Here are the 11 best portable generators – chosen from 547 models by 6,297 people.
Choose from 5 different categories: best inverters or best small, best mid-size, best large-size or best extra-large size conventional.
Click the link to see current price, more pics and full specs at Amazon.
Note: Generators below listed with their running not surge or max watts.
Best 3 Inverter Generators
The Generator Owned By Keen Campers, Hunters and Tailgaters
So what makes it the best inverter? Let me tell you. It is the quietest – and is no louder than your fridge – making it easy to have conversations standing next to it. It is the lightest – around the same weight as a 5 gallon water jug – making it easy to carry and pack. It is very fuel efficient – and will last (at half load) 10.5 hours on 1.1 gallons of fuel – which is about 1 can of soda worth of fuel an hour.
The Yamaha EF2000iS provides clean, smooth electricity so you could also power laptops and other microprocessor electronics. It has all metal engine components. And is more affordable than the Honda below which is surprising considering it has some pretty neat feature upgrades.
Honda Is The Small Engine Standard – But You Have To Pay Up
Putting Honda second on this list was about more than Yamaha blue vs. Honda red. So what was it then? Simple: the Honda is $200 more, 3 pounds more, lasts about 1 hour less on the same amount of fuel, has a slightly bigger footprint and does not come with DC charging cables.
And given the fact the Yamaha has all metal engine components (Honda has a few plastic like the oil slinger) it slightly edges out the Honda in durability – as crazy as that sounds…
…Given Honda is the world’s largest producer of power products and second largest producer (after Briggs and Stratton) of small engines for power equipment.
All that said, if you’ve owned mostly Honda in the past, and know your way around them already, then because of ease of maintenance you’ll probably save that $200 extra you spent in future years doing the repairs yourself. Check out the latest price:
With More Power For Less Money
3) Champion Power Equipment 75531i 2,800 Running Watts 171cc Inverter Generator
The value for money on offer with this Champion Power Equipment inverter genset will blow your mind. Here’s why: It’s $150 less than the Yamaha and $350 less than the Honda… And… Has nearly twice the wattage capacity. Pretty amazing value!
Champion has produced 2.5 million generators since 2003 – a little more than 200,000 average per year. Does that sound impressive? What if I told you Honda produces more than 6 million small engines for power equipment each year – a solid chunk for generators, and has been doing engines since the 1950s.
Anyways, the point of the comparison is to show you why Honda is able to charge much more for their brand name than Champion. They have a ton of clout when it comes to power products.
This Champion inverter genset is a great unit, nonetheless. It offers 2,800 running watts and can provide (25% load) electricity for 8 hours. With twice the power comes twice the size. As you can see it is quite a bit larger than the other inverters on this list. But it does come with wheels and fold down handle for easy movement.
- See full specs here…
Best Conventional Generators
The best small-size conventional portable genset is the most affordable – at less than $200. It’s a great backup power source for your sump pump or to take camping to power your electric griddle or space heater or electric coffee maker.
It’s hard to tell from the picture the relative size of the generator – so I’ll tell you. It’s about the same size as your microwave and weighs 50 pounds. It has 2 standard 3-prong outlets and a 12V DC cigarette-lighter-style outlet.
It is approved for use in all national parks and forests so if you’re in the market for a small-size portable generator but don’t want to spend the extra money on an inverter style then this is your most affordable option.
Also Good: Champion 42436 1,200 running watts
Another good option is this Champion. It’s more fuel efficient than the WEN – and will run at 50% load (which is 600 watts or, for example, a 1/4 hp pump or camping beer fridge) for 10 hours off 1.45 gallons of gasoline. That’s a runtime 2.5 hours longer than the WEN above…
…So you may ask why isn’t the Champion, the champion of small-size generators? It’s not the best in this category for these 3 reasons:
- It’s $20 more and yet offers 300 less running watts.
- It only has 1 standard AC outlet and lacks a 12V DC outlet.
- It weighs 6 pounds more.
Buy the Champion over the WEN if your top buying criteria is runtime and size – the Champion takes up 30% less volume than the WEN. And as mentioned above – has a runtime that is 2.5 hours longer.
It will save all your food from going off by powering your fridge, and also, keep you cool by powering a small AC… As well as give you enough extra juice for some lights, a small TV and charging for your smartphones. All the essentials!
The reason it is the clear #1 choice is it offers enormous value for money – it only costs around $375. You’ll see below the #2 choice has the same wattage but costs $150 more. How is this possible?
DuroMax is a brand owned by DuroPower, Inc. and they do all their business online – mostly on Amazon. This allows low overheads and no middleman markup. Be sure to consider DuroMax if you’re in the market for a mid-size generator for backup power in the case of a hurricane.
Also Good: Champion 46539 3,500 running watts
However, there are 2 main reasons it could not be ranked #1:
- $150 more with same wattage
- No 220/240V ability (for high power appliances)
Okay, okay… So why is it ranked #2 then, you may be wondering? Let me tell you why.
The wireless remoter starter is hugely convenient. Think about if you go camping with this generator and use it to power items in your trailer… You sit back with a drink and flick on a movie. When the movie ends, and you’re a bit sleepy, all you have to do is grab the remote and press a button instead of getting up, grabbing the flashlight and going out into the cold night to switch it off. Also, as mentioned, it has incredible fuel efficiency and can last 12 hours off 1 tank (3.8 gallons) when you’re using ~1,750W.
George Westinghouse and Thomas Edison were arch rivals in the 1880s. Edison promoted DC electric power distribution whereas Westinghouse, after acquiring Nikola Tesla’s AC electric power distribution related patents, advocated for AC. Westinghouse and AC won.
And when it comes to larger-size residential portable generators – the Westinghouse brand wins again. Here’s why.
Great run-time. Next time the power goes out you can rest easy knowing you’ll get 3,750 running watts for 12 hours – that’s from 6.6 gallons of gasoline… Enough power to ensure all the following:
- Your food stays cold in the fridge
- Your basement stays dry because your sump pump stays working
- Your space heater or window AC stays working so you can be comfortable
- You can watch TV with some lights with smartphones charging.
What else can you ask for? See everything else you get at the link.
Also Good: Generac 5943 GP7500E 7,500 running watts
They now use their own brand name and mainly focus on residential standby generators (they control 80% of that market) but are continuing on with their tradition of affordable portable power products.
The Generac 5943 has 7,500 running watts and a 12 hour runtime off 7.5 gallons (at 50% load). Not quite as good as the Westinghouse. But that’s why it’s not #1 here.
It has a Generac made OHVI engine, protected outlets (4x 20A 120V and 1x 30A 120/240V), a fold down handle and electric start.
Another Great Option: Briggs & Stratton 30469 6,000 running watts
Briggs & Stratton makes 10 million small engines for power equipment per year – used mainly by lawn & garden equipment brands like Husqvarna, John Deere, Snapper, Toro etc. That’s 50% more small engines than Honda, and in actual fact more than any other company in the world.
And since the engine is the heart of the portable generator, and Briggs clearly knows their engines… This list wouldn’t be complete without a showing from B&S. Here’s one of their durable and reliable gensets in the large-size residential category.
In terms of fuel efficiency: the Briggs & Stratton 30469 6,000 running watts machine is better than the #1 choice Westinghouse (0.538 gallons/hour for the Briggs vs. 0.55 gallons/hour for the W’house vs. 0.625 gallons per hour for the Generac)…
…It offers you 3,000 running watts for 13 hours while going through 7 gallons of gasoline. Note that the Westinghouse and Generac offer you 750 more running watts – yes, this B&S genny is slightly smaller. Did I mention this genset is $200 less than the W’house and Generac?
Best Extra-Large-size Conventional Generator
Here’s how big it is:
- 390 pounds
- 16 gallon fuel tank (10 hours runtime @ 50% load)
- As big as your garage freezer
- 17,500 running watts and 26,250 starting/surge watts
This generator is enough to power most houses. I would imagine most of you would hook this up via a transfer switch to your home’s electric distribution so you don’t need to plug things direct into the generator.
The great thing about buying portable is you can unplug it from the transfer switch and take it to the job site or the cabin.