How to Stay Connected With the Best Internet in Your RV
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Having reliable RV internet while traveling is an invaluable asset. With a stable connection, you can stay in touch with loved ones, fulfill remote work duties, attend online classes, and get real-time route updates regarding weather, traffic, fires, low clearance, and other safety issues. Of course, it will also help you discover hidden attractions and enjoy online entertainment no matter where you are.
But what is the best internet for RVs? This comprehensive post will dive deep into the topic of RV internet and break it down in a way that’s easy to digest. We will cover cellular, WiFi, and satellite internet options, the best data plans and prices, the type of equipment you’ll need, and factors to consider before choosing a solution.
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First, What’s the Best RV Internet Solution?
Put simply, there isn’t a perfect, works well anywhere solution, when it comes to RV internet. A data plan that works for one RVer won’t work for another. The secret is redundancy, which means using multiple options. Find a primary internet plan that matches your data needs and RVing lifestyle, then look for a plan B and C that can act as a complementing plan.
The reasoning behind this is that no single-cell provider has excellent coverage in every single part of the country. So, you’ll certainly end up in locations where a single carrier has no coverage, but you’re less likely to end up in a spot where two carriers have no coverage.
Start By Understanding Your Needs Before Choosing RV Internet
Every RVer’s needs are so different. For instance, what suits a full-timer working remotely won’t fit a weekender who wants to check email a few times a day. Further, a solo RVer will have different needs from a traveling household. Here are factors to consider when assessing your RV internet needs.
What Do You Want to Do Online?
Are you an RVer who needs high bandwidth for activities like video conferencing or round-the-clock video streaming? If yes, you’re better off with unlimited internet or high-cap data options. Plus, you’ll want to invest in signal-enhancing boosters. If you just need a connection to check emails, chat with loved ones, surf the web, or plan your trip, then a less dependable internet option may be acceptable.
How Much Data Do You Need?
Some remote jobs require less data, while others demand high bandwidth. Before settling on any RV internet option, track how much data you use. Most devices have built-in monitoring tools to track the total amount of data (MB or GB) utilized on each network over the last 30 days. Don’t forget to factor in data used for entertainment and TV streaming.
If you travel as a family, take into account the data usage of the entire connected household. Factor in the data drain of each computer, tablet, phone, streaming device, gaming machine, and remote monitoring security cameras. If you need lots of data and high speeds, avoid unlimited data plans that cut down speed once you hit a certain limit. Also, avoid plans that have caps on hotspot use or video streaming.
How Reliable of a Connection Do You Need?
Do you absolutely need 24/7 coverage to support remote work? Do you risk losing your job or missing important classes if you can’t get online? Do you have a health condition that requires you to constantly stay in touch with a healthcare provider? Then you’ll want to have multiple internet plans, i.e., cellular and satellite. This makes sure you have a plan B in case your primary option is poor, patchy, or non-existent in a particular area.
Where Do You Prefer to Camp?
Do you love camping in RV parks located in urban or populated areas? If yes, you’re more likely to have decent cellular connectivity no matter the carrier you pick. You can also rely on the WiFi. of these facilities. Love camping in rural RV parks, isolated public parks, or deep in the boonies? You’ll want the ability to switch between different cellular carriers to take advantage of the one that has better signal. If staying connected is a priority when visiting remote places, you’ll want to set up RV satellite internet.
What’s the Length of Your Trips?
If you’ve decided to live in your RV year-round or seasonally, it makes sense to invest in different RV internet plans and gear. But if you travel infrequently and for shorter durations, then you need to weigh how vital a strong internet connection is to you. If it isn’t that important, you can rely on free WiFi at campgrounds, libraries, and cafes. If stable internet is critical, you may have to look for RV parks with fast internet or buy a smartphone hotspot data plan.
How Long Do You Stay on One Spot?
Do you plan to move locations every week? Or do you prefer stationary living for months or a year? For those staying in one spot, it’s as easy as looking for a carrier that has the strongest signal in that area. You can even source local internet solutions like cable, DSL, WISPs, or residential satellite. If you move a lot, diversify your RV internet providers to increase the chances of having a stable connection whenever you go.
How Much Are You Willing to Spend?
Budget is another key factor to consider when looking for the best internet for RV. Internet gear purchases and monthly fees for plans can be pretty expensive. Ask yourself how much you are willing to pay to stay connected. Throwing money at the most expensive setup doesn’t always guarantee stable connectivity. But be prepared to spend more if you need fast and reliable internet anywhere you go.
What’s Your Tech Comfort Level?
Without a doubt, mobile internet involves complicated technologies. For this reason, many people want a simple setup that they can easily manage and call support when things aren’t working. Other RVers are tech-savvy and DIY-inclined, so they prefer to assemble their own setups. When starting, it’s better to work with simple equipment you understand. Then, you can later upgrade to complex configurations.
Best RV Internet Options for RV Living
Wondering how to get internet in a camper? Here are the primary internet options for RV living. We will highlight each method’s pros and cons:
RV Internet Option 1: Cellular Internet
Most nomads rely on cellular data as the core of their mobile internet solution. This solution works using the same technology that allows you to talk, text, and surf on your smartphone. Cellular internet gives you access to the internet anywhere you are as long as there is a signal.
The trick is to pick a carrier that has good coverage for wherever you’re going, as well as a suitable data plan. We recommend picking at least 2 carriers with great data plans for your needs. In the US, there are 4 major carriers that have nationwide coverage.
- Verizon – Has the best 4G coverage nationwide and is usually the top pick for RVers. They are actively accelerating the deployment of mid-band 5G. Currently, over 200 million people have access to their 5G.
- T-Mobile – T-Mobile’s internet coverage is also great. In fact, it boasts the country’s largest and fastest 5G network. However, it falls behind Verizon and AT&T when it comes to 4G LTE coverage.
- AT&T – It’s the second best after Verizon in terms of 4G LTE coverage, and its network is generally less congested. However, they’ve been slow to deploy the favorable mid-band 5G. The operator covers fewer customers with the 5G mid-band technology than its rivals.
- Dish – The newest carrier, Dish, has a 5G network that currently covers about 70% of the country. It also roams onto AT&T and T-Mobile. Before picking Dish internet for RV, make sure they offer good coverage where you are going.
Pros of Cellular Internet
- Widespread coverage.
- Can be blazing fast, even faster than cable modems.
- It’s much more secure and reliable than public WiFi hotspots.
- Provides internet on the go as long as you have a mobile device like a smartphone or tablet. This isn’t possible with WiFi.
Cons of Cellular Internet
- You’ll need to have a data plan, which can be expensive if you use a lot of data.
- Can be slower than WiFi if there is no good coverage.
- Susceptible to outages during power cuts, peak usage times or when in crowded areas.
3 Ways to Access Cellular Mobile Internet
Here are the top ways to use cellular data as your mobile internet connection as you are RVing.
1. Smartphone Hotspot
Using your mobile hotspot feature on your smartphone’s settings is the easiest way to use cellular data for mobile connectivity. It creates a WIFI hotspot that you can connect your laptop, TV, and other devices to. It’s the best option for solo RVers or couples who don’t rely on the internet for critical tasks like telecommuting to work or homeschooling.
Advantages of Using a Smartphone Mobile Hotspot for RV Internet
- You don’t need to invest in any other device if you already own a smartphone.
- Your current cellular data plan may already include hotspot usage.
- Many phones have dual SIM slots, so you can easily switch between two carriers depending on which one has better signal strength at your current location.
- Newer phones have the latest network technology compared to other cellular devices.
- It’s a great backup if you choose a different internet source for your RV.
Downsides of Using a Smartphone Mobile Hotspot for RV Internet
- Most smartphone data plans have caps on mobile hot spotting at high speed. The carrier may bottleneck your speeds once you hit a certain amount per month.
- Not great when you have multiple people in your RV who want to stay connected. When the phone owner leaves the RV, the rest won’t have a connection.
- Causes a lot of wear and tear on the phone battery, reducing its life.
- Limited camper WiFi range. The signal will only be strong inside the RV.
- Not ideal for 247 tasks like remote monitoring.
- Smartphones aren’t dedicated to hot spotting so they may overheat if used constantly or go asleep when idle.
- Smartphones have no antenna ports. These ports help improve data performance.
2. Cellular Tablet
Tablets are another of the best RV internet solutions for using cellular data in your setup. Tablet users experience the pros and cons of smartphone users regarding hotspotting. The main pro is that you’ll have access to unlimited data plans that are quite affordable. So they are ideal for those with lots of data needs, like video conferencing and broadcasting. You can also get an external keyboard and use it as a work laptop.
3. Mobile Hotspot Device
Also known as Mifi or Jetpacks, mobile hotspot devices are portable hardware gadgets that serve as wireless access points for connecting devices to the internet. Put simply, they take a cellular connection and turn it into a local area network that your devices can use to get online. They are perfect for households with multiple people and gadgets or anyone who wants a dedicated network connection.
Pros of Mobile Hotspot Devices for RV Internet
- They have a battery, so you can take them with you anywhere.
- They are dedicated data devices.
- Simple plug and play when you need a connection and the connection is always available when you need. Unlike a smartphone hotspot.
- Affordable—from $50 dollars.
- The latest models have up-to-date technology.
- Many options have antenna ports, so you can use external cellular antennas to get a better signal and data performance.
Cons of Mobile Hotspot Devices for Camper Internet
- You need a separate data plan.
- More expenses to consider as you have to buy the gadget and get a different data plan from the one your smartphone uses.
- WiFi range isn’t as good as that of a residential rooter.
- The device can overheat due to constant use, which kills the battery’s performance.
- They are locked to a specific carrier, so you can’t use different carriers in the same device.
4. Cell Router
Also known as SIM-based routers, mobile cellular embedded routers are the most advanced, flexible, and reliable solution when it comes to cell internet for RVs. Basically, they are devices that connect to the internet through a cellular network using a SIM card. They are a solid option for those who want a dedicated and reliable option that can connect multiple devices and seamlessly switch between different carriers.
Pros of Cellular Routers for Camper Internet
- Have external antennas to enhance data performance.
- They are not locked to a specific carrier, so you can switch between different data providers based on signal strength.
- Some have multiple SIMs that allow the device to automatically switch between carrier plans based on signal strength.
- Allows you to create a robust local area network (LAN) to connect multiple electronic devices and gizmos.
- Apart from cellular networks, they can connect to other internet sources such as campground WiFi, ethernet, and Starlink satellite internet.
- Lots of advanced features for optimizing your connection.
- Stronger WiFi range.
Cons of Cellular Router for Camper Internet
- Pricy option costing between $300 to $1500+.
- Limited data plan options.
- Navigating the advanced settings can be tough for those who aren’t tech-savvy.
RV Internet Option 2: Public WiFi
Using public WiFi as mobile internet for RV is another excellent option. Common sources for free wireless internet are RV parks, restaurants, coffee shops, and libraries. While this option is convenient, it only suits travelers with basic needs who plan on staying in RV parks and campgrounds with well-developed amenities.
Pros of Using Free WiFi for RV
- You get to enjoy a free internet connection. Indeed, many destinations have recognized the demand for great internet so it’s now easier to find RV parks with high-speed internet.
- It doesn’t require any equipment or complex setup. Just enter the password.
- If you want dedicated internet, some campgrounds offer paid RV WiFi solutions with blazing-fast speeds.
Cons of Using Public WiFi in an RV
- Public WiFi is often slow or inconsistent if lots of people are using it.
- Not great for data-intensive activities.
- You won’t find a WiFi network in remote areas and boondocking spots.
- Using free WiFi for RV leaves you vulnerable to hackers as it’s less secure. Use a virtual private network (VPN) to minimize risks.
- You won’t have internet access once you are outside the WiFi range.
Notably, many of the latest tow trucks have in-built WiFi hotspots. The hotspot uses 4G cellular data, so you’ll need a paid data plan. Unfortunately, it has limited usable range outside of the truck. So, you won’t be able to use it from inside your camper. Another downside is the ignition has to be turned on for it to work.
RV Internet Option 3: Satellite as Mobile Internet
One more option for staying connected on the road is satellite internet for RV. Basically, you acquire gear that connects with satellites that orbit the earth. Internet from space is a relatively new technology, but it’s quickly changing the mobile internet landscape. The top satellite internet providers are:
- Starlink for RV – Provided by Elon Musk’s Space X, Starlink is the best satellite RV internet provider. It uses satellites that orbit very low (350 miles above) compared to other satellites. This creates a stronger signal. The company promises affordable, high-speed, low-latency satellite coverage to the entire globe. Currently, it has around 5,000 functional satellites orbiting overhead, and it offers service in over a million locations worldwide. The download speeds range from 50 Mbps to 220 Mbps. Starlink RV internet costs $149 per month.
- HughesNet – This RV internet satellite provider relies on two satellites designed to support a wide range. They plan to launch a newer, more advanced satellite in the near future. Their satellites orbit much higher, over 22,000 miles overhead. HughesNet download speed is much slower, at 15 to 25 Mbps. Their plans range between $49.99 to $149.99 per month.
- ViaSat – This company has four high-altitude satellites covering North America. And it continues to launch more. Unlike HughesNet, Viasat does offer higher-speed plans—20 to 100+ Mbps. Plans cost between $69.99 and $299.99 per month, plus a $15 monthly equipment rental fee.
Starlink is by far the best sat internet service based on speed and coverage. If you prefer to explore extremely remote areas where there is zero cell coverage, this is the best option for you. Additionally, it can be a great solution for RVers who work remotely and need coverage wherever they go. In such situations, satellite may be the only viable option to go online.
Pros of Satellite Internet for RV (Starlink)
- Best internet service for people living or exploring places that don’t already have access to high-speed broadband.
- Starlink’s internet speeds can reach super-fast speeds with no data caps.
- Starlink RV internet allows easy installation—the dish is small, and it self-aligns.
- As Starlink continues to launch more satellites, its internet speed is improving, and the plans are expected to become more affordable.
- Starlink promises to support text beginning in 2024 and voice and data beginning in 2025. This will help eliminate cellular dead zones.
Cons of RV Satellite Internet
- It’s an expensive investment. Starlink equipment costs $600 + $149 for a monthly data plan.
- Your RV needs a clear line of sight to the satellite (clear view of the sky). You may be in and out of service if you camp in a wooded area or near mountains.
- Has capacity issues in congested urban areas, leading to slower speeds.
- To use Starlink internet on the go (when driving), you’ll need to upgrade to a more expensive receiver that costs $2,500.
- Starlink’s satellite causes night sky pollution as they are visible in the dark.
- If you want to use Viasat and Hughesnet for RV, you need to stay in one location long term. That’s because they are residential satellite internet services, so they won’t work when you change locations. When you move, you’ll need a visit from a professional installer.
- Hughesnet and ViaSat require professional installation. Plus, you need to sign a long-term contract (2 to 3 years), and there is an early termination fee.
Best RV Internet Plans
Wondering what the best nomad data plans are? Here are the best cellular plans for RV mobile internet service. Notably, these plans change all the time. Visit the Mobile Internet Resource Center frequently to learn about the latest options.
Verizon RV Internet Plans
- Verizon Postpaid Unlimited Phone Plans ($90-$100/month) – Offers 60GB of mobile hotspot data. An additional 100GB of hotspot data can be added for only $10 per month.
- Verizon Mobile Hotspot Premium ($80-110/month) – This Verizon RV plan offers 150GB of data. It’s for devices like hotspots, tablets, and routers. It’s also available as an add-on to smartphone plans.
- Visible ($25-40/month) – This company is powered by Verizon, and it has smartphone plans with no data cap and no throttling. It includes unlimited personal device hotspot with a cap of 5 Mbps speed.
AT&T RV Internet Plans
- AT&T Business Wireless Broadband ($65-$95/month) – This plan is for routers and hotspots that offer unlimited speed-tiered data. It starts at $65 per month for 25 Mbps to $95 per month for 100 Mbps.
- AT&T DataConnect ($55-$90/month)– This is a postpaid data-only plan for hotspots and routers. It delivers 50GB of data for $55 per month or 100GB at $90 per month.
- AT&T Consumer Unlimited Premium ($85/month) – This is their flagship consumer data plan for smartphones. You get unlimited priority data without network management, plus 50GB of high-speed personal mobile hotspot use. You can add a tablet for $20 per month.
- AT&T Unlimited Tablet ($20/month) – The plan offers unlimited internet for RV on tablet devices + 10GB of mobile hotspot data. This AT&T WiFi for RV is perfect for those who have data-intensive tasks.
- Cricket Simply Data ($35-90/month) – Cricket is a subsidiary of AT&T, and it’s very popular with RVers. It offers data plans for hotspots and tablets. You get 20 to 150GB of data, depending on the plan you pick.
T-Mobile RV Internet Plans
- T-Mobile’s Mobile Internet ($50/month) – This plan is for hotspots, routers and tablets. There’s a 100GB plan for 5G hotspots alone and 50GB data @ $50 per month option for 4G hotspots and routers.
- T-Mobile Go5G Plus ($90/month) – This premium smartphone plan comes with no network management and 50GB of high-speed hotspot or 100GB with a $35 add-on.
- T-Mobile Home Internet ($50/month) – T-Mobile recently changed their terms, allowing people to use this unlimited data plan when on the go. This plan only works with the T-Mobile Home Internet Gateway Device.
Dish Internet Plans for RV Travel
- Dish Wireless Project Genesis ($25/month) – Their unlimited smartphone plan is $25/month.
Alternative RV Data Plans to Consider
There are dozens of 3rd party resellers of cellular plans for RVers. Some of these resellers buy rights and bulk data from the main carriers and resell to consumers. Other resellers aren’t very credible. They get access to corporate and non-profit plans and resell them without the carrier’s permission.
Once the carrier discovers the loophole, they shut down the lines. So it’s a shop-at-your- own-risk situation. Generally, reseller plans come and go but, usually, they last for 6 months or more. Depending on your needs and risk appetite, they can provide you with good value.
They are an appealing option because you can sometimes get data plans that seem to be better than what you can get directly from the carrier. Like higher data caps and lower prices. They are also great if you can’t pass a credit check or aren’t a US citizen. Note that reseller customer service is unreliable, and a carrier could blacklist your device when they shut down the reseller.
Here are some of the best RV internet reseller plans:
- Family Motor Coach Association (FMCA)
- Calyx Institute
- RV IT Guy
- Find a list of more resellers here.
Essential RV Internet Equipment
All RV internet options require some gear. Apart from smartphones, tablets, mobile hotspot devices, and cellular routers, here are other tools you may need.
Cellular Signal Booster
How are you going to optimize that wireless signal that could be coming from a dozen miles away from a cellular tower? An RV cellular booster will improve the strength of that weak signal and help you get the best data performance. They cost between $25 and $500 depending on capabilities.
A range extender or RV WiFi booster rebroadcasts the wireless signal it receives to expand its coverage. It will help you have a stronger and faster signal when using a public network at the campground. Their price is $20 to $200.
Coverage is a must-have tool for travelers who want RV internet service wherever they go. This app has different carriers’ coverage maps. Moreover, it allows you to create a personalized map to help you plan your travels around connectivity. You can also research where you’re covered across the USA and Canada.
Antenna Flag Pole
For a cell booster to amplify the faint signals it receives, you’ll need a way to mount its antenna on top of the RV. Many RVers set up a removable flag pole to hold the antenna or Starlink satellite dish. Look for a design that attaches to the ladder and installs in seconds while standing on the ground.
Helpful RV Internet Tips
Here are some great tips for RV internet on the road.
- Plan your RV travels around connectivity. Use RV park review sites like RV Life Campgrounds to discover campgrounds with great cell service and WiFi. Also, take advantage of the Coverage app. Check out our complete list of RVing apps to download.
- Get internet redundancy. This means you should invest in the best internet service option you can get, then complement it with a second or even a third choice.
- If you stream or use a lot of data, go for unlimited data plans. Even if these plans look expensive, they’re cheaper than paying overage fees.
- If you pick a limited data plan, consider streaming video in SD to use less data.
- Subscribe to cable internet or DSL internet at the campground if you’ll be a long-term guest. Cable internet subscription is typically between $50 – $100/month.
- Consider renting a co-working space if you’re in an urban area for a while. You’ll have high-speed internet for remote work.
- If you absolutely require 24/7 high-speed internet for motorhome travel, avoid crowded areas as service may be slow.
- Disable unessential background apps on your devices.
- Download maps and entertainment in advance to avoid frustrations when you find yourself in dead spots.
- Switch to free WiFi where possible to save mobile cellular data.
- Set cellular data alerts to know when to start conserving data.
- Keep tabs on the Mobile Internet Resource Center to learn about the latest and most favorable internet data plans for RV living.
RV Internet FAQs
Here are some frequently asked questions regarding internet while traveling in RV:
What’s the Best Internet Provider for RV Travel?
It mainly depends on your location. An option that’s excellent in a particular area won’t be perfect in a different location. The best option is to mix it up. Have data plans from at least two nationwide cellular carriers. Most RVers prefer to have both Verizon and T-mobile, as well as Starlink.
Do RVs Have WiFi?
No motorhome or trailer comes with working WiFi. However, a few models come WiFi-ready. This means that the rig is equipped with wiring, antennas, and wall panel access points that allow for easy installation of a WiFi or cellular system.
How Much Internet Data Does the Average RVer Use Per Month?
The average person uses 10 to 200 GB of cellular and WiFi data every month at home. For many RVers, 50 to 150 GB of data will meet most of their monthly needs. It will cover entertainment streaming, social media use, web browsing, and even remote work.
What’s the Best RV Internet Setup?
Whatever works best at your current location. To have a reliabe connection, pick a cellular carrier that has the best possible coverage in the specific areas you intend to travel to. Next, get the second-best option for redundancy.
If you have work deadlines to meet or other concerns that require 24/7 connectivity, we recommend having a cell router with multiple SIMs and the ability to switch to the best carrier with the best signal. Then pair it with Starlink satellite internet, and you will be online almost everywhere you go.
Stay Connected On the Go With Our RV Internet Guide
Whether you love to glamp in urban RV parks or escape to the deep boonies, a stable internet connection is super important. It will help you work online, communicate with friends and family, stream your favorite music and videos, and even plan the next leg of your journey. Use this guide to create the best RV internet setup.