Today’s newest Recreational Vehicles (RVs) and Campers come pre-installed with televisions. But what if you have an old RV or Camper and want to install a TV? How about if you want to upgrade your RV TV? Or maybe even add a second television?
The tiny space of an RV presents a unique challenge for mounting a TV. Some would have you believe it’s a challenge not worth accepting, claiming that TVs have no place in your rig. Let’s discuss the most important issues when considering a TV for your camper:
- Should you put a TV in your RV or Camper?
- What kind of TV is best for an RV?
- RV TV vs Regular TV
- 12-volt vs 120-volt
- Smart TVs & DVD Players
- Best Size for RV TV
Should you get a TV for your RV or Camper?
The most enthusiastic outdoorsmen and nature lovers may claim that outfitting your camper with a TV amounts to a mortal sin. Why would you insult Mother Nature by littering your humble abode with electronic trash?
The reasons are plenty:
- Rainy day activity
- Connect to your computer for work/productivity
- Play games by connecting a gaming console
- Updates on local news and weather
- Connect to exterior security camera for safety
- Streaming DIY and How To videos
- Passengers can watch while on the road
- Evening entertainment options
- Some people live in their RV full-time!
The bottom line is that it’s okay to enjoy TV- don’t let anyone convince you out of something just to please them. If they don’t want a TV in their RV, they’re welcome to uninstall theirs, gift it to you, and you can both continue on with your happy little lives.
What kind of TV is best for an RV?
The two most popular brands of televisions that come pre-installed in motorhomes are Jensen and Furion. These are 12-volt TVs that are different from brand name TVs like Samsung and LG that you buy for your house, which begs the question: what’s the difference?
RV TVs vs. Regular TVs
Although you can install a regular TV in an RV, televisions made specifically for RVs, Campers, and motorhomes have two key advantages:
- RV TVs and TV Mounts are made with a strengthened internal chasis to insure that bumps, potholes, and other vehicular impacts will not compromise the structural integrity of the TV installation.
- RV TVs are weather-tested to deal with the extreme temperatures and conditions throughout different regions and seasons. This includes temperatures below freezing and well above 100 degrees Fahrenheit in addition to handling moisture and humidity, and preventing corrosion.
You can absolutely use a regular TV in your RV, but pay closer attention to the manufacturers specifications on water-resistance and permitted operating temperatures to insure the TV can handle the more extreme conditions your RV will place it in.
If your outdoor adventures consist of extremely wet, hot, or cold destinations, you may want to choose an Outdoor TV designed for those specific situations. And although regular TV Mounts should suffice, buying an extra-strength, heavy duty RV TV mount may provide extra protection and durability.
However, for the vast majority of people, a regular TV will work just as well if not better than RV TVs, and last just as long with proper care and consideration.
12V vs. 120V TV
Connecting your RV TV to a power source isn’t always as simple as plugging it into the wall at your house. RVs have two main methods of providing power to your TV:
- 12-volt power from your RV battery
- 120-volt power from a generator, city power, or inverter
The 12-volt power coming from your RV’s battery is DC Power (Direct Current), and uses less electricity than the alternatives. You’ll recognize 12-volt power cords as the circular “cigarette lighter” plugs. These 12-volt TVs are more efficient, will cost less to operate, and tend to be more affordable.
The 120-volt TVs are what you would consider a regular TV with typical plugs found in American households. TVs operating at 120 volts are much more impressive but also require a bit more power (about 20% more).
Although some sources suggest you need a full size generator or city power connection to use 120-volt TVs, and thus can’t use them while driving or boondocking, this is incorrect- buying a simple $30 inverter will convert your 12-volt outlet into a 120-volt outlet sufficient to power your TV from your vehicle.
Because powering an RV TV can be draining on your battery, you may want to connect solar panels for your RV, to keep your battery juiced up from the sun at all times.
RV TVs with DVD Players
One huge benefit of 12-volt RV TVs is that they often come as combination TV/DVD player units which you won’t find on their 120 volt counterparts. Why would you want a DVD player in your RV? Aren’t DVDs outdated technology?
The fact of the matter is that when you’re traveling in an RV you won’t always have an internet connection, which means Smart TV features and streaming services like Netflix won’t always work. You can get a TV antenna (often called “rabbit ears” or “bunny ears”) but even those aren’t guaranteed to pick up enough signal to tune into broadcast TV stations.
Getting an RV TV with a DVD Player can be a great idea if you’ll be traveling to remote locations because no matter where you go, and whether or not you have internet or satellite connectivity, you’ll always have something to watch.
Smart TVs in RVs
If you choose to go with a regular 120-volt TV it’s almost guaranteed that you’ll be buying a Smart TV. Almost all TVs modern TVs sold today are Smart TVs to some degree.
Buying a Smart TV for your RV is a great idea because it gives you greater access to streaming services and internet-enabled apps, games, and options. If you buy a 12-volt TV that doesn’t have smart features, you can always connect a Smart TV stick such as Roku, Apple TV, Fire Stick, or Chromecast via HDMI.
Ports and Connectivity
If you want to connect a streaming TV stick, gaming console, DVD player, or other external sources to your RV TV, you’ll need the proper ports to get the job done. Make sure the TV for your RV has at least 2 HDMI ports (the more the merrier) and consider other ports like USB, Ethernet, on an as-needed basis.
RV TV Size
The most frequently used formula for calculating the best TV size takes the distance in inches between your seats and the TV screen and divides by 1.6. However, campers and other recreational vehicles have limited space and using the largest TV possible isn’t recommended.
The Best TV size for an RV can be calculated by measuring the distance between the screen and your seats and dividing by 2. This formula respects the priorities of your RV, limiting the TV’s size in favor of comfort, mobility, and storage, while still providing a fantastic viewing experience.
The most popular TV Size for RVs is 32-inches but other popular sizes include 22-inches, 24-inches, and 27-inches.
Best TVs for an RV
If you’re looking for a 12-volt TV for your RV, choose one from Jensen: they’ve been making reliable RV TVs for years and it’s a brand you can trust. They make TVs from 19-inches to 32-inches with and without DVD players, our favorite of which can be found here.
If you’re looking for a 120-volt TV for your RV, follow the guidelines in our TV Buying Guide. We recommend outfitting a camper with an affordable 4K LED TV with 60Hz refresh rate (minimum) and HDMI 2.0 (minimum). Although QLED/OLED screens, 120Hz refresh rate, and HDMI 2.1 would be welcome upgrades, it’s overkill for a camper.
RV TV Mounts
The two most obvious places to put an RV TV are the entertainment center in the common are and in the bedroom. Wherever you put it, you’ll need two very important things:
- A sturdy RV TV mount
- A sturdy section of wall to mount it on
When mounting a TV in a house, you can’t simply hang it on some drywall. You need to find studs behind the drywall that can carry the weight of the mount and the TV. The consequences are even more dire in an RV where bumps, potholes, and railroad tracks will rip your TV right out of the wall if it’s not properly installed. But it all starts with getting the right mount.
The Best RV TV Mounts
The Best TV Mount for most homes is a full-motion mount because it can move up, down, left, right, and every which way. But RVs have limited space and with extra range comes extra bulk.
Your RV TV mount should do only what it needs to do and nothing more. Strategically picking your mount will save space, maximize stability, and cost less.
- Flat mounts sit flush against the wall without the ability to move or turn in any direction. They take up the least amount of space but also have the least flexibility. If you’ll always be viewing your TV from the same straight ahead angle, this mount is for you. Our favorite RV TV flat mount is the Mounting Dream Ultra Slim.
- Tilt mounts have slim profiles that sit nearly flat against the wall, but they can tilt left, right, up, and down above 20 degrees. This can make all the difference in perfecting your TV viewing experience.
- Articulating mounts can move in/out and left/right but don’t tilt up and down. If you want lateral flexibility and can sacrifice some space, choose an articulating mount.
- Full-Motion mounts have the most flexibility. If you want the TV in your RV to be viewable at many different angles and seating positions, this mount is for you, but it’s also the most bulky. Our favorite is the Mount-It! Lockable Full-Motion RV TV
- Ceiling & Under Cabinet mounts (obviously) aren’t for your RV wall. If you want to stick your TV under the kitchen cabinets or don’t have ample wall space, look no further.
Important note: check to make sure the the mount you buy will hold the TV size and weight of the model you purchase!
RV TV FAQ:
- Can you watch TV while driving an RV?
- TV in Camper in Cold Weather
- Will a 300 watt inverter run a TV?
- How many solar panels do I need to run a TV?