Caravan antennas - useful or not

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Are caravan antennas useful or not? An impartial review of one carried out over 3 months of 2007.

I own a campervan, and have a television on board. I was eagre to see if one of the popular omni directional television antennas that were around would help bring in the television signal. I purchased one over a year ago. It is one of the round ones that has a moulded 6 section flat shape. As shown in the picture below.

They are almost always sold with a powered signal booster. I mounted it on a raisable pole on the back of the campervan then connected up all of the cables. I then conducted a number of tests to see how effective it was. In comparison I tested it against my conventional rabbit ears antenna which comes with a dial in resistor to adjust the picture.

Without the signal booster the caravan antenna performed woefully. The picture and sound quality were poor on all three televisions I plugged it into, including my new LCD digital television. The rabbit ears antenna performed much better. These tests were carried out over a period of three months in a variety of weather conditions, and at a variety of locations. Only when within ten kilometres of the transmitting site with a direct line of sight to the transmitter did the antenna provide a good picture. In all cases the rabbit ears provided a better picture quality than the unboosted caravan antenna.

Switching on the signal booster provided an instant gain in picture and sound quality. However it quickly became apparent that using the signal booster with the rabbit ears produced an even better picture and sound quality on any of the three televisions I tested.

These tests tended to bear out what I had heard from other campervan owners, and from qualified engineer, Collyn Rivers, who writes books on solar power and has published articles about these antennas. His opinion of these antennas is that they are not worth purchasing. Their omni directional design pulls in signal from all direction, but not very well.

My conclusion is to forget about buying one of these, and either use an adjustable rabbit ears type antenna, or buy a signal booster and use that with a rabbit ears antenna. You can at least adjust the rabbit ears antenna and there will be no extra drag due to the externally mounted caravan antenna.

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