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What Are the Different Types of RV Lights?

Jeremy Laukkonen
Jeremy Laukkonen

Recreational vehicles (RVs) use both interior and exterior lights and can also have an assortment of light emitting diode (LED), fluorescent, and incandescent bulbs. Interior RV lights are typically incandescent mini lamps, but both fluorescent and LED fixtures are also available. RV tail lights are usually incandescent mini lamps as well, and in many cases they will be the same bulbs that the interior fixtures use. The headlights found in RVs are usually the same as other automotive applications use, so older motorhomes have sealed beam units and new ones tend to have halogen bulb inserts. A variety of other RV lights are also available, such as awning and patio light fixtures that can be useful when camping.

Many interior and exterior RV lights are automotive miniature lamps. These small light bulbs use an incandescent filament and are powered by the 12v coach or engine battery. Some of these miniature lamps use a single filament, but others use two. The miniature lamps that are used in RV interiors tend to have have similarly sized bases but can use either one or two contact points, depending on the number of filaments. If a two terminal bulb is placed in a single terminal socket, it will typically result in a short circuit and may blow a fuse.

LED lights are a good way to conserve power when camping.
LED lights are a good way to conserve power when camping.

In many cases, the same miniature lamps that are used inside are also found in exterior RV lights. Recreational vehicles have brake lights, side markers, turn signals, and back-up lights that all typically use incandescent bulbs. Side markers are often a very small bulb, but turn signals, back-up lights, and brake lights will often use the same miniature lamps as interior fixtures. Motorhomes also have headlights that are usually identical to those in other vehicles that use the same chassis.

Both interior and exterior RV lights can also make use of LEDs to conserve power. These types of lights are typically added after the vehicle is purchased. Interior fluorescent fixtures can also be purchased as an upgrade, though many higher end RVs come equipped with them from the factory.

Other types of RV lights are usually used during camping. Strings of mini lights are often designed with clips to be hung from awnings. These awning lights sometimes require alternating current (AC) power to operate, though others can be plugged into a 12v cigarette lighter. Some RVs even come with an exterior 12v outlet to power awning lights and a variety of other accessories.

Discussion Comments


That's a great idea, Summing. I've got some of those in my yard, but I never thought about bringing them along in my motor home.


My wife and I have been driving an RV around the country for most of the last ten years. We have tried lots of different outdoor lighting systems and the ones we use now are these solar powered garden lights that we found at an outdoor store. We can stick them into the ground wherever they are most useful and the best thing is that we don't have to worry about cords or batteries.

One day in full sun and they have enough charge to provide a few nights of light. They were a great find and really useful if you are going to be living out of RV parks.


I saw an RV at an outdoor show that was one of the top of the line models. It had a huge TV, full kitchen and bathroom, amazing master bedroom you name it. But the part that really stood out for me was that the RV also had track lighting everywhere.

Most houses don't even have track lighting. It was on a full control system that could dim the lights and even change their colors in one of the rooms. It seemed kind of frivolous but I think this model was designed to be over the top.


Anyone who has spent much time in an RV park knows that the best kind of lights to have are those outdoor Christmas light that come inside the plastic tubes. They provide a nice source of ambient light and you can attach them easily to the outside of your RV or to an awning or some other shelter.

Seriously, walk around any RV park and you will see these light on at least every other rig. They obviously work.

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    • LED lights are a good way to conserve power when camping.
      By: Greg Pickens
      LED lights are a good way to conserve power when camping.