At the end of a long day’s exploring, there’s nothing better than cosying up in your motorhome and winding down over a good show or film on TV.
Yet it’s not always quite as simple as pressing a button on your remote control and sinking back into your sofa cushions. You’ll need to take a few steps to get connected first.
So what equipment do you need to make sure that that you won’t miss your favourite programmes while you’re on your travels?
And does motorhome insurance cover expensive TVs and gadgets in the event of theft?
Read on for our guide to staying tuned in while you’re out and about.
Can I receive TV through an aerial in my motorhome?
Yes, you can, and this is the simplest way to watch TV – though it’s unlikely to be the best quality or the most reliable.
You’ll need to subscribe to Freeview, which is the UK’s digital terrestrial TV service that is delivered to your TV through an aerial.
Freeview offers around 70 channels, including BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5 and many radio stations. Best of all – it’s totally free.
However, if you’re travelling abroad, you won’t be able to receive UK channels through Freeview, though you might be able to pick up some local TV.
There are various TV antennae you can buy. Some attach to the exterior of your motorhome by a suction pad, while others need to be fitted.
Some are omnidirectional, while others are directional. Omnidirectional ones will pick up signals from all directions, making them easy to use but also subject to interference.
Directional antennae must be pointed in the right direction, but may then get a clearer signal.
There are various apps you can download to help you find the best signal, or some antennae are fitted with devices that do this.
Remember to make sure your antenna and other equipment is covered by your motorhome insurance.
In practice, however, even with the very best antennae, you will probably find that the signal quality in your motorhome is variable.
If your campsite is in a valley, or you’re surrounded by trees or high buildings, you’ll receive a low-quality picture or none at all.
What about satellite TV?
The most reliable way to get a good TV signal in your motorhome is through satellite TV.
This uses a combination of a TV aerial and a satellite dish to get your TV hooked up ready to receive to your favourite shows.
You’ll need to choose a provider. Freesat is the satellite equivalent of Freeview, and is subscription-free.
It offers a huge range of channels. Sky offers even more channels, including lots of sports coverage, for a monthly fee.
Just to confuse matters, there’s also Sky for Freesat – a more limited choice, but at no cost.
How do I install the satellite dish?
Next, you’ll have to set up a satellite dish. It’s a bit tricky to install the equipment – but once you’ve set it all up, you’ll quickly get the hang of finding TV signals wherever you travel.
There are several types of satellite dish you can buy, depending on your type of vehicle, your budget, and how important a great signal is for you.
First, you need to consider the size of dish you’ll need to receive UK satellite services.
A 40cm dish will cover most of the UK, while 65cm is necessary for much of northern Europe. If you’re heading to Spain or Portugal, you’ll need an 85cm model.
There are essentially three main types of motorhome satellite dishes fixings: portable tripod mounted dishes, suction cap dishes, and permanent roof-mounted dishes.
Tripod dishes are the cheapest, but are easily blown over in high winds – not much use if you’re camping in the mountains! You can secure them with guy ropes, but you might find this fiddly.
Suction pads are easier to keep fixed, provided your motorhome exterior is not too dirty or greasy.
Roof-mounted dishes are the most secure, but also the most expensive. Unless you’re very skilled at DIY, you should get these fitted professionally.
Roof-mounted dishes are also the heaviest, so only really suitable for larger motorhomes.
Once your dish is installed, you’ll need to connect it to your satellite receiver box and your TV. Often, the box is built into the TV set, simplifying the process somewhat.
Whatever equipment you buy, make sure you’re not exceeding your vehicle’s load limit, as this is dangerous, illegal, and could invalidate your insurance.
How do I align my satellite dish?
Once your dish is installed, you’ll need to point it in the right direction in order to receive a signal.
The more expensive models of dish will do this themselves automatically. Cheaper, non-fixed varieties will require manual positioning.
Use a satellite finder compass to find the relevant signal for the satellite you want. This might be built into your satellite dish, or you can download an app.
This procedure is quite tricky the first few times you attempt it.
It’s a good idea to watch an instructional video before you go: your satellite dish manufacturer may well provide one, or YouTube has several.
Practise at home before setting off, and learn how to make tweaks to your set-up to get the best reception.
When you find your signal, you’ll hear a high-pitched sound. Bingo! You’re all set to start watching.
Can I watch TV through the internet?
If you don’t fancy installing satellite equipment, then a laptop, computer or smart TV with an internet connection will provide a decent alternative.
You can download programmes or films before you go, and watch them offline at your leisure.
Be warned though – many channels allow you to download only for a set period of time. If you’re off on a long trip, you may run out of viewing material by the end.
You may also be able to watch streaming services or download new programmes while you’re on your travels.
Can I watch internet TV via Wi-Fi?
One way to connect to the internet is through campsite Wi-Fi.
However, you’ll need an excellent Wi-Fi signal to do this, and most campsites can offer only a limited service.
If you’re pitched a long way from the campsite reception, you could get a very poor connection and a very unsatisfactory viewing experience.
You can buy booster antennae to beam the signal into your van. However, even so, if lots of motorhomes and caravans are trying to use the one Wi-Fi service simultaneously, it’s going to struggle.
Furthermore, you’ll probably need to pay to connect to campsite Wi-Fi, so this can turn out to be a pricey option – particularly if they charge by the amount of data you use, rather than a fixed day fee.
What about 4G or 5G?
There may well be a more reliable way of getting an internet connection than using campsite Wi-Fi: via your mobile phone.
Of course, this depends on your ability to get a good, strong connection on your mobile phone, and that will vary between campsites and providers.
But if you have a clear signal and a decent smartphone, it should be good enough to stream TV.
You’ll also need a good data package. Just one hour of HD video streaming is likely to use up about 2GB of data, while downloading an average HD film will take around 4GB.
You can watch on your smartphone, if you don’t mind the small screen size.
However, an even better way is to use your smartphone to create a Wi-Fi hotspot – you’ll find this in your phone’s settings.
Then you can use this hotspot to “tether” your devices, so that you can watch TV on a larger screen, such as a laptop, computer or smart TV. Most providers allow you to do this, though some do not.
A similar option is to buy a dongle or MiFi with its own sim card, and use that to tether your devices.
What about USB TV tuners?
USB TV tuners are another simple way to watch TV on your laptop or PC. Simply plug the tuner into a USB port, download the software, and your device will be able to receive TV signals.
Make sure you buy a tuner that is compatible with your operating system – most are suitable for Windows devices, but you should check the version.
The aerial inside a tuner is pretty small, so you might need to buy an external one too.
Many TV tuners also allow you to record programmes onto your hard disk and receive FM radio signals, giving you more entertainment options for your holiday downtime.
USB tuners are not an option for smaller devices such as tablets or smartphones, as these don’t include USB ports.
What are the best TV sets for my motorhome?
Of course, as well as TV signals, you’ll also need to consider your TV set.
Unless you’re confident you will always be staying at sites with electric hook-up, you need to buy a 12V television set which can be run off your leisure battery.
Some TV sets can run off both mains and battery power, making them good versatile options.
You can buy sets with DVD players incorporated for times when you really can’t get a TV connection.
Many sets also include satellite receiver boxes, making that one less piece of equipment you need to think about.
Remember: when buying new gadgets for your motorhome, consider their weight. Your motorhome is only designed to carry a certain load, and will become harder to control or brake if it is over a certain limit. Exceeding this weight limit is illegal and can invalidate your motorhome insurance.
You also want to consider how much space your TV set will take up in what’s already quite a cramped space.
You might enjoy a large screen on your wall in your living room at home, but it will quickly become inconvenient in the confines of your motorhome.
Therefore, it’s probably best to buy smaller, lighter TV sets for your vehicle and save your movie nights for winter evenings back at home!
Do I need a TV licence?
If you’re travelling in the UK, you do need a TV licence.
If you have one for your home, this will cover you while you’re touring around – even if somebody else is also watching TV at your home.
However, if your motorhome or caravan is kept on a seasonal or permanent pitch, then you’re no longer classified as touring and your TV licence won’t cover you for simultaneous use at home and in your motorhome.
You must either fill in a form confirming that you won’t be using your TV licence at your home address, or buy a separate licence for your motorhome.
Is my TV covered by my motorhome insurance?
If you’re installing TV equipment in your motorhome, it’s wise to consider whether you need to upgrade your motorhome insurance.
Satellite dishes may count as modifications to your motorhome, so you should tell your insurer about these.
An expensive TV set may also mean that your personal belongings cover is no longer sufficient, so ask your insurance provider about increasing the value of your cover.
Why not consider a road trip around the UK and visit your favourite TV filming locations in your motorhome.
Get a quote from Motorhome Protect
Your motorhome will give you many happy years of adventuring during the day and relaxing in comfort in the evenings. So make sure you get it protected with the right motorhome insurance policy.
Motorhome Protect are specialists in arranging motorhome insurance from a range of trusted providers. Whatever your budget and requirements, we can find a policy that suits you.
Cover is available throughout the European Union, with policies available for unlimited mileage.
We can arrange cover for vehicles up to £150,000, and for camping personal effects of up to £3,000.
We will consider covering drivers with previous convictions and claims.
Contact our team today for a quote, and start planning your holiday in your home on wheels.