What type of portable generator do I need to travel on the road?

Choosing the right portable generator for your RV depends upon what your needs will be while boondocking.

Most full-time RV travelers realize the importance of having a generator available as a source of power.  When you leave home or the campsite you are immediately reducing the battery power in your RV even if you are plugged into the tow vehicle.  If you have a newer RV with a Residential Refrigerator, your inverter is running constantly to provide power to keep the fridge cool.  In our situation we added an additional battery to the 5th wheel allowing the fridge to last at least 12 hours before it begins to lose power.

IMG_0002The bare minimum size generator we suggest is a 3,500 Watt generator and that might even be cutting it close. Our champion will run our 15k air conditioning but struggles when we first turn it on.  The surge is close to 4000 watts and can sometimes bog down the generator until it settles down.

Top Rated Gas Powered RV Generators

1. Champion 3100 Watt RV Ready Portable Inverter Generator – Model 75537i

It comes with a wireless remote with a whopping eighty foot range. Turn on the generator so that the air conditioner has already cooled down the RV on your way back from a hike or turn off the generator from a distance as you realize it is still running as you walk away.

The Champion 75537i generator has several RV ready outlets. It has a single 120 volt 30 amp RV outlet. It has two 120 volt 20 amp outlets suitable for smaller appliances and a 12 volt DC outlet. The unit has THD (power distortions) of less than 3%, so it is safe to use to charge your cell phone or laptop or run a smart TV. It puts out enough power to run a major RV air conditioner but little else, but it can run multiple other appliances if you don’t have an energy hog plugged into it.

Champion offers a three year limited warranty through most sellers. When you send it in for service under the warranty, it may take weeks before you get it back. Its lifetime technical support is more a gray area.

2. Champion 3400 Watt Dual Fuel RV Ready Portable Generator – Model 100263

This generator is cheaper than the Champion model 75537i. The biggest advantage of this unit is the ability to conserve propane and burn gasoline; it is also suitable for powering key appliances in your home off of gasoline if there is a power outage or providing power to your cabin.

The Champion 100263 generator runs up to seven and a half hours on a single tank of gasoline. It can run up to 14 and a half hours on a twenty pound propane tank. It automatically shifts to conservation mode when the power load isn’t high, but it lacks a remote to be turned off to save fuel.

The generator has several RV ready outlets. It has a single 120 volt 30 amp RV outlet. It has two 120 volt 20 amp outlets suitable for smaller appliances and a single 12 volt DC outlet. The unit has THD (total harmonic distortion) of less than 3%, so it is safe to use to charge your cell phone or laptop or run TV.

Like other Champion generators, it can take a long time to get it serviced under warranty. One annoyance is trying to get it started when on propane only without additional hardware.

3. Briggs & Stratton 3000 Watt Inverter Generator – Model 30545

Briggs & Stratton 30545 P3000 PowerSmart Series Portable 3000-Watt Inverter Generator with (4) 120-Volt AC Outlets and (1) 12-Volt DC Outlet

Briggs & Stratton sells a cheaper 2200 watt generator that costs less, or you can buy the “power pack” that provides both the 2200 watt and 3000 watt generators with a connector to link them and your RV, home or cabin together. Or you can buy your own parallel cable connector cable for this brand of generators for around $70.

One of the benefits of this generator is the large one and a half gallon fuel tank. It can run your generator for ten hours. It comes with four household outlets for powering that many different items assuming they total up to the load the generator can provide. It comes with a single 12 volt 30 amp outlet (with RV compatible DC charging outlet) and a USB port. While it has a USB port, it doesn’t have the same level of power quality as Champion’s generators.

Note that it is not as efficient as some of the Champion models and cannot be sold in California.

The manufacturer offers a two year limited warranty. Customer service for a Briggs & Stratton RV generator is far worse than that of Champion, since even getting a hold of the company is a challenge.

4. WEN CARB Compliant Inverter Generator 3100 Watt – Model 56310i

This is an affordable generator. It puts out a constant 2800 watts and handles surges of up to 3100 watts.

The WEN brand 56310i generator is CARB compliant – you can buy it and use it if you live in California. It produces clean power with relatively little variation safe for powering your tablets and smart phones. This generator is ideal for a modern family with multiple smart devices, since it has two separate 5V USB ports for charging your devices. In contrast, most generators have only one of those charging ports. It also has a single 120 volt 30 amp receptacle, two 3 prong 120 volt plugs for plugging in standard appliances and a single 12 volt DC plug.

The nearly two gallon gas tank lets it run for up to eight hours. It naturally economizes fuel, but at full load, it will run closer to four to six hours.

This unit is portable. Just pull it along by the convenient carry handle. And unlike the Champion models, you don’t have to lean down awkwardly to drag it by a handle connected to the side of the generator.

The manufacturer provides a basic two year warranty.

5. Westinghouse 2200 Watt Portable Inverter Generator – Model WH2200iXLT

Westinghouse is best known for its power plants and home appliances. The model WH2200iXLT generator continues the company’s tradition for quality. This is one of the lighter generators on this list (43 pounds).

It puts out around 2000 running watts. The unit is EPA and CARB compliant, eco-friendly and legal to sell in California. It lacks an idle or remote to turn it off when not in use, so it is either on or off.

Its fuel tank only holds 1.3 gallons of gas but is so efficient it can run for up to eleven hours. You can connect it to another WH2400i or WH200iXLT inverter generator. The cords to do so are sold separately from the generators.

It comes with 2 USB ports and has less than 3% THD, making it safe to recharge two cell phones simultaneously.

6. Honda 2000 Watt Inverter Generator – Model EU2000i

This Honda EU2000i portable generator only runs on gas. It runs best on premium fuel. If you use other types of gasoline, note that you shouldn’t use fuel with more than 10% ethanol.

It comes with Honda’s three year limited warranty. A common problem with this model is the challenge of starting it up again if it sits idle too long. And you have to pull a cord to start it.

The generator is louder than Honda advertises. You can use it at a campsite or on the RV, but you don’t want it running while the AC is blasting unless you don’t care about the noise.

7. Yamaha 2000 Watts Portable Inverter Generator – Model EF2000iSv2

It puts out 2000 watts at peak load but expect to be able to power 1600 watts worth of appliances off of it when running. In that regard, it isn’t as powerful as most of the inverter generators on this list.

One of the benefits of this generator is that it can be as quiet as 51 dB – the quietest portable generator on this list. It is also lightweight for a generator and compact; this is the ideal choice when you want to take along a generator in case you need it.

This Yamaha EF20001SV2 generator is CARB compliant; it meets California’s strict environmental code. And the unit warns you when it is low on oil. It is also easy to drain dry for storage. One issue owners face is how much oil it consumes.

Don’t use this generator at elevations above 4,000 feet. This warning is in the manual but often not communicated to buyers. And the manufacturer considers the warranty void if you try to install a high altitude kit.

Summary

The Champion model 75537i is a good choice for running multiple appliances or electronics and being able to turn on and off as desired. The model 100263 inverter generator by Champion is the best choice for those who want an RV inverter generator that can power their homes or anything else using whatever fuel they have on hand. The Briggs and Stratton model is the best choice for hooking up with its siblings to power a cabin full of appliances or power an RV with both the AC and TV going. The WEN inverter generator is the best compromise between price and eco-friendliness. The Westinghouse generator is the best choice for those who want a backup generator on the back of the RV or in storage until needed. Honda offers a basic generator whose only drawbacks are using the traditional pull-start and noise. The Yamaha generator is an ideal choice for those who want an RV inverter generator as quiet as possible.

Buying new also has the advantage of having a manufacturer’s warranty.

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