5 Best Portable Generators

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A portable generator is a smart investment anytime you need extra power or during an emergency. Capable of running small appliances, lights, and other devices, power generators make it easy to stay connected in places where you might need some extra juice.
Many devices like small home appliances require higher ratings for adequate power or consistent use. Portable generators aren’t just for power outages. They’re also useful for projects requiring power tools at a remote site, or for camping. Are you looking for a “rescue” generator because you suffer power outages at home? Are you looking for a portable generator for camping or RV trips? Do you need something to run power tools at a site with no electrical supply?
Here are a few common items that will give you some idea. You can do your own math easily enough: every electrical gadget you own should have the wattage demand marked on it somewhere. Lamps need 60 to 120 watts. A sump pump needs 750 to 1,500 watts. A refrigerator needs 500 to 750 watts. Computers need 60 to 300 watts. Heaters need 500 to 1,500 watts. A coffee machine needs 750 to 1,000 watts. Halogen work lights need 300 to 600 watts. An electric drill needs 500 to 900 watts. "Think about adding a gen-cord. This type of extension cord is specially designed for generators, with a single plug on the generator end and three or four standard 120v sockets on the other.
A portable generator that weighs more than 90 pounds should have wheels. We note the weight of each generator in our research and note whether it comes with wheels. We note the number of 120V AC outlets. Some models include extras such as DC and RV outlets and twist locks. We look for portable generators that tell you when you’re running low on oil. Running out can damage the generator. Instructions vary among models, so it’s always important to read the instructions. We assess how helpful they are and whether they outline how to maintain the generator.
First, power output is lower – generally between 1,000 and 3,000 Watts. Second, they are relatively expensive. Propane-powered generators require significantly more gas by volume to deliver the same amount of electricity as a gasoline-powered generator. OK, you know how much power you need, but how long will your portable generator run? Can you leave it all day, or will you have to refill the gas tank every few hours? Portable generator manufacturers are happy to quote run times, but you have to be careful. Seldom, if ever, will the advertised figures align with the generator running at full capacity.
Here are some of the features you will want to look for. If it has a ripcord, the generator should offer decompression for easy starting. The best portable generators do away with a cord completely – you just turn a key or push a button. It's nice to be able to check levels without taking the filler cap off. Running low on oil can seriously damage your equipment. Units equipped with throttle sensors can adjust performance depending on load, thus increasing fuel efficiency and run time.

Transfer switches, which should be installed by a suitably qualified professional, allow you to plug your portable generator directly into your household electrical supply, so you only run a single cable, rather than trying to run a number of extension cords through doors or windows. You’ve probably heard it a thousand times, but in this case it's particularly important: always read the manufacturer's instructions! First, fumes from generators are dangerous. Second, if you fail to look after your portable generator and maintain it properly, it might let you down when you most need it. The following might be covered within those instructions, but are worth underlining:. Manufacturers recommend a minimum of five feet of clear space on all sides of your generator when it's running.

Types of portable generators

Noise Level

It should always be run outdoors. A garage or shed with the door and windows open is NOT outdoors. Carbon monoxide can build up in enclosed spaces. It's colorless, odorless, and lethal. Never fill the gas tank when the portable generator is hot. Spilled gas can ignite on a hot exhaust or casing. It's almost invisible, so it can burn you, or things around you, before you realize. Never completely fill the gas tank – always allow room for expansion. After use, never put your generator away until it is completely cool. Never attempt to wire your generator into a household socket. “Back feed” can cause electrocution or fires not just in your home, but anywhere in the local network. If you want the option of a fixed connection, ask a properly qualified professional to install a transfer switch. Beware of overloading your portable generator. If in doubt, consult an electrician. Check that your generator is properly grounded. Follow all applicable federal, state and local regulations related to grounding. If you don't, you risk being electrocuted. Turn devices on one at a time, waiting a moment between each, so they don’t surge against the generator simultaneously.

Easy start

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During our research we found cheap portable generators for as little as $100.
We don’t recommend generators at that level, but they do exist.

Gasoline or liquid propane


Our five finalists are all highly-rated models that receive lots of positive feedback from owners. They're also representative of what we would consider 'best in class', in terms of price and performance. With portable generators, you pretty much get what you pay for. A robust, reliable entry-level machine can be yours for under $300. That's a great deal, but we recommend spending another hundred bucks or so for a model with similar power output, but a more exhaustive feature set. Need to go big? Our more expensive selections get you significantly higher power output, along with excellent reliability. Inverter generators are a slightly different story because they generally cost more than their “standard” counterparts. The model we recommend is close to a thousand dollars but, in our view, unbeatable in its class. © Motor1.com best portable generators. When planning your next road trip or camping adventure, consider bringing one of the best portable generators.

Extra Features

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If you only need to charge small devices such as smartphones and flashlights, a small portable power station may do the job.
However, a portable generator offers more wattage and faster charging.

Portable generator efficiency

A quality portable generator is ideal for home backup power, tailgating, camping, or road trips.

You’ll need a generator if you want to power appliances in your RV, sleeping aids such as a CPAP machine, camping lights, coffee makers, or electric cooktops. We’ve researched numerous portable generators suitable for camping trips and roadside use. Next up, we’ll explain how to select the right generator for your needs, and we’ll explore some standard features of the best portable generators. In this article:. 5 Best Portable Generators. Our Review Standards. Editor’s Pick: Champion Power Equipment 200961. Best High-Wattage Portable Generator: Generac iQ3500. Best Solar-Powered Portable Generator: Goal Zero Yeti 1000X. Best Gas-Powered Portable Generator: WEN 56200i. Best Budget Portable Generator: Jackery Explorer 240.

Portable Generator Pricing. Best Portable Generator Buyers Guide. FAQ: Best Portable Generators. Before choosing the five portable generators in this review, our team searched Amazon for top products, looking at factors such as customer ratings, price, superlatives, and Prime shipping eligibility.

Fuel gauge

Last updated price$590.18
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We also scoured message boards and online communities to find the most popular portable generators.
We chose a range of products and price points to accommodate different customer needs and budgets.

Best Solar-Powered Portable Generator: Goal Zero Yeti 1000X

What Customers Are Saying

Each generator we recommend in this article is relatively quiet, portable, safe, and reliable. The Champion Power Equipment 200961 is a dual fuel portable generator, meaning you can power it with gasoline or propane. This may be convenient when you don’t have access to gasoline. This generator comes with oil, an LPG hose (for propane power), and a 12-volt carport to dual USB adapter. The 200961 features two 120-volt A/C outlets and one 12-volt D/C carport outlet. It includes a three-year warranty and a lifetime of technical support, which customer reviews indicate is robust and helpful. While this portable generator has 1,850 running watts, you can increase that number by hooking together two 200961 generators for parallel power.

Oil level warning

Last updated price$499.00
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The reliability, light weight, and power output make this an ideal portable generator for camping, RVing, and other road adventures.
Our Rating: 4.7 out of 5. Running watts: 1,850. Weight: 39.0 pounds.

Best High-Wattage Portable Generator: Generac iQ3500

FAQ: Best Portable Generators

Fuel type: Gas or propane. Full tank run time: 6 hours on gas, 17 hours on propane at half load. Warranty: 3 years. The Champion Power Equipment 200961 generator has an average Amazon review score of 4.6 out of 5 based on over 3,200 ratings. About 80 percent of reviews rate this portable generator a full 5 stars. Positive reviews typically mention the value of this generator. While it is priced mid-tier for a portable generator, this product generates many watts – enough to power an RV air conditioning unit. In reviews, users frequently mention that other qualities are the generator’s ability to start easily and run quietly. Customer service agents are reportedly reliable and helpful. Some users say it’s difficult to change the oil for the 200961. Removing the panel that covers the oil input can be particularly challenging. Some customers also complain of oil leaks, and others mention the 200961 being hard to start on propane power alone.

Last updated price$600.00
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Despite weighing over 100.0 pounds, the Generac iQ3500 is relatively light for a portable generator capable of producing 3,000 running watts.
The Generac is an inverter generator, meaning it’s safe for small electronics (such as smartphones) and runs quietly.

What portable generator do you need?

The iQ3500 features an electric start – meaning you can turn it on with a remote – and offers two engine speeds, depending on your power needs. It has two 5-volt USB ports, two 3-prong 120-volt ports, and a 30-amp twist-lock outlet. The Generac is a durable gas generator ideal for campers who need to power electronics and appliances in their RV. It has a long run time and lasts some customers well beyond the three-year warranty. Because it offers so many running watts, the iQ3500 is also a good choice to back up your home electricity during power outages.

Our Rating: 4.7 out of 5. Running watts: 3,000. Weight: 109.0 pounds. Full tank run time: 8.9 hours at half load. Warranty: 3 years. The Generac iQ3500 has an average Amazon review score of 4.6 based on more than 3,000 ratings.

More On Auto Products:

Eighty percent of reviews give this portable generator 5 stars.

Satisfied reviewers often say the iQ3500 runs quietly and efficiently.

Many have used this product for camping, and one reviewer says it runs well in any season and even at very low temperatures.

One customer says his Generac overheats too quickly, but this isn’t a common issue in other reviews.