Buyer's Guides Portable Generators

Best Portable Generator: Top-Power Rated Models with 2020 Buyer’s Guide

mini generator

The best portable generators can be easily transported from place to place, unlike permanent generators. Portable models will come in a wide variety of different  prices and wattage ratings. However, it’s important to not get all caught up in the numbers. These generators can offer the perfect power solution if you don’t want to invest in a standard generator, or if you need electricity for activities that are away from home. I’ve put together this in-depth buyer’s guide that will discuss many of the important features to look for, while learning more about the top-rated models on the market and how they performed when put to the test. Below, you’ll find a comparison chart that includes each of the six models that made it onto my list, their rating, and top features.

Portable Generators Comparison Chart

ProductPowerRuntimePeak WattsRating
Westinghouse WGen7500
Portable Generator

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7500W11 Hours9500W
Champion Power Equipment
Portable Generator

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7500/6750W5 Hours9375/6750W
Jackery Portable Power Station
Explorer Solar Generator

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1000W1.8 Hours2000W
Honda EU2200i
Portable Generator

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1850W8.1 Hours2200W
Westinghouse WGen7500
Portable Generator

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1800W12 Hours2200W
Pulsar G12KBN Heavy Duty
Portable Dual Fuel Generator

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9,500W12 Hours2000W

Westinghouse WGen7500 Portable Generator


Our Rating: (5/5)

Firing up this generator is as simple as pushing a button. The included battery charger port will work to extend the life of a battery, so the generator will fire right up when you need it to. All of the included outlets come equipped with rubber covers for improved safety. The generator has a 420 CC 4-stroke engine that comes with a cast iron sleeve, complete with automatic low oil shutdown. It has a runtime of eleven hours and a fuel tank that can hold just a little over six and a half gallons. For fast and simple startup, you can use the remote start key fob, allowing you to turn on the generator at a distance of 260 feet away. The generator is also transfer switch ready. The twist-lock outlet allows users to tie the generator to a home using a transfer switch, in order to power appliances.

Pros

  • Easy to use
  • Eleven-hour runtime
  • Remote start up
  • Transfer switch ready

Cons

  • Can be difficult to start

Conclusion

This powerful portable generator can run for up to eleven hours, thanks in part to its large fuel tank. This model scored well for its low maintenance design, ease of use, and the automatic low oil shutoff feature. This model can be used for camping trips, power outages, trips to the beach, and so much more.

Champion Power Equipment Portable Generator


Our Rating: (4.5/5)

This is a dual fuel model that can operate on propane or gas. This model holds a little over one quart of oil and comes with a low oil shut off sensor that will prevent the engine from burning out. The 439 CC Champion brand engine comes with a simple toggle switch. The generator’s Intelli-gauge will help by keeping track of the voltage, runtime hours, and hertz, allowing users to easily monitor the generator’s power output while tracking maintenance intervals. This model runs at 9,375 starting watts and 7,500 running watts on gas, and 8,400 starting watts on propane with 6,750 propane running watts. This model is covered by a three-year limited warranty, which includes free lifetime technical support.

Pros

  • Dual fuel model
  • Intuitive controls
  • Three-year limited warranty
  • Free lifetime technical support

Cons

  • Very loud
  • Can be difficult to transport
  • Short runtime

Conclusion

This model is powerful, comes equipped with intuitive controls, and can be used with both propane and gasoline. This versatile, powerful generator is a great buy for backup power in the event of a black out, or can be used for camping trips, or any type of special occasion when an outlet is not accessible.

Jackery Portable Power Station Explorer Solar Generator


Our Rating: (4.5/5)

This portable generator comes equipped with pure sine wave AC outlets that are designed to provide extra capacity in order to power more AC appliances at the same time. The total wattage rating comes in at one thousand watts, with two thousand watts for surges. In total, you’ll find one quick charge 3.0 port and two USB-C ports, which are designed to power small, delicate electronic devices, such as phones and laptops. This model can be used for RVing, outdoor parties, camping, and for home backup power. The use of MPPT technology means a faster solar recharge rate. This model requires eight hours of sun exposure, connecting the two solar panels together with the use of an adapter. The recharge time is significantly longer for one panel, at seventeen hours.

Pros

  • Solar powered
  • Three ports
  • Uses pure sine wave energy
  • Easy to use

Cons

  • Long charge time

Conclusion

This solar powered generator requires a lengthy charging time, which may be a deal breaker for some buyers. The three ports are designed specifically to handle delicate electronic devices, so users can power up their smartphones, laptops, MP3 players and more. The portable design makes hauling and storing this generator a cinch, so it’s a great option for camping, day trips to the park, or it can be used as a reliable backup power source.

Honda EU2200i Portable Generator


Our Rating: (4.5/5)

This generator is designed to operate several different types of appliances, making it the perfect choice for job site use, camping, home use, and more. This model is quiet-running and is also designed for parallel use with another Honda generator. It offers 2200 watts of power and features the patented Eco-throttle system offering better than average fuel efficiency. It has an average runtime of four to nine and a half hours, depending on the load.

Pros

  • Can be used with another Honda generator for twice the power
  • Quiet running
  • Inverter technology
  • Low maintenance

Cons

  • Frequent oil changes needed

Conclusion

The fact that this is a portable inverter generator means it provides clean, stable power. Aside from reliable power, this model also delivers a fuel shut off valve, which allows the engine to continue running with the fuel supply off. This will help prevent any problems that can arise with stale fuel. The generator’s user-friendly design includes color coded startup points, so firing up this model is a fast and simple process. The generator itself is very lightweight, so it can easily be transported from worksite to worksite and will make a great choice for your next RV or camping adventure.

Westinghouse iGen2200 Portable Generator


Our Rating: (4.5/5)

This portable inverter generator features 2200 peak watts with the rated watts coming in at 1800. The generator weighs in at just forty-six pounds and comes equipped with two USB outlets and two 120 volt twenty-amp outlets. This model is a great choice for backup power in the event of a power outage and is tough enough to run all your essential appliances and devices. The fuel-efficient design allows the generator to run for twelve hours on just 1.2 gallons of gas. It’s also designed for parallel use, so you can run two of these generators together to get twice the power. This model is also backed by a three-year warranty.

Pros

  • Lightweight design
  • Long runtime
  • Parallel capable
  • CARB compliant
  • Three-year warranty

Cons

  • Difficult to start in cold weather

Conclusion

The generator is quiet-running, so it’s a good choice for camping and powerful enough for use during a power outage. Fuel efficient, easy to use, and offering a longer than average runtime, this is one portable generator you can rely on whether you’re camping in the backcountry, if there’s a power outage at home, or you’re spending a day at the beach with the family.

Pulsar G12KBN Portable Generator


Our Rating: (4/5)

This generator features 9,500 rated watts with 2,000 peak watts. The dual fuel capability allows you to choose between two fuel sources including LPG and gas. The four-stroke single cylinder OHV engine features an electric start that’s protected by a thick frame that’s powder coated. The fuel tank is able to hold up to eight gallons of fuel for twelve hours of continuous use at a fifty percent load. There is a total of four 120-volt AC outlets, a twist-lock outlet, a 120 volt 50A outlet, and a 12 volt DC outlet. As you can see, this model is well-equipped to power all the devices and appliances you need it to.

Pros

  • Equipped with 7 outlets
  • Dual fuel design
  • Four-stroke engine
  • Long runtime
  • One-year warranty

Cons

  • Complicated setup process

Conclusion

This dual fuel portable generator offers twelve hours of runtime, per tank. It comes with several outlets, so you can power sensitive electronics, appliances, and whatever you need when you’re out camping or at a job site. The lightweight design will allow you to easily haul and transport it. This model offers the type of reliable performance every buyer is looking for, and it’s available at an affordable price.

Portable Generators Buyer’s Guide

A portable generator can supply power to important devices around the home in the face of a blackout. When outside the home, this type of small generator can provide power for lights, power tools, small appliances, TVs, and other types of electronics when camping. Larger models can also be used at construction sites in order to operate power tools including air compressors, paint sprayers, saws, and drills. A model that is highly portable can come in handy for a wide variety of uses. Before I discuss the important features to look for, first I’ll go over the many benefits that come with purchasing a portable generator for home or work use.

Benefits of Portable Generators

Nothing can be more frustrating than losing power when you need it the most. Unfortunately, inclement weather during the summer, fall, and winter months can lead to blackouts. Having a portable generator as a backup can help you and your family stay connected to important electronic devices until the power is restored. Below, I’ll go over some of the most important benefits these portable models have to offer.

  • The highly portable design is the first benefit.  These models are durable and made to last. Equipped with never flat tires and a basic design, these models can be taken just about anywhere.
  • They will help to keep the heat running in the winter, the air conditioning going in the summer, and they can power the lights during a blackout.
  • Models that are used in commercial operations, come equipped with a few characteristics that make them more flexible than a standard generator, which is why they’re often used in a variety of operations or businesses.
  • Additionally, they can be relied upon at work sites for construction jobs when a power outlet is not available.
  • These generators come equipped with a number of safety features including circuit breaker protection, automatic shut-off, inverter technology, and spark arrestors.
  • With a generator, you won’t have to worry about the power going out which would normally cause a business to close early or could be a major inconvenience for home life. If there are critical applications that need to be performed on the job site, then a portable generator can provide the power you need.
  • These types of generators are also perfect for disaster recovery efforts. After a natural disaster strikes, a portable model can be dispatched to provide aid and relief.

As you can see, there are many benefits that come with owning a portable generator, whether it’s for home or work purposes. The key will be finding a model that offers a sufficient amount of power for your home or work site.

Important Features

There are many important factors to consider before you buy a generator. Ask yourself the following questions before you buy:

  • What do I need the generator for?
  • Do I need a model that can handle daily use?
  • Is the generator powerful enough to restore power to my home?
  • How many devices is the generator able to power?
  • What are my power needs?

The answers to these questions can help you narrow down your choices and purchase a model that comes loaded with the right type of power based on application, the size of your home, and where and how you plan to use the generator.

Portable Generator Types

For a portable model, you’ll find it much easier to find a generator designed to serve your specific needs. These generators are available in five style options including:

  • Professional
  • Semi-pro
  • Emergency
  • Recreational
  • Solar

Solar

This type will power your stuff but it’s also able to power itself as well. Solar powered models are a great choice and they’re in high demand for their portable power increase and renewable energy. With this style option you will not have to deal with gas, fumes, or loud noise. This is what makes this type of generator perfect for areas without primary power sources or camping. Additionally, this type of generator is also safe to use for sensitive electronics. As solar power technology improves over the years it’s quickly closing the gap between other portable power options.

Recreational

This type of generator is also referred to as a camping generator. Usually, when someone thinks of a camping generator they may think of the louder models. However thanks to new inverter generator technology these models are basically the modern replacements of camping generators of the past.

Using state-of-the-art technology, these generators are now very quiet running and are perfect for camping, tailgating, and RV use.

Emergency

These generators are perfect for camping or tailgating. However they are not a great option for a power outage at home. Smaller models will only be able to power one or two appliances. Additionally, lower priced models will come equipped with very small gas tanks that must be refilled every 2 to 3 hours. Basically, these generators are not very powerful and they cost a lot to run. However, there are many models that come equipped with more powerful larger engines that are designed to restore power to certain mission-critical appliances such as sump pumps, fridges, breathing machines, and lights. Additionally, higher priced models often come with larger gas tanks that are designed to run for several hours without interruption. While they’re not considered professional grade, they’re comparably durable.

Semi-Professional

For homeowners these generators are the most popular choice. Aside from their durable components and a high-quality engine, this type of generator is capable of restoring power to a home in the event of a blackout. They’re also a great choice for construction jobs.

While they’re not equipped with many of the same bells and whistles that you’ll find on professional models, they are easily classified as heavy duty.

Professional

The style of generator can be used for tailgating, blackout use and construction sites. These heavy-duty models are built in limited quantities for professionals who are willing to spend the money on these powerful reliable generators. This type of generator is made with commercial quality components and they’re designed for daily use.

Generator Sizing

In order to size a generator properly, you’ll need to determine the wattage of each of the appliances that you want to power at once. Whether you have recreational use in mind, looking to run one at a job site, or you need a generator for emergency power, there is a lot to consider when you’re shopping for this style of generator. But by far, the most important thing you need to know is how much power you need. A fridge can only need 600 watts to run, but what  if it needs a total of 2000 watts of startup power? Learning about an appliance’s power needs is simple enough. You can read the appliance’s user manual to look for this information or you can search online. This should be done for every appliance or device that you plan on using with the generator.

Outlet

Another factor to consider is what type of outlets are needed. A small inverter generator will come with one 220 volt AC Outlets. Some models may also come with a couple of USB ports. Once you reach 400 watts, you’ll notice 240-volt plugs show up along with more 120-volt outlets. You’ll need a 240 volt plug if you’re considering having an electrician wire the generator directly into your panel. Since the generator will be used outdoors, you’ll need to look for one that comes with GFCI protected Outlet

THD

Generally, you’ll need a THD, or total harmonic distortion that’s less than 6% in order to avoid damaging sensitive electronics.  Usually referred to as pure sine wave or clean power, it’s a more predictable and stable level of voltage. Pure sine wave models are often pricier and can be found on lower watt models.

Frequency of Use

Many models will come with a warranty that will cover the appliance for several years. For recreational use or emergency power, many major brands produce models that will work for you. However, if you’re using this model for work purposes on a daily basis then you’ll need to get a generator that is equipped with a commercial engine. Well this type of generator will be a better fit it will also come with a warranty that will cover the appliance for more than four years, as opposed to recreational generators that only have a warranty that will cover it for a period of three to six months.

Fuel

The most common type of generator runs on gas. However, during the days following a major storm, fuel can be hard to come by.

Diesel generators often provide better fuel efficiency for consumers who are willing to pay for the upgrade. Additionally, you’ll lose the carb that always seems to be clogged at the least convenient moment. If you’re looking into a model designed for whole house use then you’ll be looking at models that run on diesel. Just keep in mind that diesel can be very hard to find in times of emergency.

Propane generators are another option. If you want to use a fuel that’s more environmentally friendly and you don’t mind that it’s more difficult to use, then this type of generator is a great option.

Battery powered models have the advantage of being recharged using solar energy. They have no emissions and run silently. The biggest downside is the initial cost and the lengthy recharge time. Essentially, outside of tailgating and camping they’re not very practical to use.

Fuel Tank Size

If you want to run a generator for several hours, then you need to look for a model with a larger fuel tank. Most models have a fuel tank that can allow you to run it for a period of six to eight hours using a 50% load. If you use a lower percentage of the available power you’ll be able to run it for a longer period of time. However, if you’re given the choice between choosing a smaller or larger tank, always go with the larger.

Starting

Electric start engines are much easier to use than pulling a recoil cord. When you’re shopping for a portable model, you’ll find most still rely on lead acid batteries just like a car. However, there are some lithium-ion ones currently on the market.

Always make sure that you charge the battery before use. Most models will be fine leaving the charger unplugged in order to maintain the charge between uses.

Noise

Small models are often much quieter than large, high-powered generators. If you’re camping or tailgating your neighbors will definitely appreciate a generator that’s quiet running.

However, if you’re looking at higher powered generators that offer around 4000 watts or more, then you’ll have a very difficult time finding a quiet running generator.

Electronic Fuel Injection

This is a great feature to have because it eliminates the need for a carb, which will make maintaining a generator much easier, since you’ll no longer have to worry about a clogged carburetor. Another bonus is that you won’t have to deal with any issues starting up the generator in cold weather.

Carbon Monoxide Detection

There are many manufacturers that now produce models with carbon monoxide detection. This type of detector will measure the levels of carbon monoxide near the engine, shutting it down if the levels get too high. This type of detector will usually work faster than the ones that are installed in homes and will do a much more efficient job of preventing carbon monoxide poisoning. However, this type of detector can also be very sensitive. Be sure that the generator’s exhaust is pointed downwind from the sensor. To avoid a false reading, you must also avoid placing the generator in a corner.

Wheel Kits

There’s no doubt that generators are heavy and not all will come equipped with wheels. Some models require you to purchase a wheel kit separately so be sure to take this extra cost into account before you hit that buy now button.

Using some basic tools. The entire process takes just a few minutes.

Lift Hook Bar

For work or commercial use, there’s a good chance that you’ll end up needing to lift the generator to a higher level at some point. Models that come with a lift hook bar will give you a big advantage and can also save you plenty of time and back-breaking work.

Home Use & Connecting a Generator

Having a generator connected directly to your house is a very easy way to ensure you have power in the event of an emergency power outage. The best way to go about this is to purchase a generator that’s designed for this purpose and one that will turn on or off automatically once it detects a power outage. However, this style is more expensive than a portable generator. Fortunately, you can also connect a portable generator to your home. But doing so is not a DIY job. This is because a transfer switch will need to be installed. This job should be done by a qualified electrician only. Additionally, there are other factors to take into consideration as well. The first is making sure the generator you purchase offers enough power. If the generator isn’t powerful enough to run your entire home plus the power needed for startup, then you’ll have to flip some breakers in order to prioritize. If you plan on using a portable generator, then you’ll need to ensure that you know where it’s going to be placed while it’s running and that you have a cable that’s long enough to reach the transfer switch.

Safety Tips for Portable Generator Use

Before you take a look at these usage tips make sure that you read the included owner’s manual that comes with your portable generator. It’s very important that you follow all the instructions carefully in order to safely operate and start the generator. When it comes to safety, never cut corners. The tips I’ve included here are not intended to substitute the directions in the owner’s manual for your specific model.

  • A generator’s exhaust contains carbon monoxide which is a deadly poisonous gas that cannot be smelled or seen. Avoid running a generator indoors or even in a partially enclosed area such as a garage. The generator should only be used outside, far away from crawl spaces, vents, doors, and windows. It should only be placed where there is adequate ventilation. Opening windows and doors or using a fan will not provide sufficient ventilation.
  • If your generator does not have a built-in carbon monoxide detector, I recommend installing carbon monoxide alarms in the home.
  • Most people already know how extremely explosive gasoline is. Avoid overfilling the fuel tank on your generation and make sure to leave enough room to allow the fuel to expand. If you accidentally overfill the tank, the fuel can overflow onto the hot engine, causing an explosion or fire.
  • Avoid adding fuel while the generator is hot or running. Generators need time to cool down completely before fuel is added.
  • A generator should never be stored with fuel left in the tank where gas vapors can reach an open flame, pilot light, or spark.
  • Never smoke near a generator or fuel.
  • Most generator parts can get hot enough that they will burn the user during operation and even during the cooling off process once it’s been shut off. Avoid coming into contact with the generator until it is cooled down completely.
  • Connecting an electric powered portable generator directly to the wiring in your house can be deadly. Generators that are directly connected to a home’s wiring can backfeed onto power lines, injuring utility workers or neighbors.
  • Avoid connecting a generator into a regular household outlet or directly to your home’s wiring.
  • Only stop or start the generator when there are no electric loads connected.
  • Overloading a generator can damage electronics and valuable appliances. Avoid operating more equipment or appliances than the output rating on the generator. Only use this type of generator when necessary and to power essential devices.
  • You the correct power rated power cords. For individual appliances, plug them into the generator using outdoor-rated heavy duty cords that have a wire gauge that’s adequate for the appliance load. A cord that overloads can cause equipment damage or fires. Avoid using extension cords with worn shielding or exposed wires.
  • Never operate a generator in wet conditions including snow and rain.
  • Generators must be grounded properly. If it’s not grounded properly then you’ll risk electrocution.
  • Always allow for a minimum of four feet of clearance on each side of the generator when it’s in use.
  • Generators can be used in a variety of temperatures, but they should be well protected from exposure to the elements.
  • The generator should only be operated on a level surface where it will not be exposed to corrosive vapors, dust, dirt, or excessive moisture.
  • Regularly inspect your generator and contact a local authorized dealer for replacement, repairs or replacement parts.
  • When setting up, adjusting, making repairs, or transporting, make sure that you always disconnect the spark plug wire so that it is unable to contact the spark plug. Doing so will prevent accidental startup.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Size Generator do I Need?

For critical household equipment, you can use a model rated at 5,000-7,500 watts. For RV use, you’ll need a model with a rating of 3,000-4,000 watts.

What Kind of Generator do I Need for a Power Outage?

When your power goes out, you’ll need a portable gas-powered generator. These generators will be invaluable during a blackout and can also be used for camping and other types of recreational purposes.

How do I Choose a Portable Generator?

Search for a model that has a longer runtime at half load. The longer a generator can run, the less often it will need to be refueled. Make sure that the model you purchase comes equipped with enough outlets, in addition to the right type of outlets.

Final Thoughts

The best portable generators can power essential devices and appliances during a power outage, or when you’re out camping, tailgating or using an RV. The important thing to remember is to find a model that offers adequate power that can meet your needs. This will be done based on the type of appliances and devices you want the generator to power and what their power needs are. By following the information in this buyer’s guide, you should have no problem finding the perfect model, one that can meet your power needs and a model that will work with your budget.