Best Portable Generator Reviews

Updated November 2, 2020

Going on a camping trip doesn’t mean that you have to abandon the conveniences that your home is equipped with. It’s always best to be prepared for any situation, which is why you should invest in a portable generator.

Portable generators provide power whenever you need it. It doesn’t matter whether you’re at the beach or in the woods—these generators feature fuel efficiency and lighter designs that allow you to charge your electronics anywhere you are. A portable generator ensures that you can enjoy a full-length movie while you’re relaxing in your tent. These generators have been proven to be a household essential, too.

Having a portable generator at home can save you a lot of time and energy when you’re facing an emergency. Power outages caused by hurricanes, earthquakes, and other natural disasters can leave families without essentials such as lights, heaters, and an internet connection.

Fortunately, manufacturers have come up with ways to make generators more user-friendly and longer-lasting. Check out our top picks among the top rated portable generators to find out which one suits your needs, whether for your home or your next camping trip.

Best Portable Generators

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1 Durostar DS4000S Portable Generator
Best Overall
Durostar DS4000S Portable Generator
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2
Best For Low Budgets
2WEN 56155 Portable Generator
WEN 56155 4-Stroke 98cc 1550-Watt Portable Power Generator
Best For Low Budgets
WEN 56155 Portable Generator
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3 Westinghouse WGen9500DF Dual Fuel Portable Generator Westinghouse WGen9500DF Portable Generator
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4
Best For Higher Budgets
4DuroMax XP12000EH Portable Generator
DuroMax XP12000EH Dual Fuel Portable Generator
Best For Higher Budgets
DuroMax XP12000EH Portable Generator
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5 Firman H08051 Electric Start Gas or Propane Dual Fuel Portable Generator Firman H08051 Portable Generator
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6 Westinghouse WGen2000 Gas Powered Portable Generator Westinghouse WGen2000 Portable Generator
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1. Durostar DS4000S Portable Generator

Highlights
  • It comes with wheels so you can move it easily whilst doing something
  • It is affordable and cheap
  • It can power a lot of things because of it’s big engine size
Best Overall
Durostar DS4000S Portable Generator

This generator is unique as it does not have a plastic engine cover as a lot of modern generators have. It is fitted with a powerful 208cc engine that puts out about 7 horsepower which is enough to power heavy grade equipment. 

Because of the big engine, there is a 4 gallon fuel tank that can run this generator for more than 12 hours. It is fitted with an hour meter. Wheels don’t come standard with this generator but can be bought after. 

The generator features many safety restrictions like low oil shut off, a muffler that makes it as quiet as it can but it is still louder than some generators. 

Whilst buying this generator, you will also get a 3 year warranty on every part of it. It will help you out during power outages and you won’t have to  worry about not having electricity. Two 120V and one 120v 30A outlets are a standard on this model.

Specifications

Size:
24 x 17 x 17 inches
Voltage:
120 Volts
Wattage:
4000 Watts
Noise Level:
The noise is slightly higher at 69 dB
Output:
33 amp
Power Source:
Gasoline

Pros

  • Has a big fuel tank that can power it for lots of hours
  • Reliable and simple to use
  • Comes with a manual which explains everything in detail
  • Can power heavy duty equipment

Cons

  • It is really heavy and needs to be transported by a vehicle
  • It also doesn’t have a start button but a pull bar that can rip off easily

2. WEN 56155 Portable Generator

Highlights
  • Automatic low-oil shutdown
  • 1.1-gallon tank
  • Lasts 7.5 hours at half load
  • CARB-compliant engine
Best For Low Budgets
WEN 56155 4-Stroke 98cc 1550-Watt Portable Power Generator

Weighing only 55 pounds, the WEN 56155 is one of the lightest generators on the market. This portable generator is ideal for outdoor trips, tailgating, or sudden power outages at home. It has 1350 running watts, which is more than enough to power television sets, computers, refrigerators, electric fans, and more. 

Its voltage regulator helps maintain the power that the generator emits to protect your appliances from sudden power drops and surges. The tank carries a gallon of fuel and provides almost 8 hours of run time when the tank is half full. When this generator’s tank is almost empty, the automatic low-oil shutdown feature protects it from overheating. The tank cover is conveniently located on top, beside its handlebars, for easy portability. At the bottom of this portable generator are rubber cushions on its legs that prevent the generator from getting scratched and dented. Every WEN product comes with a 2-year warranty, which includes the service warranty and a customer helpline.

Specifications

Size:
19 x 14 x 15 inches
Voltage:
120 volts
Wattage:
1550 surge watts, 1350 running watts
Noise Level:
63 dBA
Output:
12 amps
Power Source:
Gasoline

Pros

  • Lightest portable generator
  • Has two 3-prong wall outlets and one cigarette-style outlet
  • Fuel gauge indicates amount of oil
  • Automatic voltage regulator
  • Easy on and off switch

Cons

  • Powers one device at a time
  • Silent on Eco Mode

3. Westinghouse WGen9500DF Portable Generator

Highlights
  • Runs on either gasoline or propane.
  • Produces 9500W rated watts / 12,500 peak watts.
  • Runtime of up to 17.5 hours on a 6.6 gallon tank.
  • Automatic low oil shutdown.

This is a smaller backup generator which might suit you if you have a modest home, or only want to keep your key appliances running. It’s portable and has an open frame design. It produces 9500W running watts, which should be enough for your refrigerator and freezer, lights and possibly an AC unit, depending on the size. 

It’s both transfer switch and RV ready, if you want the option of putting your generator to work at home or on the road. You have the option to run this model on propane or gasoline, with a runtime of up to 17.5 hours. This generator has an electric start and remote start key fob.

Specifications

Size:
27 x 24 x 35 inches
Voltage:
120/240V
Wattage:
8500W running watts (propane) / 9500W running watts (gasoline)
Noise Level:
73dB
Output:
8500W running watts / 11,200W peak watts (propane) 9500W running watts / 12,500W peak watts (gasoline)
Power Source:
Propane or Gasoline

Pros

  • Transfer switch ready,
  • Remote electric start.
  • Range of outlets including 120V, 120/240V and USB ports.
  • Control panel showing voltage, frequency and lifetime hours.

Cons

  • Less powerful than other home backup models.
  • Although this is a portable generator, at 220 pounds it’s heavy to move.

4. DuroMax XP12000EH Portable Generator

Highlights
  • Produces up to 9500W running watts (using gasoline).
  • Transfer switch ready. 
  • Electric start. 
  • Quiet for a generator in this power range.
Best For Higher Budgets
DuroMax XP12000EH Dual Fuel Portable Generator

This DuroMax generator offers a good value alternative to some of the bigger name brands. It’s a dual fuel option that can produce up to 9500W running watts on gasoline. The wheels and handle mean you can move it into position as needed. It’s transfer switch ready, and there are a range of 120V and 120/240V outlets, plus a DC outlet, with an individual circuit breaker for each outlet. 

There’s idle control to reduce fuel consumption and noise when the generator isn’t in use. A downside of using this generator for home backup is that the high THD means it’s not suitable for powering sensitive electronics.

Specifications

Size:
30 x 29 x 26 inches
Voltage:
120/240V
Wattage:
8075W running watts (propane) / 9500W running watts (gasoline)
Noise Level:
72dB
Output:
8075W running watts / 10,200W peak watts (propane) 9500W running watts / 12,000W peak watts (gasoline)
Power Source:
Propane or Gasoline

Pros

  • Can be run on either gasoline or propane.
  • Idle control to save fuel and reduce noise when the generator is not in use.
  • Portable, with heavy duty frame and solid-fill wheels.
  • Range of 120V and 120/240V outlets, plus a 12V DC outlet.

Cons

  • High THD means it’s not suitable for powering sensitive electronics.
  • No remote start.

5. Firman H08051 Portable Generator

Highlights
  • Dual fuel – can be run on gasoline or propane.
  • Robust open frame design.
  • 120/240V output.
  • Produces 8000W (running watts) output when run on gasoline.

This is a powerful portable generator for a worksite or for use as a backup home generator if your mains power fails. It offers the flexibility to run on either gasoline or propane, and a simple turn of the dial allows you to switch between the two. 

Running on gasoline, it produces 8000 running watts (7250W running on propane). A full 8 gallon tank of gas will give you a 12 hour runtime at 50% load, making this a fuel-efficient option. Operation is simple, with a push button electric start (the battery is included), built-in fuel gauge and a 3-in-1 display to quickly view the hours, Volts and Hertz. 

There are a total of five outlets, including one 14-50R outlet which can be used for your RV, and a twist lock L14-30R outlet meaning it can be connected to a breaker box to power your home. This is a portable generator and it comes with a wheel kit, but bear in mind that at 212 pounds it’s very heavy to lift off the ground.

Specifications

Size:
32.1 x 22.2 x 24.4 inches
Voltage:
120/240V
Wattage:
8000 running watts (gasoline) / 7250 running watts (propane)
Noise Level:
74dB
Output:
10000 peak watts / 8000 running watts (gasoline) 9050 peak watts / 7250 running watts (propane)
Power Source:
Gasoline / Propane

Pros

  • Can run for 12 hours at 50% load on a full 8 gallon tank of gasoline.
  • Electric start.
  • Comes with a 5-foot propane hose.
  • 3-in-1 data panel measuring hours, Volts and Hertz.

Cons

  • No remote start.
  • Comes with a wheel kit, but at 212 pounds is heavy to manoeuvre.

6. Westinghouse WGen2000 Portable Generator

Highlights
  • 2000 running watts.
  • 4 gallon fuel tank.
  • Four 5-20R 20A 120V outlets with durable rubber covers.
  • 26 hour run time at 25% load.

This great value generator produces 2000 running watts (2500 peak watts), and can run for up to 26 hours at 25% load on one four gallon tank of gas. 

The output means it’s best suited for camping trips or DIY or small worksite projects rather than as a backup home generator. 

There’s a main circuit breaker if you were to overload the generator. The robust open frame is geared towards outdoor use, though at 97 pounds you’ll probably want to order a wheel kit to move this generator around. Operation is very simple, with a manual recoil start, and there are four household 120V outlets which handily have durable rubber covers. 

Bear in mind that this generator doesn’t have an inverter, so the THD (total harmonic distortion) is too high to safely power sensitive electronics.

Specifications

Size:
23.23 x 17.52 x 18.7 inches
Voltage:
120V
Wattage:
2000 running watts
Noise Level:
68dB
Output:
2500 peak watts / 2000 running watts
Power Source:
Gasoline

Pros

  • Comes with oil, tool kit and manual to get started immediately.
  • Hardened steel frame with roll bars.
  • Intuitive control panel with main circuit breaker and engine switch control.
  • Great value option.

Cons

  • No wheel kit included.
  • No electric start.

Portable Generator Buying Guide

Fuel

Before making your purchase, consider the type of fuel suited for the portable generator. Is the fuel easily available in your area? How often does the tank need to be refilled?

Some generators allow you to switch between two or more fuel types, while some portable generators can run on only one type of fuel. Some types of fuel burn faster compared to others, while others are more expensive compared to their alternatives. Whatever your situation may be, it’s important that you know which fuel to use to avoid damage and accidents.

Natural Gas Portable Generator

Natural gas portable generators are the most sought-after generators in the United States because they’re cost-effective and less harmful to the environment. Most people prefer natural gas generators over diesel-powered generators because they operate in cold or hot temperatures. However, you will need an installed running gas line if you want a natural gas portable generator.

Propane Portable Generator

Transferring propane into your generator’s tank requires zero electricity. When the gas station runs out of electricity, they can still pump propane. Propane burns cleaner compared to gasoline and doesn’t produce an unpleasant chemical smell compared to gas. It also burns cooler, which means that your engine can last longer with this type of fuel. 

Dual-Fuel Portable Generator

Many generator manufacturers have caught on to their customers’ needs and have created dual-fuel portable generators for more flexibility and convenience. This type of generator runs on gasoline and propane, which is ideal for simultaneously using heavy-duty appliances such as air conditioning and refrigerators. 

Tri-Fuel Portable Generator

Tri-fuel portable generators run on natural gas, propane, and gasoline. This type of generator is useful when one type of fuel isn’t available during emergencies. Being able to run on three types of fuel doesn’t compromise its excellent run time and reliability—tri-fuel generators can run longer than dual-fuel generators

Solar Portable Generator

Solar-powered portable generators are the most environmentally friendly out of all these options because they get their energy from the sun. Their built-in solar panels convert sun energy into electricity and store it in their battery. You won’t have to refill your tank, but you have to charge it in the sun from time to time. Solar portable generators, however, are more expensive compared to fuel types.

Applications

While portable generators can be used for emergencies at home, they can also be used to charge your appliances at campsites and outdoor activities. Many construction workers use portable generators for their power tools to get the job done faster. Portable generators are also essentials for concerts, parties, and weekend markets so as not to overuse power circuits, which can cause surges and outages. 

For Home

Many households have at least one portable generator for disaster preparedness and emergency use. Natural disasters such as hurricanes, snowstorms, and earthquakes can cause power outages for days on end, and it’s convenient to have a portable generator to power the heater or keep food from spoiling inside the fridge. If you want to learn more about protection from natural disasters like hurricanes as well as best generator equipment for such events, make sure you read our guide on best generators for hurricane. For homes with elderly family members, portable generators can power ventilators and heart rate monitors to ensure that they’re safe and healthy. 

During scheduled power outages, portable generators will keep you on track without missing anything in your routine. Scheduled outages only last for a couple of hours, which is why people opt to buy portable generators over electric generators.

For Camping

Going camping doesn’t always mean that you have to abandon the comforts of your home. With a portable generator, you can watch a movie with the family, make sure that your tent is cooled or heated, or that you have enough lighting for your campsite. 

Many portable generators have a quiet mode, where they can operate at night without waking people up. Many outdoor enthusiasts know that generators are useful for proper ventilation and entertainment at the campsite. Portable generators are also very compact and lightweight and can provide power for more than seven hours. 

Size

Experts say that you should always opt for the smallest generator that meets your power needs, because it foretells the amount of fuel that you’ll need to keep it running. Bigger portable generators are suitable for households with more appliances and those who experience power outages more often, while medium-sized generators are perfect for camping enthusiasts and those who rarely lose power at home. 

Small Portable Generator

While small portable generators have enough power for your heaters or refrigerators, they’re also compact and light enough to toss in the back of your car for a weekend away from home. They can power radios, lights, and television sets in your campsite. 

Smaller portable generators are also less expensive and need less fuel compared to large portable generators. If power outages are rare occurrences in your area, a small generator is enough to give you ample power and peace of mind in case of emergencies.

Large Portable Generator

If you have frequent, prolonged power outages, we suggest that you invest in a large portable generator. Although these generators require more fuel, they have enough juice to power your entire household for longer periods of time. You won’t have to be bored, and you won’t have to worry about being able to cook food at home. 

Large portable generators can be connected to your breaker to run hardwired equipment that tends to be more sensitive to fluctuations, such as stereos and LED lights.

Quiet Portable Generator

A full-sized electrical generator isn’t always the quietest choice. Most portable generators power your appliances quietly for uninterrupted rest at home. The quality of portable generators with this feature has improved over the years because many buyers look for products that produce less noise. 

The design and materials of top-rated portable generators dictate how much noise the generator will make, but there are specific generators that are marketed as quiet generators for those who prioritize its sound first. 

Portable Generator Shelter

While portable generators provide power and security, they also need to be protected from heavy rains and snow. Luckily, portable generator shelters come in different sizes and forms that you can easily choose from, or you can even create a makeshift shelter on your own. 

For those who go camping often, or those who transfer the portable generator’s location often, we suggest that you invest in a portable generator cover with wheels. These generator covers are typically made with the same materials as tents and can easily be attached and detached from the generator. 

Transfer Switch for Portable Generator

A transfer switch allows you to connect your portable generator to your home’s circuit breaker. With this device, you can power appliances that are connected to your home’s electrical grid, such as the lighting circuits and the ventilation system.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: How to hook a portable generator to a house?
A:

There are two ways to use a portable generator: by connecting each appliance with its own power cord, or by powering the circuit panel using a transfer switch. Always check your generator’s manual before connecting your appliances for additional safety guidelines and instructions. If you’re using individual cords, make sure that you plug your electronics one by one and that you’ve run through the generator’s pre-start checklist. If you’re using a transfer switch, connect it to the generator using a gen cord and flip the transfer switch’s breakers from line to generator power.

Q: What is the smallest portable generator?
A:

The WEN 56155 1550-Watt Portable Power Generator is the smallest portable generator with a dimension of 19 x 14 x 15 inches. It’s also the lightest one at 55 pounds.

Q: How to connect a portable generator to a house without a transfer switch?
A:

It’s possible to connect your portable generator without a transfer switch, but this should only be done sparingly as a temporary fix.

  • Make sure that you have the right tools and safety equipment for the job.
  • Figure out its amperage and plug type.
  • Drill a hole that will allow your electrical wires to pass. Look for a spot that’s far from your generator.
  • Assemble your conduit for safety purposes.
  • Fix the generator’s wires one at a time by connecting them to the plug.
Q: How to connect portable generator to electrical panel?
A:

There are three ways to connect a portable generator to an electrical panel.

  • Use a transfer switch as described above.
  • Plug it into an extension cord. This option is suitable for larger houses with plenty of appliances.
  • Use your home’s main breaker switch. This way, you can assign circuits to only power a certain room to save energy.
Q: How to make portable generator power clean?
A:

Fuel-powered portable generators usually produce a lot of power, and the cleanest type of fuel you can use is propane. You can also opt to buy a solar portable generator, which doesn’t use fuel and is energy-efficient.

Q: How to ground a portable generator?
A:

Before grounding a portable generator, check its manual if it needs to be grounded. If the manual says that it’s separately derived, you will need to ground it.

  • Install a copper ground rod using a hammer. This should be at least 7 feet long.
  • Connect a copper wire using a wire stripper and wrap it tightly using pliers.
  • Finally, loosen your generator’s grounding bolt to wrap the stripped wire around it.
Q: What size portable generator do I need?
A:

If power outages rarely happen at home and if you seldom go outdoors, you can buy a small portable generator for the appliances at home. Households that experience scheduled power outages and families that often go camping can buy large portable generators.

Q: How to make a portable generator quieter?
A:

Although there are portable generators with quiet modes, there are ways that you can manually lower its noise level.

  • Build a portable generator shelter to enclose the noise.
  • Soundproof enclosures for portable generators are available on the market.
  • Set it as distant from your house as possible.
  • Place a sound-absorbing mat below the generator.

Our Verdict

The type of portable generator that you should look for depends on where you’ll need it. If it’s for outdoor activities, opt for compact generators with wheels and handlebars. 

If you need a portable generator at home, look for a large one that lasts at least 8 hours. Portable generators don’t need a lot of maintenance, but you should be aware of the type of fuel that the generator runs on. 

If you’re looking for eco-friendly options, you may want to buy propane-powered generators or solar portable generators. There are also plenty of ways to protect your generator from moisture and corrosion, such as a generator cover, which also lowers the noise level. You can hook your portable generator to your house using a transfer switch or an extension wire, but we suggest using a transfer switch to avoid power surges that can potentially damage your appliances.