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Gas vs. Solar Generators: Which Choice Is Right For Your Van Life

One of The Easiest Ways to Get that Power Is With A Generator

Having a power source for van life or when you go boondocking is a fantastic way to get the most out of your van. Two types of generators are available to van lifers: gas and solar. Let’s take a closer look at their differences, pros and cons, and the best models you can buy now. 

What Are The Differences Between Gas and Solar Generators?

With such similar names, you might think that gas and solar generators are essentially the same but with different power sources. But in fact, there are quite a few differences between the two, and each has its pros and cons. Let’s take a closer look at each. 

Gas Generators

Gas generators use fuel, like gasoline or propane, to provide power on demand. Because of the fumes they generate, gas generators need to be used outside. Alternatively, they can be run in a special compartment in your van that vents outside. Gas generators also generate a fair amount of noise.

Besides these downsides, gas-powered generators are capable of providing lots of power. Plus, they’re more affordable than solar generators.

Gas Generator Pros

Here are some pros of gas-powered generators for van life:

  • Provides power on demand
  • Cheaper than solar generators
  • More powerful than solar generators

Gas Generator Cons

On the contrary, here are some downsides of using a gas generator for power:

  • It needs to be used outside or in a special external compartment
  • Requires regular maintenance
  • Higher longer-term costs
  • Noisy
  • Pollutes the environment

Solar Generators

The name “solar generator” is a bit of a misnomer, as solar generators don’t actually generate their own power. A solar “generator” is more like an all-in-one portable battery system. 

A solar generator must first be charged before it can be used. Some solar generators have passthrough charging, allowing you to use it when it’s being charged. However, doing so is harder on the battery, and solar generator companies will warn of the impact of doing this. In addition to charging with solar panels, you can also charge a solar generator with other power sources, like a shore power connection. 

Solar Generator Pros

Here are some pros of using a solar generator:

  • Generates no fumes or pollution
  • Flexible charging, which can utilize different power sources
  • Requires little to no maintenance
  • Doesn’t require fuel

Solar Generator Cons

Let’s look at some downsides of using a solar-powered generator:

  • More expensive than a gas generator
  • Less powerful than a gas-powered generator
  • Needs to be charged before use
  • Typically requires you to buy a solar panel separately

Gas vs. Solar Generators: Which Is Right For You?

Both gas and solar generators have their own unique advantages and disadvantages, so the right one for you depends on your situation. 

A gas generator is likely better for you if you:

  • Are on a budget
  • Don’t want to worry about charging your generator
  • Have higher power needs
  • Don’t want to have to worry about the weather (like cloudy days)

On the flip side, you might be better off with a solar generator if you:

  • Want an eco-friendly source of power
  • Need a flexible power source that doesn’t require fuel
  • Want a solar system without having to put together all the parts yourself
  • Prefer to spend more upfront and save in the long term on fuel costs
  • Don’t want to worry about ventilation and exhaust fumes

Best Gas Generators

If you want to buy a gas generator, there are many options on the market. We’ve selected two of the best gas generator models on the market to help make your search easier. 

1. Honda EU2200i

Honda EU2200i Gas Generator
The Honda eu2200i is compact, portable, and powerful.

Compact, portable, and powerful, the Honda eu2200i is one of the best gas generators on the market for van life. 

The Honda generator provides 2200 watts of power and can run for over 8 hours on just under a gallon of fuel. This unit also runs quietly, generating only 57 dB(A) – slightly louder than a residential refrigerator. 

The Honda eu2200i comes in a compact package for easy transport and storage (perfect for van life). It’s also smartphone enhanced, with service reminders, operation monitoring, and wireless stop available through an app. 

2. Champion Power Equipment 200961 

Champion Power Equipment 200961 generator
Champion Power generator has a dual fuel source.

The Champion Power Equipment 200961 dual-fuel generator provides flexible power generation in a portable package. 

The 200961 generators can run off gasoline or propane and provide up to 34 hours of power. So depending on your budget and fueling options, you can opt to run your generator off of 2 readily-available fuel sources.

At only 39 lbs, it’s one of the lightest 2500-watt generators on the market. This unit also runs quietly, generating just 53 dB(A).

The Champion Power Equipment 200961 is also ready-made to be run in parallel with another 2500-watt Champion generator for even more power. 

Best Solar Generators

While there aren’t as many solar generators on the market, there are still plenty of options. We’ve selected two of the best solar generators on the market to make your search easier. 

1. Jackery Solar Generator 1000 Pro

Jackery Solar Generator 1000 PRO with 800W of solar

The Jackery Solar Generator 1000 PRO is one of the most popular solar generators, and for a good reason. 

This solar generator features a 1002-watt-hour lithium battery that can output 1000 watts of continuous power and 2000 watts of peak power. With three standard AC outlets, a 12v DC car port, two USB-C ports, and two USB-A ports, the Jackery 1000 can power various devices (even multiple at one time). 

But what about charging? You can purchase the solar generator kit in two ways. The first is with two 80W solar panels, which can fully recharge the unit in about 9 hours. The second option comes with four 200W solar panels for 800W solar charging that will fully recharge the Solar Generator 1000 PRO in less than two hours in optimal conditions. Alternatively, it can be charged in 12 hours off a car outlet or in 1.8 hours off a wall outlet. 

2. BLUETTI AC200P 

BLUETTI AC200P generator
If you have big power needs, check out the BLUETTI.

If you need more power, the best solar generator is the BLUETTI AC200P

The BLUETTI solar generator provides a massive 2000-watt-hours of power with its lithium-ion batteries, providing 2000 watts of continuous power and 4800 watts of peak power. These numbers mean that the AC200P can power even large electronics like fridges or microwaves. 

The BLUETTI AC200P provides plenty of outlets to plug into, including:

  • Six 110v AC outlets
  • Four USB-A ports
  • One USB-C PD port
  • Three different 12v DC plugs (10A, 3A, and 25A)
  • Two spaces for wireless charging

This solar generator also allows super flexible charging, combining different power sources for faster charging. With a 700-watt solar panel and a 500-watt AC connection, this generator can be fully charged in a mere 2.5 hours. 

Gas and Solar Generators: Two Great Ways to Power Your Van

Both gas and solar generators are a great way to provide power while off the grid. Gas generators burn fuel to create power on demand, while solar generators must be charged first off of a solar panel or another power source. 

Generally speaking, gas generators are cheaper and more powerful, but they create noise and pollution plus require regular maintenance. Solar generators are more expensive and less powerful but are eco-friendly, provide an entire solar setup with no installation needed, and require nearly no maintenance.

Whichever generator you pick, you’ll be sure to love the convenience of having power in your van. 


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1 thought on “Gas vs. Solar Generators: Which Choice Is Right For Your Van Life”

  1. Great article. I have both in my Class A. The only time I use my Gas generator is to do the Monthly Maintenance (3 Gallons gas use for 2 hours running). 100% of my needs are met with my solar/battery/inverter set up. If I did not have the Gas generator already, I would not get one as the quiet solar is perfect. Great as a backup for power outages at home also- zero Maintenance. In comparison, my gas generator takes several hours labor and oil changes/filter each year.

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