Best Portable Generators Buying Guide & Reviews


    Types of Portable Generators

    Portable generators come in different sizes as well as designs. Portable generators may be either a recoil start or an electric start model, and the output may range from 100 watts to 12,000 watts. They are run by their own internal combustion engine, and they range from thirty pounds to several hundred pounds in weight. Some of the heavier portable generators have wheels mounted on the bottom of the units for easy movement and positioning.

    Best Portable Generators Comparison Table 2017

    NameRatingPricePower SourceWattage Voltage CARB Compliant
    Champion Power Equipment 424364.5$Gas Powered1,500 watts120 voltsYes
    DuroStar DS4000S4.5$$Gas Powered4,000 watts120 voltsNo
    WEN 56352 3500 Watts4.5$$Gas Powered3,500 watts120 voltsNo
    Yamaha EF2400iSHC4.5$$$$$Gasoline Powered2,000 watts120 voltsYes
    DuroMax XP10000E4$$$$$Gas Powered10,000 watts120 voltsNo
    Sportsman GEN4000LP4$$Propane Powered4,000 watts120 voltsNo
    Champion Power Equipment No. 75531i4.5$$$$Gas Powered3,100 watts120 voltsYes
    Westinghouse WH7500E4.5$$$$Gas Powered7,500 watts120 voltsNo
    DuroMax XP4400E4$$Gas Powered4,400 watts120 voltsNo
    Champion Power Equipment 465964.5$$Gas Powered4,000 watts120 voltsNo
    Earthquake IG800W4.5$$Gas Powered800 watts120 voltsYes

    Propane Powered Portable Generators

    These are among the best portable generators in the market. The use of propane in these generators makes them unique, and very efficient. Propane is convenient since it is widely available, has a high energy density in liquid form, and has a sufficiently high vapor pressure at ambient temperature. Propane powered generators present high power density, and have good fuel flexibility. Thus, propane powered portable generators have a fundamental advantage over other generator types. Propane powered portable gen-sets present the following benefits: they come with liquid/ air cooled variants-hence they can be wet stacked; they burn the cleanest fuel as far as portable generators are concerned; they are sufficiently quiet while operational; propane is always available in either small or large tanks with respect to the user demands; they have quick start as well as stop times; and they are relatively cheap when compared to diesel generators.

    Gas Powered Portable Generators

    Gas powered portable generators are among the best alternatives for providing backup power in cases of emergencies, such as outages due to hurricane or bad storm. They typically have a power output of 120 or 240 V. smaller gas powered portable generators can easily be carried around; while large units are normally equipped with wheels and handles for easy transport and positioning. Gas powered units present a good number of benefits over diesel portable generators. Firstly, these generators burn clean gas when compared to diesel generators; be rest assured that you will not experience bitter smell with gas generators. Secondly, these generators are eco-friendly in regard to gas burning; natural gas present minimal greenhouse gas emission when the engine is operational. Thirdly, they are cost-effective; these generators are relatively cheaper in terms of fuel when compared to diesel powered generators. Lastly, these units are conveniently safe to operate since minimal risks are involved.

    Diesel Powered Portable Generators

    As opposed to other fuel powered portable units, diesel powered portable generators are known to provide a continuous supply of effective power, along with grander performance for transient power needs, due to the high torque nature of diesel generator engines. Diesel powered portable generators provide the most convenient form of emergency backup power. These generators are available in a range of sizes and designs all based on power demands. They are usually equipped with wheeling system, along with handles for easy transport and positioning in different occasions. These systems are composed of electrical switchgear, fuel tank, generating system, and the diesel engine. The benefits of using these units include: they are accompanied by a recessed control panel; they have no spark wires/ plugs-hence reduced maintenance cost; they are more rugged than other types of portable generators; their engines last longer than gas powered portable units. However, they are somehow expensive when compared to other generator types.

    Well-Known Portable Generators Manufacturers

    Champion Power Equipment

    Champion Power Equipment is not only a manufacturer of portable generators, but they also deal with design and manufacturer of durable as well as reasonably priced portable generators; in addition to inverters and pressure washers. This is a U.S. owned, as well as operated firm with business facilities in the Republic of China. The company is known to be above its competitors through its commitment to quality. This is guaranteed through the manufacturing process, quality assurance process, and customer service.


    Yamaha is known for its expertise in creating reliable as well as affordable portable generators. The kind of portable generators that you would expect them to make. The portable generators are technically advanced, simple to operate, compact, and outstandingly reliable. Yamaha portable generators are integrated with a capacitor discharge ignition that is known to produce a strong spark under any given operating conditions. A feature utterly unique to Yamaha is an oil warning mechanism that automatically stops the engine when the oil level drops below the minimal mark. Yamaha also ensures that their generators are incorporated with a DC outlet, which allows you to conveniently recharge a battery. They provide you with gen-sets that ensure you have enough power to run anything from a campsite, emergency backup power to a construction site.


    Honda has your best interest at heart whenever they are manufacturing their exceptionally useful portable generators. Their generators provide you with dependable power for lighting, operating tools or charging batteries. All Honda portable power gen-sets are highly sophisticated, yet simple to operate. Honda is ingenious manufacturers who are constantly at work developing and advancing portable generators to satisfy consumer needs. Honda engineers have earned a reputation for building portable generators that last a long time.


    This is a well-known California centered engine as well as power tools manufacturer. The company has a reputation in the manufacturing of DuroMax portable generators, which have so far proven to be effective and reliable to most users. Unlike other portable generator manufacturers, DuroPower make their portable generator engines. DuroPower produces powerful DuroMax generators with the following features: the generators are constructed with cast iron sleeves; all DuroMax models are known to match ETL as well as MTL standards; they are accompanied by a flexible warranty plan, which can effectively be extended beyond the normal range; direct parts along with component shipping to any location across the globe; only a few selected DuroMax models are CARB compliant.

    How to Select a Portable Generator

    You should start by considering the right type and size of portable generator. Once you have come to terms with the type and size, you should thereafter consider the following.

    Portable Generator Type

    The type of the generator is the most crucial detail that you must always consider first. Portable generators are generally distinguished by the type of fuel they use. For instance, you can select a propane powered portable generator, a gas powered portable generator, or a diesel powered portable generator. Ideally, all the portable generator types may prove useful; however, they differ conveniently based on the fuel running the engine. Propane portable generators are known to be effective since propane burns clean. Gas portable generators are considered effective since they do not produce pungent odor. Diesel portable generators are considered effective since they provide continuous supply of power. Nevertheless, diesel types are known to be expensive as compared to the other two. On the other hand, propane types are not only efficient, but also affordable.

    Your choice of fuel in addition to generator type should be established by how frequent you will be using the portable generator along with the fuel available in your region. A diesel powered portable generator is most effective if you reside in a region where blackouts are frequent. Diesel powered portable generators are known to be powerful, and long-lasting; however, they tend to be quite challenging to start in cold meteorological conditions. You should consider propane powered portable generators if propane is readily available in your residential area. Propane normally burns cleaner when compared to diesel generators, and they also last longer. Therefore, your choice of generator type is mainly guided on the type of fuel used, and how easy you can access the fuel, as well as how the environment affects the fuel.

    Portable Generator Sizing

    Portable generators are normally most efficient when the load is 50% of the rated generator capacity. To properly size a generator that you wish to buy, you need to come up with a list of items that will require electrical power. You need to pay more attention to the voltage that your appliance requires. For instance, if it runs on 240V, and you plan to run it during an emergency; then you need to select a portable generator that outputs both 120V and 240V.

    Portable generators are sized with both surge and constant power ratings. Therefore, make sure that the portable generator you select provides you with enough constant as well as surge power for your specific loads. Remember, anything that involves a motor will need additional surge power during startup. You can determine total constant power by adding up all constant power loads that will be running synchronously. You need to determine the extra surge power needed for your appliances in order to calculate total surge power.

    How You Will Use Your Portable Generator

    There are several major uses of portable generators that you may have, including: emergency power backup; camping, boating, tailgating, and RV; and construction and rental. To make an accurate list of power usage, you are advised to check appliances’ labels as well as paperwork for power requirements. Ideally, the amount of electricity indicated on an appliance is normally the maximum electricity it uses. You should know that some devices have the tendency of consuming a small amount of power even when they are off. Therefore, to get the most out of your reliable power source, you are urged to unplug anything that is not being used.

    Specific Portable Generator Features You Should Look For

    1. Compact and Lightweight

    A good portable generator should be compact and lightweight. The design should be easy to maneuver as far as transporting and positioning is concerned. A compact and lightweight gen-set should be easy to throw into the boot of your van while out camping. In the event of an emergency, such as hurricane, the gen-set should be easily accessible from whatever position you would have stored it.

    1. Automatic Transfer Switch

    This switching mechanism is useful in that it senses when power goes out, and turns on the portable gen-set for virtually uninterrupted power. Once power is reinstated, the automatic transfer switch turns your portable generator off. The automatic transfer switch helps to prevent back feed into the power that could potentially lead to fatalities.

    1. Automatic Voltage Regulation and Instant Reset Circuit Breakers

    Automatic voltage regulation is essentially useful when you are powering sensitive appliances, including: personal computers and home theater systems. This helps to stop voltage fluxes that may significantly harm your appliances. Instant reset circuit breakers, on the other hand, help prevent damage to your connected appliances by shutting down power in the event of excess current passing through.

    1. Low Oil Shut Down System

    The best portable generator is one that is fully equipped with automatic low oil shut down system. The system is set to detect when the oil level hits the minimal mark, and shuts down the gen-set. This helps to prevent damage to the engine by protecting it from frying up.

    1. Fuel Tank Capacity and Run Time

    A good portable generator system should have a significantly large fuel tank capacity. For small types, you should consider a gen-set with at least 4 gallons fuel capacity; while for a considerably large portable generator you should consider a generator system with at least 10 gallons fuel tank capacity. The most convenient run time (hours/tank) is 10 hours per tank at half load on full tank. A gen-set with these features will run conveniently for a good number of hours without refill.

    1. Quiet Operation

    One of the most renowned virtues of portable generators is the ability to operate at relatively low noise level. Different types and models of portable generators are set to operate at specific noise level. However, it will be advisable for you to go for a gen-set that has at least 50 decibel noise level. You should know that a moderately noiseless portable generator is also promoted by the presence of super quiet muffler. The muffler ensures that the noise is reduced considerably.

    1. A Full Wheel and Handle Kit

    A good portable generator should have a full wheel as well as handle kit. These allow you to move the generator gently from one position to another with respect to your needs. The kit makes moving a portable generator a manageable task, particularly when dealing with a large portable generator.

    1. Electric Start and High Temperature Shutdown

    Most portable generators are equipped with a recoil start; however, it is convenient to go for a portable generator with an electric start system. Electric start is known to save wear and tear on your muscles, particularly during winter when temperatures are cooler. On the other hand, high temperature shutdown system helps protect a portable generator from overheating.


    Portable generators will not only provide you with backup power for emergencies, household and commercial uses, but you get to save a great deal of money. The range of choices is great, running as low as 800 watts units to more than 10,000 watts units. The difference between 800 watts and zero is very significant, and 0.8kW is enough to keep much of your appliances running, including sensitive equipment. Nevertheless, there is one thing to watch out for as far as diesel portable generators are concerned. They tend to fade fast with increasing altitude, and they may not be useful at all at high altitudes. You need to check the specifications in detail if you reside in higher altitudes. As much as a specific model of portable generators is attractive to you; you are advised to also go through the customer reports ratings and reviews. They will help you understand what other customers have experienced about the portable generator you are about to purchase. In most occasions, customer reviews will help you make a more pronounced decision on a particular generator model, especially if it is the first time to make purchase.

    Further Reading?on Best Portable Generators