4 Best Portable Diesel Generator Options for 2020

Portable generators are an invaluable tool for homeowners—especially those who live in storm-prone areas. They’re a reliable, inexpensive source of backup power than can also be used for camping, outdoor events and even yard or repair work. While gasoline-powered units tend to be the most popular type of portable generator, you may want to take a second look at the portable diesel generator.

Portable diesel generator alternatives offer specific advantages over gasoline and propane generators, including:

  • Efficiency: Due to the timing of their compression cycle, diesel engines burn fuel much more efficiently than gasoline or propane engines, making them less costly to operate.
  • Maintenance: Gas generators run at hotter temperatures than diesel generators, which means they require more frequent maintenance and repairs. Gas generators also rely on components like spark plugs and carburetors that need to be replaced or repaired often, while diesel generators do not.
  • Safety: Diesel is a less flammable fuel than gasoline or propane, making it safer to use and store, especially in emergency situations like storms and fires.

However, there are a few disadvantages to diesel generators that you’ll need to consider when making your selection. Diesel generators tend to be much louder than gas or propane generators, and diesel fuel also creates more harmful emissions than gas and propane (the latter of which is the cleanest-burning of the three fuel types).

Now that you’ve weighed the pros and cons and decided a diesel generator is right for you, you may be wondering which model to buy. The four generators listed below delivered top performances in our rigorous testing and analysis and have also received rave reviews from consumers like you.

Gilette GEN-PRO GPED-65EK Portable Diesel Generator

The professional-grade Gillette GEN-PRO GPED-65EK provides reliable temporary power for a variety of applications, including backup electricity, power tools and other industrial machinery. At 200 pounds, it’s the lightest generator on our list, but its sturdy steel frame and solid design can stand up to years of heavy use (although you’ll want to invest in the optional portability kit to make it easier to move).

The GPED-65EK is driven by a powerful electric-start engine that delivers 9hp at 3,600 rpm and 8hp during continuous use. Its innovative Power Assist feature incorporates a power capacitor and unique design to minimize power fluctuations, making it safe to use with sensitive electronics. The four-gallon fuel tank lasts for 10 hours at 50 percent load and just over half that at 75 percent load. With its robust air cleaning system, low-profile dual-element filters and EPA and CARB certification, the Gilette delivers some of the cleanest power available from a diesel generator.

The intuitive dashboard makes it easy to monitor the generator’s performance, with a voltmeter, hour meter and circuit breakers as well as alerts that tell you when you need to add oil, change the air filter or service the engine. It also features four 120V 15A outlets, one 120V 30A twist-lock outlet and one 120V/240V 50 A outlet.

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Specifications

  • Peak watts: 6,000
  • Running watts: 5,000
  • Run time at 50% load: 10 hours
  • Weight: 207 pounds
  • Dimensions: 28″L x 22″W x 23″H
  • Fuel capacity: 4 gallons
  • Noise level: 78 dB
  • Warranty: 1 year

Pros

  • Assembled and tested in the U.S.
  • Power Assist feature prevents fluctuations that can damage delicate electronics
  • Long running time
  • Durable construction
  • EPA certified and CARB-compliant

Cons

  • No wheels (mobility kit is optional and costs extra)
  • No remote start available
  • Short warranty period

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Pulsar PG7000D Diesel Generator

The Pulsar PG7000D is one of the quietest and most affordable generators in its class, making it a popular option for price-conscious purchasers. It’s also one of the heaviest, weighing in at just over 350 pounds. It does come equipped with smooth-rolling wheels to make transport a bit easier, but the lack of a handle is an inconvenient oversight.

Everything about the Pulsar is designed with user convenience in mind, from the simple electric push-button start to the intuitive digital panel that provides constant feedback about fuel levels, voltage and hour meters as well as maintenance alerts. The reliable air-cooled 418cc engine delivers a run time of nearly 10 hours at half load, and specially-designed insulation, housing and air flow work together to keep engine noise to a minimum.

Other selling points include a maintenance-free battery and five outlets: two 120V, one 120V/240V twist-lock, one 12V/8.3 amp and one 120V twist-lock.

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Specifications

  • Peak watts: 5,500
  • Running watts: 5,000
  • Run time at 50% load:5 hours
  • Weight: 353 pounds
  • Dimensions:5″ L x 22.3″ W x 38″ H
  • Fuel capacity: 4 gallons
  • Noise level: 70 dB
  • Warranty: 2 years

Pros

  • Affordable
  • Relatively quiet
  • Includes wheel kit for improved mobility
  • Easy-to-read digital panel helps the user monitor use and maintenance

Cons

  • Not CARB-compliant
  • May not last as long as competitors’ models
  • Lack of a handle makes moving the unit a challenge
  • Large dimensions require extra storage space

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DuroStar DS7000Q Portable Diesel Generator

With its high-quality components and rugged construction, the DuroStar DS7000Q is a reliable workhorse backed by an impressive three-year warranty. The fully-enclosed frame and noise-reducing muffler help limit the decibel level

The generator’s oil-cooled 418cc engine relies on an advanced direct fuel injection system to maximize fuel efficiency, allowing it to deliver 12 hours of run time at 50 percent load. Three start options, including the provided remote control and electric push-button, let you to get to work with a single click.

The maintenance-free alternator is equipped with an automatic voltage regulator to protect tools and sensitive electronics from power surges. The power panel is loaded with convenient features, such as a volt meter, low fuel indicator, circuit breakers and automatic low-oil shutdown.

Two 120V 20A GFCI outlets, one 120V 30A twist-lock outlet and one 120/240V 30A twist-lock outlet make the generator a perfect partner in a variety of situations, including emergency power outages, construction sites, farms and more.

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Specifications

  • Peak watts: 6,500
  • Running watts: 5,500
  • Run time at 50% load: 12 hours
  • Weight: 305 pounds
  • Dimensions:8″ L x 22″ W x 30.3″ H
  • Fuel capacity:8 gallons
  • Noise level: 78 dB
  • Warranty: 3 years

Pros

  • Powerful, dependable engine
  • Remote start option
  • Included wheel kit for mobility
  • Long run time
  • All-copper windings ensure consistent power output and longevity
  • EPA certified and CARB-compliant

Cons

  • Relatively loud operation
  • Large size requires significant space

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Generac XD5000E Professional Diesel Generator

For a versatile, affordable generator that doesn’t sacrifice power for portability, look no further than the Generac XD5000E professional-grade diesel generator.

The Generac XD5000E provides consistent performance in even the harshest conditions, thanks to its strong steel frame and integrated lifting eye for convenient mobility and on-site security. A massive 12-gallon fuel tank powers the industrial-grade 435cc air-cooled engine for an astonishing 32.4 hours at half-load, so you won’t have to constantly stop your work to refuel.

The generator offers a recoil pull-start and battery-operated electric push-button start; unfortunately, the battery isn’t included with the generator and must be purchased separately. An integrated compression release lever keeps it starting smoothly, even in cold weather, and the automatic low-oil shutdown feature protects the engine.

Despite its impressive power, the Generac keeps total harmonic distortion to a relatively low six percent, so it’s safe to use with most tools, appliances and delicate electronic devices. The well-designed control panel allows you to monitor usage and adjust your outlets with ease, featuring an hour meter, 120/240V selector switch, 23-amp main circuit breaker, 30-amp push button circuit breaker, two 20-amp push button circuit breakers, two 120V 20-amp GFCI duplex outlets, one 120V/240V twist-lock outlet and one 120V twist-lock outlet.

At 250 pounds, the Generac is one of the lighter models in its class, although you’ll still need to invest in the portability kit (wheels, handles and front foot) at an additional cost.

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Specifications

  • Peak watts: 5,500
  • Running watts: 5,000
  • Run time at 50% load:4 hours
  • Weight: 252 pounds
  • Dimensions:1″ L x 22.5″ W x 25.6″ H
  • Fuel capacity: 12 gallons
  • Noise level: N/A
  • Warranty: 2 years

Pros

  • Large fuel tank and extended run time
  • Detailed control panel
  • Sturdy construction
  • Clean power with minimal harmonic distortion
  • EPA-certified and CARB-compliant

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Battery and portability kit aren’t included and must be purchased separately
  • No remote start option
  • While the company does not provide a decibel rating, users have reported the generator is extremely loud

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Top Tips for Buying a Portable Diesel Generator

Contrary to what some buyer’s guides may claim, there really is no one-size-fits-all best portable diesel generator. The generator that perfectly meets your needs may be woefully inadequate for another buyer; a generator that’s perfect for a large farm may be far too loud to operate in a residential neighborhood. To help you determine which generator is right for you, take the following guidelines and tips into consideration as you shop.

  • Look for a unit equipped with a four-cycle, liquid-cooled engine, which will minimize noise and reduce the risk of overheating.
  • Check to ensure that the generator includes a low-oil alert or automatic shutdown feature to protect your investment in case of low oil pressure.
  • Make sure the generator comes with wheels, handles and other mobility features or invest in a separate kit. Diesel generators are much heavier than their gasoline-powered counterparts and are nearly impossible to move without assistance.
  • Units with a remote start option offer the greatest convenience, but the generator should at least include an electric push-button start.
  • Find out the decibel level of the generator before making your purchase. Diesel generators tend to be quite loud, and even a few decibels can make a noticeable difference in ambient noise.
  • Once you buy, always read the owner’s manual before using the generator—not only to ensure your safety, but also to ensure that you’re operating the unit correctly to maximize its useful lifespan. The owner’s manual will tell you which type of oil to use, how often to perform critical maintenance checks and what adjustments you’ll need to make for varying conditions, such as low temperatures or altitude changes.

Final Thoughts on the Portable Diesel Generator

While gasoline-powered generators tend to be the most commonly-used portable power source, diesel generators have specific advantages that may make them a better choice for some users. This includes efficiency, safety and convenience.

That said, it’s important to do your research before buying. The purpose of this is to identify whether a diesel generator is right for you. It will also let you make the optimal selection among the multiple brands and models available. Depending on your budget and how you plan to use your generator, one of the four models detailed above is likely to be an excellent fit.

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