If you haven’t noticed, part- and full-time RV living – and portable “tiny homes” – has been growing in popularity over the past several years. And beginning long before that, we’ve become super-dependent on the internet for everything.
But when you’re living out of your RV, you probably wind up in areas where internet connectivity is spotty, so kiss livestreaming TV or staying on top of social media goodbye.
The solution is a satellite antenna for your RV – so you never miss a show or Instagram post again.
Types of Dishes for Your RV
To start with, no matter which TV or internet provider you choose, you’re going to have to buy a separate, dedicated RV dish (antenna). The thing is, the major satellite TV providers – DISH and DIRECTV – don’t sell their own.
Instead, they rely on 3rd-party partner companies, like Winegard, KVH, and KING. But there are a couple of types of antennas to choose from.
A tripod satellite dish is simply a dish mounted on a tripod stand. It folds up easily for storage and transportation, and when you park your RV, you simply set it up anywhere there’s a view of the southern sky.
It’s the most affordable type of portable dish – the equipment itself is cheaper and there’s no installation fees.
The downside, however, is that you have to take the time to set it up every time you want satellite connectivity. For most this will take about 30 minutes or so – you have to set it up facing south, plug it in, and then aim it in the exact right direction to catch a signal.
This involves online maps, software, or at least a GPS, compass, and level.
The next step up is a roof-mounted dish antenna. Permanently fixed to the roof of your RV, all you have to do is click a button for it to unfold, and another for it to lock onto a signal – automatically. Depending on a few things, this can be done in less than 10 minutes.
Roof-mounted dishes are reliable – as long you have a view of the southern sky, you’re almost guaranteed a signal. But this ease-of-use comes with 2 downsides: size and cost.
When stowed and not in-use, most mounted dishes take up about 4-5’ of space. When deployed, they tend to be about 3’ tall.
And price-wise they tend to be very expensive – think a few thousand dollars or more.
A 3rd option for TV
When it comes to TV service, there’s a 3rd option: the roof-mountable satellite TV antenna.
These dish antennas are small, dome-shaped dishes. They take up much less space than traditional dishes – about 18”x18” or so. They’re also much less expensive – around $500 typically.
How to pick an antenna for you
It’s rare that there’s an obvious winner when it comes to antennas. So, follow the 80% rule: pick an antenna based on where you camp/park 80% of the time.
For instance, if you often park in wide-open areas, then a roof-mounted antenna will probably work great for you.
But if you camp in areas that tend to have lots of tree blockage overhead, pick a portable dish instead – so you can move it around to find the best signal.
In addition, consider whether you want to be able to watch TV on the road – only a handful of antennas are capable of doing so. Most require that you be motionless. We’ve broken up the tables below to reflect those differences.
|Regular (no motion)|| |
|In-motion use capable|| |
|Regular (no motion)|| |
|In-motion use capable|| |
Choose Satellite TV for your RV
Alongside the dish itself, you need to have a TV service subscription. DISH and DIRECTV give you some options.
With DISH Network, if you’re already a customer with home satellite TV service, you can just add onto your package: $7 a month gives you Dish Outdoors, extending your home service to your RV. All you need is to grab a dish (above), and a DISH TV receiver (below).
Alternatively, you can grab a standalone TV package, starting at $37.99 a month. In either case, t’s Pay-As-You-Go, so no worries about ETFs.
|DISH Solo HD||Yes||Yes|
|ViP922 HD SlingLoader DVR||Yes||Yes|
DIRECTV’s RV offerings are a little less straightforward, but essentially they cost the same as their ordinary packages. You will need to sign a 2-year agreement, though.
|H25 HD Receiver||Yes||Yes|
Choose Satellite Internet for Your RV
We haven’t talked much about satellite internet because similar rules apply: you need a dish and a receiver.
Unfortunately, that means you need a separate dish from your TV one, and a separate service plan, too – satellite internet and satellite TV are two separate things.
That said, there’s 1 antenna that can do both TV and internet, but it’ll cost you almost $7,000 (through RVDataSat: the 840 Antenna + second LNB, with DIRECTV).
However, if you’re full-time on the road, then that might wind up being a steal.
Otherwise, just grab another antenna and pick one of the few satellite internet providers willing to support RV-living.
You’ll be able to purchase your satellite dish from them. Visit this page for more information from MobilSat.
Viasat is the other major satellite internet provider; but while they offer faster speeds to residential internet users than HughesNet, Viasat does not offer portable satellite internet.
So unless your RV is really an airliner, news truck, or corporate jet – you can’t grab Viasat’s internet.
RVDataSat offers a variety of RV-specific internet plans. They’re pricier, but they offer bundled deals for phone, TV, and internet through combined providers. The example earlier, with DIRECTV, was one such bundle.
While HughesNet allows you to pause your service at any time, RVDataSat does not. But by going through RVDataSat, you get all your services in 1 bill – which is great if you’re full-time on the road.
Combining the two together
If you’re like most RV’ers, you won’t want just satellite TV, or just satellite internet - you’ll want both. So with that said, here are our recommendations for combining the two:
- If you want “best of the best”/live on the road: Go with RVDataSat. You can check out their options here.
- If you’re looking for a budget option: Go with DISH Outdoors + HughesNet (through MobilSat).
- And if you just want versatility: Grab the Winegard Carryout G2 + Power Inserter. You’ll be able to switch between DIRECTV and DISH for your TV. That means you can try out DISH’s Pay-As-You-Go, or lock in to DIRECTV’s 2-year contract.
Can I use my home dish receiver in my RV?
No. These are typically professionally installed, and satellite TV/internet providers have strict provisions against this. You’ll need a separate dish for your RV. You can save some money by grabbing a portable or tripod dish for cheaper than a mounted one.