Last Updated on April 15, 2023 by Jessica Lauren Vine
Are you asking, “Is a
RV-specific GPS units offer many advantages over other navigation methods.
What is an RV GPS?
An RV GPS is a traditional GPS navigation device that has features and functions specific to RV users. The main feature of an RV GPS is the ability to plot courses that your specific RV can navigate safely. To achieve this, the GPS allows you to enter the specific parameters of your RV like RV type (trailer, 5th wheel, or motorhome), total length, height, weight, and number of propane tanks. It uses that information to choose a route that avoids overpasses that are too low, roads that are too narrow, and bridges where your rig would exceed the weight limitations. It will also steer you clear of turns you can’t make and humps in the road, which will cause clearance issues.
The GPS will also alert you to laws pertaining to your propane tanks. For example, when you enter the State of New York, you’ll be alerted to make sure your propane tanks are off while you travel. New York State law does not allow vehicles to travel on public roads with open propane tanks. You’ll also be alerted to Federal Laws pertaining to propane tanks like those in place for tunnel passage.
While in RV mode, your RV GPS will alert you to steep grades, sharp corners, animal crossings, and other known safety hazards that are of particular interest to RVers. Time to destination is also calculated differently. RVs tend to travel slower, and my
There are several other features these GPSs provide which are great for RVers. First, they include a trip planning function that allows you to enter all the destinations along your route. You can then save that as a trip and recall it later. When you are on the trip, you can quickly choose the leg you are on and be on your way. Next, these are Bluetooth-capable devices that can pair with your phone via the
Finally, your RV GPS will note points of interest along the route, including RV parks, upcoming rest areas, and RV-friendly fuel stations. All valuable information that non-RV GPS units will ignore.
Two GPS in One
Garmin RV GPSs also feature a standard automobile mode. Switching to this mode is as easy as clicking the vehicle icon and choosing the car instead of the RV. You’ll be greeted with a warning that the RV specific features will not be available while traveling in the auto mode. While in this mode, routes are calculated like any standard car-specific
How Does It Work?
To understand the benefits and pitfalls of a
This seems to be a general classification as to whether or not a road is known to be able to handle RV traffic in general. If they don’t know it can handle RV traffic, then it is classified as “RV Access Unknown”. These designations don’t have anything to do with your specific RV. They are just general routing information applied to all RVs.
When you plot a course, the GPS will always try and to send you on roads that are “RV Access Known.” Within that group, it will scan for obstacles that would cause problems for your specific RV. If it finds any, it will route you around those obstacles using the best options of available routes. Again, the preference will always be to route you on “RV Access Known” roads.
“RV Access Unknown” doesn’t mean you can’t drive your RV safely on that road, and there are circumstances where the GPS will send you down those roads. The most common circumstances are when there are no other options, like the road(s) leading into your destination campground or RV park. This seems counterintuitive since a road with an RV park on it would most certainly be RV accessible, but many RV parks are located down less-traveled roads.
That low level of traffic probably makes them a low priority for classification. I would recommend when making reservations at campgrounds always ask or look on their website, for their recommended directions to the park. If there are multiple routes and they are all “RV Access Unkown” with no known obstacles, then the GPS will choose the route based on your preference settings.
There you have options like route by shortest time, route by shortest distance, avoid tolls, etc. We’ve been sent down some crazy roads heading into a park when the best, and much easier way, was another road a mile or two past the turn off we took. We would have known that had we asked when we made the reservation.
But I have Wayz, Google Maps, Apple Maps, etc. – Those work fine, don’t they?
Those phone apps are great, and we use them for a second opinion to compare possible routes with the RV GPS. Also, while the
There are a couple of places where these apps fall short. First is they will route you places where you can’t go. Before getting our Garmin, we were using Wayz, and it routed us around a road closure down a road with a 12’ bridge clearance. Our trailer is 11’ 6”, so we did fit under it, but just barely. I programmed the
The bigger issue is the reliance on cell service that these apps require. If you travel a lot, particularly in the western US you can drive hours with no or very poor cell service. This prevents maps from loading and can cause a navigation failure with these apps. Most of them do allow you to pre-download maps for an area, allowing it to work when it loses cell service. Unfortunately, you have to remember to do that before you lose service. Once service is gone, then you’re out of luck until you get to a place where service is available. The
Are RV GPS Perfect?
No navigational tool is perfect. Even paper maps can have errors on them, and they certainly don’t show current road closures and traffic issues. The biggest issue I’ve found with our RV GPS is also the key to its success. When it routes, it chooses known safe routes. That doesn’t mean that there are not safe routes that are shorter and faster out there. It sends you where it knows it’s safe, if it doesn’t know, then it won’t route you that way unless it’s the only available route and it doesn’t know of a specific issue on that road.
A classic example of this can be found driving down US 101 along the Oregon coast – a drive everyone should do at least once. A few miles north of Florence, Oregon, US 101 passes through the Haceta Head Cape Creek Tunnel. This tunnel has a steeply arched roof. The low point of the tunnel is marked at 11’ 6”, but that is at the outside edge of the shoulder of the road. The arch quickly rises to 14’ 6” at the white shoulder line.
Nowhere over the actual roadway is the ceiling below the 12’ I have the GPS set to. Regardless,
So, it can have bad data or no data, which can force it to route you in odd ways. The tunnel incident occurred a few years and several map updates ago. If I recheck the route today, the same GPS with updated maps no longer routes around that tunnel. For these reasons, you should always update your maps before a major trip, do your research, and rely on multiple routing methods to find the best route.
When are RV GPSs worth the extra cost?
There are several instances where RV GPS justify its costs. If you fall into any of these scenarios, you should seriously consider getting one.
- You travel or plan to travel through unfamiliar territory. The biggest benefit to any RV GPS is its ability to keep you out of trouble while you travel.
- You travel or plan to travel over significant distances. This goes along with #1. If you travel over long distances you will likely travel through unfamiliar territory. In addition to keeping you out of trouble, the RV GPS will usually plot the most efficient route based on your specific RV parameters.
- You travel a lot through remote areas with poor cell reception. Satellite-based GPS units do not rely on cell phone signals to operate. There are large swaths of the US where a lack of cell signals will cripple your cellphone-based navigation apps and potentially leave wandering unguided.
- You’re a traveling full time RVer. Traveling full time RVers will need solid navigational tools to guide them through their journeys. The initial cost of an RV GPS may seem high, but if it’s something you use every day or several times per week or month, then the cost is much easier to justify. If you are a full timer and travel a lot then an RV specific GPS is a must-have.
- Your RV is large. The larger your RV is, the more benefit you’ll gain from having an RV GPS. If you’re towing a tiny teardrop trailer or traveling in a small class B RV, then there will be far fewer obstacles the RV GPS will direct you around. Basically, the more car-like your RV the less you’ll really need the RV specific features of an RV GPS. In those cases, you can still get the benefits of a satellite-based GPS system (no reliance on a cell signal) in a much cheaper unit designed for passenger vehicles.
When are RV GPSs not worth it?
- You travel only in familiar places. If you use your RV to go to local places that you are familiar with then you won’t need the extra features of an RV GPS. You know the roads and the rules in the area, so there’s really nothing an RV GPS would offer you over and above a GPS phone app.
- If you have a small RV. Many Class Bs and small travel trailers are small enough that they are essentially passenger car class vehicles. Given that, the only benefits to an RV GPS would be the build in database of points of interest and RV parks. $400 – $700 is a steep price to pay for that considering there are many free apps that provide equal or better access to similar information. Car-specific GPSs will give you satellite navigation capability and maybe even the hands-free features at a much lower cost.
RV GPS units are a great way to plot your course. They are pricey, but if you travel a lot in unfamiliar territory, that initial cost can easily be offset by saving you from costly route planning mistakes. Like any tool, they are not perfect, but they are definitely worth the cost for any serious RV traveler.
Here you can see the
Garmin RV GPS Frequently Asked Questions
Now you’ve seen a lot about
Is a Garmin RV GPS too expensive?
A Garmin RV GPS is well worth the money for people that plan on traveling a lot.
Do Garmin RV GPSs offer lifetime maps?
Yes. Garmin RV GPSs offer lifetime maps.
Garmin RV GPS Worth It? – Conclusion
Now you know the answer to “Is a
- GPS Navigator for RVs
- Preloaded Campgrounds
- Custom Routing
- Easy-to-see 8" display
- Considers size & weight of RV
- Sturdy magnetic powered magnet
- No big rig restaurant info