Categories: RV GearRV Tech

What Is an RV GPS? (And Is It Really Better Than Google Maps?)

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Every RVer needs an RV GPS instead of a regular car model. This simple upgrade will save you so much hassle, protecting you from too-low overpasses and roads that aren’t big-rig friendly. You’ll have an RV-safe route anywhere you want to go. Let’s jump into what an RV GPS is and what sets it apart. 

What Is an RV GPS?

An RV GPS is pretty much exactly what it sounds like: a GPS designed with RVs in mind. Many units come with a dashboard mount so you can easily read the directions while driving. 

They also offer several features not seen in a car GPS like unique navigational routes, campground suggestions, en route RV parks, and more. 

RV Navigation vs. Car Navigation

There are some primary differences between car navigation and RV navigation. Each system is slightly different in what it offers, but in general, there are some similarities. Although Google Maps sometimes warns of slowdowns up ahead, not all global positioning systems are like this.

With an RV GPS, the manufacturers realize how vital advance warning is, and many will tell you when traffic is slowing down. You’ll also get more notice before a turn comes up, so you don’t have to slam on the breaks when the voice output finally activates. 

It will also warn of upcoming low overpasses or other obstacles you need to avoid. For example, it might signal a road with hairpin turns or steep grades ahead. 

The Benefits of an RV GPS

There are some definite benefits to getting a designated GPS for your recreational vehicle, as you might have guessed. Here are the main ones. 

Functionality

It makes getting from point A to point B much simpler by keeping RVs in mind when determining route suggestions. On the other hand, a regular GPS needs to work for everyone–cars, trucks, RVs, motorcycles, bikers, walkers, etc

. They’re kind of like a jack-of-all-trades, master-of-none unit. Well, when you’re driving your RV, you want a master of RV navigation, not something made for smaller vehicles. 

Extra Features

There are also many added features. Some list RV parks and campgrounds. They also help you choose an RV-safe route to avoid steep grades, low clearances, tight turns, and more. 

Other units also have a built-in dash cam that can record an accident, so you’ll have proof of who was at fault. An RV GPS also usually has a larger display size and is made of durable materials for long life. 

The Disadvantages of an RV GPS

Everything in life has pros and cons, and while we love our RV GPS, there are certainly downsides. Our biggest gripes include the following:

Cost

Purchasing these navigation systems will be pricey thanks to all the extra features. Even compared to an external car GPS, they can be more expensive.

Plus, if you have a smartphone, you can get a GPS app like Google Maps for free. However, there’s not an all-inclusive free RV navigation app out there right now.

Usability

Most GPS apps are user-friendly, but the RV versions aren’t always as straightforward. Sometimes, satellite connections struggle, making them worthless in those moments.

There might be compatibility issues with some phones and systems as well. For example, some models don’t let you connect to your car’s system.  

RV GPS Map Updates

Another major drawback is the need to update the software frequently. Most systems require you to connect to a computer for updates, which can take a while to download. By contrast, you can set a phone app to update automatically. 

What Is the Best GPS for RV Use?

If you want the added features of these useful navigation systems and don’t mind paying for the benefits, there are a few good options out there. Here are the top ones we recommend.  

Garmin RV 785

The Garmin RV 785 is top of the line. It includes all the features you need for an excellent GPS, including a dashcam and a 7-inch display. You can easily see where you’re going and record anything dangerous while you’re at it. You can also enter your RV’s specs and calculate a customized route just for you. 

Garmin RV 785 & Traffic, Advanced GPS Navigator...
  • Custom routing takes into account the size and weight of your RV...
  • Provides road warnings to keep you aware of steep grades, sharp...
  • Includes a directory of RV parks and services plus integrated...

Voice activation is another fantastic feature. You can get directions instantly without typing anything or taking your eyes off the road. Simply speak to your GPS, and it will do the rest. 

Finally, the Garmin RV 785 shows you RV parks and services along your route so you can easily find a place to stop on the way. It also gives road warnings for steep grades, low clearances, or tight turns to help you navigate there safely. 

Garmin RV 890

The Garmin RV 890 is another solid option. The touchscreen display size is even larger than the 785 at 8 inches. You’ll have no trouble seeing the screen as you cruise down the road. 

Garmin RV 890, GPS Navigator for RVs with...
  • Large 8" RV navigator with high-resolution touch display and...
  • Custom routing considers the size and weight of your RV then...
  • Provides road warnings to keep you aware of steep grades, sharp...

If you purchase this GPS, you’ll also enjoy customizable routes, road warnings, and live traffic details when you pair it with your smartphone. You can also enable voice activation to make navigating even safer. 

Another unique feature is the option to pair the display with a backup camera. You can then see behind you as you back up into tricky RV spaces. You can even search for RV parks right from the GPS. 

Is There An RV GPS App?

If you’re a smartphone user, you might be wondering what options you have. After all, buying an entirely new item is usually the last thing we want to do!

Thankfully, there are a few app options you can consider. Each has its pros and cons, and most aren’t as complete as a designated RV navigational system, but they’re worth considering. 

Is There a Google Maps for RVs?

We wish there were a Google Maps app for RVs. However, as of this writing, this fantastic app isn’t designed with big rigs in mind. You can still use it, but you’ll want to closely examine the route it suggests to ensure it’s safe and effective for RVing. 

Here’s a neat trick to identify possible steep grades: turn on bike mode. It shows you the elevation change on your route, which could alert you to possible hairy situations. 

Does Waze Have an RV Setting?

Waze is another popular and free smartphone GPS app. Unfortunately, Waze doesn’t have a specific RV mode, which means you could run into situations that aren’t RV-friendly. 

RV GPS by RVLife

If you’re feeling frustrated that the most common GPS apps don’t offer RV modes, don’t worry. The RV GPS by RVLife is for you! 

It’s included with RV Trip Wizard and provides everything you would find in a designated RV GPS–maybe even more! When paired with RV Trip Wizard, it makes planning a cross-country road trip so much simpler. 

The affordability is also a perk. A subscription to RV Trip Wizard costs under $50 a year compared to a designated device that can run anywhere from $400 to $500. 

Plus, use coupon code “ONTHEMOVE25” to get 25% off your RV Trip Wizard subscription!

CoPilot App

Another great app option is CoPilot. It has car and RV options, so you’ll feel confident using it for your RVing adventures. It also works offline, which, quite honestly, is a necessary feature for people who travel extensively. 

For just $29.99 a year, you can access amazing features, including RV-specific routing based on your rig’s specifications. You’ll also get multi-stop capability, alternative routes, voice guidance, detours, and more. Best of all, you can try it for free for 14 days. 

An RV GPS app will help you find the best route, but what about finding the best camping spots? Check out our app recommendations here: Best Boondocking Apps and Websites for Amazing Free Camping

Is an RV GPS Worth It?

Buying an RV GPS or app is worth it if you travel often. In our opinion, given all the features you can access with your smartphone, apps are the way to go. You’ll get all the capabilities with a much lower price tag than a designated RV GPS. 

On the other hand, if you aren’t tech-savvy or prefer a large display and the potential for a built-in dashcam, a Garmin is a great choice. You won’t regret buying an RV GPS when you experience smooth road trips. 

If you take the regular GPS approach, you might kick yourself when you end up in a sticky situation. Choose wisely! And know, when it comes to RV safety, we always recommend getting the best.

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Mortons on the Move

We are Tom & Caitlin Morton. We gave up the stationary life for one where we are constantly on the move. We live in a fifth wheel RV and travel with our two pups, Mocha and Bella. We enjoy hiking, biking, boondocking, videography, and upgrading our RV to suit our off-grid mobile lifestyle. Our goal is to share educational, entertaining, and inspiring content with our readers and viewers.

View Comments

  • I have a garmin 780. It is great except for one thing, it only updates its maps 3 or 4 times a year. I have family in West Seattle and my garmin led me right to the west seattle Bridge that had been closed 13 weeks! I had to rely on Google maps free app after paying $400 for the Garmin.

  • I'd also mention Kenwoods fantastic DNX775RVS head unit. All the features you need in a multi-media head unit plus Garmin RV navigation.

  • We have a Garmin 780, and it sent us down county roads in Amish country. It sent us way out of our way. We found at state route that was significantly shorter and safer (wider and straighter). Even with our RV length and the Toad programmed in it. We made it safely, but not happy with it.

  • i have a Garmin 760 it is good accept you can not just enter a city. like some of
    ones.

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