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Should You Upgrade To An RV Tankless Water Heater?

This post was updated on March 15th, 2024

Should you upgrade to an RV tankless water heater? Photo via iRV2 Forums

Should You Upgrade To An RV Tankless Water Heater?

Traveling with a bathroom wherever you go is pretty fantastic. It allows you to always use your own restroom, whether your rig is sitting in a parking lot or out in the middle of the wilderness. A long hot shower is particularly nice if you’ve spent a full day getting dirty in the great outdoors, and it’s in these moments that many travelers feel the utmost thankful for having an RV bathroom.

Unfortunately, your water heater doesn’t care how dirty you are, and because RV hot water tanks are so small, they tend to run out of warm water right in the middle of the very best long showers. This is frustrating to say the least, and leads many to despise showering in their RV.

It’s possible to fix the problem to some extent by replacing the stock shower head with an upgraded RV showerhead, but this quick fix still has limits. Those looking for an even better option might look into purchasing and installing an RV tankless water heater.

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What is an RV tankless water heater?

If you’ve never heard of a tankless water heater, you may be wondering what in the world it is. You may have already figured out that this is a type of water heater, and just as the name suggests, it works without the use of any tanks whatsoever. Instead, this nifty little appliance heats water on demand by running it through a pipe which is heated by electricity or gas.

Generally speaking, a tankless water heater can provide 2 to 5 gallons of hot water per minute, with gas versions heating a bit faster than their electric counterparts. As long as the hot water is being used for one task at a time (taking a shower, washing dishes, or running the clothes washer) this should be enough that you never run out—a dream come true for those who are accustomed to RV hot water tanks.

RV Tankless Water Heater
Enjoy longer hot showers with an RV tankless water heater. Photo via Public Domain. Cover photo: Forest River Forums

Why upgrade to a tankless water heater?

The most obvious reason to upgrade to an on-demand water heater is the fact that you won’t run out of hot water mid-shower or while washing dishes. That said, there are a few other pros to replacing your old-style RV water heater with a tankless RV water heater.


In addition to providing hot water whenever you want it, tankless water heaters are also much more efficient to use. This is especially true if you’re the type of person to leave your RV water heater on all the time, but applies even if you do turn the heater off between uses.

This means a lower electric bill if your park charges for electricity, and less propane usage if and when you use gas to power your RV tankless water heater.

No waiting

With traditional RV water heaters, you have to wait a while for the water to heat up after turning them on. This can be frustrating when you’re in a hurry. A tankless RV water heater removes the need to wait. Simply flip the switch and start using hot water right away.

Less maintenance

Anode rods, tank draining, and cleaning the burner are all things of the past when you switch to a tankless water heater. Considering how much maintenance that RVs require, the ability to remove these things from your to-do list is pretty nice.

Cons of tankless water heaters

Of course, on-demand water heaters aren’t perfect, and as is the case with anything, it’s best to know the cons before jumping in. Luckily, the downfalls are pretty insignificant in this case, but they are still there and should be mentioned.


As you might imagine, RV tankless water heaters do tend to be more expensive than traditional RV water heaters. That said, the price has gone down in recent years, making tankless heaters more and more affordable and closing the gap between the two.

In fact, it’s now possible to get a good on-demand water heater for your RV for around $500!

They can freeze

Depending on the model you buy, it is possible for tankless water heaters to freeze in cold winter temperatures. For this reason, you will want to look for units with freeze protection in order to avoid this problem.

Learning curve

If you’ve used traditional RV water heaters for years, you know the ins and outs of these appliances. You understand their quirks, maintenance, and how to use them properly.

Switching to an on-demand water heater will mean learning some new things and getting used to a new appliance. Fortunately, there’s not a lot to learn, and using one of these heaters is pretty easy.

Tankless Water Heater
There will always be enough hot water to do the dishes. Photo via Public Domain

Choosing an RV tankless water heater

As you can see, an RV tankless water heater is a great choice in the vast majority of cases, and making the decision to switch seems like a no-brainer. That said, choosing the perfect RV tankless water heater is a bit more challenging.

There are several options on the market, and if you don’t know what you’re looking for, these options can feel a little overwhelming. Try using the tips below to narrow down your choices and get the best water heater for you.

Electric vs propane

RV tankless water heaters might use electricity or propane. In some cases, they can use either. Be sure to carefully consider your needs before picking the option that’s right for you. For instance, if you do a lot of boondocking, propane might be ideal. Meanwhile, those who spend their time in RV parks with free electric might prefer an electric water heater.

Check the size

Not all RV water heaters are the same size. Make sure to measure your water heater opening and order an RV tankless water heater that will fit properly.

Look at features

There are certain features you will want to keep an eye out for.

For instance, you will want to be able to adjust the temperature of your water. Additionally, the aforementioned freeze protection option is a must-have. Some heaters have the ability to run off of battery power, and some include a door, meaning you won’t have to buy it separately.

Take all of these things into consideration when choosing your RV tankless water heater.

Our pick

Still stuck? We highly recommend the GIRARD 2GWHAM Tankless Water Heater if it will fit your RV. This heater is reasonably priced, works well, and has all of the features we look for in a water heater. That said, this unit doesn’t come with a door, so make sure to order one!

For more RV bathroom ideas, check out this article from RV LIFE.