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Motorhome Generators – How to Choose the Best One for Your Campervan?

Motorhomes are great because you can take them anywhere. But if you are visiting campsites or taking a road trip, you will need portable energy. You shouldn’t limit yourself to gas stations or electric power outlets when you can power your moving home with a generator.

If you are looking to purchase a generator for your motorhome and you are not sure which to get, then this article will be helpful as it contains everything you need to know about motorhome generators.

What is a Motorhome Generator?

What is a Motorhome Generator?

A motorhome generator is a device that helps you charge your motorhome’s outlets to allow you to operate different types of appliances within the vehicle.

There are basically two types of motorhome generators; portable generators and built-in generators.

Why Do You Need a Generator For Your Motorhome?

If you do not have a built-in generator, then you will need to get one. These are some of the major reasons why you would want to have a generator for electrical power.

  • Heavy power usage: Due to the amount of power that heavy appliances require, you might need to utilize RV generators to run them. The running power of some appliances like an air conditioning unit or refrigerators can be quite high and you will need more power.
  • Emergency power: If your primary electric hook up fails, you can utilize camping generators as they provide full mains power of 24ov, which you can use to power the motorhome.
  • Outdoor events: If you are planning on going camping or having an outdoor party, then you will need an RV generator. Most power generators have enough power for charging devices, powering sound systems, TVs, and other devices.

What Types of Motorhome Generators Are Out There?

What Types of Motorhome Generators Are Out There?

There are various types of motorhome generators and these include:

  • Diesel: Diesel generators tend to be the most powerful types of motorhome generators. They are more robust and have enough power to meet the running wattage required by appliances in a motorhome.
  • Petrol: Petrol generators are the most common types of motorhome generators and are usually fueled by the gasoline from the RV’s fuel tank. These generators are budget friendly and easy to maintain.
  • Propane: Propane generators require liquid propane gas to run and they are usually cleaner and quieter than gasoline generators. Propane can be found at many campsites.
  • Solar panels: A solar panel can also be used as a form of power for your motorhome but it doesn’t pack as much power as a portable generator.
  • Electric: Electric generators provide you with clean and stable power. There are lots of electric generators that have the correct adapter to generate clean energy.
  • Combine two types of fuel: These are hybrid generators and they usually combine two types of fuel like diesel, propane, or gasoline to offer extended run times and flexibility.

Conventional vs Inverter Generator?

The conventional generator uses gasoline to power up your motorhome. It can deliver more power to run all your appliances like sound systems, AC, and so much more.

Inverter generators come with usually have a reduced size and less noise and fuel consumption. A generator with inverter technology can protect sensitive electronics from power surges that would otherwise damage them. It also has an automatic low oil shutdown feature that protects the engine.


Built-in generators are ones that sit inside your RV and power the vehicle. It is hardwired into the motorhome’s electrical system. It has enough AC outlets and USB outlets to power multiple appliances.

Portable generators pack less power than their built-in counterparts but they can be easily placed some feet away from your motorhome and still be maintained and accessed. A portable generator is ideal for a small motorhome.

Pros and Cons of Having a Motorhome Generator Onboard

Pros and Cons of Having a Motorhome Generator Onboard

Having a motorhome generator comes with its benefits and downsides. These are what you should expect:


  • Convenience: Whether you are camping off-grid or boondocking, the availability of a portable generator allows you to generate electricity whenever you need it.
  • Power on Demand: Many motorhomes come with more than just a few lights. A portable generator is very capable of powering your heavy appliances and equipment, for example, hair dryers, ovens, and air conditioners.
  • Independence: RV generators make you feel more independent as you don’t need to rely on an electric hook-up because you can generate your power.
  • Emergency Backup: If you experience a power failure, then having a generator comes in handy as it provides backup power for you and your fellow campers.


  • Cost: If you are looking to get a powerful and big size generator, then it can be quite expensive.
  • Noise: Motorhome generators without noise-reducing enclosures can be very noisy and impact your camping experience.
  • Fuel Consumption: Some RV generators require a fuel source and this would cost you money and a bit of mobility every time you stop to refuel.
  • Maintenance: Your motorhome generator would require that you maintain it regularly, and this could increase the cost of owning one.
  • Space to store it: Portable generators can be a bit bulky and would require a dedicated space of their own.

What is the Motorhome Generator Capacity?

The power capacity of your motorhome generator would depend on the model and make. The ideal capacity for your RV depends on factors like noise level and the size of your motorhome.

Most generators would have a watt range between 3000 to 4000, whilst others can be between 2000 to 12000 watts.

What Size Generator Do You Need To Run a Motorhome?

What Size Generator Do You Need To Run a Motorhome?

Most generators with a power capacity of about 3000 to 4000 watts will be sufficient to power a motorhome.

However, the generator size you will require for the power needs in your motorhome depends on the power output of the multiple appliances you run like air conditioners and microwave ovens.

A few factors to consider to purchase the right size generator include:


Watts measures the power output capacity of a motorhome generator. If you are going for a small motorhome, 1000 – 2000 watts is enough to power your appliances. However, for motorhomes with common appliances like an air conditioner, water heater, or microwave, 3,000 to 4,00o watts of electricity is needed.

How Do You Calculate Watt Usage?

To calculate how many watts an appliance uses;

Watts x Run Time = Watts usage

Example: If your microwave oven has a wattage of 500 watts, and you use it for just 30 minutes, what is the watt usage?

Based on the formula listed above;

(convert the minutes to hours; 30 mins = 0.5 hours)

500 x 0.5= 250

This means you need at least a motorhome generator of 250Wh capacity to power your oven.


Volts are used to measure the force at which the electricity flows. Every appliance has its own voltage, so you need to be certain that the motorhome generator you choose will provide the right voltage output to match the needs of your appliances.


Knowing the amperage of your generator is essential to ensure it can handle all the combined load without maxing out its capacity.

How Much Power Do Some Of The Main Motorhomes Appliances and Devices Need?

9 MinHow Much Power Do Some Of The Main Motorhomes Appliances and Devices Need?

Typically, the watts of an appliance is usually indicated by the manufacturers, that way you are certain of the ideal capacity your generator should have.

Knowing the amount of power used by your motorhome appliances will help you when making a choice.

Some of the appliances you’ll find in most campervans or caravans include;

  • Air conditioner: 1,000 to 3,500 watts
  • Refrigerators: 100 to 400 watts
  • Water pump: 10 to 100 watts
  • Water heater: 1,200 to 1,500 watts
  • Hairdryer: 1,250 to 1,900 watts
  • Vent fans: 15 to 75 watts
  • Television: 150 to 350 watts

How Much Power Do Different Classes of Motorhomes Need?

Class A Motorhomes

Class A motorhomes are the most spacious models of rvs, and they need more energy capacity due to their size and luxury appliances. Most class a motorhomes feature multiple slideouts, extensive electrical appliances, microwaves, and full bathrooms.

Ideally, 5,000 to 15,000 watts is enough for class a motorhomes, but you might need more depending on the appliances and features installed. So, make sure to double check all the appliances in your rv, so you can buy a suitable generator.

Class B Motorhomes

Class B motorhomes often referred to as campervans are smaller in size, hence have lesser power requirements. They already have basic amenities like a compact kitchen and bathroom, hence their power needs range from 1,000 to 3,000 watts.

Class C Motorhomes

Class C motorhomes are a more compact version of larger bus-style models. They are medium-sized motorhomes built on a truck or van chassis and often feature a sleeping area above the driver’s cab

The power requirements for class c motorhomes can vary from 3,000 to 8,000 watts, depending on the size and installed appliances.

Keep in mind that the figures listed above might vary based on usage pattern and specific equipment.

How to Choose the Right Motorhome Generator For Your Needs?

How to Choose the Right Motorhome Generator For Your Needs?

When you are looking to get the best portable generator for your motorhome, there are certain things to look out for. These are factors and questions to ask when choosing your power supply:

Noise Level

The noise level is also an important factor that campervan owners should put into consideration. Motorhome generators with inverter technology have less noise and fuel consumption.

Fuel Type

Does your fuel type matter? Of course, it does. There are two most common fuel types for generators; petrol and propane. Consider the cost, storage requirement, and availability of the two options, to find out which suits your preference more.


If you have limited transport capacity in your caravan, then you must consider the weight and dimension of any generator you wish to buy. There has to be enough room, or else, it may be difficult to fit in. So, portability is a factor to consider.

Generally, portable generators are more lightweight compared to built-in generators, so you might want to consider that.

Compatibility with Electrical System

Some motorhomes have 120v AC system and others 240v, or sometimes a combination of both. Ensure that the generator’s voltage output is compatible with that of your motorhome’s electrical system.

Does It Have to Conform to EU5 or EU6 Standards?

The requirements for using a generator that conforms to EU5 or EU6 standards depend on your region. If you are getting your motorhome generator permanently installed in countries within Europe, then it’s best to select a generator that complies with the regulations.

How Much Does A Generator For A Motorhome Cost?

The cost of a generator will vary based on different factors like the type of generator, power outputs, shelf life, and the brand.

A portable generator is a more affordable option than an onboard or built-in generator. The price can range from $200 to $2000. And models with watts of 5,000 and above will cost about $3,000.

Inverter generators are known for their low noise and their price ranges from $500 to $4,000. While onboard generators are designed to be permanently installed in a motorhome, the price can start from $1,000 to $10,000 depending on the size and quality.

How Long Does A Generator Last In A Motorhome?

It’s challenging to determine the exact lifespan of RV generators because various factors need to be considered.

RV generators last between 10,000 to 25,000 hours of operation, so running your RV generator for 5 hours every day means you’ll get up to 12 years of usage.

The factors that might affect the lifespan of an RV generator include; usage patterns, quality of the generator, maintenance, and operating conditions.

How Much Do Motorhome Generators Weigh?

Portable generators typically weigh between 50 to 400 pounds, while inverter generators weigh anywhere from 20 to 100 pounds.

Onboard generators are usually larger in size and their weight can range from 100 pounds to over 400 pounds.

How Long Can A Motorhome Generator Run?

If maintained properly, inbuilt generators can run for days. So, if you are planning a travel trip with your friends and you intend to use a generator all day, make sure it’s properly serviced for optimum performance.

However, for portable generators, the average run time is between 8 – 20 hours.

Is It Ok To Run A Generator For Days?

While it may be okay to run your generator for several days, it shouldn’t exceed the 500 hours limit recommended by most manufacturers.

You need to turn off the generator periodically to allow the engine to cool down and perform basic maintenance tasks.

Can You Run A Motorhome Generator All Night?

Yes, it’s safe to run an RV generator all night, although it might use up more fuel compared to when it’s on during daylight hours.

However, if you intend to leave your generator on all night while on a road trip, ensure that the vents are closed, and there’s proper ventilation. Also, follow all the safety precautions mentioned in the user manual.

Does A Motorhome Generator Require Maintenance?

Yes, absolutely. Without constant maintenance, your generator will not perform at its best. To enjoy your generator to the fullest, you need to always check the hour meter to know when it’s due for either an oil change or an air filter change.

Other maintenance inspections you need to do regularly include; battery check-ups, spark plug replacement, and fuel system checks.

Can A Motorhome Generator Be Repaired?

Yes, a motorhome generator can be fixed by qualified mechanics. Most times, the problems of rv generators are easy to repair, and if it involves minor issues like fixing loose connections or changing the spark plug, it can easily be done by the owner.

How To Connect The Motorhome Generator?

Connecting a portable generator to your RV is pretty easy; here’s what to do in three steps;

  • Choose an open area to set up the portable generator
  • Prepare your extension cord and power on the generator. Remember not to plug in the extension cable before powering the generator
  • After the generator is up and running, plug in the power cord.


RV generator is a necessary investment especially if you enjoy going for road trips, and you have a lot of appliances.

This article should help you determine how to choose the right size generator that can physically fit into your rv, and power all your appliances.

So, whether you are buying a portable generator or installing an inbuilt generator, do your research and consider all factors.


Can You Run a Motorhome Generator While Sleeping?

It is advisable to turn off your fossil fuel generator as it is a fire hazard and could also expose you to harmful gases. If you want to leave it on, then follow the right safety guidelines.

Can You Run a Generator While Driving?

You can run your generator while driving without any concerns as it also allows you to power your appliances and equipment.

Are motorhome generators loud?

The answer to this depends on the model you have. There are some motorhome generators with noise-reduction technology, and some are considered loud as well.

Can you run a generator in the rain?

Electricity and rain don’t go hand in hand, so you shouldn’t run your RV generator while it is raining or in overly damp conditions.

Does the generator charge the house batteries in a motorhome?

You can use your RV generator to charge the leisure battery in your motorhome, especially if it can deep charge.

Can You Run an RV Generator While Plugged Into Shore Power?

With the right setup, you can run your RV generator while plugged into shore power. However, the shore power would not connect.

2 thoughts on “Motorhome Generators – How to Choose the Best One for Your Campervan?

  1. I’m planning on moving into a tent for a year but want to have my TV what cost am I looking at for a generator to run this I am not rich and I am doing this because I need to try save money so paying £200+ is a lot of money at the moment can I get this cheaper

    1. You could risk it with a second hand one but sounds like you’d be short on space and tools to maintain/fix it. You would only need quite a small one for running a tv + charging devices.

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