Navigation is one of the most challenging parts of traveling in an RV. There are tons of GPS systems out there, but only some of them are tailored towards RV travel, and even then, it can be hard to choose the right unit because of how unreliable some of them can be. To make things easier for you, we spent over 45 hours comparing GPS's to figure out which ones offer the best solution for RV'ers. After careful consideration, we’d recommend the Garmin RV 760LMT as the best RV GPS system because it’s easy to use, extremely accurate, and offers tons of valuable information for RV owners like custom routing, points of interest, hazard alerts, and more. Article Summary
Whether you have a planned route or you’re just going with the flow, navigation is one of the most important parts of road tripping in an RV. Since RV’s are much larger and heavier than the average car or truck, you need to make sure you’re traveling on roads that can accommodate that size and weight. While maps and smartphones are certainly an option, the only legitimate way to know if you are on a trustworthy route is to use a GPS system that’s made specifically with RV’s in mind.
These days, most GPS technology is great, but when it comes to RV capability, functionality can vary (which you’re probably well aware of). The most obvious issue is with reliability. Even in a regular passenger car, we’ve all had experiences where GPS has sent us down the wrong road. It might not be a big deal in a Honda Civic, but in a 35-foot Winnebago, that can lead to serious problems. On top of unreliability, there are other issues that have to do with lack of features like RV hazards, points of interest, and profiling (where you can enter your RV’s height, weight, length, and width to ensure you’re taken down appropriate paths).
Given the feature-packed nature of GPS units, it can be difficult trying to remember every little detail
you’re looking for when you’re comparing several different models. To save you time (and headaches), we put in over 45 hours of research comparing over a dozen GPS systems. When judging models, we made sure to go over all the common needs of RV’ers, including ease of use, accuracy, detail, and more. We also checked all the usual qualities like reliability, connectivity, and battery life. With all things considered, we picked the three units below as the best RV GPS systems on the market.
The best RV GPS overall
Garmin is one of the most well-known GPS manufacturers out there, so it really comes as no surprise that a unit bearing their logo was our top pick. The Garmin RV 760LMT is one of the only RV-specific systems on the market, and it is jam-packed with impressive and practical features that will keep you on the road and out of a bind.
When you look over the features and specifications list of the RV 760LMT, it’s clear that Garmin really did their research to understand the common wants and complaints of motorhome drivers. It starts with an extra-large 7” display that’s highly detailed yet very easy to read, followed up with powerful speakers to ensure you can hear them regardless of road and cab noise. The standard display screen lists the map (of course), along with speed, arrival time, directions, and more. Those are just the basics, though – the real value goes much deeper than that.
Everyone knows that the biggest issue with driving an RV is finding the right roads. All RV’s are differently sized, and roads are constantly changing, which means your GPS needs to stay on top of these two things if it’s going to truly help you. Well, that’s exactly what the RV 760LMT does. This system comes out of the box with incredibly details maps that cover all of the US and Canada, but most importantly, these maps are constantly updated (for life, no extra cost) and include all types of information an RV’er needs. They keep track of changing roads, traffic, RV service locations, points of interest (like national parks, campgrounds, landmarks), and nearly every type of RV-related restriction or hazard (low bridges, steep hills, sharp curves, narrow roads, etc.). They’ll even notify you of bad weather or overhanging trees.
On top of that, the Garmin system allows you to profile. In other words, you can enter your RV’s height, weight, length, and width to ensure you’re only routed through paths that can handle those size requirements. If you enter in your destination at the start of your drive using the built-in trip planner, you will automatically be directed down the safest route and verbally warned ahead of time if any hazards come your way. However, not everyone has a set destination, but that’s perfectly fine too. No matter what route you’re driving, whether planned or unplanned, you will be verbally notified far ahead of time if you need to prepare for an interstate change or if you’re approaching a hazard.
With all this talk of verbal notifications, it’s important to mention the RV 760LMT’s voice command software. Think of this kind of like Siri for the iPhone. You can talk to it, and it can talk to you. And thankfully, this is not one of those voice commands that can’t understand anything you say – it actually works very well. Looking for the next turn, a gas station or a nearby landmark? Simply tell your GPS and it will give you the information and directions you need. Garmin boasts that its Real Voice software “guides like a friend” rather than the average robotic virtual assistant.
Overall, it’s easy to see why Garmin’s RV 760LMT earned our top spot as the best RV GPS unit. It offers the most attention to detail out of any other RV GPS system, with a whole host of unique solutions to help easily, accurately, and safely guide you through uncharted territory. It’s even compatible with a backup camera, for those who wish to use one.
A good runner-up
The closest contender to Garmin in the RV GPS segment comes from Magellan. Their RoadMate RV 9365T-LMB offers many of the same features as Garmin’s RV system, it’s just different in certain areas (in some cases more detail; in other cases, less). We’ll talk about the differences to help you decide which unit is right for you.
Like our top pick from Garmin, the RoadMate RV 9365T-LMB boasts a 7” display. The interface isn’t quite as user-friendly when it comes time to put fingers to it, but as far the display itself goes, it’s easy to read and lists nearly all the same information, including current speed, limit, and directions. The unit also offers a similar voice assistant for things like questions, calls, and traffic alerts – again, it isn’t quite on the same level as Garmin in terms of intuitiveness, but it gets the job done nonetheless. One cool feature that it does include is a traffic camera alert to help you stay ticket-free from unexpected red light and speed limit cameras.
When it comes to travel and mapping, Magellan is right on par. It offers RV profiling so you can enter your RV’s dimensions and get a personalized route that is sure to fit your standards, and on top of that, there are even a few additional driving preferences you can select including “Avoid Unpaved Roads”, “No U-Turns”, and more. Magellan’s software also includes the Good Sam RV Travel Guide and Directory, which is a database of more than 14,000 campgrounds and travel points for RV’ers to visit. Since you’ve got lifetime software updates too, you can count on all your mapping and POI’s to stay current as the years go on.
The main area we felt the Magellan was slightly lacking in is their focus on RV hazards, which contributed to its position as our second pick instead of the top spot. Garmin makes a big deal about their focus on tracking RV hazards (low bridges, sharp curves, bad weather, etc.) to keep your driving as safe as possible. Magellan, on the other hand, doesn’t make much mention of it. Their customized RV routing system still does a great job at keeping you on safe roadways, but we liked Garmin’s attention to detail in this section as we believe it shows where their priorities are.
Although the Magellan RoadMate RV 7365T-LMB isn’t quite as intuitive as our top pick, it’s still one of the best RV GPS units out there. With personalized driving preferences and connection to one of the biggest campground directories on the planet, it’s sure to keep you safe and boost your experience while on the road.
A bigger GPS that doubles as a tablet
Rand McNally won our third and final spot with their impressive RV Tablet 80. As the name implies, this is a GPS system that doubles as a tablet. That might sound strange, but it can actually be pretty useful thanks to its larger size and extra functionality. It’s slightly more expensive than other GPS systems, but it’s great for those who want to really get as much as possible from their technology.
Like most tablets, the RV Tablet 80 has a larger-than-average screen – 8”, to be exact. Most standard GPS units are in the 5-7” range, so this is perfect for those with poor eyesight or those who just prefer to have a bigger screen over a smaller one. The interface is nice and clean and designed in an app-like format to keep things familiar to a smartphone, and the display shows you a ton of different information while driving.
Working on an Android operating system, this tablet is able to offer a level of advanced detail and features that most other GPS’s can’t grasp. The map on the screen is as detailed as the one on your smartphone, and you have a much larger variety of options that help you get the most use from the system. Like you would expect from an RV-specific GPS, it offers vehicle profiling and customized RV routing to keep you on the safest roads for your personal motorhome. But that’s not all! It goes even further by estimating toll costs, offering an advance lane guidance system, and even operating as a dash cam to record your adventures (plus it’s back-up cam ready, but as usual you have to purchase that extra).
The RV Tablet 80 mounts to your RV’s window just like any other GPS would, but because it doubles as a tablet, you can detach it from the window mount and carry it around just like you would with an iPad. But why would you want to do that? Who needs to carry a GPS around with them? Going back to the mention of their advanced operating system, this isn’t just a GPS; there are a number of features that warrant its usage. First, there’s a built-in camera on the back which you can use to snap photos and videos of your adventures. In addition, the advanced mapping is useful when the RV is parked and you’re walking through an unfamiliar town or hiking and uncharted area. For people who don’t have tablets of their own, this can seriously come in handy.
The biggest drawbacks to this GPS are its price and the customer reviews. Since it’s a GPS and tablet in one, the price is quite a bit higher than most other units that are strictly GPS systems. The price increase is understandable, but not everyone wants to pay several hundred dollars more just for regular tablet functionality. The customer reviews also present a little bit of concern over the consistency of the tablet. Some people mention issues with the software freezing, and others talk about how information remains outdated (which it isn’t supposed to be, since it comes with lifetime updates). These are just some things to consider if you plan to look into the RV Tablet 80 further.
Overall, the Rand McNally RV Tablet 80 is an impressive piece of tech that offers a lot of extra functionality over a traditional GPS system. It’s obviously not for everyone since not everyone cares to have their GPS double as a tablet, but those that are interested will find it a pleasure to use.
How we picked our top three
Because of how complex GPS systems are, we spent a lot of time studying the features and differences between each model. We took our time and didn’t rush anything to ensure we had the most correct information and recommendations. We also used a certain set of criteria to judge the different contenders, which we’ll explain below.
It goes without saying that our main priority was to search for GPS systems that were specifically made for RV usage. However, even once we narrowed things down to RV-specific units, there was still a lot of variation between quality, functionality, and general accuracy. Knowing the common needs of RV owners, we looked for the following features and more:
• Vehicle profiling, which is the ability to enter in your RV’s specific height, weight, length, and width in order to get a personalized route that is guaranteed to safely accommodate your vehicle. This typically includes rest areas, parking, etc.
• Hazard alerts, which tracks RV-related hazards and restrictions, from physical issues like low bridges, overhanging trees, narrow roads, and sharp turns to nonphysical issues like weather.
• Service and repair locations, which is a list of service and repair shops that work on RV’s in case you encounter technical difficulties (Camping World has a great PROCARE service to check out).
• Points of interest, which is a list of locations like campgrounds, national and state parks, landmarks, and other places RV’ers might be interested in visiting.
Standard GPS features
Although RV-specific features were at the top of our priority list, those won’t do you much good if the basics aren’t done right! We looked at software from a usability perspective to make sure it was easy to operate for users of any age, and we also looked at the level of detail in their mapping system. We looked at battery life, connectivity, interface speed, Bluetooth/Wi-Fi capabilities, and more to make sure each GPS we selected in our top three truly offered the best performance in every area possible.
Having the most comprehensive mapping software out there isn’t going to do you much good if it is never updated. Streets, roads and even interstate systems change frequently, and not having the most recent depiction of where you’re at and where you’re going is going to add up to a pretty rough time getting from point A to point B. Update availability is extremely important, which is why we did our due diligence to ensure that all of our top picks had lifetime updates – so you don’t have to worry about how to hop onto an onramp that no longer exists.
Screen size and quality
We didn’t dwell too much on the physical aspects of GPS units when determining our top picks, as most look more or less the same. However, the size and quality of the screen is always good to consider. After all, if you can’t see the screen from wherever it’s mounted or can’t read things at a quick glance, it’s missing one of the key elements that makes GPS systems convenient. Size, resolution, backlight and even the design of the software itself are all factors that are going to affect visibility and can be very “make or break” for a GPS unit. The units we chose for our list were all large-size and high resolution for safety and to reduce eye strain on the road.
Things to consider before buying
GPS systems aren’t cheap, and since they can vary so much in features and functionality, you want to make sure you buy the right one. We’ve talked with several RV owners to come up with a few questions you should ask yourself before you choose a particular model.
How often do you travel?
One of the biggest factors that should be at the forefront of your mind when shopping for a GPS unit is obviously how often you’re going to use it. If you have a big road trip coming up in a rented RV but generally travel by plane and can’t see yourself in another RV anytime soon, it would be impractical to spend a bundle on a fancy GPS unit with bells and whistles galore. On the flipside, if you’ve just purchased an RV and you’re strapping in for a year-long expedition, buying an advanced RV GPS is well worth the money.
What features do you really need?
Finding the best RV GPS system is more than just picking the one with the most features. It’s about finding the right features – the ones you’ll actually use. If one device has 15 features and another has 40, but you only use 12, which is the better value? Maybe you don’t need the Wi-Fi connectivity or compatibility with a backup camera; on the other hand, maybe you do. Defining the features you’re looking for specifically is going to help you cut out the excess and narrow your range down to units that will actually be useful to you to not only save you time, but potentially save you money as well.
Why you shouldn’t use your smartphone
One of the first things you might think while shopping for a GPS is, “Wait, I can just use my smartphone!” Not so fast. Smartphones are fantastic devices, and we use them for many things throughout our day, but there are quite a few reasons why using your smartphone in the place of a dedicated GPS can put you at a disadvantage.
First and foremost, using a smartphone as your navigation system can be inconvenient because phones simply don’t have the screen size that most RV GPS units do. A larger screen and increased visibility will make navigation easier. Straining your eyes to look at the next turn coming up is fine when you’re going to a friend’s place, but doing it over and over again for hundreds or thousands of miles can leave you with a migraine. Even large smartphones lack the size and specific setup of GPS screens, which can make a huge difference in your trip.
Next, smartphones don’t have the navigation software that is on-par with dedicated RV GPS units. You can download a navigation app, sure, but the comprehensive software built into GPS units is, for now, head and shoulders above what smartphones can offer. With predictive lane change notifications, built-in text-to-speech, landmark navigation, and more – GPS units are simply better at their job because they are doing solely what they are designed for.
Last, smartphones are our daily multitaskers and can be extremely distracting. We play music, take pictures, browse the web, text friends, and countless other things while using them. What if your kids want to take a picture of the scenery you’re passing by? Or your spouse wants to check something and his or her phone is charging on the dock? All of this shuffling around could cause you to miss a turn, or more importantly, lead you into a very dangerous situation.
Other accessories you may need
There are tons of GPS accessories out there. Some are truly useful, and others you can live without. With that said, there are two additional accessories we think every RV owner should invest in to make life easier while on the road.
Although they aren’t essential to driving or navigation, backup cameras are a huge advancement in convenience, and we think they’re crucial for RV owners. Anyone who has ever driven an RV knows how stressful parking can be, and squeezing into a tight spot is infinitely easier when you’ve got a screen showing you exactly what’s 40 feet behind you. Each of the GPS’s in our guide are compatible with backup cameras, meaning that you can use that large, crystal-clear display to help you park and reverse out of areas. All you need to do is purchase the backup camera and install.
A good mount
Most GPS units will come with a standard plastic mount, which does its job just fine. However, they are known to be a bit limiting with angle and surface. If you’re in an RV, having a maneuverable mount is important (especially when you’re switching off driving responsibilities to another member of the crew). Aftermarket mounts can offer extreme versatility and also better durability than the stock mounts that generally come with GPS units. They’re also relatively cheap, which makes them an easy buy.
Wrapping it up
We’ve all seen at least one movie where a family is traveling in their RV using nothing but a paper map, which inevitably gets them lost and in trouble because they took a wrong turn or simply don’t know how to read it. Don’t be one of those families. Investing in a good GPS system is a small price to pay for its convenience on the road.