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Are Onan Generators Quiet?

While power is important when trying to find the right generator for your needs, a generator’s sound output can potentially make or break your travel plans if it exceeds the National Park Service’s sound level requirements, barring you from settling down and taking in the sights. Not only that, but staying at an RV park usually brings with it other challenges, like trying not to wake up your neighbors when your generator kicks on and accidentally turning into a total jerk. 

This sentiment has led to the development of generators tailored specifically to combat this problem, most notably, the Onan generator. Developed by Cummins Inc. and later produced by their subsidiary, Cummins Power Generation, Onan generators are lightweight, easy to use, and, as you might have guessed, quiet—especially when compared to their contemporaries.

With intake silencers and numerous other measures intended to curb sound output, all versions of the Cummins Onan are some of the quietest options on the market, not to mention well-reviewed across the board.

This article will delve further into the different types of Onan generators on the market and some of their features, how they manage against their competitors, and their unique commitment to modern sensibilities and protecting the environment.

What to Look Into

A few things of note before we start breaking down types of generators: 

Matching the required fuel types (say your RV and the generator both take gasoline) will not only make your life a lot easier but potentially avoid any safety hazards related to carting around a bunch of fuel. Additionally, products with ‘QD’ in the name take diesel, and ones with ‘QG’ take gasoline or propane. 

Hopefully, this makes your shopping experience a little easier!

Diesel Generators

The Onan QD 12500 is a top-of-the-line generator and bestseller across several different websites that offer the product, power two to three rooftop air conditioners with a bit of life to spare. They’re also famously effortless to troubleshoot, with several access points for maintenance and complementary self-diagnostic tools. 

Other features include remote operation, an advanced cooling system, intake as mentioned above, silencer, and other internal soundproofing forms. These generators are versatile but best suited for larger vehicles that will make full use of its power.

Gasoline Generators

Gasoline generators boast many of the same features as diesel ones, but with the added benefit of low fuel consumption and safety protections for maintenance mishaps. The Onan QG 7000 is the quietest in its class, with exceptionally low vibration levels and much of the same functionality as the Onan 12500 diesel generator in terms of power output. It should also be noted that this specific model comes with a 3-year limited warranty and a lifetime drive warranty.

Propane Generators

Propane is usually reserved exclusively for class A and class C RVs and fifth wheels but maybe a viable alternative to gasoline, depending on your needs. Propane produces about half the carbon monoxide that gasoline does (as well as fewer pollutants overall), making it one of the cleanest energy sources. Going that route via one of the Onan ‘QG’ models is more sustainable and eco-friendly.

How They Stack Up

While Onan generators top many “best RV generators” lists, it’s worth noting that a few competitors have similarly enthusiastic reviews. In particular, Honda has a number of models that have garnered critical acclaim, though they still can’t compete with the Cummins Onan when it comes to sound suppression and ease of use.

Their biggest draw is that, while expensive, they’re still somewhat cheaper than Onan generators, making them a bit more accessible to common folk in a pinch. They can also run parallel to other generators, whereas Onan generators cannot.

On the significantly cheaper end, a few of the Energizer models have made a name for themselves by being compact and one of the more affordable options on the market. Unfortunately, like most other products out there, this reduced cost comes at a price: lower power output, and yes, they’re much louder than the higher-end Honda models and Onan generators.

Although other models may have different features or functions, the Cummins Onan is consistently praised for its quietness, user-friendliness, and power despite what some may consider a premium cost. 

For those with the “one and done” mentality when it comes to purchasing (as opposed to the “I’ll upgrade as I go” mentality), this would be the most logical choice and would likely save you money overall—especially given the inclusion of extended warranties on most of Cummins’ products.

Fueling the Future

Planet 2050

Cummins has responded to the growing need to protect our planet by putting out a handful of annual sustainability reports and starting a personal initiative dubbed “Planet 2050”, through which they hope to implement experts’ feedback to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, make the most efficient and sustainable use of natural resources, and expand beyond their personal borders, aiding various communities with the environmental challenges they face on a daily basis. 

An overview of their 2019 sustainability report also conveys their desire to maintain their reputation as a company that builds “the cleanest, most efficient engines and power systems” as well as discusses their previous involvement in planting numerous trees throughout Central America, making your purchase not only a wise one for your personal needs, but for the sake of the environment as well. 

Diversity and Inclusion

Hearing from a wide range of people and taking their perspectives into account is something that Cummins has held fast for the past 30 years. 

Where other companies will hire only a few people to represent a particular community, Cummins prides itself on hiring people from all walks of life and allocating them based on need and familiarity with a particular community, allowing for more personal problems being brought to the table and more effective problem solving when it comes to global issues.

The comments below were taken directly from their mission statement:

“Cummins’commitment to diversity has been recognized by several organizations and publications. DiversityInc named Cummins to its list of the Top 50 Companies for Diversity for a 12th consecutive year in 2018.

Also, for the 14th consecutive year, Cummins was awarded a perfect score in the 2018 Corporate Equality Index by the Human Rights Campaign, the largest U.S. civil rights organization for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender employees, with more than one million members and supporters across the United States.”

While marginalized groups may look at this as a form of commercial politicization, some of the company’s peers have little to no mention of either diversity or sustainability on their websites, making it less clear what type of people/ideologies consumers are backing. On that basis alone, Cummins is ahead of the pack.


There are a variety of Onan generators to fulfill your needs in terms of power accessibility, but the brand as a whole is home to some of the quietest generators on the market. Some competitors may nip at the heels of the Onan when weighing overall pros and cons, but the premium price brings with it a handful of features that only a few other brands can hope to compete with. 

Moreover, when you purchase an Onan generator, you are receiving a fantastic and well-reviewed product, but you’re also supporting a company that has been ahead of the curve both environmentally and in terms of diversity for (at minimum) the past 12 years.


  • Chris Hewitt

    Chris is a Texas-based freelance writer who loves the outdoors and working in his garage. When he's not enjoying the Texas sun, he can be found tinkering with all sorts of things in his workshop.

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