To identify the best cheap portable generators, we consulted trustworthy sources that conduct product testing, such as Consumer Reports, Top Ten Reviews, Popular Mechanics, and Wirecutter. They often review models that cost more than $1,000, so we also relied on specialty retailers and enthusiast sites that compare cheaper portable generators, as well as hundreds of customer reviews on retail sites including Home Depot, Lowe's, Amazon, and Walmart.
Expect to pay about $300 for a small, gas-powered portable generator that can run two or three items for camping or tailgating, or provide a backup power source during storm season.
A more robust generator to power your RV or run all essential home appliances can cost up to $600 or more.
- Also, while a majority of our picks are CARB compliant, for consumers living in California, you'll need to look for the very latest models if you want a unit equipped with the most up-to-date carbon-monoxide-sensing technology. Editors' note: Generators regularly sell out, regardless of season, and top-rated models can be on back order for weeks.
- Prices fluctuate frequently, sometimes by $50 or more, so buy right away if you find a bargain.
What benefits are there to having a backup generator?
There are 5 main benefits to having a generator that you can rely on when an outage occurs:
- Maintain comfort: Having a generator allows you to stay warm or cool when the house loses power, especially for those who live in extreme climates.
- Prevent voltage fluctuations: Running a generator can prevent dangerous surges when the power finally does return.
- Prevent waste: Keeping the fridge and other appliances running during an outage can save perishable items such as food and medicine.
- Safe to operate: Electric generators and propane generators are safe for everyone to operate.
- Peace of mind: Having a generator acts as a security net which can give you peace of mind.
What should you consider when looking for residential generators?
In order to determine what generator may be appropriate for your needs, you should consider:
- Wattage: Each electrical device needs a certain amount of wattage to run. If you just need to keep certain appliances running during an emergency, you may be able to work with a smaller generator. If you require more wattage, a larger generator may be more practical..
- Runtime needs: If you are in an area that experiences regular outages, or if you are dealing with an emergency situation and you do not know how much runtime you need, a generator with a larger tank may be a good idea.
- Type: For many people, a portable generator is enough. Those who live in areas that experience regular power cuts or who are at risk for natural disasters may wish to install permanent generators.
- Special features: Some features may make some generators easier to use than others.
Before you take a load off this Labor Day, ensure you have everything you need to kick back and celebrate the day in style, and shop for deals on generators, flags, and more.
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