Buying an RV Generator : Ultimate Guide For Beginners

Buying an RV Generator : Ultimate Guide For Beginners

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Are you considering buying an RV generator? Well, there are a few things that you are going to want to know about them before you stump up the cash.

In this article, I am going to take you through everything that you need to know about picking up a quality RV generator. This will make your life on the road a little bit easier for you!

What Size Generator Do You Need for an RV

This is all going to be dependent on what you are planning to run off of the generator in your RV.

Perhaps the best way to determine just how big you need your RV to be is to go through all of the items in your RV that need power.

You can then add up the wattage of everything that needs to be powered at the same time.

For example; it is likely that your air conditioner, refrigerator, and stove will be the highest power guzzling items in the RV. This means that you need to ensure that the generator that you choose is able to power all of those at the same time at the minimum.

Do bear in mind that some items will consume a bit more power when they are turned on, and then it will even out once everything has powered up properly.

This is known as ‘surge power’.

It is important that you factor this into the equation when you are looking to purchase an RV Generator because you do not want to be causing any power surges.

If you really do not wish to go through every single item in your RV to work out the size of generator that you need (you probably should!), then you can really just look at how much power your air conditioner consumes.

You can then add 1000W on top of this.

So, for example, if your air conditioner consumes about 2,000W of power at once, then you will probably want to opt for an generator that can pump out at least 3000W of power.

Although, once again, I do want to stress that you absolutely should be checking every item in your RV, even if it takes time. Yes.

We know that there will be some complex calculations going on, but doing it this way is the only way that you can prevent there being massive power surges, or the chance of you not being able to power everything that you want.

I did create this detailed post that only focuses on the size of generator needed for RV.

What Size Generator for 50-Amp RV?

If you have a 50-Amp RV, it is recommended that you have a 4000-Watt Generator at the minimum. Although, of course, you will still want to add up everything in your RV to ensure that it is providing enough power for you!

What Size Generator for 30-Amp RV?

For those with a 30-Amp RV, in most cases, opting for a 3000-watt generator is going to be more than enough.

However, just like with the 50-Amp generator, you will still need to ensure that you check out the exact power requirements of the appliances in your RV to know what you should be looking to purchase.

Will the Generator Run an Air Conditioner?

an rv with a roof mounted air conditioner
an rv with a roof mounted air conditioner

The only way to know whether a generator will run an air conditioner is if you actually look at what the generator can do. Remember an Air conditioner will need higher watts for starting than running.

If it can pump out more wattage than what your air conditioner consumes, then the generator is going to be able to run it.

However, when you are buying an RV generator, you will want to look for something that is able to power much, much more than your RV’s air conditioner. If it can’t, then you are really not going to have a comfortable life when you are ‘on the road’.

A 15,000 BTU Air conditioner will need around 3200 to 3500 watts for starting and around 1500 watts while running

Similarly a 13,500 BTU Air conditioner will consume around 1250 watts for starting and 1000 watts for running.

getting the right size generator for RV

The numbers can obviously vary depending on lots of factor. Do check out this article about how much do RV air conditioners consume.

Read : How much energy do refrigerators consume in RV

Why do you need a generator in an RV?

rv parked at a boondocking site
rv parked at a boondocking site

You do not actually need to have a generator in an RV.

However, to be honest with you, it can be incredibly useful. Chances are that the main reason that you are in an RV is that you want to enjoy the comforts from home while you are on the road.

This means having proper ways to store your food and great ways to cook it too. You may even want to have an air conditioner running in your RV so you can stay cool while you are on the road.

You will need a generator to keep all of this powered.

If you don’t, then you may only be able to run things in your RV which are going to run off the battery which, to be honest with you, is going to be very little.

Basically; there is little point in having an RV if you are not going to have a generator installed. Even if it is only going to be a small one.

Few people realize just how much easier their life becomes when they have a solid generator in tow. Camping in campground or going boondocking, you will definitely need that generator in RV.

Many RVer also opt for solar panels RV. But, solar also has limitations. Its only wise to compare both solar and generator.

How Much do they Cost?

A lot of the cost of an RV generator is going to be dependent on the size. And also on the manufacturer of the generator.

If you are getting a portable generator, then expect to pay somewhere between $400 and $900 if you are looking for something good.

That being said, there are some pretty swanky generators for RV that can cost as much as $4,000.

Obviously, it is unlikely that you are going to need something that is this big, but it is worth noting that there are these options on the market.

At the very minimum, buying an generator for RV should set you back a minimum of $600, and that is probably not going to be enough to power absolutely everything in your RV. But, hey, at least it is a generator, right?

On What Fuel do they Work?

When you are buying an RV Generator, you have three main options available:

  • Gas
  • Diesel
  • Propane

Many people will opt for the option that their RV runs on.

So, if your RV runs on gas, then it is likely that you will choose a gas generator. If your RV runs on diesel, then that is the option that you are going to go for.

Propane is a bit more expensive to buy, and it means that you will need to come up with a storage solution for it.

A lot of people do prefer the propane option because it is a little bit greener.There are a few more advantages and disadvantages than this but, honestly, as long as you buy a quality generator and you can easily get your hands on the fuel that you need.

It shouldn’t be an issue about the option that you buy. The ability to run is all that you really need.

Do RVs come equipped with Generators?

This depends. Generally speaking, you would be hard-pushed to find an RV that has a generator built into it. In the vast majority of cases, if you find an RV that has a generator in it, that RV is either going to be:

A High End RV.

The typical travel trailer that you buy ‘new’ isn’t going to have a generator built into it.

There may be a place in the RV to put your own generator, but it is unlikely to be filled up. The one exception to this rule will be high-end RVs which will often have a custom-built generator in them.

At the price of a high-end RV, this is the exact type of amenity that people are looking for in their RVs, and thus they are willing to pay the extra cost of having one of them placed into it.

Read : Do travel trailer have generators?

Can I run a Generator While Driving?

an rv being driven on road
an rv being driven on road

You absolutely can. In fact, in many cases it is vital.

Since you are going to be on the road for so long, if you are not running your generator, you will be running the risk of food in your fridge or freezer going bad.

However, you will need to take extra precautions if you are running the generator on gas. This is because the gas generator will take fuel straight from the gas tank on your RV.

This isn’t going to be that much of an issue. You knew that this was going to happen anyway.

However, if the gas tank gets under 1/4 full, the generator will turn itself off. This is to ensure that your RV can continue to drive.

Therefore, it is important that you plan your fuel levels properly before you set off on the road. At the very minimum, you should head out with a full tank.

What is the worst that can happen? You don’t use all the fuel, and you just have a bit more in your tank for the next day.

That being said, not everybody will want to have a generator turned on when they are driving. Some people are more than happy to have the generator switched off while on the road.

They will then power whatever they need from the battery in the RV. This should be more than enough to power the vast majority of the devices that are sitting in the RV.

Just remember that it probably won’t be able to run some of the higher-powered items e.g. fridge etc., but it could potentially be enough to make a cup of coffee or run the microwave.

Check out your complete guide for using generator while driving your rv.

Some Best Top Rated Portable Generators For RV

In this section, I want to take a look at what we genuinely believe are some of the best RV Generators on the market.

This is not a definitive list, but I know that if you purchase something from here, you are going to be more than happy with it.

Remember; new generators are becoming available to buy all of the time, so this list may be ‘updated’ on occasion. If you are not looking to buy a generator right now, you can always check back regularly to see if there is something that tickles your fancy later on down the line:

Champion 3400-Watt Portable Inverter Generator

If you do need something with a little bit more power, then the Champion 3400-Watt should be fine for you.

Running off of gasoline, you can 3100-Watts of Power for a solid 7-hours with this baby. The real highlight is despite the amount of power it boasts, this is probably one of the quieter portable generators that money can currently buy. How cool is that?

DuraMax XP4000S RV Generator

Yes. This is a generator which is going to be somewhat on the larger side of things, but when you are boasting 4000-watts of power (running 3,600 Watts) can you really complain?

Running at half load (which is how many people will be running this), you can get about 12-hours of power from this generator. Seriously, you would struggle to find anything else that offers this sort of run time.

Honda 2200-Watt Portable generator

A little expensive one from a very reliable manufacturer. This Sturdy and quiet generator from Honda is a perfect companion in your RV. Its Portable and compact that perfectly suits for RVing lifestyle. A great fuel efficient piece that will be really great in long run.

Westinghouse iGen2500

This one is also really impressive and popular among RVers. Its Reliable and gives quiet operations. Being compact makes it really suitable for RVers.

Champion 4000W Generator

Once again, you have a generator that is sitting at the higher end of the spectrum when it comes to power. However, this is probably one of the lightest 4000W generators currently on the market.

Our favorite feature in this particular generator is that you can run it in parallel with other inverters, which means you can boost the power output. if that wasn’t enough, it also runs incredibly quietly.

Here is a list of some best, quiet, compact and best rated generators for RV.

What is the best Generator for Air Conditioner in RV?

Honestly, any of the portable generators that we mentioned above are going to be good to run AC.

For those people who want a portable generator to use in the comfort of their RV and that will power an air conditioner, these generator brand options are great.

All that matters is that you look at the number of watts your air conditioner requires.

You can then match it up to the power output of the generator. You will want to ensure that the generator will run at a power output higher than the air conditioner.

Of course, you will also need to balance the amount of fuel and running time for an air conditioner.

Do read my detailed and helpful guide before you Air Conditioner for RV.

How long does an RV Generator Last?

Obviously, this is going to be completely dependent on the brand that you have purchased in the first place.

If you have purchased a quality portable generator (i.e. one of the ones that have been reviewed on this page), there is no reason why that generator couldn’t last a good decade, if not more.

RV Generators can last as long as 15 years or even more. Check out on how many hours they last.

The thing with generators is that there really is not a whole lot that could go wrong with them. As long as you are maintaining your generator properly (more on that, in a short while), then your generator is going to continue to chug along quite nicely.

It is rare people will ever have a broken generator. Most of the time, they will just buy a new generator simply because they want to upgrade what they have, as opposed to genuinely needing a new generator to replace an old, broken one.

Dual Fuel Generator For RV

A dual fuel generator can be loaded with two different types of fuel. The generator will then automatically switch between the fuel that it uses for efficiency.

The idea is that running one of these generators will save you money on fuel in the long term.

You have several different options available to you here, but a lot of people will opt for units like the DuroMax XP12000EH or Westinghouse WGEN3600DF, dependent on their power needs.

Onboard vs Portable Generator

Of course, the major benefit of a portable generator is right there in the name. It is portable.

You can move it anywhere you want it. This means that it is going to be used for a lot more than RV use.

The problem is that you do need to haul it about everywhere. Whenever you stop in your RV, you need to haul it out and connect it up again. For a lot of people, this is going to be quite bothersome. On the plus side, this is normally going to be a cheaper option.

If you have an onboard generator, then it is just going to work. It is hooked up to your RV already. This means that you just turn the power on and you are ‘good to go’.

Some people do not like the noise, but we find that the nose of these RVs will be well balanced out by the convenience of running a generator on board.

After all, you do not need to fill up the fuel separately. It is going to run straight from the fuel tank of your RV. This makes things so much easier in many, many cases.

Check out complete pros and cons of portable vs on-board generator for RV.

Do RV Generators Make Noise?

They do. Although, if you buy one of the more modern RV Generators, they will run a little bit quieter.

Do bear in mind that if you want, there are several ways in which you can reduce the amount of noise that your generator makes.

This includes the use of a noise reduction box. However, to be honest with you, the sound of an RV generator is something that you just end up getting used to after a while.

It is just part of the RV life. You will eventually be able to fall asleep with one of them ON, even if it is running at an little loud level.

RV Generator Maintenance

For every 500-hours that you are running your generator, you will need to check the oil and filter levels.

Most quality generators will have an in-built running time in them.

However, this is going to be no substitute for keeping a record yourself. Remember; 500-hours is about 20-days, so it really isn’t that long at all!

Even if you are not running the generator for that long, you should be swapping out your fuel filters at least once every one to two years. This way they can retain effectiveness. With a diesel generator, you need to remove water from the generator every 100-hours.

Honestly, there is not a lot of maintenance required with generators for RV. It is mostly checks and replacing of filters and seals.

I did a full detailed post on RV generator maintenance checklist, do check it out.

Regularly look at your generator to see if there are any issues, and you will already have done the bulk of the work you can do.

Where Can You place the Generator in an RV?

There may be a special compartment on your RV where you can load up the generator. Although, this is mostly going to be reserved for ‘on-board’ generators.

Other than this, it is really a case of inspecting your RV and determining the best location. Some people will mount their generator on the A-Frame.

Others may prefer the bumper if it is capable of dealing with the weight of the generator.

Have a travel trailer and want getting it placed ? Do check out these options to place the generator.

mounting the generator on RV options

If you are unsure as to the best place to put the generator on your particular RV, you may want to look into other people who own the same RV and see what they have done.

In Conclusion

Getting a generator that has enough watts will give you comfort while camping in RV. Boondocking in RV will need a good generator too. Get a generator that has enough watts and is from a reliable brand. Enjoy the RV journey!

G. Yoganand

A RV enthusiast who spends countless hours researching and learning various things related to RV camping. He believes in spending time doing Outdoor activities.
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