Our Hands-On Review of The Craftsman Performance 6,000-Watt Generator

I put this Craftsman gas-powered generator through hands-on testing to see if it’s worth the price. Learn more about how it performed in this review.

By Tom Scalisi | Published Feb 9, 2024 12:30 PM

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A person pointing to the digital display on the Craftsman 6000-watt generator during testing.

Photo: Tom Scalisi for Bob Vila

When it comes to midrange power, 6,000-watt portable generators are right in the sweet spot. They have enough power to run most of the necessary items in a home, but they’re small enough to store in a garage or shed without causing space issues. When the opportunity came to test the Craftsman Performance 6,000-watt portable generator, I knew I’d be getting my hands on a product that is compact yet relatively powerful.

That’s just what I got when I unboxed and assembled this model. It’s compact enough to fit in most garages but powerful enough to be a real solution on a project site or during a storm. It seemed to check the majority of the boxes right away. But was it worth the money? After all, the approximate $800 price is an investment. Read on to discover what I thought of the Craftsman Performance generator in this comprehensive hands-on review.

Craftsman Performance 6,000-Watt Portable Generator: At a Glance

Rating: 7.5/10

The six outlet options on the Craftsman 6000-watt generator.

Photo: Tom Scalisi for Bob Vila

SPECS

  • Output: 6,000 watts
  • Fuel source: Gasoline
  • Noise output: Around 90 decibels (max)
  • Tank capacity/runtime: 8 gallons/12 hours

PROS

  • Well-designed control panel with dust covers and sealed switches
  • Very easy to assemble; can begin using right away
  • Compact footprint compared to more powerful models

CONS

  • Handle design is uncomfortable and awkward
  • Wheels are plastic, which is a disappointing lack of quality

Get the Craftsman Performance 6,000-watt portable generator at Lowe’s for $799.

What is the Craftsman Performance generator?

The Craftsman Performance 6,000-watt portable generator is a compact portable power solution. It’s a gas-powered generator that produces up to 7,500 cranking watts and steadies at 6,000 watts of power. It features four main power source outputs: a 30-amp 3-prong outlet; a 30-amp 4-prong 120/240-volt outlet; and two 20-amp 120-volt duplex outlets. Both 30-amp outlets are controlled by one breaker while the duplex outlets each have their own.

This generator is powered by a 389 cubic centimeter (cc) gas-powered engine that is fed by an 8-gallon fuel tank (with a built-in fuel gauge). It uses a pull start with a manual choke, with an on/off switch and a fuel cut-off valve. It also includes multiple safety features, such as a low-oil shutoff and a carbon monoxide alert as well as a digital gauge that displays runtime, volts, and hertz.

The Craftsman generator features two large plastic wheels and a pull or push handle to make it easier to transport. It measures 32 inches long by 22 inches wide by 24 inches high and weighs about 163 pounds without fuel or oil.

A person pressing the push-button start on the Craftsman 6000-watt generator during testing.

Photo: Tom Scalisi for Bob Vila

Easy Setup, Despite Lack of Assembly Instructions

The Craftsman Performance generator features a fairly simple design, making it a breeze to set up. However, the unboxing was difficult: I wish the manufacturer had used a split box—typical for air conditioners—where the box lifts off over the top of the generator once the straps are cut. But this wasn’t the case, so I had to cut the generator out of the box to remove it.

Once I had it free from the box, the setup took just a few minutes—and the generator was running within 20 minutes. Here is the step-by-step process I followed since there weren’t any explicit assembly directions included:

  1. Cut it out of the box, saving the thick piece of cardboard that sits on top of the generator in the box.
  2. Place this thick piece of cardboard on the ground and flip the generator on its end.
  3. Align the bolt holes on the feet bracket with the holes on the frame cross member. Insert the bolts through the holes and tighten the nuts.
  4. Tip the generator on its other end.
  5. Place one of the axles through a wheel, and then install a washer. Place the end of the axle through the corresponding hole in the frame, place another washer on the axle, and then clip the wheel in place with the included clips. Repeat on the other side before placing the generator on its wheels and feet.
  6. Attach the arm to the frame with the two included bolts.
  7. Fill the engine with oil (included).
  8. Fill the fuel reservoir with gasoline.

Overall, this is a very simple setup process, and the machine should be ready to run in short order. One of the things I liked the most was that it came with a bottle of 10W-30 oil, so I didn’t have to purchase any separately.

Onboard instructions and usage guidance for the Craftsman 6000-watt generator.

Photo: Tom Scalisi for Bob Vila

Simple to Use

Using the Craftsman Performance generator is also simple. It’s controlled by a few switches and a valve, and it didn’t take much for me to get this model up and running.

First, I had to make sure the fuel valve was open to allow gasoline to flow through the gas lines. Next, I placed the choke lever in the fully choked position. Then I flipped the control switch into the “on” position. Finally, I pulled the power cord until the generator started and placed the choke lever in the fully open position once it was running.

Using the outlets is also very straightforward. The 30-amp outlets are controlled by a switch while an additional switch controls the 20-amp outlets. With these switches in the “on” position, the outlets are live and can be used—though it’s important to keep them off when connecting cords. To plug in a cord, I simply lifted the dustcover and used the outlet.

The other function that makes the Craftsman so easy to use is its digital gauge. This gauge displays runtime, power output, and hertz. Simply pressing the button will toggle through these options.

Portability Could Be Improved

Portability is somewhat of an issue with the Craftsman Performance generator. While it is compact compared to many other generator models, it also has some undesirable features that make it difficult to move around.

First, I strongly dislike the handle. It is one lever that attaches to the frame, swings up, and allows the user to lift one end of the generator and then wheel it around. While the Craftsman is a midsize portable generator, the handle is quite long. I’m not a tall person, so using this long handle made it quite awkward to move the generator. I would prefer collapsible handles, one on either side of the frame, to this clumsy handle.

Next, this generator has 11-inch plastic wheels. While the size is a great feature, the fact that the tires are plastic is not ideal. They don’t roll well over debris, and they’ll also become very slippery in the winter, especially in snowy climates.

Decent Performance in Hands-On Testing

The Craftsman Performance generator performed well during my hands-on testing. I ran multiple devices from the duplex outlets, and the generator successfully kept up.

I plugged several devices into the generator via an extension cord. This included my refrigerator; a 1,500-watt space heater; and even an old but powerful air compressor. I also plugged in a television and a router through a surge protector.

So what happened with all of these devices plugged in? I did notice that the air compressor seemed to run a little slower, and the generator certainly grew louder, but it could definitely handle the load. However, it did seem to be toward its maximum output.

While I don’t think this generator would handle multiple circuits if it were connected to a home via a generator interlock, it still did well in testing, though it did seem to be running low on available power.

A person pressing the push-button start on the Craftsman 6000-watt generator during testing.

Photo: Tom Scalisi for Bob Vila

Is the Craftsman Performance generator worth the money?

I was surprised to learn that the Craftsman Performance generator is actually quite competitively priced. Other 6,000-watt or similar-wattage generators typically range between $600 and $900, so this Craftsman generator falls right within the price range at around $800. And I do think it’s worth the cost.

This generator does have some excellent features. The digital gauge is helpful, and the dust covers keep the outlets clear of debris. While it isn’t very convenient to move because of the plastic wheels, it does run well and provides four outlets, making it a great option to keep devices running in the home during a power outage or operating power tools on a jobsite.

The real downside to this model is that it isn’t convenient to move around. I would rather move a heavier generator with better, shorter handles. However, that negative point doesn’t impact how the model runs, the type of power it produces, or its attractive price point.

Should you buy the Craftsman Performance generator?

The answer to this question is that tricky, unsatisfying phrase: It depends. This generator has its pros and cons, so it could be a good fit for some shoppers and a bad fit for others. Here’s a quick breakdown of who should pass on this model and who it’s right for.

Let’s start with who should pass: folks with large homes looking for a full hookup. While the Craftsman Performance generator does have a 30-amp hookup, it’s not powerful enough to run multiple circuits in the home. It can run the essentials, but lots of luxuries will need to go by the wayside. For these types of homes, larger generators such as the DuroMax XP12000EH might be a better fit thanks to its power and flexibility.

However, this generator could be an ideal fit for shoppers who plan to use it on a jobsite or just to power a few devices in the home during a power outage. This model is also very easy to set up, and operating it is a breeze.

Anyone who is simply in the market for an affordable midsize generator will want to consider the Craftsman Performance 6,000-watt portable generator—I just wish the handle and wheels were better designed for optimal performance.

Where to Buy the Craftsman Performance 6,000-Watt Portable Generator

Get the Craftsman Performance 6,000-watt portable generator at Lowe’s for $799.

Meet the Tester

Tom Scalisi is a full-time DIY and construction writer for many of the largest websites in the industry, including BobVila.com, This Old House, Family Handyman, and Forbes. He’s become almost obsessed with emergency power options, testing generators, solar panels, and rechargeable power stations.