RV toilets, what can we say about them? They serve a very critical function within your home-on-wheels. There are many different kinds out there. One size does not fit all. They’re under-appreciated until yours breaks. Fortunately, it’s not that hard to replace one.
Believe it or not, you may find yourself one starry night sitting around a campfire with fellow RVers talking about the best RV toilets and craziest RV black tank stories. Along with the laughs, barriers are broken, and valuable lessons are learned.
Whether you are looking for quality, comfort, function or size, we’ll share our picks for the best RV toilets on the market today. We wade through the myriad of options—porcelain, plastic, composters, macerators and more—in hopes of making your journey to bathroom bliss a little bit easier.
Most RVers have a love-hate relationship with their current commodes. If you find yourself hating what you have, rest assured that it’s fairly easy to replace one with the throne of your dreams.
Join us today to learn about RV toilets so that you can decide which is the best kind for your RV lifestyle, and how to complete an RV toilet replacement.
What’s Your Toilet Really Made Of?
Something you may not know before touring various RV bathrooms is that RV toilets are either plastic or porcelain. Generally speaking, smaller, lighter RVs (travel trailers, toy haulers and fifth wheels) have plastic commodes and motorhomes and heavier RVs have porcelain toilets.
Depending on your budget and needs, one might work better for you and your RV lifestyle. Plastic toilets are less expensive, lightweight and value function over style. Porcelain toilets are more expensive, heavier and are usually a bit more stylish.
And now, on to the different types of toilets!
Gravity Flush RV Toilets
Most RVs come with the very reliable and elegantly simple gravity flush toilet. The commode is permanently installed directly over the black tank (liquids and solids waste holding tank) and the waste falls directly down into the black tank when flushed. This type of RV toilet has been around for decades.
* Gravity flush RV toilets require users to keep their black tank valve closed to prevent the liquids from passing out through the sewer hose and only leaving solids in the tank. Since the toilet is directly above the black tank, the solids accumulate in the drop zone, forming a pyramid. Once the solids have accumulated, it is very, very difficult to reliquify.
Best Plastic Gravity Flush RV Toilet
Thetford Aqua-Magic VI Toilet
Hailed as “The most popular RV toilet,” the no-frills Thetford Aqua-Magic VI toilet is the industry standard gravity flush RV toilet. It’s surprisingly comfortable with a residential sized seat and cover and the deepest bowl available in RV toilets. It uses a floor pedal for flushing and filling that’s quite durable. The Thetford 31835 Aqua-Magic VI toilet is the ultimate reliable and budget-friendly RV toilet on the market.
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The Thetford Aqua-Magic VI comes in both high profile and low profile versions. The low profile RV toilet is shorter and sometimes described as uncomfortable for the average user. If you have taller family members, you might want to choose the high profile toilet. On the other hand, it may a better option if you utilize a Squatty Potty-style stool accessory.
* Product height dimensions typically include multiple measurements including both total product height and height to the top of the seat (typically 1-2 inches shorter). All dimensions in this article are for total product height.
Best Porcelain Gravity Flush RV Toilet
It is described as “home-like and stylish.” It is also comfortable with a wooden seat and higher profile. In addition to those elements, it has an elongated and deep bowl. Most standard RVs have a smaller, round and shallow bowl and some gentlemen find the dimensions are not enough for their…comfort. The elongated bowl gives everyone lots of space to do their business.
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Since this is a larger toilet (taller and elongated bowl), it does take up more space in your RV bathroom. You might have the room to spare, or you might not. You’ll need to decide what’s more important—room to stretch or room to…think.
* If you have the space, that elongated seat is a positive and will give you extra comfort. If you have a very tiny RV bathroom, the space needed to accommodate the elongated seat is a negative.
** If you prefer the lower profile RV toilet, are RVing with kids or just have shorter family members, you can purchase the low profiled Dometic 321 with the following dimensions: 15.5 in. H x 14.75 in. W x 22 in. L
RV Composting Toilets
RVs don’t come from the manufacturer with composting toilets. Most RVers choose to install a composting toilet for their RV so that they can boondock without having to worry about dumping a black tank. Composting toilets for RVs, unlike other standard RV toilets, do not require a black waste holding tank or a flushing mechanism, nor do they use water.
Depending on your RV tank’s positioning, you may even be able to combine your grey and black water waste tanks to increase your grey water capacity.
Composting toilets for RVs are also better for the environment. They don’t use any water or chemicals, and produce totally organic materials. The resulting compost can be used to fertilize the soil. Here’s more information on the benefits from American Home Shield.
RV composting toilets do require electricity. To operate properly (keeping the compost at the right temperature and humidity), the composting toilet requires an electric ventilation fan. Since RVs don’t come standard with composting toilets, minor modifications will need to be made to allow for the proper venting of the toilet.
Here’s an entertaining instructional installation video from Gone With The Wynns:
RV composting toilets are not cheap. While the gravity flush RV toilets previously mentioned topped out in the low $300s, RV composting toilets are priced around $1,000. In addition to the upfront cost, there are ongoing expenses such as bags to dispose of solids and composting material (i.e. sawdust, peat moss, coco coir, chopped straw, etc).
You can find out more about each material, how you can mix them up, and more at The Toilet Zone. Coco coir comes in very compact dehydrated bricks that can be stored in the tiniest RV or van. Peat moss is great too, but it comes in large packages. The other materials are not compacted either, so available space in your RV is a consideration.
If you are handy enough and want to save a ton of money, you can always try a DIY model, which we cover later in this article.
* Costs can be reduced by over 50% if you construct your own DYI composting toilet.
Best “Store-Bought” RV Composting Toilet
Air Head RV Composting Toilet
The two leading composting toilet brands are Air Head and Nature’s Head. Both are highly rated with high levels of user satisfaction. The Air Head toilet does not show up as often on the “Best RV Composting Toilet” lists because it isn’t sold on Amazon.com, is smaller and is slightly more expensive.
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We’re giving a slight nod to the Air Head toilet for one simple reason—you can empty the urine bottle without opening up the solids container. Both models separate the liquids and solids into two containers, and the liquids generally require emptying every day. This gives the Air Head a slight convenience advantage.
Looking at your solids daily is not that much fun and having to open everything up is extra work. With the Air Head, you simply unscrew the bolts holding the liquids container in place (it’s easier than it sounds) and then slide it out to empty. Easy peasy!
The biggest negative to the Air Head (and Nature’s Head) composting toilet is that it has an agitator to stir the solids, so you cannot line the solids container with a compostable bag. This makes emptying the solids container a little more difficult as you have to pour the solids into a bag.
Here’s a great video from Exploring The Local Life reviewing the Air Head composting toilet:
Build Your Own Composting Toilet
For the handy and adventurous, you can reduce costs significantly by building your own composting toilet. This DIY Humanure instruction guide walks you through the building process, but please make sure to add a way to separate the liquids and solids. Keeping them separate is what keeps your composting toilet fresh and non-smelly.
The non-stinky DIY composting toilet needs: 1 container for solids, 1 container for liquids, 1 urine diverter, a household toilet seat and lid, and a decorative box to keep the containers hidden away.
A pre-built DIY Composting Toilet with urine diverter be purchased for less than half the price of the leading manufactured RV composting toilets. The dimensions are approximately 16 in. H x 18 in. W x 21 in. L. Check your RV’s dimensions to make sure it fits.
Aside from cost, another positive about the DIY composting toilet for RVs is that you can line the solids container with a compostable bag, making emptying much easier. Also, make sure you have lots of covering materials readily available to add after every use as these models do not use an electrical fan ventilation system.
RV Cassette Toilets are permanently installed with a removable waste tank. Permanent RV cassette toilets are mostly found in European RVs, but they can be found in the U.S. too, especially in vans.
Cassette Toilets do not take up much space and have a toilet bowl that turns 180 degrees (maximizing space in smaller RVs). They also do not use water from your RV’s fresh water tank—helping to conserve water in typically smaller fresh water holding tanks. It is also a good option for wet baths that are often smaller than a typical RV dry bath.
For more information on finding the right sized RV for your, check out What Size RV Should You Buy?
A major downside of the RV cassette toilet is emptying it out. The toilet itself has a small holding tank, usually around 5 gallons. But unlike other waste holding tanks, the cassette toilet tank must be removed from the RV and dumped. It can be dumped at a dump station or toilet.
Generally speaking, other black tanks can be emptied without seeing or smelling the waste. This isn’t always the case with emptying the cassette toilet tank. Sometimes you get to see and smell all of the RAW SEWAGE, and that ain’t pretty.
Having said all that about RAW SEWAGE, having dumping options is definitely a positive. It’s much easier to find public restrooms than dump stations. This is a big advantage when camping out somewhere miles from the nearest dump station.
Another downside is the storage capacity. Most RV black tanks can hold a lot—often around 50 gallons. As mentioned before, the cassette toilet waste tank is a fraction of this size. That means you have to empty much sooner. You can extend that a bit by using other restrooms whenever possible. However, if you are spending a lot of time in your van with multiple people, that tiny holding tank will require frequent dumping trips.
The Best RV Cassette Toilet
Thetford C224 CW Cassette Toilet
This European-made RV cassette toilet made the list for a few reasons. First, it has a built-in fresh RV water tank (2.4 gallons), yet is relatively small in size. It’s also a Thetford, one of the most recognizable and popular brands out there. Lastly, the Thetford C224 CW has a manual flush. This is great if you are boondocking and have limited electric options—no worries on using precious solar or generator-produced electricity.
One of the biggest negatives of the Thetford C224 CW is that it ships from Europe, so not only is the toilet itself expensive ($600+), but the shipping is currently over $150. The waste tank holds 4.75 gallons, not huge, but bigger than others.
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Well there you have it. You are now an RV toilet master. Okay, maybe not, but you learned a lot about the options you have.
Next time you are in an RV, spend more time checking out the various toilets and make sure to consider what is most important to you: size, price, weight, environmental impact, etc.
Make an informed decision and enjoy your time on your throne.