What’s the best satellite TV solution for a car?

Summertime road trip. Seemed like a good idea. Pile the kids in the car and let’s go see the world. Only one problem: bored kids locked in the back seat are going to misbehave. It’s a tale as old as time, I’m telling you.

One option for keeping the kids occupied is live TV. It’s a great option and it’s worked very well in the past, but it’s gotten harder in the last decade. Finally, there’s an option that makes sense.

Use a TV antenna?

Until 2009, you could use a portable TV in a moving vehicle. Unfortunately you can’t anymore. The same technology that makes digital high definition possible also means you can’t watch TV if you’re going faster than 15 miles per hour. Unfortunately that was one of the tradeoffs when that tech was finalized in the mid-2000s. If the new ATSC3 standard ever takes off, it won’t be a problem but until then watching TV using nothing but an antenna’s off the table.

Satellite for cars and SUV’s

There is a solution for cars and SUVs, the TracVision A9 from KVH. It’s only about 6″ tall and small enough to be mounted on midsize cars and SUVs. It delivers standard-definition television from DIRECTV or DISH no matter how fast you’re going.

However, there are some limitations to satellite television and it’s important to know them up front.

  • The dish is pretty big. If you’re used to roof-mounting something like a suitcase or some skis, you need to give that up.
  • Unless you’re in your local area, you probably won’t get your local channels.
  • DIRECTV customers will only get standard definition programs, and most of those might disappear when a satellite is retired next year.
  • DISH customers may lose signal if they travel to the other end of the country.

I still think satellite is an excellent technology, but I’m not sure if I’d put it on a mid-size sedan. There are just too many tradeoffs. However, there’s a better option.

The DIRECTV app and AT&T Unlimited

Would you like to be able to stream live TV without worrying about data caps? What if you could do it with your current satellite subscription and there was nothing more to pay? Luckily that’s not only possible, it’s easy!

If you have DIRECTV Satellite service, you have access to the DIRECTV app. On a tablet or phone, you can watch your recorded TV, watch over 120 channels of live TV, and tens of thousands of on-demand programs.

Here’s the best part. If you combine the DIRECTV app with the AT&T Unlimited plans, you don’t ever worry about data caps or overages. So it’s like having a free satellite receiver on your car, without any of the installation or difficulties!

Here’s how you do it: get a tablet with a cellular plan, like an iPad. Load nothing but the DIRECTV app on it and set the parental controls. All of a sudden you have an instant TV watching device and you don’t have to worry about anything. You can put a password on it so the kids can’t load apps, and as long as you hear that TV, you know they’re not browsing somewhere they shouldn’t.

The best way to do it

Solid Signal is a DIRECTV dealer and can also get you set up with AT&T Unlimited service. We’ll help you get everything you need to start watching TV in the car with nothing more to worry about! It starts with a call to our 100% US-based call center at 888-233-7563.

About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 8,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.