Best Portable Generator in 2018 – In-Depth Reviews & Buying Guide
If you’re looking for a back-up power source, the best option is a generator. They come in all sizes – with some big enough to power your home five times over. For most people, the smart option is to choose a portable generator. They combine an ample power source with convenience and mobility. Portable generators are also great for camping and RV enthusiasts. Above all, they’re a great tool to have in case of emergency.
Technology has come a long way over the years, and today’s portable generators are sophisticated. They come in many styles, from quite a few different brands. The best portable generators have plenty of power. They are easy to maneuver, and are durable and well made.
- Best Portable Generators to Get in 2017
- Choosing the Best Portable Generator
- Portable Generator Buying Tips
- Fuel Types
- Top Features To Look Out For in a Moveable Generator
- Safety Considerations
Best Portable Generators to Get in 2017
Let’s see how what kinds of portable generators are available, and how they stack up against one another. Take a look at their pros and cons, then decide which one is right for you.
DuroStar DS4000S, Gas Powered
The DuroStar is your classic generator. It’s tough and rigid, with a dependable motor cranking out consistent power. At the same time, it’s quiet and efficient. These are the qualities that earned the DS4000S the top spot.
The first impression of the DuroStar implies ‘hardworking’. It has a strong black frame that cradles the actual generator. The frame and motor connect in four places. They connect to the four isolated ‘motor mounts’. The mounts work to reduce noise, helping the unit run quieter overall.
One of the more subdued features is the power panel. It has an engine shutoff switch, volt meter, circuit breaker, and power outlets. There’s also an indicator light for low oil.
Perhaps the best feature of the DS4000S is the engine. It’s a DuroMax 7.0 HP, air cooled OHV that also has a low-oil shutoff feature. The engine produces around 4000 watts, max. The 4 gallon fuel tank will allow it to run for around 8 hours. The fuel tank has an easy-read gauge to check fuel levels. DuroStar even uses an upgraded muffler to further reduce noise.
The DS4000S is versatile. It’s a great tool to have in case of an emergency. It’s also great to take camping or on outdoors trips. It’s a portable generator that really does it all.
- Tough steel frame with sound reducing properties
- Sufficient power panel
- 7.0 hp aircooled OHV engine
- Powerful yet quiet
- Reasonable fuel consumption
- Requires maintenance (oil changes, etc) somewhat often
Suaoki 220Wh/20,000mAh Portable Generator
This portable generator from Suaoki uses a rechargeable lithium ion battery, rather than gas. This is a sleek, efficient unit that is a bit more discreet than the DuraStar reviewed above.
The high-density lithium battery is efficient and compact. It’s also lighter and longer lasting compared to traditional lead-acid batteries. Recharging the battery is simple as well. A wall adaptor or a solar panel attachment are the two charging methods available.
One of the most important qualities is the 20,000 mAh capacity rating. This generator is powerful enough to charge a smartphone twenty times over. It’s also suitable for tablets, laptops, TVs, and mini-refrigerators. It would definitely come in handy in case of emergency. Plus, the ‘pure sine’ technology prevents crashes in computers. It also helps your other gadgets run smoother.
Another nice touch from Suaoki is the safety regarding the battery. We never want to run the risk of a battery rupturing or being exposed. Suaoki uses ‘Battery Management System’ to help in this regard. Their system helps prevent over-heating and helps use power more efficiently. It will also prolong the battery’s life.
This portable generator offers multiple AC and DC ports, as well as USB ports.
- Rechargeable lithium-ion battery
- High-capacity ratings
- Battery Management System
- Recharges quickly
- Convenient ports
- Runs quiet and efficiently
- Less power than gas models
Champion Power Equipment 73536i
The Champion 73536i is a versatile, lightweight generator that is perfect for someone who is emphasizing ‘portable’. It uses a unique stackable design. This allows you to easily connect this unit with another Champion unit. It also makes storage a lot easier. Overall, the design makes this unit perfect for campsites, RVs, cabins, etc.
Powering this generator is an 80cc engine made in-house by Champion. It’s reliable and produces 1700 watts. It’ll run up to 10 hours on a single tank of gas. This small, efficient engine is also quieter when compared to its counterparts. This generator also has a ‘Power Relay’ system that makes connecting with other Champion generators simple and painless.
You’ll find multiple AC and DC outlets with clean electricity, for charging sensitive electronics. This generator won’t power your air conditioner, but it is perfect for a weekend camping trip.
- Unique design makes storage easy
- Can connect to other Champion generators
- Fuel Efficient engine
- Multiple outlets with clean electricity
- Quiet and lightweight
- Choke can be sensitive
The WEN 56180 is compact, easy to use, and vary portable. Like the Champion above, the 56180 is a very solid all-around model that checks all of the boxes.
It is safe to say the the engine is a major reason as to why the 56180 is a good choice. The 98cc 4-stroke OHV engine provides enough power without being a nuisance. It’s 1500 watts is more than enough for small recreational devices (mini-fridge, microwave, etc) and smartphones. The engine is also very efficient. One and a half gallons of gas will let you run this generator for about 7.5 hours. The spark plug arrestor permits this unit usable in forests and national parks.
The frame is thick and strong, bestowing a feel of quality. For being a smaller unit, this generator feels tough and rugged. The connecting pieces and mounts are also made with high-quality parts. WEN didn’t cut many corners with their designs.
The 56180 also has a few other helpful features. It has an air-cooling system that keep it running smoothly without overheating. There’s also a low oil safeguard that will shut the unit off if oil levels get too low. The panel offers your standard AC outlets and it also offers a cigarette style DC outlet for charging purposes.
- Compact, lightweight, portable
- 96cc 4-stroke engine is strong yet efficient
- High-quality parts
- Heavy duty frame
- Low-oil safeguard which shuts off generator if oil levels dip too low
- Requires oil changes and other routine maintenance
If you’ve already spent some time researching portable generators, you’ve probably come across the Honda EU3000iS already. It’s a top rated model that lives up to the Honda name. When you buy a Honda product, you expect durability and efficiency. The EU3000iS makes it’s mark in those two areas.
The Honda OHV is just as you’d expect: efficient, long lasting, reliable. It provides 3000 watts and a tank of gas can last up to 24 hours. As Honda fans know, Honda is a company that loves using helpful and innovative technology. That’s why it should come as no surprise that the EU3000iS has an ‘Eco Throttle’. This mechanism makes sure that every drop of gas is used even more efficiently. By the way, the motor is completely enclosed. The final result is a powerful, efficient, and quiet motor. What else could you ask for?
Going camping? This generator is perfect for powering TVs, small appliances, fans and lights. The inverter technology allows for sensitive technology like smartphones and laptops to charge without an issue.
The enclosed design makes storage easier. It’s nice and square – easily stackable. Bolted on near the top are two handles to make moving the generator easier.
- Legendary Honda reliability
- Efficient yet powerful Honda motor
- Enclosed design for quiet operation
- Perfect for camping/RV trips
- Easily stored
- Push start
- Battery is a tight fit, may require a few tries to set it up correctly
Pound for pound, the PowerPro 56101 is one of the best portable generators on the market. It’s very portable – it can be carried with one hand, even. It’s completely designed for that purpose as well.
On top of the unit is a sturdy handle that makes carrying the unit easy. The handle is centered and contoured to make carrying it easier. The feet of the unit have protective rubber soles to cushion the landing. This way, the unit can easily and quickly be picked up and transported.
One nice feature of the PowerPro 56101 is it’s fuel source. It uses a gas/oil mixture. Why is this an advantage? Well, for one, that means no oil changes. That’s one less messy job to do. Also, the gas/oil mixture burns efficiently. That allows this small unit to run for up to 5 hours on a single tank. The quiet exhaust system and spark arrestor certify this model or use in national parks.
Power wise, the PowerPro 56101 produces 900 watts of running power. It is more than capable of powering a computer, microwave, TV, or heater.
The panel offers an AC outlet and a DC outlet, with their respective circuit reset buttons.
- Compact, lightweight, portable
- Designed for picking up and putting down
- Easily stored
- No oil changes thanks to oil/gas mixture
- Fuel efficient
- Does not last as long as bigger models
- Underpowered compared to other portable generators
DuroMax XP12000EH Dual Fuel Portable Generator
The DuroMax XP 120000EH is a different beast compared to the others in this list. And it is a beast no doubt. It has the power to handle your essential appliances. This lets you live confidently knowing you will always have a capable backup on hand.
Powering the XP 120000EH is a 457cc DuroMax OHV engine. This is a dual fuel engine. It can run on either gasoline or propane. This combo enables maximum runtime with minimal maintenance. This engine is cranking out 12,000 watts. This workhorse can power your major appliances, with relative efficiency. In case oil gets low, the engine has a shutoff mechanism to prevent any damage. Depending on fuel source, it will run between 10 and 20 hours.
Let’s not forget that this generator is portable too. The frame uses two wheels and a folding handle to make moving this thing around easier. Near the front is a rubber stopped to prevent the unit from rolling backwards when stationary.
The power panel is detailed and helpful. It has many outlets as well as meters, lights, and circuit breakers. It is easy to use despite having a ‘heavy duty’ feel.
The XP120000EH could have easily been higher on this list. It is powerful and portable. It also can serve as a main generator in case of emergencies.
- Powerful 457cc engine
- Duel fuel, accepting propane or gasoline
- Sturdy frame
- Wheels and folding handle for convenience
- Capable of powering major appliances
- Takes up more storage space than most portable units
Anker PowerHouse, Compact 400Wh / 120000mAh
Anker’s PowerHouse packs quite a punch for it’s smaller stature. It defines portable, as it’s small enough to fit in a backpack or handbag. Plus, there’s a large handle that makes carrying it very easy.
The story behind the Anker PowerHouse is their lithium-ion battery. For it’s size, it has serious juice. The PowerHouse, on a full charge, can recharge a laptop up to 15 times. It can fully charge most smartphones up to 15 times. For road trips or outdoor adventures, it is the perfect companion. It’s also capable of powering small TVs and mini-refrigerators.
A nice touch is the power panel. It has four quick charging USB ports, a 12v car port, and a classic AC port. There is a solar panel attachment that is sold separately. It enables charging anywhere the sun is shining.
The power supply is rated at 400wh. That is plenty for this generator’s purpose. Used as intended, and the Anker PowerHouse is a very useful tool.
- Very lightweight and compact
- Store anywhere
- Lithium-ion battery
- Multiple quick charge USB ports
- Not built for medium or large appliances
Westinghouse WH2200iXLT Portable Inverter Generator
This portable generator from Westinghouse prides itself on being easy to use dependable. It’s lightweight, but powerful. These positive qualities earned the WH2200iXLT a spot in the Top 10.
The compact unit produces a respectable 1,800 watts. It’s sensitive enough for electronics yet strong enough for microwaves, lamps, etc. The efficiency should also be mentioned. The 1.3 gallon gas tank can run for up to twelve hours.
The size of the WH2200iXL is what makes it so versatile. It’s not too small and not too big. It can handle most jobs. It can also be moved around easily, It can be carried by the handle with ease. For your home, the car or an RV, this generator would definitely come in handy.
The power panel offers a fuel efficiency button and a few indicator lights. There’s two AC ports and one DC port. A nice touch is the location of the choke, on the power panel. The choke, pull-start, and on/off switch are all located near each other.
- Very portable
- Respectable specifications
- Compact and lightweight
- Above average power panel
- Some non-essential pieces feel cheap
The Pulsar PG1202s is a gas powered portable generator with an average output of 900 watts. It’s a small unit built to be highly portable and easily taken on the go.
As is often the case, the engine goes a long way in determining a good generator from a not so good one. Luckily, this is one area the PG1202s shines. It uses a 72cc/2.2 HP engine that runs consistently yet quietly. A tank of gasoline will last on average between 8 and 12 hours. Essentially, you’re getting a quiet, efficient, stout engine.
On top of the unit is an ergonomic handle so it’s easy to take on the go. The PG1202s sits on 4 rubber feet that cushion the unit and balance it during use. The rubber feet also help keep noise pollution to a minimum.
The PG1202s is a great choice if you need a generator that is easy to pack and easy to use. It’s compact and portable yet still packs a punch. It is a top option for anyone seeking a light and compact model.
- Very portable due to size, weight, handle
- Stout engine
- Easily stored
- Fuel efficient
- Underpowered for some jobs
Choosing the Best Portable Generator
What kind of criteria goes into making a list like this? You must consider the specifications (engine size, power output, weight, etc). Features are also important. There are other important details like design and aesthetics that play a part. It’s important to know what makes each of these generators different. It’s also important to understand what qualities are important for you and your goals.
Who Needs a Portable Generator?
Everyone. Well, not everyone. But most people could use the added security they provide. If you lose electricity in your home, a generator will allow to you run essential appliances, ensuring your family can continue to take care of itself. A power outage will disable your air conditioning, water pumps, freezers and lighting. If the outage lasts for a few days, your home could become uninhabitable. They can easily be stored in case of a rainy day.
Portable generators are also great tools for campers and outdoors lovers. They are a great tool for charging devices and powering things when no source of electricity is present.
Realistically, wattage should be one of the first or second things that you look for. Wattage is a measure of overall power output. The higher the wattage number, the more capable the generator is. Bigger appliances, like air conditioners and refrigerators, require a higher wattage amount. Generally speaking a wattage of around 2,000 is enough to handle mini-refrigerators, TVs, and space heaters. For larger appliances, you’ll need more wattage. On the other hand, small acts like charging a cell phone require much less wattage and can be accomplished with much smaller generators.
Every generator reviewed here is of course portable. However, there is a wide range of sizes for to choose from. Some can be carried with one hand and some may be best suited for being carried by two people. This is another instance where knowing exactly what you need and why you need it can come in handy. If you plan on traveling often, you should consider the size and weight of a generator. You should also look out for handles and wheels to assist in moving it. Generally speaking, as the wattage goes up, so does the weight.
Running time refers to how long the generator can run for on one full tank of gas. This is another area where the generator’s purpose matters when determining how much you need. Many portable generators offer between 5 and 10 hours of running time. Some of the bigger models can go up to 20 hours on a single tank. If you’re buying a generator to also serve as your back-up at home, you might want the longer running time.
On The Job Site
Portable generators can also be found on construction sites. They are very useful on projects where electricity is unavailable or limited. They provide a consistent, reliable source of power for hand tools like drills, saws, etc. Essentially, any AC powered tool would work fine with a generator.
Portable Generator Buying Tips
Determine Your Power Needs
Before buying any type of generator, you need to determine just how much power you will need. Take inventory of every appliance and device that you will potentially be powering with your generator. In any case, you’ll only be able to power a few items at a time. Once you’ve figured out the items you’ll be powering most often, you can determine your generator requirements.
If you’re buying your portable generator as a backup in case of emergencies, this is especially important. You’ll likely be using it to power a microwave, mini-fridge, or space heater. To find the information regarding power consumption for your items, check their owners manual.
Even if you are using your portable generator for recreational fun, you still need ample power. It would be a big let down to finally make it into the woods for your camping trip only to find your generator is underpowered to run the big screen TV you brought along.
Not all generators are built the same. Different types can run on quite a few different fuel sources. Each source has their own advantages and disadvantages.
Gas fueled portable generators are the most common compared to other fuel sources. Gas is less efficient than other fuel sources, but the plus side is availability. Gasoline is easily accessable. For this reason, gas fueled models are popular for emergency and recreational use alike. In most cases, fuel is never very far away.
Electric fueled generators use an electric starter, making them easier to operate than manual start models. The starter runs off a battery (usually lithium-ion) this is rechargable. These generators still use fuel, usually gas or propane.
The ‘clean’ burning propane is a popular fuel source for many generator owners. Like gasoline, it is easily accessible. It’s a consistent and efficient fuel source as well. Propane models run the gamut from small to very large. If propane is your preferred fuel source, you are sure to find a model you’ll like. Some models can accept more than one fuel source, usually propane and gasoline.
While rare, solar powered portable generators are growing in popularity. Some are built fully relying on solar power, and some models offer solar attachments. They do offer a few benefits. They are extremely quiet, and the fuel is as ‘clean’ as you can get. Another benefit is you don’t need any additional room for fuel storage. The downside is they can take a long time to charge and they’re not meant to power large appliances.
Diesel is more efficient than gasoline. Diesel engines also don’t have to worry about spark plugs or carburetors. On the other hand, diesel does not burn clean.
Top Features To Look Out For in a Moveable Generator
Sometimes a company will go the extra mile to provide the best products possible. This extra mile is all of the helpful and useful features that make some models better than the rest. Here are a few of the best and most useful features to look out for when choosing a portable generator.
Low Oil Shut Off
An engine without oil is a recipe for disaster. Let’s be honest, forgetting to check oil levels is a pretty common oversight. It happens to the best of us. But when it does happen, it can result in your engine seizing up and becoming useless. A low oil shut off mechanism cuts power to the machine when oil levels are low, preventing any catastrophic damage. Most models with this feature also have a light that illuminates to signal the mechanism is activated.
Each generator has a different configuration of outlets. They tend to have between two and three. Some models also have USB ports, which are good for charging phones or tables. Ideally they are GFCI outlets, which prevents electrocution from any water that comes in contact.
Here’s a feature that saves wear and tear on your arm and your machine. A convenient electric start button will activate your generator without having to yank on any pull cords.
Noise Reducing Frame
To be honest, generators can be loud. Even smaller, portable models. Luckily, there are ways to cut down on this noise to an extent. The quality of a generator’s frame and mounting hardware goes a long way towards reducing noise. Thick, dense metals that are strong are less likely to rattle around. The frame mounts, and feet, are often made using thick rubber. The rubber can minimize noise caused by vibrations.
Dual Fuel Capability
Most models run on a few popular fuel choices: gas, propane, diesel, electric. But a few models offer the ability to use more than one, most commonly gas and propane.
The spark arrestor’s job is to catch any sparks or hot carbon and prevent it from doing any damage. The best portable generators surely have spark arrestors. They’re essential for outdoor or camping use, because an errant spark could easily case a forest fire.
Keeping an eye on fuel levels is important and must be done. Having a gauge that can quickly and accurately present fuel levels is a nice convenience feature. This way, you’re never taken by surprise when fuel is low or empty.
A time meter records that amount of time your portable generator is running. This is important for maintenance first and foremost. A generator must be maintained and serviced properly to continue operating in peak condition.
Portable generators aren’t inherently dangerous, but they are fueled by substances that require respect and attention. It’s important to know the safety concerns that come with using, maintaing, and storing a generator.
Preventing Shocks or Electrocution
Never, ever connect your generator to a home outlet. It can feed back into you or your neighbors power lines, causing damage to the power lines and the homes they connect to. If you ever plan on connecting a generator to your own home’s circuit board, use a transfer switch to do so.
Before plugging anything into your generator, make sure it is running for a few minutes. Once it’s up and running you can plug your desired items in. Of course, be sure not to overload it (you won’t do this, since you’ve checked your item’s power requirements). When it’s time to turn your generator off, be sure to have unplugged everything prior to doing so.
Another thing: make sure your generator is grounded. Not being grounded is a main contributer to electric issues.
Following the above will go a long way to preventing any electrical issues that could harm you or your generator.
Portable generators run on common fuels. But these common fuels can be dangerous. Proper care must be taken when using, storing, and handling them. Propane can be explosive. Gasoline is very flammable. They should be treated with respect when dealing with them.
Do not overfill your generator. When fuel is heated, it expands. Allow a bit of room for expansion when filling up your tank. Overfilling can cause fuel to leak and come in contact with the hot engine. This is one reason you never want to add fuel while the generator is on or still warm from prior use. When filling up, make sure the unit is completely cool.
A portable generator can generate heat quickly and become very hot after a short period of time. The engine and parts surrounding it can easily burn your skin if you come in contact with them. It’s best to avoid moving or handling your generator until the unit has had time to cool. Furthermore, kids and pets should be kept at a safe distance away from a running generator to prevent an accidental burning.
Your portable generator relies on fuels that release nasty things into the air around them. More specifically, carbon monoxide aka the silent killer. Carbon monoxide is a deadly by product of burning gasoline, and usually goes undetected until it is too late. It’s very important that your generator has the room to ventilate properly. Proper ventilation will ensure the air you’re breathing is safe and not contaminated.
A major no-no is running your generator indoors. A garage or enclosed driveway are bad ideas even if you open every window possible. Fans and open doors will not do the trick either. Proper ventilation means outside. The further from walls and buildings, the better.
Usage and Storage
The way you use and store your portable generator is important in determining the longevity and usefulness that you receive from it.
As discussed above, generators are only to be used outside. And when they’re on and running, they need to have room to operate. Having a few feet of clearance on all sides goes a long way in preventing accidents. Make sure the surface is relatively level, and robust enough to support the unit.
Before and after using your generator, give it a quick inspection. There is maintenance to be aware of, like spark plugs, oil changes, etc. If something needs a repair, you can take note of it and fix it quickly. It could be a disaster if your unit is in need of repair for something that could easily have been spotted and fixed with routine maintenance. All generators come with manuals, and the manual can guide on what needs to be done at various usage intervals. Regular maintenance will keep your warranty intact and your unit working at maximum efficiency.
For storage, pick a dry and secure place. Protect the unit from the elements, and it should hold up fine. Follow the owners manual in regards to fuel draining, etc.
These are ‘portable’ generators, after all, but what does that mean?
A portable generator has to be easily stored, handled, and set up. That’s why they are so versatile. The smaller models have handles, and some can be carried with one hand. They offer ultimate portability and they don’t take up too much room. Medium sized models can usually be carried easily by the frame. The larger models usually come with wheels to make transporting easier. Portable generators are made for the average home-owner or recreational user. They are pretty simple in design. Their simple design paired with the efficient portability make them an extremely useful tool.
So, that’s a wrap for our complete buying guide to buying a portable generator. Do keep in mind all these factors before making your choice, as it’s not a small appliance that you can buy every other year. If you have any other tips for buying a portable generator, feel free to leave those in the comments below.