Sat Nav Device Top Tips - The Camping and Caravanning Club
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Need help with satellite navigation devices (satnav)?

Aftermarket sat nav

The Club’s Technical Team is frequently asked about satellite navigation (satnav) systems that are suitable for use with larger motorhomes and cars towing caravans. Garmin, Snooper, Pronav and TomTom have all relevant products so when you’re looking for a caravan satnav or motorhome satnav these brands may be a good starting point.

1. Why large vehicle satnavs cost more

A frequently-asked question is why sat navs for larger vehicles (or those towing trailers) cost so much. The reason is they are loaded with considerably more data than standard products and the data-gathering companies charge for the use of their information, which is then passed on to the consumer. They need larger processing power and bigger memory to cope with the additional demands. The TomTom and Snooper products also have large numbers of campsite locations preloaded as well as many other features such as a Bluetooth connection with your mobile phone to provide hands-free use on the move.

2. Using caravan sat-navs in your car

It’s worth remembering these devices have the ability to store multiple profiles so are able to be used in a car too. The device should prompt you every time it starts up do you want car or camper mode?

3. Adding the dimensions of your campervan

Vehicle Dims

Caravan and motorhome sat navs are based on truck sat-nav devices and can be programmed with the length, weight, height and other pertinent information relating to your motorhome or car and caravan combination. Some are more refined than others, which is usually reflected in the price. The sat nav will plot a route on the main road network, only using minor roads where there’s no other option. For an example a suitable motorhome sat nav could replot a route to avoid low bridges and certain weight and width restrictions.

4. Can you upgrade your existing satnav

Another common question is whether an existing satnav can be upgraded to a caravan satnav? In the majority it isn't possible to upgrade existing for the reasons already covered.

5. Are apps available for my smart phone?

Yes there are, such as CoPilot GPS. However, the car is a metal box and the receiver on the phone is very small compared to dedicated sat navs so reception can be patchy. In our experience we wouldn't rely on an app sat nav alone as covered above and they tend to require a lot of processing power. They need to be kept on charge and the screen is normally on all the time, this causes the phone to overheat and will likely shutdown to protect itself.

6. Always have a back-up

Sat nav devices are a great addition to modern life, but they are only a useful real-time aid. In fact, they’re one of many in your potential arsenal. Don’t forget the humble road atlas – it needs to be up-to-date but it can be a useful back up, helping you pre-plan your route before departing and providing an easy reference document should you need to deviate from it. Don’t forget online mapping systems such as Street View by Google can help explore the route and what to look out for when getting close to your destination and always have the latest mapping information. If you’re going to a Club Site, you should always follow the directions given in the Club’s publications (SiteSeeker).

7. What brand to choose


So which is the best satnav for caravans and motorhomes? For those who have used one particular satnav brand it’s probably easier to buy another from the same company as you’re familiar with its set of menus and commands. All those we have tried work well and get you from site to site without too many problems however a satnav can only operate at its best when it has up-to-date maps. This could be provided free with the latest high-end units from Garmin, Snooper, Pronav and TomTom, however not all provide free map updates as standard on all their products so either select “free maps for life” devices or build the cost into your budget.

8. Keep your maps up to date

Don’t forget to connect the device to a computer regularly to download the latest maps and software updates to get the most out of your navigation investment.

9. Make sure you plan a route in the correct settings

Sat Nav warnings

All satnavs have the means to adjust how they calculate the route. Tools such as shortest distance for example may override other settings including camper or caravan mode Satnav and in this instance there is a very high risk of an unsuitable route. Before you start planning, make sure the satnav is set to faster time and check the route before you head off. If a setting was wrong, delete the route and start again to be sure.