RV Toilet Buying Guide

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Written By Andrea Bullock
RV Toilet Buying Guide

Purchasing an RV toilet or portable toilet is not something that is done every day, so this decision needs to be carefully thought through to ensure that the unit purchased will meet your needs and that it will last for a long while so you can get a decent return on investment. If you are an experienced buyer because you already have RV or portable toilets or whether you are completely new to this, it is important to stay informed since technologies advance, new products are regularly being introduced in the market, and current products have new features introduced to them.

What to look for when buying an RV Toilet or Portable Toilet?

Before getting into the details of all the factors to consider, there are a few key considerations that will drive your purchasing decision:

  • Location: the first consideration is where will the toilet be used – in an RV, boat, while camping, etc. This will help determine whether an RV toilet or portable toilet is more appropriate or convenient.
  • Space available: this will determine the size that you will buy since, for example, a small RV bathroom will limit the size of an RV toilet that can fit in it.
  • Frequency of use and duration of trip: how frequently will the toilet be used, by how many people, and location of designated dumping stations are important to determine the capacity of the unit.
  • Physical condition of those who will use the toilet: this will determine the shape, height and level of comfort you will need. Are there very tall people, elderly, children, individuals with joint issues?
  • Style: if the owners/users are style-conscious, this will be important to focus the search on the models and brands that offer more stylish/sleek looks versus those that do not.

Once the high-level considerations above are reviewed, it is important to find an RV or portable toilet that meets the criteria below since everyone looks for the following:

  • Easy to install: Most toilets include all the required parts since people don’t want to have to purchase things separately, but some are easier to install than others and take less time. If you are handy, you may be fine purchasing a model that requires more installation efforts, but others may want this to be as simple as possible.
  • Easy to clean: This is achieved by bowl surfaces that prevent waste or odors clinging to them, by powerful flushing systems, and some other fancy features included in some toilet models.
  • Durability: Most people want toilets that will last them for some time, avoiding having to change them or purchase new ones just after a short while. You should check for the materials used in the construction of the toilet.
  • Comfort: Inevitably, many RV and portable toilets do not feel like the traditional in-home toilets that everyone is used to, but this has significantly evolved, and manufacturers are really trying to make the RV/portable toilet experience as close to the in-home one. For example, the are larger full-size seats and higher units, which really make for a more comfortable experience, especially for taller people. Having said this, some people are not really concerned about this since they know that they will only use their RV or portable toilet for a small amount of time during, for example, a short trip.

What is the main difference between RV and portable toilet?

RV toilets and portable toilets are both used when in-home or public bathrooms are not available. This can happen when people are travelling or on-the-go, when they go on trips or work activities on boats, trucks, camp sites.

A key difference between them is that an RV toilet needs to be permanently installed over a tank, while portable toilets have a small, detachable chemical waste tank sitting under the plastic toilet bowl. RV toilets are typically used in RV or cabins where permanent installations are possible, while portable toilets are commonly used in small boats, trucks, camping sites. Portable toilets are typically smaller and lighter than RV toilets.

In both cases, the use of water is limited when compared to an in-home toilet, and the tanks need to be emptied to remove the waste products.

How does an RV toilet work?

In order to understand how an RV toilet works, it is first important to consider how an RV works. RVs have three main tanks: one with fresh water (white), one for dirty shower and kitchen water (gray), and one for toilet waste (black).

The black toilet waste tank is also called the holding tank, and it is mounted under the RV. It comes in different sizes that can go up to 90 gallons, mostly dependent on the size of the RV. Unlike in-home toilets with regular plumbing where they can be used indefinitely by flushing repeatedly, RV toilet usage is limited by the capacity of the holding tank, which needs to be emptied on a regular basis. How frequently a tank needs to be emptied will also be affected by how many people are using the toilet, and where dump stations are available and located.

Chemicals can be used in holding tanks to help break-up the water and prevent unpleasant odors within the RV. Toilet paper is also something to consider since there are specific types that can dissolve more easily to avoid clogging, but regular toilet paper is used by most people without any issues.

RV toilets are usually flushed using a foot pedal under the toilet bowl, and all flushing mechanisms are designed to use less water than traditional toilets given the more limited supply available while on the go. Some of the newer models use as little as one pint (or 0.5 L) per flush.

Two other mechanisms to be aware of are the absence of a flush tank to prevent water spills while an RV moves around, and that some RV toilets have a sprayer hose to rinse off the toilet bowl to help keep it clean.

What are the different types of RV toilets?

There are various types of RV toilets available, so you have plenty of options to find the best one for your needs and personal preferences:

  • Gravity flush RV toilet: This is the most common type of RV toilet, and most widely available in the market. Like traditional in-home toilets, they take advantage of the gravity force to move waste down into the waste tank.
  • Cassette or cartridge RV toilet: This type has been very popular amongst RV users in Europe, and it has recently gained traction in the American market. The cassette toilet is permanently connected to the RV, and the black detachable holding tank usually has a capacity of fewer than 5 gallons, so it needs to be dumped more frequently.
  • Macerating flush RV toilet: This toilet has motor-powered blades that break down waste before it goes into the black holding tank.
  • Vacuum flush RV toilet: This toilet liquifies the water before it goes into the black holding tank.
  • Composting RV toilet: This toilet doesn’t use any water, so it is convenient when the water supply is limited/non-existent. This toilet separates liquid from solid waste, which is turned into compost that can then be used to fertilize plants and any garden. The design of this toilet allows for the handling of odors to ensure that they are not a problem when the toilet is functioning properly.

How does a portable toilet work?

Portable toilets are considered chemical toilets, like the one you would find on an airplane. They do not require a permanent installation over a tank, like RV toilets do.

They have a small, detachable chemical waste tank that sits under the plastic toilet bowl, as well as a freshwater holding tank. The toilet can be flushed by using a hand pump that sends waste into the chemical tank, which needs to be emptied into a standard traditional toilet or dump station.

Our team has considered all the factors outlined in this buying guide, along with their expertise and industry knowledge to recommend the top choice for you. You can shop being confident that someone has considered all relevant information and you will get the best RV Toilet to meet your needs. Happy shopping!