The modern world simply could not exist without electricity. We need electricity for everything from phones to lighting, so it is essential to our lives. Most of us don’t give a second thought to power as we are seldom out of reach of the mains supply and so never have to worry about it.
There are many reasons why you might find yourself caught without a power supply that could result in a real inconvenience. For this reason, a portable generator can be invaluable as it means that you will never find yourself without power ever again.
Though the designs vary quite considerably depending on how much power and what level of portability they offer, the aim is to make sure that you have a reliable power supply whenever and wherever you need it.
With so many different products on the market, it can be a headache trying to find the right one. That is why we have compiled a list to help you find the top portable generator for your needs.
|NAME||Starting Wattage||Running Wattage||Fuel Capacity (gallons)||Starting Method||Engine (cc)||Fuel Type||Our Rating|
|Champion Power Equipment 46596||4000||3500||3.8||manual||196||gasoline|
|WEN 56200i||2000||1600||1||manual||79.7 with inverter||gasoline|
|Briggs & Stratton 30651||2200||1700||1||manual||111||gasoline|
|Goal Zero 22004||160||80||0||manual||0||solar battery|
What is the best portable generator?
To understand just why there are so many portable generators on the market today, you only need to take a moment to consider the huge range of reasons people need them. Portable generators are used for backup home and mobile home power supply, by tradesmen in buildings where the electricity has been turned off, racing teams who need to power their equipment and even farmers to power electric fences. There are literally thousands of reasons why people use portable generators and that is why they vary so much in design.
Main differences between portable generators
The most obvious difference between portable generators is how portable they are designed to be. For a generator to be considered as being portable, it only needs to be able to be moved by a single person from place to place.
Many of the larger generators are too large to be carried or even to be picked up for long, and rely on wheels to be moved around. Some generators, on the other hand, are not much larger than a lunchbox and weigh very little so they can easily be moved from place to place with little hassle.
So why the difference in size? The simple answer is down to one thing and that is power.
Given the varying output levels of electricity required, the types of generators available differ hugely in how much power they produce. The larger portable generators produce enough power to keep the basic amenities of a normal home up and running should there be a disruption in mains power. They are not however designed as a long term solution or even to keep all the heavy duty appliances running in the event of a main power failure.
If you are looking for a generator to run power tools or high power consuming appliances such as refrigerators, then you will definitely be needing a larger generator to make sure you have a high enough power supply. If you just want a smaller power supply to use less demanding power tools such as drills and rotaries, then you can opt for a smaller and much more lightweight generator that will still be capable of producing a sufficient power output.
The smallest generators tend to be designed as recharging stations that can be used for everything from charging battery-operated power tools to cell phones and tablets. Before you begin your research, you will need to be sure of exactly how much power you want from your generator to make sure you are buying the most suitable one.
All generators require some kind of fuel in order to produce a power supply. Most rely on gasoline as it is a simple and easy to obtain fuel that can generate lots of power when burned. Other generators rely on internal batteries and solar energy.
When buying a generator, you should always try to find out its level of fuel efficiency, because if you are planning to use it quite a lot, buying a generator that guzzles gas could end up being very costly in the long run.
Last but not least is the price. Price is the elephant in the room that we must always consider when buying anything. Since the larger generators will set you back quite a bit of cash, it is important to make sure that you have the budget to buy what you need instead of what you think you can get away with. Trying to save money could really end up costing you in the long run.
It is always a really good idea to sit down and come up with a list of requirements you will need your generator to fulfill. Once you have done that then you should work out a reasonable figure on how much you have to spend and see how well it fits your requirements.
Once again, you should never buy inferior or poor quality products to try to save money. That said, you should also make sure that you are not buying an expensive generator that is above and beyond what you need, especially if you only plan to use it now and then.
Our Top Choice
Westinghouse WH7500E Portable Generator
This heavy duty generator truly deserves the title of king of the portable generators.
Capable of generating a phenomenal 7,500 watts under normal running conditions and 9,000 watts during periods of high electrical demand or surge, this unit can do about as much as you can demand from any movable generator.
It runs off a powerful 420cc 4 stroke engine that has an electric start so you don’t need to make a huge effort just to get it going. To keep this monster running, it comes with a 6.6-gallon fuel tank that will give an 11 hour running time under a normal ¼ load. Though not the most fuel efficient generator on this list, it is nonetheless a really impressive level of fuel economy given its high power output.
The generator comes with an impressive four 5-20R 120V household power outlets so you certainly won’t be short of plugs no matter how much work you need the unit to do. It also comes with one L14-30R 120/240V twist lock power outlet that is perfect for people needing to use it to connect to their homes power supply.
The generator comes with wheels and pull bars for easy movement, and includes all the tools you will need to maintain it over its lifespan.
|Fuel Capacity (gallons)||6.6|
|Engine Displacement (cc)||420|
|Rating||(4.8 / 5)|
- 7,500 Running Watts and 9,000 Starting/Surge Watts;
- 6.6 Gallon fuel tank
- 1 x 120/240VAC
- 4x 120VAC power outlets
- 420cc Westinghouse 4-Stroke OHV engine
- Includes tool kit
- 3-Year limited warranty
- Quiet a loud generator
WEN 56180 Generator
If you are looking for a generator that you are not going to expect heavy use at a high power output from, then this is the model to choose.
It gives a power output of 1500 watts, which can spike up to 1800 watts when under load. The unit’s 98cc engine runs off a 1.45-gallon tank that will give you around seven hours under normal workloads. It features two 120V receptacles and one 12V DC receptacle for you to plug into.
The great thing about this generator is that it is available one of eight higher power output models that range up to a staggering 13000-watt output though sadly they are all carry only designs and lack any wheels. This is an excellent generator for mid-level work that is ideal for tradesmen and other people who have a home for it and won’t need to move it that often.
|Fuel Capacity (gallons)||1.45|
|Engine Displacement (cc)||98|
|Rating||(4.7 / 5)|
- 1800 starting watts, 1500 running watts
- 98cc OHV engine with internal air-cooling system
- 1.45 gallon gas tank
- Two 120V receptacles
- One 12V DC receptacle
- Low-oil shutdown
- Spark arrestor
- EPAIII and CARB-compliant
- No wheels
DuroStar DS4000S Generator
Another one of the mid-range power output heavyweights, this well-made generator from Durostar is definitely worth considering. It has a 7 HP engine that is able to get a really respectable 8 hours of running time from its 4-gallon gas tank. The engine is a little noisy clocking up 69 decibels at around 50% power range, though that is not something that seems to trouble may of its customers.
So far as power output goes it produces 3300 watts during normal operation and up to 4000 watts during a surge. The unit does require a hand pull to get it started, but once it’s going, it will provide a steady power stream for as long as you need it.
The basic design comes fixed into a strong metal frame, but this can be upgraded to the wheel version for a little extra money. The unit comes with all the necessary indicators including an oil warning light, a volt meter, a circuit breaker and plenty of power outlets.
|Fuel Capacity (gallons)||4|
|Engine Displacement (cc)||208|
|Rating||(4.5 / 5)|
- 7.0 HP, air cooled OHV engine
- Low oil shut off
- Heavy duty steel frame
- Full power panel with oil warning light, volt meter, circuit breaker and power outlets
- Power Plug Configuration:(2)-120 Volt, 20 Amp, 60 Hz-NEMA 5-20R Outlets, (1)-120 Volt, 30 Amp, 60 Hz-NEMA L5-30 Outlet
- 8 Hour run time
- 4000 Watt Surge – 3300 watt continuous
- 4 Gallon gas tank – 8 hour run time
- Need to buy wheel kit separately
PowerPro 56101 Gas Powered Portable Generator
This superb generator is available in 2 different power models. You can either choose to opt for the lighter 900-watt design or the more powerful 4050-watt design.
The 900-watt design is good as a multipurpose light use generator for those people who need a reasonable level of power but don’t want to have to drag a really heavy generator around with them. It comes with a carrying handle that makes it so much easier to carry than ones that don’t have this feature. It also has thick rubber pads on its four stand legs that really do help to keep the level of vibration down should you have this generator running on a flimsy wood floor like in a cabin for example.
It comes with the usual voltmeter and 2 plug sockets, and you can expect to get a respectable 5-hour running time under 50% load from the 1-gallon gas tank. This is an excellent choice for all those people who need a low to a mid-range power supply and plan to drag it around with them to wherever they might need it next.
|Fuel Capacity (gallons)||1|
|Engine Displacement (cc)||63|
|Rating||(4.4 / 5)|
- Weighs 36 pounds
- Uses oil/gas mix fuel so there’s no need for oil changes
- 5-hour running time at half load
- Quiet exhaust system
- 1000 watts starting power and 900-watts running power
- 1-year limited warranty
- CARB and EPA compliant
- Fuel needs to be mixed with oil to correct ratio which requires time to do so
Champion Power Equipment 46596 3500 Watt RV Ready Portable Generator
This is another excellent option for all those tradesmen that need a reliable and fairly strong power source to keep them up and running. It is also a good backup generator for small to medium sized households to keep the lights on.
It kicks out 3500 watts while running, and can surge to 4000 watts should it need to. The generator’s very reliable 196cc Champion pull-start engine will last up to 12 hours on its 3.8-gallon tank. This machine is high performance and offers good gas mileage when considering its very competitive price. As a result, this generator has become a really popular option for professionals everywhere, and has even resulted in it being sold out a few times due to the high demand.
|Fuel Capacity (gallons)||3.8|
|Engine Displacement (cc)||196|
|Rating||(4.3 / 5)|
- 4000 starting watts, 3500 running watts
- Up to 12 hours run time per full tank of gas
- 196cc Champion engine with cold start
- Optimized to start easily in cold weather
- Outlets – 120V 30A locking, 120V 30A RV, 120V 20A household outlets all secured by Volt Guard, protects your appliances from power surges
- 3 year limited warranty with free lifetime technical support
- Not on sale in CA
- Not as high build quality as other brands
DuroMax XP4400E 4,400 Watt 7.0 HP OHV 4-Cycle Gas Powered Portable Generator with Wheel Kit and Electric Start
Finding a larger generator with a wheel kit included as standard is a real plus. Many companies do allow for a wheel option that can be bolted onto the frame, but unfortunately they charge extra for the privilege. The optional extra, in this case, is a really durable cover that means that you can leave the generator out in the rain and don’t have to risk it getting wet.
The 7 horsepower engine produces a 3500-watt output that will surge to a whopping 4400 watts should the need arise. At 25% power, the 3-gallon tank will last around 8 hours, meaning that it gets and about an average level of gas efficiency.
It is an electric start unit which is definitely another plus provided it is well maintained. It will also shut itself off whenever it runs too low on oil preventing those horrible self-destruct episodes that generators in the past underwent whenever the user forgot to check the oil.
|Fuel Capacity (gallons)||4|
|Engine Displacement (cc)||208|
|Rating||(4.3 / 5)|
- 4400 watt surge/3500 watt continuous
- 4 gallon gas tank/8 hour run time
- Electric key start/includes battery
- EPA approved
- Automatic low oil shut off
- Some models have been reported to have a tendency to leak gas
WEN 56200i Portable Inverter Generator
If you are looking for an excellent generator for lower range power output and have little in the way of extra money to spend, this is the design we recommend. Its 80cc engine produces a highly respectable 1600 watts with a surge capacity of 2000 watts, but does so incredibly quietly.
This generator is one of the quietest on this list and still manages to produce the goods. It comes with 4 different ports including a handy USB socket for charging phones and tablets. The display and control panel is very well designed and features clear warning lights for low oil, overload, and output.
The sleek design packs this generator up nicely into a small box that is not much bigger than a gas can, and thanks to its carry handle and lightweight design, this really is a generator that you can take anywhere you may need it. It is the best portable generator for all the people who need power but do not want the noise that comes with the larger generators.
|Fuel Capacity (gallons)||1|
|Engine Displacement (cc)||79.7 with inverter|
|Rating||(4.3 / 5)|
- Quiet operation
- EPA III and CARB compliant
- 79.7 cc 4-stroke OHV engine produces 2000 surge watts and 1600 rated watts
- Two three-prong 120V receptacles
- One 12V DC receptacle
- One 5V USB port
- Quite expensive
- Won’t run anything as power hungry as a microwave
Briggs & Stratton 30651 P2200 PowerSmart Series Portable 2200-Watt Inverter Generator
If you can stomach the high price, this is a really great portable generator. Its small size somehow conceals a 111cc engine that produces 1700 watts under normal operation and a surge capacity of 2200 watts. This is a staggering amount of power to get out of such a small and lightweight design that produces less than 60dB during normal operation levels.
A really handy parallel port allows for the connection of up to 2 additional units to boost the power output to a level that could certainly keep a mobile home and all its electrical appliances happy. It has a small 1-gallon fuel tank that will give up to 8 hours of operation at 25% load, making this an incredible fuel efficient generator.
It is extremely portable thanks to its small and lightweight design, and thanks to its extremely low harmonic distortion, it is ideal for use with computers and charging phones and tablets via its USB socket.
|Fuel Capacity (gallons)||1|
|Engine Displacement (cc)||111|
|Rating||(4.2 / 5)|
- Quiet and fuel efficient 111 cc OHV engine produces 2,200 starting watts and 1700 running watts
- 1-gallon fuel tank for up to 8 hours of continuous operation at 25% load
- USB port
- Parallel connector port allows connection between 2 units for more power
- A quiet average 59dB operating volume
- Not available in California
- Not as quiet as rival Honda designs
Goal Zero 22004 Yeti 150 Solar Generator
If all of the generators so far seem like complete overkill and you are only looking for a small generator to charge your phone, tablet or laptop, then this one might be better suited for your needs.
It has a much more modest 80-watt output that it is able to fuel in 3 different ways. You can opt for the 100% environmentally friendly solar panel charge or by connecting to your car’s 12V adapter or even through its internal battery which can be charged from the mains power. Though the solar panels and car charge adapter must be purchased separately, this is an excellent system that means you will be able to charge your electronics no matter where you go.
This unit is as much loved by tradesmen as it is by campers due to the fact that it is lightweight and can guarantee to charge your devices.
|Fuel Capacity (gallons)||0|
|Engine Displacement (cc)||0|
|Fuel Type||solar battery|
|Rating||(4 / 5)|
- Powers laptops, lights, and smartphones
- Convenient pop-up handle
- Quickly refuel from wall, car or sun
- USB outlet, 12 Volts output and 80 Watts AC inverter
- Battery only lasts about 4 hours
Making sure you always have a good power source on hand is not just important to professionals anymore but rather to all of us. We depend so heavily on electrical appliances these days that we can no longer live without them.
Fortunately, it is now possible to buy some really great generators at a cost that won’t break the bank. With literally thousands of products on the market, you should take the time to investigate as many of the most suitable generators as possible. This will make sure that you get exactly what you need and keep yourself free of the fear of ever not having enough power at hand again.