Do Travel Trailers have Onboard Generators?

Do Travel Trailers have Onboard Generators

Travel trailers are among the most popular types of RV choices for many when it comes to boondocking.

They come with many modern amenities to make your stay comfortable off the grid.

However, running many of these appliances need a lot of power that can only be supplied by a generator.

But do travel trailers have generators pre-installed?

The short answer is, NO, most travel trailers don’t come with an onboard generator pre-installed. It’s an optional upgrade many brands offer when purchasing a new travel trailer. However, you can get a portable generator and connect it with your shore power plug to power your travel trailer.

In this post, we’ll address a few questions about travel trailer generators and look at why TTs don’t come with a built-in generator. We’ll also look at a few travel trailers that come with a generator as an upgrade.

Lastly, we’ll take a look at how to size your RV generator accurately.

But before that let’s begin by answering if you need a generator.

Do Travel Trailers have Generators?

Unlike motorhomes, travel trailers don’t come with a built-in generator as a standard option. An onboard generator is generally offered as an optional upgrade when purchasing a new generator.

Many used travel trailers are available with built-in units installed by their previous owners. These can be a great option for RVers on a budget looking for a travel trailer with a built-in generator.

However, you can get a portable generator if you don’t have the budget for a new onboard unit or if your rig isn’t prewired for one. Portable generators are lightweight, less expensive, and easy to use.

All you have to do to connect a portable generator to an RV is to use a shore power cable like you would do when in a campground with electricity.

The Champion 3500 watt is a great option if you have a 30 amp RV. It is powerful enough to run a rooftop AC unit plus a few smaller appliances and lightweight to load and unload from the back of your truck.

On the other hand, if you have a 50 amp RV, then the Westinghouse 6000 watt unit is a good option. The 6000 running watts are sufficient to keep up with the power needs of most large camper trailers.

Here I have detailed articles that review a few of the best portable RV generators. Also, check out this article if you’re looking for a portable propane generator for your RV.

Do you Need a Generator for A Travel Trailer?

Whether you need a generator for your travel trailer or not will mainly depend on your power requirement.

Generally, if you have a good size battery bank and solar panels, you can boondock indefinitely, given you need very little electricity.

However, if you plan on running your RV air conditioner, microwave, and other 120 volt appliances, you’ll need a sizable generator. These appliances draw a lot of wattages, and your RV solar system has to be enormous to run them for a considerable amount of time.

Additionally, a generator is the most reliable source of power when boondocking. Be it day or night, sunny or rainy, with a click of the button you have the power to run all your appliances.

Moreover, the size of your travel trailer will also determine if you need a generator or not. Generally, small campers such as a teardrop trailer have less power demand compared to a fifth wheel or other larger trailers.

So before you buy a generator for your travel trailer, make sure you know your power needs and the size of your trailer. This will help you determine how powerful your generator needs to be.

Why do you Need a Built-in Generator?

Nothing beats a generator when it comes to powering your RV while boondocking. They are powerful and can start producing power with a click of a button.

But do you need an onboard generator to power your RV? Can’t a portable generator be used for boondocking?

To answer this question accurately, we need to weigh the pros and cons of a built-in RV generator.

Built-in RV Generator Benefits

Here, let’s take a look at why onboard RV generators are better when compared to portable units:

  1. Built-in RV generators are mounted in a dedicated generator compartment which removes the need for loading and unloading.
  2. As they are bolted to the structure of your trailer, there is no risk of its growing legs.
  3. You can run them during any weather, be it rain, snow, or a hail storm.
  4. You don’t have to get out of your RV to turn it on in the middle of the night. Just hit the start switch from inside your trailer, and it will start producing power.

Built-in RV Generator Drawbacks

Now let’s take a look at why portable generators may be better for boondocking:

  1. Built-in RV generators are expensive compared to portable generators in the same wattage rating. With the price of a single onboard unit, you can get multiple portable generators.
  2. With onboard generators, you’ll always need professional assistance for maintenance and servicing. Whereas most maintenance work on a portable generator is easy and can be performed without any help.
  3. Built-in RV generators can only be used to power your RV. Whereas a portable generator can be used to power your home after the camping season.
  4. Simple tasks like refueling and the oil change of an onboard generator can become a chore because of its location.

Why don’t Travel Trailers have Generators?

Generators are the most reliable source of power when boondocking. Without a generator, you and your family will bake in the RV if you go dry camping during those hot summer months.

But there are reasons most RV manufacturers don’t offer them as a standard feature.

First of all, an onboard generator is expensive. An Onan 2500 watt LP generator will cost you an additional $3500 or more. This may be an unnecessary investment for any RVer who plans on camping on developed campgrounds with hookups.

Instead, such RVers get a portable camping generator which costs significantly less in the same wattage ratings.

Secondly, every RVer is different in how much power they need to keep them comfortable. Therefore, simply adding a generator without knowing the power requirement of a specific user makes no sense.

Generally, an underpowered generator will not run all the appliances you need it to run. Whereas an overpowered unit will consume more fuel and cost more, which is a waste.

Lastly, built-in generators are mounted in a generator bay which could be better used for storage according to some.

Now you know the main reasons why travel trailers don’t come with a built-in generator preinstalled. 

If you’re buying a new rig, just choose the size that meets your needs, and the dealer will get it installed. On the other hand, if you’re looking for a used rig with an onboard unit, then look for one that comes with one installed with the size you need.

Do any Travel Trailers come with Generators?

Apart from Class A, B, and C motorhomes, no RVs come standard with a built-in generator. They are an optional upgrade many manufacturers offer when purchasing a new RV.

To make your buying decisions easy, here are few travel trailers that come with an onboard unit as an upgrade.

Northwood Wolf Creek 850

The Northwood Wolf Creek 850 is an extended-cab camper for pickup trucks. It is built tough with upgraded frame material for added rigidity and durability, plus it sports modern amenities like LED lighting, a curved shower rod, an outdoor grill, and an electric fireplace. 

There are numerous upgrades to choose from, and a 2.5 Onan LP generator is one of them. Though it comes with a 45-watt solar panel as a standard feature you have the option to upgrade to either 100 or 170 watts panel.

It’s the ideal rig to enjoy the outdoors when you’re camping or tailgating, or when you’re roughing it in an RV park or the middle of nowhere.

Forest River XLR Boost Camper

Forest River has raised the bar when it comes to travel trailers. A new level of quality has been created with the XLR Boost travel trailer by Forest River

This toy hauler offers multiple floor plans with slideouts which increases the total usable space. It is equipped with a large and spacious kitchen and dining area as well as a living room and an entertainment center.

One surprising fact is the trailer offers two portable generators from Yamaha to choose from. Go with the 4000 watts if your power needs are less and with the 5500 watts model if high.

What Size Generator do I Need for my Travel Trailer?

To determine what size generator you need for your RV or travel trailer, you need to do a power audit of all the appliances you plan on running on the generator.

Boondockers usually need a generator to power those high-wattage appliances like a rooftop air conditioner, microwave, coffee makers, etc. To find the right size generator for your RV you need to add the wattage ratings of the high draw appliance you wish to run simultaneously.

Then add 20% to the total wattage as this will give you room to run additional appliances in case you need one. Plus, the additional wattage will prevent your generator from running at full load while extending the life of your generator.

It is better to have extra power at hand when sizing an RV generator as you don’t want to skip running an appliance because of power shortage. On the other hand, don’t go overboard when sizing your generator, as that will increase the cost of buying and running the unit.

I have two detailed guides that talk about how to calculate the power needs of both a 30 amp RV and a 50 amp RV so you can get the right size generator.

Can you Add a Generator to a Travel Trailer?

Well, if you’re planning to add an onboard generator to your RV by yourself, then you need to reconsider the issues.

Onboard RV generators are heavy, which means you need help to lift and carry the unit into the generator compartment. Next, you need various tools and good mechanical knowledge to bolt and connect the unit. 

Lastly, if your TT isn’t generator prepped then mounting an onboard unit will be of no use.

On the other hand, a portable RV generator is very easy to use and add to any RV. There are options like mounting on the trailer tongue or the bumper, which are very secure and easy to do.

Here is a detailed post on the various ways to mount a portable generator on an RV.


New travel trailers don’t come with a built-in generator as a standard option. It is offered as an optional upgrade by brands depending on the model.

You can look for a used TT that has a generator preinstalled by its previous owner.

However, you can get a portable unit if you don’t want to spend a fortune on an onboard unit and the trouble of getting one installed. 

Portable generators are easy to use and mount. Most importantly, they cost a fraction of the price of an onboard unit in the same wattage ratings.