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Updated November 2021
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Buying guide for best RV TV antennas

There is nothing better than mapping out a route across the country, then packing your RV and leaving the world behind. Cutting ties with the daily routines and must-dos of life to experience a taste of complete freedom is exhilarating! However, it's not uncommon to experience creature comfort withdrawal. In the throes of those dire moments, nothing provides solace better than watching your favorite shows, local programing, or sporting events on TV. And to do that in an RV, you need an antenna.

But what kind of antenna? That’s where BestReviews can help.

The antenna that's right for you has a lot to do with personal preference. You might feel a little overwhelmed right now, but by the time you finish reading our shopping guide, you'll be able to purchase with confidence. Remember, you can have whatever you want, all you have to decide is what that is.

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Typically, an HDTV antenna can only receive a signal from about 50 miles away. It might be possible to pick up stronger signals from as far as 85 miles if conditions are ideal or you’re using a booster.

How a TV antenna works

Have you ever watched football? When the quarterback throws the ball, another player (hopefully) catches it. That's how over-the-air (OTA) TV works. The television signal is thrown (transmitted) through the air just like a football, and all your TV has to do is catch (receive) it.

Think of the antenna as your television's wide receiver. The wide receiver must be looking at the ball (TV signal) in order to have the best chance of catching it. Also, the fewer obstacles that are in the way, the easier the ball will be to catch. That's really all a TV antenna does.

"Although satellite TV sounds like some sort of futuristic technology, at its core, it’s very similar to OTA TV. A satellite dish is basically an antenna that is designed to receive a particular frequency of radio waves."

Four ways to watch TV

Watching TV in your RV can be accomplished in four ways, depending on what you want to see and where you’ve set up camp: cable, WiFi, satellite, or HDTV antenna. We'll briefly mention the cable and WiFi options, but since this guide is about TV antennas, the focus will be on satellite and HDTV antennas.


If you’re staying at a campground that includes cable service, you can simply connect your coaxial cable from the cable output at the hookup to your RV input.


The internet offers a wide variety of viewing options, from specialty streaming apps to network television stations. To view programing this way, you'll need access to a hotspot and an antenna designed to pick up WiFi signals, along with something to boost that signal and expand it to cover all areas in and around your RV. Remember, hotspots are public. They aren’t password protected like your home network. You should take extra security precautions whenever you’re using a hotspot.


Satellite works much like using a satellite dish at home. You can get HDTV, satellite radio, and you can even bring along an external hard drive to record programs to view later. You will probably want a "pay as you go" plan, which enables you to only pay for the months you use.


  • More channels than HDTV

  • Programming you can only get by subscribing


  • Fee-based service

  • More expensive than HDTV antenna

  • Image quality inferior to HDTV antenna

  • Weather affects signal strength

Price: Satellite dishes range in price from $100 to $1,400. Most decent-quality satellite dishes range between $300 and $700.

HDTV antenna

When you use an HDTV antenna, you’re grabbing local broadcast channels from within roughly a 50-mile radius. OTA broadcasts are free because they’re paid for by advertisers instead of subscribers. Additionally, the picture quality is better because the signal isn’t being compressed.


  • Superior image quality

  • Local programming

  • More affordable than satellite dish

  • Free to use

  • Easier installation, setup, and maintenance


  • Fewer channel options

  • No access to cable-only networks

  • Limited reception in certain areas

Price: HDTV antennas range from $40 to $110, which is much more affordable than a satellite dish.

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Did you know?
There are some instances when raising an antenna actually degrades your reception. If you’re in an area with a dense tree canopy, you might get better reception by locating your antenna on the ground.

Indoor or outdoor?

Another choice you have when it comes to your RV TV antenna is purchasing either an indoor unit or an outdoor unit.

Indoor antenna

An indoor antenna is mounted (or placed) somewhere out of the way in your RV.


  • Fast, effortless setup

  • Easy to position

  • No drilling into RV to mount


  • RV walls interfere with signal

  • Must be secured so it doesn’t fall when you’re driving

Outdoor antenna

An outdoor antenna is mounted somewhere on the outside of your RV, typically the roof.


  • Greater range than indoor antenna (more channels)


  • More complicated installation

  • Requires drilling holes in RV to mount

  • Harder to position

  • More susceptible to damage

  • Needs to be raised while using and lowered afterward (many models)

Portable antenna

A third, hybrid option is a portable antenna that can easily be placed and positioned outside.


  • Quicker setup than permanent outdoor antenna

  • Better reception than indoor antenna


  • Remember to bring it inside before you drive off!

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Expert Tip
OTA channels are broadcast on two bands: VHF (channels 2 through 13) and UHF (channels 14 through 83). To get the full range of channels, be sure the RV TV antenna you’re considering can receive both bands.

Find, boost, repeat

After deciding if you want satellite TV, HDTV, or both, and you decide where you want to place it (inside or outside), there are three other items that can help you get the most out of your RV antenna.

Signal meter

As noted earlier, an antenna can best receive a signal when it’s facing the direction of the transmitter. If you’re in an area that’s new to you, and the nearest transmitter is 40 miles away, it can be tough to know exactly which direction the signal is coming from. If we revisit the quarterback/wide receiver analogy, the signal meter tells you where the quarterback is standing so you know where the ball will be coming from. Note: some higher-end antennas do this automatically.

Signal booster

Continuing with the football theme, a signal booster is the hearty meal and a good night's sleep before a game. A signal booster takes what is already present and amplifies it. The signal picked up by the antenna is intensified before going into your TV. This can help with weak signals due to distance or natural obstructions such as hills. It can also help if you have a splitter that splits the signal, taking it to two or more televisions.

Signal repeater

For the last football analogy (promise), a signal repeater is like a handoff. On the consumer level, it’s used to extend the range of the signal to a different room or even outside your RV without attenuation (signal loss). It’s different from a booster because it receives and rebroadcasts as a fresh, clean, strong signal rather than amplifying a weaker one.

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If you're off the beaten path and looking for a place to park your RV that will get the best television reception, try the wind test. The better the breeze, the better your chances of good reception. Why? Because the same things that block wind – trees, hills, tall buildings – also block TV signals.


Q. When did television switch from analog to digital?

A. The FCC mandated that all high-power analog television stations move to digital-only transmission back on June 12, 2009. If you were already a cable or satellite subscriber by then, you probably have never experienced HD OTA transmissions and, consequently, have never seen what a crisp picture you can now get with an antenna.

Q. How do I know if my signal is too weak?

A. In the old days of analog TV, the weaker the signal, the more static interfered with your picture. It was like trying to watch television through a blizzard. With digital TV, there's none of that. If your antenna can't pick up and deliver a strong enough signal, the picture and sound will simply shut off.

Q. How much signal loss will I experience when using a splitter?

A. In general, you lose about 3.5 dB for every output on the splitter, whether it's being used or not. If you’re running into signal strength issues and need to know an exact number, that number is listed on your splitter.

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