Best Portable Generators of 2017

Best Portable Generators Review

You require power, but you also require mobility. That means you’re looking for the best of both worlds: portable generators that offer a lightweight design and sufficient power to get you through a camping trip or similar outdoor excursion. But how do you know which portable generators are right for you, and which are simply not worth buying? That’s what this review will tackle.

It doesn’t matter what your portable generator is for—whether it be for camping, for RVing, for emergencies, for a job site, etc.—as long as you know what you want to do with it. When you have that kind of clarity, you’ll be able to look through all sorts of portable generator reviews and figure out which one seems designed for your specific purposes.

In this comprehensive review of the best portable generators to buy, we’ll look at a number of different characteristics that make up a portable generator’s quality. There are a few different features that you’ll want to pay particular attention to, but it’s also important to remember that your portable generator uses might be different from the next consumer’s.

With that in mind, let’s look at how you can buy the best possible portable generator for the budget. Here are some of the most important features to be aware of:

  • Price: There’s just no getting around it. Price may be the most important feature out there, because it sometimes determines whether you’re even able to afford the portable generator in question. But remember that price and quality are not always synonymous. You’ll want to find the best generator for the price, but not necessarily the cheapest
  • Portability/lightness: Usually, for generators, this isn’t a major concern. But we’re not talking about auxiliary industrial generators here. We’re talking about portable generators you can bring along on camping trips, for example. That means lightness isn’t just important—it’s often a priority. And the power yield you get for that lightness can be just as important.
  • Power capacity: A lightweight generator doesn’t have to be a lightweight when it comes to producing power. If you can find a light generator that gives you ample power for all of your portable generator needs, then you know you may have found a winner. See below for more information on the specs that help you determine whether the capacity of a particular generator is right for you.

As you go through this list of portable generators, try to keep these features in mind. You’ll also pick and choose which features are the most important for you. If you want to do that right now, simply get out a pen and a pad and write down the “must-have” features that define your ideal portable generator. As you see through this comprehensive review, we’ll address many of those features, as well as the positives and negatives of each portable generator on the list.

While some portable generators will appear to be objectively better than others, some may be simply better for you. And that’s perfectly fine. As long as you define your parameters from the outset.

Understanding the Specs of Portable Generators

If you’re new to portable generators, then there will likely be some abbreviations and terms on this list that look unfamiliar. That’s fine. All you need to know is what they stand for. Feel free to turn back to this section and use it as a reference when you read through the reviews.

  • AC Output. AC or alternating current is the power used by most household appliances. 120V is a common power supply for these outputs. It’s not that important to remember this one, as most portable generators will be compliant with 120V power cords, but if a generator does not offer that, it’s worth knowing. It may be incompatible with the gear you want to keep powered.
  • V and W. Volts and Watts. Voltage is one element of power, and Watts generally refers to the total power output produced by an electrical device. Think of Volts as the pressure of water through a hose, and Watts as a summation of all of the power a hose generates.
  • dB or Decibels. The loudness of your portable generator can have an immeasurable impact on the quality of your life while you use it. Portable generators tend to be smaller and quiet, but that doesn’t prevent any individual piece from being too loud.

As you read through the products below, you’ll likely find that you become more and more familiar with each variable on the list of specs.

Price Point: How Much Do Portable Generators Cost?

Since the price point is always one of the top concerns, you should pay special attention to how much money you can expect to spend in the portable generator market.

Most of the items on the list fall in the “three-digit” range, or one hundred dollars through one thousand dollars. It might seem like that’s a big range of money—and it can be, if your budget is limited—but it’s relatively small compared to larger, industrial-type generators.

For example, if you see a generator that costs $900, it might be very inexpensive for a high-powdered generator, but it’s going to be on the high end for this particular list of portable generators. On the low end, you can expect to see generators come down to $200 and even close to $100.

The wide range in prices means there will be a lot to weigh. With that in mind, let’s get started by looking at the first portable generator on our list:

Honda EU2000I 2000 Watt Inverter Generator

Specs: 2000W max, 59 dB, 120V

Overview: We begin with one of the most expensive options on the list. Although its price almost goes into quadruple digits, the central issue here is always: do you get what you pay for? That’s the case here. You do indeed get what you pay for, and if you’re looking for a capable portable generator for emergencies, camping, and more, you can certainly do a lot worse.

The only question is: do you really need all of that power? It’s possible that for your uses, a smaller portable generator will do just fine. For example, if you only need to power one device while camping alone, or if you simply need a small emergency generator to help you sleep a little better, maybe this isn’t the one for you. If you have the money to spare, it will certainly suffice for those purposes too, but if you don’t, you might want to remain on the bargain hunt.

Even saying all of that, there really isn’t much bad to say about this generator. It’s highly-regarded, it’s from a top brand, and it has the power capacity to handle just about anything you can throw at it, within reason. Put it all together and you might have the most expensive item on the list, but you also have one of the best-rated portable generators in existence. That many reviews and happy customers probably don’t lie.

Who is this generator best for? It’s for anyone reading this with a sufficient budget. If you have the budget, it only makes sense that you would acquire a quality piece with a demonstrable history of success for the people who buy it. If price remains a big concern for you, it might be worth exploring the “value” options on this list instead.

Pros:

  • Plenty of power and consistency
  • High capacity
  • Easy to start
  • Many long-term reviews rate this as being worth the price

Cons:

  • This is the most expensive option on the list.
  • Do you get what you pay for?

Amazon Customer Reviews: 4.7 out of 5 Stars (189 Reviews) (Amazon Link)

 

WEN 56200i, 1600 Running Watts/2000 Starting Watts, 4-Stroke Gas Powered Portable Inverter Generator, CARB Compliant

Specs: 2000 W (Max), 1600 W (Rated), 120V, one 5V USB port

Overview: This one just may divide the audience. On one hand, it provides plenty of power for a drastically lowered price—on sale, it can be as much as half of the previous item on this list. That’s not only a good price, it’s a downright bargain. If you can have this option at that price and call it a day, then this portable generators review will not have been in vain. It’s a quality piece.

But there are just a few complaints in the metaphorical corners that you should consider. Some reviews state that the experience with this generator is actually somewhat dirty, which means that it doesn’t necessarily provide the clean experience of maintenance that you might get with a Honda generator. And with some reviews wondering out loud if the wattage is really what the specs say, that should lead to some pause.

Otherwise, you’re looking at a stellar find here. There is enough power and reliability here to be completely excited about the relatively low price. If you have a simple $500 budget for your portable generator, you’re going to have a hard time replicating the specs you see here with a similar price. It’s just that simple.

It doesn’t hurt that this is a lightweight option, either. This is a portable generators review, after all, and portability is always important. To get that much power from a lightweight generator—one that you can easily take with you on trips or to the job site—that’s often worth the price of admission alone. And considering just how low the price of admission is here, it’s hard to say there’s a better value buy on this list than what you see right here.

Our recommendation? Consider this something of a companion to the previous piece—a quality similar piece that probably won’t give you the exact experience of that Honda, but will do so at such a reduced price that you might not even find that you care.

Pros:

  • Packs a powerful wallop for the price
  • Highly portable and lightweight, especially given the power produced
  • Strong, durable, long-term performance

Cons:

  • Has been called “dirty” in terms of draining oil, etc.
  • Does it provide the wattage in the specs?

Amazon Customer Reviews: 4.5 out of 5.0 Stars (245 Reviews) (Amazon Link)

 

Westinghouse WH7500E Portable Generator – 7500 Running Watts and 9000 Starting Watts – Gas Powered – Electric Start

Specs: Multiple options; see Amazon link

Overview: This one can make for a difficult overview, simply because there are so many different spec options available! You might buy something at the high end, you might buy something at the low end; your experience is going to be different no matter which you choose. From that perspective, more research may be needed before we can definitively say that this is the portable generator for you.

What do we know? We do know that there’s plenty of portability involved simply because of the way this generator is designed. The wheels help with that. Although some people had some problems with the construction of the hardware itself, there’s no reason to believe anything but that treating this generator well as you lug it to the job site or the camp site will mean that the generator treats you well in turn.

Although you have plenty of pricing options depending on your budget, you will obviously be expected to pay more as you buy more capacity. And there’s plenty of capacity here on the top end, perhaps as much or more as any item on this list. The downside is that you’ll have to be the one who decides how much capacity you need, and that’s not always an easy task.

Even so, the quality of this generator means that no matter which you choose, you’re likely going to make a good decision. The quality is there, the power is there, and the prices are reasonable. Even if you fret over which specific option to purchase, there’s a good chance that you may just “happen” into a good choice for you. And that means it’s going to have a high place on our list.

Pros:

  • Plenty of variability in spec options provides you with flexibility in budget
  • Massive amount of power for the price, depending on the option you select
  • Runs clean and relatively quiet for the power
  • Wheels make for extra portability

Cons:

  • Quality of the construction?
  • Price goes up as you buy more power; you’ll have more choosing to do

Amazon Customer Reviews: 4.3 out of 5.0 Stars (511 Reviews) (Amazon Link)

 

DuroStar DS4000S, 3300 Running Watts/4000 Starting Watts, Gas Powered Portable Generator

Specs: 3300W (Running), 4 Gallon Gas Tank, 120V

Overview: This is an interesting one. With plenty of consistent and reliable power, with the efficiency at which it operates, and with how easy it is to start, this DuroStar has a lot going for it. Yet there are some interesting questions as well. Perhaps that’s a result of the low price—which is on the bottom of the market for a generator of this type—but if you’re bargain hunting, you’ll want some answers to those questions before clicking “order.”

Let’s start with the performance. There’s plenty to like here, with a long track record of Amazon reviews that suggest an overall positive impression of the generator’s reliability. There are so many reviews, in fact, that this might just have the most user experience—or at least reviewable user experience—of any item on this list. Sine DuroStar is not a brand as popular as Honda, that’s worth noting.

The price is very good. On the low end of the market, for the specs you receive here, you won’t have much of a problem securing one of your own. Even the wheel kit, which is not included in the original price, does not add much of a financial burden. Add it all together and you’ll still have a generator that gives you plenty of what you need for a reasonable price. It would be great if they simply included the wheel kit, but we’ll give them a pass on that one.

If you’re bargain hunting, this might be one of the most intriguing options on your list. Its price is low enough to satisfy even the bargain-bin searchers who want something very low. It has enough power to justify the price, and even though you might consider it “off brand” if you haven’t heard of DuroStar before, this is still a very popular product. That means there’s credibility here, plenty of performance review, and enough confidence to justify making this the choice of the bargain hunters.

Pros:

  • Excellent price on the low end of the market
  • Heavily reviewed with an overall positive track record
  • Lightweight enough to move easily (see cons about the Wheel kit)

Cons:

  • Are you going to get the customer support of a larger company?
  • Wheel kit for portability costs extra

Amazon Customer Reviews: 4.3 out of 5.0 Stars (474 Reviews) (Amazon Link)

 

WEN 56180, 1500 Running Watts/1800 Starting Watts, Gas Powered Portable Generator, CARB Compliant

Specs: Varies depending on the option you select; for this specific link, 1800 W Max, 1500 W rated, 120V

Overview: Here’s another option that comes with its own set of options. Although we’re reviewing the 1800W Max version of this product, there are plenty of other capacities to choose from if you want to customize your own price.

And how about that price? Even the higher capacity versions of this item are on the lower end of the portable generator market spectrum, giving you plenty of reason to believe you’re getting a good deal no matter which option you choose. True, you can go up even higher—up to around $700 and beyond—but you’ll do just fine with this portable generator should you choose one of the less expensive options.

Now let’s talk about that option itself. Because of the low price and the quality construction, you’ll be able to take this portable generator just about anywhere. The only question is, will it hold up to repeated use? Long-term reliability is a problem that some of the customers of this product have noticed. And when you do run out of reliability, the customer service here isn’t exactly the premium, fast customer service you’d expect from a larger company.

Even so, there’s enough to like here to warrant adding this to your “bargain hunting” list. It’s inexpensive and it gets the job done, even if you opt for something with a little more capacity. There’s a good chance that no matter what you pick out of your various options here, you’ll end up with a quality piece. But if your budget is limited, there’s no reason to stretch it just because there’s an option to stretch it. Stick with your budget and you’ll do just fine.

Pros:

  • Plenty of purchase options so you can customize the price based on your needs
  • Lower price even on the more expensive options on this list
  • Quality construction helps keep the generator durable
  • Light enough for easy portable use

Cons:

  • Some customers have troubles with long-term reliability
  • Customer service leaves something to de desired

Amazon Customer Reviews:  4.2 Stars out of 5.0 (690 Reviews) (Amazon Link)

 

Briggs & Stratton 30651 P2200 PowerSmart Series Portable 2200-Watt Inverter Generator with Parallel Capability

Specs: 120V, 2200 W, 1-Gallon Fuel tank

Overview: If this generator looks like a nice, pleasant, small option that will be quiet while you enjoy the power there…you’re right. It performs as it looks, which is to say that it might not give you a lot of power, but it does give you a lot of value in terms of other features you’d usually associate with a portable generator. At just about 8 hours of running time, you might consider this a light camping generator or even an emergency generator, but the price point is low enough that we won’t really quibble with those specs.

True, the smallness of this option means that there are some inherent disadvantages. For example, the gas tank is only one gallon, yielding about 8 hours of power generation. Is that enough for you? It might be great to use if you have an emergency and just need some quick power, but if you want to run a whole weekend of camping off of one fuel tank…well, you’re probably out of luck.

There are also some advantages inherent with its size and scope. For example, it’s relatively quiet, which means that it’s great for running in the background as you enjoy the power. And it’s easy to move from Point A to Point B, partially due to the top-based handle that makes for easy movement. What can we say? You asked for portable generators when you clicked to this comprehensive review. This one is indeed smaller and portable. If you’re looking for a longer-term option, they’re not hard to find. This one is not.

If you can live with the cons and enjoy the pros, there’s no reason this can’t be an entirely successful generator for you. It’s quiet, lightweight, and easy to use. And if those are the features most important to you, you might find a good value buy here.

If, on the other hand, you need a little more heft, there are pricier options that will give you what you need. It all comes back to your priorities and what you want out of a portable generator. In this case, if portability is a main concern, you won’t do wrong by acquiring one of these.

Pros:

  • Quality price in the market
  • Easy to move around and carry, includes a handle
  • Relatively quiet operation, good for camping

Cons:

  • Small tank capacity means only a limited amount of power
  • Can’t be shipped directly to California

Amazon Customer Reviews: 4.3 out of 5.0 Stars (139 Reviews) (Amazon Link)

 

DuroMax XP4400E 4,400 Watt 7.0 HP OHV 4-Cycle Gas Powered Portable Generator With Wheel Kit And Electric Start

Specs: 4400W Surge, 3500 W Continuous; 4 Gallon Gas Tank, Electric Key Start, 120V

Overview: If you want a good value buy, then this is an intriguing option for you. Its specs include all sorts of features that portable generator enthusiasts will love: wheels, an electric key start, a gas tank big enough to handle plenty of power duration. So why isn’t this portable generator garnering a more prominent spot in this comprehensive review?

There are some question marks. Most notably, the reliability of the generator. A lot of the negative reviews out there note that this generator didn’t necessarily live up to the specs as provided, especially when you weigh its long-term performance. That means that although the specs look very good for the price, the reliability of these specs isn’t quite so obvious.

That makes this one a bit of a question mark. On one hand, there are plenty of things to like. Some of them feel downright luxurious for the price, including the electric start that makes getting it going an absolute breeze. And with the easy mobility, you can take it to a construction or a camp site no problem. All that remains, really, is for the portable generator to give you the power it said it would.

What are you looking for in a generator? The reason we ask this question over and over again is because it will determine the quality of a generator for you. This is one of those portable generators that has the potential to divide the readers. some will see exceptional value for the price. Others might see only a problematic piece.

There are enough reviews out there giving this generator a positive rating that we have no problem giving this a positive overview ourselves. You’ll note just how many “pros” we put in the positive column  here, and the “cons” are mostly issues of reliability and long-term questions, not obvious short-term faults. In our eyes, that makes for an overall quality portable generator.

Pros:

  • Plenty of power
  • Lots of fuel capacity for longer usage
  • Electric key start makes starting a breeze
  • Quality reliability and quality rated performance by the specs
  • Price is reasonable given the pros

Cons:

  • Does it work as well as advertised?
  • Long-term durability in question

Amazon Customer Reviews: 4.2 out of 5.0 Stars (557 Reviews) (Amazon Link)

 

Suaoki Powerhouse 220Wh/20,000mAh Portable Generator Power Source Power Supply with 100V/110V/50Hz, Max 200W AC Power Inverters, 12V/5A DC & USB Ports, Charged by DC Input/Solar Panels

Specs: 2 100V/110V AC Outlets, 200W Max

Overview: In case you haven’t noticed, this isn’t the standard pour-in-gas-and-let-it-do-its-thing portable generator. If anything, this runs more like a portable battery that you can use to recharge items like phones, computers, and more. That means that there’s an inherent disadvantage: it will require an additional item to make sure that you charge this generator with the power it needs to charge your other stuff.

The good news is that it does this task very well. As a Lithium-based power solution, it’s highly efficient, gives off zero emissions (good for you eco-friendly folks), and works very well for camping and hiking purposes because of how lightweight the entire system ends up being. This makes for an interesting alternative to the portable generators you’ve seen on the list thus far—this is something far more electrical.

If you want to remain “off the grid” with this generator, then you’re going to need an additional purchase to provide the power that keeps this generator going. Sure, you can charge it up with usual power, but if you want to use it in an emergency, you’re likely not going to have access to that same power. That means there are some tremendous disadvantages when it comes to price here.

Still, if you want to get away from your reliance on gasoline, this is exactly the kind of power generator you should consider. It’s an efficient storehouse of power that will easily charge up all your favorite electronics. It’s so easy to carry that you may even forget that you packed it along with your other gear. And that means as strictly a portable generator, we can give this one high marks. There’s plenty to love.

Pros:

  • Excellent price for the specs
  • Very lightweight and easy to transport
  • Compatible with a high range of electronics; includes USB port
  • Silent, with zero emissions

Cons:

  • Not the raw power generator most people are used to
  • Requires charging unit of some kind

Amazon Customer Reviews: 4.3 out of 5.0 Stars (70 Reviews) (Amazon Link)

 

PowerPro 56101, 900 Running Watts/1000 Starting Watts, Gas Powered Portable Generator

Specs: 1 gallon gas tank, 1000W (can buy higher), 120V 3-Prong Outlet

Overview: You were waiting for the ultimate bargain buy on this list? Wait no longer. The price of this PowerPro alone is reason enough to consider it no matter what your budget is. Heck, it’s low enough that even if you’re buying a fancy backup generator, you can easily add in another $100 to spring for this as a backup to the backup. With a price that low, it merits your consideration.

There’s more to like here than just the price, however. If it didn’t work, or if it had major disadvantages, it still wouldn’t be worth the investment. But this one is, partially thanks to how lightweight and quiet it is. It’s easy to pick up and carry with you and runs quiet enough for use even while, say, camping. That means its positives as a portable generator are still within the range of acceptable quality, even though the price might suggest otherwise.

There are some sacrifices you have to make. The low gas tank capacity means that if you want this as an emergency generator, it’s only going to give you a limited amount of power time. And since adding more capacity would mean the weight would have to go up, you’ll have to make a sacrifice there.

Still, this might make a great “first generator” for anyone who wants to try something small and simple and figure out how all of this portable generator stuff works. It might not have the capacity you’re looking for, but at the price, it’s hard to beat.

Pros:

  • Price! Rock-bottom cost here means this may be the bargain you’ve been looking for
  • Enough wattage to justify the low cost and then some
  • You can easily pick a higher capacity if you need more (at a higher price point)
  • 60 dB still rates as quiet
  • Very light and easy to carry

Cons:

  • Reliability problems with some reviews
  • Low gas tank capacity

Amazon Customer Reviews: 3.9 out of 5.0 Stars (318 Reviews) (Amazon link)

 

Generac 6719 IX Series 2000 Portable Inverter Generator

Specs: 2000W, 120V, Can buy a lower wattage version

Overview: This is a great “middle of the road” option. While the customer reviews aren’t as positive as you see on the rest of this list, there are some things to like. The price? Certainly it could be lower, but for the wattage, it’s really not all that high, either. The loudness is perfectly acceptable even if you’re going to use this generator while camping. And it’s lightweight enough to justify its inclusion as a portable generator.

So what is it missing? It’s missing some of the attractive features that make the other items on this list look so darn enticing. It does everything reasonably well—but nothing spectacularly well. The price is about middle-of-the-road, and you might expect maybe one or two features to jump out at you. Here, they don’t.

While this might not be the highest-reviewed item on the list, it does serve another purpose: it’s a great way to compare similar items. Using this as a benchmark for other portable generators will allow you to figure out if you’re getting a bargain or not. With equal performance and lower price? Sure, that’s a bargain. Same price and more performance? Another value choice.

But that’s not a ringing endorsement for the generator itself, and that’s fine. There are just too many complaints about the reliability of this generator to get very enthusiastic about what it might do for you. But like many other items on this list, it’s hard to imagine you having a very rough go of it if you select this one. Just don’t expect it to “wow” you, either.

Pros:

  • If the price is too high for you, you can opt for a lower-wattage version
  • Very quiet and “campground friendly”
  • Easy to set down on the ground, with miniature “feet” or legs that keep it upright
  • Quality, reliable power output

Cons:

  • Despite the high capacity, we would like the price to be a touch lower
  • Reliability issues, lower customer reviews

Amazon Customer Reviews: 3.8 out of 5.0 stars (121 Reviews) (Amazon Link)

Conclusion: Spotting the Portable Generator for You

If it sometimes feels like finding a needle in a haystack, that’s a good thing.

It means there are a lot of quality portable generators out there on the market. The generators you see here are only a fraction of what’s out there, as well—but we’ve highlighted some of the best ones so that you’re not really finding a needle in a haystack…you’re finding a needle in a small stack of needles.

That means that you can probably point to any generator on this list and not make a single bad decision. After all, this is called the Best Portable Generators Review, not a list of just any portable generators.

Even so, there’s enough degree of difference between the generators you see on this list that it can be hard to make a decision right away. When one attracts you with a low budget, another one might attract you with some spectacular and convenient features.

Our advice? Set a budget beforehand and then decide accordingly. You’ll likely find that there is plenty of room in your budget for a quality portable generator, particularly if investing in one is going to give you year after year of quality use.

Then pick the generator you like and enjoy. After that, if you’ve done your research, you’ll have a quality generator that should last you years.

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