Why we heart it: The DISH Tailgater Pro satellite antenna effortlessly solves the biggest problems RVers have had with satellite TV, making it easier than ever to get live TV, sports, and movies wherever you go (as long as wherever you go has a view of the southern sky). It’s a better solution than competitors, and cheaper too. No more missing the big game, the big season premier, or the big movie release. The Tailgater Pro gives you TV wherever you are, whenever you want it.
Easiest. Satellite Setup. Ever.
Any long-time satellite TV user knows the horror of manually pointing satellite dishes. Checking the signal, pointing the dish, re-checking the signal, turning the dish another quarter turn, finding out you’d made the quarter turn the wrong way, rinse and repeat ad nauseum. It was a nightmare. But no longer.
With the DISH Tailgater Pro, the folks at DISH Outdoors have solved our pointing problems forever. How? The Tailgater Pro will do it for you. No more rain dance trying to get a signal that’s just good enough. This makes setup in just about any situation almost too good to be true—often even easier than connecting to a campground Wi-Fi, which even when it has four bars acts as if it has zero bars.
Instead, the Tailgator Pro is fire-and-forget easy, as the satellite tunes itself for you. Point it south and that’s just about it. With no obstructions, DISH says the service works from coast to coast, though we only tested it on the east coast.
It’s not just signal acquisition that’s easy, either. While most other satellite dishes require a permanent mounting to the top of an RV, the Tailgater Pro has an available quick disconnect mount, which means if your rig is ever parked somewhere with some kind of obstruction in the southern sky, you can adjust accordingly. And because the entire unit is only 8 pounds (honestly, it felt lighter than that to me when I took it out of the box), it’s incredibly easy to haul wherever you need it.
Then, once you’ve got the unit situated, and signal acquired, hookup to the TV is brilliantly easy—literally only five steps in the quick-start guide, and one of them is “turn on the TV.” And getting service is a snap, too, which brings me to…
Service When and Where You Want It. For Only as Long as You Want It.
The Tailgater Pro is a spectacular piece of hardware, but it’s only as good as the service it’s connected to. (Which is also spectacular.) Fortunately, DISH Outdoors’ service shines, too.
First, it’s hard to sign up for anything these days without signing your life away. Not so with today’s DISH pay-as-you-go rate plans. When I heard that their DISH Outdoors service plans don’t lock you into long-term agreements, I was skeptical. But we tested it, and it works as advertised. You only pay when you need the service. And depending how you set it up when you activate, you might not even have to call to cancel. This is another fantastic departure from satellite service of years past.
If you already have DISH service, things get even better. Currently, DISH offers a $5/month fee to add DISH Outdoors to your current service. That means you pay almost nothing extra to have service both at home and on the go.
DISH Outdoors Vs. DirecTV Is Not Much of a Contest.
For RVers, our clear pick in the satellite-on-the-go service battle is easy. DISH Outdoors wins almost every time. Here’s the one glaring fact that makes it the better choice in almost every situation: DirecTV requires you to sign up for a 2-year contract. And, obviously, you pay for every month of those 2 years whether you fire up the RV or not. With DISH’s pay-as-you-go plan, you only pay when you use the service. This might not mean much to full-time RVers, but it’s a game changer for any occasional road warrior, who’s likely to save multiple hundreds of dollars over the course of a 2-year period.
DISH has clearly invested in RVers via their DISH Outdoors program, which directly services RVers, tailgaters and other TV-on-the-go watchers. DirecTV doesn’t even sell mobile dishes directly, requiring RVers to go through a third party to buy equipment, but still requiring you to buy service through DirecTV. For us, this is clunky, and along with complicating purchase and setup, can also lead to confusion on who to call when service isn’t working for any reason. Equipment problem? Call the manufacturer. Service problem? Call DirecTV. But who’s to know what’s causing the problem?
On pricing, the head-to-head is mostly a wash, although DirecTV does have more channels available. Starter package prices are nearly identical, with DISH edging the competition out by a smidge. As of January 1, 2021, the starter price for DISH is only $47.99, with DirecTV starting at $49.99. DirecTV is the only service that has the NFL SUNDAY TICKET service, but with all of the major sports networks and also channels like the SEC Network, Longhorn Network, the Pac-12 Network and more (all in HD), you’re not ever going to be short of sports options.
Here, pricing is another example of DISH’s investment in RVers, as they offer that tiny $5/month upgrade fee if you already have DISH service at home.
And unless you’re a full-timer, when you factor in the pay-as-you-go option, DISH is hands down, far and away, miles ahead of all the competition in pricing.
Disclaimer: All listed pricing is current as of publishing but may change at any time. DISH Outdoors provided a unit for testing for this post. We set it up, hooked it up, and genuinely loved it. Like all our magazine advertisers, they also compensate us financially for their advertisements. This review is not an ad, and the editorial opinions expressed within are based solely on our direct, hands-on experience with the product. If you’d like a second opinion, we recommend cruising by the product reviews on Amazon, which reflect a similarly high grade (79% 5-star ratings as of publishing).