30 AMP vs 50 AMP RVs: Differences Explained

There are two types of power supplies on RVs: 30 amp and 50 amp. Smaller RVs are generally powered by 30 amp plugs while larger RVs have 50 amp connections.

30 AMP RVs only have three wires, only use 120 volts, and max out at 3600 watts. 50 AMP RVs have four wires, use 240 volts, and max out at 12,000 watts. This means that 50 amp RVs can draw more power, which is why they’re typically used for larger RVs.

However, there are many other differences that are even more complicated than that. Let’s run through each of them in more detail.

30 AMP vs 50 AMP RVs
Tony Webster (Flickr CC)

RV 30 Amp vs. 50 Amp: Main Differences

The main difference between 30 amp and 50 amp RVs is the number of wires. A 30 amp RV has three wires while a 50 amp RV has four.

The extra wire in a 50 amp RV is used to provide more power. This means that 50 amp RVs can actually draw more power than 30 amp RVs.

However, there are other differences that are even more important. Here are a few of them:

1. Voltage

30 amp RVs can only use 120 volts while 50 amp RVs can use 240 volts. This means that 50 amp RVs can actually power two air conditioners at the same time.

You may even be able to power 3 air conditioners at once, but we found that when we were doing this, we had to be careful about what we plugged in.

Voltage is an important consideration. If you try to power too many things at once, you can cause major electrical problems like blowing a fuse, frying your electrical cables, or causing a fire.

I don’t say that to scare you, but we’ve fried electrical cables and systems in the past because we didn’t pay attention to the voltages. It’s important to be aware of this when you’re RVing.

2. Ground Wire

Another big difference is that 50 amp RVs have a dedicated ground wire while 30 amp RVs do not.

This ground wire helps to protect your RV from electrical surges.

3. Wiring

As I said before, 50 amp RVs can actually draw more power than 30 amp RVs. The reason for this is that they have two hot wires instead of just one.

This means that they can draw up to 50 amps of power at once.

4. Price

50 amp RVs are typically more expensive than 30 amp RVs. This is because they require more wiring and they’re generally used for larger RVs.

This translates to the components you may need for your electrical system as well. A 50 amp RV cable will cost a lot more than a 30 amp RV cable.

5. Size and Weight

50 amp RV cables are a lot bigger and heavier than 30 amp cables. This is because they have more wiring and bigger electrical systems, requiring larger diameter cables.

6. Maximum Wattage

A 50 amp system will offer a maximum wattage of 12,000 while a 30 amp system maxes out at 3600 watts.

This makes a huge difference in how many appliances and electrical devices you can power at once.

Related: How To Wire A 50 Amp RV Outlet

Do I Need A 30 Amp or 50 Amp RV?

The answer to this question depends on a few factors.

  • How much power do you need?
  • How many air conditioners do you have
  • What types of appliances do you use?
  • How often do you use your appliances?
  • How many electronic devices do you need to power at one time?

Because most larger RVs have more outlets, larger appliances, and more square footage, they require a more powerful electrical system. Full-time RVers and larger families will benefit more from a 50 amp RV.

For example, we travel full-time in our 5th wheel with 4 kids, we work 100% remote, and we homeschool everyone. That means everyone has at least one laptop, tablet, and smartphone.

Plus, we have several TVs and gaming systems. At any given time, that’s at least 25 devices plugged in simultaneously. A 30 amp RV wouldn’t cut it for us.

However, some people only travel occasionally, they have smaller families, or they simply don’t have as many devices as we do. In cases like these, a smaller RV with a 30 amp system may be plenty.

The bottom line is that it all depends on your specific needs. You know better than anyone else how much power you need.

Can I Plug My 30 Amp Into a 50 Amp?

Yes, you can plug your 30 amp RV into a 50 amp outlet. However, you’re still limited to the 3600-watt maximum that your 30 amp system can handle.

You’ll also need to use an adapter to plug your RV into a 50 amp outlet since they have different connectors.

We recommend getting a quality RV electrical adapter to make sure you don’t damage your RV or cause any electrical problems.

A high-quality adapter will ensure that you don’t pull more power than your system can handle.

However, you still need to be aware of the risks when you convert your RV’s electrical system. If you try to draw more power than your RV can handle, you can cause major damage to your RV.

This is why I only recommend doing this if you’re experienced with electrical work and you know what you’re doing or you’re constantly monitoring what you’re plugging in.

If you’re not sure, it’s always best to just get a 50 amp RV. Adapting your 50 amp RV to a 30 amp plug is also possible.

If you have a 50 amp RV but you need to plug into a 30 amp outlet, you can purchase adapters for this.

Again, you’ll only be able to pull the 3600 watts that a 30 amp plug can provide one time. That means you won’t be able to power all of the things you’re used to, and there are still risks.

When you convert your RV’s electrical system from 50 amps to 30 amps, you’re limited to the power that a 30 amp outlet can provide, which means that you won’t be able to use all of your RV’s outlets and appliances, and if you try, you can cause major damage to your RV.

Can I Upgrade My RV From 30 Amp to 50 Amp?

If you’re frequently having problems with your electrical system, or if you want to be able to use more appliances at the same time, you may want to consider upgrading your RV from 30 amps to 50 amps.

Upgrading your RV is a big project, and it’s not something you should take on lightly. We recommend that you have a qualified RV technician do the work for you.

They’ll be able to properly install the new electrical components and make sure everything is wired correctly. They’ll also be able to test your RV’s electrical system to make sure it’s working properly.

Keep in mind that an upgrade of this kind will require a complete overhaul of the electrical system in your RV. It won’t be a cheap project, but it may be worth it if you need the extra power.

It’s important to weigh the pros and cons of upgrading your system rather than simply purchasing a new RV.

It may be more cost-effective in the long run and a lot less work to just buy a new RV that already has a 50 amp electrical system.

Conversely, you could downgrade your system, but that seems like an unnecessary cost.

You may find that you don’t always need all 50 amps, but your RV was built with appliances that need that power, whether you realize it or not, and you would regret downgrading in the long run.

The only benefit that comes to mind is that you’ll spend less on your electricity bill by running 30 amps instead of 50 amps, but I wouldn’t risk the damage to your electrical system. It’s not worth it.

Conclusion

When deciding between a 30 amp and 50 amp RV, it’s important to consider your needs. A 50 amp RV will have more power and be able to handle more appliances, but it may be more expensive.

A 30 amp RV may be sufficient for some people, especially if they don’t travel as often. Only you can decide what will work for you.

Madeline Cooper