Can I Run The RV Generator While Driving?

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One question we are asked very often is, can I run the RV generator while driving? We run our generator while driving our RV and we have never had any problems. But we did a little research to dig into the subject a little deeper.

So, can you drive your RV generator while driving? We discovered that it is perfectly ok to run your RV generator while driving. Many RVers run their generators while driving with no problems whatsoever.

In addition to asking if it’s ok to run the RV generator while driving, we are asked many related questions too. The questions we hear most often are as follows. Is it safe to run the RV generator while driving? Why would anyone want to run their motorhome generator while driving? What if I have a travel trailer, can I run my portable generator while driving? And, is my gas mileage affected when running the RV generator while driving?

So we looked into the questions people ask us most often about running their RV generators to come up with some good answers. And, some of the answers may even surprise you.

Is It Safe To Run The RV Generator While Driving?

Yes, it is perfectly safe to run the RV generator while driving your RV. However, there are a couple of things you should know to make sure you don’t have any problems.

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. The generator uses the same gasoline from the same gas tank that the RV uses to fuel the engine.

You probably won’t run out of gas while driving but the generator will automatically cut off if the fuel tank drops below 1/4 tank. This is a safety feature built into most generators to make sure all of the fuel in the gas tank isn’t used up just powering the generator. The safety feature helps to prevent a situation where you end up stranded in the middle of nowhere with no gas in the gas tank.

Why Would I Need To Run The RV Generator While Driving?

There are many reasons to run your motorhome generator while driving. The generator powers the rooftop AC, refrigerator, microwave, electric water heater, and TVs. And, you may have a need to run all or some of these appliances while driving.

One of the biggest reasons to run the RV generator is to be able to run the rooftop A/C in addition to the dash AC. This is especially true when driving a class A motorhome. The RV air conditioner runs off of electricity and when you are not plugged into shore power, you need to run the RV generator to power the rooftop AC. Running the rooftop AC is needed for the following reasons:

  • In extreme heat, the dash AC may not be able to cool the RV
  • You may have passengers in the back of the RV and you want to keep them comfortable
  • If you are driving in mountain areas you can turn off the dash AC for more engine power and run the rooftop AC to stay cool

Another reason to run the RV Generator is to keep the RV fridge cold. There is some debate among RV owners about which keeps the fridge colder, propane or electric. From what I can tell it just depends on your particular refrigerator.

So, if it’s a very hot day and your fridge cools better while using electricity then it may be a good idea to run the generator while driving to keep the fridge cool. Otherwise, I recommend setting the fridge on auto and it will decide which power source to use. Usually, fridges default to electricity and then switch to propane if no electricity is available.

A minor reason to run the generator while driving is you may want to run the microwave while driving. If this is the only reason to run the generator then run it while you need to use the microwave and turn it off when you are done.

And finally, if you have passengers on board who want to watch TV or a movie while driving along then you will need to run the generator to power the TV and possibly a DVD player.

Can I Run a Portable Generator While Towing My Travel Trailer?

Although I don’t recommend it, you can run a portable generator while driving but there are many issues to consider before doing so.

First of all, a portable generator needs to be located outside of the RV or travel trailer so you don’t fill your RV up with exhaust fumes. Most RV’s have built-in generators so this isn’t really a problem. But, if your RV doesn’t have a built-in generator then you will need a cargo carrier to hold the portable generator so it’s outside of the RV. Then you have to secure the generator so it will not move. So, although possible, this all just seems very unsafe to me.

If you have a travel trailer the same issues need to be considered. If you tow your travel trailer you also have the option to put the portable generator in the bed of your truck. But again, you will have to secure the portable generator so it doesn’t move and then position it to be sure the exhaust is clear of any obstructions. You will also have to secure the power lines so they are safe and stable too.

It just seems to me like running a portable generator is unsafe and problematic at best.

RELATED READING: Check out our article called What Size Generator Do I Need For a Travel Trailer? to be sure you have the right size generator!

How Will My MPG Be Affected While Running The RV Generator?

Running your generator will not change the miles per gallon of your RV. So, if you get 10 mpg, you will still get 10 mpg if you run your RV generator while driving. However, in addition to burning one gallon of gas for every ten miles you drive you will also burn approximately one half of a gallon of gas for every hour your RV generator is on.

All this means is that without the RV generator on you will burn 6 gallons of gas if you get 10 mpg at 60 miles per hour. And with your RV generator running you will burn 6 1/2 gallons of gas in an hour at 60 miles per hour. It’s really not much of a difference to stay cool and run the rooftop AC or to keep your passengers happy with some AC and a movie.

Related Questions

1. Can I run the RV A/C while driving?

Yes, you can run the RV A/C while driving. We also wrote an article on this topic which you might want to check out. The article is titled Can I Run the RV AC While Driving?

2. Why does my generator shut off while I am driving?

One reason the generator shuts of, whether you are driving or not, is that the generator has a safety feature which turns itself off when the fuel in the RV gas tank dips below 1/4 tank. This ensures that the generator doesn’t run the RV gas tank dry and leave you stranded.

3. Can passengers sleep in an RV while driving?

This is a great question so we wrote a blog article about it called Can You Sleep in an RV While Driving? 
Check it out to see when your passengers can (and can’t) sleep in a moving RV.


Driving with the RV generator on is perfectly safe and will allow you to run all of your major RV appliances while driving your RV. Even though it is not the most fuel efficient way to drive your RV, you and any passengers on board may be very happy being able to use all the conveniences the RV has to offer.

I hope you found this article to be helpful for knowing if you can run the generator while driving your RV.

Do you have an idea or suggestion to share about running the RV generator while driving? Please leave your comments below!

If you would like to contact us directly, please feel free to visit our Contact Page and send us an email.

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15 thoughts on “Can I Run The RV Generator While Driving?”

  1. Be sure to turn the generator OFF, when you stop to fill up the gas tank!

    • That is a great point!

      Thanks for your comment Al!


    • Hi Chicquita,
      You are very welcome.
      Thanks for reading the article!

  2. This was very helpful. Just purchased our first Class A and this was one of the many questions I had. Thank you for sharing!

    • Hi Joe!
      I’m glad our article helped you out!
      Thanks for letting me know! It makes my day when someone finds my info helpful.

  3. Good morning
    Where can I get my Cummings onan generator service in the Phoenix, Az area.

    • Hi Glen,
      I would call a couple of RV repair shops and ask who they recommend. Many RV repair shops actually outsource the generator repairs to generator repair companies.
      Let me know how you make out!

  4. We’re on our first cross-country trip in a Coachman Leprechaun C class and in 90+ degree heat. We finally turned on the generator to use the rooftop AC. It shut off automatically about 15mins later (with a full tank of gas). Does extreme heat play a role in shutting off automatically?

    • Hi Jim,
      Yes – extreme heat can cause your generator to shut down. You could try opening the door to the generator compartment, or not parking on a blacktop parking lot when running the generator. Other causes are oil pressure being too low or high, a clogged fuel filter, or a faulty heat or pressure sensor.
      Generators have a lot of parts…ugh!
      Hope this helps!

  5. Thanks for the explanation
    We are taking grandkids for a trip this weekend and having the TV and the A/C will be super helpful😊

    • Hi Dave,
      Glad the article was helpful. We have a grandson too and the TV and A/C are super important when he is on board! lol!

  6. Thank you! This is extremely helpful.
    I have an older class C and the builtin generator does not function. They asked $2500 to fix it!!
    So I am thinking of buying a remote controlled portable one and installing it on the back of the RV on a cargo carrier.
    My question is that “is it safe to carry some extra gasoline for the generator in case I run out in the middle of nowhere?”.
    Thank you!


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