Best Generators For RV in 2021
You’re hitting the road, not the nature trail. RVing around is one of the most breathtaking and freeing experiences you’ll ever endure. The stresses of work and the social hierarchy no longer matter – it’s just you, and either your friends, or your family. You’re not going to have the money to pay for expensive hook-ups all the time, so the next best thing is a reliable RV generator. As one of our most comprehensive, in-depth buying guides and rigorously hand-selected products ever on Gear Hungry, we’ve laid-out every single question you could have about the best RV generator, right on down to the most minor maintenance issues. You’re serious about RVing; we’re serious about helping you do it right. Check out our best RV Generator guide below.
The Best Generator For RV
For all your RV power needs, opt for the Westinghouse Portable Inverter Generator. Specially designed to be compatible with RV’s, this generator is practically unmatched. It features an easily accessible TT-30R RV outlet that makes it perfect for all your trailer travels. With 3700 running watts power and 4500 starting watts, the Westinghouse generator is strong and capable enough to power everything in your RV. This portable generator is also very light and compact, and easy to carry around thanks to its built-in telescopic handle. There’s also a total of two convenient top carry handles that allow for portable movement. Furthermore, it is extremely quiet, operating at a volume that is as low as 52 dBA. Altogether, this makes it ideal for neighborhoods as it would not disrupt day to day life and activities by causing noise.
More so, it is completely safe to use for sensitive electronics since it produces only clean and stable power that is less than 3% THD, meaning that you can trust it when it comes to your devices like your phones, computers, and televisions. And as if all this isn’t impressive enough; this portable product incorporates a maximum fuel efficiency engineering with variable engine speeds that only produce the power that you need at any given time. You can have them running for up to 18 hours at a go on a 3.4-gallon fuel tank, saving you repeated trips to the gas station. Plus, it comes with an LED data center fitted with an automatic rotating digital display that keeps you up to date on information about maintenance, all in real-time. With a three year warranty included in the package, this generator is a long term investment for your RV.
Can run for up to 18 hours at a time
Quiet operation as low as 53 dBA
Compact with two convenient top carrying handles
Produces clean power ideal for sensitive electronics
- Weight107.1 pounds
Comes with a four-gallon fuel tank
Built to last for decades with proper care
Malleable frame construction; this will incur dings and dents along the way
Gas gauge can be misleading; always best to fill up
For the power you need whenever you need it, the Generac GP3000i Super Quiet Inverter Generator is the ultimate. This quiet inverter not only provides all the power that you need in your RV, but it also saves on power. Don’t believe us? Well, this generator features a power rush technology that delivers over 50 percent more starting power than regular generators. Consider this a typical more with less situation; because of this modern technology, you can save more on gas while you get to experience a fully functional RV with all your electrical appliances for an even longer period of time than you would normally have with the same amount of gas. Additionally, this generator is equally very compact, incorporating a lightweight design that is easy to carry around with its built-in carrier handle.
No doubt, to protect sensitive devices like your phone and computers, you need a generator that has been designed to produce non-damaging and clean power that is ideal for your appliances. All thanks to this compact generator, you can trust that your devices will always be safe from electrical damage. The incorporated technology delivers clean and secure power for sensitive devices and electronics, all for your peace of mind. Furthermore, it features USB outlets which allow you to connect two units of this generator together. This, in turn, enables you to get double the power, as such, you can easily charge your electronic devices by connecting them with a cord to the USB outlet. Last but not least; it comes with a power dial that integrates a start, run and stop function in one simple-to-use knob.
Comes with a built-in handle for compact handling
Features clean power for sensitive electronics
Provides over 50 percent more starting capacity
Reduced sound emissions with quiet inverter power
- Weight55.6 pounds
Portable and powerful are a tough cocktail to mix, but Champion did it true justice with a stellar unit with durable, all-terrain wheels to aid in maneuverability. This dual fuel unit allows you to either use gasoline or propane, which makes it rather simple to store propane canisters for emergency use. This electric start has a three-position ignition switch and included battery, so you’re guaranteed a simple click to get things rolling. While they state that it’s “ultra quiet,” that’s far from the truth; it’s a lot louder than stated. There’s two kinds of noise with generators: mechanical, and electrical, and this is rather loud on both accounts.
While you’ve got a pricey tag resting on this, you are able to hook this up to your preexisting electrical system within your RV, and it comes with numerous outlets to keep appliances and small electronics in full power. You get 7.5 hours of runtime on this powerful unit, and while it’s not recommended, you could use it back-to-back with another full tank if need be. Champion works well for emergency situations, and comes in a durable hard case to withstand the elements.
59 dBA for an ultra-quiet operation
Feature clean and stable power for sensitive electronics
Comes with electric start with 3 position switch
Allows you to operate with either gasoline or propane
- BrandChampion Power Equipment
- Weight95.7 pounds
Uses either gasoline or propane, while also being simple to refuel
Can connect to your preexisting RV electric system
Tall price tag
States 59db rating, but it’s definitely louder than that
The WEN 56380i Super Quiet 3800-Watt Portable Inverter Generator is not the generator that you want, it’s the generator that you need. This RV generator has been designed to last you for years to come, featuring a special fuel shut off that totally maximizes the total lifespan of the device by making sure all the remaining fuel in the carburetor is used up before finally shutting down. It also requires minimum maintenance as a result of this seeing as the fuel shut off prevents blockage and limits any damage to the generator.
Coming with an electric start mechanism, the convenient keyless start lets you put on your generator with the simple press of a button and further provides you with clean and reliable power using less than 1.2 percent total harmonic distortion so that safe electricity is produced. No doubt, this goes a long way to ensure the durability of your sensitive devices. What’s more, it’s super quiet 57 decibels engine allows you to sleep and rest both during the day and at night in noiseless peace. Furthermore, it’s easy to read digital display puts information right at your fingertips, allowing you to monitor the voltage, wattage, frequency, run time and fuel supply.
Feature a digital load and fuel display
Comes with fuel shut off
Operates on an extremely quiet noise level
Provides clean power for sensitive devices
- Weight111 pounds
Coming in on the silver stage is DuroStar DS4 model, bringing an excellent eight hours of runtime, working off of a four-gallon tank. The tank doesn’t come with a gas gauge, so you’re not going to know what’s knocking around inside until it either empties out, or you pop the cap open to take a peek for yourself. They put this at an excellent price that just about anyone can get behind, especially if you’re trying to RV camp this summer on a moderate budget.
Ignition components on this model are a bit dodgy; it’s going to do its job, but it’s not going to do it on the first pull of the ripcord. It’s like a ten-year-old lawnmower: you have to give it a few tugs before the motor’s going to kick into gear. That being said, you get 3,300 running and 4,000 starting watts, and while it’s EPA compliant, it’s not CARB certified, meaning residents of California won’t be able to purchase this unit. From top to bottom, it’s a good quality unit in a solid frame, and works well for 2-4 users on a three-day weekend, or as a backup generator during hurricane season. If you are looking to upgrade your RV, then make sure you read our best RV air conditioners review.
Eight hour runtime
4,000 starting / 3,300 running
Four-gallon gas tank
- Weight92.4 pounds
Low oil shutoff feature
Excellent budget-friendly price
No fuel gauge included
Requires a few attempts to start; low-quality ignition
You may have heard of WEN before: due to a few picadillos, we couldn’t rank it number one, but this is the most trusted portable generator ever built, lasting some folks well over a decade of use, with little to no problems. For one, you’ll be able to link up multiple of these little beauties to increase the overall wattage output, which gives you the option that if one breaks, you still have another. You get 2,000 starting and 1,600 running, all on a six hour runtime from the one-gallon tank. While it isn’t the largest in capacity, it’s built tougher than you could imagine.
This comes CARB and EPA compliant, making it perfect for short-term camping excursions for California residents. Super Quiet isn’t just in the title; it’s actually most quiet operation of any generator on our list. In all the marketed photos, you see a guy carrying it with one hand, seemingly without any strain. We were a bit skeptical, but after lugging it around ourselves, it’s completely accurate. The cost associated with this for the wattage output is a bit disproportionate, but if you’re all about buying quality over quantity, WEN is your go-to guy. Make sure not to forget the portable power bank which can come in handy when you are on the road.
2,000 starting / 1,600 running
Two three-prong 120V outlets + one 12V DC and one 5V USB outlet
Six hours of runtime
- Weight48 pounds
Extremely quiet and portable with only one hand to carry it
High cost to wattage ratio
Only one gallon tank
Yamaha has been one of the most-trusted brands in America, steadily increasing their quality to unimaginable heights over the years. With their EF2000 unit, they’re displaying the epitome of their stride towards dependable quality. You only get a 1.1 gallon tank on this unit, but it’s opted to give you 10.5 hours of continuous runtime (which is an insane ratio). That efficiency is thanks to their Smart Throttle technology, keeping fuel consumption down, while keeping efficiency right where you need it.
This unit is very expensive compared to the wattage output, but as we stated with the previous WEN model, this is all about quality over wattage quantity. This is durable as they come, and has the necessary EPA and CARB compliant certificates for nationwide use. It challenged the WEN for quiet operation, and honestly, they’re nearly neck-in-neck. This is quieter than a standard conversation between two people, making it a perfect companion to enjoy your electronics, while still enjoying the peace and sanctity of the great outdoors.
2,000 starting / 1,600 running
CARB and EPA compliant
Operates more quietly than a normal one-on-one conversation
- Weight44.1 pounds
Smart Throttle feature saves you fuel over time
Built Yamaha tough; one of the best builds on this list
Extremely high cost for the wattage
Only packs a 1.1 gallon tank
Hurricane Irma struck, and numerous residents of Florida took to Honda’s EU2000 model to keep themselves out of the dark. This unit runs continuously for 8.1 hours on the one-gallon gas tank supply, but unlike other models, it’s not going to require a cooldown period at that point. You could get two full runs out of it, let it rest, and use it six to eight hours later. Honda comes at a high cost, especially for the 2,000 starting, 1,600 running total supply.
For the size, it’s extremely portable and lightweight, so there’ll be no two-man team required to put this in the perfect spot. With that small size, it operates very quietly. You could fall asleep with this as white noise in the background. Honda is one of those brands that offers quality over quantity, making it a viable investment if you’re looking to get ten years of use out of it, and use it as an RV generator, as well as an emergency backup when you’re not on the road.
8.1 hours of runtime
2,000 starting / 1,600 running
Lightweight and portable
- Weight45.6 pounds
The most-trusted backup power supply used during Hurricane Irma; it’s built to last through everything
High cost to wattage ratio
One gallon gas tank
You can’t stop the Champions. This unit packs a stronger punch than its predecessor, operating in a range just over 60db, all mechanically, meaning its a bit quieter than you’d expect a 4,000 starting, 3,500 running unit to be. You get an impressive runtime of seventeen straight hours, making this ideal to be a backup generator as well as for an RV trip. You won’t have to hold a funeral for your hemorrhaging wallet, either; Champion put Digital Hybrid Open Frame Inverter at a great price, while still keeping it lightweight enough to manually move around the campsite.
One issue a few other Champion models had (ones that didn’t make our list), is the ripcord being touchy, and this model is no different. It’ll take a few pulls to get it moving, and you’ll want to monitor the ripcord durability over time, as its the only part you’ll really have to fix on this unit. You’ll be able to utilize the limited three-year warranty to grab that part, should it break, but other than that, this unit is rock solid, resting in a good quality frame. One issue (we didn’t encounter this) users have reported, was the frame arriving dented or damaged. It sucks, but even with some minor damage, it’s still sturdy and does its job.
4,000 starting / 3,500 running
Seventeen hours of runtime
Three-year warranty with free lifetime technical support
- BrandChampion Power Equipment
- Weight81.6 pounds
Fantastic price to wattage ratio
For the size/output, it operates fairly quietly
Ripcord requires a bit of tough love to get it to kick on
Item frame (not motor) has arrived dented or damaged for some customers
The big brother of the EU2000 model, Honda EU2200i lasts most users for 8-10 years, and gives you a 2,200 starting, 1,800 running power supply. Honda builds their generators ultra tough, and with this series, they’ve been committed to making them portable sa can be. Lightweight at only 47lbs, you’ll have no issue loading and unloading this single-handedly during your trips. One of the major appeals of these units, besides being the go-to backup generators that Americans prefer, is the ability to dual-connect two units, and make a small power grid up to 3,600 running watts.
As with the other model, this price tag is still pretty high, although lower than its predecessor. Normally, your runtime is pretty set in stone, but you get a high range of anywhere from four to nearly ten hours on this, making it difficult to properly plan your extra fuel that you bring along. It’s quiet, simple to start and shut down, and has a simple operation for any user. If you’re still not sure what you’re looking for in an RV generator, take a look at our comprehensive buying guide below, and circle back to grab your preferred model.
2,200 starting / 1,800 running
Lightweight and portable at only 47lbs
Can run with other EU2000i units to create a 4,400 / 3,600 watt power supply
- Weight47 pounds
Conversation-level noise output
Simple startup and shutdown operation
Wide runtime range; anywhere from four to nearly ten hours on a single tank
High cost to wattage ratio
RV Generator Buying Guide & FAQs
You have a lot to consider. Features, factors, scenarios, extended use and reliability. We’ve written a thorough, comprehensive guide to RV generators, including just about every question you could every think up. We aim to make the process as simple or as in-depth as you want it to be. Without further ado, let’s delve into it.
Things to Consider When Buying an RV Generator
Fuel Type - Gas, solar, and propane are going to be the only ones you’ll really see. Each of these have their ups and downs: gas is more reliable and readily available, propane can cost more and generally provides less power, and solar is a wildcard (more on this later). Now that we mentioned solar, make sure to check put list of best solar chargers.
Emission Ratings - There are two different certifications for emissions ratings, which we’ll cover in a little while in this guide. They almost exclusively apply to residents of California, who have increased restrictions as opposed to the rest of the country.
Runtime - After a certain point, you have to cool these things down. For most units, you’ll get a bare bones minimum of five hours of use, with some lasting up to a full twenty-four hours. While you could refuel your unit and continue past the runtime expectations, these are set in place to prevent damaging your unit, while maintaining the results you purchased your generator for.
Power Starting / Running - This is the energy rating you’ll see in most item titles, and among the most prominent details. This tells you how much it needs to generate to start up, and how much it will generate while running. This is vital to understand exactly what you can plug into your portable RV generator, but keep in mind, it’s best to hang about 10% below the maximum running threshold to maintain efficiency and prevent surges or failures.
Weight - You’re hauling it, and half the time (or more), you know you’re not going to have any help doing it. Try to purchase as lightweight as possible without compromising on quality.
Eco-Mode - Eco-Mode is only so good, but it’s something you need to be on the lookout for. When you’re running this for short bursts, Eco-Mode can be a Godsend of energy-saving prowess. Longer stretches, and it can actually mess with your system. Be on the lookout.
Dimensions - You’ll have to store these in your RV while moving, but you’re packing more than just a generator. Take the dimensions (and overall size) into account before planning to stash this in the back.
Solar Adaptable - Solar panels are everywhere; there’s no denying it. We’ve even done a guide on portable solar panels for smaller use. If you’re going to spend a few days out in the great outdoors, having additional power sources through solar panels might not be such a bad idea.
Warranty Information - This isn’t some simple off-the-shelves purchase; warranties are the saving grace that everyone needs if you’re to encounter unexpected issues. No manufacturing or assembly process is ironclad, leaving small, but viable, margins of error. The right warranty will also protect you against a recall and the havoc it may have wreaked on other sections of your system.
Safety Protocol When Using an RV Generator
There’s a few things to keep in mind. You’re going to be using your RV generator when you don’t have access to a charging station for your central electrical system, However, you’re still dealing with vast volumes of electricity and a combustible engine, and as such, there’s safety protocol that needs to be in place.
The 20 Foot Rule - The decibel measurement rating is actually a measurement when put 18-21 feet away from an RV. If your unit says that it produces 51 db of noise, that’s the volume when it’s already away from your RV. For the sake of hearing the conversations you’re having with friends/family, keeping your RV generator at a good distance is essential. Apart from that,
Q: What Drains my Generator the Fastest?
A: You’re going to have to take a look at individual energy consumption on each product, as you should always do, but we don’t want to leave you high and dry without a solid answer. The top items on average, ranging from most energy consumption to least, are as follows:
- Game Console
- Air Conditioner (May be higher depending on your BTUs)
- Electric Stove
- Blender or Countertop Appliance
- Cabin Lights
Q: How Much Power do I Need for My RV/Camping?
A: That is all going to depend on what you like to do, and how many items you’ll have running at once. Your family size (and their dependency on technology being right in their face) is going to either be a blessing, or totally taxing on your energy usage and cost evaluation. If you’re a solo goer, you can get by on a 2,000 / 1,600 generator for most of your necessities, allowing you to enjoy the great outdoors without relying too heavily on your electronics. It’s best to find out what each of your items use for energy, and make a plan before hitting the road. Be certain to see our brief list of the most energy-sucking items that most RV users have.
Q: What is an Onboard Generator?
A: As you very well may imagine, it’s an RV generator that rests in your RV instead of being placed outside. However, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows. Onboard generators are noisy as hell (especially when it’s bouncing around inside that little cabin), and produce heat, which is counterintuitive if you plan on running the AC.
In short, they’re not worth their weight in gold. The main purpose we see is if you go to an RV park or camp that has frequent - and rather close - visitors, and you’re trying not to disturb them during the night. Portable RV generators are the choice of full-time RVers for multiple reasons, including cost and maintenance versus an onboard generator.
Q: How Many Watts Will I Be Running for my AC?
A: There’s no simple answer here, because we don’t intimately know your RV or its system. Instead, we’ve listed a helpful chart here to let you know.
7,000 BTU RV Air Conditioner - 1,500 to 1,700 watts starting / 600 running
10,000 BTU RV Air Conditions - 1,800 to 2,000 watts starting / 700 running
13,500 BTU RV Air Conditioner - 2,500 to 2,750 watts starting / 1,250 running
15,000 BTU RV Air Conditioner - 3,300 to 3,500 watts starting / 1,500 running
These are based off of averages from different brands of RV air conditioners, including built-in AC units that come with certain RV brands. It’s always best to look at your RV manual for specifics so you don’t risk a power surge.
Q: What is a Considerate Sound Level for RV Generators?
A: You’re going to see these machines measured in decibels, or db, as they’re more commonly referred to. Most generators are going to run anywhere from 45 to 70db, mimicking the sounds of a moderate suburb, or a semi-loud slew of conversations in a restaurant. These generators aren’t thunderous and peace disturbing as everyone would think. When you go with an inverter generator, you actually produce even less noise than traditional mechanical RV genertors.
Q: What is an Inverter Generator?
A: Inverter generators are a step-up from standard mechanical generators. Your normal generator would utilize fuel, and convert that to AC power through an alternator. With an inverter generator, you’re focusing on more than just simple energy transference. Inverter generators have a higher amount of electronic components, making them a bit more expensive, but ultimately better pieces of equipment.
An inverter generator takes that AC power, turns it into DC power, and back into AC power once again. It sounds like a tedious process, but it’s actually far more efficient than standard mechanical generators. Apart from them, they also come a lot lighter than mechanical generators, and offer various speed settings to preserve fuel, and only utilize the level of electricity that you actually need. It’s a bigger investment, but it cuts down on unnecessary fuel consumption and additional costs along the way.
Q: How Long Will an RV Generator Run For?
A: If you’re going for runtime in a single use, you’re going to want to consult the specific manual/guide that came with your unit. However, if you’re talking about a total runtime over the course of its life, that’s going to depend on a few things.
As a rule of thumb, especially if you want to increase the life of your RV generator, you should stop it within thirty minutes of the maximum allowed runtime. This is going to preserve it for future use. Certain Honda RV generator users have had their models for over eleven years, and counting. If you take care of them, they’ll last you for absolutely ages.
Q: Can I Hook Up Multiple RV Generators at Once?
A: Yes, you absolutely can. If you’re travelling with a big party, or you have a big family, you’re going to go through a lot of power. Buying a few smaller generators along the way can be better than committing to a large-scale purchase, but can also save you in fuel efficiency costs in the long haul, depending on the circumstances and model types.
There are benefits to going with smaller generators: you can use a single one when you solo trip out on the road, cutting down on overall usage, and saving fuel plus money. Also, if one unit runs into mechanical issues, you’re not up the creek without a paddle. You’ve still got your single use unit to generate electricity for the necessities.
Q: What Are EPA and CARB Compliance Certificates?
A: The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and California Air Resources Board (CARB) both sign-off on the fuel efficiency, and overall environmental impact of RV generators. Air emissions are created when combustible engines produce electrical energy, and as such, their interference is heavily regarded.
Not every generator is going to meet their standards, but it also doesn’t make them illegal. It’s going to make them available to all fifty states (more on this later), and also notify the purchaser that they may not be getting the best device to fit the needs of the environment.
Q: How do I Replace Oil Filters?
A: Unlike air filters, you can’t simply clean these and just toss them back in. These endure so much duress that they simply need to be replaced. Much like the air filter being located near the fan, you’re going to find your oil filter located right near the fuel tank. Each model is different, so it’s best to consult the user manual to quickly locate the exact location of the oil filter.
Ensure you dispose of it properly. Oil filters can run a bit more of an initial cost than air filters, so it’s important to understand exactly when you should replace them. This is going to help cut down on costs and waste at the same time. The rule of thumb for oil filter replacement is after every one-hundred hours of use. If you can remember, put a small clipboard or micro legal pad near the generator, and essentially sign-in and sign-out each time it’s put into use, and powered down for the day. This will give you a realistic expectation of how often you have to change it, depending on your frequency of use.
Q: How do I Replace/Clean Air Filters?
A: Air filters are extremely critical to your RV generator performance. We’re going to run through the cleaning process now, and if you need to replace it, you can simply stop after step one, and pop-in a new filter, then call it a day.
- Locate the fan, which will be directly adjacent to the air filter. You may find a small rectangular plate, which you can usually remove with a Phillips head screwdriver. Standard generators come with either two or four screws.
- Ready your cleaning solution. We recommend simple Dawn dishwashing gel, since you’re going to see a fairly nasty mix of debris, dust, and oily grime in that air filter after just one to two months. Soak it for 1-2 minutes, and gently scrub.
- Air dry. Don’t pat dry, don’t use a blowdryer - you have to do it properly. Air drying evenly returns the filter to a usable state. You should never put a cleaned air filter back if it has the slightest hint of moisture about it. While the risk is minimal, it’s important to remember that water and electricity don’t mix.
Notice to Residents of California
Just because a generator doesn’t come with EPA certification and CARB compliance information doesn’t mean you can’t buy them. However, if you’re living in the great state of California, that means that they’d might as well be illegal to you. Due to emission laws governing the sale and use of certain items, you’re limited in your choices. While most RV generators will come with EPA/CARB certificates, you’ll be surprised at some of the biggest brand names in the business when you see that they aren’t all compliant. For updated information and localized intel, you should check back to your local municipality databases/websites, as well as the official California government page.
- Explaining CARB Compliant Generators, Absolute Generators
- Basic Information about the Emission Standards Reference Guide for On-road and Nonroad Vehicles and Engines, EPA Official Website
- How to Use RV Generators, Trails.com
- RV Generators 101, RV University
- BTU Energy Explained, US Energy Information Administration Official Website
- Wattage Worksheet, LCEC Official Website
- Study Provides Details on Portable Generator Emissions and Carbon Monoxide Exposure, National Institute of Standards and Technology Official Website
- Comparative Examples of Noise Levels, Industrial Noise Control