How to Choose an RV Generator – Buyer`s Guide

If you plan to boondock and camp in places where you have no access to electricity, then you already know that a portable generator is ESSENTIAL to enjoy comfortable camping.

I consider generator to be the best investment in an RV when it comes to modern conveniences. You would not be able to watch TV or run your air conditioner on your standard RV battery.

I will answer the most common questions regarding RV generators in this article and talk about the most important factors to consider when choosing portable RV generator.

What Type of Generator Do I Need For My RV?

I highly suggest that you get an inverter type generator that is made for RVing purposes. Do not get those cheap construction type generators as they are INCREDIBELY loud and you won`t be able to use them in any campsite or when other people are around you without making enemies. You don`t want to be THAT Guy!

Noise factor is huge when it comes to generators. Before choosing your generator, you should also know that many National Parks even limit the noise to 60 decibels at 50 feet. So, by choosing a portable inverter generator (around 50-65 decibels) you will make sure that you will be available to use it in any camp site.

If you buy a cheap generator for few hundreds, most likely it will sound like a jackhammer. Poor neighbours…

Inverter type generators also produce clean sine wave energy, so it will be safe to use for sensitive electronic devices like smartphones, laptops and ipads.

What Size Generator Do I Need For My RV?

This is absolutely the TOP question when it comes to choosing a generator. It all comes down to your needs (and the size of your air conditioner as you will read shortly).

There are a LOT of generators in the market, but I wouldn`t recommend getting 1000 Watt generator as you won`t even be able to start basic appliances like microwave and it definitely will not start the air conditioner.

Most Rvers are going for 2000 or 3000 Watt generator, but there is quite a big difference between them. 2000 Watt generator is enough powerful to power most appliances (microwave, coffee machine, hair dryer etc.), but it will most likely NOT power your air conditioner. If you are like most Rvers then being able to run your air conditioner is just a necessity.

3000 Watt generator will produce enough power to run your air conditioner unit so if you are planning to run your air conditioner, then the minimum wattage of the generator you need is equal to the starting wattage of your air conditioner.

In the table below, you can see the wattage necessary to start the air conditioner unit and the wattage necessary to run the air conditioner unit.

Size of AC Aprox. Watts required to start Average running watts
10,000 btu RV air conditioner 2000W 700W
13,500 btu RV air conditioner 2900W 1750W
15,000 btu RV air conditioner 3400W 1550W

 

So a 3000W generator will start your 13,500 btu air conditioner. 2000W generator will only start 10,00 btu air conditioner.

The most popular size of air conditioner for RV is 13,500 btu so for most Rvers 3000 Watt generator is the best option.

So basically, you need to know the size of your air conditioner in order to answer the question what size generator you need. If air conditioning is not that important for your electrical needs (as you won`t camp in hot climates), then you can get definitely buy a 2000 Watt generator.

As you can see from the table above, once you have started your air conditioner, then you can run other appliances as the running watts needed are lot lower then watts required to start up. However, you won` be able to power too much as you can see your AC will use a lot of power and you will overload the generator.

How much power do other items take and how many you will able to run with your generator? The following chart will give you approximate power usage, but the best is to see the stickers on the items.

Item Running Watts Starting Watts
RV Refrigerator 600 180
Microwave 1000 1000
Slow Cooker 170-270 170-270
Electric stove (8 element) 2100 0
TV 120-300 120-300
Washing machine 1150 2250
Electric grill 1650 0
Light bulb 100 watt 100 100
Radio 50-200 50-200
Laptop 250 250
Vacuum cleaner 600 750
Coffee maker 600-1200 600-1200
Hair dryer 1500 1500
Fan 200 200
DVD player 350 350
Iron 1200 0
Phone charger 25 0
Electric frying pan 1500 1500
Printer 600 600
Blender 850 400

 

Keep in mind that some older appliances may draw more power than what is listed as they become less efficient over time.

The easiest and fastest way how to check the wattage of any item is by using a Wattage meter.

! Tip. If you are planning to camp in higher altitudes, then keep in mind that you probably won’t get the full power output as stated on the generator.

What Type of Fuel Is The Best For RV Generators?

RV generators operate on several types of fuel, so you need to consider this BEFORE choosing your generator. There is no best fuel type for generators as they all have their advantages and disadvantages. You should choose the fuel type based on your camping lifestyle.

Most portable generators use either gasoline or propane.

Diesel Powered Generator

+ If your RV uses a diesel (if you have a diesel pusher), it might be good idea to get a diesel generator as it will be less confusing

-Diesel generators are not that popular among RVers (and are mostly used by those who have a diesel pusher) so they are harder to find and more expensive

Liquid Propane (LP) Powered Generator

+ Propane is the most environmentally friendly option

+ Propane is cheaper than gasoline

+ Propane has long shelf life

Propane produces about 10 % less power than gas or diesel generator

Propane is less efficient than gasoline in cold weather

– You are limited by the tank size and you might not have enough storage for propane tanks. Propane might be harder accessible than gas. One standard propane bottle might be used up in a full day’s use.

Gasoline Powered Generator

+ VERY CONVENIENT. Gasoline is the most popular fuel among Rvers as it is easily accessible everywhere. You will never be too far from a gas station.

Gasoline is more expensive than propane and for long periods of time it is the least efficient way how to power a generator. 2-gallon gas tank will last about 8 hours of continuous usage.

Gasoline shelf life is also less than a year

Some of the best portable generators (like this highly rated Champion dual fuel generator) operate on both gas and propane. This is a good option if you can`t decide between gas or propane and gives you more freedom.

What Features To Look For In An RV Generator?

Before you buy a generator, it is good to check some of the following features:

  • Is it inverter type generator? As you already know, then getting an inverter generator is the only way to go so just make sure to be on the safe side.
  • How easy it is to start the generator? Some generators start with a traditional pull start (like lawn movers) while others start with a key. I would go for a generator that you can start with both options- with a key (very easy) and with a pull start in case the battery is dead. Some generators have an extra VERY handy feature- a wireless remote start so you won`t need to even get out of the camper to start the generator.
  • Does the generator have wheels? It is not that important when you have 2000 Watt generator that weighs 45 pounds, but 3000 Watt generator weighs approximately 90 pounds and having wheels is just very handy even if you are quite fit.
  • How long is the warranty? Generator is not cheap investment, so you want to check how long is the warranty and what it is included in it. The top brands offer 3 years on their generators (that is what I would go for).
  • Does the generator have multiple power outlets? Great feature is to have an RV ready TT-30R outlet so you won`t need an adaptor.
  • Does it have oil level indicator or sensor? is an important feature as running your generator without oil will cause a severe damage.

What Is The Best RV Generator?

The top brands when it comes to RV generators are Honda, Yamaha and Champion. These brands produce high quality generators offering reliability and stress-free camping.

Buying a cheap unknown brand generator will most likely be more expensive in the long term (especially if you don’t plan to do some service work yourself). There is always additional risk involved when you go with cheaper unknown brands as the generator might be just louder and less reliable.

Buying a generator for your RV is probably one of the best investments you will make so I don`t recommend saving money on that. Having said that, I also don`t think you need to get the most expensive generator on the market and pay for some feature that you really don`t need.

It is CRUCIAL to check the user reviews and ratings on Amazon to get a better idea on different generators. Don`t just read the manufactures description and believe whatever is written there, but see what the ACTUAL users are saying – it is a powerful method to see whether a product will be good for your needs. I wouldn`t recommend buying a generator which has less than 4-stars rating.

I have done LOADS of research in order to find out which is the best RV generator and although there is no perfect one that will satisfy everyone’s needs, I have found that the Champion 75537i RV Ready Portable Inverter Generator with Wireless Remote Start is the top choice among regular Rvers. It also constantly receives high ratings on Amazon. Check out the current price on Amazon.

It is 3100 Watt so will run 13,500 btu air conditioner (which is the most popular size), it runs on gas (so is very convenient) and has a wireless remote start (this is VERY cool). If camping comfortably is important for you, then a wireless remote start is something that you will REALLY enjoy- no need to get out of the camper in the rain just to start the generator (you can start it and stop it from up to 80 feet away).

Another great thing to add about this Champion generator is that it is “RV Ready”- it has TT-30R outlet so no need to get an adaptor.

As I mentioned earlier, then having a generator that operates on gas AND propane is a huge plus and gives you more options. I believe that this Champion dual fuel generator is the best dual fuel generator on the market. This would be my top recommendation, but it does not have a wireless remote start (so you will have to get out to start it). It does have an electric start, so it just comes down to what is more important for you- having the ability to start the generator from the distance or being able to run it on gas and propane.

As I said earlier, then Honda and Yamaha are very quality generators, but you will have to pay WAY much more than for Champion generators to get the same power.

This Honda EU2000I 2000 Watt Generator is super quiet (yes, I must admit it is quieter than Champion generators, but not THAT much of a difference) and easy to carry, but it is only great option if you don`t plan to run your air conditioner. It is the same price level as Champion 75537i Inverter 3100 Watt Generator which will power your air conditioner.

So why pay more? Yes, Honda and Yamaha might be better known brands, but Champion generators produce generators exactly for RV needs and they are among the top selling RV generators on Amazon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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