Top generator brands have been supplying durable, quality generators for many years. With this experience, comes the knowledge of what consumers need. Some of you may be looking for a generator for recreational use, perhaps for your RV or yacht.
Others may want to back up your home in times adverse weather – when the grid power fails you. Many may require a portable generator for business purposes. Building contractors, farmers, and the like, depend heavily on portable generators and want a powerful workhorse that will run reliably day after day.
RV Generator Reviews
As you can see, there are a very wide range of products with specs and prices to meet the needs of anyone in the market for a portable RV generator. The generators that we’re reviewing here – from relatively small units all the way to powerful models.
Because this article is focusing particularly on portable generators of, we’ve selected only these. All of them are quality products, offering different features for the various models. From a basic very affordable generator up to a sophisticated inverter generator and a number of hybrid options, you’re guaranteed to find the perfect generator for your home, RV, tailgating, recreational, or business needs.
Although slightly less powerful than the other generators in the list, this model has a few other advantages. It produces 3100 running watts and 3400 peak watts, which is still quite adequate for most RV, home, and work applications.
It looks very different from the other portable generators that use a standard roll cage design. This inverter generator has a very modern looking design that encloses the whole machine.
The main benefit of this design is even lower noise levels (59dBA). It’s also more compact and includes wheels – which is just as well, because this model is a bit heavier than the other inverter generator that we’ve just reviewed – 95.7 LBS. Fortunately, it also has a well-designed pull out handle to make it very easy to move. There’s a good reason why this inverter generator is heavier than the other one, this model has an electric starter – so there’s the extra weight of the starter motor and battery.
Like the other inverter generator in this review, the Champion Power 100263 model also has ports for parallel connection and a 12V outlet with the dual USB adapter. You get all the other inverter benefits like low THD (less than 3%) and improved fuel efficiency thanks to an economy mode. Like all the Champion Power generators, the 192cc engine on this model is fully CARB and EPA compliant in 50 states. It also has a 3-year warranty
One of the main benefits of this 3800 Watt generator is its dual fuel capabilities. These portable generators are commonly referred to as hybrid generators and can run on gas, like any other generator, or you can use propane which burns cleaner and is, therefore, preferred by people who are environmentally conscious. Other benefits of using propane are that it’s easier and safer to store and transport. Propane storage is also more compact and you’ll need a lot less space to store and transport a propane tank compared to taking a standard gas can for the same running time.
When it comes to power, the 3800W Dual Fuel is a beast with plenty of it. The 224cc engine will provide 3800W continuous power and give you a peak load of 4750W, this is ample current to start induction electric motors, like those used in refrigerators and air conditioners in RV’s. This engine is both EPA and CARB compliant and meets all emission standards in fifty states.
Using the 76533 3800 Watt dual fuel generator is as easy as it gets. An electric starter means it just takes a push of a button to get it started. You can connect your power using the 30A (TT-30R) RV socket, a 30A (LS-30R) locking socket or one of the two 20A standard 120V household outlets. All these power sockets are protected by circuit breakers and VoltGuard protects your equipment from voltage surges (I presume this is some form of AVR). It has an intelliguage, which is a fancy name for a digital display. This gives you all your essential information on an easy to read LED screen.
The gas tank holds 3.4 gallons and will provide up to 9-hours of running time, you should be able to expect around 5-hours under most heavier operating conditions. It has an inlet that allows you to connect the pipe leading from your propane tank when using this as a fuel source. This is not specifically designed for silent running but, none the less, noise levels aren’t too bad – 68dB from 23 Ft away.
A generator of this size with a sturdy steel cage is never going be too light. The Champion 76533 dual fuel model weighs 122 LBS. Strong wheels and a retractable handle, make it quite easy to move the generator around and the roll cage also provides plenty positions for easy grip when lifting it.
A highly durable and powerful generator with the benefits of dual fuel and electric start. As with all Champion Power generators, it’s built to last and will take a few knocks without hindering its ability to supply reliable electrical power for many years to come. A three-year warranty offers you good peace of mind.
The 3500 Watt RV ready portable generator offers excellent value for money. It’s as durable as the more expensive generators but costs a good deal less. This does mean that you’ll forego the luxury of electric start and you don’t get the option for dual fuel operation. On the up side, Champion’s cold start technology means you won’t be tugging on the recoil starter repeatedly in cold weather.
Slightly less powerful than the model that we’ve just reviewed, this one produces 3500W running power and a peak load output of 4000 Watts.
This is still a good deal power and you’ll have no problem running a 15000 BTU air conditioner in your RV. The generator is powered by a 196cc engine and with this smaller engine you could easily get up to 12-hours of run time from a tank of gas.
The 3500 Watt 46597 generator model has the same power outlets as the 3800 Watt dual fuel model, just with one less 20A outlet (30A RV outlet, 30A locking outlet, and a single 20A standard outlet). These circuits are protected by breakers and VoltGuard technology. Another little luxury that doesn’t come on this model is the digital display, instead, it has an old-fashioned analog volt meter.
This 3500W portable generator is a little lighter than 3800W model and weighs 107.8 LBS. It has the same fold out handles and tough wheels as the larger model. The Champion 3500W also has a 3-year warranty.
This is basically the same 196cc 3500 Watt generator as the one that we’ve just reviewed. It costs a bit more but for this money, you get a few extra features. Firstly, this generator has an electric starter which includes a remote control that enables you to turn the generator on or off from up to 80 Ft away. This can be very handy if you don’t want to go out into the cold or after dark.
Another upgrade on this 3500 Watt 46539 generator model is in the same user panel as you’ll find on the 3800 Watt model. So unlike the cheaper 3500 Watt generator, this one has two 20A outlets instead of one and you get the digital display.
In all other respects, the two Champion 3500 Watt generators are the same, except that this one weighs slightly more because of the electric starter and battery. I’m not sure why, but the model with remote starting has a 2-year warranty, unlike the cheaper one that has a 3-year warranty. It has the same robust cage and build quality as the other model and I can’t see that this one should be any less durable – despite a shorter warranty period.
One of the biggest complaints when it comes to using a generator in a RV camp site, or even at home, is noise levels. The Champion 3500 Watt Digital Hybrid generator is designed for quiet running (64dBA from 23 FT away). However, this is not the only advantage that this generator has over the others.
It also uses inverter technology. By using an inverter, the Champion 3500W 100302 digital model provides a stable current.
Meaning that you get a sine wave with less than 3% Total Harmonic Distortion (THD), making it perfectly to safe to power sensitive electronic equipment – like computers and TVs. Another advantage that comes with this technology is parallel connectivity. This means that you can use this generator with any other Champion Power generator with parallel connection ports, allowing you to increase your power output to that of both generators.
This portable generator uses a 224cc hybrid engine so it will run on gas or propane. Power output is 3500 Watts running power and 4000 Watts peak power. For an inverter generator, this remarkable – generally, inverter generators don’t go much higher than 2000 Watts. Despite having a larger engine than the other Champion 3500 Watt generators and a fuel tank that only holds 2.9 gallons, you’re likely to get better time from a tank of gas. This is yet another advantage of using an inverter, as it allows for an economy mode that will reduce the engine revs at lower loads.
This model also includes a 12V (car lighter-type) outlet with two USB adapters for charging cell phones and other USB devices. Yet another impressive spec of the Champion 3500W digital generator is its weight of only 81.6 LBS. Because this one is so much lighter than the standard models, it doesn’t have a wheel kit, so it has to be carried.
This is a very impressive piece of machinery and is one of the most powerful inverter generators on the market. The Champion 3500 Watt digital generator comes with a 3-year warranty.
From the reviews, it’s clear that these all are going to have a tough time to choose from these range of the best RV generators. Now it’s time to delve deeper into the topic of RV generators. You may have many questions regarding generator power for your RV. This section of the article is more than simply an RV generator buying guide, I’ll also be answering many of the frequently asked questions and provide valuable maintenance tips.
|Generator Model||Starting Watts||Running Watts||Weight||Fuel Capacity / Run Time|
|3400 Watts||3100 Watts||110.5 Lbs||1.6 Gallons
7.5 Hrs (@ 1/4 Load)
|4750 Watts||3800 Watts||132 Lbs||3.4 Gallons
9 Hrs (@ 1/2 Load)
|4000 Watts||3500 Watts||139 Lbs||3.8 Gallons
12 Hrs(@ 1/2 Load)
|4000 Watts||3500 Watts||117.5 Lbs||3.8 Gallons
12 Hrs (@ 1/2 Load)
|4000 Watts||3500 Watts||91.9 Lbs||2.9 Gallons
12 Hrs (@ 1/4 Load)
RV Generator Buying Guide
The best RV generators can fulfill many purposes, like backup power for your home or business, tailgating, and more. So you may also consider versatility, a generator that can do all things. Though, generally, a generator that meets all the requirements of the RV owner, will also work just fine for your other needs too. You’ll obviously be looking at your power requirements, portability, and a number of more specific technical specifications. I’ll cover all bases, so you’re left with no doubt when setting out to buy the best RV generator for your needs.
You should start out by ensuring that your generator produces enough power for your RV needs. More power can never be a bad thing, especially if you intend using your generator in other situations. Home power requirements will always be higher.
There is no one size fits all when it comes to sizing your generator to your RV. It may be affected by other factors, such as budget and the size of your RV. RV air conditioners and refrigerators will play a significant role, as these appliances draw the most power and require a higher startup current.
So we should start by distinguishing between running (rated) power and startup (surge) power.
Rated Power is the amount of watts that a generator can produce continuously. This also referred to as running or continuous power.
Surge Power is only supplied for a short period, seldom more than 3-seconds, but this varies from one generator to the next. Typically, you don’t need surge power for more than a second, if that. Also called peak wattage, or startup current, this is a power boost for equipment that require more watts when starting. This applies mostly to inductive electric motors (refrigerators, air conditioners, and pumps). Microwaves also require an inrush surge current. When these appliances start, they can require up to three, sometimes four times as much power when they start. When calculating your RV generator wattage, it is important to account for this.
Large RV refrigerator
10,000 BTU air conditioner
40” LCD TV
Surround sound system
This would mean (900W + 2000W + 1200W + 120W + 30W + 40W) 4290W max current if all appliances run and start simultaneously
So, a portable generator with 3800 running watts will have no problem if all appliances are running. You even have ample power to spare for a laptop, even a gaming console, and then some. It becomes complicated when allowing for startup (surge) power. This is further complicated by running cycles for refrigerators and air conditioners. These switch on and off at random, as they are controlled by a thermostat. The peak requirement will trip the generator if you have the AC and refrigerator starting at the same time, whilst using the microwave as well. So you may, at times, need to switch off one appliance to use another. If you want to heat up a meal, perhaps switch the AC off, while using the microwave.
If you’re using a smaller generator, the compromise will be greater. You may have to switch off more appliances, if your generator has a lower rated and surge power spec.
RV Generator Outlets
Having the correct power outlets on your generator is a great convenience. Most RVs are fitted with an input for a TT-30R RV power cord. This is the standard outlet used by campsites that supply 30A shore power. While adapters are available for any type of electrical outlet, having an RV ready generator, means that you can plug your RV cord directly into this outlet.
Because the TT-30R receptacle is rated for 30A, you may not exceed this. What if your generator produces more than 30A and you want to use that extra power?
If we use the same example as above, the Champion 76533 is capable of a maximum rated current of 31.66A and a maximum surge current of 59.58A. The rated power is only a little above the 30A capacity of the outlet, but the surge power is quite a bit more. Your RV is likely to use a 30A main circuit breaker, which would trip every time the surge current is required, yet the generator wont.
Use a standard household extension cord, plugged into one the 20A outlets on the generator. If, for example, you connected the microwave using an extension cord, instead of the RV outlet, it will run directly off the generator and not through the RV 30A breaker. This will prevent an overload on your RV electric panel.
If you have additional battery standby power for your RV, a 12V battery charging port will also be a great advantage. Similarly, if you’re also using a boat with a marine, or deep cycle leisure battery. You can charge these batteries directly from the generator, eliminating the need for a battery charger.
Fuel Capacity and Runtime
Your runtime, which is the amount of time you can use the portable generator before refilling the gas tank, is relative to the size of your gas tank, the running efficiency of the generator, and how much power you’re using.
It’s obviously more convenient to run the generator for as long as possible on a tank of gas. Generator run-times are always specified at a particular load, usually 25%, 50%, or 100%. This can make it a little confusing when comparing different models. It helps to do a little math, to get a more accurate way of comparing apples to apples. I like to convert the spec into Kilowatt-Hours per Gallon (KWH/G). This equals the playing field. Essentially, you’re looking at how many kilowatts you’re getting for every gallon of gas used, regardless of load percentage or the size of your gas tank.
The 76533 model is listed as providing 9-hours runtime at 50% load from a 3.4 gallon gas tank:
This calculation can be used for any generator and allows you to see exactly how efficient a generator is. The more kilowatt hours per gallon, the less you’ll be spending on fuel.
Obviously, the size of the gas tank will play a significant role in your actual runtime. A very efficient portable generator, with a particularly small gas tank, may save on fuel but will require more frequent filling of the tank.
Typically more than 8-hours on a tank of gas at 50% load is very convenient. If you want to keep your generator running through the night, without having to wake up and fill the gas tank, this should do it. Sleeping with only AC running, would give you more than 10-hours before you need to fill the tank.
Noise in a campsite, particularly at night, is always an issue. So much so, that some campsites forbid the use of generators during certain hours. There are even campsites simply don’t allow generators period.
Since the advent of quiet inverter generators, this has changed. Campsites, forbidding the use of generators, will slowly begin to amend their regulations to allow for quiet generators. So, what exactly is a quiet generator?
Most generator manufacturers now produce inverter generators that are enclosed in a plastic housing. Standards vary, but the best inverter generators have impressive sound insulation that leave them barely audible, especially at lower loads.
To improve matters, these generator usually have an economy mode, which also makes the generator quieter. A switch on the user panel will reduce the RPM when the power requirement is less than 25% of the rated load for that generator. This means that you’ll be using less gas and the generator will run quieter, providing your load demand does not exceed 25% of the maximum rated load spec for that generator.
Generator Size and Portability
A generator that produces more power will be larger and heavier than one that produces less power. The more powerful generator needs a larger engine and alternator to provide the extra power. Additionally, the more powerful generator will need a larger gas tank, as it will use more fuel.
So, as great as it is to have the additional power, you may be limited by the physical size of the generator you’re able to use. Make sure the generator will fit into the RV, or the vehicle you use to transport the generator. Lifting a heavy generator can be a problem for some, so consider this too. A wheel kit can be beneficial for moving the generator around. Finally, you also need to consider how much fuel you’ll need to transport and store.
RV Generator Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Can I plug my RV into a generator?
A: Most RVs have a plug for a generator, and this makes it perfectly safe to do so. You need to make sure that the generator voltage matches the requirements for your RV. You also need to make sure that you use the correct RV cord, rated for the amps that you are drawing.
Q: Can I run my RV air conditioner on battery power?
A: In order to use an air conditioner on battery power, you need an inverter powerful enough to supply the startup and running current for the AC. These inverters are large units and require several deep cycle batteries to provide enough power for the air conditioner. While it is technically possible to run your RV air conditioner on battery power, it is wholly unpractical. A generator is the best way to power an RV air conditioner if no grid power is available.
Q: Can I run my RV generator overnight?
A: Running your RV generator at night, while sleeping, is possible but you need to be aware of certain safety and courtesy factors. For one thing a generator can be quite loud and disturb the rest of the campsite. I’d recommend a quiet inverter generator if you want to use it at night. You also need to make sure that the generator is not close enough to your RV, or that of your neighbors, as carbon monoxide can go undetected whilst everyone is sleeping. You also need to make sure that the generator has sufficient fuel to make it through the night. Running out of fuel can cause more hassles than it’s worth.
Q: Can you run an RV generator while driving?
A: Generally, it is not advisable to use your RV generator whilst driving. However, if your generator is permanently fitted your RV, by a professional RV installer, then it is safe to do so. These generators will have a safe generator compartment and will usually be connected to the RV gas tank. A portable RV generator, that is not professionally installed, will be unsafe.
Q: How many hours does an RV generator last?
A: There are two answers to this question. One will be the lifetime of the generator, the other will be how long can a generator run for on a tank of gas. In terms of generator lifespan, it depends on the quality of the generator and how well it has been maintained. You can expect an RV generator to last for 10,000 hours or more. As for hours runtime, this will also vary, depending on the size of the gas tank and the generator itself. It should be safe to run the generator continuously, if it has a constant fuel supply. RV generator fuel tanks can supply enough gas to keep the generator running for anything from 4 – 20 hours. This will have a lot to do with how much power you’re using. A generator will run for much longer when the load demand is lower.
Q: Is it cheaper to run a generator on Propane or gas?
A: Generally, it is cheaper to use gas to run a generator. In some areas, where gas is much more expensive and propane is relatively cheap, it may be cheaper to use propane. Though in most areas of the US, gas works out the cheapest.
Q: What is considered a quiet generator?
A: A generator is considered quiet when it will not cause a disturbance at a distance of 23-feet. Generator noise levels are measured in dBA. For a reasonable comparison, a normal speaking voice is around 60 - 65dBA. So a generator with a similar noise level would be considered quiet.
Q: Does the generator charge RV battery?
A: If your RV generator has a 12VDC outlet, you could use it to charge your RV battery in an emergency. You will need to first disconnect the battery terminals on your RV battery. Then connect charger cables to the 12VDC outlet on your generator. Start the generator and allow it to run for a sufficient time. The 12VDC outlet on your generator usually supplies 8A, so it can take several hours to charge the RV battery to full capacity if the battery is completely flat.