What Size Generator for a 30 Amp RV (with 5 GREAT options)


If you are new to RV camping, there are certain things that you need to know. For instance, what size generator will you need for a 30 amp RV? I have the answer for that question along with 5 great options!  

A 3,000-watt generator will power most 30-amp RVs, including the AC unit with no problem. I ultimately decided to buy the Champion 4500-watt dual fuel portable generator and I consider it to be the best quality for your money. This particular model is RV-ready, comes with an electric start, and is super quiet.

Now that you know what size of generator you need, make sure to check out my review of the Champion generator, along with 4 other models that I recommend you take a look at. I also included a helpful buying guide at the end of this article to help assist you in your buying decision.

By the way, as an Amazon Associate, I earn when buying qualified products through links on my site.

best portable generator for 30 amp rv

What Size Of Generator Is Necessary For a 30-AMP RV?

To be able to power a standard RV AC Unit as well as a few other devices, you need a 3000-watt generator.

Most 30 amp RVs have 13,500 BTU Air conditioning units (most common type on travel trailers). This means that you shouldn’t have any problem powering your AC unit with a 3,000-watt generator.

With that being said, you’re probably not going to power much else while your AC is running. You might be able to get away with a light and possibly a TV, but you can forget about the microwave. 3000W is the minimum if you want to have minimal devices powered while your AC is running.

A bigger generator is not necessarily better, read on to find out why.

Buying Guide: What to Look For In a 30 Amp Generator

I appreciated this video that gives some useful tips, some of which I incorporated in the purchase of my generator.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=embed/nRRczBsPdP8

Why You Should Always Opt for an Inverter Generator

Without getting too techie on you, the biggest reason in my opinion for you to go with an inverter generator for your RV is that they are super quiet when compared to your standard generator.

In fact, all of the generators that we recommend are inverter generators. I would never recommend a conventional generator for RV campers and you shouldn’t think about buying one! That is unless you want to be “that guy” at the campground who is disturbing your fellow campers and wildlife with your regular generator.

Their reduced silence is due to combining an inverter and the engine into a single unit. The inverter allows the alternator to maintain its output voltage regardless of its load. This means you get a generator that’s not only quiet but much more fuel-efficient.

This type of generator also produces energy that’s clean enough for running all of your modern devices such as computers, TVs, and video game consoles.

Inverter generators provide both Alternating Current (AC) and Direct Current (DC) power, so you won’t have a problem running everything on your RV (not necessarily all at once though).

Bigger Is Not Always Better When It Comes to RV Generators

Sure, you could always get a larger watt generator, but then you run into the ease of portability factor, not to mention a cost factor.

Another option would be to buy two smaller generators and basically combine them into one unit with a parallel cable.

Now, you may be asking yourself why on Earth would I buy two generators when I can buy one that will do the job. That’s a good question and one that I asked myself.

There are actually several reasons!

One is due to weight. A 3,000-watt generator such as the Champion that I purchased weighs almost 100 pounds empty, the same brand in a 2,000-watt model only weighs 48.5 lbs. Now I’m no mathematician, but I know that lugging around a 50 lb generator is a lot easier than trying to move one that’s twice as heavy.

Another reason may be that you want to leave the RV at home and go tent camping. (in the market for a tent? Check out our article about tents that will suit your needs here.) In this case, a 2,000-watt unit is more than sufficient and also much more manageable than a larger generator.

Additionally, you can make your fuel go farther if you are only burning what you need. A 3000W generator will burn more fuel than a 2000W generator (all other factors equal)--so if you only need the 2nd generator when you need some AC, then you can save some long-term fuel costs.

However, the biggest reason to go with the dual generator is the price per watt. For about the same price (in some cases a little less), you can get more wattage by purchasing two smaller 2,000-watt generators than if you were to purchase one 3,000 watt generator. This really depends on the model, but it does math out in several circumstances.

What Brand of Generator is Best for Camping?

After a lot of research and comparing my options, I decided to go with the Champion 4500W generator.

I’m gonna be completely honest with you! While I love my Champion generator, if I had the money to spend, I would have gone with a Honda or Yamaha generator.

If you know anything about small engines, then you know that you can’t go wrong with either! However, a Honda 3,000 watt inverter generator will set you back around $2800+ dollars. The same goes for a Yamaha!

I ultimately decided on going with the Champion after my dad (an RV park manager) told me about a few of the regular campers raving about their Champion generators. Knowing that and that they cost about half the price of the more expensive brands really sold me.

Now I know that you may be tempted into buying a cheaper generator at your local Harbor Freight, but I highly discourage this! Especially if you plan on getting lots of use out of it. I came close to falling prey to a lesser quality generator, but I’m glad I didn’t.

One last thing…with a more reputable brand, you’re going to get a better warranty in most cases. My Champion came with a 3-year limited warranty and I believe Honda and Yamaha both have 2-year warranties.

Portable generators are like most anything else in life in that you get what you pay for!

Will The Generator Run The Same at High Altitudes

This would never have even crossed my mind if I hadn’t done some research on generators before I decided which one to buy. While this doesn’t really apply to me since I live in Florida and do most of my camping in the Sunshine State, it’s a legitimate question for a good portion of the country.

When it comes to whether a generator will run at higher elevations, the answer is yes they will. However, you or a service tech will have to adjust its fuel to oxygen ratio. As we all know there is less oxygen in the air at higher elevations. As the air is less dense, less fuel is burned in the compression cycle, so adjusting the carburetor to run lean is a must in order for the generator to run properly.

With that being said, you’ll probably get less power out of the generator due to this, but it should run just about everything on your RV. If in doubt, ask your local dealer or contact the manufacturer to see what they say.

If you’re going to be lower than 4,000 ft above sea level, chances are you don’t have anything to worry about. If you plan on camping in higher elevations than that, you will probably need to make the adjustment.

While you can do this yourself, if you’re not comfortable working on small engines, I suggest that you let someone who knows what they’re doing handle it for you.

Other Features That You Should Consider or Buy Separate

  • BOOST POWER – If possible, opt for a unit that has boost power control. This extra feature will sense when more power is needed from your generator to start AC units, power tools, and more. This will put less stress on your motors, which will increase their life expectancy.
  • ECONOMY MODE – A generator that comes with an economy mode really make a difference in how well your machine runs. It works by determining how much power is required in a given moment and slows the engine down as needed. As the electrical load of the engine is reduced, the engine automatically idles lower allowing for quieter, more efficient machine. This includes extended engine life as well as a higher fuel economy.
  • FUEL ECONOMY – While a portable generator that comes with an economy mode can save some gas, you still want to opt for a generator that has really good run time on a single tank of gas. The last thing that you want to do is have to refill your tank at 4 am when it’s freezing outside.
  • BUY A COVER – This is not a feature that most generators come with, but it’s an accessory that I highly recommend that you buy, especially if you plan on keeping your generator outside, which I also recommend. If you do decide to buy a cover for your generator, do yourself a favor and don’t buy one with the brand name on it! This is basically a big bright sign to thieves saying, “please come and steal me--I’m packed up and ready to go!”
  • RV OUTLET PLUG – Another way to save yourself a little frustration, not to mention money is to make sure your generator comes equipped with a standard travel-ready 30 AMP RV outlet. If it doesn’t, then you’ll have to purchase an adapter.
  • MAGNETIC DIPSTICK – I actually got this tip from a YouTuber. A magnetic dipstick will run you less than $20 bucks in most cases, but can potentially save you thousands by picking up any small metal fragments that may find their way into your oil tank/engine.
  • PARALLEL CAPABLE – Let’s say that you already have a 2,000 watt parallel ready generator, but need at least 3,000 watts to run the AC on your new travel trailer. There’s no need in going out and spending a $1,000 when you can spend half of that and purchase another 2,000 watt generator and have 4,000 watts of power. However, you will need an inverter generator parallel kit.
  • DUAL FUEL – It’s impossible to know all the situations you might use your generator – most likely just for your RV--but if there’s a time when you can’t get gasoline, dual-fuel generators have the tremendous benefit of supporting propane or gasoline. (If you’re curious about the efficiency and power of both fuels, check out our article, here.)

Reviews: Best Generators for 30 AMP RV

Champion 4,500 Watt Dual Fuel Inverter Generator

You can check out the 4500 watt generator here.

The Champion 4,500 watt generator in my opinion is the best inverter generator for the money being sold on the market today and it easily clears the 3000 Watt limit!

(As a note, the previous model of this was 3400W, but it is no longer being sold. This 4500W version has the same features and weighs the same)

It has many of the same features as the more expensive brands and is roughly half the price.

The biggest difference in a Champion and say a Honda is that Champion Power Equipment has only been around since 2003, while Honda has been around for many years and has developed a solid reputation for quality and dependability.

With that being said, Champion is quickly building a solid reputation of its own!

The Champion 4500-Watt Dual Fuel portable generator comes with an electric start, gives you the option of using either gas or propane, and has a run time of around 8 hours on a full tank of gas depending on the load. The Dual fuel option is something that no other generator on this list has.

The specs for this generator state that it can run 14.5 hours on a 20 lb propane tank at 25% load. I have yet to use propane, so I can’t verify this information.

The Champion is packed with 4,500 watts of starting power and has a whopping 3,100 watts of running power, which is plenty to run most 13,500 btu ac units. The Smart Economy Mode regulates the power depending on the load, allowing for more efficient energy use. This feature not only saves fuel (which means a longer run time), but it will also help to extend the life of the generator. Like the Honda, the Champion produces clean power, so running all your sensitive electronics won’t be a problem.

As with most inverter generators, the Champion is super quiet, maxing out at less than 60 decibels at 23 feet away, making it perfect for RV camping.

While this generator has just about everything that you would want in a portable inverter generator, it doesn’t win any points when it comes to weight. It weighs almost 100lbs! However, the good people at Champion must have realized this because they equipped this particular model with a folding handle and two solid wheels.

It may be a chore in getting it out of your truck bed, but once on the ground, it’s pretty easy to get it from point a to point b.

With all the features and positives that the Champion has to offer, the biggest selling point for me was its price! It comes with everything that the Honda comes with and then some, but yet it’s about half the cost.

Assuming it can withstand years of use, it will be right up there with Honda and Yamaha when it comes to portable generators for camping.

View on Amazon


Honda Handi EU 3,000 Watt Inverter Generator

You can find the Honda Handi generator HERE on Amazon.

Although I ended up going with a Champion for my inverter generator, if you can afford it, I highly recommend that you go with a Honda! While I love my Champion so far, Honda has been in the business for a long time and has a proven track record for being the best.

The Honda 3,000 watt inverter generator is no exception! With 3,000 watts of starting power and 2800 watts of running power, this thing is packed with enough power to run 99% of RV campers and trailers, including their ac units.

While a little on the heavier side (almost 80 lbs), it’s still one of the lighter generators in the 3,000 watt class. However, its super convenient folding handle and two wheels, make lugging this bad boy around, a breeze.

A quiet, fuel-efficient generator is what it’s all about when RV camping in the boondocks. The Honda will not let you down. At 57-65 decibels, the Honda Handi is quieter than most vacuum cleaners and can run up to 8 hours on a single tank of gas, depending on the load.

Another feature that this particular generator has, while not a necessity, but can make life much easier, is an electric start. You can also buy an aftermarket kit that can turn it into a wireless start generator.

The Honda is also parallel capable. Although you really don’t need the extra power to run a 30 amp RV, you could technically purchase two Honda Handi 3,000 watt generators and parallel them together for a combined 6,000 watts of power.

This particular Honda model generator comes (some generators don’t) with a starting battery, so it’s pretty much ready to go right out of the box. However, there is one thing that you may need to be aware of.

Through my research of this particular brand, I discovered that due to safety reasons during shipping (I assume), Honda disconnects the electric start wires to the battery, so you might have to open the front panel and reconnect the electric start wires to the battery. Otherwise your electric start won’t work.

View on Amazon


Yamaha EF3000iSEB 3000 watt Portable Generator

You can find this Yamaha generator at ACME tools, here.

Like Honda, Yamaha has been around for a while and has an outstanding reputation for quality and dependability when it comes to small engines, including generators.

The EF3000iSEB is no exception!

For starters, the Yamaha is built with sound-reducing material in key places, helping make it one of the quietest generators on the market. At only 53-60 decibels, you can be sure that you won’t annoy your camping neighbors or scare off all the wildlife with this generator.

It comes with an electric and pulls start and according to the manufacturer’s website, can run up to 19 hours on a single tank of gas. I have not had the pleasure to validate this claim, but there are several Amazon reviews from actual people who have purchased this unit who back that statement up. I would say that you’re definitely good up to 10 hours or so on one tank, depending on your load.

This next feature is critical for all RV generators in my opinion! If you have a 30 amp RV with a 13,500 BTU AC unit and are thinking about buying a 3,000-watt generator to run it, make sure that it has some sort of energy boost.

The Yamaha EF3000iSEB has just that. It’s what the EB stands for. As I’m sure you know, AC units can sometimes need a little extra kick in the butt to get started, and sometimes 3,000 watts may not be enough. If you have a generator such as the Yamaha that has an energy boost, then you have nothing to worry about.

The energy boost feature will draw extra energy from the battery in order to pump out an extra 500 watts of power when you need it the most (like starting an AC unit). While this extra boost only lasts for about 10 seconds, it’s usually enough time to get the job done.

As I mentioned above, the Yamaha comes with both an electric start and a pull start. You can also order a wireless remote start if you want to.

With all of these great features, you would think that the EF3000iSEB was just about perfect! Well almost, but there are a few things that I didn’t like, which is why it came in at number three on this list.

For one, it’s extremely heavy! Weighing in at 150 pounds, it’s the heaviest portable generator on the list. This might not be a problem if you’re a strapping young man, but if you are a retiree, this could be a real deal-breaker. Heck, I’m in my mid-thirties and in pretty good shape and this would cause me to take a second look.

Oh, and if it being super heavy wasn’t enough, it doesn’t come with a handle like the previous two generators, and the wheels on it are fixed and don’t swivel.

However, the biggest issue that I had is that it’s not parallel capable, so you are limited to the 2,800 running watts.

Overall, if you can overlook the “size thing”, and don’t need more than 2,800 running watts, this would make a great portable generator for a 30 amp RV.

View on Acme Tools


Champion 2000 Watt Stackable Portable Inverter Generator

You can find the Champion 2000W parallel (stackable) generator, here)

Since I’ve been talking about “parallel capabilities”, I decided to include a smaller watt generator that when paired with another has more or equal power as a single unit.

Once again, a Champion generator made our list! Partly due to its stackable capabilities, but mostly for the quality and price.

Champion 73536i comes with 1700 running watts and 2,000 starting watts, but when run parallel with another unit, doubles to 3400 running watts and 4,000 starting watts.

So, if you were to compare that to the other Champion that we have on our list, you are getting more wattage and are paying roughly the same price.

The Champion 100692 is super quiet, emitting only 53 decibels from 23 feet away making it another great option for all you boondockers who enjoy your piece and quiet.

This unit has everything else that the larger generators on this list have, such as clean power for all your electronics, an economy mode, which I’m sure you know by now can greatly reduce the electrical load, and give you longer running times on a single tank of gas. For the most part though, you can expect to get about 9.5 hours on a tank of gas.

Oh, and since this particular model caters to those who want to pair two generators together--you can optionally buy a parallel kit here with a power cable here.

The Champion stackable generator weighs only about 39 pounds, making it a cinch to carry around and as its name suggests, conveniently stacks on another Champion stackable generator. This is a real space saver!

If there was one thing that I didn’t like about this generator, it’s that it doesn’t come with any type of power boost technology. However, with the extra power that you get from two units running parallel with each other, getting your ac unit to start shouldn’t be a problem.

So, whether you want to run two units together to power your 30 amp RV, or only use one when you go tent camping, the Champion Stackable generator is a great option.

View on Amazon


WEN 3800 Watt RV-Ready Portable Inverter Generator

You can find the WEN 3800 Generator, here on Amazon.

WEN 56380i-RV is a super quiet 3800-watt RV-ready portable generator, that for the price should live up to your expectations. In fact, there are multiple reviews from people who swear that the WEN is virtually a Yamaha clone. They say that both engines are made in China and that their wiring diagrams are virtually the same. If that’s the case, you are truly getting a bargain buying a WEN.

This particular WEN model has 3,800 watts of starting power and 3,400 watts of running power. As with all inverter generators, the power that it puts out is completely safe for you to run your laptop, TV, phone charger, etc.

The WEN comes RV ready with a 30 amp socket and can run your standard 13,500 btu AC unit.

The 56380i-RV is super quiet, registering in at only 57 decibels when running at about a quarter load. It’s super fuel efficient due to its Eco-Mode feature, however, it doesn’t come with any type of energy boost capability.

With this generator, you can expect to get about 7.5 hours on a single tank of gas when running at about half its load capacity.

While the WEN is not the lightest generator (99 lbs) on the list, it has a convenient folding handle and wheels make the process of moving it just a little bit easier.

If you want, you can also pair this generator with another of the same make and model, since it’s “parallel capable.”

Other than the fact that the WEN doesn’t have energy boost capabilities, the only other thing that I was a little turned off by was that it didn’t have an electric start. However, for the cost, I guess you really can’t complain too much.

I have to admit, I was a little skeptical about including this generator on the list, but after doing extensive research on it and seeing that it has a 4.5-star rating on Amazon with over 500 reviews, I felt a lot better about my decision.

View on Amazon


Need a Generator For Your 50-AMP RV?

If you are looking for a generator for your 50-AMP Rv, make sure and check out our article, here!

I’m sure that there is a ton of stuff that I’m forgetting to include or just flat out don’t know! I never claim to be an expert, especially when it comes to any type of power equipment. The information in this article is what I learned after doing research on what the best size generator for my 30 amp RV was.

I learned a lot from this experience and hope that this information can help other campers who are looking for a portable generator.

Peter

Peter is a software developer who loves to take every opportunity to go outside that he can get. Peter grew up going on long backpacking excursions with his family every Summer and now enjoys staying at the beautiful Texas State Parks and swimming in the amazing Texas Rivers.

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