What Is The Best RV Battery Set-Up?
If you’ve ever talked to dedicated boondockers or dry campers you’ve probably heard your fair share of RV battery talk. Some people are purely 12 volt battery users and others swear by 6 volt batteries and the insane benefits they believe come from using them.
It can be hard to weed through all the opinions when it comes to each style and I’m going to try and lay down the facts in this article.
When it comes to the best RV battery set-up for boondocking I would say lithium with solar power all the way. But that’s not everyone’s cup of tea, especially for regular weekend campers or people who usually camp with electrical hookups.
So what’s the best RV battery set-up when it comes to 12 volt vs. 6 volt RV batteries?
Like everything that has to do with RVing that question has a long answer and it ultimately depends on you and your camping style.
I’m going to start by outlining each kind of RV battery set up and end with my opinion on what is the best RV battery set-up for each kind of camper.
The Traditional 12 Volt RV Battery Set-Up
RVs, travel trailers, 5th-wheels, truck campers, and vans all run on 12 volt power when not connected to electrical hookups. So naturally, you use a 12 volt battery to run everything. This is the most common type of battery used in RVs and the easiest to find in a regular store when you’re on the road. Even if you buy from a dealer they will normally install one or two 12 volt batteries connected in parallel.
12 volt batteries are more affordable than 6 volt ones and it’s super easy to connect two of them together to double your amp hours. Amp hours are a unit of measurement commonly used to tell you how much storage your RV battery is capable of. Most regular RV/Marine deep cycle batteries will have around 70 amp hours in them, but you can buy deep cycle RV batteries with much less or much more amp hour storage capabilities.
For regular campers who dry camp on the weekends or full-time RVers who mostly camp with hookups in campgrounds or RV Parks, I recommend a battery set-up that ends up being at least 70 amp hours whether it’s with one or two 12 volt RV batteries.
- You can run an RV with just one battery. If you have two 12V RV batteries and one fails you will still be able to run your RV.
- 12V deep cycle RV batteries are usually the more affordable option.
- Easier to find in smaller stores.
- Each 12V battery you connect in parallel will add more amp hours (if connected properly you can add as many 12V batteries as you want)
- The more amp hours a 12V battery has the bigger it gets. One 200ah 12V AGM deep cycle RV battery can weight as much as 114 lbs.
- Can be slightly less durable than a 6V battery, but a high quality 12V battery that is not marine deep cycle battery can be just as durable.
- If your RV has a small battery storage area you may not be able to fit larger 12V high amp hour batteries.
The 6V/Golf Cart RV Battery Set-Up
RVs run on 12V power. So how can you run a 12V RV with a 6V battery? There are two ways to wire batteries together, series and parallel. When you wire in parallel like you do with 12V RV batteries you are basically making a larger battery but the voltage stays the same. When you wire in series you are increasing the voltage but not the amp hour capacity.
Because you need at least 12 volts to run an RV you have to have at least two 6V batteries, there’s no way around it. And if you want to add more batteries later you will have to add them in pairs.
Most people will have two 6 volt batteries wired in series for their RV. A 6V 225ah AGM deep cycle RV battery will weigh around 71 lbs. When you combine two of them in series you get 12V. But, you still will only have 225ah. Combining two 6V RV batteries only increases the voltage but not the amp hours like when you wire two 12V RV batteries in parallel.
It’s easier to understand why this happens when you think about it in watt-hours. To find the watt-hours of a battery you multiply the total voltage by the amp hours. One 12V RV battery with 100ah will have 1,200 watt-hours. Two 12V RV batteries with 100ah will be 12×200 which equals 2,400 watt-hours.
One 6V RV battery with 225ah equals 1,350 watt-hours, notice that even though the amp hours on the 6V battery is much higher than the 12V battery the watt-hours end up being very close. It’s because you’re multiplying with 6 and not 12 which is a much smaller number. Two 6V RV batteries with 225ah is 12×225 which equals 2,700 watt-hours.
- In some cases, 6V batteries can be more durable than 12V ones. For example, 12V marine deep cycle batteries which are not true deep cycle batteries and not the best option for RVers.
- Easier to manage than large 12V batteries.
- Take up less space.
- If you have two and one fails you won’t be able to power your RV.
- Harder to find in regular stores.
- Less affordable
6V RV Batteries vs 12V RV Batteries
So, why do people like using a 6V RV battery step-up over a 12V one? Some people swear that 6V (golf cart) batteries are way more durable than 12V batteries because they are made with thicker internal plates and made to be charged and discharged more than 12V batteries. This is true with some 12V deep cycle batteries but not all. If you buy a high-quality 12V deep cycle battery that is not made for running marine engines you will find that it’s just as durable as a 6V battery.
The second and most compelling reason for using 6V RV deep cycle batteries instead of 12V ones is the weight. Two 71 lbs 6V batteries with 225ah are way more manageable than one 114 lbs 12V battery with 200ah. They are also smaller in length and width and more likely to fit in the designated storage area of your RV. That being said you can always buy two 100ah 12V RV batteries and wire them together to get the desired 200ah for your RV.
How To Decide Which RV Battery Set-Up Is The Best.
When we’re talking amp hours and batteries all of this only matters if you are a boondocker/dry camper. If you only camp in RV parks or campgrounds with hookups with one or two nights of dry camping every once in a while just getting one or two 12V deep cycle RV batteries is going to be the best option. But when it comes to boondocking the more battery power the better.
When comparing two 6V batteries with two 12V batteries I would say 12V wins. Two 12V RV batteries with 100ah is going to be manageable for one person, fit in regular RV battery storage space, and be way more affordable. If you get quality the 12V battery will be just as durable as the 6V battery or the difference will be so slight it won’t matter that much.
The only time I can see 6V being the better option is if you have at least 4 of them. I live full time in a travel trailer. The batteries are stored on the tongue behind the propane tanks. After doing the math from the measurements of the battery boxes I will need for the 6V and 12V batteries I’ve found that I really only can fit two no matter what kind of battery I use. The 100ah 12V battery I chose as the best one in this article is only 2.67 inches longer than the best 6V battery from the same article. Using a 6V battery really doesn’t save me enough space to make it worth it.
That being said if I decided to start storing batteries in the front storage area of my travel trailer I would be able to store way more batteries but I still think 4 12V RV batteries would be more worth it than 4 6V RV batteries.
My Choice For The Best RV Battery Set-Up
In conclusion, after taking all the factors into account like space, emergency use, affordability, durability, and weight I think no matter how many deep cycle RV batteries you use, an RV battery set-up using 12V batteries is going to be the best option no matter what kind of RVer you are.
Have any more questions about RV batteries, how to set them up, and 6V vs 12V? Leave a comment below.