Best Cheap Generator Reviews

Updated November 2, 2020

Generators are a great way to enjoy the comforts of your home even during a power outage. They also come in handy during bad weather, when the chance of damage to the grid is quite high.

Not to mention that, a generator is perfect for a very comfy camping trip, where you can enjoy all your favorite devices.

Still, when you start browsing for one, most recommendations are about power and fuel efficiency. While these features are indeed important, the price is of equal importance, especially for such an investment.

As such, it’s best to look for an affordable generator that has the power and features you need. And, since we know it can be difficult to find the right product from the first try, we put together a comprehensive buying guide and reviewed some budget generators.

This way, you can be sure you’ll find the best generator for the money!

Best Cheap Generators

#PREVIEWProduct
1
Best For Low Budgets
1Westinghouse iGen2200 Generator
Westinghouse - iGen2200 Portable Inverter Gas Generator
Best For Low Budgets
Westinghouse iGen2200 Generator
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2
Best For Higher Budgets
2DuroMax XP4400EH Generator
DuroMax XP4400EH 4400-Watt Electric Start Dual Fuel Hybrid Portable Generator
Best For Higher Budgets
DuroMax XP4400EH Generator
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3
Best Overall
3WEN 56200i Generator
WEN 56200i Super Quiet 2000-Watt Portable Inverter Generator
Best Overall
WEN 56200i Generator
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4 Champion - 100307 4375_3500-Watt Dual Fuel RV Ready Portable Generator Champion 100307 Generator
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5 CHAFON - 346WH Portable Power Station CHAFON 346WH Generator
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6 Ryobi - RYI2300BTA 2,300-Watt Gasoline Digital Inverter Generator Ryobi RYI2300BTA Generator
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1. Westinghouse iGen2200 Generator

Highlights
  • Recoil start type generator
  • Extremely fuel-efficient
  • Portable & compact
  • Ideal for powering sensitive electronics
Best For Low Budgets
Westinghouse - iGen2200 Portable Inverter Gas Generator

The iGen2200 is a gas-powered, portable, inverter generator that operates at about 52dBA (it’s very quiet compared to larger products).

It is perfect for camping trips and emergencies around the house due to its high efficiency (it runs for up to 12 hrs on 1.2 gal).

The housing is shaped like a compact suitcase, with a reliable handle, that only weighs 46 lbs., which allows easy transportation.

While it may not be extremely powerful (80cc engine displacement), it comes equipped with two 120V outlets and two USB ports.

It’s also parallel capable (you can pair it with another Westinghouse Inverter Generator for more power) but you will need a Westinghouse Parallel Cord (sold separately).

The generator can be used to power sensitive electronics (such as computers, laptops, or mobile phones) since the power it produces is stable and clean (<3% THD).

In addition, the system is designed to automatically adjust to engine speed according to the amount of power needed. This way, the fuel consumption is optimal.

Lastly, the iGen2200 has built-in safety features such as “low oil shutdown” and “overload protection”.

Specifications

Size:
19.8" L x 11.4” W x 17.9" H and weighs 46 lbs
Voltage:
120 V
Wattage:
1800 Rated Watts & 2200 Peak Watts
Noise Level:
52 dB
Output:
2 x 120V Outlets and 2 x USB Ports
Power Source:
Gas

Pros

  • Perfect for camping trips, RV traveling, and other emergencies
  • It is parallel capable
  • Very quiet (neighborhood-friendly)
  • The power is constant & clean

Cons

  • It can be difficult to start
  • Needs a bit of break-in

2. DuroMax XP4400EH Generator

Highlights
  • MX2 Technology
  • Surge-arrest
  • All-metal construction
  • EPA-approved and CARB-compliant
Best For Higher Budgets
DuroMax XP4400EH 4400-Watt Electric Start Dual Fuel Hybrid Portable Generator

The DuroMax XP4400EH packs plenty of power with its 208cc OHV 4-stroke engine that can generate 3,500 and 3,325 running watts on gasoline and propane, respectively. It’s got enough power to supply heavy loads like air conditioners and power tools. It can run up to 11.46 hours at half-load using 3.96 gallons of gasoline or 9.81 hours on 20 lbs. of propane. Its MX2 Power Boost Technology also gives you the option to operate the generator at 120 volts and 240V simultaneously, or 120 volts at full power. 

Its safety features include the automatic low oil shut-off, Surge-arrest which protects your generator from sudden power surges, air-cooling to prevent excessive heating up of the engine, and a spark arrestor for safe use during camping. The XP4400EH comes with a 3-year parts warranty.

Specifications

Size:
23.8 x 20 x 18 inches
Voltage:
120 volts / 240 volts AC & 12 volts DC
Wattage:
Gasoline: 3,500W rated, 4,400W peak output Propane: 3,325W rated, 4,180W peak output
Noise Level:
69 dB
Output:
2x 120 volts, 1x 120 / 240 volts 30 amp
Power Source:
Fuel Type: Gasoline, Propane Start Type: Recoil, Electric

Pros

  • Flexible output in its outlets
  • Large fuel tank
  • Easy start-up and maintenance
  • Safe to use in camping sites

Cons

  • Some may find the oil drain plug difficult to reach
  • May not be suitable for certain RV models

3. WEN 56200i Generator

Highlights
  • Produces 1600 rated watts (2000 surge watts).
  • Eco-mode feature to adjust fuel consumption. 
  • Long runtime (9.4 hours at quarter load).
  • Limits harmonic distortion so can safely run laptops, tablets and phones.
Best Overall
WEN 56200i Super Quiet 2000-Watt Portable Inverter Generator

This is a great option if you’re looking for a generator for camping trips, as this model is portable, compact, and quiet, running at 51dB at quarter load. 

Weighing 48 pounds it’s easier to move this inverter generator around as needed, and although the fuel tank holds only 1 gallon, it will run for over 6 hours at half-load. Harmonic distortion is limited to less than 1.2%, so it’s safe to run more sensitive electronics such as laptops and tablets, and there’s even a USB port. Alongside this are two three-prong 120V and one 12V DC ports. 

We like the Eco-Mode, which adjusts the generator’s motor and therefore the fuel consumption when items are plugged and unplugged. The output is limited to 1600 rated watts, but if you need more power you can link up a second generator using a connection kit (not included). The two-year warranty gives you added peace of mind.

Specifications

Size:
18 x 11 x 18 inches
Voltage:
120V
Wattage:
1600W
Noise Level:
51 dBa
Output:
1600 rated watts / 2000 peak watts
Power Source:
Gasoline

Pros

  • Compact and portable design, ideal for camping or worksites.
  • Extremely quiet operation at 53dB at quarter load.
  • Four outlets including a USB port.
  • 2 year warranty.

Cons

  • Relatively low output, so can only handle a few devices simultaneously.
  • Oil needs to be changed after the first 20 hours of use.

4. Champion 100307 Generator

Highlights
  • Dual power source
  • Powerful (3500 Watts with a 224cc engine)
  • Good safety features 
  • Ready to be used from the box

This is a rather big generator (it weighs over 100lbs) so it’s not easily portable (you need at least two people to move it around).

However, it does develop 3500 Watts of power and can be used with both gasoline and propane. It is also RV-ready and comes with one 3.3-foot propane hose with a built-in regulator.

The generator is equipped with plenty of outlets (one 120V 30A RV (TT-30R), one 120V 30A locking outlet (L5-30R), and two 120V 20A household outlets), this bad boy is perfect for a wide range of scenarios.

It is also designed with Cold Start Technology which ensures a quick start in cold weather.

Overall it is a bit noisy (68dBA from 23 feet), but it’s no louder than a standard vacuum. As such, it can be used in inhabited areas without too much trouble.

It also has a Volt Guard built-in surge protector that prevents overloads and a low oil shut-off sensor. These safety features are implemented to keep both the generator and connected devices & equipment safe.

The dual-fuel feature is extremely useful and easy to use due to the patented fuel selector switch that allows for safe switching between fuel sources.

However, it’s important to know that the generated power will differ according to the type of fuel.

For instance, when on gasoline, the 224cc Champion engine produces 4375 starting watts and 3500 running watts. It also runs for 9 hours at 50% load with the 3.4-gallon fuel tank on full.

If you’re using propane, the engine generates 3950 starting watts and 3150 running watts. This time, it should run for 10.5h at a 50% load with a 20-pound propane tank.

Lastly, the Champion generator is fitted with Intelligauge – a smart system designed to help users monitor power output and track maintenance intervals.

Specifications

Size:
23.2” L x 19.1" W x 20" H and weighs 104.9lbs
Voltage:
120 V
Wattage:
3500 Watts
Noise Level:
68 dB
Output:
one 120V 30A RV (TT-30R) outlet, one 120V 30A locking outlet (L5-30R) and two 120V 20A household outlets
Power Source:
Gasoline or Propane

Pros

  • Perfect for using at home, at work, or while on an RV trip
  • RV-ready & other accessories
  • Works on propane and gasoline
  • Lasts over 9 hours on both fuels

Cons

  • It is heavy and bulky
  • The choke mechanism is confusing

5. CHAFON 346WH Generator

Highlights
  • Extremely portable & reliable
  • It can be recharged using solar power (environment-friendly)
  • Built-in LED flashlight
  • Can power up several devices

This is not a generator per se, but a UPS (Uninterruptible Power Supply)emergency lithium battery (12V, 31Ah, 346WH) backup that comes in handy in all sorts of situations.

It is very portable, due to the built-in handle and overall compact build and lightweight (7.4lbs). This makes it perfect for off-grid adventures such as fishing, camping, or power backup in case of severe weather.

However, it cannot support large devices (nothing over 500 running & starting watts) and is usually implemented as a backup power source for computers, network devices, and servers to avoid the loss of data in case of a power outage.

The UPS has 3 NEMA 5-15R receptacles & surge-protected outlets, four 12V DC 5.5mm ports, four 5V USB output ports, and three 110V AC outlets (for mini ovens & microwaves, drones, filming and photo equipment, and more).

It also can be used indoors and outdoors, as long as the temperature stays around -14°F – 104°F( -10°C – 45°C).

Since it is a Lithium battery, it doesn’t burn any fuel, which makes it more environment-friendly than generators.

Still, it needs recharging, which can be done by plugging it into a 110V AC wall plug (5~6 hours to full), using a 12V car charger (7~8 hours to full), or using a 40~120 Watt solar panel (14~16 hours to full, depending on solar conditions).

Now, depending on the number and type of consumers, the UPS can provide around 1.5h to 9h of backup time. It also has a builtin powerful LED flashlight that’s perfect for unexpected outages or for camping.

Lastly, the device is designed with a great Battery Management System (BMS) that provides protection against short-circuit, over-current, over-power, low-voltage, and overheating.

Specifications

Size:
11.4 x 4.5 x 5.5 inches and weighs 7.4lbs
Voltage:
110 V
Wattage:
346 W
Output:
Each 12V 2.5A,max 5A
Power Source:
AC or Solar

Pros

  • Durable & portable design
  • Easy to use interface
  • It doesn’t burn fuel to produce energy
  • It is very versatile

Cons

  • It can’t power up large devices
  • It’s a bit pricey for its features

6. Ryobi RYI2300BTA Generator

Highlights
  • Designed for easy transportation
  • Solid build and reliable in generating clean power 
  • Idle-Down technology for efficient fuel consumption
  • Bluetooth connectivity

Designed for your convenience, this gasoline-powered digital inverter generator is super quiet and easy to transport (it has two large rear wheels and two built-in handles).

The generator starts at 2300 watts and runs at 1800 watts, which makes it powerful enough to support your most precious devices in case of an outage or while traveling.

The power it generates (it has a 79cc engine) is stable and clean, which makes it perfect for sensitive electronics.

It’s also designed with cold start technology and can be controlled remotely, using a Bluetooth connection and the GENControl app on your Apple or Android.

This way, you can install it away from your tent (although it is super-silent) and turn it off without leaving your cozy sleeping bag.

The app also lets users monitor power consumption, fuel level, and remaining runtime.

Of course, if you forget to shut it down, the Idle-Down Technology will kick in, so you don’t have to worry about fuel efficiency.

Lastly, the generator is parallel capable, so when you need more power, it’s easy to link two Ryobi inverter generators together.

Specifications

Size:
22 x 18 x 12 inches and weighs 56 pounds
Voltage:
120 V
Wattage:
2300 starting watts and 1800 running watts
Noise Level:
57 dB
Output:
Two 120-Volt outlets and 2 USB ports
Power Source:
Gas

Pros

  • Fitted with wheels and extended handle
  • Can be controlled via a phone app
  • Designed for fuel efficiency
  • Powerful enough to support sensitive devices

Cons

  • It’s not powerful enough to support several household devices

Cheap Generator Buying Guide

Traditional VS Inverter

Both traditional and inverter generators work based on the same principle – they use fossil fuel (usually gasoline, diesel, or propane) to power up an engine with an alternator that has an electrical output. 

However, a traditional generator cannot maintain a steady 3600 rpm, which means that the voltage and Hertz will fluctuate. 

This fluctuation is called a harmonic distortion and is the main reason why traditional generators can’t be used to power up sensitive electronics (laptops, smartphones, cameras, and more). 

As you can imagine, inverter generators can produce clean energy (stable current, without fluctuations). 

This happens because these generators use more advanced technology to create an electrical output. In addition, they are also fuel efficient and many models have parallel kits that allow two generators to be connected at once (to double the power). 

Still, it’s a bit difficult to find a cheap inverter generator since they are pricier than traditional ones. But, there are some very affordable models on our list, so make sure to check them out!

Fuel

Most generators use one of the three most common options when it comes to fuel. As such, users can choose between gasoline, diesel, and propane models. In addition, there are hybrid generators that can work with two types of fuel (usually gasoline and propane).

It’s also important to know that an inverter generator is fuel efficient, while a conventional one can produce more power (but it’s bulkier). As such, with conventional generators, the bigger the fuel tank, the more power and the longer the run time. 

Gas

Gas-powered generators are more powerful than other fossil fuel powered generators, but they also raise some environmental issues. Since gas doesn’t burn cleanly, there will be some toxin release into the atmosphere, which is why it’s best to use such a device in a well-ventilated area. 

Still, a cheap gas generator is reliable and gas tanks are easy to find at any regular gas station.

Diesel

Diesel-powered generators are fuel-efficient, which means they use less fuel than gas-powered models. 

The reason behind this fuel-efficiency stands in the way the fuel is ignited – with diesel generators, the fuel is ignited using compression, which means that fuel and air are introduced in the engine separately, allowing the engine to run more efficiently.

In conclusion, diesel generators can run longer on the same amount of fuel, meaning they are less costly. 

Propane

Propane is a fossil fuel that burns cleaner than gasoline, which makes it the best option for environmental reasons. However, it produces fewer BTUs per gallon of fuel which makes it less efficient than gas generators. 

Dual Fuel

Also known as hybrid generators, dual fuel designs allow users to make the switch between gasoline and propane. This means you can choose the best fuel for your current situation, making these models more reliable and convenient than their single fuel counterparts. 

Solar

Some portable generators offer the option of solar power. 

These devices use an accumulator to store the solar energy collected by a solar panel (which is hooked up to the generator). The other alternative source for these devices is AC current (usually from a wall outlet) and they are not powerful enough to keep up any household devices. 

Still, they produce constant energy, which is perfect for sensitive devices. If you are interested to find out more about them, check our best solar generator reviews

Size

In this niche, size matters. 

A bigger generator can make use of a more powerful engine, but it will also require a bigger fuel tank. In addition, big engines are usually noisy, so it will be difficult to use it in a tightly knit neighborhood.

Luckily, most inverter generators are compact and highly portable, with silent engines. While they don’t develop as much power as their bigger counterparts, they can be used to maintain your important devices alive. 

We reviewed several amazing cheap small generators, so you have a lot of choices!

Starting And Running Watts

When you look for a generator, you’ll often notice that most products have two wattage values in their specs – running watts and starting watts. 

Quick note: most producers will put the starting watts in the name of their product, but this doesn’t mean the generator can produce this level of power constantly. 

In short, starting watts (also known as peak watts) represent the wattage needed to get the generator running. This wattage is temporary and cannot be sustained over a long period of time.

On the other hand, running watts represent the wattage needed to keep the generator running at a constant pace. This is the wattage that will be produced while the generator is functioning and the value you need to compare your devices against. 

CARB Compliance

CARB comes from the California Air Resources Board, also known as the “clean air agency”. They are a governmental agency in the state of California and their job is to maintain healthy air quality. 

As such, they are the ones to come up with air pollution rules & regulations that must be abided by those who produce equipment with internal combustion engines (including generators). 

As such, a CARB compliant generator meets the air pollution standards set by this agency. Of course, this doesn’t mean they are 100% environment-friendly, but they emit far less pollutants than non-compliant products. 

Portability

If you want to take your generator on a camping trip, on an RV ride, or move it around the house, you will need one that’s compact and portable. 

Some producers even go as far as to install handles and wheels on their generators, to make them more appealing to adventurers. 

Still, portability is an important feature that should be considered. In fact, inverter generators are smaller by default, which is why they are more portable as well. They are also better suited for sensitive, portable electronics. 

Lastly, as the price of inverter generators is going down, it will be easier to find a cheap portable generator that fits your budget.

Noise Levels

If you’ve ever used a conventional generator, you know they are noisy. Still, inverter models managed to cut the noise down to about 60+dBA, which is about the noise of a modern vacuum cleaner from a distance. 

As such, you can buy a cheap quiet generator that is also reliable and fuel efficient. 

However, there is a difference in power. This means that a quiet, inverter generator won’t keep the entire house running in an outage.

Our Verdict

As advanced technologies become more accessible to the regular customers, users have the possibility to choose between a wide range of models.

In short, there is a unit for every household and scenario. For instance, one can choose a smaller, more portable unit for camping trips or RV rides.

They can also select a more powerful generator, with dual fuel feature, for home appliances and other home-related emergencies. There is also the option of selecting a backup accumulator for computers and servers.

Overall, once you’ve decided on the type of emergency and number of devices that need powered up, it will be easy to select the right model that fits your budget.