Garmin RV 780 Review

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This is our Garmin RV 780 GPS Review. Our 2019 Thor Challenger 37YT came with an Axxera AVM111NAV In Dash Multimedia Receiver with Bluetooth and Navigation. Like most things in RVs this radio/GPS unit is basically junk! When we

bought the RV we thought that the GPS would work well for getting around the country.

What we weren’t expecting is when we needed it most it would let us down. In heavy rush hour traffic of Virginia near Washington D.C. the GPS unit just froze up and stop working. I guess we should have seen it coming. There were often times that the GPS would display ••••• Looking for GPS signal… It would take several minutes for the unit to find a signal.

We were literally 10 minutes from our destination but no idea how to get there due to neither one of us having ever been in the area. So in rush hour traffic we pulled off the interstate and had to reset the GPS unit which took about five minutes of frustration. At that point we decided a dedicated RV GPS unit was in our future.

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Why not just use Google Maps

If you’re thinking, “Why would I spend that much money on something I can get on my phone for free?”, you’re not alone. We drug our feet when we first noticed our in dash unit not working as expected. We were hesitant to make this kind of

investment when there are so many free mobile GPS apps on the market that seem to perform the same function.

In a world where everyone has a smart phone and access to mapping software like Google Maps in their pocket, it may sound crazy to say that a Garmin RV GPS is an essential gadget for RV travel. But we’re saying it because we can’t image driving an RV without an RV specific GPS.

Yes we use Google Maps on our phones when traveling around in our Jeep but when it comes to the RV, Google Maps can get you in trouble quickly. Google Maps doesn’t account for the length, height, or weight of our RV so it can route you to areas where you may not fit, like a low overpass, or take you over a bridge with a low weight rating. We even came to a road that didn’t allow vehicles longer than 40 feet. If we were using Google Maps on our phone as our primary GPS unit we would have gotten to the warning sign with our 38 ft. motorhome and 14 ft. Jeep Toad and not able to turn around without disconnecting. For these reasons we believe a dedicated RV GPS unit is a must.

Customized Routing

Even small RVs are bigger than your average sedan. An RV GPS takes your vehicle size into account when it calculates the route. If you’ve ever been heading toward a low bridge and thought, too late, “I wonder how tall my rig is,” you know how important the dimensions of your RV are when it comes to routing.

The Garmin RV GPS has a profile section where you can input the width, height, length and weight of your RV. Also, you can input your propane tanks. This will remind you to turn off your propane tanks prior to entering restricted tunnels. You can set up multiple profiles so we have three profiles set up. One for our Class A motorhome (by itself), one for our Class A motorhome and toad combined, and one for our Jeep Wrangler (by itself).

When we select our current RV profile the GPS customizes the route. The mapping includes relevant restrictions like low overhangs or bridges over roads and highways. This helped ensure we didn’t end up on a road with low clearance or a weight restriction.

Large Display and Intuitive Alerts

The large 6.95″ display size of the Garmin makes it easier to read than a cell phone screens. Yellow bars and audio notifications alert us if the road conditions are changing, like a sharp curve, steep grade, school zone, speed limit change, etc. The turn-by-turn directions are clear and easy to follow. The RV GPS will also provide clear instruction on when to change lanes so that you’re in the right lane for a highway division or interchange. It sucks to miss a turn!

The RV 780 shows the current speed limit, the true speed you’re traveling and a rather reliable estimated time of arrival. The smartphone-like touch screen makes it easy to pan across the map to find points of interest or to view the upcoming route. It also makes it easy to go through menus. If you are comfortable using smartphones, this GPS unit is pretty similar and offer the same sort of intuitive features.

Live Services

Garmin offers a free app called Garmin Drive. Once Garmin Drive has been installed on your Android or Apple device, the Garmin RV 780 can connect to the live services. It then becomes possible to access detailed traffic information, receive weather forecasts, or live parking information. While these services are free, they require to use the internet access from your phone. This means you should check your phone’s data plan to make sure data usage is included.

Find Campgrounds

The Garmin RV 780 includes a directory of RV parks and services plus integrated content from Ultimate Public Campgrounds, KOA, overlanded, Plan TripAdvisor, Foursquare and more.

Avoidances

This Garmin RV GPS allows you to preview possible routes before a trip. If you want to avoid U-Turns, Highways, Ferries, Carpool Lanes, or Unpaved Roads you can make that decision in advance. You can also set the unit up to ask, avoid or allow Toll Roads. The routes will show estimate time of arrival and total mileage. These estimates are specific to an RV and not a car, which is handy when it comes to estimating arrival time. Traditional mapping software assumes that you can always go at least the posted speed limit, and this isn’t always the case for RVs.

See What’s Coming

The Garmin RV 780 GPS will also show stops that RVers care about: restaurants, gas stations, banks, rest stops and RV services. It will even remind you that it may be time for a break. If you are looking for something specific such as a Costco gas station, you can use the search feature.

Overall, I can’t image going back to trying to use software like my in phone navigation. For an RV, this thing is a life saver! It is well worth the price and saved me much grief on my first road trip with it installed.

Offline Capability

Unlike Google Maps and other mapping software on our phones, the GPS doesn’t need connectivity to work. The device will work as long as it can connect to a satellite. We never ran into a situation where the Garmin GPS could not connect.

Offline capability also means the GPS does not eat up valuable gigabytes of data. This is incredibly useful when you’re on Forest Service or BLM land looking for a boondocking spot, where service can be spotty or nonexistent.

Outdated Information or RV Access Unknown

Unlike Google Maps or other app software that updates constantly in the cloud, The Garmin RV 780 GPS requires you to manually download the latest map updates. This is done easily by using the 780’s Wi-Fi. We check for updates every couple of months or so. It’s only ever as accurate as the last update.

Occasionally we run into RV access for a main road is unknown. We learned not to rely entirely on the GPS and to keep aware of signage. When RV access is unknown, the GPS will try to route to a road where access is known. This can lead to a few out-of-the-way and sketchy routes.

When we first got the GPS we were heading to a campground on Point Magu Naval Air Station in California. The GPS took us down a dead end road where we had to unhook the toad to turn around. The worst part was it was at night.

As Garmin states on their website “Always defer to all posted road signs and road conditions when making driving decisions.”

Garmin 780 Features

The Garmin RV 780 is the lowest-priced RV GPS offering from Garmin for under $400. Don’t let it’s ranking as “lowest-priced” fool you, though. The 780 has a ton of great features.

  • High-resolution 6.95″ edge-to-edge touch display
  • Custom routing for the size and weight of your RV
  • Road warnings
  • Directory of RV parks and services, TripAdvisor® traveler ratings plus integrated content from Ultimate Public Campgrounds, KOA®, iOverlander™, PlanRV™ TripAdvisor®, Foursquare® and more
  • Voice control, hands-free calling (phone integration) and built-in Wi-Fi for easy updating without a computer
  • Pre-loaded street maps for North America with coverage of the U.S., Mexico, Canada, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands and Bahamas

Garmin 780 Includes

  • RV 780 GPS Unit
  • Vehicle Suction Cup Mount
  • Traffic Receiver/Vehicle Power Cable
  • USB Cable
  • Documentation

Other Garmin RV GPS’

Garmin RV 785 with Built-in Dash Cam

Maybe you’re looking for a dash cam to go with your GPS. The Garmin RV 785 is the next level up from the 780. It’s more or less the same unit, but with one key difference: a built-in dash cam. The price is significantly higher, but it has some bells and whistles that could be worth the extra investment.


Garmin RV 785 Features:

Advanced GPS Navigator with Built-in Dash Cam for the RV and Camping Enthusiasts

  • RV navigator with high-resolution 7” touch display plus built-in dash cam to record your drive and enable features such as forward collision and lane departure warnings
  • Everything included with the Garmin RV 780

Garmin RV 785 Includes:

  • RV 785 GPS Unit
  • Vehicle Suction Cup with Powered Magnetic Mount
  • micro SD Card
  • Traffic Receiver/Vehicle Power Cable
  • USB Cable
  • Documentation

Garmin RV 890

Garmin RV 890 Features:

  • Garmin RV 890 navigator with high-resolution 8” edge-to-edge touch display
  • Custom routing takes into account the size and weight of your RV then finds the best route for your vehicle
  • Provides road warnings to keep you aware of steep grades, sharp curves, weight limits and more
  • Includes a directory of RV parks and services, TripAdvisor® traveler ratings plus integrated content from Ultimate Public Campgrounds, KOA®, iOverlander™, PlanRV™ TripAdvisor®, Foursquare® and more
  • Control with your voice, and enjoy hands-free calling² and built-in Wi-Fi® connectivity for easy map and software updates without a computer
  • Map updates included; pre-loaded street maps for North America with coverage of the U.S., Mexico, Canada, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands and Bahamas. Map updates can be completed with Wi-Fi or included USB cable.

Garmin RV 890 Includes:

  • RV 890
  • Vehicle suction cup with powered magnetic mount
  • Screw down mount
  • 1″ ball adapter with AMPS plate
  • Vehicle power cable
  • USB cable
  • Documentation

Garmin RV 1090

Garmin RV 1090 Features:

  • Garmin RV 1090 navigator with high-resolution 10” edge-to-edge touch display
  • Custom routing takes into account the size and weight of your RV then finds the best route for your vehicle
  • Provides road warnings to keep you aware of steep grades, sharp curves, weight limits and more
  • Includes a directory of RV parks and services, TripAdvisor® traveler ratings plus integrated content from Ultimate Public Campgrounds, KOA®, iOverlander™, PlanRV™ TripAdvisor®, Foursquare® and more
  • Control with your voice, and enjoy hands-free calling and built-in Wi-Fi® connectivity for easy map and software updates without a computer
  • Map updates included; pre-loaded street maps for North America with coverage of the U.S., Mexico, Canada, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands and Bahamas. Map updates can be completed with Wi-Fi or included USB cable.

Garmin RV 1090 Includes:

  • RV 1090
  • Vehicle suction cup with powered magnetic mount
  • Screw down mount
  • 1″ ball adapter with AMPS plate
  • 12 Volt Vehicle power cable (Unit needs to be plugged into power when using.)
  • USB cable (Used for updates only. Updates can also be completed with Wi-Fi.)
  • Documentation

RV Trip Wizard

Summary

The new Garmin RV GPS lineup includes 4 models : The RV 780 which we are reviewing here, the RV 785 which offers a slightly bigger screen and a built in dash camera, and the RV 890 which has even a bigger 8 inch screen, and the RV 1090 with a huge 10-inch screen. Most of the other features are common on all models other than the built in dash cam of the RV 785.

When you launch the device for the first time, you are prompted to enter the vehicle’s profile information (weight, size…) in a rather intuitive configuration. Once this is done, the system can then guide you by planning itineraries that will be compatible with your RV and will also give personalized warnings about relevant hazards such as sharp curves, steep hills, speed zone changes, for example. When used with the Garmin Drive app they will also give you live traffic updates.

An RV GPS is essential to keeping safe when driving a vehicle as large as a motorhome or while pulling a large trailer. While there are many GPS options you can choose from, the Garmin lineup in our opinion are the best on the market.

Do you have an RV specific GPS unit? Are you still using a mobile app to find your way? Thank you for reading about these Garmin GPS’ we’d love to hear your thoughts, comments or questions below.

 

 

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