Last Updated on May 5, 2021 by Chris and Lindsay
Owning the best RV generator can make the difference between enjoying your time on the road and not. Despite having a pretty awesome solar power setup, more times than not we were grateful that we had a generator. From winter skies with low light levels to days on end of rain, having an RV generator assured us that we would always have power.
Of course, if you enjoy dry camping and boondocking as much as we do, a portable generator is absolutely necessary. We prefer to remain in the wild as often and as long as possible. So knowing that our power needs are accounted for when we camp is imperative to our peace of mind.
RV generators can be expensive to buy, noisy, challenging to maintain and costly in fuel consumption. They may also be difficult to use in inclement weather and are relatively heavy if you must move them around between use.
However, if you’re reading this post it is likely you already know that you want and need a generator so we’re going to review the criteria you should consider when shopping for the best RV generator as well as provide you with our top recommended products and some tips on how to use your generator.
Affiliate Disclaimer: This post may contain links to products we think you’ll like. If you purchase any of the products through the links below we’ll receive a small commission. As full-time RVers, we know our RV products well and only recommend those that we either own or would consider owning ourselves.
Our Top RV Generator Recommendations
RV Generator Buying Guide
Deciding whether you need an RV generator and determining what kind and how large can be intimidating. If you are like we were before we began RVing, you are probably a bit overwhelmed by the options.
And since even the cheapest generators are still pricey, you’re going to want to pick the best RV generator possible.
Here are some things to consider before you decide which generator is best for you.
Why would I need a generator?
Just because you own an RV or camper does not mean you have to have a generator. If you plan to spend most of your time in campgrounds where you have constant access to shore power, or you couple an incredibly efficient solar power system with low power needs, you can probably skip out on owning a generator for your RV.
But here are a few reasons why you’re going to want to have at least a portable RV generator.
Run large appliances (AC, Microwave).
If you plan to run large appliances, such as an air conditioning unit, while not plugged in to shore power you’re going to want to have a generator for RV. Depending on the power (wattage) required to both start and run your air conditioning unit, you may need a large generator or even two portable generators.
For example, our truck camper air conditioner required 3500 watts of power to start and then hovered above 2000 running watts. So we had two Honda 2200 generators that we wired in parallel for the times we wanted to run our air conditioner while boondocking.
Spend time dry camping/boondocking
If you plan to spend any amount of time dry camping or boondocking then you’re going to want to consider an RV generator. While not necessary, a portable generator will provide you the additional power you may want or need while away from civilization.
If you do plan to spend lots of time boondocking then we’d strongly encourage you to have a great solar power system and battery bank to alleviate your power concerns. But a generator for your RV is a great reassurance in times you may need the extra power.
You can recharge your batteries with a reliable solar power system. And in many cases, you can recharge them by driving your RV if your batteries are wired to your vehicle alternator.
However, a quick and reliable way to know that you can always top off your RV battery bank is to make sure you have a generator with you.
You can use the generator as your power source to connect your RV to the power it needs to run your appliances while also topping off your batteries at the same time.
Alternative to solar power
A reliable solar power system can be expensive and difficult to install. However, owning a portable generator for your RV is less expensive and can provide more than enough power to keep your batteries topped off while you camp.
Keep in mind you will have a separate fuel tank for the generator so you’ll need to carry extra fuel for the generator.
What size generator do I need?
As you can imagine, RV generators come in all shapes, sizes, power sources and power output. Determining what size generator you need is a simple function of determining the maximum amount of power you think you could ever possibly draw at one time.
For example, a standard RV air conditioning unit may require over 3,000 watts to start it. But its running watts may be much lower.
So to start your AC unit you’ll want to have at least 3,000 watts of power output from your RV generator.
A good rule of thumb is to have between 10%-25% more power output from your generator than you think you’d need.
But also consider whether you plan to run any other devices or appliances while using your RV generator. If you were running your AC unit and then used the microwave you may overload your power supply.
Ultimately you’ll want to have a generator that is big enough to cover your highest power requirements, but not so big it’s clunky and/or difficult to use.
There are likely very few times when you’ll run more than one major appliance at the same time. So it is better to consider switching one off to use the other than to invest more money and space in a generator that provides well above and beyond your normal power needs.
Is solar power enough?
Yes and no. Solar power has more expensive upfront costs and can be difficult/expensive to install. But you can count on it to pretty much keep your batteries charged with no additional cost.
However, your battery bank may not store enough power to run large appliances. You can always step up your battery bank.
But not only will this require a more substantial investment in your batteries, but also in the number of solar panels required to replenish the power you consume.
So if you plan a simple existence with average to below average power consumption then solar power may be enough for you.
However, having an RV generator in addition to your solar power system may not only allow you to use larger appliances than you could otherwise use, but also provide an excellent backup to your solar system for cloudy days.
BONUS DEAL: Shop for solar power components at Renogy and receive 10% off your purchase using coupon code “CalledToWander” at checkout!
What types of generators are there?
Although generators come in all shapes and sizes, there are really just a handful of different types to consider.
Portable Generator vs. Permanent/Onboard Generators
The first differentiation between RV generators is whether they are portable or onboard. Onboard generators are likely to already be installed in your camper or RV.
And typically you will just need to maintain them. So this post focuses primarily on helping you find the best portable generators.
Portable generators are, well, portable. They are typically relatively lightweight (though 60-80 pounds may not seem lightweight!) and very easy to use.
The best portable generators will be fuel-efficient with a run time of around 8 hours on a one or two-gallon fuel tank, will have a super quiet operation with enough power to cover your consumption needs.
Conventional vs inverter generator
When shopping for the best RV generators you’ll come across the idea of a conventional generator versus an inverter generator. Both types can come in portable sizes. But there are a few key differences between a conventional generator and an inverter generator.
Conventional generators typically produce more power, but not necessarily “clean energy” in that the quality of the electricity varies. These generators only produce 110V electricity and are the standard for most onboard RV generators.
This is for a variety of reasons – primarily because they are larger and more powerful and thus best built into the RV itself.
A portable inverter generator is similar to a conventional generator in that it runs on propane, gasoline or diesel fuel. But unlike conventional generators, inverter generators produce clean power that can be used for both 110V AC and 12V DC systems.
Inverter generators are typically much more fuel-efficient and have a quiet operation at much lower noise levels than conventional generators.
The best portable inverter generator will cost a little more but will be more fuel efficient, quieter, more lightweight and allow you to connect multiple generators in parallel.
On the other hand, a conventional generator tends to be more inexpensive and will provide more power but is louder, heavier and produce more emissions than an inverter generator.
Most of the options we present in this post are inverter generators as these are the best portable generator for RV on the market.
Why Would I need a Generator?
In case you don’t already understand your RV power setup, you have 2 basic forms of power in your RV: 110V AC and 12V DC. When you plug your RV into shore power and have access to continuous 110V power it is just like living in a brick and mortar home.
You can run your air conditioning unit and most other appliances like refrigerators, microwaves and other electronic devices without thinking much about power consumption.
12v power, however, is limited by your battery bank and your ability to keep your batteries maintained at safe levels. There are 3 primary ways you can keep your batteries topped off:
- Plug into shore power. Your power converter will turn 110V AC electricity into 12V DV electricity to trickle into your batteries and keep them topped off for when you need to draw on them.
- Solar power setup. Having a solar power setup will allow you to capture energy from the sun and send it to your batteries. This is almost essential if you plan to spend any amount of time dry camping and boondocking.
- Run a generator. A generator will take fuel (typically gasoline or propane) and convert the power stored in the fuel to 110V AC electricity. The best RV generators will also invert this electricity simultaneously into 12V DC electricity so you can run and charge 12v appliances at the same time you create 110V power for your RV.
When you are not plugged into shore power you will need to monitor your power needs and usage to determine if and when you need to use your RV generator. Having the best solar panels can often offset how frequently you need to use your generator.
However, if you plan to RV full time we suggest you consider RV generators absolutely essential to ensuring a safe, comfortable and pleasant time on the road.
READ MORE: Learn the basics of your RV electrical and power system with THIS POST.
What fuel type can I use for my generator?
An RV generator is going to have one of three primary fuel type.
Gas-powered generators are more common. Onboard conventional RV generators will often run on fuel from the RV fuel tank itself or from the onboard propane tank.
But a portable generator will have its own fuel tank and require its own fuel input. Some generators will run on either gas or propane and almost all have some kind of fuel efficiency or economy mode to maximize the use of the fuel.
Do I need a power adapter when using my RV generator?
Generators are meant to produce power. But how you transfer that power depends on in what form you need it.
For example, some inverter generators will allow you to plug 12v appliances directly into them. Others require a 20 amp plug and still others will give you an option between 20A, 30A and 50A outputs.
Depending on your RV power input needs you will likely need to own an adapter of some kind to step up or step down the power output from the generator.
The most common RV power input cables are 30 amp and thus if your generator will allow it you can plug directly without an adapter. But in most cases, you’ll need a 20/30 amp adapter.
Shop RV power adapters HERE
What are the most important things to consider when shopping the best generator for RV
As you can see, there are quite a few things you will want to make sure you consider when shopping for an RV generator. These are the most important factors.
- Power output – Be sure to buy an RV generator that produces the amount of power you will need on a regular basis. You don’t necessarily need the biggest. But make sure you know the lowest amount of wattage you need and buy a generator that can produce 10-25% more power.
- Noise level – When you camp in many state and national parks, or find yourself boondocking in popular places, you’ll get used to the constant hum of a range of generators from your neighboring RVs. Be sure you find a generator that have a noise level within an acceptable range both for when you run it while you are in your RV and when you may have neighbors. There are noise level limits in some places so keep this in mind.
- Fuel consumption/Fuel efficiency – Many portable gas-powered generators are equipped with a 1-gallon fuel tank that can provide power almost all day because of their fuel efficiency. A generator with an economy mode may stretch this even further.
- Portable vs Permanent – In our opinion, a gas powered portable inverter generator is the best option. But if you want an onboard generator where you can simply flip a switch to turn it on and off, you may want to spend time looking for permanent, conventional generators.
- Conventional vs Inverter Generators- Inverter generators not only produce both 110V AC and 12V DC energy, but also provide a cleaner energy that is safer for fragile electronic devices. But they are also more expensive and produce less power than conventional generators.
The 6 Best RV Generators
Choosing the best RV generator for your RV, camper or travel trailer is a matter of determining the factors that mean the most to you. You’ll want to consider size, power output, fuel efficiency noise level and, of course, cost as you determine which is best for you.
From our experience, portable inverter generators are the best overall option. But we’ll cover several others of our favorite below and let you make the decision for yourself.
Our Honesty Disclaimer: In the course of living in our RV full time for over 3 years we have thoroughly researched all of these products before making the choice on our own. So we’ll give you honest information that allows you to make the best decision for which product is right for you.
The best combination of affordability and performance on the market, this Honda portable Generator is the safest choice to resolve your power needs.
It’s easy enough to lug around and won’t wake up any park rangers.
Boondockers have trusted Honda generators for their RVs for decades, and their latest model carries on their industry-leading pedigree as one of the best portable generator choices.
The Honda 2200 watt generator can run for eight super quiet hours and communicates with a mobile app so you can stay on top of generator maintenance. We loved the parallel capability that comes with this particular machine.
When you’ve got a large set-up, sometimes one gas-powered inverter generator won’t cut it. Honda 2200’s easily connect, meaning you can double your power generation capabilities.
One of these generators gives you a portable generator with a long run time that won’t leave you high and dry. Two generators together are everything you need to power your A/C unit through hot summer boondocks in the desert.
|WHAT WE LIKE||THINGS TO CONSIDER|
|* Can be run parallel for more power|
* Lightweight and maneuverable
* Honda My Generator app with Bluetooth capability
* Built in carbon monoxide detector
* Oil alert technology will protect itself by cutting off when low oil is detected
Champion’s RV-ready portable generator brings plenty of options with it on the road.
Its sides come packed with 30 and 20 amp outlets, allowing you to plug the generator into the RV’s mainframe easily.
The best generator for RV wouldn’t be complete without it. The control panel is modernized and includes an electric start switch alongside the plug-in options. Included dual-fuel technology lets you fuel the generation with both propane and gasoline.
The champion 3400-watt dual-fuel technology enables you to power your travels for 7 hours on gas power on a 1.6-gallon fuel tank or 14.5 hours with a 20-pound propane tank.
Bring both to get over 20 hours of runtime before you have to head back to the city. All this versatility doesn’t sacrifice portability. Just under 100 pounds, it’s no easy machine to lug, but the Champion comes with two wheels and a handle when in movement.
With average weight and noise but the power capability of a much larger generator, the Champion 3400 watt dual fuel is an excellent choice for a generator for RV with significant energy needs.
|WHAT WE LIKE||THINGS TO CONSIDER|
|* Powered by gasoline or propane|
* Low oil shut off sensor
* Quiet Operation at just 59 dBA
* Produces clean power
|* Very Heavy|
* Brand new units need to be run for 5 hours with no load on it
* Some customers reported the electric push start failing
One won’t power up a microwave or air conditioner but will keep the lights on for 10 hours without fuss. Its slim figure, only 44 pounds, makes it a great choice to accompany your next trip to the boondocks.
It has a multimodal operating system, so the less you need to power, the less noise the machine makes. Yamaha paid attention to the details, slapping a fuel gauge on the side and including all necessary accessories to connect to your devices.
These generators for RV are worry-free thanks to Yamaha’s 3-year warranty. It’s quiet, lightweight, and fuel-efficient, making it an excellent choice for those with lesser power needs.
|WHAT WE LIKE||THINGS TO CONSIDER|
|* Smart throttle for better fuel economy|
* OHV Engine that’s powerful, reliable and efficient
|* Some units have circuit board issues|
* A few customers complained about it being hard to refill the oil reservoir
It is one of the lightest generators in its running watts and can offer RV use for 7 hours on 1 gallon of gas without making a scene.
You may think the price implies the generator will be ready to fall apart out of the box, but WEN has been around since 1951 and offers a two-year warranty on their machine. Defects won’t leave you feeling powerless.
The generator is a copy of Yamaha’s 79cc engine. Don’t expect to find a ton of highfaluting features attached to this power source, but if you’re looking for a recreational vehicle inverter generator to get a simple job done, you won’t find anything better at this price range.
|WHAT WE LIKE||THINGS TO CONSIDER|
|* Ultra Lightweight|
* Great price for what you get
* Has low oil, overload and output indicator lights
|* Needs an external ground to operate safely|
* Will need an altitude kit if planning to use it above 2000 ft
* Needs to be properly broken in if bought new
The Predator 3500 runs like one of the best generators on the market for a fraction of the price.
The generator can start up your A/C, Microwave, or other devices that need high running watts, and the included 30 AMP outlet will let you power your entire RV at the click of a switch.
It holds 2.5 gallons of fuel to keep your TV on through any movie run time. It will feel heavy out of the box, but four attached wheels take the load off your back.
Look to the control panel to find a data center, which will keep you informed on how the machine is running. It all may seem too good to be true, and a lackluster warranty offering won’t serve to quell any fears.
If you’re looking to save money without losing capability for your recreational vehicle, the Predator 3500 is worth a shot.
|WHAT WE LIKE||THINGS TO CONSIDER|
|* Has wheels for better portability|
* Digital LCD screen
* Super-quiet power output of only 57 dBA
|* Some customers reported overheating issues|
* Poor customer service
This tank is the most potent generator on our list. The Westinghouse packs a punch of 4500 watts RV-ready energy and still weighs less than 100 pounds.
It ships with an electric start ready to power travel trailers for up to 18 hours on one 3.4 gallon tank. Westinghouse’s engine can efficiently run a 15k BTU air conditioner, microwave popcorn, charge your coach battery, and keep some beers cold all at the same time.
This choice can handle some of the most extreme RV use and features an economy setting if working on a minor job. It works on Gas or propane to open up your playbook even more and comes with remote start/stop features.
If you’re not playing around when you talk about bringing your home on the road, look to the Westinghouse 4500 to keep everything you need running smoothly.
|WHAT WE LIKE||THINGS TO CONSIDER|
|* RV ready 30 amp outlet|
* Can run for up to 18 hours on a 3.4 gallon tank
* Has remote and push button start
* Built-in telescoping handle and wheels to easily maneuver
|* Some units have issues with the choke|
* Customer service leaves a lot to be desired
* Gas tanks are prone to corrosion
The Honda EU3000i is a well-crafted generator and has one of the best combinations of features on this list to justify the higher price point.
Another excellent option for those looking for air-conditioned relief from hot summer days, this Honda can power your A/C while working super quietly, making less noise than rainfall.
It has best-in-class weight, noise, and run-time. It spares over 10 pounds compared to similar high-performance generators. The inverter generator has a mind of its own, with a low oil shut-off sensor and overload protection.
Honda’s generator isn’t RV ready or travel trailer capable of the box but includes a receptacle that RVers can easily convert its running watts into a 30 AMP plug. Frankly, there isn’t much the Honda EU can’t do if you take care of it, and it’s backed up with a 3-year warranty.
If money isn’t a huge factor in your decision-making, this high-power Honda Generator can get any job done right.
|WHAT WE LIKE||THINGS TO CONSIDER|
|* Electric or manual pull to start|
* Powerful, reliable and efficient on gas with Honda’s exclusive Eco-Throttle
* Whisper-quiet, operating at just 49-58 dBA
|* Extremely heavy at 144 pounds|
* Have to buy wheel kit separately