Top generator brands have been supplying durable, quality RV 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.
- 1Champion 100263 - Inverter Generator - 3400 Watts - Dual Fuel
- 2Generac GP3500iO - Inverter Generator - 3500 Watts
- 3Champion 100302 - Inverter Generator - 4000 Watts
- 4Westinghouse iGen4500 - Inverter Generator - 4500 Watts
- 5Briggs & Stratton P3000 - Inverter Generator - 3000 Watts
- 6Champion 76533 - Portable Generator - 4750 Watts - Dual Fuel
- 7DuroMax XP4400E - Portable Generator - 4400 Watts
- 8Pulsar G12KBN - Portable Generator - 12000 Watts - Dual Fuel
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 RV generators that we’re reviewing here – from relatively small units all the way to powerful models.
Because this article is focusing particularly on portable RV 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.
1. Champion 3400-Watt Dual Fuel RV Ready Portable Inverter Generator
If you want to be able to choose between using gas and propane, Champion’s 3,400 watt dual fuel unit is one of the best RV generators you can get for mid-size vehicles and trailers. A long list of features, including an inverter and an electric starter, makes it a great choice for general purpose use.
Champion’s 100263 RV generator has a “dual fuel” engine. That means it can run on gasoline from the built-in tank, or it can be connected to an external propane tank. When using a 20 lb. LPG bottle with the Champion, you can expect it to run for about 14.5 hours at 25% load. The company includes a regulator and hose to connect the bottle. Fill up the generator’s 1.6 gallon gas tank, and it will run for 7.5 hours at the same 25% load. Keep in mind that most manufacturers rate their generators based on a 50% load. Turn on economy mode, and the throttle will adjust automatically to match the current electrical load, reducing fuel consumption.
Outlets include a TT30R socket for RV shore power, a pair of 5-20R 120 volt household sockets, and a 12 volt cigarette lighter outlet. An adapter with two USB outlets is included for the 12 volt outlet. Two of these 3,400 watt portable generators can be connected in parallel, doubling power output. Champion’s parallel cable comes with an additional TT-30R socket and a 14-50R socket. The 100263 comes with a pure sine wave inverter, so it’s safe to use this generator to power electronic devices.
The 100263 inverter generator has an electric starter with a recoil starter for backup. Once running, Champion says this portable generator makes 59 dB of noise at a distance of 23 feet (7 meters) under a 25% load. If you’re running this generator at 50% load from a distance of 30 feet (10 meters), expect the noise level to be closer to 65 dB. Without fuel, the Champion weighs 95.7 lbs. and measures just over 25 x 17 x 18 inches. A handle and wheels are built into the case.
The warranty covers residential owners for three years. If you use this inverter generator commercially, you’re covered for 270 days, which is about 9 months.
2. Generac GP3500iO Open Frame RV Ready Inverter Generator - 3500 Watts
If you’re looking for a small generator for RV use that offers the most power options, the Generac GP3400iO should be on your shopping list. One generator provides more continuous power than most units in this class. Use two of these portable generators together, and you have access to every common type of RV ready socket.
Owners can expect to get 8 hours of run time at 50% load when the 2.37 gallon tank is full. This makes it one of the most fuel efficient power sources you can buy.
Generac claims this inverter generator is “up to 50% quieter” without specifying what it’s quieter than, or even listing a dB rating. This is a hybrid design, which adds plastic panels to an open frame generator to reduce noise. Similar portable generators have a noise level n the mid-60 dB range at 50% load from 30 feet away. Switch on economy mode, and the engine speed adjusts automatically to match the current load, minimizing noise and maximizing fuel efficiency. This RV generator delivers up to 3,000 running watts of power, not far off from the 3,400 starting watts rating. That means you can use more non-reactive loads, including cooking appliances, than other 3,500 watt class generators.
This portable generator has an L5-30R outlet for shore power. Two GP3400iO generators can run in parallel, doubling power. The parallel cable has TT-30R and 14-50R sockets built in, giving you more choices for powering your RV. This Generac also has two 5-20R 120 volt household outlets and two USB ports with a total capacity of three amps. That means you can fast charge one device at a time, or run two one amp devices. A digital hour meter on the outlet panel helps you keep track of maintenance.
The GP3400iO measures 19.3 x 16.9 x 16.4 inches and weighs 74.3 lbs. A wheel kit is available, letting you roll this generator around instead of having to lift it.
Generac offers this inverter generator with a one year residential warranty covering parts and labor, and an additional two years for parts. Commercial and rental users are covered for one year or 1,000 operating hours.
3. Champion 4000-Watt RV Ready DH Series Open Frame Inverter with Quiet Technology
The Champion 100302 is right in the center when it comes to features. It makes decent power, but it’s still reasonably light, and the inverter makes it safe to use with sensitive electronics.
According to Champion, a full gas tank can keep this generator running for 17 hours at ¼ load. Expect run time to be closer to 10 hours when using it at 50% load, the rating used by most manufacturers. Turning on the Eco Mode switch lets the generator adjust the throttle automatically to match the current load. This maximizes fuel economy for longer run times.
The 100302 portable generator comes with a TT-30R outlet for RV shore power. This generator can run in parallel, and unlike most models, this connection doesn’t require identical generators. If you have two Champion generators with parallel connections, they can probably be linked together. The compatible parallel cable has built-in 14-50R and L5-30R outlets, giving you more choices when hooking up your RV or travel trailer. This generator also comes with a pair of 5-20R 120 volt household outlets, a 12 volt cigarette lighter outlet and a 12 volt terminal connector for battery charging. A built-in pure sine wave inverter smooths out power fluctuations, letting this compatible RV generator safely power electronics.
This is an open frame generator, so you would expect it to be loud. Champion says it makes 64 dB of noise at 23 feet under 25% load. This isn’t the quietest unit, but it’s more in line with hybrid generators that use partially covered engines.
The 100302 measures 20.5 x 17.9 x 17.7 inches and weighs 81.6 lbs. It doesn’t come with wheels or a handle, but a kit is available to add these items.
The warranty covers residential owners for three years. If you use this generator commercially, you’re covered for 270 days, which is about 9 months.
4. Westinghouse iGen4500 Super Quiet Portable Inverter Generator - 4500 Watts
Is the Westinghouse iGen4500 really super quiet? Yes, but not surprisingly so. Is it a good choice for an RV generator? Definitely. It has one of the best digital displays on the market, an inverter, and a clever handle system that makes it easy to move around.
A 120 volt TT-30R socket lets you connect this generator directly to your RV for shore power. Two iGen generators can be connected together using a parallel cable. This cable comes with a built-in 14-50R socket that supports both 120 and 240 volt output. The iGen4500 also has a pair of 5-20R household 120 volt outlets and two USB ports that support fast charging up to 2.1 amps. Since this is an inverter generator, the power coming from these outlets is safe to use with electronics. One of the best RV generator in this segment, with it's power output capacity .
This Westinghouse has an electric starter and a recoil start backup you can use if the battery is flat. The digital display on the outlet panel can show the remaining running time based on the load and amount of fuel in the gas tank, as well as power output, fuel level, voltage and operating hours.
Is this portable generator really “super quiet?” Enclosed generators are quiet, but Westinghouse fudges noise levels in their promotional materials, saying it makes just 52 dB at 25% load. Run this generator at 50% load, and you can expect noise levels to be in the high 50s from 30 feet away. That’s about normal for this segment, and far quieter than comparable hybrid and open frame generators. Owners can expect a full tank of gas to keep this generator running for up to 12 hours at 50% load.
This portable generator measures 18 x 10 x 15 ½ inches, and weighs 98 lbs. The extending handle on the bottom of the case lets you roll around this inverter generator like a piece of carry on luggage. There’s also a top-mounted handle that makes the generator easy to tilt back and reach the extending handle.
Westinghouse covers this gas powered generator for three years of residential use.
5. Briggs & Stratton P3000 Power Smart Series Inverter Generator
If you put more emphasis on being outdoors than inside your rig when you’re RV camping, the Briggs & Stratton P3000 is for you. This camping generator has plenty of household outlets to access power outside your recreational vehicle or trailer, making it a great choice for tailgate parties and outdoor living
The P3000 has an L5-30P socket for transferring power to your RV. This generator is also parallel capable. By hooking two generators together, you can double the available power without sacrificing portability. Briggs & Stratton’s parallel cable includes L5-30P and TT-30R outlets, letting you access shore power from a distance. Other ports include four 5-20R household 120 volt sockets, a 12 volt cigarette lighter adapter, and one USB port. The built-in inverter smooths out power fluctuations, making this generator safe to use with electronics.
The built-in digital display shows power output and operation hours. It also reminds you when the generator is due for maintenance, including oil, filter and spark plug changes. If you want clean power, look elsewhere. Unlike other portable generators on this list, the P3000 is not CARB compliant. That means you can’t use it in California or areas that adhere to California’s pollution standards.
Briggs & Stratton says the engine produces 59 dB of noise, measured at 23 feet with a 25% load. Expect noise to be about the same at 30 feet with a 50% load. Run time with a fuel tank is an estimated 10 hours at 25% load. Expect running time to be closer to 6 hours under 50% load.
The P3000 measures 26 x 14 x 21 inches, and weighs 85 lbs. It has wheels and a telescoping handle built into the bottom of the case. With the handle pulled out, you can wheel it around like a travel-on suitcase.
Briggs & Stratton covers this inverter generator with a 24 month for consumer use, and 90 days for commercial users.
6. Champion Power Equipment 76533 4750/3800-Watt Dual Fuel RV Ready Portable Generator
Looking for a flexible mid-range RV generator that gives you options when it comes to outlets and fuel? The Champion 76533 is a dual fuel unit that comes with two sockets suitable for RV shore power.
Choosing a fuel type determines the amount of power the generator produces, and how long it will run. The 3.4 gallon gas tank keeps the engine running for up to 9 hours, under 50% load, while you can expect 10.5 hrs. of run time from a 20 lbs. propane tank. Using propane reduces peak performance by 10% .Unlike most RV generators on this list, the 76533 is not parallel capable.
The noise level officially rated at 68 db. from 23 feet away at 50% load.However, generator reviews written by owners consistently mention this open frame generator is much louder in real world use.
For RV shore power, you have a choice of TT-30R and L5-30R sockets. There are also a pair of 5-20R 120 volt household sockets to power appliances directly. Since the 76533 doesn’t have an inverter, you should avoid using it with electronics. A digital display next to the outlets shows volts, power output frequency and operating hours. This generator has an electric starter with a backup recoil starter. If the oil level gets too low, the generator will shut off automatically to protect the engine.
This wheeled portable generator measures 26.3 x 24.8 x 22.9 inches andweighs119 lbs. Wheels and folding handle come pre-installed, making this generator easier to move around than its weight suggests.
Champion’s warranty covers residential owners for three years. If you use this RV generator commercially, you’re covered for 270 days, which is about 9 months.
7. DuroMax XP4400E 4400 watt 7-Hp RV Grade Gas Generator
If you need 240 volt power source, you’re usually stuck with getting a large, noisy open frame generator. However, if your power needs are modest, the DuroMax XP4400E may be just what you need. Its peak power output of 4,400 watts is enough to power anything outside of a Class A motor home air conditioner. It’s also the only generator on this list to offer GFCI outlets.
DuroMax says its MX2 technology “doubles” amperage. This technology is pure marketing, since amperage is determined by voltage. Any generator will produce twice the amps at 120 volt power than it will at 240 volts. What makes the XP4400E unique is its ability to deliver either 120 or 240 volt power via the L14-30R socket, something rarely seen in portable generators making less than 8,000 watts.Along with this RV ready socket, you get a pair of GFCI protected 5-20R outlets, making it a great choice for powering household appliances outdoors. There’s also a12 volt DC terminal for battery charging. Cables for this terminal is included with the generator.
The 4 gallon tank can keep the engine running for up to 11¾ hours at 50% load, one of the longest run times of any generator on the market. It produces 69 dB of noise at 50% load, which is typical for an open frame generator, and quieter than most 240 volt generators. The engine has an electric starter with a recoil backup. Speaking of work use, the ignition switch requires a key to start. This makes the XP4400E a good choice if you need something that can be used as an RV generator and an event or workplace generator. There’s no hour meter, but you can monitor power output with the analog volt meter on the front panel.
This DuroMax measures 24 x 25 x 21 inches and weighs 127 lbs. A wheel kit is included, but you’ll have to install it yourself. DuroMax also includes a tool set and oil funnel for maintenance.
DuroMax guarantees the XP4400E for three years of residential use or one year of commercial use.
8. Pulsar G12KBN Heavy Duty Portable Dual Fuel Generator - 12000 Watts - Gas & LPG
Is your primary concern powering a big RV air conditioner? The Pulsar G12KBN portable generator can make enough electricity to keep the biggest A/C units running, while having enough power to spare for your recreational vehicle’s appliances. It’s also a great choice if you want something that can be used as both a home backup generator and an RV generator.
When full, the 8 gallon gas tank can keep the engine running for up to 12 hours at 50% load. A built-in fuel gauge lets you keep track of how much gas you have left. Connect the generator to a 20 lb. propane tank, and it will run up to 5 hours at 50% load. A propane hose is included to connect a tank to the engine. Noise is rated at 76 dB under a 50% load, which is high, but not unusual for a large, open frame generator.
For RV shore power, the G12KBN has one L14-30R and one 14-50R socket. Both sockets can provide either 120 or 240 volt power. This generator also has four 120 volt 5-20R sockets to power household appliances. There’s no inverter, which means power fluctuations can burn out electronics plugged into these sockets. A 12 volt DC terminal connector allows battery charging. This generator is transfer switch ready, so you can use it for home backup power as well as RV power. Keep a propane bottle on hand, and you won’t have to worry about the shelf life of your fuel during a blackout.
As you’d expect with a generator this size, it’s electric start only. A digital meter lets you keep track of power output volts, output frequency and hours of operation. There’s also a warning light for low oil. Pulsar includes a tool kit and oil funnel, giving you everything you need to perform regular maintenance.
The G12KBN measures 28.5 x 21 x 22 inches and weighs 209 lbs, which is on the light side for this segment. Large wheels and a folding handle make it relatively easy to move around.
Pulsar provides a 1 year warranty for residential use, but they do not guarantee this generator for commercial or rental use.
From the generator 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 which will help you decide to buy the best RV generator for your power requirements.
Best 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 portable 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 a compatible RV 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 RV 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.