When it comes to severe weather, it’s always good to be prepared in the event of a blackout. Having one of the best portable generators can ensure that you and your family are still able to power all your essential devices while you’re waiting for the electricity to come back.
Essentially, a portable generator is a transportable power outlet that can give you access to electricity in situations where either a regular power outlet or electricity itself isn’t available. Portable generators can be battery-powered, solar-powered, or gas-powered, and they come in an array of sizes, wattages, and runtimes.
When looking for the best portable generator to suit your particular needs, Andrew Williams, director at the professional generator servicing company, Hampshire Generators, recommends looking at aspects such as how loud the generator is, its size and weight for storage and transporting, and its power rating.
Our overall top pick of the best portable generator is the Westinghouse WGen9500c Portable Generator that can run for up to 12 hours on one tank of gas and provides 12,500 starting watts to power all of your necessities in the event of a blackout.
Here are the best portable generators.
Westinghouse Outdoor Power Equipment Westinghouse WGen9500c Home Backup Portable Generator
Why You Should Get It: It is a powerful, reliable, and durable generator capable of running for up to 12 hours on one tank.
Keep in Mind: It’s a little bit on the noisy side, so it might not be the best pick for an RV.
As our top pick for the best portable generator, the Westinghouse WGen9500c is precisely the generator you want to have in tow to be able to run all the necessities in an average-sized house in the case of a power outage. With 12,500 starting watts, and 9,500 running watts, it has the capacity to power all the lights and appliances you can’t live without, enabling you and your family to continue to function as somewhat normal through a blackout.
Whether you want to be prepared for a storm or need this generator to power a mobile home or RV, the Westinghouse WGen9500c has more than enough power and is easy to use. It features a push-button electric start and a key fob, and it’s a dual-fuel machine, which means it can be powered by either gasoline or propane. It has many handy features, such as automatic shutdown if low oil is detected and control panel spotlights. It’s also transfer-switch ready, meaning you can have it permanently hooked up to the house and it will kick in automatically whenever the power cuts out.
Though it weighs a fair 222 pounds, it’s easy to roll around thanks to its large wheels, but you might need some help lifting it in and out of the trunk if you’re planning on moving it from place to place. It’s also not the quietest machine, so if you want to operate it on a more long-term basis, you might want to think about whether it will disturb your sleep if you’ll be using it in an RV. The included keyfob, however, enables you to operate it from a distance if you want to move it further away from the house.
Price at time of publish: $804
- Wattage: 12,500 watts (starting), 9,500 watts (running)
- Fuel: Gasoline, propane
- Engine: Dual-fuel, 457cc 4-stroke OHV engine
- Size: 27.2 x 26.1 x 26.5 inches
- Weight: 222.1 pounds
- Runtime: 12 hours
- Noise: 74 decibels
Sportsman 4,000/3,500-Watt Gasoline Powered Portable Generator with RV Outlet
Why You Should Get It: It’s a value-for-money generator that can offer 10 hours of runtime on half load.
Keep in Mind: This generator is not recommended for use in high-altitude environments of above 3,000 feet, and the handle and wheel kit is sold separately.
Perfect for powering smaller appliances or all the necessities in an RV or mobile home, the affordable Sportsman 4,000 Surge is our choice for the best portable generator for those on a budget. While it’s not the most powerful generator on the market, you can comfortably power a refrigerator, your basic lights, a couple of fans, and some electrical devices for around eight hours on one tank of gas.
It’s quite a good generator for camping, too, but you might want to position it a little further away from your sleeping area since, though it’s not the loudest generator, you can’t exactly call it quiet. If you live at an altitude or are planning on going camping in a high-altitude environment, this generator is not recommended—the carburetor cannot be adjusted for altitudes of over 3,000 feet, and the thinner air does not provide the ideal oxygen/gas mixture ratio. This can potentially damage the spark plug and generally does not allow the generator to run smoothly.
For those looking for the best portable generator for a small jobsite or a workshop, this is a great option. It can run power tools of up to around 900 running watts each, albeit not at the same time. At 91 pounds, this unit can be maneuvered and transported a little easier than some other models. The wheel and handle kit, unfortunately, doesn’t come with the machine, but can be bought separately. This portable generator has six outlets and a pull starts that is easy enough to pull without requiring too much elbow grease.
Price at time of publish: $397
- Wattage: 4,000 watts (starting), 3,500 watts (running)
- Fuel: Gasoline
- Engine: 212cc, 4-stroke OHV engine
- Size: 23 x 19.5 x 17.5 inches
- Weight: 91 pounds
- Runtime: 10 hours at 50% load
- Noise: 69 decibels
Generac Generac 7127 iQ3500-3500 Watt Portable Inverter Generator Quieter Than Honda, Orange/Black
Why You Should Get It: This quiet inverter generator offers clean power to keep all your sensitive electricals safe.
Keep in Mind: While it’s not the heaviest generator, it doesn’t have wheels to tote it about easily, and 109 pounds might be cumbersome for many to lift and carry.
Though inverter generators are known to be a little flimsier than regular generators, this Generac model is housed in a durable and hard-wearing steel enclosure to keep it safe from damage. It’s quiet enough to be taken camping and won’t disturb you or the neighbors, even in congested living areas.
According to Generac, the company does not publish decibel levels; however, it does state that this generator is five decibels quieter than the Honda EU3000IS portable generator, which is often touted to be the quietest on the market at 49 to 58 decibels. This would put the Generac 7127 iQ3500 generator at around an impressive 45 decibels at a quarter load—about as quiet as a regular conversation—meaning that you can keep it right outside the tent when camping and you’ll still be able to sleep like a baby.
It operates via a simple and intuitive dial which starts, runs, and stops the machine, and starting it up is practically effortless thanks to its electric start. It has two engine speeds to choose from, depending on what you want to operate, and you won’t have to worry about your sensitive electronics either thanks to this machine’s clean inverter technology.
Price at time of publish: $1,199
- Wattage: 3,500 watts (starting), 3,000 watts (running)
- Fuel: Gasoline
- Engine: 212cc, OHV engine
- Size: 23.7 x 18 x 21.7 inches
- Weight: 109.1 pounds
- Runtime: 8.9 hours at 50% load
- Noise: 45–55 decibels
Wen WEN 56235i Super Quiet 2350-Watt Portable Inverter Generator with Fuel Shut Off
Why You Should Get It: This generator is quiet and lightweight enough to carry with one hand.
Keep in Mind: It doesn’t have the power to run very many appliances or electronics at once.
For smaller houses or apartments, or for use when camping, this lightweight Wen 56235i is a top choice for many reasons. Not only is it light enough to carry with one hand, but it offers up to seven hours of runtime on half a load and emits only 51 decibels of noise when used at a quarter load.
If your shed or refueling station is a little further away from the house, and you’d rather not top up the generator right next to your home, this 39-pound portable generator is easy to carry to and fro without any backache. It has an innovative fuel shutoff system that uses up the fuel remaining in the carburetor, which extends the engine’s life. It also comes with a two-year warranty.
It offers five outlets (120V and 12V DC receptacles and two 5V USB ports) and is safe enough to run all your sensitive electronics, such as laptops, as well as securely charging your phones and tablets, too. It runs for 10.5 hours on a quarter load, and it even has an eco-mode that automatically adjusts the fuel consumption, depending on what you’ve got plugged into it.
Price at time of publish: $430
- Wattage: 2,350 watts (starting), 1,900 watts (running)
- Fuel: Gasoline
- Engine: 79 cc, 4-stroke OHV engine
- Size: 17.3 x 11.5 x 17.5 inches
- Weight: 39 pounds
- Runtime: 7 hours at 50% load, 10.5 hours at 25% load
- Noise: From 51 decibels
Duromax DuroMax XP13000HXT Remote Start Portable Generator
Why You Should Get It: With up to 10,500 running watts, you can comfortably power a whole house’s appliances and devices in a blackout.
Keep in Mind: It’s a large investment and not weatherproof.
As the most powerful option on our list of the best portable generators, the Duromax Tri-Fuel is an impressive machine capable of powering everything that the average house needs to operate in a power shortage. Your lights, refrigerator, fans, air conditioning units, household appliances, and TVs can continue to work, even if the whole neighborhood has gone dark.
This generator provides convenience in a number of ways. To start with, it’s a tri-fuel generator meaning it can run on gasoline, propane, and natural gas, giving you many powering options. While running it on gasoline provides the most power, it still gives you a massive 9,500 running watts on propane, and a bit less for natural gas. The natural gas hose and propane regulator is included in the kit. The interface is on the front with all the functions, including a push-button start, the outlets, a low oil sensor, and the LED display, which shows the gas and load gauges, voltage, and frequency.
In addition, there’s an alert which will automatically shut the machine down when it detects a high level of carbon monoxide. It’s a heavy machine, but the included handle and wheel kit make it easier to push from place to place. Though it’s supposed to be run outdoors, it’s best to keep it in a somewhat sheltered area to protect it from the elements, especially heavy rainfall.
Price at time of publish: $2,499
- Gasoline: 13,000 watts (starting) 10,500 watts (running)
- Propane: 12,000 watts (starting), 9,500 watts (running)
- Natural gas: 10,000 watts (starting), 8,500 watts (running)
- Fuel: Gasoline, propane, and natural gas
- Engine: Tri-fuel, 500cc, 20 HP, 4-stroke OHV engine
- Size: 29 x 30 x 26 inches
- Weight: 236 pounds
- Runtime: 8.5 hours on gasoline, 6.5 hours on propane at 50% load
- Noise: 74 decibels
Champion Power Equipment Champion Power Equipment 200961 2500-Watt Dual Fuel Generator
Why You Should Get It: It’s quiet, lightweight, and gives you the option to use propane instead of fuel, which can give you a 34 hours of runtime on a quarter load.
Keep in Mind: It’s a lot of money for its power output (other generators offer higher wattage at much lower prices).
Champion is one of the best portable generator companies, and this 2,500-watt model is a prime example of its quality products. With the option of powering the generator with either gasoline or the more cost-effective propane, users can get anywhere from 10 to 34 hours of runtime. The generator is not only powerful and reliable, it’s also lightweight at under 40 pounds, making it a breeze to take camping or bringing out of the garage or storage shed when necessary.
This portable generator can work in tandem with another identical unit, meaning that if you have two of them, you can easily put them side by side, attaching them together with the clip-on connection provided in the parallel kit—sold separately—for double the power. The panel is easy to read and displays all the important information such as run time, output, and how much fuel you have left. An LPG hose for using it with propane is included as well as a USB adapter.
Starting this generator up is super easy thanks to its intuitive start-up dial, and it’s extremely low-noise at just 53 decibels from 23 feet away. It also has a feature that shuts the system off automatically if unsafe levels of carbon monoxide are detected. What’s more, this generator offers clean inverter power technology so if you want to operate your computers, laptops, and other sensitive devices, they’ll stay safe. Another perk offered by Champion is a three-year limited warranty and free lifetime technical support for peace of mind.
Price at time of publish: $839
- Gasoline: 2,500 watts (starting), 1,850 watts (running)
- Propane: 2,500 watts (starting), 1,665 watts (running)
- Fuel: Gasoline, propane
- Engine: Dual-fuel, 79cc, 4-stroke OHV engine
- Size: 17.3 x 12 x 17.7 inches
- Weight: 39 pounds
- Runtime: 11.5 hours on gasoline, 34 hours on propane at 25% load
- Noise: 53 decibels
Best Solar Powered:
Jackery Jackery Solar Generator SG880 with 2 Solar Panels
Why You Should Get It: It’s extremely quiet and lightweight, and it’s the only generator you can run indoors, thanks to the lack of toxic fumes.
Keep in Mind: You won’t be able to power too many things at once, and it’s not capable of running a whole house.
With no gas or fumes, the Jackery SG880 is an eco-friendly portable generator that is super quiet, extremely lightweight, and easy to use, too. Fully charging this unit takes only 6.5 hours, and it has enough outlets to run up to eight appliances at once with 1,000 watts of continuous power. The unit comes with two solar panels for charging, but you can also charge it via a wall outlet or a car outlet, though these options take around 13 hours.
There’s a handy LED flashlight, which is convenient for camping and outdoor activities, and, in addition to its two USB outlets (one with a quick charge), it even has a USB-C outlet. Its lithium-ion battery can be used for around 500 cycles, and even then, it will still offer 80% of its original power. If, however, you notice the power dwindling before the 500 hours, the company will repair it for you free of charge.
Jackery doesn’t offer one particular run time as this is dependent on the appliances you want to operate. As an example, however, it can run a microwave of 1,000 watts for 42 minutes, a blender of 300 watts for 2.3 hours, a mini fridge of 60 watts for up to 60 hours, and a CPAP machine (usually rated between 30–60 watts) for up to 70 hours. To calculate how many hours you can get for a particular device, use the following formula: 880 x 0.8 / running watts of device you wish to power.
Price at time of publish: $1,323
- Wattage: 2,000 watts (starting), 1,000 watts (running)
- Fuel: None, powered by lithium-ion battery, and solar panel
- Engine: N/A
- Size: 13.1 x 9.2 x 11.1 inches
- Weight: 33 pounds
- Runtime: Various (to be calculated as 880 x 0.8 / device to be powered
- Noise: 50 decibels
Best with Bluetooth:
Ryobi 2,300-Watt Recoil Start Bluetooth Super Quiet Gasoline Powered Digital Inverter Generator
Why You Should Get It: You can monitor and operate it remotely via its Bluetooth function.
Keep in Mind: It’s not the most powerful portable generator on the market.
We didn’t realize how handy Bluetooth technology could be in a portable generator until we came across the Ryobi Digital Inverter. Ideal for camping, tailgating, outdoor parties, as well as providing power in an emergency, this Ryobi generator allows you to monitor the unit via your mobile phone or tablet.
When you download the GENControl app on any iOS or Android phone and pair the Bluetooth with the generator, you’ll be able to switch the generator on and off via your smart device. In addition, you can check the power, fuel consumption, fuel level, and how much run time is left, all via the handy app. The inverter technology offers clean electricity that is a lot quieter than that of a standard generator, and it can power even your most sensitive electronics without issue.
It’s a powerful generator for its small size, but if you need more strength to operate larger appliances, you can add another one of these generators in a parallel capacity for double the power. Though it only weighs around 50 pounds, it comes with an extending handle and rear wheels so that you can transport it with total ease. This portable generator is also backed by the manufacturer’s three-year warranty.
Price at time of publish: $699
- Wattage: 2,300 watts (starting), 1,800 watts (running)
- Fuel: Gasoline
- Engine: 79cc, OHV engine
- Size: 22 x 12.5 x 19 inches
- Weight: 51.85 pounds
- Runtime: 8 hours at 50% load
- Noise: 57 decibels
The Bottom Line
The best portable generator you can buy for powering all the necessary appliances and devices in a blackout is the Westinghouse WGen9500c Portable Generator. This heavy-duty and reliable generator can run for up to 12 hours, offers 12,500 starting watts and 9,500 running watts, and can be operated remotely by a keyfob. It’s also transfer-switch ready meaning you can hook it up to the house and set it to kick in automatically whenever there’s a power shortage.
What to Know About Portable Generators Before Shopping
Knowing what electrical devices and appliances you can’t live without in the event of a power outage is important when it comes to choosing the best portable generator for you. “What you want to power with the unit narrows you down to a minimum size,” Williams says.
The best portable generators come with starting wattages anywhere from 2,000 to 14,000 or more. “Think about what items you’ll want to be working in the event of an outage, and get a portable generator with enough watts to accommodate those appliances,” Williams says.
To calculate how many watts you’ll need your portable generator to have, make a list of all the important appliances you’ll want it to power and note their running watts. For example, a refrigerator may have 600 watts, an air-conditioning unit could be rated at 3,000 watts, and all your computer items together could be around 300 watts. This means that, for powering all those items, as well as the lights (approximately 100 watts), you’ll need a portable generator with a minimum of 4,000 running watts.
Most of the best portable generators are gas-powered. While there are battery-powered generators, they typically aren’t as good as gas generators since they need electricity to charge up if they die out, whereas a gas model can just be topped up with fuel and keep on going. Some battery-powered generators can also be charged via a car’s outlet, and there are also solar-powered options that can charge up in the sunlight.
Fuel generators should only be run outdoors and topped up, serviced, and ready for action in case of a power outage (you don’t want to be fumbling with fuel in a cataclysmic rain storm). To refuel, a generator should always be turned off and allowed to cool for at least 15 minutes. Topping up an overheated generator with gas could potentially cause an immediate fire or even an explosion.
Portable generators can weigh anywhere from 20 to 200 pounds. “Lightweight portable generators tend to be a bit noisier since they don’t have the same insulation or padding as quieter machines, which are usually heavier,” Williams says.
Since many portable generators can be rather heavy machines, Williams recommends making sure the generator you opt for has wheels so you can move it about easier. “You may need a bit of help getting it in and out of a car trunk though,” he adds.
Portable generators can run from around 6 to 12 hours on a single tank. “The runtime depends on each machine and how big the fuel tank is,” Williams says. “It varies from model to model.”
Portable generators usually fall anywhere between 50 and 80 decibels. “The noise of a portable generator could be an issue,” Williams says. “Most generators are quite loud—even those that claim they are silent are not truly silent.”
For RV living, or for use when camping, you might want to opt for a quieter model. For emergencies and storms, you’re not likely going to be the only house on the block with a loud generator, so noise shouldn’t be too much of an issue if you’re worrying about disturbing the neighbors.
Your Questions, Answered
How many watts in a generator do you need to run a house?
The number or watts needed to power a house depends on many factors, according to Williams, including how big the house is and how many appliances you have running at the same time. “For a standard house, a 6,000 to 8,000-watt portable generator could keep you going, but it might not be able to power everything,” Williams says. “A substantial house, or a smart home with a lot of inbuilt tech, will need a much higher wattage.”
Williams suggests a 20,000- to 25,000-watt whole-house generator (non-portable) for high-tech homes, but for a portable device, you should be looking for the maximum watts available, i.e., around 14,000 watts or more.
What is the difference between a portable generator and an inverter generator?
Though they’re both portable, inverter generators are a newer type of portable generators with newer technology, which makes them quieter and use less fuel. They are safer for your electronics, too, as they provide a higher quality electrical output.
“Inverter generators have the ability to vary the engine speed depending on the load,” Williams says. “They are more pleasant to live with because they are quieter, especially when running on a low load.”
The only down sides, according to Williams, is that they’re generally more expensive, due to the newer technology, and are not as robust as standard generators. “Those on construction sites prefer using the older generators because inverters are more electronic and can be damaged if dropped, for instance, but inverters are the best portable generators for home use.”
Do generators damage electronics?
Conventional generators have been known in the past to cause damage to electrical equipment, but, according to Williams, “Modern generators shouldn’t damage electronics. Inverter generators, in particular, are designed to produce a clean and pure electrical output that is safe for electric devices.”
Who We Are
This article was written by Kat de Naoum, who has over ten years of commerce writing experience. Kat is also the commerce editor-at-large at Thomas-Xometry, the leading U.S. online platform for supplier discovery and product sourcing. For this article, Kat reviewed multiple portable generators and researched factors such as each portable generator’s power, runtime, weight, noise level, price, and value for money. She also spoke to Andrew Williams, Director at professional generator servicing company, Hampshire Generators.