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Boondockers looking to buy their very first fifth wheel or upgrade from a small travel trailer have one question in common:
Do fifth wheels come with an onboard generator?
Unfortunately, no brand of the fifth wheels comes pre-installed with a built-in generator. However, brands offer onboard generators and solar systems as an optional upgrade on some of their models. You have to opt for the upgrade when purchasing your new travel trailer.
There are many reasons why fifth wheels don’t come with generators pre-installed.
In this article, I’ll talk about the reasons, the size of the generator you need for your 5th wheel, and my recommendations for the top fifth wheels with a built-in generator option.
In the end, we’ll talk about an alternative option to powering your fifth wheel when boondocking.
Let’s begin by answering, why you need a generator for your fifth wheel.
Table of Contents
- Do I need a Generator for my Fifth Wheel?
- Do all Fifth Wheels come with Generators?
- Onboard vs Portable Generators for Fifth-Wheels
- What Size Generator do I Need for my 5th Wheel?
- The Top Fifth Wheels with Built-In Generator Options
- Solar is an Alternative way to Power A Fifth Wheel
Do I need a Generator for my Fifth Wheel?
Power is important when dry camping. Without power, you can’t charge your phone, laptops and run the vent fans and water pump.
When it comes to boondocking with a fifth wheel, you mainly have two options to generate power off the grid.
One, solar panels, and two, a generator.
While RV solar panels can help you power your smaller appliances, they have their limitations. You’ll dry out your battery bank very quickly, especially if the weather is not in your favor.
Whereas, an RV generator hands you the ability to produce power on demand irrespective of the weather and time. With the right size generator, you can power multiple air conditioners and other appliances to keep yourself and your family comfortable.
During the summer months, a generator can power your AC units while you’re traveling between dry camping sites. This will make sure you come to a cool and comfortable camper at the end of your transit.
This makes having a generator (both portable or onboard) an absolute must for boondocking, especially for fifth-wheel owners.
Do all Fifth Wheels come with Generators?
A generator is the most reliable way to power your RV when boondocking. With a click of a button, you have electrical power for all your needs.
But there are reasons why an onboard model isn’t a standard feature on new fifth wheels.
Generators are expensive, especially an onboard RV generator that costs upwards of $4000 and more depending on the wattage ratings. This can be an unnecessary investment for RVers looking to spend their weekends out on a developed campground with all modern amenities.
Moreover, not including a generator preinstalled provides flexibility for people to choose between the power type they prefer.
Secondly, many RVers like to use the forward cargo compartment to store additional camping gear and house batteries. Additionally, many don’t like the idea of a generator as it’s loud, and increases the risk of fire and CO poisoning.
Lastly, every RVer has varying power needs, which means pre-installing a generator doesn’t make sense. Having both an underpowered or overpowered generator will be a waste.
With this, you know the reasons why onboard generators are not preinstalled on fifth wheels. The fact is, why to offer something that isn’t demanded by the majority of the customers looking for a new fifth wheel.
One thing worth noting is that getting an onboard generator installed when buying a new fifth wheel is as easy as choosing to get one installed.
However, it can be difficult and expensive to install a generator if you’re planning to get a used fifth wheel that doesn’t have a generator installed by its previous owner.
Though most RVs are generator-ready, you still have to go through some sort of modification before installing a new generator.
Onboard vs Portable Generators for Fifth-Wheels
When it comes to choosing a generator type for your fifth wheel, you have two options.
- Built-in generator
- Portable generator
But which one should you choose?
Here we’ll take a look at the difference between each to help you determine the right type of generator for your fifth wheel.
Onboard RV Generators
Pros: With built-in RV generators, you don’t have to worry about loading and unloading as you reach your campsite. Because the generator is bolted to your RV, there is no chance it will grow legs.
The dedicated generator compartment protects it from rain and snow. The onboard power switch takes away the need to get out of your RV to turn it on during bad weather or in the middle of the night.
Cons: Onboard RV generators come with a high price tag. It is difficult to maintain as you’ll always need to call for assistance for minor maintenance work.
Used RV owners will have to pay the price of the generator plus the installation cost, which will bite off a big chunk from your bank.
Portable RV Generators
Pros: Portable RV generators are way cheaper compared to an onboard model in the same wattage rating. They are easier to use, and maintenance can be performed without any professional help.
You can place them far away from your fifth wheel to eliminate any chance of the exhaust fumes from seeping in. Portable units can also be used to power your home, which is not possible with an onboard model.
Cons: Though portable generators are pretty lightweight, they can be a chore to load and unload at the beginning and end of the trip. Their lightweight feature and resale value make them a lucrative target for thieves.
Now you know the pros and cons of both a portable and onboard RV generator. Now the question is, which one is right for your fifth wheel?
Well, it depends on your personal preference. Weigh the pros and cons of both types of RV generators to make an educated assumption of which best fits your needs.
What Size Generator do I Need for my 5th Wheel?
Once you know the type of RV generator you’ll go with, it’s time to find out how much power your generator needs to produce.
Generally, fifth wheels are the largest travel trailers in the market and come with all the amenities of a modern home.
That means fifth wheels have a higher power requirement than all other types of travel trailers and thus need a big generator.
But how big of a generator you need for your fifth wheel will mainly depend on how much power you use daily. This is a pretty straightforward thing if you’re buying a brand new fifth wheel as there are professionals who can do this for you.
However, I would suggest you learn to calculate your total power needs to find out the right size generator for your RV.
Depending on the size, RVs come with one of the two types of electrical systems, i.e. 30 amp and 50 amp. A fifth wheel is a big rig and uses a 50 amp electrical system to power all the appliances.
To calculate your total power needs, you need to add up the wattages of all the appliances you wish to run simultaneously. Next, add 20% to the total wattage requirement to make sure you have extra power at hand.
The extra power will also ensure you have a buffer room and prevent your generator from overloading.
You don’t want to get an underpowered generator, as it will not be able to power all the appliances you need to run. On the other hand, an overpowered generator is a waste both in terms of power and money.
The Top Fifth Wheels with Built-In Generator Options
Now you know how much power you need to make your boondocking comfortable. It’s time to take a look at a few fifth wheels that come with a generator as an optional upgrade.
Though none of these 5th wheels come preinstalled with a generator, manufacturers make installing a new generator a seamless upgrade.
Let’s dive in.
01. Most Luxurious: Keystone Montana 5th Wheel 2022
Keystone Montana is our top pick for luxury fifth wheels as it is outfitted with nearly every luxury you would want in a fifth wheel.
It is equipped with a full-size washer and dryer, a fireplace, and a kitchen with many appliances included. It is also equipped with premium furniture such as leather couches and a king-size bed.
The 2022 model’s interior features tile flooring with a marbling effect in the living areas and lighter-colored hardwood cabinetry throughout.
Depending on the floorplan the 2022 model can sleep up to 8 adults comfortably giving you a lot of flexibility whether you’re a couple or a big family.
The rig comes with 200 watts of solar panels mounted on the roof as a standard option and a complete solar power system. You can also get your forward cargo compartment generator prepped and select an LP generator as an optional upgrade.
02. Most Affordable: Palomino Puma Fifth Wheel
If you’re looking for a new fifth wheel that doesn’t cost you an arm and a leg then you should take a look at the Palomino Puma series. It has many of the same features found on many fifth wheels on this list but at a more affordable price.
The Puma comes with 7 different floorplans, so you have an option that will meet your needs. Depending on the size and floorplan you can sleep anywhere from four to ten people comfortably.
You get a wide variety of optional upgrades to choose from allowing you to personalize the rig according to your needs. The Puma’s aluminum frame, weight distribution, and aerodynamic, low-profile design contribute to greater fuel economy.
So, what is it like to live with the Puma?
Well, the Puma is roomy, with a walk-through kitchen, a master bedroom with a queen bed, and a second bedroom, depending on the model.
The rig is prewired for solar so you can install a solar power system easily. Additionally, you have the option to choose the size of the generator depending on your power needs.
03. Full Timers: Forest River Cedar Creek Champagne
The Forest River Cedar Creek Champagne is an impressive travel trailer that comes with everything full-time RVers need. Its innovative space concepts, long list of standard features, and great value for the money make this one of the best RVs on this list.
The Champagne features several innovations that other RV manufacturers should take a look at. Its unique center island bed provides significantly more usable space than the beds on most other fifth wheels. The dinette and sofa also fold up to provide even more livable space when you don’t need them.
The RV’s exterior styling is sophisticated, and the interior is beautifully designed and furnished. The Champagne also has a long list of standard features, such as a fireplace, a barbecue, and residential-style appliances.
The rig is generator prepped and offers an Onan 5500 built-in generator as an optional upgrade. The rig also comes with many add-ons and free memberships to the owner’s group providing support upon purchase.
Solar is an Alternative way to Power A Fifth Wheel
Solar is the most popular way to power a fifth wheel when boondocking. It’s quiet, doesn’t pollute, and costs nothing to run.
All you have to do is calculate your total power needs and size your solar panels accurately. After the initial cost of purchasing and installation, it will produce power for the lifetime of the equipment free of cost.
With RV solar you can power both DC and AC appliances. However, to power your AC appliances, you need an inverter that converts the DC power to AC power to run all your household appliances.
However, like a generator, solar comes with its downsides.
First, the initial cost of solar is very high. For a fifth wheel, you’re looking at a very large system that will cost you a small fortune.
Secondly, solar power generation is dependent on time and weather. You need a clear sky and sunshine for solar panels to produce power.
Lastly, your RV solar system can only power your lighter RV appliances. You cant power your large appliances like AC, washing machine, etc on solar. This is because to run such appliances you need an enormous solar setup and battery bank, which is not practical.
Fifth-wheel travel trailers don’t come preinstalled with a built-in generator. Many brands offer them as an optional upgrade when making a purchase.
Built-in generators are expensive compared to portable generators in the same wattage ratings. The fifth wheels we have mentioned above come with a generator as an option and some prewired for solar.
Additionally, a popular way to power your RV while boondocking is using solar power.