The Surprising Differences Between 30A & 50A RVs

30 Amp RVs vs 50 Amp RVs

RV electrical systems can be difficult to understand at first but it’s important to know what you will be getting when deciding between a 50 amp RV or a 30 amp RV.

In this article, I’ll outline some of the key differences to help you get a better understanding of the two.

I’ll also talk about what it would take to convert a 30 amp RV to a 50 amp and why you may hear 50 amp hookups referred to as 100 amp at some RV parks and campgrounds

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RV 30 Amp vs. 50 Amp Surprising Facts

A 50 Amp RV Get 3x More Power Than A 30 Amp RV

The first and most surprising thing about 50 amp vs 30 amp is that 50 amp RVs get more than 3 times as much power as 30 amp RVs.

I know, 50 isn’t a number that’s 3 times larger than 30 but the difference is huge.

If you look at it in terms of watts, 30 amp RVs receive 3,600 watts and 50 amp RVs get 12,000 watts. That’s more than 3x as much power.

The reason for this is the power delivery system. A 50 amp plug has 4 prongs and 2 of them give 50 amps of power each. While a 30 amp only has one prong of power. I’ll go more into detail about that further on in this article.

50 Amp RVs Can Run Way More Appliances At The Same Time

Another main difference is the number of appliances that can be run at the same time.

A 30 amp RV will barely be able to run one air conditioner and the microwave at the same time. A 50 amp RV can run 2 air conditioners, the microwave, a washer or dryer, and a TV all at the same time with no risk for tripping the breaker.

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The Power Centers Are Different.

A 50 amp RV has basically two 50 amp circuit breakers (4 wire systems) because two of the wires supply 50 amps of power. That’s why you can run so many different appliances at the same time.

For instance, if you have two AC units they may be run off of their own circuit and breaker so they don’t interrupt the use of a microwave and a washing machine which will be run by a separate circuit and breaker.

A 30 amp RV only has one 30 amp circuit breaker and everything runs off of it.

For instance, a small 13,500 RV AC commonly found in 30 amp trailers will use around 1,600 watts when running and even more when starting up. A microwave will use around 1000 watts when running. that’s 2,600 watts being used just by two appliances.

If you have your water heater on electric as well, it will be using around 1000 watts, and you will have gone over the capacity of your 30 amp power center.

Outlets

The wiring of the outlets is also very different.

A 30 amp trailer will have fewer outlets than a 50 amp one and even if you were to upgrade your 30 amp trailer to 50 amps the amount of electricity that can be drawn from the outlets is still limited.

The way to get around this would be to add more outlets that are on their own circuit.

The Plugs

This may seem like an obvious one but I wanted to elaborate on the different plugs.

The plug to a 50 amp RV has 4 prongs because they use a 4 wire system. There are two prongs that run 50 amps of power each into your RV which greatly increases the maximum watts that can be used at a time in your RV.

A 30 amp plug has only 3 prongs to run the 3 wire system into one 30 amp breaker.

You can use an adapter to plug a 30 amp RV into a 50 amp outlet because the 30 amp power cord is only capable of drawing 30 amps of power from the outlet. Everything in your 30 amp RV will run as if you were plugged into a 30 amp outlet. (click to view 30 to 50 amp RV plug adapter on Amazon)

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You can also plug a 50 amp trailer into a 30 amp outlet using an adapter but things will run much differently in your RV.

It will be as if you suddenly have a 30 amp trailer and you will not be able to run the same amount of appliances at the same time as you normally would.

If you have two AC units you will not be able to run them at the same time. (click to view 50 to 30 amp RV plug adapter on Amazon)


Can I Turn My 30A RV Into A 50A RV?

There are many benefits to having more power in your RV, travel trailer, or 5th-wheel especially if you are a full-timer who travels to different campgrounds that have full hookups.

If you are a boondocker or dry camper, like me, then you won’t have as much need for the 50 amp capabilities because electricity is limited anyways.

If you currently have a 30A RV and are finding yourself wanting more power. The good news is it is possible to convert to a 50A system or do other things to get more power.

The bad news is converting your 30A RV to a 50A RV isn’t as easy as changing the size of the power cord or swapping out the breaker.

People who do this conversion often find that individual circuit breakers flip because the outlet system was only designed to handle 30 amps. If you upgrade your RV to 50 amps you will need to add more outlets that are on their own circuit to be able to use more appliances.

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Some people add another 30 amp panel and change the main power cord to a 50 amp one. They add more outlets that run off the other 30 amp panel for extra appliances. This can be a more affordable way to make your RV capable of running more appliances at the same time.

The electrical systems in RVs are very important to get right, and unless you are extremely knowledgeable you shouldn’t try this kind of endeavor without professional help.

Hiring a licensed electrician to do the swap or give advice on how many outlets you should add and how you should transfer the power will be the safest way to turn a 30 amp RV into a 50 amp RV.


What Does 100 Amp Service Mean At An RV Park?

Some RV parks and campgrounds will say that they have 100 amp service and you may be wondering what kind of RV they are for.

After all of these years, it has now been pointed out to me that 100 amp service means the power pedestal has 50 amp, 30 amp, and 20 amp outlets.

That’s 100 amps in total.


RV surge protector plugged into a 30 amp outlet
I recommend surge guards to all RVers no matter how many amps their rig is.

Surge Protectors

Surge protectors will stop most kinds of power surges from frying your RV electrical system and appliances.

Every RV owner should have one no matter how many amps their RV is.

For more information on surge protectors like how they work and what outlets you can use them on, plus some of the best options on the market today, check out this article here.

Have any questions about 50 amp RVs vs 30 amp RVs? Leave a comment below.

by Jesse
Jesse has always had an interest in camping, technology, and the outdoors. Who knew that growing up in a small town in Sweden with endless forests and lakes would do that to you?

8 thoughts on “The Surprising Differences Between 30A & 50A RVs”

  1. I would like to recommend to edits to this post. I am an electrician and some of the information is incorrect in the post.

    The wattage for the 30amp plug is correct. As well as the wattage for the 50mp.

    The 50amp plug is a 4-wire 240v plug. Which uses a 2 pole 50amp breaker not ‘100amps’. If you attempt to run ‘100’ amps over that wire and breaker it will tell the breaker. They don’t provide 50amps on each leg rather a combined total of 50amps.

    They are called 100amp services because they have a 50amp RV plug, 30amp RV plug and a 20amp GFCI outlet. Total all those together and you get 100amps.

    Also surge protectors will prevent surges from happening but can not guarantee it will stop every single surge.

    Reply
  2. I Agree with Jason and Kurt and Disagree with Andrew. You do get 100 amps from a campground pedestal with a single 50 amp RV plug. The campground system supplies 120 volts at different current phases (or circuit legs). The 50 amp RV plug delivers 50 amps on one phase and 50 amps on a different phase or leg. On most RVs roughly half of the RV connections are on one leg and roughly half on the other so each half has 50 amps available to it. While 240 volts can be available to the RVs circuitry, typically none of the RV circuits combine the two phases or legs to get 240 volts to any appliance or outlet.

    Reply
    • No , because the legs (phases) , are 120 electrical degrees apart , so too will be the peak voltages , which is the ability to deliver power . The total current on the neutral will be … I think , 0.707 times 100 , or 70.7 A . Due to the odds of 100% power usage being really low , they roll the dice and give just enough ampacity for most normal use. Think of your home panel . It has a 200 Amp main … But if you add up the total of the individual breakers its way more than the main breaker . That panel gets you 40 spots for loads , but never all at once . Hope this helps

      Reply

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