Electricity is something we often take for granted when living in a stationary home or in an RV on a campground. In state parks or other remote areas, however, a portable generator might be your only source of power. There are a lot of choices, but the best portable generator for RVs is one that meets these criteria: it provides enough power for your needs, it’s quiet, and it’s portable. What each of these means will change depending on your personal needs, though, so let’s look at the several factors that can help you choose.
The portable inverter generator comparison chart below will give you a birds eye view so you can quickly see which motorhome generator is the right fit for you.
Our Picks: Best Portable Generator For RV
Last update on 2018-05-24 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
Scroll down to read individual reviews of each product...
Types Of Generators
You should probably avoid just going and picking up any nice-looking conventional generator you can find. While they are cheaper and provide a lot of power, the racket they kick up won’t make you any friends—and many campsites won’t even allow generators that are past a certain decibel level. They also tend to be bulky, heavy, less fuel-efficient, and poor choices for charging sensitive electronics.
Inverter generators are the answer to most of those problems. Specifically designed to be quiet, these generators are often smaller and lighter than their conventional counterparts—though you can get a heavy-duty one if you want to. You’ll also get more mileage out of your fuel, as many of them automatically adjust how much power they produce based on how much you're using. Conventional generators, on the other hand, just run at the same level all the time, often producing more than you need.
A final perk: inverter generators produce better-quality power, meaning that they generate a smooth current with less than 3% “total harmonic distortion” (THD), which is important for modern electronics. Charging your devices with uneven power can damage them, so if you routinely use a laptop, smartphone, or smart TV, an inverter is essential.
Gasoline is the most popular fuel type for RV generators, as it is a very common fuel. You need to be careful about transporting it--maybe don’t store it in your RV, as even gasoline fumes can be combustible—but with proper precautions, you can bring along as much as you need.
Propane is bulkier and harder to find, but it is definitely safer to transport since it is stored in metal tanks. Not as many generators are designed to run on this, but it’s environmentally friendly and lasts longer, so it’s a good choice for infrequent travelers who don’t anticipate needing many refills.
What size generator do I need for my RV?
This is the first question you should ask. If you don’t know the answer, don’t worry! You’ll just need to read a few labels and do some addition to figure it out.
Typical inverter generators produce between 1,000 and 4,000 watts, with 1,000 being enough to power some lights and small appliances, and 4,000 being enough to run just about everything. To see how much you need, just check the wattage of the things you plan to run and add the numbers up. Some appliances measure their power consumption using volts and amps instead of watts, but you can easily convert it using this equation: volts x amps = watts.
The first thing you’ll want to look at is the air conditioner—usually an RVs biggest power drain. A typical 12,000 BTU unit (mid-size for an air conditioner) will draw around 2,000 or more watts to start and will need 900 or more watts to stay running. Make sure you look at both the starting and the running wattage, because if your generator isn’t powerful enough to start it you’ll be out of luck.
While you should examine your own appliances to figure out your needs, here are some rough numbers to give you an idea of where you stand. Microwaves can be a bit power-hungry, clocking in at about 1,000 watts. A fridge might draw about 100-400 watts, while charging a laptop is around 50 watts. Fortunately for TV-lovers, the average screen takes less than 200 watts. For lights, just look at the wattages written on the bulbs—household bulbs average around 40-60W, though the LED lights found in modern RVs draw much less, usually around 5W
If you find yourself needing more than 4,000 watts of power, don’t worry—most inverter generators can be hooked up to work in parallel, meaning that they can be wired together to make one generator. Generally, however, they need to be the same model or brand.
What does it mean if a generator isn't RV Ready?
Some of the generators we review here will need an additional adapter to be able to connect to your RVs hookup. Both the Honda and Yamaha options on this page come with a regular 120-volt 15 amp outlet, just like the one's you'll find in your home or inside your RV.
You will need to purchase a 30 or 50 amp adapter cord. So how do you know which adapter cord you need? Easy, if your RV hookup cord has 3 prongs, it's a 30-amp, if it has 4 prongs, it's a 50 amp.
If you decide to go for one of the generators that require an adapter, you can pick up our recommended adapters below.
With modern inverter generators this typically is not much of a problem, but if you are planning on being around other campers you should look for generators that are rated 60 decibels or below. That measurement is usually done from a distance with the generator running at a 25-50% load, so it doesn’t really indicate maximum noise potential, but it does give you a good way to compare noise levels between generators.
Almost all inverter generators, especially those meant for RV use, are below this threshold. By comparison, the bigger conventional generators typically put out 65-85 decibels. 85 dB is getting pretty close to rock-concert levels.
Depending on how frequently you move and/or how much you think you can lift, this can be an issue. Generators definitely aren’t light—they range from 30 pounds at the very lightest up to 150 pounds, with the average being around 85 pounds. Many of them have wheels built in, but you still have to load and unload it.
This is where inverter generators start to look less attractive. A midrange 3,000-watt generator costs an average of about $900, with lower-end models costing as little as $500 and high-end ones hitting $5,000. Don’t be tempted to cheap out, though—a generator is an investment that can keep going for a long time. You’ll save yourself time and money by buying one that has a good reputation for reliability as opposed to a cheap one you’ll have to replace eventually.
Each one of the factors above may need to be considered before you decide on what is the best generator for RV use and your particular setup.
For an overview of the technology and some real-life examples of inverter generators, check out this video:
Best Portable Generator Reviews
1. Yamaha EF2000iSv2 - Most Quiet RV Generator
This generator will suit your needs if you care about having a quality brand, but just need to power small appliances, lights, no air conditioner, etc. It’s very portable, comes from the respected Yamaha brand, and it runs as quietly as you could ask for. The price tag is high, but this generator has an excellent reputation as a reliable, efficient machine. It is also regarded as the quietest portable generator for RVs on the market while still having a decent power output.
2. Honda EU2200i - Build Quality Makes This One A Popular Portable Generator For Camping
While it is expensive, the Honda EU2200i is still a staple generator at many campsites. Its fuel-efficiency may make up for its initial cost over the years, and its whisper-silent operation alone is worth it for some. It’s not packed with features, but it does keep going for a long, long time. Always a solid choice for anyone looking for a camping generator.
3. Champion Power Equipment 75537i - Best Portable Generator For The Money
This generator is a steady favorite among RVers for the features it packs into a fairly small package at a reasonable midrange price. It performs well on all fronts as long as it’s not being pushed full throttle the whole time. It gets a little louder than higher-end models, but it’s hard to find this combination of reliability, power, and features at this price point, which make this an excellent choice for just about anyone.
4. Champion Power Equipment 100263 - Dual Fuel - RV Propane Generator That Can Also Run On Gasoline
This is the second Champion generator to make the list, mostly because of its unique dual-fuel feature and its slight edge up in power. This makes it an extremely adaptable machine—gasoline gives you a lot of power for a short time, while propane delivers a little less power, but lasts for a long time. The price is also quite reasonable, and while it can get loud at higher loads, it stays pretty quiet during average use.
5. Westinghouse iGen4500 - Best Westinghouse Portable Inverter Generator
The Westinghouse has a lot going for it. It’s got enough capacity to run almost anything you want, remote start, noise levels comparable to a Honda, tons of ports, and all kinds of neat features for a low price. It’s inexpensive largely because Westinghouse seems to cut some corners on build quality, but the three-year warranty keeps it on this list as any potential problems will probably be covered.
Though each of these generators has something different to offer, my favorite for all-around RV usage at a good price is probably the Champion Power Equipment 75537i. It supplies enough power to fill most of your needs, comes bundled with some neat features (remote start is really handy to have), and is reported to be quite reliable by most of its users.
The 75537i runs on gasoline, so fuel will be plentiful—if you want a similar version with the propane option, you can always try the Champion 100263. Though it can get loud, under normal use it stays at a very reasonable volume. 95 pounds is actually quite a reasonable weight for this power class, and the wheels, while they make hauling the generator around a little awkward, work just fine. While all the generators above suit different needs and different budgets, you’ll have a hard time finding a situation where this one won’t do the job.