Are Cheap Generators Worth It?

If you are in the market for a portable generator you may have already asked yourself, “Is buying a cheap portable generator worth it?” You know that it is a common problem that when you skimp on cost, quality often follows. Although not always the case, cheaper products are manufactured from cheaper materials. As a result, they can often fail where a more expensive model might not.

Failure in a performing appliance like a portable generator can be catastrophic with loud clanging and smoke. Or, it can be as silent as you pulling the starter over and over to no avail.

Loud or quiet, failure almost always comes without warning.  If the concept of a non-functioning generator is of critical concern for you, seek out the most reliable models available.  If machine failure will cause only the mildest of inconveniences, a cheaper generator may fit the bill for you.

In defense of cheap generators

quietest generatorsPurchasing a cheap generator as a luxury makes sense, purchasing a cheap generator as a necessity is a bad idea.

When assessing whether buying a cheap portable generator is worth it for you, you will need to qualify what you are looking for in a portable generator.  Is the use of your generator a luxury or a necessity?  Are you looking for a cheap tool to provide a little fun and excitement? Or are you looking for a reliable tool to provide basic life safety?

If the purchase of a portable power supply is merely for the occasional luxury or added benefit and wouldn’t be missed if it failed, then maybe buying a cheap portable generator is worth it for you.  Charging your electronics while camping is nice, but not necessarily a requirement.

However, if you absolutely require portable power at a moment’s notice, it may be against your best interest to “take a chance” on that cheaper model.  For instance, as your only source of power in an emergency situation. Alternatively, knowing it is your primary way to charge your communication tools while in the wilderness. For these reasons, it would be unwise to save a few dollars on an unreliable critical tool. You should definitely instead look for the best portable generator.

Evaluate your risk versus your reward.  Good generators are available at a moderate cost. They are less expensive than the top models but more expensive than the cheapest available units.  Less expensive does not always equate to cheap, but cheap will often equate to failure.

Our Inexpensive Generator Recommendations

There are plenty of low-cost and entry level generators on the market. Choosing one that isn’t going to break on you relatively quickly and leave you literally powerless can be difficult. So here are four great cheap generator options that we have carefully researched.

Westinghouse iGen2200

Westinghouse iGen2200In a perfect example of “less expensive doesn’t mean cheap”, the Westinghouse iGen2200 is priced well below similarly powered portable generators.  The Westinghouse name has been in the electricity game for as long as there has been electricity. Their reputation carries over into the portable generator market.

1800/2200 watts on an inverter generator is powerful enough to provide you with clean electricity for your sensitive electronics. However it provides enough power to run the room’s air conditioner, your refrigerator or microwave.

Quiet and strong, the iGen2200 falls well within the category of worthwhile “cheap” generators. It is worth taking a chance on the reputable Westinghouse brand.


Lifan Energy Storm ESI 2600iER

Lifan Energy Storm ESI 2600iERPerhaps on the other side of the scale, the Lifan Energy Storm ESI 2600 weighs in a little light on reliability.  Less expensive than the average model in smaller portable generators, this Lifan comes rated at a higher class of output.  Cheaper and more powerful, sounds like a bargain, no?

Well hold on to your excitement, this is where we see that cheaper can actually be more costly in the long run.  Not only are reviews stating that the power output rating is significantly less than advertised, the failure rate on this tool is reported to be much higher than on comparable models.

Lack of customer support, unavailable parts, and consistent reports of complete failure to function makes this model a prime example of not being worth it to buy a cheap portable generator.


Honda EU2000i

Honda EU2200iPushing the limits of “cheap” portable generators, the Honda EU2000i is admittedly on the higher spectrum of price in our list.  The Honda brand essentially owns the small engine market and you pay the price for known branding. Reliability and backing by a very well known brand are solid points to make a generator worth the cost.

You’re not only getting a marketable brand for the money, this generator is a strong contender among its peers.  Pumping out a clean 1600/2000 watts, the 30A twist lock outlet makes this ready for RV and can be run in parallel with another EU2000i to provide 4000W of power.


Yamaha EF2000iSv2

Yamaha EF2000iSv2Falling right in the sweet spot between price and reliability is the Yamaha EF2000iSv2.  More expensive than the Westinghouse, cheaper than the Honda, and similar cost to the Lifan but with the bonus of being tested and found to be solidly reliable.

If you’re asking if buying a cheap portable generator is worth it, this is the make and model that screams “yes!”  Quiet operation, compact size, lower cost, and branding known to back their products, this little power plant will grant you plenty of power with minimal trouble for a fraction of the cost larger units go for and is the reason it is one of the more popular portable generators on the market today.


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