Having access to the internet is important when you live in a van – whether it’s for work, staying in touch with long distance friends, or getting on Instagram. Before Starlink, I had to rely on my phone’s hotspot to get work done, which meant I was limited to campsites with service. But now, I can go pretty much anywhere and not worry about whether or not I’ll be able to work! Starlink Roam has been a game changer, but it definitely has a few downsides – so this Starlink for van life review will help you decide if it’s worth it for you.
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Table of Contents
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My Experience with Starlink Roam
I’ve been living on the road for over four years, so I’ve tried a few different van life wifi options. I work completely remotely now, so I need the internet to make money on the road. I’ve had a Starlink Roam (formerly called Starlink RV) since November 2022, so at the time of writing this I’ve been using it for almost a year. I’ve traveled to lots of remote locations on the west coast, many of them without any phone service, and used the Starlink for wifi.
How Does the Starlink Roam Work?
The Starlink Roam is pretty easy to set up – you have a router, and a satellite dish. The router plugs into an outlet, and the satellite dish plugs into the router. The dish searches for satellites up in the sky, connects to them (somehow), and you get wifi!
I have my router under my table, then just run the cord for my Starlink satellite dish through one of my front windows and place the dish on the ground (it comes with a stand), but a lot of van lifers choose to mount it permanently onto their rig.
Starlink for Van Life Pros and Cons
Spoiler alert: I really love my Starlink Roam, and it’s been a great investment for working on the road. But, it definitely has a few downsides too, and it might not be right for everyone! So, here’s an honest overview of some Starlink for van life pros and cons.
Starlink for Van Life Cons
Let’s start with the negatives – a few cons of the Starlink Roam.
This is, in my opinion, the only real con of the Starlink Roam – the only thing that I’d say stops me from saying everyone should get one. It’s pretty pricey! The Starlink Roam has a one time hardware cost of $599, and the service costs $150 per month. In my opinion, if you work remotely, it’s worth it. If you’re planning to use it for fun internet stuff and not for work, the cost probably isn’t worth it.
It Uses a Lot of Power
Another con of the Starlink Roam is that it needs to be plugged in to work, and it does draw a pretty good amount of power. I have 400 watts of solar panels on my roof, and in the summer I’m able to use my Starlink without worrying about it at all. In the winter, I have to be a little more conservative since there’s less daylight – I’m still able to use it, but I make sure to park somewhere where I’ll get full sun all day, and unplug it anytime I’m not working. A long as there aren’t a few cloudy days in a row, I don’t have any problems!
It Needs a Clear View of the Sky
One important thing to note is that to work, the Starlink needs an unobstructed view of the sky. This means that if there are trees in the way, it may not be able to pick up a signal. Since I use solar power for my van, this hasn’t been an issue for me – I need to park somewhere fairly open anyway so that I get enough sun to power everything in my van. The Starlink app allows you to use your phone’s camera to check for obstructions, which can help you find the best spot to put it.
One common misconception about the Starlink is cloud cover – clouds or gloomy weather don’t affect signal at all!
It’s Slower on the East Coast
Another thing to consider is that the Starlink Roam is said to be slower on the east coast of the US, because it doesn’t work as well when there are more of them around, and the east coast is more densely populated. I don’t go east of Colorado, so I haven’t tried this out for myself and can’t offer an opinion. Here on the west coast, it’s worked amazingly for me, even the few times I’ve camped next to people who were also using a Starlink. You can check out the Starlink Roam coverage map here. The good news is, it seems like coverage is expanding!
The Hardware is Big
The last con of the Starlink Roam is that the satellite dish is pretty big, so you’ll need a dedicated space to store it inside. Alternatively, you can mount it outside your van and storage won’t be an issue!
Starlink for Van Life Pros
Now, let’s talk about the positives of the Starlink Roam, and all the reasons why I think it’s so worth it for van life!
You can Camp Anywhere
This one is HUGE! Before I got a Starlink Roam, I would sometimes have to drive forest roads for literal hours trying to find a spot that had phone service so that I would be able to work. I couldn’t be out of service for more than a few days at a time, and so I was limited with where I could go. Now, with the Starlink for van life, instead of looking for a spot with service, I look for the spot with the best view, and I go wherever I want without worrying about how I’ll get any work done. It works everywhere!!
It works Abroad
The Starlink Roam works really well in Canada and Mexico, so you can go check out those turquoise lakes in BC or the white sand beaches in Baja without taking weeks off of work. As of right now, there’s also coverage in a lot of Europe and South America, and it’s expanding to more an more countries. There aren’t any additional costs for using it in your continent (so since I’m in the US, I can use it in North America for the standard fee), but if you go abroad you’ll need to upgrade to a global plan, which costs $200 per month instead of the standard $150.
You Can Pause Starlink Roam Anytime
Though the Starlink service is pretty expensive, one advantage is that you can pause it if you’re not using it. I paused mine for a few months when I was rebuilding my van!
It’s Fast and Unlimited
There were two big drawbacks when I was using my phone hotspot for wifi – it was limited and would get slower after 40 GB, and it wasn’t always very fast in remote areas. I upload a lot of photos for this blog, which uses a lot of data! The Starlink Roam offers completely unlimited wifi, and it’s always really fast!
It’s Weather Proof
Since the satellite dish needs to be outside, weather is naturally a concern for someone using it for van life. But, good news – the Starlink is designed to be outside, so it won’t be affected by rain, wind, sun, snow (snow on the dish itself can block the signal though – but it can even heat up to melt the snow!), or other weather conditions. I once dropped my Starlink dish off the roof of my van (sigh… don’t ask me how) and was terrified, but it wasn’t damaged at all!
Is Starlink for Van Life Worth It?
Whether or not the Starlink Roam is worth it will depend on each person and how you van life! Overall, I’d say if you’re working remotely and making money using the internet, it’s definitely worth it. You’ll be able to go pretty much anywhere, and not worry about getting online!
If you’re considering getting a Starlink Roam and have questions about it, or if you have one and have opinions, leave them in a comment below!
For more info on how to live and work on the road, check out these posts:
- Van Life Wifi Options
- How to Get Mail on the Road
- DIY Van Life Electrical System
- Van Life Essentials
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