Portable generators supply power to your home, appliances, small electronics, and even an RV in the event of a power outage or for a camping trip. Using a portable generator is relatively easy, and many models rely on dual fuel, gasoline, solar power, or propane for their ample power output. They also come with multiple outlets, quiet operation volumes, and are easy to transport where needed.
Read on for details on the main considerations to bear in mind as you navigate the available options and to discover why we’ve identified the below models as our top picks for the best portable generator.
- BEST OVERALL: Champion Power Equipment 3800-Watt Portable Generator
- BEST BUDGET: Goal Zero Yeti 150 Portable Power Station
- BEST FOR HOME USE: DuroMax XP8500E Gas Powered Portable Generator
- BEST FOR CAMPING: Sportsman 2,200/1,800-Watt Dual-Fuel Generator
- BEST HEAVY-DUTY: Westinghouse WGen7500 Portable Generator
- BEST FOR ELECTRONICS: WEN 56380i 3800-Watt Portable Inverter Generator
- BEST SMALL: Jackery Portable Power Station Explorer 1000, 1002Wh
- BEST QUIET: Champion Power Equipment 100519 6250-Watt Open Frame
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Portable Generator
Choose a portable generator that suits your needs and circumstances. Making the right choice depends on understanding the product category and the crucial distinctions among the different types of portable generators that are generally available.
Generators vary by the number of watts they are capable of producing. To narrow the field, first determine how many watts you are going to need. Only you can answer that; the answer depends on which appliances you want to be able to run during a blackout.
Make a list of those must-have appliances, and write down how many watts each one needs in order to start. Know that lights typically require 60 to 200 watts to start, a refrigerator needs about 600 watts, and a space heater may need as many 1,500 watts. For many homeowners, a generator in the 5,000- to 7,000-watt range provides sufficient energy for power outages and large appliances.
That list of must-have appliances also has a bearing on whether the best generators for you to consider are ones that run on gas, propane, diesel, solar power, or are dual fuel capable.
- Dual fuel generators do the same job as a single fuel generator. The unit runs on propane or gasoline, allowing you to choose the fuel based on your needs, like power requirements, noise restrictions, and availability in your area. They have an isolated gasoline tank with a fuel capacity that ranges from as small as 2 gallons to more than 10 gallons. The larger the fuel tank on the generator, the longer the generator can provide gasoline-based power.
- Gas generators are very reliable options. As gasoline is a widely available fuel source, it is a common source of fuel for portable generators. The primary disadvantages are that gasoline is more expensive and less efficient than other fuel sources, and gasoline engines typically emit the highest levels of CO2. Also, storing gasoline for long periods of time requires a fuel stabilizer and can present a significant fire hazard if stored incorrectly.
- Diesel-fueled generators are also a reliable option. Although generators fueled by diesel aren’t as common as those fueled by gasoline, diesel is more affordable, more efficient, and can be stored for longer periods of time without a stabilizer. Diesel storage also doesn’t pose as significant of a fire hazard as gasoline.
- Propane-fueled generators are affordable and have a clean-burning source of fuel. Propane is a common fuel source for portable generators and may either be tied into a home’s primary propane gas tank or have a designated tank strictly for the generator. The main disadvantages are that propane isn’t as energy efficient as other fuel sources, and a generator fueled by propane will usually have a lower run-time and produce less power. Propane also presents a fire hazard if stored incorrectly.
- Solar generators are a great source of power for portable battery banks. Opposed to the energy used in gas generators, solar energy is silent, clean, and affordable. In fact, it’s also free. The disadvantages are that the power capacity is determined by the number and size of the panels and the size of the battery it charges. A solar panel’s ability to charge a battery is also dictated by the amount of available sun, so it isn’t as reliable a fuel source as other options.
Portable inverter generators produce electricity in three phases, first creating a high-frequency AC (alternating current), which is then inverted to a DC (direct current) and then inverted once again to your standard AC. Not only do portable inverter generators create more electricity, but this process also produces a very stable electrical flow, which is necessary for protecting delicate electronic systems such as computers and office equipment.
Powerful portable generators can get heavy in order to supply power to small or large appliances, power tools, homes, and even RVs. A good rule of thumb with generators is to know that the larger the unit is, the more power output it has. Many portable generators on the market range from 90 to 200 pounds, but they usually come with built-in handles and wheels to help with maneuvering and portability.
Alternatively, some small portable generators weigh between 20 and 50 pounds, but these supply less power than other comparable generators.
Portable gas-powered generators can be pretty loud. But some gas generators are built with noise-absorbing glass wool, special mufflers, and/or vibration-absorbing feet. If you anticipate noise being an issue, the best generators for you to consider are ones specially designed to do their work effectively but quietly.
A dual fuel generator will produce 50 to 90 dB (decibels)of noise, depending on the size of the generator, the type of fuel (remember that gasoline runs louder than propane), and the power output of the unit. Most generators will fall between 65 dB and 75 dB, which compares to the noise output of a hair dryer on low.
To understand the range of sound produced by a generator, consider these common sounds and their equivalent operating dB level:
- Refrigerator: 50 dB
- Hair dryer: 70 to 90 dB
- Motorcycle: 95 to 110 dB
The quietest dual fuel generators belong to a relatively small group of products that utilize dual fuel technology and inverter technology to create a dual fuel inverter generator.
While the above features are important aspects to consider before purchasing a portable generator, there are a few special features included in select models that add convenience and added power.
- Wheel kits are often sold separately, as are the transfer switches that enable you to wire the generator’s output to your electrical panel. Before you buy a generator, make certain you understand what, if any, components are going to be missing.
- Multiple outlets: Not only are multiple outlets convenient, but they also help distribute the generator’s electrical load when powering multiple devices. Having a portable generator with at least two household electrical outlets is recommended for efficiently spreading the electrical load. Generators may also have RV outlets and USB outlets.
- Line sharing: Purchasing a set of like-branded generators will often give you the ability to wire them in parallel, also known as load sharing. This means that by using a brand-specific kit, you can plug one generator into another to combine their wattages and produce even more power. Load sharing can also be a less expensive way to produce enough wattage to run large appliances or power everything in an RV at once.
Our Top Picks
The following products, selected according to the shopping considerations above, represent some of the best portable generators on the market. Whatever your needs may be, there’s likely to be a generator on this list that’ll hit the mark.
If you’re looking for a portable generator that runs on either gasoline or propane, this Champion Power Equipment portable generator fits the bill. It offers a 120-volt 30-amp RV outlet for powering a camper or motorhome, a 120-volt 30A locking outlet for tying the generator into your home’s electrical panel, and two standard 120-volt 20A outlets for standard household use.
This unit runs up to 14 hours on a single tank of gas or 10.5 hours on a tank of propane, and all of your operations will be safe thanks to its Volt Guard, a built-in surge protector. We love the push-button start (no cranking necessary) as well as the unit’s ability to power multiple appliances during an outage.
- Wattage: 4,750 (starting watts) and 3,800 (running watts)
- Fuel: Dual fuel; gasoline or propane
- Noise: 68 decibels
- Runs on gasoline or propane
- Can power a camper or motorhome
- Can connect to electrical panel
- Surge protector
- Weighs 119 pounds
- As loud as a vacuum
Get the Champion Power Equipment portable generator on Amazon.
At just 12 pounds, this portable solar generator from Goal Zero is both lightweight and affordable, making it easy to store and transport. It can supply power to up to five devices at once, so you can quickly charge cell phones, tablets, laptops, cameras, and more. The solar generator has a 168Wh lead-acid battery, a continuous 80W surge modified-sine wave inverter, 2.1A USB ports, and 120W 12V ports.
You can recharge the generator in about 8 hours with a 12V car charging cable, about 6 hours with an AC charging cable, and about 3 hours using solar panels that are sold separately. Compact in size, the solar generator measures approximately 7 by 6 by 5 inches. It includes a 12V car charging cable and an AC charging cable that fits standard wall plugs.
- Wattage: 160 (starting watts) and 80 (running watts)
- Fuel: Solar panels/battery-powered
- Noise: Silent
- Lightweight and compact
- Powers up to 5 devices simultaneously
- Can be charged with solar power, a car, or via AC port
- AC cable and 12V car charging cable included
- Some users report manufacturing defects and short lifespans
- Solar panels and adapter sold separately
- Not suitable for powering large appliances
Get the Goal Zero Yeti 150 portable generator at Amazon.
DuroMax’s portable generator boasts 7,000 running watts of power and houses a 7.9-gallon gasoline fuel tank for extended operation time. It features impressively compact dimensions for its power output, at only 32 by 23 by 22 inches and 200 pounds. These characteristics combine with a collapsible handle and never-flat tires to produce a generator with portability in mind. It also boasts an electric start for effortless start-up.
With the purchase of this generator, DuroMax also includes every potential tool required for routine maintenance, including a spark plug wrench, a tool set, and an oil funnel. Unfortunately, there’s no digital display that tracks runtime or scheduled maintenance items, so it will be necessary to manually track these parameters.
- Wattage: 8,500 (starting watts) and 7,000 (running watts)
- Fuel: Gasoline
- Noise: 69 decibels
- Comes with multiple tools
- Easy electric start
- Wheels and collapsible handles
- Compact design
Get the DuroMax XP8500E portable generator at Amazon, Acme Tools, and Tractor Supply Co..
Although many generators are marketed as “portable,” the truth is that most weigh upward of 200 pounds, and the largest “portable” generators tip the scales at more than 300 pounds. That’s a lot of bulk to move, even if the generator has integrated wheels. This generator from Sportsman is truly portable. With a comparatively featherlight weight of 45 pounds, it weighs less than an airline-compliant suitcase.
While this particular dual fuel portable generator doesn’t offer the output of its weightier cousins, it still puts out a respectable 2,200 starting watts and 1,800 running watts. That’s enough to run a heater, charge your phone, or even run a small burner while you’re camping. Hook-ups include two standard 120-volt outlets, a DC battery charger, and even a USB input for charging smart devices.
With a parallel power kit (sold separately), users can even chain multiple Sportsman generators together to increase available power. The pull-start engine will run for up to 18 hours at half load on a full propane tank.
- Wattage: 2,200 (starting watts), 1,800 (running watts)
- Fuel: Dual fuel; gasoline and propane
- Noise: 60 decibels
- Dual fuel functionality
- Meant for light-duty power output
- Fuel-efficient operation
- Lightweight and portable
- Parallel power kit not included
- Limited power output compared to similar generators
Get the Sportsman portable generator at The Home Depot and Tractor Supply Co..
This 7,500-watt generator from Westinghouse provides dependable backup power with its 420cc 4-stroke engine. Though gasoline-powered, a push-button start and a remote key-start fob that can be used up to 109 yards away make it extremely convenient to power up.
Once you have it going, it will run up to 11 hours on 6.6 gallons of gasoline and provide outlets aplenty—a 120/140V, 30A locking outlet and five 120V 20A household outlets. The generator boasts its own muffler to help damper engine noise, and it even comes with a remote control.
- Wattage: 9,500 (starting watts) and 7,500 (running watts)
- Fuel: Gasoline
- Noise: 64 decibels
- 7,500 running watts
- Runs for 11 hours
- Remote can be used 109 yards away
- Muffler helps damper noise
Get the Westinghouse WGen7500 portable generator at Amazon or at The Home Depot.
When you’re looking for a backup energy supply that’s stable enough for sensitive electronics, invest in a high-quality inverter generator like this WEN model. You’ll have ample power to run devices like smartphones, tablets, and laptops, and just as important, you’ll have reassurance that the current won’t do any damage. With two 120V 20A household outlets, a 120/240V 30A RV outlet, and a 120V 30A locking outlet, the WEN generator can run up to 8.5 hours on a full tank of gasoline—and it’s only about as loud as the average conversation.
- Wattage: 3,800 (starting watts) 3,400 (running watts)
- Fuel: Gasoline
- Noise: 57 decibels
- Smaller than other options
- Includes two 3-prong 120-volt receptacles
- Weighs under 100 pounds
- EPA III and CARB compliant
- Does not work with propane
- Does not connect to electrical panel
Get the WEN 56380i portable generator on Amazon and at Target.
Jackery’s portable power station offers an excellent solution for acquiring portable and, potentially, free power. This power station has a 1,000-watt output capacity and can be fully charged with a standard household electrical outlet, portable generator, or car charger in just 8 hours.
Jackery also offers an option that includes two 100-watt solar panels that fold in half and have carrying handles for easy transport. Its 1,000 watts of output capacity isn’t enough to power an entire home, but this power station offers three standard AC outlets, one DC car port outlet, and four USB outlets for powering a wide range of electrical devices. Since it doesn’t burn any fuel, it can be used indoors without fear of harmful emissions.
Although the Jackery’s battery life will vary depending on how it’s being used, it can provide 100 full phone charges, power a 300-watt blender for 13 hours, and even power a pressure cooker and air conditioners. It also features a digital display for monitoring battery life. The main disadvantages are that it’s much less powerful than conventional generators and much more expensive than generators with comparable power output.
- Wattage: 1,000 watts
- Fuel: Solar panels/battery-powered
- Noise: 55 decibels
- Includes 2 foldable 100-watt solar panels
- Built-in carrying handles
- Comes with multiple outlets
- Digital display
- Not made for heavy-duty power output
Get the Jackery Explorer 1000 portable generator on Amazon and at Lowe’s.
Champion Power Equipment’s inverter generator is as quiet as it is powerful. This 6,250-watt gasoline-powered home generator only produces a 69-decibel noise level, which is about the same as a vacuum cleaner and up to half as quiet as home backup generators with similar power ratings.
Since it’s an inverter generator, it naturally runs more efficiently, but Champion incorporated an additional “Economy Mode” that regulates voltage output based on demand. In fact, this generator can provide up to 12.5 hours of continuous power on a small 4.2-gallon fuel tank. It features four standard household electrical outlets, one 30-amp household outlet, and one USB adapter as well as a digital gauge to monitor energy usage and engine runtime.
- Wattage: 6,250 (starting watts) and 5,000 (running watts)
- Fuel: Gasoline
- Noise: 69 decibels
- Runs for 12.5 hours
- Low noise level
- Comes with multiple outlets
- Weather-resistant storage cover sold separately
Get the Champion Power Equipment 100519 portable generator on Amazon, Acme Tools, and Tractor Supply.
There are many situation-specific factors that can affect which generator may fulfill the needs of a user, and the Champion Power Equipment 3800-Watt Dual Fuel Portable Generator is one of the best portable generators for most typical home uses. For providing temporary power to just a few electronic devices, the WEN 56380i 3800-Watt Portable Inverter Generator is a capable option.
How We Chose the Best Portable Generators
These recommendations for the best portable generator include options for different-sized electrical loads in a typical home. While the needs of each user may vary from emergency use to recreational excursions, each product was evaluated based on the product’s capabilities and intended use. We narrowed the field of products based on how many watts are available, fuel types, exhaust, level of noise, and accessories like wheels and transfer switches that enable wiring the generator to the electrical panel.
Our favorite generators that made the list include those that are known for being quieter than typical generators and include extra functions that make them easier to use at home and while traveling. There are products that made the list that include the ability to hard-wire into a home’s electrical panel, power an RV or camper, and provide reliable and safe power to sensitive electronics. All of them weigh less than 200 pounds with one option weighing less than 100 pounds.
Looking for more information about the portable generators available? Consider the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about this particular type of generator.
Q: Can I use a portable generator to power the entire house?
Most portable generators will not provide enough power for a typical house. Portable generators are designed to power important items or circuits (if connected to the electrical panel) in a home. For more reliable backup power, consider a standby generator.
Q: Is 22kW enough to power the entire house?
While a 22kW generator may be enough to power most essentials and some smaller homes, it is usually not enough to power the entirety of most homes.
Q: Are portable generators loud?
Portable generators are known for being loud, but there are options with sound-dampening features that reduce the noise.
Q: Can I leave my portable generator running overnight?
It isn’t recommended to run a portable generator unattended, and this includes overnight. Most appliances will be fine if left unpowered. However, food in the refrigerator can go bad after 4 hours, and food in the freezer can become unsafe after 24 hours.
If you need to run a portable generator overnight, make sure it has been well maintained and is sitting on stable ground away from the house to eliminate any chance of tipping over or carbon monoxide poisoning.