Is A Roof Mounted Spotlight A Worthwhile Option?

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February 18, 2010

Spot Light 001A view from Lug_Nut.   There are many options to decide on when purchasing a motorized RV or adding to your existing rig. One of those is a remote roof top mounted spotlight usually offered on B, C, and A class coaches.  The cost generally is only several hundred dollars which is small in the grand scheme of the entire unit.  But, is it worth the money?

Well, yes, I think the item itself is probably worth the cost, but what about its application?  That is, how often are you going to need this and actually use it?  One would think they would have at least an occasional requirement from time to time; after all, it’s a spotlight.  That’s what I used to think.

I have had a spotlight on my last three coaches over a span of about eleven years.  I’ve travelled throughout both Canada and the U.S. registering roughly 170,000 miles.  I’ve done my share of running and stopping after dark.  In the entire eleven years I can honestly say that I only used the spotlight once.  I used it one moonless dark night arriving into a camp after closing to check out a site to park in.  Whether I could have used a handheld light instead is kind of irrelevant considering once in eleven years.

GoLightNow, there are two types.  One is hardwired to a switch and controlling joystick on the dash.  This is handy, always ready and is somewhat easier to precisely operate.  The other is switched and controlled solely from a wireless remote control.  These are much easier to install as they need only a 12 volt source at the spotlight location.  They are, however, not as precise to control.  Additionally, you need to have the remote control handy and require the control batteries to be serviceable.  Usually by the time you have retrieved the remote control, the need may have passed.  Both types are used by manufacturers and it depends what they are currently specifying on a particular make and model.  Newmar, for example, used the hardwire for many years but recently switched to the wireless type.

One advantage, and perhaps the only, to the wireless controlled unit is the ability to operate it while out of your rig.  The issue here, however, is finding a needed application that would require such operation other than it being “pretty spiffy”.

So, would I order it again on my next rig? Though clearly it would in all probability be a waste of money based on my previous experience, I admit I probably would.  Partially for the reason that I just may find more future needs and I’m just a guy that likes all the options I can get and afford.  Besides, as far as option sticker prices, it is one of the lower ones only out-pricing by perhaps the add-on shower handle grip.

Well, what’s your take?  Do you have a roof mounted spotlight, and if so, how often have you used yours?

Shining A Light On Another Option   –    Lug_Nut    –     Peter Mercer

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  1. Lug_Nut

    Austinflash, Good input on supporting the spotlight option. Thank you for sharing your experience on this topic.

  2. Austinflash

    Hi Lug Nut,
    I have had two MH without and on with. I would take the spot light. We boondock a lot, and to this day I can remember one time we pulled into a park, no lights anywhere no moon, on dark night with a light rain. So we know it is a parking lot, but where are the boarders, tree, curbs, etc no spot light. So that was going to be my next purchase for that MH, ended up selling and buying a newer MH, with a spot light. Coming into some place in the dark at midnight and trying to get your bearing the spot light works great. Other wise have to get out in the rain walk around with a flashlight.

  3. John, Yes, the handheld rechargable ones are so low in price. Probably a better option as it can also be used else where and be transferred from one vehicle to another. I always appreciate your input, thanks John.

  4. John

    Hi Lug_Nut,

    I too used to run them on my tractor. They were a great help driving dark Canadian highways in the winter months. It kept many Elk and Moose off of my bumper when going through the Rockies. Had some facing the rear too, great for checking the load and tie downs in the dark.

    Being retired, probably woldn’t have much need for it now but you never know. Don’t plan on doing too much night driving. But then again, I just might get the urge to do a night run in the coach when most folks are in bed and the roads are empty. Sounds too much like work now….have to go and enjoy the good life.

    They now make 1 million candle power rechargeable handheld spots at a low price.


  5. Wes, I tend to agee, most motor homes rarely run after dark. Thanks for sharing your experience with us and for your input.

  6. Wes

    I have always used the spotlights (one on each mirror) on my 18 wheeler ).
    They work real well runnuing at night . Adjust them so they light up the ditches .
    You won’t ever have a deer jump out in front of you. As soon as the lights hit them they stop dead or take off in the other direction. Just make sure you shut them off when a vehicle is coming. On a mh I don’t think you want 2 of them and I don’t see many mh late at night.
    24/7 coast to coast

  7. Harold DeVries, Thank you for your kind word and for your posting.

  8. Teri, Glad you found the article of interest and help. Thanks for your input.

  9. Steve, Yes the replacement bulbs are a little pricey. Your camera is a great answer. Thanks for sharing that with us.

  10. Mike, Interesting comment. I’ve not heard of it ever being an issue, however it could happen. Thanks for your input.

  11. Thomas Becher, We will look at air horns too one day. Thanks for your posting.

  12. Harold DeVries

    I enjoy reading your articles.
    I have a handheld unit and used it about three times in a 15 year period.
    Sometimes I have been contemplating to simply toss it , is only taking up space.
    But than I changed my mind ,with the thought ,I might just need it and then I’ll be sorry.
    Needless to say ,it is still taking up space , for just when I might need it.

  13. Thomas…If you visit our campground we encourage those departing who enjoyed their stay to honk that air horn. It gives us a good feeling and the Rv’ers seem to like using them. Of course the departure gate is some ways from the RV park so that it doesn’t annoy anyone’s peace.

    LugNut:Thanks for the informative post. Your comments have convinced us NOT to spend the extra on a spotlight for our RV. A handheld one will do the trick for us.

  14. Steve

    I bought a used mh. In checking the spot/flood light, I found the bulb was burned out. Due to the high cost of a replacement bulb and my lack of confidense in ever needing it, I made an executive decision to not replace it. Instead I bought an IR camera (good for 240 feet) which fit in the housing, and I ran a coax to my video selector.

    Now I can watch wildlife with my remote control camera, day and night, on my TV.

  15. Mike

    I would not. Nothing to do with cost but I view it as one more possible water leak in the roof with not much benefit since a handheld will work as well.

  16. Thomas Becher

    Next time write about air horns. Almost as usless Never used it in the 7 years I had my Bounder

  17. David Aiken, Good point. Both parachutes and insurance are a great comparison. Thank you for your great input.

  18. Greg C, Very good point. I had not thought of using it in that manner. Tree branches can cause bad scatching and more. Thank you for the great use and your input.

  19. Manuel Enos, Well I guess that is true. If you did not have one you would find many needs. Thanks for your input on this topic.

  20. Gerald Strickland, Well your comment backs up “If you don’t have it, you don’t miss it”. However, perhaps the phrase “If you have it and don’t use it, you might as well not have it” is also quite true. Thanks for your super posting.

  21. Curtis McRee, Great comment. It seems there are many that feel that way. Thank you for your great comments.

  22. Feeline, Hmmmmm…. Save the money and buy a coffee machine, great idea. Thanks for your inovative post.

  23. Bob and BJ Phelps, Glad you enjoyed the article and that you are a regular reader. Thanks for taking the time to post.

  24. PeteB, I think most of us remember the side mounted spotlights on cars. Yes, a battery powered unit can do the job just fine. Thanks for your input on this topic.

  25. M H, Great point. A handheld can do the same a whole lot cheaper and can be moved from one vehicle to another. Thanks for the great input.

  26. Irwin Brown, Yes there probably is very few, if any 5th wheel trailers that have spotlights. However, the remote control one might work well as it could be operated from the cab of your tow vehicle. Interesting, anyway. Thanks for taking the time to comment.

  27. Jack Silberlicht, I’m sure there are many other, like you, that do find a need regularly, but certainly not the majority. Thank you for your input.

  28. Gary Underwood, Glad you found the article of interest. Thank you for your input on this topic.

  29. David Aiken

    Roof-mounted spotlights are like parachutes. You may never have a need to use it, but if you ever do need it, there is simply no substitute. I don’t have a spotlight on my new RV, although I am giving some thought to getting one. I used the one I had on my car only once (I was first on-scene at a bad car accident late one rainy night in the middle of nowhere). Yes, you can always use a hand-held flashlight or lantern, but it is really nice to have all that light right where you need it and still have both hands free.

  30. Well I guess I’m one of the few that use their roof mounted spot light. I have to admit it’s more of a novelty then a necessity.

    However, I find it useful when driving in areas with low tree branches. I can tell by how the bean illuminates the tree branches just ahead if I’m going to have clearance issues or not. This is never a problem when driving slow but I have found it useful on small country roads when driving 45-50mph. Gives me enough time to move to the center of the road or slow down.

    Only because it’s there, I have also used it in dark campgrounds to find my camp site. Especially useful in the winter when there is a lot of snow coverage. Typically the campgrounds are empty and snow is covering the ground so the spot light helps to determine the site boundaries, etc. as your driving around trying to pick out the best site for your stay.

  31. Manuel Enos

    Have a roof mounted spot light, I have turned it on once in 6 years. But, if I didn’t have it I am sure I would immediately need it!! I think I will go out to my coach and see if it’s still working now that all this talk about spotlights have reminded me that I have one. Thanks!!

  32. Gerald Strickland

    We’ve had 4 motor homes but no roof mounted spotlights. We have visited 49 states ( 3 solo trips to Alaska) and most of Canada but I have never needed a spotlight. I used to carry a portable spotlight but never used it so I quit carrying it years ago.

    However, I never leave home without a flashlight; one for the RV and one for the toad but the one in the RV is used mostly for finding the bathroom in a dark campsite.

  33. I had 1 M/h with a spotlight on it. I never had an occassion to use it. I have had
    5 m/hs in 30 years. I can stiil see in the dark really great at 75 years of age.
    I keep a good light to use if I need one. I wouldn’t waste money on purchasing a flood light.Thanks for another good article.I am not a man that needs a lot of
    gadgets to enjoy driving around America in my motorohome.I had rather spend time with my Beautiful Lady than watch t.V. We spend our quality time together playing cards and games. That is more important to us. That is my story and I’m sticking to it. Happy camping to all of you. Enjoy life as you see fit.

  34. Feeline

    I agree that a spotlight would be a nice option, but I think I would rather spend the extra $$$s on something that I would use more often, Like a good coffee machine.

    As usual, great stuff., make you think.

  35. Bob and BJ Phelps


    another great post. Keep up the good work

  36. PeteB

    Anyone on this Forum/Blog remembers cars of old having such a feature? Now my reasoning goes this way: if car manufacturers got rid of having such an item on production automobiles, what would make RV’s any different so that they’d need to be so equipped? After all, even after so many years, there is still a human being behind the steering wheel and, more often than not, also a copilot in the right-hand seat, who, let’s hope, is not too afraid of the dark. I’d say a 6 volt powered lantern is just as good and as equally suited for the job, provided the batterie is still serviceable.

  37. M H

    Never had one mounted on any of the RV’s I have owned. But I do carry a hand held one that has a 15 cord and a halogen bulb. I just plug it in a 12 volt outlet and shine it where I want it. It is very bright and has a wide focused beam. I can hold it out the window to check signs and such or shine it through the winshield. Works for me. about $18 is what I paid for it about 10 years ago.

  38. I’ve got a fifth wheel trailer and a one ton Silverado crew cab and have never thought I needed a spotlight. Never had the occasion to need one. So, if I haven’t neede that on my truck, why would I need it on an RV? But if I ever DO need it, I won’t have it.

  39. Jack Silberlicht

    I use spotlight often. To check roadsigns with directions, Street signs & addresses.

  40. Gary Underwood

    Hey, great post. I’ve owned two class A motor homes and neither had one of these installed. I see them quite often and think about getting one. Thanks to your post and experience (one use in eleven years), I think I’ll use the money on a couple of steak dinners and send my wife outside with a strong flashlinhg. This is exactly the kind of information I was hoping to get from this blog. Thanks, again!