Buying a generator for an RV is an investment in your comfort. Camping generators, whether for a camper trailer or motorhome, can be basically any shape or size. It will depend on your requirements. Quiet inverter generators have come to dominate the recreational portable power market. This 2021 review of the best RV generators is going to look at the new and exciting developments in the industry.
Our 2020 review of the best RV generators was quite an epic, covering every conceivable category relating to camping generators. It is still relevant today and worth a read. This review is only going to look at what’s new for 2021. I suggest taking a look at the earlier RV generator review, by clicking on this link: Best RV Generator ǀ A Review of the Top Camping Generators for 2020. Last year’s article reviews 10 of the top camping generators, from compact quiet camping and tailgating generators, up to large 50A models, suitable for a large RV with all the mod cons.
Our 2021 review of the latest RV generators can be seen more like an update on what has been already published on this site. Keeping up to date on new or upgraded models. The new developments in generator technology have been in the inverter generator arena. Because noise in a campsite is the greatest concern when buying a generator for your RV, manufacturers are competing to produce the quietest generators.
This review is about exactly that, the latest quiet inverter generators. Only three models have caught my attention as the best quiet RV generators to come along over the last year. The Generac iQ3500 has caused quite a sensation as the quietest generator in its class. Another bombshell to hit the recreational generator market is the meteoric rise of Hyundai as a formidable force. For a long time, I’ve been referring to Hyundai cars as the new Toyota. By this, I mean a once unrecognized manufacturer of cheap automobiles rising to become a major global competitor. Are Hyundai generators about to become the new Honda? I’ll be reviewing two Hyundai inverter generators and leave you to decide if they’re up to scratch.
Generac iQ3500 3000W/3500W Inverter generator
- Advanced inverter technology and enclosure design provide optimal quiet performance.
- Delivers over 50% more starting capacity allowing you to do more with less – 300W rated capacity; 3500W surge power.
- Durable steel enclosure, perfect for job sites or recreational activities.
- Three operation settings integrated into one simple-to-use dial.
- Digital wattage meter, run time remaining display, generator status, hour meter, and fuel level.
- Select from two engine speeds to reduce noise and fuel consumption or maximize power response.
- Charge mobile devices including smartphones and tablets using the built-in USB ports.
- 3 year residential and commercial warranty.
When Generac revealed the iQ3500 at the ARA 2020 show, they made one thing abundantly clear. Their new quiet inverter generator was developed to take the Honda EU3000i head on. A bold move to say the least. Let’s face it, Honda generators are seen by most in the know as the best there is. The super tough, and highly advanced, Honda 3000W inverter generator has been the standard by which all others are judged. Has Generac actually managed to take the top spot as the best 3000W inverter generator?
One thing that the Generac engineers have accomplished is to make this the quietest generator for its size. The iQ3500 produces more watts than the Honda competitor, yet it’s quieter. A remarkable feat and certainly a big plus factor for campsites. The iQ3500 has made major inroads with RV owners for this reason.
Another thing that compares favorably to many of the Honda inverter generators, is the metal enclosure. Most modern enclosed generators use a plastic housing. This is a little cheaper and lighter than metal but not, in my opinion, as good. Metal, instead of plastic, is more durable in rough environments. It also helps reduce noise, as it is a denser material with higher sound insulation properties. So far, so good. The Generac iQ3500 seems to be the king of quiet inverter generators. It is also much cheaper than the Honda EU3000i.
I’m hesitant, however, to say that this generator can truly rival the Honda model. I’ve come to the logical conclusion that Honda engines are the best. I doubt that the Generac iQ3500 will quite hold up to these guys when it comes to long term reliability. The Generac iQ3500 has not been around long enough to make any kind of conclusive observation on the matter. I’m talking mainly from experience. Precious few manufacturers have come close to the Honda reputation for reliability and incredible fuel economy.
Honda generators, sold in the US, are manufactured in America. Some components are imported from Japan. Honda has not gone the route of most generator manufacturers, by using Chinese factories to cut costs. While Generac have production facilities in the US, for some models, the iQ3500 is made in China. Not necessarily an indication that it is an inferior product, but a sure sign that the intention was to build this generator cheaper, rather than better. Though, my general impression is that this is a good quality machine. Perhaps not in the same league as Honda, but better than most. We can’t ignore the massive price difference when making these types of comparisons. In the end, I find the Generac iQ3500 to be incredible value for money.
In terms of fuel economy, the Generac iQ3500 has definitely set the bar pretty high. At just under 6-kilowatt-hours per gallon, it is only a little thirstier than the best Honda generators. Fill up the 2.6-gallon gas tank, and you can keep the iQ3500 running for an incredible 14.1 hours at 25% load with economy mode engaged. This means keeping your power consumption at less than 750W. Even at 50% load (1,500W average), you have a great runtime of 8.8 hours. This generator is also 50-state legal (CARB and EPA III compliant).
With a peak load capacity of 3,500-watts, and 3,000W running load, the Generac iQ3500 is a great RV generator. It has the guts to run most RV air conditioners and keep other appliances powered up at the same time. All with clean, inverter supplied electricity, less than 3% THD. You can also connect two generators in parallel to supply a whopping 7,000W surge capacity and 6,000W running capacity. The parallel connection kit is, like all others, sold separately. The parallel kit includes both 30A and 50A 120V receptacles. The perfect setup for connecting directly to your RV 30A input or a transfer switch if you intend using a dual iQ3500 generator combo to supply your home for emergency backup power.
One thing that has left me less than impressed is the absence of a wheel kit. With its solid metal panels, electric starter, and battery, the iQ3500 is quite heavy, just over 109-pounds. In most cases, this will require two people to carry it. They have fitted great handles, on either side of the generator, to make this as easy as possible. Though I think wheels would be much more convenient.
The control panel and user functions are superb. The Generac iQ3500 user interface includes 2 X 120V 20A (5-20R) and 1 X 120V 30A (L5-30R) AC outlets. Each AC receptacle is protected by a dedicated circuit breaker. It also has 2 X USB ports for charging portable devices. Starting the iQ3500 is child’s play. A dial is used to select stop, run, and choke. Then it’s just a matter of pressing the start button or use a recoil starter if the battery is not properly charged. A smart digital LCD screen displays watts, remaining runtime, generator status, total running hours, and fuel level. The economy switch and parallel connection ports are on the front panel for quick and easy access.
As a cheaper alternative to the Honda EU3000i, the Generac iQ3500 has hit the nail on the head. In some ways, it is an improvement on the more expensive Honda generator. It is quieter and provides more watts. For the average RV owner, the iQ3500 is perfect in terms of quality vs price. I can’t honestly say it’s as robust as the Honda 3000W inverter generator. Though, in the realm of medium-duty domestic generators, the Generac iQ3500 is one of the best there is. The 3-year warranty, valid for both residential and commercial use, is evidence of the faith the brand has in this product. For its price, I don’t think you can find a better deal.
Hyundai Portable Generators
In the world of portable generators, Hyundai are the new kids on the block. I guess they are building on the success of the brand over the last few decades to conquer a new market. I can say they have done so with exquisite results. That’s not to say that Hyundai are new to power generation. They are responsible for most of the grid power generation plants in South Korea.
Consumer generator products are a relatively new endeavor for the brand. Like many manufacturers embarking on something new, there have been some teething problems. Things that take a learning curve to overcome.
Before I review the Hyundai models chosen for this RV generator review, I want to address an issue that I noticed when they initially took on the domestic generator market.
Quality Control Complaints
When I first reviewed the Hyundai HY2000Si and HY2800Sei I was struck by the exemplary engineering, high-quality build, and top-grade materials used, especially for generators this cheap. There were, however, several issues around quality control that could have been avoided. Perhaps we could write this off to inexperience in the portable generator manufacturing process.
I found numerous customer complaints about problems relating to human error on the assembly line. Stuff like screws that were not properly tightened, resulting in a failure once the generator was put into use. I don’t feel that this is a defect of the product itself. It’s more of an unfortunate oversight. The products that did not suffer these problems went on to receive high praise from users and reviewers alike.
In the general scheme of things, this was not a total calamity. The defective models were repaired under warranty. So it was more of an inconvenience for the buyer. Regardless, it was not a good sign for the brand which has earned great recognition over the years.
Fortunately, Hyundai has done a lot to rectify the situation. I don’t see the same complaints in more recent reviews. That’s a good sign. They’re still serious about maintaining a stellar reputation. It’s excellent news for people wanting a buy a quality generator at an affordable price. With these minor issues ironed out, I believe Hyundai generators are going to prove themselves in the same way Hyundai cars have done. A product that can compete with the best in the world, with a focus on excellent economy.
Hyundai HY2000Si 1600W/2000W Inverter Generator
- 2000 watts peak power and 1600 watts running power.
- Runtime: 5.5 hours at 50% load.
- Clean inverter power, safe for sensitive electronics.
- Whisper quiet, 59dBA.
Just as I presented the Generac iQ3500 as a more affordable alternative to the Honda EU3000i, I’m suggesting the Hyundai HY2000Si as a great quality, cheaper option to rival the legendary Honda EU2200i. The Hyundai generator falls a little short when comparing its power output to the compact Honda model which produces 2,200 peak watts and 1,800W running power. Rated output for the Hyundai HY2000Si is 2,000W, with a running capacity of 1,600W. It is about 10% less powerful than the Honda generator.
I think we can all agree that Hyundai have proven their ability to manufacture reliable, fuel-efficient engines. The 79cc gas engine at the heart of the HY2000Si is a true workhorse, with excellent fuel economy. The meager 0.9-gallon gas tank will keep the generator running at 100% capacity for 4.2 hours. Switch the ECO mode on, and you’ll get an incredible 11.5 hours from a tank of gas at 25% rated load. If fuel efficiency is high on your priority list, then the Hyundai HY2000Si should have you awestruck. It uses less gas per watt than the Honda EU2200i.
This is a delightfully quiet generator, a compelling reason to rate it as one of the best RV generators for 2021. Noise levels can be as low as 50dBA, when the economy mode is engaged to lower the RPM for a load less than 500W. Even when the engine is running at full RPM, pumping out the maximum 2,000 watts, it is quieter than a normal conversation, at around 59dBA.
It is also a winner when considering portability. The Hyundai HY2000Si weighs only 44-pounds. An ergonomic handle, elegantly integrated into the plastic enclosure, enables one person to carry the little Hyundai generator comfortably.
A small panel on the side of the generator has all your user functions and outlets neatly clustered for complete ease. It has, like all others in this class, a recoil starter – no electric starter. A choke lever is positioned next to the pull handle and a dial is turned to open and close the gas valve. It has all the outlets that a compact camping generator should provide. Two 120V 20A AC outlets are pretty much the norm for this size generator. I’m happy to see that these have plastic covers for extended durability. The HY2000Si also has a 12VDC outlet, making it super convenient when you need to charge your leisure batteries. Circuit breakers protect the AC and DC circuits. Charging devices, like cell phones, is simplified by the inclusion of 2 X USB ports.
The Hyundai HY2000Si is a dream come true for the budget-minded generator buyer. It is a cheap inverter generator with a level of quality that one would only expect from more expensive brands. Your long term savings are improved thanks to low fuel consumption, and a reliable low-maintenance engine. Although this is one of the most affordable 2,000W inverter generators, the Hyundai HY2000Si can rival any of the best when it comes to consumer peace of mind, with a fantastic 3-year warranty.
Hyundai HY2800Sei 2,600W/2,800W Inverter Generator
- 2800-watt Peak Power; 2600-watt Running Power.
- 3HP 5000RPM 150CC electric start fuel efficient 4-stroke Hyundai engine.
- 2-gallon fuel capacity with 3 hours running time at 70-Percent load.
- Whisper quiet 65 dB(a) at rated load.
- Low oil indicator for additional protection
- Smart Power-Clean power source with fuel saving eco mode.
- Two 120-volt 21.6A, max circuit 23.3A AC outlets, one 12V 8.3A DC outlet, and one 5-volt USB
The Hyundai HY2800Sei is, like the HY2000Si, an economical inverter generator offering excellent value for money. This model provides more power – 2,800 starting watts and 2,600W continuous rated output.
Apart from increased wattage, the Hyundai HY2800Sei has the added benefit of electric starting, with the reassurance of a recoil backup starter. The 150cc Hyundai engine used for this model is an amazing powerplant with great fuel efficiency and as reliable as the best of them.
The gas tank is a convenient size, just under 1.2-gallons. Though runtime isn’t quite as good as the smaller Hyundai generator. This is not because the Hy2800Sei is a particularly thirsty machine. It’s a result of the larger engine, with increased wattage, and a gas tank with only a marginally increased capacity. This means you can expect around 2.7-hours runtime at 100% load, up to 7.5-hours at 25% rated output with the economy switch on.
More power and a larger engine also have the inevitable effect of increasing noise levels. This is still a quiet generator, one of the best in its class, albeit not as silent as smaller models. The HY2800Sei has a rated noise level of 65dBA, roughly the same as a conversational voice. Portability has also been sacrificed slightly. This is not only because the Hyundai HY2800Sei has a larger engine and alternator, the electric starter and battery also add a few pounds, coming in at 77-pounds. Not too bad, all things considered. It has a handle molded into the top of the generator, allowing for single-hand carrying.
The HY2800Sei control panel is just as convenient as the smaller Hyundai inverter generator. It has 2 X 120V 20A outlets, a 12VDC battery charging outlet, and a single USB port. Circuit breakers provide full overload protection. The Hyundai HY2800Sei has the usual array of warning lights, alerting you to current overload and low engine oil, as well as a green “OK” LED informing you that power output is normal and it’s safe to connect your electric equipment. The electric starter uses a key, and the recoil starter is at the side of the machine. You don’t have to worry about a choke, which some users will appreciate.
A good value budget generator, the Hyundai HY2800Sei has the extra watts to supply a small to mid-sized RV. It is fuel-efficient and reliable. All-round a great compact inverter generator. Because of initial bad reviews, due to the QC issues mentioned above, the HY2800Sei has not performed too well in terms of overall customer ratings on Amazon. I think, in time, as these concerns are addressed, we should see this generator amongst the top-rated portable inverter generators.