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A GPS for RV Owners

April 5, 2010 by Mark Polk · 42 Comments  
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GPS unitI’m sure you have read many articles about the benefits of using a GPS when traveling in your automobile or RV. Since GPS technology was released by the military, for use non-military use, I have owned two. Both worked okay when traveling by automobile, but when traveling in a 35’ motorhome, towing a dinghy, they can get you in situations you don’t want to be in.


Most GPS units manufactured and sold today are designed for use with automobiles. Small to mid-size vehicles don’t need to be concerned with low bridges, narrow roads and other restrictions that are unsuitable for larger vehicles like RV’s.

So, I set out to find a GPS unit suitable for RV travel. This meant a GPS that offers features and benefits above and beyond what a typical automobile GPS has to offer. For starters I wanted a larger screen that is easy to see from the driver’s seat in the RV. Next I wanted one that allows you to input height, weight, width and other limits, and one that will warn you of any restrictions along the route based on the information you input in the system. Other features I was looking for in the GPS were voice prompted driving instructions, touch screen, Points of Interest (POI) that include truck and RV friendly POI’s, and finally a reasonable price for a GPS that offered all of these features.

The features I wanted in a GPS for RV travel quickly eliminated the majority of GPS units available on the market. I narrowed my choices to several models, offered by various manufacturers, which were designed specifically for professional driver navigation. Some were advertised for truck navigation and some for RV/truck navigation.

After a close comparison between models I chose the Cobra 7700 PRO for professional driver navigation. The 7700 PRO offered all of the features I wanted in a GPS and more. It has a large 7” touch screen that is easy to see and it uses your vehicle height, width and Gross Vehicle Weight along with national and state truck restrictions to provide you with the best route possible based on the profile you enter. You can select from two routing options, either the “Shortest Time” or “Shortest Distance”. If you select the “Shortest Time” the 7700 Pro will route the trip based on the quickest arrival time taking road classes and typical road speed into account. If you select the “Shortest Distance” it will decrease the distance traveled but increase the estimated arrival time. Both routing methods take commercial truck restrictions into account. You also have options like avoiding toll roads, freeways, or routing your trip using the National Highway Network (Interstate Highway System).

During the first 1,000 mile test in the RV the 7700 PRO worked extremely well. It displays the current route you are on (or you can view a turn list) and as you approach a specific turn it displays the turn and distance on screen and advises you what to do. I programmed the 7700 PRO to also display the speed I was traveling, distance to my destination and the estimated time of arrival, all very nice features.

Another feature I really like is the “auto” or “truck” option. The 7700 PRO lets you select “auto” or “truck” when it initially powers up. When you are not traveling in the RV, and don’t need to be concerned with restrictions imposed on larger vehicles, you can select the “auto” mode and use the 7700 PRO in any of your automobiles too.

The cost for this professional navigation system is $400.00. This is a very reasonable price for a GPS with all of these features. The money I spent on the first two GPS units (that didn’t work well with an RV) equaled the cost of the 7700 PRO. If you want or need these types of features in a GPS you can’t go wrong with the Cobra 7700 PRO. For more information visit the Cobra 7700 Pro website.

Happy Camping,

Mark Polk

RV Education 101

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Comments

42 Responses to “A GPS for RV Owners”

  1. Jeff on April 5th, 2010 1:11 pm

    I am in the market this type of RV gps and read reviews of the Garmin 465T and the Rand McNally TND 500 on GPS magazine; both had good and not so good features. The Cobra has a much larger screen and your review gives a good review. Did you look at the other two?

  2. Ed SMith on April 5th, 2010 3:45 pm

    I’ve seen reviews of this unit that complain of fuzzy images and the screen resolution. Is the display as crisp and clear as the Garmin or TomTom units?

  3. Robert Maurer on April 5th, 2010 4:29 pm

    I have a Garmin with 7 inch screen tied to xm with construction/weather reports. i am very happy with it. Took me thru NYC without a hitch!

  4. michael hill on April 5th, 2010 4:38 pm

    Mark, what was your second choice in a gps?

  5. Denise on April 5th, 2010 4:55 pm

    I have an Intellinav that I absoultely love and works GREAT, nice 4.5 screen

  6. Connie on April 5th, 2010 5:11 pm

    I found that the best choice for me is the Co-Pilot Live that works off my computer. That gives me a large screen and, by setting it on RV and propane restrictions, it will plan a route that does not send me through a propane-restricted tunnel. So, for traveling in the Northeast around areas such as Baltimore, Rhode Island, and the Boston are, this is a valuable tool. I can also set it for the height of my vehicle.

  7. Jim on April 5th, 2010 5:17 pm

    My 10 year old Garmin Street Pilot has Truck Routing …
    Used while driving an 18-wheeler…and to avoid the propane restrictions just follow the HAZ MAT routes

  8. M H Bell on April 5th, 2010 5:18 pm

    I could find no info as to Maps and map updates. Also can you get map for it that includes Canada as well as the US. Planing trip to Alaska.
    Mel

  9. Bluebird Bob on April 5th, 2010 5:20 pm

    Had a Cobra 2100 (For cars). Didn’t like how long it took to aquire satellites.
    Bought the Rand McNanny GPS with 5″ screen. You can program it for car or truck (rv).
    Finds satellites in 10 seconds. Also has a spot for an external antenna, witch I bought from Rand ($18). Our rig is steel and needs the antenna.
    Works great for $399 with fre shipping or can find at a truck stop.
    Rand has the best maps (and updates) of all of them.
    Right now the updates are free and they notify me at my email address when there is an update

  10. George Dumas on April 5th, 2010 5:23 pm

    Based on your review I’m going to give it a try. That doesn’t say too much since I own and have owned several automotive GPS systems. The advantages this apparently gives over standard automotive GPS navi’s makes it worth the price tag assuming it’s performance is comparable to Garmin or TomTom units. FWIW, drivengps.com has it available for $356.99 + straight shipping charges.
    MapDoc

  11. Roy Phillips on April 5th, 2010 5:50 pm

    I had a similiar experience with the Garmin nuvi 1490T. Great for automobile but caused me some problems towing a 37 ft 5th wheel. Took me down some narrow streets for 10 miles in Atlanta. I purchsed a Garmin nuvi 465T, a widescreen truck navigator with land assist, hands-free calling and lifetime traffic. It also allows you to select car or truck, height, width, length, gross weight, and max weight/axle. Other 0ptions include selecting fastest time, avoidances, and sharp curve warnings. Points of interest options include food, lodging, fuel, shopping, banks, transit, parking, entertainment, recreation, attractions, hospitals, communit and repair services. Still have the 1490T but use the 465T to keep me out of trouble. Similiar price to the Cobra.

  12. Rick on April 5th, 2010 5:55 pm

    Is there a unit on market that gives altitude?

  13. art ericksona on April 5th, 2010 6:35 pm

    i used a magllen roadmate 1700 with copilot software chip

  14. Robert Smith III on April 5th, 2010 6:50 pm

    As a word of caution for anybody using their phones for GPS services as these features are becoming more and more popular. We live in the Rocky Mountain region, with some services when you lose cell phone coverage, you also can lose your GPS directions and not have a clue where you’re supposed to be going, this has happened to us more than a few times. I would suggest using a backup GPS or buy a map book!

  15. robert on April 5th, 2010 7:22 pm

    Mark, I am a big fan of Consumer Reports which test items such as GPS systems, although they have yet, to my knowledge, to test a truck based model. They purchase their units anonymously and do not accept any advertising. My question is: do you purchase these units or are they provided to you by the manufacturers?

  16. Fred Wishnie on April 5th, 2010 7:29 pm

    We’ve been using a Garmin Nuvi for 4 years now and have never once felt the need for “truckers” GPS. Where in the world are you going that you are running into all these narrow roads with low clearances? We’ve towed over 50,000 miles in 49 states, Canada and Alaska and don’t seem to find them. Sounds like scare tactics to me.

  17. Doug Lindhout on April 5th, 2010 7:31 pm

    This article and the subsequent comments make it the most valuable post I have ever read on this site. Great information.

    Many thanks to everyone that contributed!!

  18. Darrel on April 5th, 2010 9:19 pm

    We sell most brands of GPS and we are a GARMIN direct dealer and I can assure you that GARMIN IS the best out of all the brands. If you buy a different brand you are not buying the best.

  19. larry on April 5th, 2010 10:04 pm

    We’ve been across the United States twice with a GARMIN @ $200 and have never had a problem with directions as I still count on my eye sight and personal judgement as to whether or not my 35 footer will fit the present situation. I do remember once after hearing “RECALCULATING” several times, I thought I heard a little disgust in the voice as it finally said ” MAKE A U TURN” when I ignored its instructions.

  20. R W Bennett on April 6th, 2010 1:56 am

    Hey Hey I have a Garmin 465 T, it has truck and car and you can put in you RV
    weight, length, width and so on works great most of the time. But when in the RV it can take you a little out of the way when it could have taken a safe and shorter route. Here in south western AZ ( Mesa) it seem a little confuse some times. I got a update about three weeks ago that seem to help.

    R.W. Bennett

  21. TravelingLight2 on April 6th, 2010 4:04 am

    Hey Mark,

    Thanks for the info, very apprpo currently and you brought up some issues I had not thought of.. Keep up the good work.

  22. Manuel Enos on April 6th, 2010 6:38 am

    I have an older GARMIN C330 that I paid a big whopping 189 buckaroos for with a 4 inch screen (which most people can actually see really good with or without glasses) and it has truck route, quickest, bus, car and scenic route in it and all those other gimmes we have come to love. Gas stations, restaurants, etc.. Garmin updates it every year for me by just plugging into their site through my computer and it sure is cheaper than 400 bucks. Where do these companies get off insulting our intellegence with these overpriced GPS systems. If we don’t get some civilian satellites up there, in a couple of years they will all be toast anyway. The military system is going away pretty soon and that is what all the GPS systems work on..Oh yeah, my C330 is portable so I can take it on the trail in the woods camping also..WOW!!!! Imagine that!!!!

  23. Mark Polk on April 6th, 2010 8:22 am

    Jeff: I think every GPS unit has its good, and not so good points, and they are all only as good as the military’s GPS system used for civilian purposes. I compared several brands and for my personal needs chose the 7700 Pro.

    Ed: The screen display was fine. I didn’t notice any fuzzy images or resolution issues with it.

    Michael: Garmin and WorldNav

    Mel: There are software updates available on their website

    Robert: I don’t usually write about RV products and only do if it is a product I personally use and feel comfortable with. Over the years I have purchased products and then written about them because I like the product, and I have reviewed products and written about them because I like and use the product. There have been many instances where I reviewed a product for a company and refused to write about it because I would not personally use it.

    Fred: Why would I use scare tactics?? I’m glad to hear you have been lucky so far. I had a Garmin Nuvi too, and on more than one occasion got in to areas not suitable for a large vehicle towing another vehicle. It only makes sense to me if you are driving something that is nearly as wide, tall, long and heavy as a truck you should use a GPS designed for trucks.

  24. Barry N. Schmidt, D.D.S. (ret.) on April 6th, 2010 8:37 am

    I just checked with Amazon. They have these units priced all over the board, but the cheapest was $300. I’ll tell my wife; she’s the co-pilot and loves these gidgy-gadjits.
    Thanks for a great article!

  25. Geoffrey Pruett on April 6th, 2010 9:57 am

    The height listing would be usefull, my fridge cover will never sun fade! Since most state and federal road maint is mainly crisis only our 11ft 2in clearance has caused some tense moments. Now if they included quick lube stations with overhead clearance the price might be justified. Having been in the repair business during the CB era the name Cobra does not bring up a feeling of confidence

  26. TimTracy on April 6th, 2010 2:20 pm

    I have a laptop downloaded CoPilot – Navigator 9 and have 17″ screen and it works very well, also you can program to avoid low bridges ans etc.

  27. Bill Toon on April 9th, 2010 7:33 am

    I have a Garmin NUVI 750. Is there any way to add an rv or truck. The only choices you have is car, pickup truck and pedestrian. Does anybody know if you can go online to update?.

    Thanks
    Happy RVing
    Hosting in NC for April

  28. Shelia Whitten on May 18th, 2010 10:29 am

    I have been using Garmin products for 10 years. My first Garmin Street Piot cost nearly $900. I wish I still had it compared to some of the newer models we have had since RV’ing Dec. 2009. We buy the models at Sams or Costco and they seem to not work within a short time to 6 months. We also have been put into some areas we didn’t need to be. The latest one wants you to leave the exit the interstate you are on, get on an access road, stop at light, go forward and reenter interstate. No traffic or any delay is noted on the Interstate.

    I having been trying to locate a GPS with a mapping system for my Mac so that I can decide a route on the computer, enter it into the GPS and be happy and on our way but I can’t do that. I make my maps and than change the route as we go.

    How is the Cobra doing now?

    SKW

  29. Rainer Mueller on June 2nd, 2010 7:46 pm

    I’m currently on a 3 month trip once around the U.S. pulling a 30′ travel trailer. I use two GPS units, an xRoad unit that has a truck mode (4″ screen) as well as a laptop running DeLorme Street Atlas USA also with a truck mode. I use them both simultaneously, and occasionally have to suffer through the dueling GPS syndrome – one says turn right, the other insists I turn left. We still use an old fashioned map to plan our trips. But I’m satisfied with both, I love how well they allow me to travel in strange towns finding stores and restaurants (without pulling the trailer).

  30. duane liddle on June 2nd, 2010 9:19 pm

    have a tom tom for 9years of running no problems so far ,from west coast to east

  31. ron spencer on June 3rd, 2010 4:04 am

    I use my laptop with a program from DeLorme which gives me a full screen mapping and a multi use computer. The last time I bought the program it cost about $50 for the program and $100 for the GPS receiver. As best I know this has all the features and is easy to use.

  32. Dave Jones on June 3rd, 2010 6:54 am

    Mark, Amazon.com has some negative comments regarding the resolution and zoom features on the Cobra 7700 PRO?

  33. 1/2 canadian on June 3rd, 2010 12:57 pm

    Not sure your article mentioned whether it had audible directions or available map updates or available traffic conditions monitoring. I paid over $700 4 years ago for our then new technology Garmin Nuvi 350, and now $69 for each update as I deem necessary. Today’s comparable units are less than $200 and can include free traffic monitoring subscription.

    Sounds like your chosen model, though more RV useful, may not yet be up to regular GPS snuff.

  34. Jim Magowan on June 3rd, 2010 3:06 pm

    If you doubt the value of a GPS that can use vehicle height in selecting a route, try driving through NYC with a 12′ high RV. When signs indicated low overpasses we got off the highway and some bus and truck drivers that we met on the city streets where the truck route was.

    All said to, “Take that road. No problem.” They were indicating hte road we had just left. We took them at their word and held our breath when we went under an overpass, in heavy traffic, that was marked 12′. Fortunately we made it (I think the road had sunk after the height was measured).

    There was also a narrow two lane road that wound through the limestone in KY. When we met hte bus coming the other way around a bend, we were both going slow enough to stop and sort it out.

    Incidentally, we have never had a problem in state. Alaska bridges are high enough for trucks and RV’s.

  35. John Shelton on June 12th, 2010 5:32 am

    Was disappointed, after contacting Cobra about this GPS system, to learn that it is not also available as a computer application that can be used with currently popular netbooks or small laptop computers. I currently use DeLorme Street Atlas USA and would like to replace it with something equal to the Cobra 7700.

  36. Gil and Linda Nielson on November 7th, 2010 8:28 am

    Does anyone know if you can download updates from Cobra periodically.

  37. Thomas D Thorne on November 7th, 2010 7:24 pm

    We have enjoyed a couple different GPS Brand units. Sometimes they have been very intertaining. Example: “You are exceeding the speed limit!!! “But, I always pre-plan with a good road map with the GPS information. There have been moments we have chosen the road map vs the GPS unit.

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