One of the best ways to experience the great outdoors without giving up the luxuries of the modern home is to invest in a travel trailer. But no matter the quality of the travel trailer you have purchased for your on-road adventures, the only way to make the travel trailer camping experience convenient, safe, and fun is by buying a generator.
Even when traveling in remote areas with no electrical power, a travel trailer will not only prevent you from camping in the dark but also keep you safe in the event of a power outage. There is a lot to think about when browsing around for the best generators for travel trailers - factors like portability, fuel efficiency, and power output are just a few of the many considerations.
We have shed some light on the best travel trailer generators so that you won’t feel in the dark about purchasing a new power source.
How Trailer Generators Work
Trailer generators function in the same way as any power generator; they require a fuel source like gasoline, diesel, propane, even solar energy to provide users with a limited amount of power. Once the fuel source is added or connected, you'll then attach the generator to the RV or trailer to let it work its magic. The amount of power a generator can provide depends on its running wattage.
According to the RVing 101 Guide from Trip Savvy, “if you want to know if a portable generator will work for your RV, you will likely need to calculate the amount of power you use in your RV.”
Although ever portable trailer generator has the same ultimate goal, each one differs in fuel source and the amount of power it provides.
Benefits of Owning a Trailer Generators
The obvious advantage of owning a high-quality trailer generator is that you'll never be without power during outdoor adventures. Not all camping sites and RV parks offer full utility hookups, but even if this is the case, you won't have to give up on your creature comforts. With a trailer generator, reliable power is always accessible as long as you have the compatible fuel type on hand.
Portability is one benefit that is specific to this type of generator. Some power generators are not designed for easy transport and storage, but these are. As soon as you invest in a trailer generator, you’ll be able to park anywhere, all while running the appliances and electronics you don’t want to go without.
Choosing Quality Travel Trailer Generator
Power Requirements/Power Needs vs. Power Output/Capacity
The first important factor for trailer generator shopping is power. Every individual or family has a unique set of power needs, and every trailer generator has its unique power output. It's up to you to choose the output you need based on your power consumption.
Portable trailer generators don't offer the same high outputs as whole-house generators, but it's possible to find one with as many as 11,000 watts. The wattage values of this type of generator range anywhere from 3,000W to 11,050W. The higher the wattage, the more appliances you'll be able to run at any given time. A high-watt generator has a higher capacity for producing power.
The best generator for travel trailer use is manufactured with durability in mind. These machines are not meant to stay in one place, which means durability is of the utmost importance. You can trust manufacturers like Ford and Honda to deliver durable products. These companies enhance a generator's durability by using robust materials like heavy-duty steel and polyethylene plastic.
Since a generator is not meant to operate indoors, your new travel trailer power source will spend a good portion of its lifespan outdoors. Since this is considered outdoor gear, only choose a model that is constructed with weather-resistant materials. And always, always consider the build quality of the generator engine before making a purchase. The engine is the lifeblood of the machine, so spending a bit extra on a high-quality 4-stroke engine design is worth it.
Even if you're not the least bit savvy about generators, you'll likely be able to install a travel trailer generator as a DIY project. This is especially true for portable power units that don't serve as permanent fixtures in a trailer or RV. Installing permanent generators is a bit more complicated, so professional installation might be necessary in this case.
Fuel type is one of the most important buying factors for purchasing a generator. No matter what, the generator must be fueled by something, but there are several options to choose from. The most common generator fuel types include diesel, gasoline, propane, and solar energy. Solar energy is the best for the environment, but it’s not as reliable as fuel like diesel, gasoline, and propane (LPG).
Diesel generators are by far the most powerful, but diesel doesn’t come cheap. Gasoline generators are popular for a few reasons: (1) gas is readily available, (2) gas is much cheaper than diesel, and (3) gas is a powerful fuel source. The downside is that handling gasoline comes with a set of risks, plus gas generators are difficult to maintain.
For cleaner-burning, a propane-powered generator is the better choice. Similar to gas, propane is readily available and relatively affordable. It burns cleaner than gas, but the downside is that it burns less efficiently. If you're looking for a versatile generator that doesn't limit your on one fuel type, consider a dual fuel model. These are compatible with both gasoline and propane, so you won't have to choose one or the other.
As we mentioned before, all generators require some type of fuel to operate. Choosing a model that ranks high for fuel efficiency means that refilling on fuel can be done less often. A fuel-efficient generator has a longer runtime, so instead of refilling with diesel, gas, or propane every 6 hours, you might be able to get by with refilling every 12 hours.
There are a few factors that come along with fuel efficiency. The first is tank size (how much diesel/gas/propane can a generator hold at one time), and the second is load capacity. Every generator has a different load capacity. In other words, every generator can handle a different amount of electronics and appliances. You’ll see phrases like “run time of 10 hours on half load”, which means that the generator can run for up to 10 hours while it is powering half of its load capacity.
Operating Noise/Noise Level
Generators can be very noisy, but this doesn't always have to be the case. To keep your outdoor experiences as peaceful as possible, look for a generator that produces the least amount of noise as possible. Generator noise levels are measured in decibels: the lower the decibel value, the lower the noise.
You're unlikely to find anything quieter than an inverter generator, which can be as quiet as 52 decibels. Conventional gas and diesel generators tend to produce the most noise, usually around 69 decibels. To give you an idea of how much noise a generator makes, 52 decibels sounds similar to a running refrigerator, while 69 dB sounds more like a hairdryer on its high setting.
For some people in search of a high-quality generator, portability is not the primary concern. But for those who plan on using this as a power source for a moving travel trailer, portability needs to be at the top of the list. Look for something lightweight and easy to carry, but if that’s not an option due to your power needs, at least find a generator that has rolling transport wheels and a carrying handle.
One of the coolest additional features we've seen with the best generators for travel trailers is the remote start function. This allows a user to start the generator, even from a distance, with the touch of a button. Other handy features include an LCD monitor screen, quick start technology, and economy mode for better fuel efficiency.
EPA & CARB Compliance
All of the generators on this list are compliant with the laws set in place by the Environmental Protection Agency. This means that they meet EPA standards for emissions and waste. Not all generators are compliant with CARB, though. CARB is short for the California Air Resources Board, which provides a strict set of generator regulations that is specific only to the state of California. If you live in Cali, you'll need to find a generator that is compliant with both the EPA and CARB.
Price & Warranty
Just as travel trailer generators range in power output, fuel efficiency, and run time, the same goes for the price. Since generators vary significantly in price, set your budget before you begin shopping around. No matter the price you pay, try to avoid a generator that comes with no warranty coverage. Even the low-cost models come with at least one year of warranty coverage, but the average warranty period is three years.
5 Best Travel Trailer Generators Reviewed
1. Honda Eu7000is
Best Inverter Generator for Travel Trailer
33.4" x 27.6" x 28.4"
18 hrs @ 25% load
52 dB @ 25% load
Our top pick for the best inverter generator for travel trailer and RV use is the Honda Eu7000is. Many reviewers say that a 7000-watt design is the best size generator for a travel trailer, especially if you don't want to give up any of your standard at-home comforts and luxuries. This model can easily power an AC, a refrigerator, and all sorts of small electronics without missing a beat.The thing we love most about this model is the electronic fuel injection feature. This technology means more fuel efficiency, but it also means less maintenance.
There are several high-quality Honda generators to choose from, but this is by far the best Honda generator for travel-trailer use. Even with its powerful 7000W output, the Eu7000is is much quieter than other generators of this size. It has a noise level ranging between 52 and 58 decibels, which is about the same volume as a normal conversation. Even if your neighbors are parked a few meters away, this generator won't cause any disturbances.
Another reason we have ranked this at the #1 spot is the generator's amazing fuel efficiency. It has an impressive fuel capacity of 5.1 gallons, and on a full tank, it can continuously run for 18 hours. The Eco-Throttle system enhances the fuel-efficient design even further, allowing you to save on fuel whenever possible.
Lastly, we love the fact that this travel trailer generator uses inversion technology to produce energy that is much cleaner than what is typically created by a non-inverter generator. The stable, clean power is free from voltage spikes and dips, so you never have to worry about pairing your sensitive electronics with the Eu7000is. The only downside for some buyers is the not-so-budget-friendly price.
2. Champion 46596
Best Generator for Small Travel Trailer
Gasoline, Propane (Dual)
23.2” x 17.5” x 19.6”
12 hrs @ 50% load
68 dB @ 50% load
With half the wattage of the Honda Eu7000is, it makes sense that the Champion 3500-watt 46596 generator is significantly smaller in size. This is the best generator for small travel trailer owners. It may be half the size, but this generator is a fraction of the cost of the Honda. So if you're looking for the best portable generator for travel trailer usage and something that won't break the bank, the Champion model 46596 is a great choice.
This 3500W RV-ready generator comes with dual-fuel technology, which means it's compatible with two types of fuel - propane, and gas. No matter which fuel type you choose, you can count on the powerful 196cc engine to get the job done. With gasoline, you're looking at a 12 hour run time, but you can stretch that even further by connecting the generator to a propane tank.Even though this is advertised as a 3500-watt generator, it has a starting wattage of 4000. The control panel is simple, making this one of the most user-friendly travel trailer generators on the market. So many portable generators struggle to start in cold weather, but this isn’t a problem with the 46596.
“Power up with Champion’s reliable recoil start, plus Cold Start Technology ensures a quick start in cold weather,” says Champion. “Champion also makes it easy to monitor voltage, frequency, and operating hours with Intelligauge.”
At 23 feet, this generator has a noise level of 68 dB, which is a bit on the high side. At this distance, it is about as loud as a vacuum cleaner, but the signature Champion ruggedness makes up for this. The other downside is that this is not available for sale in California (it’s not CARB compliant), but residents of the other 49 states can take advantage of the Champion generator’s small size yet powerful performance.
3. Honda EU3000iS
Best Quiet Generator for Travel Trailer
25.9" x 17.6" x 22.0"
20 hrs @ 25% load
49 dB @ 25% load
If you’re looking for a quiet generator for a travel trailer that won't disrupt your outdoor experiences, check out the Honda Eu3000is. Similar to the Eu7000is Honda generator for travel trailer, this model is backed by the reputable Honda name and thorough 3-year warranty coverage. But this is the best quiet generator for a travel trailer with noise levels measuring as low as 49 decibels.
This decibel level is lower than we’ve ever seen before, and it’s even quieter than the volume of a normal conversation. So how is a powerful 3000W machine capable of making so little noise? It all has to do with the inverter technology. Inverter generators are always quieter than conventional ones, and this is no exception for the Honda Eu3000is inverter.Enough about noise, let's talk about this generator's performance. It is incredibly fuel-efficient with a possible run time of 20 hours on a full tank of 3.4 gallons of gasoline. It comes with an Eco-Throttle setting and advanced inverter technology.
The company says that
“Honda's inverter technology ensures our inverter generators produce power that is as reliable as the power you get from your outlets at home.”
The Eu3000is can power a wide variety of appliances, including a furnace, fridge, microwave, TV, blender, and AC unit. It is the ideal choice for sensitive electronics like laptops and mobile devices since it produces clean, inverted energy. But unfortunately, 3000 watts isn't enough for some, especially if you're traveling with a large travel trailer big enough for the entire family. Some reviewers claim that this generator struggles to power 2 or more major electronics at once, and if that's what you're looking to do, go with the 7000W Honda instead.
4. Pulsar PG4000iSR
Best Generator for 30-Amp Travel Trailer
24” x 18” x 21”
15 hrs @ 50% load
63 dB @ 50% load
The Pulsar PG4000iSR is compatible with 30-amp travel trailer power. It has a starting wattage of 4000, a running wattage of 3500, and this 30-amp generator for travel trailer uses inverter technology to produce only the cleanest energy. This is a versatile and rugged source of alternative power for any occasion, but it has been reviewed as best for travel-trailer use.
The Pulsar company says that with
“up to 12 hours continuous operation on just 3.5 gallons of fuel, the PG4000iSR is both a practical and powerful choice for your next outdoor event.”
This generator comes with a few extra features that make it stand out from the rest, like electric start and remote start. Whether you’re right next to the machine or you’re far away, you can get it up and running with the push of a button.
Another feature we love about the PG4000iSR is its compact design, which makes it the ideal on-the-road power solution. It weighs less than 100 pounds and is equipped with an extendable handle and never-flat wheels for easy transport and storage. Another perk is that this is 100% CARB-compliant, so even residents of California can turn to this power source.
The only recurring complaint from Pulsar customers is that it runs a bit rough when there is very little load placed on the generator. With a load of 25% or less, you might not experience the cleanest energy, which is a bit strange considering this generator uses inversion technology. However, there have been no complaints about energy quality with a medium or heavy load.
5. Ford FG11050PBE
Top Portable Generator for Travel Trailer
Gasoline, Propane (Dual)
23” x 32” x 24”
10 hrs @ 50% load
78 dB @ 50% load
Gas: 11050W, 9000W/Propane: 10050W, 8100W
If power is the main thing you're looking for from your portable generator for a travel trailer, no product compares to the Ford FG11050PBE. In most cases, RV generators for travel trailers stay in the 3000 to 7000W range, but the FG11050 goes above and beyond with a power output of 11050 starting watts. It has a running power of 9000W with gasoline, but it's also compatible with propane. With propane, starting wattage is 10050, and running wattage is 8100.
The 4-stroke single-cylinder engine is protected with air-cooling technology to prevent overheating, and a heavy-duty steel frame surrounds it. The fuel tank has a 6.6-gallon capacity and provides 10 hours of continuous operation on a 50% load. For users who prefer to burn fuel as cleanly as possible, the Ford's Switch & Go technology allows you to seamlessly make the switch from gasoline to propane.
Here’s what the Ford company has to say about this top-selling product:
“Created to power up to 5 major appliances at one time, the Ford FG11050PBE includes 10" no-flat, foam-filled pneumatic tires, fold-down dual handles and digital hour meter, along with GFCI outlet protection with weather beater rubber covers a plus patented an easy-to-read top-mounted, gas gauge that all combine to give credence to the Built Ford Tough warranty…”
If your plans for your travel trailer don’t eliminate any of the appliances you typically use at home, there is no comparison to the Ford generator. But if you’re looking for something more portable and don’t foresee yourself needing this much power, downgrade to a lower-wattage generator.
How Big of a Generator Do I Need for a Travel Trailer?
Sizing your generator is a huge part of the buying process. Many people assume that deciding on what size generator for travel trailer use is a guessing game, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. There is a foolproof method for adequately sizing your generator, and it involves calculating your exact power needs.
Consider the amount of power you’ll be using within your travel trailer, including all major appliances (AC, refrigerator) and small electronics (laptop, phone, GPS device). Each of these requires a certain amount of watts per hour, and these are the values that you'll need to add up to properly size your generator.
A medium-sized AC window unit uses about 900 watts per hour. If you choose a 3,000-watt generator, you’ll easily be able to power your AC as well as a handful of additional electronic devices. For those of you who intend to power several large appliances at a time, you’ll need a larger generator than someone who only plans on powering small devices like phones, laptops, and fans.
Hooking Up a Generator
Some recreational vehicles come with a built-in generator for travel trailer use, but for those that don't, installing a generator is a must. The generator installation process depends on whether you've chosen a portable or permanent unit. Portable generators require very little installation since they are standalone devices that start operating as soon as the fuel is added.
There is, however, some connection involved, and you MUST add oil before operating. Always check the owner's manual of your generator to select the proper oil type. During the hookup process, check to see if the generator is grounded. Electrical grounding is the process of creating a "backup pathway that provides an alternate route for electrical current to follow back to ‘ground’ in the case of a problem in the wiring system.”
Many modern generators are equipped with grounding mechanisms from the manufacturer. It’s not always necessary to ground a generator, especially for small portable models, but it’s still a good idea. Once you’ve confirmed that your generator is grounded, connect the trailer’s connector cable into the portable generator. Then, simply turn the generator on to deliver power to the trailer.
Operating a Travel Trailer Generator Safely
Once assembled, practicing proper safety precautions is a must.
According to the Honda Eu7000is user manual,
“a generator's exhaust contains toxic carbon monoxide, which you cannot see or smell. Breathing carbon monoxide can KILL YOU IN MINUTES.”
To avoid carbon monoxide poisoning, never run the generator indoors and keep it far away from windows, doors, and vents.
Electric shock is another risk that comes along with using a travel trailer generator, but similar to CO poisoning, electric shock can easily be avoided. Keep the generator dry, never connect to an electrical system without professional help, and never connect unidentical generator models for parallel connectivity (using two generators at one time).
Proper maintenance is not just essential for safe generator operation, but it is also the best way to keep your generator running for years down the road. These days, travel trailer generators come with special features that alert the user when maintenance is required. These features include low-oil alerts, overload alarms, and an LCD monitor screen.
The main thing to remember is that a generator requires regular oil changes, which is easier than ever thanks to low-oil alerts that most generators come with. Honda says that “the Oil Alert system will automatically stop the engine before the oil level falls below safe limits. However, to avoid the inconvenience of an unexpected shutdown, check the oil level regularly.”
Frequently Asked Questions
Can generators run while driving? Will it be safe?
"If the generator is propane-fueled then you will need to be aware of state or local laws which may prohibit the use of propane while driving. Certain jurisdictions may have rules against running propane or even carrying propane on board, on certain roads, bridges or tunnels. If the generator is gasoline-powered then you should be sure to fill up the gas tank before driving with the generator on."
Do travel trailer generators have to be grounded?
“You DO NOT need to use an earth 'grounding rod' for any portable generator that's powering a single RV. However, if you're using a large generator to distribute power to several RVs for a rally, that's an entirely different thing which will require a grounding rod."
Will rain ruin a travel trailer generator?
Technically generator manufacturers state that their products are not intended for use in wet weather, but sometimes these conditions are unavoidable. Wet weather adds more risk of electrical shock and electrocution, so it is suggested that you do whatever it takes to keep your generator free from moisture.
But if you MUST operate a generator in wet conditions, there are a few things you can do to enhance safety. The first is to invest in a protective cover that is designed to keep the generator dry, even while it’s raining or snowing. Another option is to purchase a steel enclosure, but this isn’t nearly as portable as a waterproof canopy (like the Champion Storm Shield).
How long do these generators last?
How long can you run a generator continuously?
“In general, generators, as a source of backup power, are not designed to run continuously without end. Some models are made to provide power for up to eight hours, some twelve, and some can run for days on end. However, in no way should you keep your generator running for weeks, months, let alone years without rest.”
How much does it cost to run a travel trailer on a generator?
“The national average price for gasoline right now is about $2.25 and a gas generator will hold between 1 and 10 gallons of fuel…”
What is the difference between a generator and an inverter generator?
For a reliable, efficient, quiet solution to RV and travel trailer power, the go-to choice is the Honda Eu7000is. This generator uses inverter technology and a fuel-injection method for better fuel efficiency than most generators of its class. It has a continuous run time of up to 18 hours with its large 5.1-gallon tank capacity. The only downside is the high price tag.
If you’re looking for a more affordable solution, the Honda Eu3000is is the next best thing. It uses the same inversion technology to produce clean, stable energy, but it’s about half the price. When in doubt, just know that you can’t go wrong with a generator that is backed by the rock-solid Honda name.
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