Electricity has quickly become a resource as ingrained and crucial to our daily lives as water. All appliances enabling people to work and stay connected with loved ones and friends utilize power.
While urban power grids are more reliable than ever before, there are still many cases where a backup is needed. People in more isolated regions are well aware of the possibility of blackouts. Those in tropical locations know all too well the proclivity of hurricanes. Midwesterners have tornadoes, those up North have snowstorms, and the West Coast has fires, earthquakes and more.
When the power goes out, there is no telling how long it will take to come back. In these cases, it is vital to have a backup option for power generation. There needs to be a way to at least run the bare minimum. For this, you need to find the best portable generator for your home’s needs.
Selecting the Best Portable Generator
As engines get lighter and more efficient, so do portable generators. There are currently an increasing number of manufacturers releasing generator model after generator model. This can make it extremely difficult to find a good product.
This is especially true when considering the fact that these generators usually serve as back-ups. This means they spend a lot of time sitting around, waiting for an opportunity to shine. As such, it is crucial that they function every time there is an emergency. Choosing a low-quality model may mean that you will be unable to use electrical equipment and devices when you need them most. Alternatively, you may realize that the generator is using more gas than you have allotted.
It is for this reason that we have done the research and testing for you. As a result, we have come up with the best generators for personal and home use. See the chart below for our recommendations, then below for our buyer’s guide and individual generator reviews. At the end of each review is a link leading to a more complete breakdown of that particular portable generator.
How To Buy The Best Portable Generator
- Think about what you’re going to use it for – You will have to think about the purpose that the generator will serve. Do this before considering what various models have to offer. The most important aspect of making an informed decision is understanding how you want to use the product. If you’re not sure, then a light, general, all-purpose generator like the Pulsar Generator may be the best choice.
- Features and capabilities – Once you determine why you need the best portable generator, think about what features you want the generator to have. Also, consider how much power you need it to output. This may depend on whether you want it as a backup generator for your home, or to carry in your car and run power tools for tasks such as MIG welding.
- Decide on a budget – More power and features will mean that the generator will come with a higher price tag. Decide how much you are willing to spend. However, keep in mind that you should always consider buying at least a mid-range generator. These models will typically provide the best "bang for your buck".
Ability to Link Together For Greater Mobility and Power
Those who need more power but are not able to carry around a large, heavy generator also have the option to buy two of a smaller, more portable model, and chain them together. One example of this is the Predator 3500.
While the generator itself is quite small, it can link to another of the same model and double the power output. This is known as paralleling, and we dive further into this in our guide How To Parallel Generators For Additional Power.
It can sometimes be complicated to create generator systems where several pieces of equipment work together. However, the engineers at Predator have simplified the process for their models. For those generators, only a simple parallel connection kit is required. This makes it ideal for times when mobility is an issue. Sometimes it's better to have two 30-pound generators than one 110-pound alternative.
Three of the major generator manufacturers have thought ahead and created branded paralleling systems:
- Predator Generators RV Ready Parallel Kit
- Champion 50-Amp RV Ready Parallel Kit
- WEN 56421 30-Amp 3600-Watt Parallel Connection Kit
Power Outlets Galore
Do you live in a remote area or in a region that suffers from frequent power shortages? If so, you might be interested in getting a power generator to keep around your home. After all, generators are useful for far more than just hurricane preparedness. The best portable generator will be multifunctional and useful for more than one thing at the same time.
Most power generators only have one outlet. This does not give owners much of a choice for what they can plug in, and power strips attached to generators is a major fire risk. However, models like the Predator 3200W come with 20A outlets, 30A outlets, as well as a 12V DC outlet.
Durability and Rugged Design
Depending on where you live, a well-selected power generator can make a lot of difference. This having been said, these pieces of electrical equipment can only do so if they are properly maintained and are durable. There is nothing worse than having a generator break down during a blackout that may last up to a week, especially if you need electricity in order to work.
High performance, durable generators such as the Predator 7000W are heavy, bulky, and perfect when it comes to finding a model to keep around the house for emergencies. This generator can run for 12 hours straight. They can power a small home running with only the bare essential power consumers during that period.
Need something more stationary to power your entire home? We have recommendations for whole home generators as well. These can be found in our buyer's guide Diving Into the Best 5 Whole Home Generator Options In 2020.
Multipurpose Equipment Needs
If you live in the city, you may not experience many power shortages, and in the rare cases when they do occur, they may be fixed in a couple of hours. This having been said, it is always useful to have a power generator in your home, that can help run at least some of the more important electronics in your home.
This is where a super quiet generator like the Predator 3500W Inverter may prove useful. It can be run for 11 hours at 25% capacity and it produces very little noise. The model also comes with integrated casters making it perfect to store in the garage and to move around the house when there is an emergency. Remember, inverter generators may seem smaller, however they still pack a mighty punch.
Our Best Portable Generator Picks: The Top 6
The DuroStar DS4000S is a solid portable generator. It offers an eight-hour run time on a four-gallon gasoline tank at 50% load capacity. With 3300w continuous run/4000w surge, this small 7hp engine will be sufficient to run some larger appliances. This includes refrigerators or smaller air conditioning units.
Weighing in at 90 pounds, this unit is easily relocated where you need it, especially when equipped with the optional wheel assembly. Note: if purchasing, we highly recommend the assembly as well. The heavy duty muffler keeps the noise down at 69 decibels, which is just about the volume of the average television set. However, there are methods that can assist in quieting a generator if needed.
The recoil pull start ensures you’ll never encounter a dead starting battery. Additionally, the automatic low oil shutoff will keep your engine safe. A standard 20-amp dual three-prong outlet and 30-amp twist-lock are on the face of the control panel. These sit right next to the voltmeter, allowing you to view your power consumption at a glance.
A significant entry into our top picks for the best portable generator is the WEN 56180. If your generator need is not as substantial as running multiple major appliances, this generator offers plenty of power for a much lower price. Rated at 1500 watts running and an 1800-watt surge, the WEN 56180 is a great power plant for camping and other light to medium duty requirements while still being substantial enough to run the refrigerator in an emergency.
An impressive 7.5 hour run time on only 1.1 gallon of gasoline is a nicely efficient engine and the 63 decibel output is not much louder than ordinary conversation. The small size of this machine and relatively light weight at 50 pounds makes it a true portable generator option. We have seen pictures of this unit neatly stored in a plastic storage bin for clean, worry-free transportation and long term storage.
Almost made for a camping trip, the WEN 56180 has a 12 volt DC car-style plug in addition to the standard dual three-prong outlet. The spark arrest means this generator is compliant with U.S. Forest Service regulations. For this reason, it can be used while camping in national parks.
For those looking for the ability to use gasoline or propane fuel, the Champion 3800 is our top pick for you for your best portable generator needs. This unit is capable of running on either fuel source directly out of the box with no additional attachments necessary. This is generally referred to as "dual-fuel". The 3800-watt run and 4750-watt surge engine is more than capable of running a few high demand appliances with ease.
The Champion 3800 comes with the expected 20-amp dual three-prong outlet and the single 30-amp twist lock. However, being a generator with a stronger output, this heavy duty unit also has the 30-amp RV connector. The 30-amp and 20-amp have their own circuit breakers to protect your connected equipment. Additionally, the easy-start battery and measurement display are on a separate fuse as well.
On a single 3.4 gallon tank of gasoline you should get a full 9 hour run, or 10.5 hours on a 20-pound propane tank. The manufacturer claims the unit puts out a modest 69 decibels with the measurement taken at 23 feet away. This makes it a relatively quiet generator compared to alternatives with the same power output and weight.
The GoPlus 4000 is a nice generator for the price, and a great choice for the best portable generator for your needs. Its lower cost reflects that you are not purchasing all the bells and whistles available on other models, if all you want is portable power, this unit delivers.
The 3800-watt run/4000-watt surge output is more than capable of running high demand loads. The 4-gallon tank runs for 9 hours if you max it out the load to 100% capacity. On the face of the control panel are two 20-amp dual three-prong outlets providing four individual plug-ins. This alleviates the need for bulky or dangerous power taps.
Running at 96 decibels, the GoPlus 4000 will sound somewhere between heavy traffic and mild construction work. It's a louder generator than some of the others on our list, but it provides the power you need. Weighing in at 92 pounds, this hefty unit is sturdy and solid, providing reliable power in those unavoidable emergencies. All power and no frills, this portable generator places itself firmly in the professional equipment category.
A slightly beefier upgrade to its DS4000 little brother, the DuroStar DS4400E grants the user a bit more power for those with heavier load requirements. This model still has the 8-hour runtime at 50 percent load on the 4-gallon tank. The continuous run rating of this model is upgraded to 3500 watts with a 4400-watt surge. That 200-watt increase means the difference between running a few extra lights, a box fan, laptop, or any number of smaller wattage appliances.
Coming in a little heavier than the Durostar DS4000, the DS4400E weighs 135 pounds, but comes mounted on the wheeled assembly with foldaway handles. Fitted with the same heavy duty muffler, this best portable generator option runs at 69 decibels, similar to the volume of a television in your home.
The Durostar DS4400E also comes with the two starting options of the key-started electric and the standard recoil pull start as a backup option in the event you find yourself having battery issues. The 20-amp dual three-prong and single 30-amp twist lock outlets are accompanied by 12-volt DC posts for low voltage wiring connections.
A powerful portable generator choice, the Champion 3500 is a great power plant with plenty of output to keep your appliances running when you need them. Continuous running at 3500 watts, and surge capable at 4000 watts, you can run plenty of those necessities off of this little generator. This is a great option for the best portable generator.
The 3.8-gallon gasoline tank can be replaced with a larger 4.8 gallon capacity tank depending on your fuel and runtime needs. This will give you more than a 12-hour run, which is very impressive for portable generators running at that wattage. The extended run length is backed up by a 0.6-quart oil well and an automatic low oil shutoff sensor.
Power can be connected at the single 20-amp three prong outlet, the 30-amp twist lock or the 30-amp RV outlets. This is a great unit to power the entire RV including the air conditioner, or critical home appliances as needed. The 69-decibel volume is relatively quiet and has been compared to hearing your neighbor’s lawn mower from inside your house.
Wrapping Up: The Best Portable Generator Options
These six portable generator choices offer a wide variety of options for your power consumption needs. If you need a replacement for the family RV power plant, a quick emergency connection to keep your refrigerator, some lights, and a fan running during an extended power outage, or creature comforts while camping, we have picked out some fantastic options for the best generators for you.
Make sure to plan out your needs ahead of time and have a comprehensive idea of what your power draw will be, where you will run the generator from and any other requirements particular to your needs. The safe operation of critical power begins with purchasing the best generator for your situation.
Interested in getting more information about generators, usage tips, and recommendations for the best portable generator? If so, you may be interested in the Generator Expert mailing list. We won't spam you, and we don't sell your data. That's a promise.