best rv tv antenna

The Best RV TV Antennas To Keep You Entertained On The Road

For full-time travelers and campers who go on trips for months on end, especially those who travel with young children, entertainment is a must have. Having a good TV and the best RV TV antenna will allow you to comfortably lounge inside in bad weather and browse local channels for free, and some even give you Internet connection to stay up-to-date with the latest weather and road conditions. 

The best RV TV antennas these days are increasingly advanced, with a low profile and weatherproof construction. They can offer excellent reception and picture quality for the best viewing experience possible. There are indoor and outdoor antennas, roof mounted and portable antennas, amplified antennas, satellite antennas and HDTV antennas, each designed to meet different viewing requirements. And in this list of the 10 best RV TV antenna units, there is something for every wallet and preference, each guaranteed to keep you entertained and happy for years down the road. 

You will also learn about different types of TV antennas for camping, buying criteria, step-by-step installation, the techniques and accessories for improving your viewing experience, and answers to common questions regarding the workings of TV antennas.

Best RV Antennas: Comparison Chart

NoBest RV TV AntennasPricesOur Ratings
1Winegard RVW-395 Sensar IV$$$48
2Winegard AR-360B Air 360+$$$45
3Winegard RZ-6035 Rayzar z1$$$47
4Winegard PL-8000 Dish Satellite$$$$43
5KING VQ4550 Tailgater Bundle Satellite$$$$$47
6KING OA8500 Jack HDTV Directional$$$47
7Antop Outdoor Multidirectional$$$40
8Winegard RV-3095 Sensar III Batwing$$$48
9Vansky Digital Amplified Indoor$41

RV TV Antenna: The Basics

How Does an RV TV Antenna Work?

A TV antenna for RV allows you to watch TV channels that are broadcast wirelessly. You can get over the air channels for free, much like radio stations, or subscribe to satellite services to get access to paid channels. An antenna searches for and receives TV signals from local broadcast stations, then broadcasts the channels it found on your TV.

Compared to household antenna units, TV antennas for camping use typically come with a very lightweight, compact and low profile and a rugged, weatherproof construction so as to minimize the impact of the harsh outdoor conditions and to withstand the shocks and vibrations associated with off-road traveling. They offer a wider variety in terms of design to suit a variety of camping setting: some can be folded down to stay flush against the RV’s roof to avoid impact with obstacles on the way, while some come with a magnetic base to be easily detached and taken indoor when there’s a chance of inclement weather.

rv tv antenna reviews
Photo: Voyagerix/Shutterstock

Why You Need One

Entertainment: Campers who only go on spontaneous weekend trips will not really need a TV and an antenna, but if you travel full-time or for months on end, you will definitely miss curling up on your cozy sofa at home watching TV with your family, especially when the weather outside doesn’t permit excursions. Also, any camper who travels with young children will tell you entertainment is a must have. With the best RV TV antenna, you won’t have to give up on your favorite shows, and you can watch local channels for free.

Internet: Many of the best RV TV antennas these days even provide WiFi connection, so that you can get even more entertainment options, post photos of your scenic trip on social media, and keep yourself up-to-date with the latest weather reports and news. This will allow you to plan your trip accordingly, as well as navigate and search for essential RV-related services like gas station, repair shop, dump stations, RV parks and AirBnb, grocery stores and catering services. 

Types of RV TV Antennas

Stationary vs Mobile Antennas

Stationary antennas: The most common type of RV TV antenna that you will see in use is an antenna mounted on the roof. This is because in general, an antenna needs to be around 30 feet above the ground for optimal reception. Roof-mounted RV TV antennas are secured in place, thus are stationary. Many models of this category can be neatly folded down while driving, which will minimize wear and tear from vibrations on rough terrain as well as contact with obstacles on the way, like tree branches.

With stationary roof mounted antennas, adjusting the angle direction of the antenna manually to find optimal reception when you’re doing a channel scan will be quite inconvenient. If you opt for this type of antenna, you can consider buying a remote-operated antenna rotator so you won’t have to climb the ladder to do it manually over and over again. 

Mobile or portable antennas: Meanwhile, mobile or portable antennas are not fixed on the roof of your RV. They can be flexibly placed anywhere in order to avoid physical obstacles and receive the best reception. You don’t always get even ground at your chosen campsite though, so campers who opt for portable antennas often buy a solid tripod base to securely mount their outdoor TV antenna, even in inclement weather. More on handy accessories to improve your RV antenna’s reception in a later section.

Indoor vs Outdoor Antennas

Indoor antennas: While both roof-mounted antennas and portable antennas are outdoor antennas, there are also indoor antennas, which are placed inside your rig. Indoor antennas are cheaper, but they cannot compare with outdoor antennas in terms of coverage range. One of the reasons for this is that an antenna needs to be mounted as high above the ground as possible to get the best signal. Therefore, indoor antennas can’t offer the same level of channel variety and image quality as their outdoor counterparts. Some budget campers and first time RV owners might still opt for an indoor model though, as they are also super lightweight and compact, can be set up anywhere, and are easy to adjust and monitor. 

Outdoor antennas: These are typically mounted on the roof of RVs, and this mounting location/height allows for more robust signal reception and thus a superior viewing experience as well as more channels. They cost more than indoor antennas, but they are well worth the extra dollars. Of course, being exposed to Mother Nature 24/7 comes with a few concerns. One is the bulkier the antenna is, the higher the risk of wear and tear. That said, the best RV TV antennas of this type often come with a super neat design and heavy duty construction that can withstand a broad temperature range. Furthermore, some models come with a magnetic base, so that when you know a storm is coming, you can easily take your antenna inside.

Amplified vs Non-Amplified Antennas

Some RV TV antennas are “amplified”, which comes with a built-in amplifier. The amplifier allows the antenna to get better signals from further away, thus providing a superior viewing experience than in most cases than a regular non-amplified antenna.

If you don’t want to pay extra money for an amplified unit right away, you can opt for a regular antenna, and should you want some signal amplification later down the road, you can purchase a separate TV antenna signal booster, which will offer the same effect. 

best rv tv antenna
Photo: Togo RV / Unsplash

RV Antennas by Received Signal or Service

Satellite Antennas

Another way to categorize RV TV antennas is by the received signals. While Over-The-Air (“OTA”) antennas pick up free channels broadcasted wirelessly over the air, satellite TV antennas receive channels broadcasted by satellites located some 23,000 miles above the earth.

This means that these antennas can maintain excellent signal reception at all times. This type of RV antennas often cost more than OTA antennas, but you enjoy the same shows you have subscribed to at home if you currently have an active DirectTV/DISH account. 

UHF/VHF Antennas 

When talking about free over-the-air TV signals, there are VHF channels and UHF channels. OTV signals are broadcast on two different bands of radio frequencies, very high frequency (VHF) at between 54 MHz and 216 MHz and ultrahigh frequency (UHF) at between 470 MHz and 890 MHz. VHF covers channels 2 to 13 while UHF covers channels 14 to 51. 

If you live in an area where both UHF and VHF frequency bands are transmitted, you can get both UHF and VHF channels using the best RV TV antenna.

Note that many antennas only provide good reception of VHF or UHF channels, but not both. In an urban setting, UHF antenna is by far the most popular, as UHF signals can better penetrate wood, steel, and concrete, thus giving you a better range.

However, when you’re camping in the wild, far away from man made structures that can impede transmission, UHF signals don’t travel quite as far outdoors as VHF signals.

Digital & HDTV Antennas

An RV digital antenna is designed to receive and interpret digital or electromagnetic signals, while non-digital or analogue antennas are designed to pick up analogue signals. The best HD antenna for RV will give you access to high-definition DTV channels with the best image quality available. 

9 Best RV TV Antennas: In-depth Reviews

Below are the best RV TV antenna units that offer the best viewing experience in their category and at their price points:

  • Winegard RVW-395 Sensar IV DTV/HD TV Antenna
  • Winegard AR-360B Air 360+ RV Antenna
  • Winegard RZ-6035 Rayzar z1 RV TV Antenna
  • Winegard PL-8000 Dish Playmaker HD Satellite Antenna
  • KING VQ4550 Tailgater Bundle
  • KING OA8500 Jack HDTV Directional Over-the-Air Antenna
  • Antop Outdoor Multidirectional Amplified HDTV Antenna
  • Winegard RV-3095 Sensar III Batwing Amplified RV TV Antenna
  • Vansky Digital Amplified Indoor HDTV Antenna

Here you will find VHF and UHF antennas, HD ready antennas, satellite antennas, roof mounted antennas, indoor antennas and portable antennas.

There is something for every entertainment need and every wallet, so dive right in! If you’re not familiar with TV antenna’s specifications, skip to the next section to learn important buying criteria shared by RVing Trends.


1. Best Directional Antenna: Winegard RVW-395 Sensar IV DTV/HD TV Antenna

Winegard RVW-395 Sensar IV White DTV/HD TV Antenna
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At a glance:

  • Type: Roof mounted, amplified, directional, digital HD antenna
  • Coverage range: 55 miles
  • Channels: VHF, UHF, SD, HD
  • Notable features: Built-in amplifier
  • Warranty: 2 years
  • Dimensions: 47.6” L x 15.9” W x 8.5” H (30” high when fully extended, 4” when stowed)
  • Weight: 9 pounds

Why we love it:

For its below-$200 price range, this Sensar IV from Winegard is one of the best RV HDTV antenna on the market in terms of viewing experience. It can receive both VHF and UHF signals, and this coupled with its impressive coverage range of 55 miles will ensure you get the most channels possible. Optimized for HD signal reception, you will love the crystal clear image quality that this antenna offers, and the wide range means it can provide local SD and HD channels in most locations. 

Not stopping at that, this unit even boasts a built in amplifier that boosts weaker TV signals, giving you crystal clear image quality even in inclement weather and challenging settings for signal transmission. This unit is very affordable for such a well rounded amplified antenna too.

For a small investment, you will be getting good service for many years down the road. This roof mounted RV antenna has a powder coating for extra durability. Countless full-time RVers who have owned this Winegard RVW-395 for a decade reported that their unit is still going strong, despite all the abuse the off-road travel and Mother Nature throws at them. 

Although this unit is not the most compact roof mounted antenna on the market, it can be stowed when you’re on the move and only adds 4 inches in height to your RV, minimizing impact with low hanging tree branches and other obstacles on the way. It raises to 30 inches when in use, which helps with reception. Another handy feature is the easy to use hand crank that makes lowering, raising and rotating the antenna so much less of a hassle. 


2. Best Omnidirectional Antenna: Winegard AR-360B Air 360+ RV Antenna

Winegard Air 360+ Amplified Omnidirectional VHF/UHF and FM RV Antenna
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At a glance:

  • Type: Roof mounted, amplified, digital HD, omnidirectional antenna
  • Coverage range: 55 miles
  • Channels: VHF, UHF, FM, HD
  • Notable features: enclosed dome design, omnidirectional 360° reception 
  • Warranty: 2 years
  • Dimensions: 19.25” L x 19” W x 9” H 
  • Weight: 6.73 lbs

Why we love it:

When it comes to omnidirectional antennas, this Winegard AR-360B Air 360+ is no doubt the best antenna for RV at its price range of $150 and below. This roof mounted unit also comes with a state-of-the-art low noise amplifier like the one above. Although this unit is not optimized for HD signal reception like the Sensar IV above, it is an omnidirectional antenna, which means it boasts a superior 360° reception, with equally strong signals from any direction. While you will need to rotate the front of the Sensar IV, that is the shortest element, towards the nearest TV towers, there’s no need to aim or point this dome-shaped antenna in a specific direction. 

Right out of the box, the  Winegard AIR 360+ can pick up VHF, UHF and HDTV programs from local broadcasting stations located up to 55 miles away. In addition, you can also listen to your favorite FM radio stations. The omnidirectional reception plus the wide coverage range means this unit can pick up more channels to meet anyone’s entertainment needs. 

In addition to the 360° reception, what makes this Air 360+ the best RV TV antenna in its category is that it is Internet-ready. You can upgrade your Winegard AIR 360+ with the optional Winegard Gateway, sold separately, for 4G LTE & WiFi connectivity to surf the Internet. Another huge plus is its super low profile, dome shaped design, which means minimal wear and tear, adding to its rugged construction for a longer service life. While the Sensar IV’s conventional design can make it a victim to high winds, the low dome shaped design of the AIR 360+ means you will never have to worry about your antenna being shaken loose from its original position under the force of winds. 


3. Best 4k-Ready Antenna: Winegard RZ-6035 Rayzar z1 RV TV Antenna

Winegard RZ-6035 Rayzar z1 RV TV Antenna
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At a glance:

  • Type: Roof mounted, amplified, digital HD, directional antenna
  • Coverage range: 50 miles
  • Channels: VHF, UHF, HD, UHD
  • Notable features: Durable UV and weather resistant housing, 4k ready
  • Warranty: 5 years
  • Dimensions: 14.7” L x 16.25” W x 8.4” H   
  • Weight: 5.8lbs

Why we love it:

This Rayzar z1 from WInegard is one of the best RV TV antenna for digital TV. Optimal UHF reception with strong VHF reception and HD ready means you can watch as many channels as available wherever you are. In addition, it is an amplified antenna, and this coupled with its 50-miles range ensures optimal reception in more challenging signal environments. What I love most about this affordable antenna is that it is 4k ready, so you can watch crystal clear ultra high definition shows in areas where 4K UHD is available.

This unit does require some aiming and rotation to get the channels you want, but it is very low profile and easy to adjust. This unit is hands down one of the best RV TV antenna out there when it comes to durability. Each unit before leaving the factory is rigorously tested through shock and vibe, humidity and temperature, and wind tunnels to ensure a long service life when exposed to typical RV camping conditions. It’s pretty rare to get 5 years warranty, and many full-time campers who have owned this unit for a decade or so have testified for Rayzar z1’s weatherproof and shock resistant capacity.


4. Best Antenna For Multiple TVs: Winegard PL-8000 Dish Playmaker HD Satellite Antenna

Winegard PL-8000 White Dish Playmaker HD RV Satellite Antenna Dual Receiver Capability
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At a glance:

  • Type: Roof mounted, amplified, digital satellite, omnidirectional antenna
  • Channels: SD, HD, DISH
  • Notable features: Dual receiver
  • Warranty:  years
  • Dimensions: 16” L x 16” W x 13” H 
  • Weight: 7lbs

Why we love it:

This antenna is more expensive than some other models in this list, but it is well worth it if you want to tap into satellite subscription services. With this Winegard PL-8000 White Dish Playmaker antenna, you can enjoy satellite DISH TV channels in HD, as this unit works exclusively with Dish HD Solo receiver technology and automatically finds DISH HD satellite orbital locations. It is omnidirectional, which gives you 360 degree reception and will spare you some setup time when you get to camp. The high-strength, military-grade aluminum reflector provides excellent durability and maximum signal strength — up to 20% greater signal strength.  

The main selling point for many though is that this is the best RV TV antenna for families with children. This is a dual antenna system that has two coaxial outputs for two receivers. This means you can watch different programming on two different TVs at the same time, so your kids can watch what they want while you can enjoy yours. The receivers are sold separately though. 

This unit is portable. You can put it on your roof, though you do need to separately purchase the Optional RK-4000 roof kit to properly secure the unit. Or you can buy the durable TR-1518 satellite tripod mount, which is sold separately, to keep your Playmaker off the ground. This outdoor portable antenna comes with a protective aerodynamic covering for a longer lifespan.


5. Best Portable Satellite Antenna: KING VQ4550 Tailgater Bundle

KING VQ4550 Tailgater Bundle - Portable Satellite TV Antenna and DISH
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At a glance:

  • Type: Portable, digital satellite antenna
  • Channels: SD, HD, DISH
  • Notable features: mounting feet included for roof mounting
  • Warranty: 4 years
  • Dimensions: 17” L x 18.75” W x 13.5” H  
  • Weight: 8lbs

Why we love it:

This portable satellite antenna for home and recreational vehicles use surely is on the expensive side. That said, if you want HD viewing experience wherever you travel and the ability to use two TVs at the same time, this Tailgater from KING, bundled with DISH Wally HD receiver, will be worth every penny.

This model is compatible with DISH service and the provider typically offers a package for antenna buyers, which can save you money in a bundle. This bundle includes a Wally HD receiver, with HDMI (HD) video output, RCA composite (SD) video output, and an RF remote control. This bundle is ideal with DISH Pay As You Go HD plans. (These plans will only bill you for the months you use. When the season ends, simply cancel the satellite service at any time without penalty.)

Like the above satellite antenna from Winegard, this unit also boasts built-in dual coaxial outputs to support multiple TV viewing, although watched programs must be on the same satellite of course. Another huge plus is that the Wally HD receiver has Wi-Fi capability, although you will need an optional Wi-Fi USB adapter, sold separately, in order to connect to a wireless network to enjoy streaming videos and other web apps.

The automatic-aiming antenna is easy to set up and works right out of the box, saving you setup time. Although this unit does not come with a built-in amplifier like the Winegard PL-8000 White Dish Playmaker above, you might be willing to pay a bit of extra money to get more mounting flexibility. This KING Tailgater is a portable model, but the included mounting feet gives you the option of mounting it on the roof of your rig, or setting it up on the ground and quickly bringing it inside when a storm is coming. 


6. Antenna with Built-In Signal Meter: KING OA8500 Jack HDTV Directional Over-the-Air Antenna

KING OA8500 Jack HDTV Directional Over-the-Air RV Antenna
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At a glance:

  • Type: Roof mounted, amplified, digital, directional antenna
  • Coverage range: 45 miles
  • Channels: VHF, UHF, SD, HD
  • Notable features: built-in signal meter
  • Warranty: 4 years
  • Dimensions: 12” L x 16” W x 8.9” H 
  • Weight: 2.6lbs

Why we love it:

If you’re looking for an affordable outdoor antenna with a wide range, this unit from KING is an excellent option, and is one of the most compact roof mounted antennas out there. But what’s most special about it is that while you’re only paying a bit over $100, you’re also getting a built-in signal meter, a desirable but rare addition even among the best RV TV antennas, out there.

The signal meter will remove the need for guess work during setting up your unit, as whenever the antenna moves, it will automatically test the signal strength, so that you always get the best reception possible without manually rotating the unit again and again. 

The compact size makes it 70% smaller than a typical RV antenna, and it’s also perhaps the most lightweight unit out there, weighing in at only 2.6 pounds. Also, its aerodynamic design minimizes wind resistance, contributing to its reliable reception and long service life. Handy design features also include shafts with varying roof thickness are included with your purchase, making installation a cinch, no matter what kind of RV you own. 

It picks up both UHF and VHF channels, with upgraded technology enhancing UHF signal reception – where more than 80 percent of new HDTV channels are broadcast – while still offering excellent reception of remaining VHF channels. It rotates 360-degrees and can pick up stations 35-45 miles away on an average day in relatively flat landscapes with fewer trees.


7. Widest Range Antenna: Antop Outdoor Multidirectional Amplified HDTV Antenna

Antop Outdoor TV Antenna, Multidirectional Amplified HDTV Antenna
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At a glance:

  • Type: Roof mounted, amplified, digital, omnidirectional antenna
  • Coverage range: 85 miles
  • Channels: VHF, UHF, SD, HD, 4k UHD
  • Notable features: 4k ready, built-in 4G filter to block noise
  • Dimensions: 22” L x 10” W x 4.7” H 
  • Weight: 9.5lbs

Why we love it:

If you often travel off the beaten path, you will need an antenna with a wide range so that you can still get reliable signals even when you’re in the middle of nowhere. In this case, this Antop omnidirectional antenna will be the best RV TV antenna for you. With an unsurpassed coverage range of up to 85 miles, coupled with a built-in smartpass amplifier, you will get crystal clear reception even when you’re camping far away from TV towers. 

In addition, another feature that sets this antenna apart among other long-range, amplified antennas is that it has a built-in 4G LTE filter. This filter blocks 3G and 4G wireless signals to reduce picture pixelation and ensure noise-free digital TV reception, giving you the best image quality possible.

This antenna supports all digital VHF and UHF channels, plus HDTV, 1080P TV and 4K ULTRA HD where 4k is available, so you have plenty of channels to entertain yourself with. For less than $150, this Antop antenna is one of the best RV TV antenna units in its category and price range.


8. Best 4k Ready Antenna: Winegard RV-3095 Sensar III Batwing Amplified RV TV Antenna

Winegard RV-3095 Sensar III Batwing Amplified RV TV Antenna
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At a glance:

  • Type: Roof mounted, amplified, digital, directional antenna
  • Coverage range: 55 miles
  • Channels: VHF, UHF, HD, 4k UHD
  • Notable features: 4k ready
  • Dimensions: 48.5 ” L x 13 ” W x 8.25” H 
  • Weight: 10lbs

Why we love it:

If we’re talking about picture quality, this Sensar III Batwing from Winegard is one of the best digital antenna for RV out there. The state of the art picture quality seems to be nearly as vivid as any cable connection, and the same cannot be said for many outdoor antennas on the market. This is something the majority of buyers have agreed on.

This antenna will receive any digital VHF and UHF channels, plus HD channels and even UHD channels, where 4k is available. You’re also getting the maximum range of 55 miles, and when coupled with the built-in amplifier, you will be able to enjoy crystal clear reception of your favorite shows wherever you set up camp. 

The Sensar III Batwing is an amplified model, which is an improvement over its predecessor. If you buy an earlier version, like the Winegard Sensar Batwing, you will need to purchase the separately sold Winegard RV-WING Wingman UHF RV TV Antenna Booster to enjoy signal amplification. 


9. Best Indoor Antenna: Vansky Digital Amplified Indoor HDTV Antenna

TV Antenna Indoor, Digital Amplified Indoor HDTV Antenna
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At a glance:

  • Type: Indoor, amplified, digital, directional antenna
  • Coverage range: 250 miles (30 miles when not using the detachable amplifier)
  • Channels: VHF, UHF, HD
  • Notable features: detachable amplifier
  • Dimensions: 13” L x 13” W x 0.8” H 
  • Weight: 1.04lbs

Why we love it:

This indoor antenna from lesser known brand Vansky is a rare deal even among the best indoor RV antennas out there. Although indoor antennas typically cost less than their outdoor counterparts, this unit is only $24. It is too cheap to be real, but it actually is very functionable. For the budget campers and first time RV owners, this will be your best beginner antenna. 

This is an amplified unit, but the amplifier or booster is detachable. When used, the booster can pick up signals from 250 miles away, giving you the most channels available. Even when you’re not activating the amplifier, this unit still has a coverage range of 30 miles, which is more than decent. What’s more is that the detachable smart booster has a built-in smart IC chip that filters out cellular and FM signals for enhanced gain and range for more free TV channels, plus lower noise and a clearer picture. 

Although indoor antennas cannot compete with outdoor antennas in terms of picture quality and channel variety, you will be getting all VHF, UHF and HD channels in crystal clear images. For its price, this indoor antenna has a lot to offer.


How To Choose The Best RV TV Antenna: Criteria

The world of travel trailer TV antenna is diverse and ever expanding in number, with later models being more advanced in terms of functionality, design and construction.

You will see vastly different units available at vastly different price points, so the key to a worthwhile long-term investment lies in knowing your needs and preferences.

If you have a set budget, you might need to make compromises, but in any case, keeping in mind the following criteria will help you select the best RV TV antenna for your money:

Type

The first thing to consider is whether you prefer an outdoor, roof mounted antenna or an indoor antenna, or a portable antenna that can be set up anywhere suitable at the campsite. A roof mounted antenna or a portable antenna typically have a much wider coverage range than the indoor type, so they are superior in terms of both channel variety and image quality.

Although indoor TV antennas for RV are much less common, some budget campers might prefer them due to their cheaper price, as well as their compact and portable profile that’s easy to move around.

An antenna should be mounted as high above the ground as possible, so a roof mounted unit would get better reception than a portable antenna set up on a tripod base on the ground. However, many campers might prefer a portable unit, as they won’t need to worry about the antenna being damaged by obstacles on the road or it having to withstand harsh outdoor elements.

That said, later models these days, especially the best RV TV antennas of all, typically boast a super compact and low profile, minimizing the chance of your unit coming into contact with some low hanging tree branches while you’re on the move.

Coverage Range

The most important parameter when you’re looking for the best RV TV antenna in any case is coverage range. Coverage range of a TV antenna is measured in miles and refers to how far away from the TV towers the unit can be while still picking up signals.

The longer the coverage range of a certain unit, generally the more channels it can receive and the better the reception quality. Coverage range is not relevant to satellite antennas, as satellite TV is broadcast from geosynchronous satellites at 23,000 miles above the earth.

RV TV antennas typically have a range of 20 to 60 miles, although you might come across a few high performance models that have an extreme range of up to 150 miles (which always cost north of $1,500). However, physical barriers like mountains, hills and thick trees, even inclement weather conditions, can have a negative impact on your reception.

In short, in real world conditions, the maximum distance between an antenna and a local broadcast tower for ideal reception is only 35 miles. 

Long-range TV antennas for RVs cost more than short-range models, but in general, a long range unit is a better long-term investment. But if you are determined on getting an affordable short-range unit now, you might need to pay extra money later on an antenna booster so that you can get better reception and more channels from further away. 

Directional vs Omnidirectional 

Directional antennas pull in signals better from one certain direction, while omnidirectional antennas receive signals equally from all directions, 360 degrees. In general, the best RV TV antennas these days are often omnidirectional. That said, as long as the directional antenna is pointing in its optimal direction, it can detect a weaker or more distant signal better than an equivalent omnidirectional antenna. 

Design

In addition to the earliest traditional antennas that have several short and long elements, you will see a variety of new designs, including spherical antennas and enclosed antennas that look like a square box or a thick plate.

These designs are much neater, and their low, compact profile means they are much less prone to wear and tear caused by vibrations and shocks during travel, or by contact with obstacles like low hanging trees.

Also, the lower profile your antenna is, the lower chance that the force of high wind will shake the antenna loose from its mount. The best RV TV antenna units these days often come with these neat looking and compact designs, which translate to a longer lifespan despite the abuse on off-road travels.

Handy Features

  • Magnetic base: For campers who want a fuss-free installation, an antenna unit with a magnetic base that will instantly secure onto your RV’s roof will sound like a dream. If you’re not 100% comfortable with this idea, check the reviews to see how securely a unit really mounts.
  • Foldable: Some RV TV antennas that come with a traditional design can be folded down flush on your roof when you’re on the road to make up for their high profile. This will minimize the chance of your antenna being damaged by obstacles on the road and the wear and tear caused by shocks and vibrations.
  • Channel-saving feature: Many RV TV antennas come with this handy built-in feature. When you’re watching a specific channel, the rotator automatically moves in the direction that will maintain the best signal so that you can continue watching without interruptions.
  • Built-in pre-amplifier: If your antenna has a built-in amplifier, it is an amplified antenna. It will offer you better reception and a superior viewing experience, so that you won’t have to sacrifice entertainment even in inclement weather. If your antenna unit comes with such an amplifier, you won’t need to buy an antenna booster.  
  • WiFi access: There are many units out there that provide WiFi access. This might be handy for certain campers, but remember that a WiFi-enabled TV antenna always cost quite a bit more than a regular model. 

Material

Most RV TV antennas these days are made from plastic or aluminum, sometimes both. Both work well enough in various camping settings, but in general, for outdoor antennas, a powder coated aluminum unit would be more tolerant of harsh weather conditions and would last longer. 

Weight

In addition to design and material, the weight of your antenna also affects its lifespan. A lightweight antenna would be most convenient to install, move around or adjust, but if you typically camp in high wind conditions, having an outdoor roof mounted antenna that is too light weight would not be ideal, especially if it doesn’t have a low profile.

Such an antenna might get shaken loose from its mount under the force of strong winds, causing you to lose signals and shortening the unit’s service life. 

RV TV Antenna: Installation and Usage Tips

Step-by-Step Installation 

Consult your owner’s manual, but the general steps for installing and mounting an RV TV antenna should look something like this:

  • Construct your antenna: The best RV TV antennas these days come with a very neat design that requires minimal effort in this regard, or none at all.
  • Mount the antenna on the roof: Some RVs come with a dedicated spot that is pre-wired or reinforced for the most secure installation of RV TV antennas. If your RV doesn’t come with such a spot, locate an unobstructed location where you can mount your RV TV antenna. You don’t have to do this for an indoor or portable antenna, but for roof mounted units, remember to apply a solid line of heavy duty sealant to connect the antenna to the mount base.
  • Run the cables: Look for hook-ups in your RV that will allow you to run the antenna’s power and interface coaxial cables into your rig and connect them to your TV.
  • Connect to your TV: Connect the antenna’s coaxial cable to the coaxial port on the back of your TV. In case you can’t find this port on your TV, you will need to buy a separate ATSC tuner. Then, connect the antenna’s cable to the coaxial port on the tuner, then plug the tuner’s HDMI cable or the AV cable to the back of your TV.
  • Run a channel scan: Run a channel scan from your TV. If you’re not happy with the number of channels your antenna picks up, or not happy with the reception quality, try to rotate your antenna by a quarter at a time, then scan again and repeat until you’re satisfied. To rotate the antenna, refer to the manual, but if your antenna comes with a crank that can be turned, grab it and pull it down slightly to rotate it. When you let go, the crank should go back to its original position and lock the antenna in place.
best antenna for camper
Photo: welcomia / Getty Images

Some additional notes:

  • Do not mount a roof mounted antenna to a pole on your vehicle. Determine a spot on the roof where it can be securely mounted. Remember that vibrations on the road as well as the force of high winds can make the screws become loose and the antenna will rotate by itself from the original direction you left it with, so a secure mount is crucial to both the reception and the lifespan of the unit.
  • Do not try to install your roof mounted TV antenna when it is raining or when the roof is wet.
  • When you install your antenna and test it, make sure to park your RV under clear blue sky, free from tall hills or bushy trees that will interfere with reception or prevent the antenna from rising.
  • Your TV and antennas together surprisingly eat up quite a lot of energy from your battery pack, so make sure you have a good deep cycle battery. 

How To Get More Channels with Your RV TV Antenna

  • Upgrade your cable: Many antennas come with the RG59 cable, and you might get more channels and overall a better viewing experience if you switch to RG6 cables. RG6 cables typically have a thicker conductor, plus a better shielding and better insulation than RG59 cables, which make them more ideal for higher frequencies.
  • Minimize interference: If you’re not happy with the reception quality, check if there is any electric or electronic equipment in your RV that might be interfering with your TV reception. Wi-Fi routers can be especially troublesome. To test, unplug all nearby electric and electronic devices, including Wi-Fi routers, computers, DVD players, stereo equipment, and others. Then unplug all connections to your TV, except for power and the antenna. Rescan to check if there is an improvement in reception quality. If this is the case, there is indeed something that interferes with the workings of your RV TV antenna. To determine the culprit, turn on the electric and electronic equipment one at a time.
  • Re-scan: TV and radio stations sometimes change locations, or transmitter power. This is why sometimes you get new channels when you do a rescan. It’s a good idea to rescan every now and then; you might find some new channels.
  • Get a better TV tuner: Your TV has a component that receives TV signals called a “tuner”. The better the tuner is, the more channels it will pick up. The quality of tuners differ among different brands (top rated TV brands like Samsung and Sony have excellent tuners), and more recent models generally have more advanced tuners. If you’re not happy with the number of channels your TV is picking up, you can buy a tuner separately instead of buying a whole new TV.

Handy TV Antenna Accessories

RV TV Antenna Booster

If you already have an amplified TV antenna as opposed to a conventional non-amplified antenna, then the signal that your antenna receives is already boosted. But if your antenna is non-amplified and you can’t get a better reception from rotating your antenna, you can just purchase a TV antenna booster to enjoy an improvement in reception instead of having to buy a whole new amplified antenna.

While reception quality can be affected by surrounding physical obstacles, inclement weather and the distance to your local signal towers, an antenna booster can make the difference between getting spotty signal to being able to enjoy uninterrupted entertainment on the road. 

An Old Satellite Dish

Some campers think that they can use an old satellite dish lying around as a TV antenna, but it won’t act as one by itself. However, the satellite dish will amplify the signals received by your RV TV antenna, thus providing better reception, more channels and a better viewing experience.

RV TV Antenna Rotator

Having to manually rotate your antenna to get better reception is a big hassle, especially if you have a roof mounted unit, and if you change campsites pretty often, you will have to adjust your antenna every time. An antenna rotator that is remote controlled will allow you to sit back on your sofa and easily adjust your antenna’s angle and direction at the touch of a button.

And if your antenna does not come with the handy channel-saving feature, you might want to get a rotator with this feature. When you’re watching a specific channel, the rotator automatically moves in the direction that will maintain the best signal so that you can continue watching without interruptions.

RV Tripod Base

If you have a portable antenna, you might need a tripod base so that wherever you set up camp, you can easily make sure your antenna is mounted evenly on the ground. These tripod bases also better keep your antenna stable in inclement weather. Some models even come with bubble levels that will make the alignment process even smoother.

RV Antenna Signal Meter

An antenna signal meter will make the whole setup process of rotating your antenna and doing a channel rescan so much faster, with minimal guess-work. The signal meter connects to your RV’s antenna cable and whenever the antenna moves, it will automatically test the signal strength. You can quickly find which local stations are within range and adjust amplification to fine-tune the picture quality.

RV TV Antenna FAQs

1. How much does an RV TV antenna cost?

RV TV antennas vary widely in terms of price. While the cheapest entry-level units will only cost you some $100, some even less, many top-of-the-class models can set you back by as much as $1,500. And as with everything else, while the best RV TV antenna is not necessarily the most expensive ones on the shelves, remember that the cheapest units won’t last you a very long time on the road, given all the physical abuse your antenna will be subjected to. 

Furthermore, an RV TV antenna generally is expected to last you around a decade, so it’s better to pay a reasonable amount for a high quality and durable antenna. An RV TV antenna is a medium-term investment, and you’ll get more value for money, especially if you travel with many companions or with kids who demand entertainment from time to time.

2. What are the best brands for RV TV antennas?

The market for RV TV antennas has seen expansion and new entries over the years, so if you come across a highly rated model from a small brand that meets your budget and camping needs, you can give it a try.

If you want to stay on the safe side, it’s always a good idea to look at best selling models from prestigious manufacturers with a proven track record. The biggest names in the arena for the best RV TV antennas are hands down King and Winegard, followed by BY ONE and Luxtronic.

3. How long do RV TV antennas last?

Given the average level of physical abuse that an antenna for recreational vehicles has to bear, you can generally expect the best RV TV antennas on the market to be of good service for up to 10 years. After a decade, it is common for TV antennas to experience problems such as dropouts, and notable loss to image quality. 

4. Which end of the antenna do you point?

If your antenna has several elements with different lengths, the end of the antenna that is the shortest is the front of the antenna. Initially, you’ll want to point that end towards the nearest TV tower. You can google where the nearest local TV tower is. See what channels you pick up, and you can adjust your antenna again and again to rescan until you get the channels you want.

5. Which way should I point my RV TV antenna?

There is really no one right direction as to where to point your RV antenna, although when you first start, it’s a good idea to point it towards the nearest TV tower, if you can find out where it is, or towards the nearest metropolitan area, since it’s likely that the local TV towers are located in close proximity.

Another general rule of thumb is to make sure you avoid physical obstacles like big hills or trees, as they can interfere with signal reception. Park your RV on level grounds and try to have a clear view of the sky. 

Turn your RV TV antenna in one direction first, ideally starting from the direction of the nearest TV towers or city, and then scan for channels. If you’re not getting the reception that you want, turn it a quarter at a time, rescan and repeat until you get the channels you want.

6. Should a TV antenna be level?

You should always keep the antenna level, even when you’re somewhere higher than the towers. Due to the horizontal polarization of the signal being sent out from the towers, this practice will ensure you have the strongest signals.

7. How high should a TV antenna be mounted?

In general, the higher you place your RV TV antenna, the better the reception will be. Although this will be impossible to achieve when you’re traveling in an RV, just remember that the ideal height for any TV antenna is 30 feet above ground level, which would give you the clearest over-the-air connection with a TV tower.

8. How can I get better reception on my RV TV antenna?

It will take some trials and errors until you can get optimal reception on your TV:

+ Try to park your RV somewhere without large physical barriers or obstacles that will interfere with reception.

+ Raise your antenna as high as it allows, keep it level with the ground. If you know the location of the nearest local TV tower, point the front of the antenna towards the tower, and turn on your TV.

+ Note the position of the antenna base plate.

+ Then run a channel scan. Once the scan is complete, see what channels the antenna picks up.

+ Tune to the channel you want to watch and check the reception quality.

+ If you’re not satisfied, turn the antenna base plate a quarter or 90 degrees.

+ Check if you get more channels and if the reception quality improves.

+ Repeat until you’re happy with the results.

9. Where should I put my indoor RV TV antenna?

The rule of thumb for outdoor TV antennas also applies here. Try to place your indoor RV antenna as high above the ground as possible. Best if you can mount it near the ceiling, as doing so puts the antenna above the level of low-lying objects both within your rig as well as outside that might block the signal, including problematic electronic and digital devices like WiFi routers.

10. Why is my antenna not picking up channels?

If your RV TV antenna is not picking up any signal or if you only get a spotty signal, no matter where you point your antenna, the most likely cause is that your cables may be loose. Check to make sure all connections are tight at your TV and your antenna and also check if all cables are bent, looped, or damaged in any way.

11. Do trees interfere with RV TV antennas?

Large bushy trees, as well as tall structures like buildings, mountains, hills can interfere with TV antenna reception. In general, outdoor TV antennas fare better than their indoor counterparts when it comes to reception near physical obstacles. Thick, bushy trees interfere with the signal by reflecting them off their foliage or completely obstructing the waves.

12. How does the weather affect RV TV antenna reception?

A light rain shouldn’t affect reception. However, inclement weather, including heavy rain, thick fog and high winds can disrupt the way TV signals travel from the TV towers to your RV TV antenna, leading to poor or spotty reception.

Also, in windy conditions, many campers have reported that the force of strong winds make the screws on their antenna become loose, thereby changing the direction of the antenna and affecting reception.

13. Why does my TV signal always get worse at night?

This is actually a common and universal occurrence. That said, this generally suggests that the signal getting to your television is not quite strong enough to begin with. The cause of this phenomenon is a significant drop in the temperature as evening falls, or a drop in temperature following hot days, commonly referred to as “falling off the digital cliff”.

The abrupt and significant drop in temperature results in a layer of warm air closer to the ground being trapped under a layer of cold air. This warm air layer acts as a reflector to signals. This reflection of signals is also the reason for rare occasions when you suddenly receive TV or radio signals from far off transmitters.

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