What Size Generator Do I Need To Run My 50 Amp RV (And What To Look For)

One of the greatest things about owning an RV is the excitement of discovering new places.

Heading out into the wilderness, and finding a spot under the stars to call home for the night. But you can’t do that if you don’t have the right generator.

Many modern RVs need a 50 amp service, which not every campsite provides.

What Size Generator Do I Need To Run My 50 Amp RV (And What To Look For)

When you park up and only find a 30 amp hookup available, you lose all the incredible functions your RV has to offer. Rather than sitting miserably in the dark, a generator can get you up and running.

The right generator to run a 50 amp RV needs to be 4000 watts at a minimum. However, you shouldn’t just choose the biggest generator available. Finding the right size is about understanding your own power usage, and choosing a wattage to match.

What Size Generator Is Needed To Run A 50 Amp RV?

It’s tempting to go out and buy the largest generator possible, so you never have to worry about power again. However, this is a waste of money and space, and you’re likely to regret it.

Instead, choose a generator between 4000 and 8000 watts, depending on the appliances you use.

To find out which size is perfect for you, here are some things to consider:

How Many Watts Can A 50 Amp Service Provide?

To get a baseline for what size generator you need, it’s useful to know what a 50 amp service can actually provide. The maximum wattage from a 50 amp service is 12,000 watts. This is a pretty big number, and a significant step up from the 30 amp service.

To find the maximum wattage provided is simple: amps x volts. A 50 amp service is two 120 volt hot wires. So, 50 x 240 = 12,000. 

Now, your initial reaction might be to buy a 12,000 watt generator. But this would likely be too much. Your RV isn’t going to need 12,000 watts at a single moment, which means you’ve wasted money on a bulky generator that is never used to full capacity.

What Are Your Wattage Needs?

The generator needs to deal with two types of power: starting watts and running watts. That means the generator can keep appliances going, but also provide the power needed for start-up. 

When considering what size generator is needed, both starting watts and running watts need to be considered.

The amount of starting watts needed by an appliance is generally higher than the running watts. So, when calculating how many watts you need, take stock of the starting watts first and foremost.

The major power users in an RV tend to be the AC, the grill, and the microwave. Check the starting and running wattage of your specific appliances, and you should start to get an idea of the size generator that’s right for you.

The Tricky Part: How Many Watts Do You Actually Use?

Knowing the size of generator needed requires you to consider what appliances you actually use. Most of us are only likely to be having a few pieces of equipment going at any one time.

Of course, if you like to sit in your RV with everything turned on at full blast, you’ll need a massive generator - but you really shouldn’t be doing that anyway.

Consider your main appliances - the AC, microwave, grill, and refrigerator. Add up the starting watts they require, and you should have a baseline for your generator.

Then consider all the other appliances - coffee maker, hair dryer, satellite etc. The easiest way is to bundle them together as 1000 watts, and add that to the baseline from the essentials.

If you don’t want to give your power usage a second thought, then an 8000 watt generator should cover everything. But if you’re happy to unplug a few things regularly, then a 6000, or even 4000, watt generator will get the job done.

Getting a bigger generator than you need is a waste of money, and a waste of wattage. It’s much easier just to unplug a few appliances, and be careful with your usage.

And What To Look For

There’s more than just wattage to consider when buying a generator. It’s easy to get caught up in the power details, and forget the basics of the equipment. 


One of the main reasons you want to buy a smaller generator is for portability. A generator for a 50 amp RV tends to be big and heavy. Look for designs with wheels, and make sure you can actually carry it.

The last thing you want is a generator that can’t make it onto the RV.


Most generators tend to run on either gas, propane, or diesel. There are also “dual fuel” types, which can use a mixture of fuels.

The best fuel for your generator is the same fuel for your RV. That way, you can fill up both at the same time. If you’re interested in a propane generator, then make sure you have easy access to propane.

Some generators are marketed as fuel efficient, and these are worth looking out for as a money saver.


Many 50 amp generators are marketed as using “quiet technology”, or being “RV friendly”. Unfortunately, a completely silent generator is a fantasy - but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t aim for quiet.

On a campsite, a quieter generator is a sign of decency. It won’t keep you awake, and it’s nice for your neighbors as well. Although quiet technology shouldn’t be a priority, it’s worth shopping around for.


A generator is always a good purchase for an RV owner, and you don’t have to go overboard with the size. 4000 watts can be enough for a fuel conscious owner, but 6000 watts is better for most.

Just keep an eye on which appliances are running, and you should have plenty of power.

I'm an environment and energy blogger who teaches outdoor and energy enthusiasts how to be better informed when it comes to purchasing or maintaining a generator, solar panel system, or anything else related to your energy needs.