Can An RV Generator Run While Driving?

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RV generators are awesome contraptions. They allow us to escape the city while still keeping the comforts of home. But it’s important to remember you’re not at home in your RV – that means there are different rules.

Assuming your generator is in-built into your RV, it can run while driving. If it’s portable, however, it cannot.

Here are all of the factors that affect whether or not you can run an RV generator while driving.

Important Factors

In-Built Vs. Portable Generators

The biggest determining factor of whether or not you can run an RV generator while driving is the type you have. If it’s built into the fuel line and exhaust of your RV, yes you can safely and legally run it while driving. However, if it’s portable, it’s extremely dangerous to run while driving, and sometimes illegal.

In-built RV generators are hooked up to the fuel and exhaust lines of your vehicle. This means that you don’t run the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning by running it while driving. It also makes it easier to fuel as you don’t have to manually refill the tank.

Portable generators, on the other hand, have a few drawbacks that make this process dangerous. First and foremost – they release exhaust, so you can’t have it in the RV or just jerry-rigged to the vehicle. Well, you can, but it’s wildly dangerous. Additionally, you’d have to manually refill the tank, meaning you’d have to stop to do so safely.

Note: Carbon monoxide poisoning is very, very dangerous. Do not take chances with it. If you need to charge something on a portable generator while driving, just pull over. Your life isn’t worth an extra hour of Candy Crush.


Depending on the type of fuel your generator uses, you could run into issues with local laws, as well. While this varies on state and country, some ordinances disallow the use of propane while driving. Some also forbid even carrying propane on certain bridges, roads, and tunnels. So be sure to do your homework before deciding to do so. Nobody wants an avoidable ticket.

Why Would I Even Want To Run It While Driving?

Beyond the desire to charge your phone or laptop, the biggest use of generators on or off the road is air conditioning. If you’re in an extremely hot climate, it’s likely that your ancient RV’s standard AC just won’t cut it (or doesn’t even work). If you have passengers in the back, they also won’t get the dash AC and will be miserable.

So a common reason to run a generator while driving is to run both your RV’s AC, as well as your additional AC unit. This can also help with the power needs of your RV in sketchy terrain, allowing more power to go to necessary systems while your generator cools you.

Additional (obvious) reasons to run a generator while driving include keeping frozen or refrigerated food cold, watching TV, or needing to cook while driving. I will say, however, that the cooking can wait until you stop, more often than not. There’s no need to get carried away – after all, you can stop anywhere you like… you’re in an RV.

Are There Downsides To Running An RV Generator While Driving?

Assuming you’re running an in-built generator, really the only downside is that you will burn extra fuel from your tank. But you also likely carry extra fuel (just in case) so that’s not too big of a concern. It won’t affect your vehicle’s MPG.

If it’s portable on the other hand, there’s a whole host of problems to consider.

  • Where will you put it? Portable generators need to be secured to prevent movement. If they slide, they will get damaged. Cargo carriers can accommodate them, but they’re often not worth the hassle.
  • Carbon Monoxide Poisoning – If it’s in an enclosed space with people or animals in it, you run the risk of killing them. Carbon monoxide is no joke, and it’s never worth it to gamble on whether or not you’ll make it.
  • Power Lines –  You need to secure all power lines as well. You don’t want something coming loose and sending an electric charge through the RV you’re in, while it’s driving. Not only could that prove hazardous, but it could severely damage any electronics present.
  • Noise –  Generators are loud. This means that running a generator while driving will increase the noise in what is likely already a loud drive. While it’s possible to soundproof your generator or buy quiet models, that’s extra work and money that you may not want to spend.

Final Thoughts

It is entirely possible and safe (under the right conditions) to run an RV generator while driving. While it’s important to make note of local ordinances if you’re using liquid propane to fuel your generator. Local laws could also prohibit the use of generators while driving, so again – do your homework.

If you’re using a portable generator, however, it’s simply not worth it to run while driving. The combination of potential damage from jostled power lines and parts along with bodily harm makes this less than ideal. It’s generally better to just pull over and take a break if you really need your generator right now.

Related Questions

Why Does My Generator Shut Off While Driving?

Some generators have a safety shutoff to prevent trying to run your RV tank dry. Others are designed to turn off if they get too hot, so that’s an important note to make.

Is It Safe To Run A Portable Generator While Driving?

No. It can be made less hazardous with planning and work, but it’s never worth it. And running it inside your RV will absolutely kill you, open windows and AC or not. If you need to run a portable generator, do it while stationary – and do it outside.

Do RVs Come With Generators?

Newer models do, yes, but older ones do not. It’ll generally be a pretty big selling point when you’re buying it, so you’ll know before you purchase it. If not, portable generators are relatively cheap.

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