RV Converter vs Battery Charger | Comparison Between Them

An RV converter is a device that converts 120-volt AC power from campground electrical hookups into 12-volt DC power. This charges the RV house batteries and powers lights, appliances, and other 12-volt electronics when you’re plugged into shore power.

Based on installing hundreds of converters and troubleshooting electrical issues over the years, I can explain exactly how RV converters work and how to choose the right one. Keep reading for professional insight comparing converters and chargers!

RV Converter vs Battery Charger

What is An RV Converter?

An RV converter is a device that converts 120-volt AC power from a campground electrical hookup into 12-volt DC power that charges the RV’s house batteries and powers 12-volt devices in the RV.

How Does RV Converter Work?

RV converters use a transformer to step down the 120-volt AC input into a 13.6-volt DC output. This goes to a distribution panel that routes the power to charge the house batteries and to 12-volt fuses, circuits, and outlets in the RV.

Different Types of RV converters

Common types of RV converters include:

Standard converters: These simple, affordable converters get the job done for most RVs. They produce up to 55-60 amps to power an RV.

Premium converters: These produce cleaner and consistent power with less interference for sensitive electronics in the RV. Some also charge batteries faster.

Hardwired converters: Hardwired into the RV system and not easily replaceable by most owners. Found in many older RVs.

What is an RV Battery Charger?

An RV battery charger is a device specifically designed to charge the house batteries in the RV. Many RVs have converters that charge batteries, while some have stand-alone battery chargers.

How Does RV Battery Charger Work?

RV battery chargers use transformer technology to convert high voltage 120-volt AC shore power into lower voltage DC that goes directly to charging deep cycle batteries, usually through a 3-stage charging process.

Different Types of RV Battery Charger

Types include:

Built-in chargers: Installed as part of RV systems at the time of manufacture. Draw power from shore line or generator.

Portable chargers: Bring along to plug into the shore power outlet to charge house batteries. Often used for maintenance charging.

Solar chargers: Charge batteries directly using energy from roof-mounted solar panels. Maintain battery charge between shore power hookups.

RV Converter vs Battery Charger: Differences and Similarities

While RV converters and battery chargers have some overlap in functions, there are key differences:

FeatureRV ConverterBattery Charger
Main FunctionConverts 120V AC to 12V DC to power lights, motors, appliances in RV. Also charges house batteries.Charges deep cycle batteries using 120V AC.
TechnologySimple transformer/rectifier. Lower cost, less sophisticated.Advanced smart multi-stage charging technology. Better for batteries.
Battery Charging AbilityConverts 120V AC to 12V DC to power lights, motors, and appliances in RV. Also charges house batteries.Designed specifically to charge batteries rapidly and efficiently without damage.
Effects on BatteriesChronic under/overcharging from converters can damage batteries over time.Always installed built-in RV electrical systems. Cannot be added later easily.
RV IntegrationAn optimized charging process enhances the longevity of batteries.Can be installed aftermarket to enhance OEM converter performance for better battery maintenance.
Typical UsersEvery RV comes standard with a converter to enable basic functionality.RV owners who do extensive off-grid camping add separate battery chargers for better performance.


  1. Both converters and battery chargers enable RVs to use 12-volt DC power from charged batteries when shore power is unavailable.
  2. Most RV converters have at least basic battery charging functionality. RV battery chargers focus exclusively on optimized battery charging.
  3. RV Converter vs RV Inverter
  4. Converters change external 120-volt power into 12-volt power to use internally. Inverters invert internal 12-volt battery power into 120-volt to use appliances requiring AC shore power. The two complement each other in off-grid applications.

How to tell if Your RV Battery Charger or Converter is Bad?

Don’t ignore the warning signs of a failing RV power converter or battery charger. Dimming lights and dying batteries indicate insufficient charge levels to meet demands. Loud buzzing or cracking noises point to extreme internal electrical stresses about to cause a breakdown. Overheating can risk fire and rapid failure if ventilation is inadequate. Battery acid corrosion arises from damaged charging cycles slowly destroying terminals and plates through under/over-voltage. Tripping breakers suggest spikes and shorts are overloading past capacity limits. Fluctuating voltages also slowly damage electronic devices despite protection devices.

Catching any of these 6 common problems early allows diagnosis and replacement of aging converters/chargers before expiration leaving you utterly powerless out on the road. Schedule annual inspections to detect deterioration before total failure since replacements can be complicated. Protect your travel freedom by proactively monitoring converter/charger health rather than ignoring the inevitable signs of aging after years of faithful service.

FAQs with Answers

Are converters and battery chargers interchangeable?

No, they serve complementary but distinct functions in RVs. Attempting to substitute one for the other can lead to problems.

My old RV only has a converter. Should I add a battery charger?

Possibly – upgraded external chargers often charge better and are gentler on batteries than standard converters. Check your converter output first.

How long should an RV converter or battery charger last?

With proper installation and maintenance, 10-20 years of working life is reasonable for quality converters and chargers.


In summary, RV converters and battery chargers help power RV electrical systems from shore power or generators, though in different ways. When problems occur with power delivery or battery charging, inspecting and troubleshooting converters/chargers should be part of the diagnosis. Care for your RV’s electrical system will ensure happy travels for years to come.

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