So you’re the proud owner of an RV. Congratulations! Way to go!
While camping in the great American outdoors can be an absolutely exhilarating experience – you certainly don’t want to be left without electricity for hours or even days.
That’s why you need the best RV generator. The one that you can trust that it can run the most important electric equipment (such as the AC or fridge).
In the following article, we explain everything you need to know before buying a portable RV generator. We will also show you our top recommendations for the best generators for RV currently available in the market.
|Inverter Generator||Wattage |
(Start / Running)
|Champion 3400 Dual Fuel Inverter||3400 / 3100||59 dB||95.7 lbs||Check Current Price|
|Honda EU2200iC||2200 / 1800||48 dB||47 lbs||Check Current Price|
|Champion 75537i||3100 / 2800||58 dB||44 lbs||Check Current Price|
|Yamaha EF2000iSv2||2000 / 1600||51.5 dB||44 lbs||Check Current Price|
|WEN 56200i||2000 / 1600||51 dB||48 lbs||Check Current Price|
|Westinghouse iGen2200||2200 / 1800||52 dB||46 lbs||Check Current Price|
Choosing the Best RV Generator – the Buyer’s Guide
How much wattage do you need?
This is the first and the most important question you should ask yourself before buying a portable generator to power your RV.
You don’t want to purchase a generator just to realize that it’s too small to run anything.
By saying “small” we don’t actually mean the actual physical size of the generator but its power output.
All appliances and electric equipment in your RV require a certain amount of power to run.
In the US we usually use watts (W) or kilowatts (kW, 1kW = 1000 watts) as the basic units of measurements
Eg. a typical LCD TV would need around 120 watts to run. A refrigerator would require at least 180. A 15000 BTU RV air conditioner would consume much more – around 2000 watts.
There’s a catch though.
The appliances with built-in motor require higher wattage to turn them on and run for the first few seconds. The amount of watts these devices need to kick in is called the starting wattage (sometimes referred to as surge watts)
After a few moments, their consumption goes back to “normal”. That’s called running wattage (also known as rated watts).
Let’s have a look at the refrigerator again.
While an average RV fridge requires approx 180 watts to run, since it has a motor, it requires a much higher number to start. This would be around 600 watts depending on the model.
Therefore an RV refrigerator needs 600 starting watts and 180 running watts to start and run properly.
As for the big 15,000 BTU AC unit – this would need on average 3300 starting watts and 2000 running watts.
The following table lists the average wattage requirements for the commonly used RV equipment.
|Approx. Starting Watts||Approx. Running Watts|
|RV Air Conditioning Unit (11000 BTU)||1600||1000|
|RV Air Conditioning Unit (13500 BTU)||2800||1800|
|RV Air Conditioning Unit (15000 BTU)||3300||2000|
|Microvawe Oven (800 Watts)||1300||1300|
|Lightbulbs (incadescent type)||60||60|
|Flat Screen TV||120||120|
These two numbers: starting watts and running watts are also the ones you should pay close attention to when shopping for a generator.
A generator needs at least as much starting wattage output as the starting wattage of the most energy-consuming device you are planning to run OR the sum of the added starting wattage of all devices you want to connect together.
Sounds complicated? Let’s have a look at a specific example for better illustration.
One of the most popular portable generators is Honda EU2200iC.
Its maximum power output is 2200 starting watts and 2000 running watts.
Would it be enough to run a large 15,000 RV air conditioner?
Such AC requires 2000 running watts. That’s what Honda EU2200i can provide. So far so good.
Unfortunately, this AC needs 3300 starting watts to turn on and run for the first seconds.
This is well above the maximum starting wattage output offered by Honda EU2200i.
So the final answer is – NO. Honda EU2200i sadly CAN’T run a 15,000 AC.
Ok, but what if you have a smaller AC unit. Let’s say – an 11,000 BTU one?
Those on average need 1600 starting watts and 1000 running watts.
As both figures are well below the maximum capabilities of Honda EU2200i – YES, you could totally use it to run this air conditioner.
On top of that, you would still have enough spare power to run a couple of other smaller electronics such as a TV, computer and a set of lights.
Ok, so by now you should get a decent idea of how running and starting watts work and how to use these figures to determine what size of a generator do you need to power your appliances.
What if your air conditioner or a refrigerator has got its power requirement written in amps? How do you calculate this?
Don’t panic as it is actually very simple to convert amps into watts.
First, you need to determine the voltage of your equipment. In the US the most common standard is 120V. Some appliances, however, may operate at higher voltages such as 220V. If you are not sure how many volts does your equipment use, you should also be able to find out on its label.
Then use the following formula to find out how many watts does it consume:
Wattage = Amps x Volts.
For example, if your equipment draws 20 Amps at 120 voltage then its wattage would be:
20 x 120 = 2400 Watts
Which type of generator is the best for RV?
You might ask yourself – Can I simply save myself a headache counting all these power requirements and simply buy a large powerful portable generator?
Well, technically yes. But trust us, that’s something you absolutely DON’T want to do.
This is for a few reasons.
Conventional open frame portable generators are VERY LOUD.
Most of the portable generators are designed for two purposes – to be used at a construction site or as a backup source of power for homes or businesses during the blackout.
Those are the situations when noise is not such a major nuisance.
Nobody cares about the sound produced by a single generator with all this noisy construction machinery around.
On the other hand, when then the power goes out in the entire neighborhood, none of your neighbors are going to mind your generator noise since they’re probably run them too.
But then imagine trying to run such a generator at a campsite.
It’s a beautiful summer night. Stars are shining, the air is crystal clear, the scenery is absolutely breathtaking.
You’re far away from the nearest big city.
There are no sounds to be heard except some quiet indistinctive chatter from somewhere far away.
Feeling peaceful and relaxed you are ready to go to sleep.
You’re just about to hit the hay when… RRRRRRRRRR.
The guy in the RV next door just turned on their generator to run the air conditioner for the night.
That’s it for the silent peaceful night.
For the next couple of hours, you’re gonna listen to the lullaby of the portable generator engine running continuously up until the early morning.
That guy who turned on their loud generator is now the perfect candidate for the title of the Most Hated Man on Camp.
You don’t wanna be that fella.
That’s why you should get the quietest generator possible.
The generator noise levels are measured in decibels (dB). Any generator operating at higher than 60dB is already too loud for RV camping.
Which FYI is pretty much the case with ALL conventional portable generators.
This is why your only choice is an INVERTER GENERATOR.
Ideally the one with at least 3000 watts such as this Champion generator.
I’ve explained more about what inverter generators are and how do they differ from conventional types in this article.
One of the best things about them is that they are much smaller and lighter than ordinary open frame portable gens.
They also have a few more super important features which make them the only viable choice for RV.
Benefits of Inverter Generators
1. Inverter Generators are much quieter
The quietest units operate in the 50 – 59 dB range depending on the load.
That’s already silent enough not to ruin everyone’s night.
Inverters are by far the best choice for boondocking.
On the other hand, if you stay at the designated RV park which explicitly prohibits ANY sorts of generators to be run at night – sorry, you won’t get away even with the most silent of a generator.
That’s of course unless you have the solar panels in place and stick to the noiseless solar power station.
However, those usually provide very little output wattage and you certainly can’t run an AC or a fridge with them.
They are best used as the supplemental source of power for an RV.
2. Inverter generators are the only safe choice for sensitive electronics
If you are planning to live off the grid for a while you will certainly need a reliable source of power to charge your phone or laptop.
Using a typical portable generator to charge one of these can easily damage them.
That’s because the conventional generators operate at higher levels of so-called Total Harmonic Distortion (THD).
The energy created by them is, therefore, less stable and clean.
While this is not a concern at all is you use them along with the heavy construction equipment or big kitchen appliances – modern portable electronic equipment is much more sensitive.
That’s why we refer to tablets, phones, flatscreen TVs, etc as sensitive electronics.
Inverter generators, on the other hand, are perfectly fine.
They usually produce less than 5% of THD which is totally safe for your portable electronic equipment.
On top of that, inverters often come up with dedicated USB ports to make charging your iPads or Bluetooth speakers even easier.
3. Inverters can be used in parallel
Imagine that you already have a 2000 watt inverter generator. It works fine until day one you realize that you could actually do with a bit more power.
Or perhaps you need a bit more powerful generator to use as a home backup supply.
What’s the best solution?
Buy another inverter with the same wattage!
Most of the quality inverter generators offer the so-called parallel capability.
This basically means that you can connect these together using a dedicated parallel kit.
By doing so, you can double the total energy output. More power to ya!
Connect two Honda EU2200i generators together and you’re gonna get 4000 running watts at your disposal – more than enough to satisfy even the most energy demanding RV.
Still not enough?
Get two Champion 3400 generators, connect them in parallel and voila – you’ve got a massive 6800 starting wattage at your hands.
I honestly can’t think of any RV which would require SO MUCH power.
On the other hand that would really more than enough to run the essential equipment in a mid-sized household!
Generally speaking, it’s a much better solution to use two inverters in parallel rather than one single conventional portable generator (Remember? Inverters are safe for portable electronics and are much quieter).
How Do You Connect a Generator to an RV?
There are at least two highly recommended generators which you can hook up to your RV straight out of the box without having to purchase any additional adapters.
Both are excellent choices for RV and are clearly among our favorites.
For most of the other generators, you would need the RV adapters.
Fortunately, those are very cheap and easy to find online. Just make sure you get the right type!
Both 2000-watt and 3000-watt inverter generators require similar types of adapters to connect to the RV power cord.
What makes the difference is the amperage of your RV power cord.
It is usually rated at 30 or 50 amps.
You can easily tell the difference between a 30 amp and a 50 amp power cord by simply counting the number of “male” power prongs.
3 male power prongs = 30 amp.
4 male power prongs = 50 amp.
Simple as that!
Onwards to the right types of adapters.
These adapters are suitable for 30 amp RV power cords
These ones are the right choices for 50 amp RV power cords
Who makes the best generators for RV?
When it comes to the market of portable inverter generators there are two brands that became synonymous with “the best quality”.
These are Honda and Yamaha.
Check out any RV camping forum for generator recommendations and there is a huge chance someone will come up with either uber-popular Honda EU2000i (discontinued in 2008 and replaced with EU2200i) or Yamaha EF2000iSV2.
For those who need a 3000-watt generator, Honda EU3000iS is a very solid (and super quiet) choice.
Both companies make the top-notch portable generators which are indeed made to last for years.
However as you could expect, higher quality (and brand recognition) obviously comes at a higher price tag.
Expect to shell around 1000 bucks or more for a 2000 watt Honda or Yamaha generator.
Add a few hundred more to get a 3000 watt one.
If you’re gonna use two inverters with parallel connection, you’re gonna shell out in total more than 2000 bucks for the entire set up.
Honestly, this is still a quite decent figure if you are planning to use the generators very often and need a very solid unit that won’t break down after only a few weeks (or days!) of use.
Are there cheaper alternatives?
Indeed they are!
There at least a few other very solid generators that could easily rival Honda and Yamaha on many aspects but cost much less.
In fact, some of these generators perform so well that we’d recommend it to EVERY camping enthusiasts, not only the ones who’re looking for a “low budget alternative”.
There are three manufacturers we have in mind here: Champion, Westinghouse, and WEN.
Champion has released two 3000 watt generators which are fully RV ready. This means you can connect them to your trailer without a need to buy any adapters or extension cords.
Both are super popular choices among RV campers and top our lists of the most recommended generators for RV.
Westinghouse is a very reliable American manufacturer with more than 100 years of market presence making all sorts of electrical equipment in the US.
I can honestly say that Westinghouse generators are among the best you can get and in general perform better than the IMHO slightly overrated Generac generators.
As far as their camping generators go, my personal pick is Westinghouse iGen2200. I’ve listed it both on my lists of top 10 quietest generators and the best inverter generators. It is a truly excellent inverter generator that can easily compete with its Japanese counterparts.
WEN, on the other hand, is a Chinese company that entered the US market only in recent years.
Yeah, I know what you might be thinking now. We also hate crappy electric equipment made in China which always works fine until you really need it badly and that’s when it suddenly breaks without warning.
HOWEVER, this is NOT THE CASE at all with WEN generators!
56200i is really a living proof that a good inverter generator does not have to cost a fortune.
True, its internal parts are not made of the same quality as in Yamaha and that’s probably not the kind of generator I would buy if I wanted to run one day after day for years.
But besides that, it delivers exactly the same capabilities as much more expensive generators.
It’s also remarkably quiet!
You simply can’t beat the price either.
Amazon usually sells it for less than 500 hundred bucks (the price tag may change though depending on the day and time).
This is way much less than Honda and makes it a great choice for those looking for a good silent 2000 watt inverter generator for RV camping and don’t want to spend a little fortune on one.
If you want to dive deeper into its specifications and functionalities, check out my detailed review of WEN 56200i here.
Top 6 Best Generators for RV Reviewed
1. Champion 3400 Watt Dual Fuel Inverter Generator
Champion 3400 is IMHO the best RV generator.
This is one of the very few inverter generators with dual-fuel capability.
You can run it either on gas on propane, depending on the availability of fuel.
This gives you ENORMOUS flexibility in terms of balancing your fuel consumption and actual power needs.
You will also save a lot of money running this generator on propane instead of gas.
So even though you have to pay a bit more for this generator, lower fuel cost will get you quicker return on your investment.
Champion 3400 is a fully RV ready generator. It has a dedicated 30Amp outlet ready to connect to your travel trailer without the need to buy any adapters.
The generator runs very quietly. It produces only around 59 decibels of noise at 25% load.
The generator delivers 3400 starting and 3100 running watts.
This is TOTALLY enough for even the most demanding travel trailers.
You could use it to run things like an 11,000 BTU air conditioner, freezer, and the lighting circuits.
The only thing I miss about it in comparison to its gas-only cousin – 75537i – is the lack of remote start.
If you are looking for a quiet and durable dual fuel inverter generator to power your travel trailer – this is the one you should get.
Curious to learn more about this generator? Read my detailed review of Champion 3400W dual fuel inverter.
2. Honda EU2200IC Companion
Honda was the first company to introduce inverter generators to the market back in 1999.
Even now, nearly 20 years later, the original Honda EU2000i has been the most popular choice among the professionals shopping for the highest quality inverter generators.
Back in 2008, it was replaced with the newer slightly more powerful model – EU2200i.
The EU2200IC Companion is one of the variations of EU2200i.
It’s the best choice for RV as it has a built-in 30 AMP receptacle for RV.
Other than that it offers basically the same capabilities and great design features as Honda EU2000i.
It is super quiet (at 25% load the noise levels can get as low as 49 dB!).
It has an original Honda engine – the synonym of the best quality.
The finishing is very solid – this generator is meant to be used in all kinds of rough circumstances.
I have personally seen the construction workers working in the mountains on high altitudes using this Honda generator to power the construction equipment they used to build the iron steps and ladders for trekkers and mountaineers.
This can give you some good idea of how versatile it is, especially for outdoor use.
EU2200iC provides 200 more running watts than its predecessor while keeping the same noise level and selling for the same price.
That’s perhaps not a revolutionary change but is certainly a nice improvement.
The design can feel already slightly outdated though. Especially the lack of electric start is a bit of a nuisance.
However, you probably don’t buy a generator for its looks.
If you need a 2000-watt generator that will serve you for a long time and comes from a trusted manufacturer – Honda EU2200i fully deserves your attention.
If you google its photos online you might quickly notice that it’s very often showed used in parallel with another Honda generator.
This is my recommended setting if you think that 2000 watts is not enough for your large travel trailer.
3. Champion Power Equipment 75537i
The Champion 75537i is a fully RV ready portable inverter generator.
It was in fact originally designed with RV enthusiasts in mind.
This means you can connect it to your trailer pretty much straight out of the box. There’s no need to purchase any specific adapters or other accessories.
It provides up to 3100 starting watts and 2800 running watts of power.
That’s enough to power most of the equipment in your travel trailer.
You could run a 13,500 BTU AC along with a few other appliances and electronics.
Champion 75537i is very fuel-efficient. Even at higher loads, it should last for around 8 hours making it possible to run the AC for the whole night.
What I absolutely love about this generator is the remote start!
You can easily switch it on and off by using the simple remote control included in the kit.
That’s really super convenient as you can control the generator without even having to get out of your bed!
It’s also one of the quietest 3000-watt generators out there.
What I am not entirely sure about is the quality of materials used in this inverter. They look a bit less solid than it is in the case of more expensive Honda generators.
Especially the wheels are a bit small and sometimes get stuck if there’s some debris getting in.
However, as the reviews online show, a lot of people seem to have used this inverter for many months or even years without reporting any serious issues.
And as you could guess by now, it’s also cheaper than the Honda or Yamaha.
All of these qualities make it one of my preferred choices for RV.
4. Yamaha EF2000iSv2
Yamaha is one of the leaders on the market of portable generators.
The engines they make for their generators (and a lot of other stuff they produce!) are among the sturdiest and most reliable you can find.
Yamaha really doesn’t go on compromises when designing their generators.
Have a quick look at Yamaha EF2000iSv2 and you could easily tell it’s made of very solid materials which are meant to last for ages.
The EF2000iSv2 is a very modern inverter generator offering qualities you would expect from a top-quality 2000-watt inverter.
It is one of the quietest generators available.
At 25% load is makes only around 51 dB of noise, depending on how far away you measure it.
This is basically comparable to a few people having a casual chat.
It is a very popular choice among campers and those who need a 2000-watt generator for their travel trailer.
You could use it to power an 11,000 BTU air conditioner.
If you are not planning to use it along with an AC, then you would have plenty of power at your disposal to run a wide variety of portable electronics.
What I absolutely love about Yamaha EF2000isv2 is how little fuel it consumes. You could run it for 10 hours at 50% load!
Of course, you would get much less run time if you decide to plug in a very energy-hungry appliance (AC again…). Nonetheless, Yamaha EF2000isv2 performs exceptionally well on this matter.
If you are curious to learn more about this generator, make sure you read the detailed review article I’ve posted a while ago!
5. WEN 56200i
Let’s be honest – WEN is not a very famous name in the industry.
The fact that it’s a Chinese company might be a detractor at first.
The company was probably well aware of the fact that they would have to work really hard to win the customers’ trust in this very competitive market of portable generators.
And it seems they’ve done an excellent job.
WEN 56200i – their most popular model up to date has received a lot of love from US customers who bought in on Amazon.
There are a lot of 5-star reviews of this generator praising its low noise levels, ease of use, reliability and finally – a very low price tag
If you are looking for a genuine low-cost 2000-watt generator which is much cheaper than Yamaha or Honda – WEN 56200i is your best bet.
It is remarkably quiet and very lightweight. You won’t have any problems carrying it around.
Fuel efficiency is one of its strongest points. In can run for around 6 hours on a full tank at 50% load. This is a quite impressive result given its small size and weight.
It does have a nice Eco-Mode which further helps in optimizing its fuel consumption.
As you would expect from the generator this cheap, the materials used for finishing are perhaps not the top-notch quality. Its lifespan might be therefore a bit shorter than Honda.
On the other hand, if you don’t plan to use it too often, this generator can offer you a very cost-effective solution to your energy problems.
I’ve published a detailed review of WEN 56200i where I’ve revealed more fascinating info about this generator. Check it out here!
6. Westinghouse iGen2200
Westinghouse is a very trusted American electric company. They’ve been making electric equipment for more than 100 years. As you would expect – they have a lot of experience behind their belt and certainly know how to make excellent portable generators.
The iGen2200 is currently the best inverter generator Westinghouse has got on offer.
It is definitely one of the most silent generators I have seen.
It releases only around 52dB at 25% load which while a bit louder than Honda, is still remarkably quiet.
Westinghouse iGen2200 comes in two color variations – blue and camo.
The latter looks really awesome. I could totally imagine that those who need a generator for camping, fishing or hunting are really gonna like that design.
You can run this generator for nearly 12 hours on a single 1.2-gallon tank – a really impressive number.
Bear in mind though that this obviously depends on the load. It’s gonna consume more gas if you constantly run it at close to the 100% load.
IGen2200 has got 2 x 5V USB ports ideal for charging cameras, smartphones etc.
A 20A circuit breaker is a great feature that prevents the generator from being damaged if you accidentally try to run it above the maximum load.
Overall it is a high quality 2000-watt portable inverter generator.
It also usually sells for twice as cheap as Honda EU2200i.
Highly recommended for small RVs or camping.