Which is better for RV’ing… antenna or satellite?

Depending on whether you live in the North or South, you’ve either just put the RV away or just taken it out. Either way, you might be thinking about upgrades that enhance the experience. Let’s take a look at two great options.

First let’s talk about streaming

Obviously the first thought you’ll have when thinking about entertainment on the road is streaming. And you should. The only problem is that cell service can be spotty in those areas where you’re likely to be. Wooded RV parks, national treasures, all these areas have one thing in common. They can suffer from poor cell service. Cell service tends to be the best in denser suburbs where there are enough people to justify the investment but not enough people so the towers get congested.

Streaming’s a good solution while you’re on the road because highways have good cell service. But for settling in for the night, it usually isn’t.

Is satellite a better bet?

Well, of course it depends on how much you spend. Most people don’t know that there are some really excellent satellite solutions available for RVs, but they do come at a cost. Obviously a satellite system will be more expensive than a TV antenna, but you get a lot more.

If you want to watch TV while moving… satellite works but antennas don’t. Digital TV signals break up if you’re going faster than about 15 miles per hour. It’s just the way they are. There are in-motion systems for RVs, though… but you need to know that they aren’t cheap. If video is your thing while you’re moving, you’re better off streaming it from the internet or bringing something recorded.

If you’re setting up for the night

Really, an antenna system on a tripod can be a great choice. It’s easy to put down and not at all expensive. You’re limited to what you can get over the air, but on the other hand a satellite subscription usually won’t give you local channels at all. Permanently mounted antennas are also available, and they’re convenient but not as popular since you can’t watch TV while moving and they do tend do cost a lot.

If high definition is your thing… there are roof-mounted satellite dishes that you can aim, and also the Trav’ler series from Winegard is available which pretty much aims itself if you put it on a level surface. The problem is that the self-aiming dishes are only HD if you have DISH… DIRECTV’s HD technology isn’t compatible with these less-expensive self-aiming dishes. There’s no doubt that antenna TV is the best for HD if you’re out on the road.

4K still isn’t really an option

As I write this, there isn’t a real 4K RV solution for antenna or satellite, no matter which provider you use. The traditional dishes for DISH and DIRECTV will get some 4K content but they’re not futureproof. The real question is (surprisingly) “Do you care about 4K?”

In order to really see the quality difference with 4K, you’ll need a 60″ or larger TV and you’ll need to be about four feet from it. That doesn’t sound like the kind of setup that you’ll get in the cramped spaces of an RV. 4K is great but the truth is, it’s not mandatory for RV life. It probably never will be.

If cost is no object

But still, if cost is no object, there are options. The best one is a dome that’s actually designed for a marine vessel, so mounting it on an RV can be a little tricky. The few people I’ve known who’ve done it have put it on the rear of the RV so it doesn’t stick up so high. With a solution like this, however, you can get real true HD even while driving. Just be prepared to spend as much as a good used car when you’re all done.

A lot of folks think that an RV store is the best place to get a permanent installation, but at SolidSignal.com we deal with dissatisfied customers from RV stores all the time. The technicians there just don’t have the training required to properly install an RV system. If you call us at SolidSignal.com, at 888-233-7563, we can help you get the help you need for a true professional install.

Of course, if you’re more budget-minded, you’ll probably be thinking of an antenna and a tripod. Call your Solid Signal rep at 888-233-7563 and we’ll make sure that you get the right recommendation for you… something that fits the budget and is easy to set up so you can get down to a night of relaxing while out on the road.

If it’s after East Coast business hours, just fill out the form below and our reps will get back to you, usually within 24 hours.

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.