Traveling in an RV is a great way to get back to nature, and see the country, without giving up the comforts of home. Increasingly, those comforts include DIRECTV.
Mobile satellite TV allows you to watch a wide range of TV shows and movies when on the road. It’s similar to your entertainment package at home. DirectTV is an industry leader in live TV for vehicles, but what exactly do they offer, how well does the service work and are better options available?
Our complete guide to DIRECTV for RVs has everything you need to know!
A Quick Overview of DIRECTV Mobile Satellite TV
DIRECTV offers a mobile service for RVs and other vehicles. It’s a lot like the traditional DIRECTV service for residences but not exactly the same.
You get a similar, but slightly slimmer, selection of shows on the road compared to what you get at home. In the RV, you get over 185 channels. The biggest difference is the lack of local channels, although DIRECTV offers an interesting workaround.
DIRECTV mobile offers a broad range of movies and TV shows. But while it’s reliable and easy to use, it also doesn’t work exactly as you might expect. Here’s a closer look:
How DIRECTV Mobile Service Works
In order to receive programming in your RV, you’ll need a DIRECTV receiver. If you’re currently a DIRECTV subscriber, you can use any receiver you already have. Unplug it from a TV in your home and hook it up to a satellite dish in your RV.
Even if you’re driving halfway across the country, DIRECTV just treats it as if it was in another bedroom in your house. It’s a great option if you don’t travel too often, but want to bring along DIRECTV without any extra costs.
You can also rent an additional receiver from DIRECTV so you can keep one in the RV and one at home. You might want to do that if you travel frequently, but other family members stay at home.
What Mobile Services Does DIRECTV Offer?
DIRECTV offers four types of mobile service:
- Cars, Mini-Vans, and SUVs
The first three services all offer at least 185 channels, while you get 145 on airplanes. (The airplane mobile service is for airplane owners, so we’re not going to cover it in this review, no offense to any airplane owners out there.)
How Does DIRECTV at Home Connect to the Mobile Service?
If you already pay for DIRECTV in your home, either as a standalone service or bundled with another service provider CenturyLink, then you don’t need a separate account for mobile. Mobile services are considered complementary to the home service.
You will need two DIRECTV accounts if you want service in two different non-moving locations, such as two houses, two apartments or a house and an apartment. However, you only need one account if you want service in one home and an RV.
So, what’s the difference between the Cars, Mini-Vans, SUVs package and the one for RVs? Basically, access. The first service doesn’t work far from your home broadcast area. Once you get to a range outside of where your local news coverage ends, your service features will likely be affected.
Don’t buy the Cars, Mini-Vans and SUVs package for use in an RV. Make sure you get the specific RV package.
The RV package provides service across the country. You’ll receive over 185 channels of movies, TV shows, sports, and family entertainment.
DIRECTV offers three channel packages.
The Select package is $35 a month. It includes a variety of popular cable channels such as MTV, TBS, and CNN.
For $45 a month, the Choice package adds multiple ESPN channels, a year of HBO, NFL Sunday Ticket and more.
Finally, the Ultimate package includes all available channels such as premium channels, sports channels, and niche channels for every interest. It’s $60 a month.
Distant Network Services
Most people augment the RV package with Distant Network Services (DNS), which let you receive a wide variety of local channels including ABC, CBS, Fox, and NBC. It’s an additional fee of $15 a month.
Due to FCC regulations, you’ll need to file an affidavit and a copy of the RV’s vehicle registration with DIRECTV to get local channels through DNS.
Local services are from either New York or Los Angeles, depending on where in the country you are. While you might not have a huge interest in watching local news in NY or LA, especially if you’re nowhere near those areas, many people like being able to watch the major networks.
You’ll be able to watch live events like professional and collegiate sports plus large events like the Academy Awards.
Things get a little tricky if you’re trying to use your home account with Distant Network Services. You can’t have the DNS on the same account as your home account if you want your home account to receive local programming.
Distant Network Services is a great option if you travel frequently and aren’t particularly interested in watching local channels at home.
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What are the Drawbacks for DIRECTV RV Service?
Overall, DIRECTV’s RV package is a reliable and varied source of on-the-road entertainment. But there are some aspects of the service we don’t like.
The biggest drawback is the features and programming not available in the RV. There are fewer options than the in-home service. The RV package doesn’t include seasonal subscription packages for sports, DIRECTV Cinema and pay-per-view, or local channels outside of New York and Los Angeles.
Lack of local channels can be annoying, but it’s not DIRECTV’s fault. Instead, it’s an FCC rule.
If you have in-home service, you’ll still be able to watch local channels but only at home. However, only major broadcast networks are affected. You can still watch the 180+ channels. Of course, the Distant Network Service is still available to watch certain local content.
How Do I Setup DIRECTV for My RV?
You’ll need to mount a dish (technically called an antenna) onto your RV. Unfortunately, you can’t take the dish off the roof of your house and stick it on your RV. Instead, you’ll need a dish specifically built for an RV.
When shopping for a dish antenna, you have a few options.
The cheapest, simplest option is a tripod-mounted dish. You use it along with the DIRECTV receiver. The tripod can be mounted on the roof or placed on the ground. The dish is manually aligned to the satellite at each stop.
It’s a good choice if you like to camp in one spot for a few days in a row. Otherwise, aligning the dish can get tedious day after day. You typically don’t leave it mounted permanently atop the roof.
The next type of dish is autofind capable. It can automatically point to the satellite signal. They’re the best option for frequent travelers who stop somewhere new practically every night.
Consider a slim-profile antenna, which not only finds the satellite automatically but also offers in-motion viewing.
A simple, round dish is easy to align, but it won’t get HD. You’ll want a slim profile for high def viewing.
Aside from a round dish, dome-shaped ones are also available.
Here’s the thing about these dishes: DIRECTV doesn’t directly sell them. Instead, you’ll need to contact one of the four authorized distributors:
Their King Quest is a reliable antenna at a reasonable price. It’s fully automatic and made specifically for DIRECTV.
The Quest can be mounted on your roof or used as a portable antenna. It includes 30 inches of cable, mounting feet and a power injector. The Quest is usually not compatible with many HD channels. Check the specifics before ordering.
Generally, King Controls is considered an affordable choice with a solid selection of RV gear designed for DIRECTV.
KVH’s line of TracVision antenna systems are their most popular products. The TracVision RV1 is the cheapest option. It works well with DIRECTV, but it also has a high clearance and is only compatible with KU-band services.
The TracVision A9 automatically switches between KA-band and KU-band satellite services. You’ll have an easier time finding a strong signal. Plus, the A9 is only five inches high, giving you low clearance on the RV.
Winegard sells equipment and five different DIRECTV subscriptions, making them a convenient one-stop-shop for many new subscribers. Bundles of gear and a subscription often include rebates.
They sell three roof-mount antennae plus one dish and tripod. Although the options are limited compared to some of the others, the quality is high.
How Your Traveling Style Determines the Gear You Need
First, how often do you travel?
If you take one or two big vacations a year, you probably don’t need to buy a second receiver. However, using your sole receiver in your RV means you won’t get DIRECTV service in your house, which could be a problem if anyone’s staying behind.
Next, you’ll want to determine how much and when you watch TV. If you just watch a few shows in the evening, a portable antenna mounting system is probably fine. You’ll have to set it up yourself. Place it in clear view of the southern sky.
Fixed mounts are much easier to deal with. If mobility is an issue, or you simply don’t like messing around with wires, a fixed mount only has to be installed once.
Antennae can automatically locate the appropriate satellite. Automatic dishes are usually the easiest option for fixed mounts. Otherwise, you need to press a bunch of switches or even climb up on the roof to adjust the dish.
Open-Faced vs. Domed Dishes
You’ll want an open-faced dish if you’re frequently in wet or rainy weather. Water slides off these antennas usually without much of a problem.
However, you can’t drive with an open-faced antenna. Take it down completely if it’s portable or fold it down if it’s fixed.
A domed dish offers the most security and flexibility. The enclosed dome protects the satellite from weather and wind. You don’t have to take the domed satellite off the roof to drive.
You can also use the domed satellite when driving so passengers can watch their favorite shows. You’ll need an in-motion system for on-the-road driving. It’s a system which tracks satellites automatically as the RV moves.
Even if passengers aren’t interested in watching TV, an in-motion system maintains a satellite connection so you can record shows onto your DVR, listen to music channels or even listen to a live sporting event.
However, domes have certain disadvantages. Rain, snow, and dew are far more likely to interrupt the signal in a domed dish compared to an open-faced one. Plus, they can add to your vehicle’s clearance.
Can I Use a Satellite Dish to Get Internet in My RV?
You can. You’ll need a dish specific for your mobile internet. For DIRECTV, you can use an RVDataSet system. You’ll also need a dedicated receiver box.
How to Get Great TV Reception
The good news about DIRECTV is that a loss of signal is rarely their fault. You can find lesser-known satellite content providers with questionable services, but DIRECTV is usually reliable.
The biggest problem related to poor satellite TV reception is improper dish positioning. Whether you’re using a portable satellite or one with an automatic tracking system, proper positioning is key.
The satellites you need fly over the Equator, roughly due south of Texas. You’ll need a clear view of the southern sky. As you move north, the dish will need to be pointed lower in elevation, which is an upward angle, to reach the signal.
You’ll find no shortage of potential obstructions, especially in the great outdoors. Camping underneath the trees, in a valley or in other obscured spots can limit your ability to find a satellite. Additionally, service can suffer even without obstructions due to a rain fade, which is when humidity in the air degrades the satellite signal.
How Important is High Definition?
If you were asked to give up your HD TV at home and go back to Standard Def, you’d say no way. But it’s not quite the same situation in an RV.
High definition isn’t particularly noticeable on a TV smaller than 26 inches. Small TVs have a picture consisting of lines which are very close together. As the screen gets larger, the lines grow further apart, and the differences between HD and SD become more apparent.
If you don’t mind the picture quality, Standard Definition has quite a few benefits over High Definition in an RV.
You’ll get a lot more channel options. In most cases, you’ll get about twice as many channels. While some will be duplicates to HD channels, you’ll also get channels in multiple time zones and even additional premium movie channels.
You can also get SD channels with a low-cost antenna. To get HD, you’ll need a satellite which can pick up the Ka-band.
TV entertainment has never been better for RV owners. If you already have DIRECTV, using your subscription on the road can be as easy an attaching your existing receiver to your satellite. If you’re a new subscriber, you’ll find plenty of ways to customize your service for any need and budget.
The ability to watch live (and local) TV in your RV adds a whole new element of fun to any road trip or camping adventure!