The 10 Best Portable Generators to Buy in 2018

Don't be left out in the dark without one

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The Rundown

Our Top Picks

Best Overall: WEN 56200i

WEN 56200i
Courtesy of Amazon.com
4.8

With a weight of just 48 pounds, the WEN 56200i is a fantastic choice for portable generators and is an easy-to-recommend option right off the bat. Featuring an extremely quiet operating level (51 decibels) that is softer than the standard volume output of two conversing people, the WEN offers 2,000 surge watts and 1,600 running watts for powering your items and devices. With two three-prong 120V inputs, one 12V DC input and one 5V USB port, there are more than enough plugs to keep your appliances, as well as your portable electronics, charged up.

Overall, the single-gallon tank can provide six hours of power to gadgets and appliances at a 50 percent load run time. Additionally, the WEN offers both low-oil and low-fuel automatic shutdown to help prevent the generator and your electronics from any damage while plugged in. To further maximize the generator’s power, switching on Eco-Mode will help allow the generator's motor to automatically adjust its fuel consumption. That will help extend the generator’s life to maximize its fuel capacity while still powering any item that’s plugged in.

Need to pick up some other emergency essentials? Check out our guide to the best EDC (everyday carry) flashlights you can buy now.

Best Splurge: Honda EU2000i

Honda EU2000i
Courtesy of Amazon.com

Running at just 59 decibels, Honda EU2000i is lightweight, durable and user-friendly. Weighing only 46 pounds and featuring a 1.1-gallon fuel tank, there’s enough power for four hours of operation at 100 percent load and around 9.6 hours at 25 percent load. The inclusion of two AC outlets and one DC outlet offers flexibility for different types of rechargeable items or for keeping a refrigerator, television or laptop going. 

The inclusion of features such as Eco-throttle and clean output also help explain away the more expensive price tag against its nearest competition. The 2,000 watts of starting power and 1,600 watts of running power maintain excellent fuel efficiency. There’s also a standard oil alert for proper engine maintenance, as well as a circuit protection feature to prevent the generator from overloading. Additionally, you can connect the EU2000i in tandem with a similar unit and receive twice the power. All in all, with Honda’s excellent three-year warranty behind it, the EU2000i is a superb option that’s both small and quiet.

Looking for other storm supplies? Take a peek at our list of the best emergency radios you can buy online.

Best for Whole-Home Emergency Backup: Generac 5735 GP17500E

If you're looking for a powerful, reliable machine capable of running all your home's essentials as you wait out a storm, the Generac 5735 GP17500E is the model for you. Forget running a small machine that's only capable of keeping your fridge cold — this job-site-proficient, 16-circuit generator can power multiple 120V appliances, including ACs, heaters, fridges, lights, TVs, computers, sump pumps, and more. The 17500-watt unit features a 16-gallon fuel tank which means you can run it for up to 10 hours straight at 50-percent load, or less if you opt to run it at its full 26250-watt capacity. Sure, it may cost a pretty penny, but if you live in an area where power outages are common, the Generac offers peace of mind when it comes to consistency and durability: the model runs an OHVI® engine which features an automotive-style, replaceable spin-on oil filter for a lifetime of top performance. One thing to keep in mind: while the generator is technically portable, it's a beast. The unit weighs 390 pounds and measures 48.5 x 31 x 39.5 inches. That said, the design features a hardened steel frame with handles, and along with a 12VDC 365-CCA battery and your first oil supply, it comes with a wheel kit and maintenance kit so you can keep it in tip-top shape should you need to move it.

The generator is backed by a two-year limited warranty, but it seems most consumers haven't had to tap into the guarantee. An Amazon reviewer who weathered Hurricane Sandy said they were able to use the heavy-duty generator for 11 continuous days to power their whole house, and have now been using it for an additional six years with no issues.


Best Lightweight: Briggs & Stratton 30651 P2200 PowerSmart

Powerful and versatile, the 55-pound Briggs & Stratton 30651 P2200 PowerSmart series portable generator is an outstanding choice for easy transporting. The H-handle design allows the generator to be easily moved via one person or it allows for two people to share the weight evenly and move the generator. 

Powered by an 111cc motor, the 2,200 starting watts and 1,700 running watts of power are good for up to eight hours of operation on the one-gallon tank of gas at a 25 percent load. Capable of running most 120V household appliances, the Briggs & Stratton includes inverter technology to help power portable electronics such as a smartphone, tablet or laptop. At 59-decibels of operating power, it’s quieter than the sound of a typical conversation between two people, so there’s no concern over the generator interfering with your everyday life while running in the background.

Additionally, the control panel itself includes three total outlets (one DC and two household), plus a USB adapter. For even more power, the Briggs & Stratton can plug itself into a second unit to create an even stronger power source and keep more of the lights on. With a PowerSmart mode that automatically adjusts engine speed to conserve power, the Briggs & Stratton portable generator is an outstanding lightweight option.

Best Budget: WEN 56180

WEN 56180
Courtesy of Amazon.com

If you’re working with a limited budget or just want something basic, the WEN 56180 portable generator is ideal for making sure the food in the fridge doesn’t spoil or that there’s just enough light while camping under the moon. With a 1.45-gallon gas tank, the 56180 can keep you going at 50 percent load for around 7.5 hours. Operating on 1,800 surge watts and 1,500 running watts, it has enough power for both emergencies and recreational activities. There are three total outlets (two three-pronged 120V options and one cigarette lighter-styled 12V).

Unfortunately, there’s no wheel kit provided, but one can be purchased separately. The good news is that at 50 pounds, the WEN 56180 is fairly lightweight and easy to transport. Additionally, the low power output requires less noise production (it has a 63-decibel rating). Add in a low oil shutdown feature and there’s still some preventive care included in this price range to keep the generator from getting damaged.

Best High Power: Briggs & Stratton 30663

Briggs & Stratton 30663
Courtesy of Amazon.com

Powered by a 7,000-starting watt engine, the Briggs & Stratton 30663 portable generator is the crème de la crème of power. It has more than 25 percent surge wattage available, so you can run both appliances and power tools at the same time. The 7.5-gallon engine can run for more than nine continuous hours at a 50 percent load. Turning the 30663 on is a cinch with a key electric start or remote stroke as a backup in the event the electric engine goes out for any reason. 

Moving the 30663 around is “easy,” though at 221 pounds, it’s not something you’ll want to handle by yourself. Fortunately, the inclusion of 12-inch, never-go-flat wheels ensure that portability is not an issue. With four 120V outlets available, plus a single 120/2140V 30-amp outlet, there’s plenty of connectivity for multiple items. Additionally, keeping the engine in top shape is easy, thanks to circuit breaker protection, rubber outlet covers and an hour meter to help gauge performance.

Runner-Up, Best Overall: Champion Power Equipment 46539

Champion Power Equipment 46539
Courtesy of Amazon.com

It may feel disingenuous to call the Champion Power Equipment 46539 a portable generator since it weighs 124 pounds. Fortunately, the folding handle and never-flat tires help make the 3.8-gallon generator ideal for the outdoorsman or for use when a storm strikes and lights go out. Featuring 4,000 starting watts and 3,500 running watts, the included wireless remote start can kickstart the generator into action from up to 80 feet away. There’s also an included pull-start lever to start the generator in the event of failure by the start-up battery. Powered by a full tank of gas, there’s enough output from the Champion to run up to 12 hours at 50 percent output. 

The durable steel frame helps maintain a steady level of quiet operation with an output of just 68 decibels, which is still a far cry from the sound of an average lawn mower. Geared to run lights, televisions, air conditioners, sump pumps, power tools and more, it also has an RV receptacle for a direct connection to a motorhome air conditioner for added performance. Beyond the RV connection, there are two additional 120V outlets, including a 120-volt duplex outlet and a 120-volt twist-lock. There’s plenty of protection here, too, including a low-oil sensor and Intelli-gauge for quickly glancing at voltage, hertz, and operating hours. As a bonus, the Champion bills itself as semi-water resistant, so it will stand up to a light mist without fear of electrical failure. 

Best for Long Run Times: Westinghouse WGen7500

This generator may be a powerhouse, but it couldn't be easier to use. After an initial setup (hooking up the battery and loading it with gas and oil), all you have to do is push the button on your included key fob, and the 7500-watt (9500 peak watt) unit will fire up. While the plug-and-play nature of the unit is attractive, the generator's real gamechanger is its runtime. At a 25-percent load, the 6.6-gallon unit can run for 16 continuous hours (or 14 hours at 50-percent), powering all your home's essentials. The generator is EPA-, CARB-, and CSA-compliant and runs a 420 cc OHV engine that is equipped with an automatic low oil shutdown and digital hour meter. The unit also features two GFCI (ground fault circuit interrupter) 5-20R 120V household duplex receptacles and one L14-30R 120/240V twist-lock receptacle.

Right out of the box, the 200-pound, 27.32 x 26.18 x 26.2-inch
generator comes with a remote start key fob, a 2V battery charger, oil, an oil funnel, a toolkit, and, of course, a user's manual. It's definitely a heavier portable generator, but thanks to wheels and a convenient foam grip handle, you can move it into place on your own. While it's prepped to power your house during a storm — Amazon reviewers noted they used it during/after Hurricanes Maria, Irma, and Harvey, as well as the East Coast's last bomb cyclone — you can also use it for home improvement projects, camping, or parties.

Best for Quietness: Westinghouse iGen2500 

Quietly efficient, the Westinghouse iGen2500 is not to be overlooked as a portable generator of choice. Rated at 52db of noise output, the generator runs softer than its closest competitors. Fortunately, softer doesn’t mean less powerful. With 2,200 watts of output and peak watts at 2,500, the Westinghouse is more than capable of powering your essentials. Whether you need it camping, hunting, or after a storm, the generator is able to handle your necessities. Sensitive electronics like a smartphone or tablet as well as microwaves, televisions, and refrigerators are all fair game. Five DC USB ports and two 120V AC ports offer more than enough space for a multitude of devices at once.  

Weighing 48 pounds, it’s not the lightest of the bunch but it remains portable thanks to a built-in handle. Once its one-gallon tank is full, it weighs a bit more but is still easily transported in vehicles of any size. Once activated, the generator can handle up to 10 hours of power at a 25-percent load. When pushed to a 50-percent load, battery life diminishes slightly but it remains equally quiet. Nationwide customer service and a three-year warranty are among the best in the industry.

Need to beef up your emergency preparedness kit? Take a look at our list of the best walkie talkies on the market.

Best Low Power: Pulsar 1200W Portable Gas-Powered Generator

Compact and quiet, the Pulsar 1200W portable gas-powered generator is the ideal combination of portability and low power. Though it runs on 900 watts of power (up to 1,200 peak watts), low power shouldn’t be confused with low capability. Dual 120V outlets and a single 12V DC output will power a variety of devices, tools, and other electronics. Appliances are also welcome on the Pulsar as refrigerators, microwaves, and televisions are all within operating levels. Running for 8.5 hours on a half load, the generator only consumes around 1.1 gallons of fuel. A power panel features an AC reset button, circuit breaker, and DC reset button. 

Weighing 35 pounds, the Pulsar is portable enough to throw in the back of a car or RV. A durable carrying handle makes transporting the unit a cinch. Activated by a single pull recoil, starting the generator is quick and painless. Once operational, noise isn’t overbearing as it only puts out around 65dB making it quieter than its closest competitors. Equipped with an intelligent muffler design, the quiet mode system works well. 

Tested by

How We Tested

Our reviewers spent 21 hours testing one of the most popular portable generators available. To really get the full experience, we asked them to consider the most important features when using this portable generator — from its footprint to its power output — and we've outlined them here so that you, too, know what to look for when shopping.

What to Look for in a Portable Generator

Power output - What do you want to your generator to power? How long do you need it to run? These are the first things you need to think about before purchasing a portable generator. If you just need it to keep your Wi-Fi, computer, and smartphone running, you can purchase a much smaller generator than if you’re trying to power larger systems like a refrigerator and air conditioning.

Noise level - There’s no getting around it: Most generators are loud. Generators have varying decibel levels, and though you’ll most likely be running it outside your house (gasoline-powered generators put out carbon monoxide, so you don’t want to run one indoors), it’s likely you’ll still be able to hear it inside. If noise bothers you, you definitely should look at decibel levels before purchasing.

Ease of transportation - Portable generators are hefty. That’s not so much of a problem if you’re going to be running one from home (and it’s only going to be traveling from a garage to your backyard and back again), but if you’ll be packing it up to take on the road, weight is a crucial factor you’ll need to consider.

Test Results: WEN 56200i (Best Overall)

4.8

What We Like

  • Easy setup

  • Lightweight

  • Eco-mode uses less gas and keeps generator quiet

What We Don't Like

  • Fairly small tank

One of our testers, who used this generator to power the lights in his backyard, thought that it would “definitely be useful for on-the-go usage because it's very easy to set up.” Our reviewers also loved the generator’s eco-mode for its efficient use of gas and low noise levels. “When you first turn on the generator, it does make a bit of noise,” one tester said. “However, once I put the generator into eco-mode, I was very surprised about how much quieter it was.”