages keep pinging back and forth to enable you to browse the web, watch streaming content or even play games.
For TV, a similar process occurs. A satellite TV provider uses satellites to beam down content to your RV satellite dish. Typically, the company’s have agreements with different content providers and networks to broadcast their channels. Your satellite receives these signals and then broadcasts them via your TV or display. The end result is very much like watching traditional cable TV, except there is no hardwired connection that holds you in place.
RV satellite dishes are great options for those who are looking for a way to stay connected while living on the go. Whether you’re looking for a serviceable internet connection to stay in contact with people via the internet or enjoy streaming platforms while on the go, or a TV dish to watch broadcast television no matter where you are, an RV satellite dish can help keep you connected.
How we choose the best RV satellite dish
Deciding what RV satellite dish is best for you will depend on what you are looking for. Do you want to stay connected via the internet or do you want to watch TV? How often are you planning on using it and how reliable a connection will you need? We researched dozens of different RV satellite dishes to determine the best for different situations, taking into account functionality, price, and customer reviews, among other things. Here is what we took into account when making recommendations:
- Supported speeds
- Price and value
- Specific customer reviews
- What it’s best for: budgets, speeds, all-in-one, etc.
Best overall RV satellite dish: Winegard TRAV’LER
- Multiple, simultaneous TV viewing
- Automatically locates satellites
- Up to 3 receivers
- Compatible with Dish and Bell TV
When it comes to mobile TV, you’d be hard pressed to find a better way to stay connected than the Winegard TRAV’LER. This RV satellite dish is capable of receiving a satellite TV signal from both DISH and Bell TV. More importantly, it’s capable of broadcasting to multiple TVs at the same time — and receiving information from multiple satellites at the same time, too. The result is a mobile TV experience that is just like being at home.
While this satellite isn’t compatible with all satellite TV providers, it is among the best out there for some of the more popular providers available. Expect solid coverage in most parts of the country, according to customer reviews. It’s also a great choice for families who may have multiple TVs running at the same time.
Best budget RV satellite dish: DISH Tailgater Pro
- Portable and roof-mountable
- DISH service
A lot of satellite dishes are pricey, however, the DISH Tailgater Pro provides a solid connection without breaking the bank. It’s a relatively simple device, offering very easy set-up and operation. That also means it’s a little light on features, but it will provide you with a reliable TV signal basically anywhere. It communicates with both eastern and western satellites, meaning you should have a signal basically anywhere in the country.
If there’s a downside to this RV satellite dish, it’s the fact that it is only compatible with DISH TV — though that is one of the largest satellite TV providers, so it should work for most people. Aside from that, this is a great mobile TV dish, weather-resistant and capable of receiving a signal almost anywhere.
Best RV satellite dish for rural areas: DataSat 840
- Broad coverage across the U.S.
- Wireless router included
- Automatic connection with satellites
- Simple installation
If you’re going to be spending a lot of time in remote or rural areas, finding internet connections including Wi-Fi hotspots or cellular connections is going to be a challenge. That’s where the DataSat 840 comes in. This mobile internet satellite for RVs is capable of providing a reliable internet connection across the country, including in areas that are otherwise underserved by traditional internet providers.
Let’s be clear — the DataSat 840 is not cheap. You’ll want to make sure that you have the budget for this satellite. But if you’re going to be spending lots of time on the road, including in rural places, this simple to set up satellite is a great option. Expect an easy connection and wireless internet throughout your RV.
Best general purpose RV satellite dish: Winegard RoadTrip
- Automatic satellite detection
- DISH, DirectTV and Bell TV supported
- Improved tracking over previous models
- One button operation
If you’re looking for an RV satellite dish that is compatible with all of the major satellite TV providers, then the Winegard RoadTrip is your best bet. This dish is capable of connecting with DISH, DIRECTV and Bell TV. That means no matter what service you choose to use, you should have no problem getting the service that you pay for.
The Winegard RoadTrip connects to satellites automatically so there is minimal configuration required on your part. One-button connection makes set up simple, and this version of the dish boasts improved tracking for finding satellites. You can only watch on one TV at a time, but other than that, this dish is tough to beat.
RV satellite dish buying tips
- Decide if you want internet or TV
- Make sure you will get decent reception in the areas you’ll be traveling
- Check to see if the dish is mobile or stationary
- Decide on your budget
Interested in RV internet?
While satellite internet is available, it is not always the most reliable option. There are other ways to stay connected while on the road, though they may be more limited. Consider a mobile hotspot, an unlimited mobile data plan or free Wi-Fi hotspots that may be available to you.
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Written by:AJ Dellinger
AJ Dellinger is a writer and editor based in Madison, WI. He has spent the last 10 years writing about the internet, gadgets, technology and a variety of other topics. His work has appeared in Wired, Gizmodo, CN… Read more
Edited by:Robin Layton
Editor, Broadband Content
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