Are microwaves a necessary appliance to have in an RV? It depends a lot on your camping style, but most RVers will probably want the option to heat up a quick meal after a busy day.
Microwaves are convenient to have in an RV, but they are also one of the appliances that use up the most energy in an RV. After researching different styles and models of microwaves, we’ve come up with a list of the best RV microwaves options.
For most RV’ers, the best microwave is one that runs on 700 watts of or less, as these can often be operated using a large capacity battery or the generator. If you plan on cooking only when you have an electrical hookup at a campsite, then you have plenty of microwave options to choose from. A popular option, in that case, is a convection microwave which cooks food faster than a regular one.
And if you’re looking for a 12V option, you’re out of luck. That’s just not enough juice to run a proper microwave on (more on that later on).
I know it can be confusing to understand how electricity works in an RV, so I’m going to explain both the AC and DC systems and how they affect microwave use. Then I’ll recommend several compact microwaves and convection microwaves that will help you quickly prepare meals in your RV.
Understanding RV electrical systems
Most RVs come equipped with two electrical systems: an AC (alternating current) and a DC (direct current) system. If you understand the different RV electric systems, you can skip the next couple of paragraphs. Otherwise, spend a minute reading this. It will make things clearer when we discuss the types of RV microwaves out there and try to figure out which microwave is best for your situation.
When camping in your RV, you either have electric hookups at your campsite, or you don’t. If you don’t, you are depending on the energy you have stored up in your battery to power any electronic appliances. This is also referred to as DC electricity.
If you have solar panels or a generator, then you will be able to replenish the electricity in your battery. Adding more electricity into your RV battery will only extend the amount of time you can use the battery. It will not allow you to run appliances that require a much stronger electrical current. Therefore, you can see that there’s a limited amount of appliances you can run inside your RV from DC power only.
Usually, the smaller appliances that do not draw a lot of energy can be run off of DC power: overhead lights, the water pump, fans, and radio. Appliances that can be plugged into your wall outlets (hair dryer, slow cooker, microwaves) require AC power. There are very few, if any, microwaves that can be operated on the DC power from an RV battery.
AC power is the energy that you’ll receive if you are connected to a 30 or 50 Amp electrical post at your campsite. This power source will generate enough electricity to run all the larger appliances in your RV, that cannot run on DC power alone. AC power can easily run any size of microwave in your RV.
12-volt microwaves – is that even a thing?
Like I said earlier, there are few, if any, microwaves that can run off of DC power. In the past, there has been a product on the market called a 12-volt microwave. However, this product is increasingly difficult to find anymore.
You can find youtube videos of people heating up popcorn in a microwave plugged into their car or truck battery. Power Hunt is one company that manufactured a 12-volt microwave called the Wave Box. It is completely portable and can connect to a car cigarette plug.
The reviews on the Wave Box are mixed. At the time of writing this article, I could not locate any vendors currently selling this product. Only time will tell if this product makes a comeback or not. If it does, it would definitely be a product to consider for microwaves to use in an RV situation with DC power only.
Low wattage microwaves
So what’s the next best choice for a microwave that can be used in a boondocking situation? If you are an RVer who wants a microwave option that can be used even if not connected to AC shore power, there’s still some hope for you.
I’ve researched microwaves that have low wattage and good reviews. These appliances are compact, and depending on your energy supply, may be able to run for a short amount of time while boondocking.
Keep in mind that appliances have a specific amount of watts needed to start, and another amount of watts needed to keep them running. So you should always estimate a higher amount of power needed than the appliance states.
The Westinghouse WCM660B is a microwave that says it uses 600 watts, but our best estimates say that if your boondocking energy source can provide 1000 watts of electricity, you should be able to run this microwave from start to finish. It is one of the lowest watt microwaves listed, and also has good reviews.
Daewoo Retro Microwave Oven
This product has a fun retro look which could coordinate with a vintage camper. There are many different colors to choose from. It boasts 5 settings, with up to 700 watts of cooking power. The measurements inside this microwave are less than one cubic foot, so it is compact enough to fit on an RV countertop.
Like the Westinghouse model above, because of the low wattage of this microwave, if you have a powerful generator you may be able to safely use this microwave while boondocking.
See this product on Amazon here.
Whirlpool Countertop Microwave
This is a compact microwave from a reputable company. It can fit a dinner plate inside, but not much else. It has a 0.5 cubic feet capacity. The Whirlpool model consumes 750 watts of power, so it’s another solid choice for a low energy situation in an RV. There are 10 variable power levels pre-programmed for your cooking options.
Learn more about this product here.
Danby Designer Countertop Microwave
This popular compact microwave consistently receives high reviews from users. It has a slightly larger capacity than the Whirlpool model, with a 0.7 cubic foot interior. The price is reasonable too. Like the other microwaves mentioned in this section, this one delivers up to 700 watts of power.
The Danby designer model comes in a few different finishes and has an LED timer and clock display.
Check out this microwave here.
Toshiba EM925A5A-BS microwave oven
This microwave oven is still considered a compact size, even though it is the largest one on our list, at a 0.9 cubic foot capacity. Please note that this microwave also delivers up to 900 watts of cooking power, unlike the previous models we mentioned. If you like the Toshiba brand, this is the smallest microwave model they make. It has good reviews and is available for purchase in many stores.
Since this microwave does require more energy to run, we don’t recommend trying to use this on battery or generator power. However, this compact microwave would be a great option for an RV that is camping with electrical hookups. 30Amp or 50Amp power would be enough to run this microwave at a campsite.
Learn more about this microwave here.
Convection microwaves are becoming more popular. RV manufacturers increasingly offer combination convection microwaves in their new models.
A convection microwave offers 3 cooking modes:
- Microwave mode
- Convection oven mode
- A combination mode that combines microwave and convection cooking
Convection microwaves are convenient, as they combine two appliances into one compact space. For RVers that enjoy baking, it also provides an additional oven. Since a convection microwave combines two popular appliances in one, you can expect that the price is going to be double as well.
The microwave mode works just like any regular microwave works. It heats up food quickly through microwave radiation, but cannot roast or bake food. Just like your microwave in your home, metal should never be placed inside the microwave when it’s turned on.
Convection ovens use fans to distribute heat throughout the inside of the oven, allowing foods to be baked evenly. Most people find that the convection oven bakes food more quickly than a conventional oven and need to adjust time or temperature accordingly. Convection ovens yield favorable results on baked goods like cookies or pies.
Used as a convection oven, there should be a metal rack inside to place your food on. Also, be sure to remember not to leave anything plastic inside while using your convection microwave in convection oven mode. (Once I accidentally left a plastic food cover inside my convection microwave when it was on convection mode, and it became a huge melted mess!)
Now that you understand a little more about how a convection microwave works, here are a few recommendations for your RV kitchen.
Cuisinart CMW-200 convection microwave
This Cuisinart convection microwave comes in both 1 cubic foot and 1.2 cubic foot sizes. It has an attractive stainless steel finish and 25 preprogrammed settings. The unit comes with a glass turnable and a limited 3-year warranty.
The capacity of this oven is 28 liters and it uses 1000 watts of power. This unit would not be ideal for a boondocking situation, only use it when connected to an AC power source.
Get more information about this convection microwave here.
Toshiba EC042A5C-BS Microwave Oven with Convection Function
Here is a countertop microwave oven that can also be used as a convection oven. This model features sensor cooking and auto menu options. It also includes a grill rack for the convection function. Users can combine the microwave and the convection oven functions for optimal cooking convenience.
This microwave is the largest capacity oven we’ve listed, with 1.5 cubic feet of space inside. It provides 1000 watts of power and should be used when connected to a reliable AC power source.
Preview this product over here.
Sharp R1874T Over-the-Range convection microwave
This top of the line convection microwave needs to be installed above the cooking range. It has 850 watts of cooking power and 1.1 cubic feet capacity. It has a built-in exhaust system, and low and high racks included. Users can brown, bake, broil and roast in this convection microwave combination.
Take a closer look at this oven here.
Hopefully, this list gave you some ideas about which kind of microwave will best meet your cooking needs while on your next RV vacation. If you have another favorite microwave or convection oven in your RV, please share it with us!