Portable generators supply power to a 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 3,800-Watt Portable Generator
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Westinghouse Portable Generator
- BEST FOR HOME USE: DuroMax Gas-Powered Portable Generator
- BEST FOR CAMPING: Sportsman 2,200/1,800-Watt Dual-Fuel Generator
- BEST HEAVY-DUTY: Generac 6,500/8,125-Watt Portable Generator
- BEST FOR ELECTRONICS: Wen 3,800-Watt Portable Inverter Generator
- BEST SMALL: Jackery Portable Power Station Explorer 1000
- BEST QUIET: Champion Power Equipment 6,250-Watt Open Frame
- BEST GAS: Honda 2,200-Watt 120-Volt Inverter Generator
- BEST DUAL-FUEL: DuroMax 12,000-Watt Portable Generator
How We Chose the Best Portable Generators
These recommendations for the best portable generator include options for different-size electrical loads in a typical home. While the needs of each user may vary from emergency use to recreational excursions, every product was evaluated based on its 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 control 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. Some products made the list include the ability to hardwire 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.
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 motor home, a 120-volt 30-amp locking outlet for tying the generator into a home’s electrical panel, and two standard 120-volt 20-amp outlets for standard household use.
Like some other gas generators, 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 the 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 peak watts and 3,800 running watts
- Fuel: Dual fuel; gasoline or propane
- Fuel capacity: 4.7 gallons
- Noise: 68 decibels
- Weight: 123 pounds
- Versatile and user-friendly construction; runs on gasoline or propane
- High power output; can power a camper or motor home if required
- Connects to an electrical panel to power household appliances and devices
- Surge protector integrated into the design prevents any malfunction or overloads
- Weighs 123 pounds; may not be ideal for some users’ needs
- As loud as a vacuum; may be too loud for some spaces or campsites
Get the Champion Power Equipment 3,800-watt portable generator at Amazon.
This 7,500-watt generator from Westinghouse provides dependable backup power with its 420-cubic-centimeter 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 users have it going, it will run up to 11 hours on 6.6 gallons of gasoline and provide outlets aplenty—a 120/140-volt 30-amp locking outlet and five 120-volt 20-amp household outlets. This cost-effective generator boasts a muffler to help damper engine noise, and it even comes with a remote control.
- Wattage: 9,500 peak watts and 7,500 running watts
- Fuel: Gasoline
- Fuel capacity: 6.6 gallons
- Noise: 72 decibels
- Weight: 196 pounds
- Ample 7,500 running watts of power; ideal for large and small appliances
- Runs for 11 hours on a single tank of gas
- Remote can be used 109 yards away; perfect for large campsites
- Built-in muffler; helps dampen the 72-decibel noise output
- Weighs 196 pounds; may not be ideal for maneuvering or transporting
Get the Westinghouse 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 30 inches long by 30 inches wide by 26 inches high 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 peak watts and 7,000 running watts
- Fuel: Gasoline
- Fuel capacity: 7.9 gallons
- Noise: 72 decibels
- Weight: 200 pounds
- Comes with multiple tools: a spark plug wrench, a tool set, and an oil funnel
- Easy electric start; no pulling or straining required for start
- Wheels and collapsible handles provide ease of use on smooth or rugged terrain
- Compact design can be transported, maneuvered, or stored with ease
- No digital display built in; may take a learning curve
- Heavyweight construction may hinder the portability of this model
Get the DuroMax gas-powered portable generator at Amazon, Tractor Supply Co., or Acme Tools.
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 and perfect for camping or for RVs. With a comparatively featherlight weight of 48 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 peak watts and 1,800 running watts. That’s enough to run a heater, charge a phone, or even run a small burner while camping. Hookups include two standard 120-volt outlets, a direct-current (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 peak watts and 1,800 running watts
- Fuel: Dual fuel; gasoline or propane
- Fuel capacity: 1 gallon
- Noise: 53 decibels
- Weight: 48 pounds
- Versatile construction; dual-fuel functionality can suit multiple users’ preferences
- Meant for light-duty power output; suitable for small appliances like mini fridges, toasters, space heaters, and more
- Fuel-efficient operation is perfect for the eco-conscious consumer
- Lightweight and portable design is easy to transport and maneuver when necessary
- Parallel power kit not included; may not meet some users’ power requirements
- 1-gallon gas tank may require frequent trips to the gas station
Get the Sportsman portable generator at The Home Depot or Tractor Supply Co.
For those who need a heavy-duty generator that keeps ticking with use, rely on the Generac 6,500/8,125-watt portable generator. This sturdy model is packed with helpful features like CO-sense technology, which prevents carbon monoxide poisoning, and PowerRush advanced technology that delivers a 40 percent increase in starting capacity for 8,125 peak watts and 6,500 running watts.
The large-capacity steel fuel tank with a fuel gauge ensures long runtimes and engine life while the steel tube cradle aids in durability while in use. This option comes with two 120-volt ground-fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) duplex outlets, a 120/240-volt twist-lock outlet, and three circuit breakers. As for portability, this 172-pound model comes with heavy-duty never-flat wheels and folding handles that can be retracted for storing. Finally, this model comes with a low-oil feature that prevents malfunction and an hour meter that keeps the user updated on the machine’s upkeep needs.
- Wattage: 8,125 peak watts and 6,500 running watts
- Fuel: Gasoline
- Fuel capacity: 6.9 gallons
- Noise: 81 decibels
- Weight: 172 pounds
- CO-sense technology integrated; prevents carbon monoxide from being emitted into a space
- PowerRush advanced technology delivers a 40 percent increase in starting capacity
- Large-capacity steel fuel tank comes with a fuel gauge; durable and easy to use
- Comes with two 120-volt GFCI duplex outlets, one 120/240-volt twist-lock outlet, and 3 circuit breakers
- 172-pound construction may make it difficult for some users to maneuver or transport
Get the Generac portable generator at Acme Tools or Amazon.
When looking for a backup energy supply that’s stable enough for sensitive electronics, invest in a high-quality inverter generator like this Wen model. Like most gas generators, you’ll have ample power to run devices like smartphones, tablets, and laptops, and just as important, you’ll have the reassurance that the current won’t do any damage. With two 120-volt 20-amp household outlets, a 120/240-volt 30-amp RV outlet, a 120-volt 30-amp locking outlet, and two USB ports, 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 peak watts and 3,400 running watts
- Fuel: Gasoline
- Fuel capacity: 2.2 gallons
- Noise: 57 decibels
- Weight: 99.2 pounds
- Smaller than other options; perfect for storing in garages, sheds, and trunks
- Includes two 3-prong 120-volt receptacles to suit users’ needs
- Weighs under 100 pounds for ample maneuverability as well as portability
- Reliable construction; U.S. Environmental Protection Agency III and California Air Resources Board compliant for long-term usage
- Does not work with propane; not as versatile as some other generator options
- Does not connect to an electrical panel; may not be suitable for some users’ preferences
Get the Wen portable generator at Amazon or 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 alternating current (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: Lithium battery
- Fuel capacity: N/A
- Noise: 52 decibels
- Weight: 22 pounds
- Includes 2 foldable 100-watt solar panels for ample eco-friendliness
- Built-in carrying handles help users maneuver the generator around a space or campsite
- Comes with multiple outlets: USB, USB-C, standard household outlets, and a car outlet
- Digital display alerts the user to battery life as well as input and output levels
- Not made for heavy-duty power supply; suitable for small appliances, tools, and devices
Get the Jackery portable generator at Amazon or 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. This generator can provide up to 13.5 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 DC car port outlet as well as a digital gauge to monitor energy usage and engine runtime.
- Wattage: 6,250 peak watts and 5,000 running watts
- Fuel: Gasoline
- Fuel capacity: 4.2 gallons
- Noise: 69 decibels
- Weight: 121 pounds
- Eco-friendly construction; inverter generators are highly eco-friendly compared to similar options
- Runs for 13.5 hours on a single tank of gas
- Low noise level at 69 decibels compared to other generator options
- Comes with multiple outlets: 4 standard household outlets and a carport
- Heavyweight design may limit this pick’s portability; might be too heavy for some users
- Weather-resistant storage cover sold separately; must be stored indoors or in a shed
Get the Champion Power Equipment 6,250-watt portable generator at Amazon, Acme Tools, or Tractor Supply Co.
When choosing the best inverter generator overall, we looked for performance, reliability, and low noise levels. The Honda inverter generator satisfies each of these requirements. Startup output is 3,000 watts, and it runs normally at 2,200 watts. That’s enough for basic home backup like AC and refrigerators, the majority of power tools found on jobsites, and RV power systems. It is parallel ready, so two can be run together to double the performance. All this while running as quietly as 48 decibels.
The super-reliable motor has an electric start with recoil backup. The clever Eco-Throttle adjusts fuel consumption to power requirements, maximizing runtime. The 0.95-gallon tank can provide up to 8.1 hours of use. It has two 20-amp household outlets and a 30-amp locking plug for RV or heavy-duty equipment use. The Honda inverter generator weighs just over 47 pounds. Wheel kits are available, although they add to what is already a premium price tag.
- Wattage: 3,000 peak watts and 2,200 running watts
- Fuel: Gasoline
- Fuel capacity: 0.95 gallons
- Noise: 48 decibels
- Weight: 47.4 pounds
- Eco-Throttle system provides fuel efficiency and reduces the risk of damage and malfunction
- 8.1-hour runtime; suitable for providing long-term power per gas tank
- Fuel shutoff, circuit protector switch, CO-Minder, and oil alert included with purchase
- Bluetooth connectivity integrated for changing power levels or monitoring at any time
- Electric start; no pulling or straining required for starting the unit
- Does not come with USB outlets; may not be suitable for powering small devices
- Limited fuel capacity compared to similar options; not suitable for large appliances or devices
- For dual-fuel capability, a conversion kit must be purchased separately
Get the Honda portable generator at Amazon, Lowe’s, or The Home Depot.
DuroMax’s generator starts with an electric ignition or a backup recoil cord. For added safety, it shuts down automatically when the oil runs low. This 238-pound generator measures 29 inches long by 30 inches wide by 26 inches high, and it sits in a steel frame on two heavy-duty wheels to aid in transport around the campsite, work site, or home. It includes two 120-volt standard household outlets, one 120-volt twist-lock outlet, one 240-volt twist-lock outlet, and one 240-volt heavy-duty outlet.
- Wattage: 12,000 peak watts and 9,500 running watts
- Fuel: Dual fuel; gasoline or propane
- Fuel capacity: 8.3 gallons
- Noise: 74 decibels
- Weight: 238 pounds
- Suitable for use with large appliances; heavy-duty power output
- Can provide over 8 hours of power on 1 tank of gas
- Automatic shutdown prevents malfunction when the fuel runs out
- Sits on a steel frame and dual heavy-duty wheels for ample portability and maneuverability
- Tires may flatten over time and with frequent usage; cannot be refilled
Get the DuroMax 12,000-watt portable generator at Amazon or Tractor Supply Co.
What to Consider When Choosing a Portable Generator
Choose a portable generator that suits most 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’re 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 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 as 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 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 users to choose the fuel based on their needs, like power requirements, noise restrictions, and availability in the 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 CO.. Also, storing gasoline for long periods 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 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 runtime 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. As opposed to the energy used in gas generators, solar energy is silent, clean, and affordable. 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, which is then inverted to a DC and then inverted once again to a 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 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 users anticipate noise being an issue, the best generators to consider are ones specially designed to do their work effectively but quietly.
A dual-fuel generator will produce 50 to 90 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 and 75 decibels, 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 decibel levels:
- Refrigerator: 50 decibels
- Hair dryer: 70 to 90 decibels
- Motorcycle: 95 to 110 decibels
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 users to wire the generator’s output to an electrical panel. Before you buy a generator, make sure to 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 users 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.
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 22 kilowatt-hours enough to power the entire house?
While a 22-kilowatt-hour 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. What is a good size portable generator for a house?
Users that are looking for a home backup generator should get a heavy-duty model that produces at least 7,500 watts of power. This size of generator can power many of a home’s small-to-large appliances. Many of these models may be on the heavier side, with most coming in at over 100 pounds.
Q. What is the best portable generator for home power outage?
A home power outage can rely on a generator with power outputs of 7,500 to 12,000 watts of power. This is enough to power small devices to large appliances while also keeping the lights on. The best models also rely on automatic shutoffs or surge protection to ensure reliable usage without malfunctioning.
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.
Q. What is the lifespan of a portable generator?
Most portable generator brands provide models that last for over 20 years or 3,000 hours of use.
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