GARMIN RV760 GPS REVISITED
At the time of this writing I have lived with a Garmin RV760 LMT GPS for about 24 months. I reported on my experience using this GPS previously. I gave it a “don’t buy” rating at that time. I was pretty harsh about it. Since then I have softened my stance, not because the unit performs any better than first reported–because of map updates it may–but rather because the way it performs may be par for the course among GPS units, or in fact even better. It was my first automotive GPS and with no experience with similar devices I had no frame of reference in that regard–just my hopes and expectations.
In my original report I complained of occassional misrouting–the unit sending me needlessly out of the way, giving directions to turn off the only paved road in the area onto dirt roads or where no road even existed… things like that. Such errors are due to erroneous or missing data in the map file stored in the GPS memory upon which the GPS relies, at least that’s what I’ve heard. With each map update, data in the map file is updated and corrected. Over time this should improve the routing accuracy of the unit. That’s one reason map updates are issued.
I have also learned that most GPS units rely on the same map suppliers and that the number of map suppliers is small. It includes NavTeq and TeleAtlas, the biggies, and a few smaller players. The implication here is that if the RV760 is issuing poor routing choices at times, then other GPS units will do likewise because they are relying upon the same map data. So, it really isn’t fair to single out any one GPS for making mistakes if the others are going to perform the same way.
I think it safe to say that most GPS units do not take into consideration vehicle height, weight, length and width whereas the RV760 does. This is a huge plus over ordinary automotive GPS units. The reason the RV760 considers these vehicle parameters is that while people driving cars can travel pretty much any road without worrying about the weight or dimensions their car happens to be, drivers of larger vehicles such as many RVs have to concern themselves with these things lest they tear the top of their rig off attempting to pass under an overpass with insufficient clearance or fall into a river trying to cross a bridge that can’t support the weight of their rig. Vehicle weight and dimensions are parameters the user enters into the settings of the RV760 once during initial set-up and it then uses that information in conjunction with data points in the map file in order to pick its routing. When more data points are used to pick routes the routing can be more finely tuned, for example to consider the weight and dimensions of a vehicle. On the flip side, when there are more data points there are more places where errors can be introduced into the routing calculations. Incidentally, the unit can store more than one set of vehicle parameters making it easy to move it between vehicles–just select the appropriate vehicle profile in the settings when you move the unit.
Most of the routing errors my RV760 has given me appear to have been related to vehicle weight where the GPS had incorrect or absent data in the map file causing it to route me incorrectly. I was able to narrow it down to weight errors by changing the vehicle height, weight, length and width parameters in the settings one at a time and found that changing my vehicle weight from 7.25 tons down to 3 tons or so (closer to that of a typical car) would route me more sensibly at times whereas changing the other parameters to those more closely resembling a passenger automobile resulted in no routing changes. Using this process of elimination I deduced that the map file must have had incorrect or absent data pertaining to the road weight limits of the route.
I have learned that in some cases there is nothing I can do while in my vehicle in order to make the RV760 route me the way I want to go unless I change the weight parameter of my RV in the settings to something more akin to the weight of a car. One relatively recent occurrence was that of traveling the Blue Ridge Parkway (BRP) from Asheville, NC to northern VA. The Blue Ridge Parkway is entirely contained within a National Park. There are several campgrounds along the road that accommodate RVs of respectable height, length width and weight. Park employees with whom I spoke were not aware of any restrictions as to taking RVs along the BRP and this includes at least one law enforcement park ranger. The RV760 refused to route me along the BRP from one campground to the next despite the fact it was the shortest route and there were no restrictions that should have prevented it from doing so. There is no workable way of which I’m aware to force it to select a given route that is more than a short distance or without intersections although reducing the weight of my rig in the settings might work in some cases. However, this introduces the possibility that the unit will select an inapproprate route, so, unless I’m sure my weight is OK I don’t like to do this. Consequently, when I tried to use it along the BRP with my rig’s true weight in the settings it would bark instructions to turn off the Parkway at pretty much every intersection along the road even though there was no valid reason for this. Other GPS units which use data from the same map supplier would likely do the same, assuming of course their GPS allowed the user to input vehicle parameters to include when making routing choices. I had the same trouble with the RV760 in another National Park (Grand Canyon) which makes me wonder if the people that create the data base of road information have not been able to successfully extract road data from the National Park Service, which, after all, is a government agency–we all know what that means in terms of efficiency–and one not primarily concerned with roads.
So, there are times you just can’t use the unit for routing purposes–other GPS units may be the same!–but it still has value in showing you where you are on a map and if you have the BC-20 backup camera, as a display for the rear view images it produces, second rate as they may be. Much of the time the unit produces acceptable or even ideal routing choices. It has successfully kept me off toll roads for example. It has many other useful features such as the capability to find gas stations, restaurants, etc. that lie ahead on your route. It also shows time driven and time to destination as well as average speed, moving time, standing-still time. It even shows sunrise and sunset times as well as elevation, plus other things which may be of use or interest.
Although on-the-fly routing overrides can at times be difficult or impossible to make on the GPS unit itself, the RV760 works with Garmin’s free Base Camp GPS software, a program for desktop and laptop computers that allows route creation and editing.
The last time I looked (which was when I purchased the RV760) I found only one other GPS specific to RVs on the market, the Rand McNally (also sold under the Good Sam name). Does it route any better? I don’t know. As I recall it did not work with a back-ip camera but don’t hold me to that. This is one reason I chose the Garmin over the Rand McNally. I wanted a backup camera and one that was “wireless” making the installation easier. Magellan also makes an RV GPS. It does not appear to have back-up camera compatibility.
LMT in the product name of this unit stands for Lifetime Maps and Traffic. Traffic reports included with this unit are limited. For more robust reporting it is necessary to subscribe to a traffic service. That said, not having to pay for map updates is a welcome feature.
I continue to use and rely upon my Garmin RV760 LMT GPS and despite its limitations it may be the best option available for RVers. Regardless of the thorough drubbing I gave it in my original report (below) there may not be a better option. I’m still using mine every time I drive. This should be a key takeaway of this report. I have learned that there are times it is not useful for routing; there are other times I need to override its routing choices; there are times that overriding its routing choices is frustratingly difficult, overly time consuming if not plain impossible. It is not perfect, but it is way better having it than not. Considering the importance of selecting routes with sufficient height clearance is reason enough alone to have an RV specific GPS.
As a general matter I am planning to remove Buy and Don’t Buy recommendations from my Product User Reports in favor of simply reporting what I have found. I’m planning this change because I have come to believe that this is a subjective decision in many cases. That which makes a product seem great to me may not be important to somebody else or visa versa.
Note: The RV760LMT has been superseded by the RV660LMT which has a smaller screen and a few new tricks. One of these appears to be a much improved manual routing-override when the map file may have insufficient or erroneous data. It also works with a new backup camera the BC-30. The specs of the BC-20 and BC-30 cameras appear to be the same with the only obvious difference that the BC-30 is compatible with more Garmin GPS units than the BC-20.
In closing I will say this: I would much rather be with my RV760 GPS than without it! Despite its shortcomings–and every GPS unit has shortcomings–I never drive my RV without using it, the backup camera being one reason. All GPS units have shortcomings, you just have to learn to live with them.
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What follows is my original report on the RV760 LMT GPS. Much of the information in the original review has been duplicated and expanded upon in the re-write (above). In large measure the old review illustrates what can happen when a GPS has insufficient or inaccurate information about the weight limit of a road. These errors, although infrequent, made me unhappy with the unit. As I pointed out in the rewrite I have since come to conclude that the same kind of errors are likely to exist in other GPS units that consider vehicle weight and dimensions that use the same map data files.
I’ve owned and used a Garmin RV 760LMT GPS for several months. This is a GPS made specifically for use with RVs. While it has a rich feature list of things it can, or should be able to do, in my opinion the main task of a GPS is to route you from point A to point B in an efficient manner. In this regard I believe the RV 760LMT GPS is a miserable, MISERABLE failure and my recommendation is don’t buy, Don’t Buy, DON’T BUY!!!
There are plenty of web sites that will list the impressive feature set of the RV 760LMT GPS as specified in Garmin’s sales literature, but in my actual use some of these features fell flat on their faces. I mentioned above that a GPS should route you effectively from point A to B and here is where I have had a very big disappointment with my RV 760LMT GPS. Here’s one example: I was at the Grand Canyon Village at the south rim of the park where the visitor center is located and I wanted to head off to Page, AZ. According to Google Maps this is a drive of 133 miles if you follow the most direct route which is to head due east on AZ 64 to US 89 and head north. Rather than route me that way the Garmin RV 760LMT wanted to send me south to Flagstaff in order to pick up 89, just about doubling the length of the trip. Why would it do that? I think I figured it out.
One of the features this GPS boasts is to pick routes based on the height, length, width and weight of your RV in order to consider overhead clearances, weight restrictions, etc. Now that’s pretty cool, or rather it would be cool if it did so properly, but it doesn’t. In order to find out why the heck the 760 wanted to route me south to Flagstaff rather than due east to 64 I did a little experimenting. First, in the settings where you enter the height of your RV I reduced the height of mine from 11′ to 1′, then I had the Garmin plot my route again. It still wanted to send me to Flagstaff. I then set the height back to 11′ and reduced the width of my RV from 8’4″ to 1′ and had the GPS plot the course again. Still it wanted to send me to Flagstaff. I made similar adjustments to the length of my RV and Flagstaff remained on the course. Finally, when I reduced the weight of my RV in the settings to below something like 4,000 pounds the GPS routed me east on 64. The obvious conclusion is that it had routed me to Flagstaff because it believed my RV too heavy to travel on AZ 64. But is it really? No, it’s not!
AZ 64 is regularly traveled by RVs, buses, 18 wheel semi-trucks and all manner of high, wide, long and heavy vehicles. There is at least one RV park along the way, and there’s an RV parking area at one of the Grand Canyon tourist destinations along the route. I called the AZ department of transportation to inquire about restrictions on the route and they could find none that would prevent my RV, or longer, heavier and taller vehicles from traveling that road. It would appear then that this is a case of garbage in, garbage out; that Garmin has bad data programmed into their software regarding the route from the Grand Canyon to Page.
Now, if that was the only time that the RV 760 provided me with a cockamamie routing it wouldn’t be so bad, but the fact of the matter is that it’s done this a number of times. Unless I reduced the weight of my vehicle in the settings it would try to route me down dirt roads instead of paved highways. I remember traveling from Natural Bridges National monument in Utah to Blanding Utah along route 95 which is the only paved road between the two locations if I’m not mistaken. The RV 760LMT kept barking instructions at me telling me to turn off 95 at each and every dirt road I passed. Yes, it wanted to route me off the only paved highway around onto dirt roads, some of them not even with names! It’s even given me instructions to turn onto non existent roads. This is bad, very bad.
I also purchased the Garmin BC 20 Wireless Backup Camera to go with my RV 760LMT GPS. I am not at all happy with the quality of the image produced by the camera on the GPS screen and this is another reason to avoid thous product, in my opinion. Besides the issue of image quality, the BC-20 lacks any sort of shading device to protect it from rain (or other sources of water such as washing the vehicle), or sun. The picture produced by my unit in the rain became so blurry at times as to be next to useless, and when the sun hit it at certain angles the image it produced, likewise wan’t much help.
I emailed Garmin to let them know about some of these issues and each time I got a very polite automated response saying that I’d be contacted within 3 business days. I never heard from Garmin.
I could list more reasons not to buy this product as well as some reason’s you might want to purchase it, but when you consider that the device fails so miserably at the most basic level there isn’t much point in exploring beyond that.
My recommendation as to the Garmin RV 760LMT which is based on months of actually using the product is DON’T BUY!
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