How to Choose the Right RV Generator
Portable generators have a lot of working parts and a lot of features that should be considered before making a purchase. They can vary so much from brand to brand and model to model that if you don’t know what you’re looking for, you could end up with a generator that doesn’t fit your needs. Here are some of the most important features you should know about before shopping for an RV generator.
Size and Weight
Most RV generators are compact. The large ones come with handles and wheels to make it easy to move them around. Generators vary in size and weight so much that generator compartments in RVs aren’t made to a universal size. You should make sure that the RV generator fits into the compartment unless you are okay with it taking up space in your travel trailer or using it outside.
The weight of an RV generator is important because generators are heavy. While your generator may be in a compartment and won’t need to be moved much, you still want to be able to lift it if necessary. This requires an assessment of your strength and whether or not you’ll have help with lifting. Many generators have more than one handle or are built with a steel frame so that two people can carry them.
The wattage of your generator is probably the most important feature you want to pay attention to. Watts can be thought of as the amount of power you have. The more power output you have, the more appliances you can run in your recreational vehicle. The big question becomes, “how much is enough power to run your recreational vehicle?”
An excellent way to determine how many watts you need is by determining how much power you need to run your air conditioner. This is because the air conditioner uses more power than any other appliance in your recreational vehicle. To put this in perspective, a 7,000 BTU air conditioning unit would require 1,700 watts to startup. In contrast, a stronger RV air conditioner, say about 15,000 BTUs, would need 3,500 watts to start up.
There are two wattage measurements you should pay attention to. Appliances have starting watts, and they have running watts. The starting watts is the number of watts needed to start the appliance. This number is always much more than the running watts. You want to make sure that your generator has enough watts to start the appliances.
Keep in mind that wattage adds up. This means that your generator needs enough watts to support all of your appliances’ combined starting wattage.
Generators can come with any number or combination of outlets. Of course, the number of outlets you have determines how many appliances you can run at once. Generators can come with several outlet types. The most common one is the 120-volt standard AC outlet. The generator can also have DC outlets, RV-ready outlets, USB ports, and more. You may even have some three-prong twisting/locking outlets. With such a wide variety of outlets, make sure you get a generator that has outlets that suits your needs.
There are three types of fuel that portable generators can use. These are gasoline, diesel, or propane. A straightforward way to choose between the type of fuel you want to use is to match the fuel type to whatever fuel type your recreational vehicle uses so you’ll have the convenience of only dealing with one type of fuel. In most cases, this would be gasoline.
Each fuel type has pros and cons, so before you settle on one, you may want to know the benefits of each one.
- Most efficient fuel economy
- Least flammable fuel source
- Most expensive out of the three
- Not as easy to find as the other two sources, especially in the case of a natural disaster
- Clean power source by comparison
- Has the longest shelf-life out of the three
- Makes engines run a little quieter
- Cheapest fuel source
- Not good in cold weather
- Is easily found just about anywhere
- Least efficient out of the three fuel types
- Highly flammable
- Short shelf-life
Despite these pros and cons, all three are usually pretty safe to use as long as you take the proper precautions.
You should not purchase a RV generator that does not have a warranty or does not have a clearly stated warranty. Generators are expensive. They should be viewed as investments. Having a good warranty is protection for your investment. Try to get a generator that has at least a one-year manufacturer’s warranty.
Some portable generators can be incredibly noisy. If you want peace and quiet, get a generator that has a low noise level. The noise level for RV generators is measured in a unit called A-weighted decibels (dBa). A good dBa rating is 60 or lower. Sixty may be kind of pushing it.
To put this in perspective, a whisper is around 25 dBa while the average conversation is about 60 dBa. A vacuum cleaner is approximately 75 dBa. The noise level tends to be lower if you aren’t using the recreational vehicle generator at full capacity, so keep that in mind as you look at the noise level rating.
The Best RV Generator Reviews
In this section, we’ve listed the findings in our search for the top RV generators. We found nine that are worthy of our praise. These nine have a wide range of power and features, so you have a good chance of finding the perfect generator on our list.
Honda EU2200i 2200-Watt Portable Inverter Generator
Best RV Generator
First up, we have a Honda RV generator, which are some of the highest quality and best-researched generators in the world. They also happen to be some of the most expensive. However, they are well worth every dollar and all of their generators come with 3-year warranties.
This particular model, the EU2200i, is a very compact model only weighing 47 pounds and measuring 20.2 x 11.4 x 16.7 inches. It’s starting watts is 2,200, and the rated watts is 1,800. To top it off, it’s quieter than most of the competition with a noise level ranging from 48-57 dBA.
We do wish that it had a few more outlets (it only has one single 120-volt outlet and one 3-prong locking plug) and a bit more running watts for the price, but overall this is an excellent generator with a level of quality you can’t beat.
- Stamped metal recoil insert reduces body damage.
- It has the trademarked Realtree camo design.
- Excellent ventilation to reduce the chances of overheating.
- It’s costly.
- It doesn’t have any DC outlets.
Westinghouse iGen2500 Inverter RV Generator
This is another compact RV generator that has a lot of similarities to the Honda EU2200i. It weighs only 48 pounds and measures 19.8 x 17.4 x 17.9 inches, so it’s straightforward to handle. It uses gasoline, has a recoil starter, and is an inverter generator also, just like the EU22001.
One thing we like about this is the higher wattage. It handles up to 2,400 starting watts and 2,200 rated watts. It also has a lot more outlets so you can run multiple appliances at once.
So why would you choose one over the other? Well, mainly because the Westinghouse is about half the price of the Honda. However, you do sacrifice a few features and a bit of sturdiness/durability with the Westinghouse, so it’s a matter of deciding what’s more relevant to you.
- Has two USB ports and two 120-volt standard outlets.
- Efficient fuel consumption.
- Digital display makes it easy to keep up with generator information.
- The housing is made from a cheap, molded plastic.
- Westinghouse isn’t known for excellent customer service.
WEN 56200i 2000-watt Portable Generator
Best Camping Generator
The WEN 56200i is a magnificent generator that gives just enough power for folks who like to keep things simple. The generator has 2000 watts and 1600 running watts. This is good for a small air conditioner and one or two appliances. If you happen to need more power, this generator has multiple models with increasing levels of wattage (as well as rising prices).
The generator has a generous amount of outlets. It has two 120-volt standard outlets, a USB outlet, and a DC outlet. While this is convenient, it’s a bit of a mismatch with the number of watts that the generator provides. As long as you don’t have any appliances with high wattage ratings, you should be able to use all the outlets simultaneously.
- It’s lightweight, compact, and easy to move around.
- It has a two-year warranty.
- Too many outlets for the power output.
- It’s made of a cheap, molded plastic housing.
Westinghouse WGen2000 Portable Generator
Quietest Generator for RV Charging
This Westinghouse RV generator is a level up from the iGen500. Built for heavy-duty use, this RV generator features 2,500 starting watts and 2,000 rated watts. It has four 120-volt standard outlets and holds up to four gallons of gas. This provides up to 26 hours of run time at a 25 percent load.
Our favorite feature is the steel frame and rolled steel bars that protect the gas tank. These steel bars also allow more than one person to help carry the generator. This is important because the generator weighs 91 pounds. The generator measures 23.5 x 17.5 x 24 inches. It’s not compact, but it will run your RV appliances like a champ.
- Has a robust and durable steel housing.
- Comes with a great, 3-year warranty.
- It has four standard 120-volt outlets.
- Doesn’t have any DC outlets or USB ports.
- Recoil-start handle is in an awkward position.
- It’s not an inverter generator.
Champion 3,100-Watt Portable Inverter RV Generator
This is an excellent RV generator for people who need a high level of wattage. With 3,100 starting watts and 2,800 rated watts, you’ll be able to power most of the sensitive electronics in your RV, including a fair-sized AC unit. With dimensions of 24.8 x 19.3 x 20.1 inches and a weight of 83 pounds, it’s not compact, but we appreciate the fact that it’s on high-quality wheels and has a large handle.
The generator has a fair amount of outlets. It has two 120-volt standard outlets, an RV-ready outlet, and a 12-volt DC outlet. We like the location of the recoil-start handle. It’s right near the control panel on the front, so you don’t have to pull in awkward positions to get it started.
With this generator, enjoy 8 hours of run time on a 1.6-gallon tank using economy mode (25 percent load). The generator has a well-thought-out design and is an excellent investment with a 3-year warranty.
- Has an RV-ready 3-prong outlet.
- Has wheels that never go flat.
- It comes with battery-charging cables.
- Low oil shutoff
- It’s cumbersome.
- It’s loud despite being advertised at 57 dBA.
Champion 3,500-Watt RV-ready Portable RV Generator
Best Generator for Ease of Use
If you thought the last Champion RV generator was a hot commodity, you’d fall in love with this one. This generator is a real workhorse. It’s built the same as the 3100 watt Champion RV generator with the same warranty. The differences are in performance and a few minor details.
At 4,000 starting watts and 3,500 running watts, you can power up a high-BTU AC unit without problems. It still only comes with the same amount and type of outlets as the previous models, so you can’t run more appliances, but you can run higher-powered appliances with ease. It has a 3.8-gallon tank and when using economy mode can run for up to 12 hours at a 25 percent load.
The real gem here is the wireless remote start. If you don’t feel like fumbling with the recoil-start handle (and who does?), press a button on the additional wireless key fob, and your generator starts right up. This makes the extra 12 pounds worth it.
- Wireless remote works up to 80 feet away.
- Has Cold-Start technology for easy start-up in cold weather.
- Has a built-in surge protector.
- It’s very loud, like a vacuum cleaner.
- Doesn’t have a handle for rolling it.
DuroStar DS4000S Gas-powered Portable Generator
Best Portable Camping Generator on a Budget
If you need a budget option, the DuroStar DS4000S is an excellent choice. Although it’s evident that the generator wasn’t built with the most heavy-duty parts, it runs exceptionally well for the price. It will last a long time if you take good care of it. For peace of mind, it comes with a 3-year limited warranty.
We love that this generator is easy to startup. You don’t have to worry about pulling and pulling and pulling. It will start up on the first pull. It has an average run time. You get 8 hours of runtime at 1/2 load. Since it is a budget option, there are a few quality concerns to be expected, but nothing that’s a dealbreaker. For example, the handle to pull the generator with sort of looks like a cane that was nailed on as an afterthought.
The DuroStar generator has 4, 000 starting watts and 3,300 rated watts to keep your RV running. It measures 24 x 17 x 17 inches and weighs 94 pounds. The steel frame allows two people to be able to pick it up easily or you can purchase a separate wheel kit that can attach to the steel frame. Overall, if you want to save money, this is an excellent choice because it’s going to do precisely what you need it to.
- Starts up quickly and easily.
- Runs consistently and smoothly.
- Lasts a long time for a “cheap” generator.
- It doesn’t have any DC outlets.
- Oil leaks from the air filter.
DuroMax XP4400E Gas-powered Portable Generator
Here is another budget option that gives you a little more power than the DuroStar generator. At 4,400 starting watts and 3,500 rated watts, you’ll easily power up your appliances in your RV. It has two 120-volt standard outlets and one 240-volt twist-lock outlet.
The generator’s measurements are 24 x 17 x 17 inches, and it weighs 94 pounds. The noise level is around 69 dBa. It’s a beast in size, just like it is in reliable power.
What sets this apart from other generators is the ability to choose between running it at 120 volts only or 120 volts and 240 volts simultaneously. This means that it can be used with international appliances. Keep in mind that running both voltages reduces the output power of each outlet.
- Lots of power at a low price range.
- Backed by a 3-year warranty.
- The handle is not very helpful with mobility.
- It’s deafening.
Champion 3,800-Watt Dual Fuel Portable Generator
Heavy Duty Portable Generator for Camping
If you like options, then this is a great choice. This Champion generator is the top of the line out of all the Champion generators on the list. Not only does it offer superior performance, but it is a dual fuel powered portable generator, meaning you can use propane or gas to run it. Keep in mind that using propane instead of gasoline does lower the starting watts from 4750 to 4225, and the rated watts from 3800 to 3420. Overall, this probably won’t be too much of a difference.
We do have a bone to pick with this generator. With this much power, we would like to have seen a few extra outlets. It just has the same number and type of outlets as the previous models. However, we can let this go in lieu of the option to use the recoil-start or the electrical starter.
- It has an “Intelli-Guage” digital information display.
- The all-wheel housing makes it extremely durable.
- It can run a 15,000 BTU AC unit with ease.
- At 119 pounds, it’s cumbersome.
- Like the previous model, it’s extremely loud.
If you are looking for more information to give you a deeper understanding of how your rigs electrical system then check out our 101 guide to RV electrical systems.
Last update on 2020-07-10 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API