A portable generator is an indispensable companion that can save you a lot of trouble in emergency times. It’s something you shouldn’t skimp on as a good generator can serve you for years. Many people swear by Honda and Yamaha saying that anything else that these famous generator brands are just not worth the money.
Is that true?
Well, only partially yes.
We have actually found that there are quite a lot of cheap generators that offer pretty good performance. They have similar capabilities to Honda’s gens but cost only a fraction of their price, often less than a half.
Check out our list of 5 cheap and reliable generators below. These affordable generators usually attract stellar reviews from buyers and experts around the web.
Best Cheap Generator Comparison Chart
Cheapest Generators Reviewed
1. A-iPower SUA2000iV
This is one of the cheapest and best inverter generators you can find.
It often sells for way less than $500 on sites like Amazon.
Despite its low price tag, this is a reasonably well built and solid unit.
It has a 1.1-gallon fuel tank providing 2000 starting watts and 1600 running watts.
This is enough to make it a decent choice for camping, tailgating, boats, and reasonable emergency use.
You can’t expect it to run everything in your house for sure.
But it would certainly be enough to power a sump pump, a portable AC or some worktools.
A-iPower SUA2000iV is not only cheap but also very quiet.
At 50% load, its sound level revolves around 58 dB.
This is fine for most campsites and RV parks.
The generator comes with a 30 amp RV outlet (surprisingly, not even the standard version of Honda EU2200i has got it!).
You can connect it to your travel trailer without any additional adapters.
The great thing about this generator is that you can it in parallel with another similar inverter without having to buy a separate parallel kit. It’s already included in the set.
For example, if you’ve already got a Honda EU2000i, you can plug this gen together (and save a few hundred bucks on another Honda).
The generator comes with a 3- year warranty. This is longer than some of the competitors.
Overall this is a very solid unit for this price. You’d certainly struggle to find a cheaper 2000-watt generator in this price range which is also reliable enough.
If you need a cheap generator to use a few times a year, you should consider the A-iPower SUA2000iV.
2. Pulsar PG2000iS
This affordable inverter generator ranks very high on our lists of the best inverter generators.
It is a good choice for campers, boats, and tailgating parties.
You could also use it to power a few most important home appliances during a blackout.
Pulsar PG2000iS comes equipped with an 80cc OHV motor.
It delivers 2200 starting watts and 1800 running watts of power. This is enough to run things like a sump pump, RV air conditioner or a freezer.
The generator has got a very decent runtime of 6 hours at half load.
The generator can be connected in parallel with another 2200 watt inverter. This would allow you to maximize your total wattage to 4400.
Pulsar might not be the most well-known company in the market of generators. Nonetheless, they make decent quality gens covered by reportedly good customer service.
On the other hand, the warranty could have been longer. 1 year is a bit on the shorter side.
To sum up, Pulsar PG2000is it a solid and cheap generator and a reasonable alternative to more expensive gens.
3. WEN 56200i
WEN is a relative newcomer to the portable generator market in the US. However, they’ve already had massive success selling thousands of portable generators. WEN56200i is by far their most popular inverter. To this date, it got hundreds of 5-star reviews and is often quoted as the best affordable alternative to Honda.
We also like this gen a lot. We actually think this is one of the best inverters selling usually for less than $500.
WEN56200i is a quiet unit.
It produces only around 51dB of noise when measured at 25% load. That makes it nearly as quiet as the Honda EU2200i.
It is also very lightweight. You can easily carry it single-handedly.
This gen is a good choice for camping. However, plenty of users reported successfully using it during the hurricanes to charge their key appliances.
Obviously, you can’t expect a generator that small to power an entire house. Nonetheless, it would be just fine if you need it to run eg. a sump pump and a few lights.
The generator is very fuel-efficient. You expect it to run for approx. 6 hours on a full tank at a quarter load.
The unit has got a handy Eco-Mode helping conserve the fuel.
Just like most of the modern inverter generators, it comes with an automatic low oil shutdown mechanism.
The engine performs flawlessly and is very similar to the ones used in Yamaha generators.
Why is it so cheap then?
First, in the case of Yamaha or Honda, you often end up paying a lot for the brand. Those are famous companies and they like to charge a premium for their products. WEN doesn’t have that reputation yet but trust us – it is a very ambitious and solid manufacturer.
Second, the materials used for finishing are perhaps not the sturdiest. This is not a big deal at all if you are planning to use a generator only several times a year (eg. when a hurricane strikes or for summer camping). However, if you need a generator for extensive long-term use, you might wanna consider a more durable model. Like the aforementioned Honda EU2200i.
If you are curious to learn more about this great inexpensive generator, make sure you check out my detailed review.
4. Champion 4000-Watt Open Frame Inverter
Let’s put things straight. We are big fans of Champion generators.
These are some of the best portable generators you can currently find on the market.
They are also much more affordable than some of their competitors.
Champion is always trying to improve their products and cater to the most specific tastes.
Dual fuel inverter generator? Remote start gas inverter for RV? Ultra-duty whole house portable generator? They’ve got it all in their offer.
Champion 4000-watt open frame inverter is one of the most recent additions to their offer.
It is a very powerful inverter generator. It delivers nearly twice as much power as most of the other inverters on the market.
Its open frame construction is also something not often seen in inverters.
Despite its power and larger size, the generator is still reasonably quiet.
It is rated at 64dB which makes it quiet enough to fit the regulations of most campsites and RV parks (which usually demand a generator to operate below 65dB).
It comes with a dedicated 120V 30 amp RV outlet which is great news for RV enthusiasts. You won’t have to purchase a dogbone adapter or any other accessories to plug it to your travel trailer.
It also has 2x 120V 20 amp household outlets good for running most of the home appliances.
There is also a 12V DC adapter for portable electronics.
Just like most other inverters, this generator can be connected in parallel with another inverter of this size.
Doing so would give you a whopping 7000 running watts of power. This would be enough to run anything you need in your home during a hurricane.
Since it’s an inverter generator operating under 3% THD, you could use it to charge sensitive electronic equipment too without having to use any line conditioners.
One thing we miss about this very solid and cheap generator is that the wheels are not included in the kit. However, they can be easily purchased together along with the rain cover on Amazon.
5. Westinghouse iGen2200
Westinghouse is a well established American company with several decades of market presence on the market of electric tools. They make good portable generators which are also relatively inexpensive for what you get.
The iGen2200 inverter generator is one of their most popular generators.
The first thing you might notice when you run this generator is how quiet it is.
It produces only around 52dB of noise at 25% load. This is more or less like the sound of an idling car.
It’s also quiet enough to make it to the top of our list of the quietest gens out there (see it here).
It’s a very good choice for settings where silence is key, such as camping or RV.
Westinghouse iGen2200 comes with a 20A circuit breaker.
It automatically shuts down the unit if you run it above the maximum load. This prevents damage to the gen and extends its lifespan.
It is a very fuel-efficient generator. That makes it even cheaper in the longer-term as you won’t spend a fortune on gas.
You can run it for nearly 12 hours One 1.2-gallon tank should get you up to 12 hours of run time.
Note that this time is going to be shorter if you run it constantly at max rated load (which FYI is never a recommended thing to do).
Since it is an inverter generator, you can safely use it to run sensitive electronic equipment.
IGen2200 has got 2 x 5V USB ports suitable for charging tablets, phones, cameras etc.
It also offers parallel capability. That means you can connect it along with another iGen2200 to double your total power output.
Basically, you can get two of these gens for the price of one Honda and have twice as much wattage at your disposal.
Not a bad deal at all, if you ask me!
Overall this is a solid and cheap inverter generator made by a trusted American manufacturer.
Another good thing about Westinghouse is that their customer support is known to be very helpful. Westinghouse cares about its reputation and customers which needless to say is a great thing.
If you want to learn more about this gen, read the full review post.
6. PowerSmart PS50A 1000 Watt Generator
If you are looking for the cheapest generator – hardly any can beat the PowerSmart. It usually sells for only around $100 on sites like Amazon (click to check the current price).
The generator provides 1000 starting watts and 900 running watts of power.
This is enough to run the most essential electric equipment used for camping such as a refrigerator.
You can also use it to power smaller work tools like a 1/2″ hand drill.
The generator produces less than 5% THD. That makes it good for running sensitive electronics such as laptop computers.
The PowerSmart generator is very compact and lightweight.
It weighs only 40 lbs, so you won’t have any trouble carrying it with one hand.
The fuel tank has got a total capacity of 1.1 gallons.
At half load, this would give you a runtime of around 5 hours, which is pretty good for such a small generator.
Overall, considering its very cheap price tag, this is a good generator for a variety of uses.
If you are need a very affordable and reliable small generator – you should get the PowerSmart PS50A.
How much can you save by buying a cheaper generator?
The generators mentioned above usually cost several hundred dollars less than the most expensive models. On average you can expect to save between 300-500 dollars if you decide to buy eg. the WEN 56200i or a Westinghouse generator instead of a Honda.
It doesn’t mean that these generators are significantly inferior in quality. Buying a cheap generator that breaks after several months and consumes a lot of fuel wouldn’t be much of a saving. We took the longevity and fuel efficiency of the generators into account when making our recommendations.
When Buying a Cheaper Generator is a Good Idea
We’d never advise skimping too much on a generator since it’s one of those tools you don’t want to fail when needed.
However, there are plenty of situations when you don’t have to break the bank and can get away with cheaper generators.
- Are you planning to use a generator only a few times a year?
- Do you need small gen only for recreational use such as camping trips or tailgating parties?
- Do you want to buy a generator only for one occasion (eg. a single job, outdoor fair, snowstorm) and never intend to use it again?
If you answered yes to any of these questions then you cannot go wrong with an inexpensive generator.
Especially since many of them such as the ones listed in this article do their job just fine and attract overwhelmingly positive reviews.
Buying a generator from a company like Westinghouse, Champion or WEN would save you quite a lot of money. You would also end up with a solid generator costing only a fraction of the price of Yamaha or Honda.
When You Shouldn’t Buy a Cheap Generator
Ask yourself a couple of important questions:
- Do you need to run a generator frequently for several hours at a time?
- Do you need it for everyday work at the construction sites?
- Do you want a generator that will last for years to come?
- Do you want to have easy access to spare parts and have no problems finding a local serviceman to repair the generator?
If any of these apply to you, then you would be best advised to spend a bit more on a well-known brand such as Honda. Those generators are known to be very strong and durable and are contractors’ favorite choice.
Another important thing is servicing.
You’re never going to have any difficulties finding somebody to fix your Honda.
These are extremely popular generators and spare parts are widely available.
This might not be the case with cheaper generic brands.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: How much does a cheap generator cost?
A: You can find generators for as low as $100 – $200. However, these are usually very small units and offer just enough power to run small electronics. If you need to power anything more serious (eg. a fridge or AC) you would need at least a 2000-watt generator. Decent quality cheap 2000-watt generators cost anywhere between 300 to 800 USD.
Q: How much is a small generator?
A: You can find a small generator (less than 1000 watts) for less than $200. WEN 56105 is a good example of a cheap and small portable generator ideal for camping.
Q: How much does it cost to buy a whole house generator?
A: For a mid-sized household you should expect to spend at least $3000 for a standby unit. This does not include installation costs. You can also use the large portable units as long as you hook them up via a transfer switch.