Last Updated on February 1, 2022 by Jessica Lauren Vine
One of the best things about an RV is that you get to bring all the comforts of home on your travels. The one thing that can ruin that experience is not having enough power.
That’s where finding the best portable generator for RV comes in. And for those that don’t want to read all the way through, this is our favorite pick –> Champion 3400-Watt Dual Fuel RV Ready Portable Inverter Generator with Electric Start
While good, reliable generators are much more affordable nowadays, you still want to make sure that the one you buy has all the qualities that you need.
What Is the Point of an RV Generator?
If you’re new to the RV world, you may not know what a generator does or why it is important.
Basically, it’s the thing that powers everything in case you don’t have shore power. You can think of it as a big battery that runs on diesel, gas, propane, or it can be dual fuel. It has two main purposes. It can charge the house battery or it can be used as a direct plug-in for a 30 amp or 50 amp connection.
To put it simply, it powers all your electronics such as your microwave, phones, TV, etc, whether you’re using them now or will need to use them at a later time.
So now that you know what it does, you need to know about the different types.
Types of RV Generators
Depending on the generator you buy when you’re looking for the best generator for travel trailer, it could run on three different types of fuel. These are diesel, gas, or liquid propane. There are also dual-fuel generators, but we’ll get into that later when we discuss the features.
There are advantages and disadvantages to each type of fuel, so you’ll need to think about what is most important to you.
- The best fuel efficiency of the three
- Produces more power than propane
- Less volatile than gas
- A little harder to find than gas
- Louder generator
- Easy to find
- Usually cheaper
- Need to fill up more often
- Could be a fire hazard
- Less environmentally clean
- Most eco-friendly
- Best storage capabilities
- Harder to get
- Weakest energy output
What Size Generator Do I Need?
This is the next big question that you need to answer before you go out shopping for your generator.
When I first started looking for a generator I had no clue what size I needed. I didn’t even understand that by size, they really mean how much energy it provides, not the physical size of the machine.
So how do you figure this out?
A good way to do it is to add up how many watts your air conditioner and appliances use. If you don’t know how to do that, here’s a great way to calculate how much power you need. Likely you’ll be somewhere between 3,000-4,000 watts.
What Features are Available?
Now that you know what you need in a generator, let’s talk about the things you may want in a generator.
Some of these are:
Conventional vs Inverter
Conventional generators have their uses, but most people are choosing inverters these days. This is because inverters change their speed based on the power they need. This means that not only will you be saving energy, you’ll also have a much quieter machine.
The noise level of your generator is important, especially in campgrounds when you’re surrounded by other people. Keep in mind that as your power usage goes up, so does the noise level of your generator. Look for decibel ratings below 60 dBA and you should be good.
A pull start is becoming outdated quickly. You now have the option of an electric start or a remote start. An electric start is just a button that you have to push on the generator—much less effort than the pull start. A remote start is even easier. It’s a button that you can carry around and push anywhere.
Dual Fuel Option
Remember when we were talking about the different fuel types earlier? The dual-fuel option uses both gas and propane. You get the best of both worlds when you choose this type of generator.
There are times when you may want to have two generators hooked up at the same time. Maybe you have a small one for the days you don’t need much power and a larger one for the days when you’re running everything at once. If you have the parallel capability and a kit, this can be an option.
Precautions about the Best Portable Generator for RV
There are a few things you need to keep in mind when you are using a portable RV generator.
It’s important to read all the instructions when you first get your generator. Pull out the manual and follow everything it says. There are almost always some tasks that you need to do to break in the generator. Following all the recommended instructions will keep your generator running for as long as possible.
Perform regular maintenance on your generator. There are usually guidelines in the manual that tell you when and what you need to do to keep your generator in top condition. You can also take a look at this video as it walks you through generator maintenance.
You need to run your generator outside and away from your RV. This is because the fumes from your generator can cause carbon monoxide poisoning, even if it’s outside your window, so make sure it’s several feet away.
This is not a safety rule, but it’s generally nice to turn your generator off at night if you’re camping near other people. The noise from even the quietest generator can still be pretty loud. It never hurts to be kind and courteous to your neighbors, and hopefully, they will return the favor.
What is the Best Portable RV Generator?
Now that you have some idea of what you should be looking for when you’re shopping for your generator, it’s time to share our reviews. These are our top 5 picks for the best portable generator for RV. They all have different advantages, so read through them and pick the one that is right for you.
This generator saved us from burning due to lack of air conditioning or not being able to cook quite a few times. Works great.
- Nice run time
- Great brand name
- Lightweight enough for the watts
- Parallel capable
- Not totally budget-friendly
This is our top choice and the one that we bought for our RV. It has all the features of a more expensive generator at half the cost. It gets about 7.5 hours on gas, but since it’s a dual fuel generator, you can get up to 14.5 hours with propane.
This generator is easy to use and ultra-quiet. So quiet, in fact, that my husband and I were able to hear each other and have a normal conversation standing just 6 feet away from it. If you’ve ever been around a generator, you know this is a big deal!
We also love that this generator is an electric start, so we don’t have to use energy to get it going. Plus, it has wheels, which makes it easy to move even though it’s close to 100 pounds.
With parallel capability, lots of outlets, including a USB port, and a 3-year warranty, this generator has everything that we wanted for our RV.
- Electric start
- Easy to transport
- Parallel capable
- Doesn’t come with a run timer (you can buy one super cheap)
The Honda generator is another great option. It runs on gas, but you can get up to 9-10 hours out of it when it’s on its eco setting. Considering the gas tank is pretty small, that’s impressive!
It’s only 2200 watts but is also parallel capable so you can easily hook up more than one machine. And if you know how much power you need, this might be the right size for you anyway.
This generator is super light, weighing in at only 40 pounds, so it’s fairly easy to move around. It’s also very quiet, which means you won’t be annoying your neighbors.
Honda makes some of the most reliable generators and this one is an upgrade from their previous well-loved model. If you’re looking for a smaller generator that you can depend on, this one may be the right choice for you.
- Small and light
- Quiet hum
- Eco setting
- Parallel capable
- Hard to fill the fuel tank (hard to see how much is in there.)
If you need a high-powered, long-running generator, this might be the best option. It runs on gas and on eco mode can run up to 17 hours! It has enough power to keep all your appliances running at once—unless you’re vacuuming, using the microwave, and have the AC on high all at once. That may overload it a little bit in some cases.
The remote start is awesome. Not only do you get to skip the manual pull start, but you also don’t even have to be near the generator to get it going. This means you’ll never have to run out in the rain or snow to start up your machine. It’s so convenient and makes life that much easier.
This one is also parallel capable and comes with a wheel kit for easy transportation. At close to 100 pounds, that really comes in handy.
The open frame on this generator does make it a little louder than some of the others, but it’s still pretty quiet. We think the extra power and features that you get with this one offset that one disadvantage though, making this a great choice.
- Parallel capable
- Remote start
- Lots of power
- Great value
- Runs 17 hours
- A little louder than some, but still pretty quiet
This is definitely going to be your best budget option. It’s extremely affordable and you still get everything you need from it.
Like the previous choice, this one has an open frame, which can lead to a little higher noise level. It’s still an inverter though, meaning it’s quieter than a conventional generator.
With a smaller gas tank, you can really only get about 7 hours of run time on this one, but it also has an eco-mode to save you fuel. With parallel capability, you can easily hook up a second generator to give you that extra run time you may need.
One of the great features of this one is the overload protection. This keeps both your generator and your electronics/appliances safe from power surges. Since this generator comes with USB ports, that means you don’t have to worry about damaging your phone when it’s plugged in.
If you are looking for the best budget generator that will still get you what you need, this may be the one for you.
- High power
- Overload protection
- Low price
- Parallel capable
- Small gas tank
The Generac is another great choice for a portable generator. It runs on gas and has an eco setting that gets you about 10 hours of run time.
This one has a pull start, but it’s not hard to do and usually starts within 1-2 tries. It’s also small and lightweight, so it’s easy to transport.
The best thing about the Generac is their PowerRush technology. It gives you 50% more starting capacity. What this means for you is that you get double the power at startup. Then the eco mode will kick in if you have it turned on, and you’ll get more power with less energy.
The one downside is that to connect it to your RV you’ll have to buy an amp adapter because it doesn’t come with one. Luckily these are pretty cheap and easy to find, so it’s not really a big deal.
- Compact and lightweight
- Parallel capable
- PowerRush technology
- Easy to use
- Doesn’t come with an RV adapter
Out of the 5 we looked at and reviewed, we chose the Champion dual-fuel generator. While it might be easier to find gas and fill up the tank, we really like having the option of using propane to save energy and because it’s the most environmentally friendly.
We’ve been very pleased with our choice and haven’t had any problems with it. It has enough power for everything that we need and I particularly love the electric start. It’s so much easier than yanking the pull start.
The Champion brand has great customer service and there’s a 3-year warranty on the generator, so we feel confident that this generator will last a long time.
All 5 of these generators are great options though. Just remember to consider all your wants and needs in a generator, as far as features go, and you’ll easily be able to make the choice that’s right for you.