Finding the Right RV GPS for Your Next Road Trip

Now, I know you’re itching to get your adventure started, but hang on just a cotton pickin’ minute. Have you given some thought to how exactly you’re going to navigate this beast? RVs ain’t exactly compact sedans, you know. You need to think smart if you wanna steer clear of tight spots and low bridges. And you’ll want to stay on track to all those bucket list destinations. That’s where having the right RV GPS can pay dividends, my friend.

I’ve tried just about every navigation device under the sun in my time on the road, and let me tell you, RV GPS units are a breed of their own. You need something with maps that account for the size and weight of a motorhome. Something that can route you away from troublesome mountain passes and warn you about steep grades. And you’ll definitely want live traffic capabilities so you can steer clear of accidents and delays that can bring these highfalutin’ highways to a standstill.

Now I know, nowadays everyone and their grandma just uses their phone for navigation. But trust me, for the open road, you need something with a big screen that’s easy to glance at while you’re cruising at 65 miles per hour. Leave the phone for your passengers and get yourself a dedicated device designed for life behind the wheel. Your fellow road-trippers will thank you!

Alright, alright, I know you’re starting to foam at the mouth to get this show on the road! Let’s dive into some of the top options out there so you can start mapping your route in style. I’ll give you the lowdown on features, price points, and everything else you need to know to choose the right RV GPS for your adventure. Buckle up, we’re in for a ride!

Garmin RV 785/787

Now if you know anything about navigation devices, you’ve surely heard of Garmin. They’ve been in the GPS game since before some of us could walk! The Garmin RV 785 and 787 units are built from the ground up with RVers in mind.

Right off the bat, you get those special RV routing and caution features I mentioned. It knows not to take your land yacht down any sketchy dirt roads thanks to a built-in database of road types. And you can set your vehicle height, weight, width and length so it plans routes you can actually take.

Another nifty feature is that it includes ratings on how steep a grade is before you drive down it. As someone who’s kissed their front bumper more than once going downhill, let me tell you that info is clutch! It takes the guesswork out of mountain driving so you can just sit back and enjoy the views.

Now on the 787 model you get built-in wireless connectivity, so your maps and traffic data stay up to date without you having to plug anything in. That’s one less wire to deal with in the cockpit. The screens are nice and bright, even in sunny conditions. And at 7 inches, it’s the perfect size to see from the driver’s seat but still be able to toss in your glovebox when you’re parked.

As you’d expect from Garmin, the GPS pickup is quick and connectivity is reliable. Factor in the company’s decades of experience, and you know you’re getting a solid, road-ready device. Now the starting price for the 785 is $389, and the 787 bumps it up to $489. So be prepared to drop some dough. But when it comes to navigating a home-on-wheels down the highway, you get what you pay for.

Rand McNally RVND 7730 LM

If the Garmin price tag made you sweat, take a gander at the Rand McNally 7730 LM. Rand has long been a favorite for truckers and anyone else spending life on the asphalt rivers. This unit packs in premium navigation and connectivity at a more modest price point.

For around $299 you get RV-friendly routing to keep your beast between the lines, and warned when hills and grades are coming up. It’s powered by QuadCore processor so recalculating routes when (not if) you miss a turn is lightning quick.

The 7-inch display is easy to read, and the buttons are big enough to operate with winter gloves on. Or sausage fingers like mine! It comes pre-loaded with maps for the U.S. and Canada, including just about every national park and campground in between.

One nifty feature is the mile marker for highway exits, so you know exactly how far that next rest stop is. When nature calls, you need to know precisely what mile marker relief awaits!

It gets over-the-air map and traffic updates, but you can also plug into Rand McNally’s TripMaker portal for deeper customization. Build your ultimate roadtrip complete with stops and send it right to your device. Then let the directions roll while you kick back, crank up the tunes, and enjoy the drive.

At 300 bones the Rand McNally RVND 7730 LM is easier on the wallet than the Garmins, but still brings premium navigation and features tailored to life on the road.

Magellan RV9365T-LMB

Alright, let’s say you’re on more of a budget. You spent top dollar on your RV, and maybe put a little too much into the mini bar. Hey, I don’t judge! In that case, Magellan has a line of value-priced GPS units like the RV9365T-LMB.

At around $125, it brings core RV-friendly routing without all the bells and whistles. You can set vehicle dimensions so it keeps you on roads you can squeeze down, and avoid low-clearance hazards. The display is a respectable 6.2 inches, with buttons sized for ease of use mid-drive.

The maps cover the U.S. and Canada, with over 10 million points of interest included. And you can filter POIs by type, so you only see campgrounds, gas stations, or whatever’s needed. Traffic info comes via the ClearGuidance system, which isn’t as robust as Garmin or Rand’s offerings. But hey, at this price every little bit helps!

It’s worth noting that the interface is pretty bare bones. And Magellan doesn’t have the best track record for navigation response times. But if you just need the basics to get you from A to B without busting the bank, the Magellan checks the box. Sometimes simpler is better, and this unit delivers on the core necessities.

Smartphone Apps

I know, I know, I talked some smack about using your phone earlier. But I gotta give these apps their due. Solutions like Waze and Google Maps have come a long way in recent years. And taking advantage of the phone already in your pocket is an economical choice. So let’s talk about when phone apps might make sense for navigating your RV adventure.

The biggest advantage is price – these smartphone apps are mostly free or cheap! Plug your phone into a mount on the dash and you’ve got navigation ready to roll. For shorter trips or weekend getaways, they get the job done.

Connectivity and traffic avoidance are another plus. Crowd-sourced apps like Waze have zillions of users reporting accidents and delays in real time. For a longhaul driver like me, that data is invaluable.

Of course, the screens are smaller than a dedicated unit. And their interfaces and voice guidance just aren’t tailored specifically to RVs. But phone apps are improving in this regard, with options to avoid hills and set vehicle height.

Battery life can also be a concern on longer drives. But snag a charging cable and mount to keep your phone powered up. Add apps like RV Parky to locate campsites on the go, and your smartphone makes for a surprisingly capable navigator.

In the end, choosing a phone over dedicated RV GPS comes down to budget and the types of trips you take. For short weekend trips close to home, it’s a solid way to go. But for extended tours covering thousands of miles, I’d spring for a purpose-built RV unit every time.

Key Features to Look For

Alright my friend, you’ve got some solid options to chew over. But before you break out the credit card, let’s talk through a few key criteria to keep in mind as you shop. These are the make-or-break features that separate the best RV GPS devices from the rest of the pack.

Detailed RV Routing

This is an absolute must. Any unit worth its salt accounts for the size and weight limitations of RVs with special routing algorithms. Make sure it lets you dial in your actual vehicle profile, including height, width, length, weight and more. And that it maps routes you can actually take without bottoming out or getting wedged between buildings.

Realistic Grades Calls Out

Nothing will pucker your bum quite like careening downhill in a top heavy RV. Look for guidance on the steepness of upcoming grades so you know what you’re getting into. Advanced units even offer warnings about descent speed and rollover risks. I may or may not speak from harrowing experience on this one…

Up-to-date Maps and Traffic

Whether by cellular connections or user updates, make sure your device stays current. Nothing ruins a roadtrip faster than an outdated GPS guiding you to roads that don’t exist anymore. Dynamic routing around accidents and delays is hugely valuable too. The last thing you want is to be stuck in gridlock with the kiddos screaming in the back!

Easy Mounting and Controls

Trust me, you don’t want to be fumbling with a GPS unit while flying down the freeway. Look for options that mount securely to the dash and can be operated without taking your eyes off the road. Knobs, large buttons, and voice commands are your friends here.

Big, Bright Display

Squinting at a dim little screen is no way to navigate. Prioritize readability in all conditions. 7 inches is around the sweet spot for RV installs. Bigger is fine if it fits your dash. Much smaller and you’ll be craning your neck to see!

Backup Camera Integration

Newer motorhomes have backup cameras, and it’s handy to integrate with your navigation display. That way you can keep your eyes up instead of flipping between screens. Not a necessity, but a nice perk if you already have a camera installed.

Remember, navigation is about so much more than the equipment. It’s the people you connect with along the way that really makes a roadtrip special. So get out there and make some memories on the open road!

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