Portable generators can be indispensable tools in case of an emergency. In the event of the power outage, a large portable generator can power the most important home appliances and keep your household secure.
However, not all generators available on the market can be equally trusted.
With so many generators to choose from finding the right portable generator can be a daunting task if you don’t exactly know what you are looking for.
Our mission is to help you find the best portable generator for your needs. No matter if you are looking for quiet generators for camping, an affordable small electric generator for tailgating or a large heavy duty unit for home or jobsites – we are here to help you.
We present the honest portable generator reviews of the best generators on the market. Below you can find our carefully handpicked and regularly updated list of top 10 generators in America. These include small inverter generators, conventional portable gas units as well as the dual fuel hybrid models. We have also prepared a detailed buying guide which will help you decide what kind of generator will serve you best.
Not sure how big of a generator do you need? Check out our calculator to find out what size of a generator do you need.
Reviews of the Best Portable Generators
|Generator||Wattage (Starting / Running)||Noise Level @ 25% Load||Type||Weight||Price|
|Westinghouse Wgen7500||9500 W / 7500 W||64 dB||Heavy Duty Portable||192 lbs||Check Price on Amazon|
|Yamaha EF2000iSv2||2000 W / 1600 W||51.5 dB||Inverter||44 lbs||Check Price on Amazon|
|WEN 56200i||2000 W / 1600 W||51 dB||Inverter||48 lbs||Check Price on Amazon|
|Honda EU2200i||2200 W / 2000 W||48 dB||Inverter||47 lbs||Check Price on Amazon|
|Champion 3400 Dual Fuel Inverter||3400 W / 3100 W||59 dB||Dual Fuel Inverter||95.7 lbs||Check Price on Amazon|
|Honda EU 3000iS||3000 W / 2800 W||49 dB||Large Inverter||130 lbs||Check Price on Amazon|
|Champion 75531i||3100 W / 2800 W||58 dB||Inverter||94.8 lbs||Check Price on Amazon|
|DuroMax Hybrid Dual Fuel XP12000EH||12000 W / 9500 W||74 dB||Heavy Duty Dual Fuel||227 lbs||Check Price on Amazon|
|Generac IQ2000||2000 W / 1800 W||68 dB||Inverter||46.2 lbs||Check Price on Amazon|
|Duromax XP4850EH||4850 W / 3850 W||69 dB||Portable Dual Fuel||131.7 lbs||Check Price on Amazon|
Westinghouse Wgen7500 – Our #1 Pick
Westinghouse WGen7500 really has everything it takes to compete for the title of the best portable generator. Long running time, sturdy design, relatively quiet engine (for its size) and last but not least – convenient electric start – these are all the features which truly make it stand out.
It is manufactured by Westinghouse – an American company with nearly a hundred years of history, renown for producing high-quality electrical appliances. From our experience, this is particularly true for their generators. Wgen7500, as well as other Westinghouse generators such as iGen1200 or the WH2000IXLT are some of the best generators money can buy.
Wgen7500 features a powerful heavy-duty engine running at 7500 watts. This makes it an ideal choice for those who need a robust generator which could serve its job both as an emergency home power supply as well as a job companion.
It is also very fuel efficient. It can run up to 10 hours on a single tank of gas depending on the load.
WGen7500 is fully CARB and EPA compliant meaning that residents of all US states including Californians can legally use it.
You can learn more about this generator from our detailed review of Westinghouse WGen7500.
Overall it is a highly recommended generator and our personal favorite. You won’t regret buying it.
Yamaha EF2000iSv2 – The best inverter generator
If you are looking for smaller generators for camping, tailgating or certain kinds of jobs – inverter generators are the way to go. They are small, quiet and provide the so-called “clean energy“. This means you can safely use them to charge sensitive electronics such as laptops or tablets. This is sadly not the case with most of the conventional portable generators. I have explained this in details in the article “What is an inverter generator?“.
Yamaha EF2000iSv2 is undoubtedly one of the best inverters on the market.
It features a very attractive modern design which also makes it very portable and easy to carry around.
What’s more important though is the engine – the original 79cc Yamaha OHV 4-stroke engine is one of the most reliable ones you can find.
EF2000iSv2 is capable of delivering up to 1800 running watts of power. This is a quite standard number for inverter generators. You certainly won’t be able to power a whole house with it. On the other hand, this is more than enough for camping or for operating most of the work tools such as drills or sanders.
Yamaha EF2000iSv2 is fully EPA compliant and approved to be used all around the United States.
To sum it up briefly – it’s an excellent choice even if it comes at a higher price.
Read the full review of Yamaha EF2000iSv2 here.
You can also check out the newest Yamaha generator – Yamaha EF2200iS.
WEN 56200i – Fantastic value for money
If you are looking for the best portable inverter generator which at the same time doesn’t cost an arm and a leg – WEN 56200i is for you.
While WEN is not one of the most famous generator brands, this is a really good quality machine. WEN did a really outstanding job with making a generator which performs as good as its Japanese and American competitors at a fraction of the price.
In fact, it comes equipped with an original Yamaha engine, the same one as you can find in EF2000iSv2 inverter generators.
WEN 56200i is a very lightweight generator. Weighing only 48 pounds, it is a very good choice for campers.
It is also a silent machine – 51 dB at 25% load was quiet enough for this generator to make it to my Top 10 List of quiet portable generators.
On the other hand, plenty of people who bought it for the hurricane Irma reported that if performed exceptionally well as an emergency power source too.
Remember though that with 1600 running watts you won’t be able to power anything bigger. However, this is enough power for emergency use.
Wen 56200i has got a variety of outlets including a 5V USB port – perfect for charging smartphones or cameras when camping.
Its fuel consumption is comparatively low too. Despite its small fuel tank, it can still run for nearly 6 hours at 50 percent load – a really good result.
Overall if you are looking for cheaper yet still a very reliable alternative to Honda or Yamaha, WEN56200i is one of the best generators in its price range and the one you should seriously consider.
If you are curious to learn more about this generator, make sure you check out this full review.
Honda EU2200i – One of the most popular inverters
Honda was the first company to introduce inverter generators fo the market. Their flagship model – EU2000i gained massive popularity among consumers in the US and soon became synonymous with the term “best portable generator”.
EU2200i is the younger sibling of EU2000i. It has got nearly exactly the same features as its predecessor with one single major difference – it provides 200 more running watts of power. The low noise level – one of the features everyone loved the most about the Honda inverter remained the same.
It is indeed very quiet, delivering between 49 to 58 dB of noise depending on the load. This makes it perfectly fine for camping and RV as most of the campsites are quite strict when it comes to the noise regulations.
Honda EU2200i can be used together with another inverter generator of this kind thanks to its parallel capability. This way you can maximize the total power output up to 4000 running watts. This is already quite a lot.
Fuel efficiency is a huge advantage of this generator. The original Eco-Throttle system patented by Honda automatically adjusts the consumption to the actual needs, resulting in big fuel savings.
Starting this generator is pretty easy with the manual coil recoil start. However, I wished it had an electric start too or even better – a remote start. These are becoming a standard feature of inverter generators and it’s a pity that Honda hasn’t included this functionality.
Unfortunately back in March 2019, the manufacturer had to recall more than 200,000 generators in the US quoting the potentially dangerous design flaw as a reason. At the time of writing (July 2019) this issue seems to have been fully resolved. Nonetheless, we advise caution and consulting with the local Honda dealer to confirm that the generators they sell are free from any defects.
Champion 3400 Dual Fuel Inverter – best hybrid generator for RV
Dual fuel inverter generators are a true rarity.
The concept of carrying a heavy propane tank along with a lightweight portable generator can be counterintuitive first. But in my opinion, the availability of the second fuel source to power the generator is a brilliant thing.
Not having to constantly worry about refueling the generator with gas give you more peace of mind. Dual fuel generators also have a longer total run time.
Champion 3400 fills the market gap between the compact inverters and bulkier heavy-duty generators. It was clearly made with RV owners in mind. It is reasonably light and easy to move around. At the same time, it provides enough power to run large electrical equipment. These include a typical 15,000 BTU RV air conditioner.
A truly great thing about this dual fuel inverter generator is how fuel-efficient it is.
Leaving the gasoline fuel tank aside, what amazed me the most was how long it can run on a single typical propane bottle (like one of those you use for barbecues).
7,5 hours at 50 percent load – that’s enough to run an AC in your RV for the whole night purely on propane! Not bad at all.
Switching between fuels is also no brainer and happens at a push of the button.
To conclude this brief review, this is clearly one of the most interesting generators currently being on sale. Champion 3400 is one of the only few inverter generators being currently on sale and without doubt the best one.
If you are looking for a very lightweight and reliable modern dual fuel generator – this is the one you should check out.
Honda EU 3000iS – a powerful and quiet inverter generator
Honda is renowned for making the top quality generators. In fact, a lot of experts when asked what is the best portable generator money can buy, simply respond “Honda”.
Since it was Honda which brought the inverter technology to the market, I naturally had high expectations from one of their most powerful generators of this kind – EU3000iS.
I am glad to inform that it does not disappoint.
The generator comes equipped with an original Honda GX200 4-stroke engine delivering 3000 starting watts and 2800 running watts of power.
EU3000iS features a large fuel tank with a total capacity of 3.4 gallons.
It is remarkably quiet for the inverter of this size. Even at 100% load, it produces less than 60 dB of noise.
The generator cover is built from steel which guarantees good protection. On the other hand, this makes the generator quite bulky.
Unfortunately, the wheels and the dedicated frame do not come in the default kit. This is a real bummer cause without these accessories the generator is really cumbersome to move around.
In my humble opinion, this Honda generator lives up to its manufacturer’s reputation. It is indeed one of the best portable generators I had the pleasure to review. We could all just wish that it was slightly cheaper. Especially since the additional accessories mentioned above are not included in the kit.
Learn more about Honda EU3000is in my dedicated review post. I reveal more details there and answer a lot of frequently asked questions about this generator.
Champion 75531i – ideal choice for RV
Champion 75531i is one of my favorite generators for a variety of reasons.
First, it is more powerful than most of the inverters and has enough starting power – 3100 watts – to run the most important electrical equipment in the RV. These include a 13,500 BTU air conditioner, lights, a microwave etc.
What I really loved from the first sight about this generator is the remote start.
Just imagine being able to turn your generator on and off without even having to get close to it.
You are lying in bed in your RV and want to switch off the power for the night at a push of the button? No problem at all! Just push the button at your remote control and the generator will shut down immediately.
Even the universally acclaimed Honda EU2200i does not have such feature which I think is an incredibly handy addition to what is already a really solid portable generator.
Champion 75331i is very fuel efficient, lightweight and finally – really quiet. If you run it at 50 percent load you won’t hear any distinctive noise at all while enjoying the comforts of your RV. However, even at higher loads, the only thing you are going to hear is the sound similar to an engine of a parked car.
Champion 75531i features a few more interesting features (such as the low oil level shutdown) which I have described in details in my review of Champion 75531i. Please read it to get a better understanding of why this is my preferred choice for the RV!
DuroMax Hybrid Dual Fuel XP12000EH – best portable generator for the whole house
This is a true beast among portable generators. At 12000 surge and 9500 running watts, it is powerful enough to serve as an alternative for a standby generator. As long as you don’t try to turn on every single appliance at once, you can pretty much run the whole house on it.
It is a very versatile machine running both on gasoline and propane which helps maximize its total run time (up to 15 hours depending on the load).
This is certainly good news for those who suspect they are soon going to need a generator capable of running for long periods time during a long power outage caused by hazardous weather conditions, hurricanes or forest fires.
Being able to switch between gas and propane easily gives you also a bit more flexibility than it is in case of a typical gas generator.
Welders could also consider Duromax XP12000EH. It has enough running wattage to power any MIG welder, which is one of the most power-consuming electric tools out there.
As you would expect from the generator of this size it is not necessarily a quiet machine. However, this is not a major concern if you use it as mentioned above – as an emergency home backup or to power certain electrical tools.
If I had to choose a home backup generator for a larger home and wouldn’t like to invest thousands of dollars in the installation of a standby generator – Duromax XP12000EH would be one of those generators I would be most likely to buy.
Generac IQ2000 – a solid quiet inverter for camping
Generac is a well-known name on the market of portable generators. Famous for producing incredibly popular standby generators, the American manufacturer has released dozens of portable generators too. IQ2000 is one of the newest additions to the palette of products Generac has got on offer.
It is a very quiet inverter generator capable of delivering up to 2000 starting and 1600 running watts. It is not only built very solidly but is also very easy to use thanks to its intuitive color-coded control panel.
What I also really liked about IQ2000’s panel is the fuel consumption indicator. It shows you in a very simple manner how much time you have left on current load before having to refuel.
You can regulate its total output and fuel consumption by switching between three modes of operation: Economy, Standard, and Turbo. This additional level of control is one of those handy features you rarely see in other generators.
Overall, it is a very good machine and while it’s probably not the best portable inverter generator on the market, it is still worth its price.
If you are curious to know more about it, read the full review of the Generac IQ2000 here.
Duromax XP4850EH – good quality dual fuel generator
Dual fuel generators have been gaining popularity in recent years. All for good reasons, since they offer more flexibility, are cheaper to use in the longer term and are generally more environmentally friendly than an ordinary gas powered portable generator. In this buyer’s guide, I have already introduced two dual-fuel generators – the heavy duty Duromax XP12000EH and the lightweight inverter generator Champion 3400.
Duromax XP4850EH falls somewhere in the middle between those two. With its 4850 watts of starting power (when running on gas) it is generally suitable for moderate use. It can perform pretty well at the jobsites and also be used efficiently as an emergency power source.
XP4850EH features a hassle-free electric start which makes the task of starting this generator way less gruesome.
The control panel features a variety of outlets: 2 x 120V household GFCI outlets and 1 x 120V/240V 30 amp twist lock outlet.
A voltmeter is a really handy feature which helps visualize the total power consumption at any time.
It comes in with handy casing made of strong durable tubes for structural reinforcing and added protection from weather elements.
If you are curious to learn more about this generator, check out my full review of Duromax XP4850EH.
How to Choose the Best Portable Generator – the Buyer’s Guide
1. Power needs
The first and most important step is to determine how much power you need. What kinds of appliances are you going to run? How many of them do you want to plug at a time?
When choosing a generator there are two metrics you should look at: starting watts (AKA surge watts) and running watts (AKA rated watts).
Surge watts refer to the amount of power the appliance consumes for the first few moments after you switch it on.
For example, an average 11,000 BTU RV air conditioner requires 1600 surge watts of energy to start it.
Running watts refer to how much energy the device consumes afterward when running continuously.
In such a case, an 11,000 BTU air conditioner would need at least 1000 running watts to operate.
If this sounds confusing, I’d advise you to simply pay attention to the running watts when buying a generator.
Click here to check our wattage calculator. It will help you quickly find out how big of a generator you need.
Usually, for home backup power the larger heavy-duty generators are the best choices.
On the other hand, if you are planning to go camping, even the smallest portable generator can often be enough.
Nobody loves the sound of a generator engine. Running a loud generator is an easy way to annoy your neighbors, especially when you intend to use it for camping or RV.
A lot of campsites and RV parks only allow generators below a certain noise level to be brought in. On top of that, most of the time they can be only used at certain so-called “non-quiet hours”.
However, even when boondocking, you certainly want to use a generator which won’t disturb you at night.
The annoying sound of a loud generator can also ruin your tailgating party to a great extent. No matter how good your audio equipment is, the music will not be great, if there is too much humming or buzzing sound coming from your raucous generator. A silent generator that does not interfere with your sound can ensure you have a great tailgating party.
So before making a purchase check out the noise level (measured in decibels) of the generator.
Important: generator manufacturers usually mention the noise level at 25% load. Even though you may see that the advertised noise level is very low, bear in my mind that the generator is bound to become much louder if you run it at full capacity.
Check our guide to find out which one is the quietest generator on the market.
When it comes to buying such an important machine as a generator you definitely cannot be a Cheap Charlie. You need to get the one which can provide a constant reliable source of power and won’t fail to start after a few uses. Good quality generators are not cheap to manufacture and hence they also cost more.
On the other hand, many people make the mistake of buying large expensive generators hoping that they can help them power an entire house in the event of outages caused by natural disasters. They would use them 2-3 times a year when a hurricane strikes and that’s about it. Ask yourself – in case of emergency do you really need ALL of your household equipment to run? Or perhaps just a few key appliances like refrigerators, heaters, lights and portable electronics?
There is no point in buying a generator for several grand if you can get away with a smaller and cheaper model which will provide you with just enough power to meet your basic needs.
4. Sturdy build
A portable generator is a tool which you can trust even in the worst of circumstances. It would be terrible to be caught in the middle of the outage caused by a hurricane with a generator which breaks down after a few hours.
Don’t skimp on the quality and choose a generator which has a trusted quality engine and a solid steel frame to protect it.
Yamaha, Honda, Westinghouse, and Champion generators are among the most trusted manufacturers of generator engines. It’s worth mentioning though that some generators sold by other companies come equipped with original motors built by Yamaha or Honda while costing the fraction of the price. WEN 56200i is one such example. Even though the generator is made in China, the engine is an original licensed Yamaha made in Japan.
5. Fuel efficiency
While at the surface all generators might look the same and have similar engines – their fuel consumption can vary greatly.
Manufacturers try their best to maximize the amount of power you can get from a gallon of gas.
For example, Honda has equipped their inverters with an “Eco-Throttle” technology. It automatically adjusts the fuel consumption to the current energy demand. The generator will detect whenever you plug or unplug a device and will either increase or decrease its gas consumption to keep it the minimum level which is also just enough to run that device without interruption.
Even though they might cost more upfront, generators with such mechanisms can save you quite a lot of money on gas in the longer term.
6. Ease of set up
When purchasing a whole house standby generator, you absolutely need to hire a professional to install it or let the manufacturer do it if they offer such a service.
On the contrary, it is a different story with portable generators. You definitely don’t want to pay hundreds for a generator for camping which later proves to be too difficult to start.
Fortunately the best portable generators these days can be run pretty much straight out of the box.
Before you purchase a generator, read the reviews left by the customers who’ve already bought it and see what do they have to say about the ease of set up.
However, even if you decide to buy a generator which is known for its easy operation, you should double-check if it comes with a detailed and understandable manual written in good English.
7. Ease of use and maintenance
Contemporary generators are generally way much easier to use than the old types which often required professional expertise to run. However, some generators have a variety of additional features making them easy to operate even for completely inexperienced users. Before purchasing a generator, check if it has at least some of these features:
- automatic low oil shutdown mechanism
- electric start (or even better – remote start)
- fuel gauge
- in case of dual fuel generators – the option of switching fuels at a push of the button
8. Small size and weight
Generators with higher total output usually have larger engines which makes them heavier and bulkier. However, this is not always the case. Especially if you compare inverter generators to the conventional portable units, you will quickly find out that inverters often weight even twice as little while offering the same wattage.
If you need more power, it’s often a better idea to buy two inverter generators with the parallel capability to double the total output rather than purchasing one heavy generator. Moving a generator with a huge engine from one place to another can be a really gruesome task you definitely want to avoid, especially if you are planning to use it for camping or RV.
9. Variety of outlets
This is an often overlooked aspect a lot of customers forget about when looking for portable generators. Don’t let the wattage be the sole criterium for determining how many and what kind of devices can you power. Make sure the generator has got the right outlets first!
A typical portable inverter generator should have at least 2 x AC outlets and 1 x DC output.
They also typically come up with a dedicated USB port for charging portable electronics.
Some generators such as the Champion 3100 watt inverter are RV-ready saving you the headache of purchasing additional converters and switches.
10. Environmental Regulations
Most of the portable generators operate on fossil fuels and release toxic fumes. The two most common types of fuel are gasoline and diesel. Even though most of the modern generators (especially the inverters) are much cleaner than the older ones, they are still not really environmentally friendly.
Most of the states impose strict regulations on what kinds of generators can be used there. Make sure you get the one which complies with national and state regulations and has the necessary certifications in place, including the EPA.
All generators included in our top 10 list are EPA compliant.
California residents need to be particularly careful as the environmental regulations are even stricter there. You need to buy a CARB compliant generator to be able to legally use it in California.
Considering getting a dual fuel generator to minimize your impact on the natural environment. Propane is a much cleaner type of fuel than gas and is cheaper too.
If your power needs are very low (eg. you only need a tiny generator to power your camping stove, a phone, and the camping lights), you can also check out the portable solar generators. These are by far the greenest solution on the market.
11. Customer Support
You certainly don’t want to spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars on a generator just to find out that if it breaks down there won’t be anybody to help you. Trusted manufacturers should always be ready to assist you when the generator fails to work for any reason.
That’s why you should only go with trusted brands and models. On the other hand, there are less known manufacturers which only recently entered the US market and are working really hard to gain credibility and trust of the customers. WEN is a good example of one such company. They are known for selling good generators and are very responsive when there is a need for assistance.
On the other hand, some large brands attract criticism from time to time for failing to deliver good customer service.
Last but not least, make sure that you purchase a generator with ideally at least a 3-year warranty. Make sure you also check the rules first to know what kind of repairs can be carried out by a manufacturer without additional costs. Professional servicing can be costly, so it’s better to save yourself the headache and a few dozen bucks and carefully read the manual first.
Best Portable Generator FAQ
Most of the portable generators do not have enough power to run an entire house.
However, generators with the rated wattage of at least 7500 watts can be used to run all crucial appliances (eg. heaters, refrigerators, lights, garage door openers) in the event of an emergency.
Anything rated at 12,000 watts and more can power an entire small household or the vast majority of electrical equipment in larger houses excluding some particularly demanding items (like for example electric clothes driers).
A 15,000-watt portable generator can run an entire mid-sized household.
Read more about whole house generators in our guide.
This all depends on your specific energy needs and which devices you want to run. Use our calculator to get the solid estimate of how much power you need and which generators can supply that.
I would recommend Yamaha EF2000isV2 as the best generator for camping with the tents.
WEN56200i is an excellent low-cost alternative.
For RV camping you need a bit more powerful generator. Champion 3100 is IMHO the best for RV.
If you need the smallest generator to power only the small portable electronics at campsites – you might also want to have a look at the portable power stations operating on solar energy.
Simple answer – just DON’T!
Attempting to connecting the generator to your house without a transfer switch can cause serious damage to the electricity grid. It is also potentially hazardous for your health due to the risk of electrocution. In the worst case, it can be fatal.
Unless you are a DIY expert when purchasing a transfer switch make sure to hire a professional electrician to set it up. Trying to install it by yourself without prior experience can be dangerous and is NOT recommended.
Quite a lot. In fact, this is enough to make it a viable emergency home backup supply.
It can also power a large electric appliance including some of the most demanding ones such as hot water heaters, large AC units, air compressor or table saw. The notable exception is a 200 amp welder. You would need at least a 9000-watt generator to run it.
Inverters produce the so-called clean sine wave and have less Total Harmonic Distortion (THD), similar to the state grid. This means that they can be safely used with sensitive modern electronics. These include cell phones, computers, home theater systems, etc.
Regular generators, especially the older ones, generate more THD. In other words, the electricity they produce is less “steady” than it is the case with the state grid or inverters. This may result in potential damage to sensitive electronic equipment.
Read more about the differences between inverters and conventional portable generators in this article.
Ideally, you should place the generator at least 20 feet from your house. This will help you avoid any risks related to carbon monoxide poisoning. Just make sure that the exhaust is not pointing at your windows or doors!
Place the generator in a safe and dry place. I recommend to place it within a wooden enclosure. Such type of enclosure would also minimize the noise. You can build such an enclosure and place it somewhere in your garden. There are good video tutorials on how to DIY.