At home, away from home, on the job site, or any conceivable situation where the standard methods of getting power are less than feasible, you can usually count on a portable generator to handle the heavy lifting. These (often) gas-powered devices are a must-have for construction zones, and a handy addition if you’re going camping or need a backup source of power at your domicile.
If you’re here, then it’s likely you’ve at least considered getting one and now want to do your research to see which might be the best fit for you. Read on, because our top portable generator guide will be your go-to for identifying the premiere choices available on the market.
Table of Contents
Portable Generator Comparison
Yamaha EF6300iSDE: 6,300 Watt Output; 4.5 Gallon Tank Capacity; 13 Hour Continuous Operation Time (At 25% Load)
CAT RP7500E: 7,500 Watt Output; 7.9 Gallon Tank Capacity; 11-Hour Continuous Operation Time (At 50% Load)
Yamaha EF2000iSv2: 1,600 Watt Output; 1.1 Gallon Tank Capacity; 10.5 Hour Continuous Operation Time (At 25% Load)
DuroMax XP12000EH: 12,000 Watt Output; 8.3 Gallon Tank Capacity; 10 Hour Continuous Operation Time (At 50% Load, Gasoline); 20 Hour Continuous Operation Time (At 50% Load, Propane)
DuroStar DS4400: 3,500 Watt Output; 4 Gallon Tank Capacity; 8 Hour Continuous Operation Time (At 50% Load)
Westinghouse WH7500E: 7,500 Watt Output; 6.6 Gallon Tank Capacity; 11 Hour Continuous Operation Time (At 25% Load)
Champion Power Equipment 76533: 3,800 Watt Output; 3.4 Gallon Tank Capacity; 9 Hour Continuous Operation Time (At 50% Load)
DuroStar DS4000S: 3,300 Watt Output; 4 Gallon Tank Capacity; 8 Hour Continuous Operation Time (At 50% Load)
WEN 56200i: 1,600 Watt Output; 1 Gallon Tank Capacity; 6 Hour Continuous Operation Time (At 50% Load)
Smarter Tools ST-GP3500: 3,000 Watt Output; 4 Gallon Tank Capacity; 10 Hour Continuous Operation Time (At 50% Load)
The Top 10 Best Portable Generator Reviews 2018
Yamaha EF6300iSDE — Powerful & Stacked with Features
The Yamaha EF6300iSDE is an inverter generator with considerable power. It might sound like a complicated term, but it simply means that the generator takes the concept of an inverter, which converts DC power to AC power, and uses it in its design to provide clean AC energy at a single phase with the correct voltage and frequency.
It’s a newer style that allows the unit to remain lighter than a conventional generator of similar output capability, making such generators well-suited for transport in a vehicle (and noticeably quieter during use).
For its part, the EF6300iSDE is capable of substantial output, up to 6,300 watts of surge power and 5,500 watts of normal effective power. In simpler terms, it’s enough juice to power an HD TV, refrigerator, or other such appliances. If you’re camping, it’s suitable to keep just about whatever you’ve got on site running for the duration of the generator’s run time.
Speaking of camping, the EF6300iSDE has earned its stripes in this regard. It might not be the lightest generator on the market (it’s roughly 200 pounds), but the balance of size, weight, and power output make it suitable for taking on the road and providing a decent amount of energy to set camp. The wheels make it easier to move while on site, and the noise-blocking features keep the decibel level to a minimum.
The tank capacity is middle of the road (around 4.5 gallons), but thanks to the EF6300iSDE’s efficient operation, you can still squeeze 13 hours out of the generator while running at approximately 25% load. Controlling the unit is a straightforward prospect.
There’s no pull-start on this device, rather, it uses all-electric starting circuitry. Additionally, most of the controls and connections are located on the side panel, including the on/off switch, outlets, and transfer switch (no need to hunt around to find what you need).
Additional features on the EF6300iSDE include a power meter, fuel gauge, low oil shutoff sensor, smart throttle system, and wireless remote control capable of engaging (or disengaging) the unit from up to 66 feet.
Unfortunately, this unit is at the high-end in terms of price, comparable to other generators. You might be able to score a generator with similar power output minus the exorbitant cost (minus the EF6300iSDE’s more advanced features, though).
- Good Output
- Excellent Longevity
- Easy to Setup
- Quiet Operation
- Noise Control Not as Effective At Higher Settings
- Heavier Than It Looks
- Maintenance Could Be A Chore
The Yamaha EF6300iSDE is a solid unit if you’ve got the money to spend on it. It has a good range of features and doesn’t burn its fuel supply too rapidly. It runs quietly at lower power settings, and gives users good, clean energy to boot. The difficulty of moving it around, however (combined with that high price tag) might send some potential customers running for the hills.
CAT RP7500E — Fuel Efficient & Durable
The CAT RP7500E is something of a departure from Caterpillar’s normal bulky generators. This unit is designed to bring power in a more portable package, and on that front, it succeeds (to a degree). At 192.5 pounds, it’s still what most would consider a heavy piece of machinery. Thanks to the rugged wheels attached to this unit, though, you’ll have an easier time moving this CAT than you would most of their usual behemoth generators.
Power output on the RP7500E is exemplary, with 9,375 starting watts and 7,500 running watts. It’s backed by a 420cc engine and 7.9-gallon tank that will give you around 11 hours of continuous use at 50% load.
In combination with its six outlets, you can run all manner of on-site power tools and other light industrial equipment. The heavy-duty steel frame is a testament to this unit’s durability, which makes it well-suited for construction and industrial purposes.
You don’t have to limit your use to these applications, mind you, the power output is also suitable for home use or outdoor activities, and the ease-of-use features enhance these capabilities. The display and controls are easy to navigate, include important info like the voltage settings, frequency, and remaining hours of power use. The panel also lights up for nighttime use.
Furthermore, safety features like the covered outlets, manual fuel shutoff, and auto tip-over shutoff make the RP7500E a good choice for those that want as close to a hassle-free experience as possible.
Electric starting makes getting this unit in gear simple, and assembly/maintenance aren’t particularly difficult either. One knock, though, is the noise generation on this unit. It might not be the loudest generator around, but it isn’t the most silent by any stretch.
It was designed primarily for construction sites, so it comes with an increased level of power generation and commensurate decibel levels. Bear that in mind if you’re looking for a unit to take camping or need something that will cause minimal distractions.
- Easy to Assemble
- Fires Up Consistently
- Very Durable
- Superior Power Generation
- Not Particularly Quiet
- Very Heavy
- Can’t Run in Enclosure Boxes
- It’s Expensive
This isn’t the generator you’ll want to go with if you need something small and stealthy. If you want big power generation and a boatload of features, though, you’ll be satisfied with this offering from CAT.
Yamaha EF2000iSv2 — Compact & Clean
The Yamaha EF2000iSv2 is a less expensive version of the EF6300iSDE, and much lighter to boot. Compared to the 200-pound weight of the latter, this model is a mere 44 pounds, enabling a much greater degree of portability and compactness. There’s no need to wheel this model around, as most adults can manage to carry it by the handle with two hands.
That decreased size and weight, however, comes with a decreased power output. Compared to the 5,500 watts of running power you might get from the EF6300iSDE, you’ll only achieve 1,600 watts with the EF2000iSv2. A tradeoff for sure, but, because this model also packs in many of the same features as its big brother, it might serve well as a secondary or hyper-portable option for your arsenal.
Like the EF6300iSDE, the EF2000iSV2 runs clean, has the smart throttle system, inverter system, and quiet operation features to reduce noise. You can even run two of these units in tandem for situations where you need more juice to power your appliances.
Thanks to the efficient power generation method, you can expect 10.5 hours of use at a 25% load with this unit, more than enough to power your tools and small equipment if you so choose. You’ll also be able to monitor all your levels from the panel display easily and maintain peace of mind due to the built-in safety features like the oil watch warning system.
Unfortunately, there’s no electric start for the EF2000iSV2, so you’ll have to get your pulling arm ready. Thankfully, though, it fires up pretty consistently because of the auto decompression system and auto warm-up. Additionally, if you’re planning on running this at full load, be prepared for the runtime to drop dramatically.
- It’s Lightweight & Compact
- It’s Easy to Start in Spite of The Pull System
- It Has a Long Runtime
- You Can Couple It for Increased Power
- Decreased Power Generation from Single Unit
- Full-Load Runtime Is Drastically Reduced
- Tends To Burn Through Fuel After Sustained Use
- Filling the Tank Is Somewhat Burdensome
This is a good option for increased portability and might be a superior option for camping trips, tailgate parties, and similar outdoor events where you don’t need too much juice. If you require something with increased power output, though, you’re better off looking elsewhere.
DuroMax XP12000EH — The Choice for Superior Power
The DuroMax XP12000EH is a combination portable propane generator and gasoline generator. It’s known as a “dual fuel” unit, and the versatility allows for maximum choice and functionality. At 50% load, you’ll get about 10 hours’ runtime on gas, and 20 hours’ runtime on a standard BBQ-sized propane tank. Hooking in the propane source is a snap (the hose is included with the unit), as is every other operating function on this powerful unit.
Its nickname is “The Beast,” because of the superlative level of power generation the XP12000EH provides—12,000 watts AC power. This comes by way of the sizable 457cc DuroMax OHV engine, widely lauded for its reputation as a “workhorse.” That level of energy comes at a price, though, a weight of 269 pounds. You might not be taking this one out into the field with you unless you have a particularly large vehicle, but the immense stats make it one of the best portable generators for your home.
Assembly of this model is simple, starting via the pull cord doesn’t take much effort, and, despite its gargantuan size/output, it the noise production isn’t deafening by any means (though, it’s not what you’d term a silent generator either). If you do, for whatever reason, decide to take it into the wilds, you should know that the generator is EPA approved for safe use in U.S. National Parks, so no worries about breaking the rules (sadly, it isn’t CARB compliant as well, so no shipping to California).
The power panel is straightforward and contains all the connections and operating features you’ll need to access. Furthermore, the unit is equipped with several safety features, so you don’t have to stress about blowing up your home accidentally. These include a low-oil shutoff, multiple circuit breakers, and ample warning systems.
Just bear in mind, “The Beast” is a noisy unit, and a beast to move around as well. As mentioned, this generator throws portability and stealth to the wind in favor of extreme power output.
- Powerful Motor & Superior Energy Output
- Hybrid Generator Allows for Dual Fuel Sources
- Great Runtime
- Superbly Durable Heavy Frame Unit
- Very Heavy & Limited Portability
- Not Particularly Quiet Despite Noise Muffler
If you’re looking for a top-of-the-line home generator, this might well be your first pick. It’s a bit too “Beastly” to take on trips unless you’ve got a vehicle that can handle it, but as an in-home unit, you’re not likely to find a greater level of power generation for this price.
DuroStar DS4400 — Well-Equipped Backup Generator
The DuroStar DS4400 is a gas-powered generator with a good balance of durability, power output, and price. The sturdy steel frame makes it plenty sturdy but adds some extra to the total weight, which is about 115 pounds. With the right ride, you can get it to outdoor events and have a fair amount of energy to power a wide range of devices, but, you can use this as a backup home generator as well because of the sizeable power generation.
The DS4400 includes a 208cc, 7HP cooled OHV engine which is EPA and CARB approved. The engine can generate 4,400 watts of surge power, with a continuous output of 3,500 watts. Volts on this unit are automatically regulated. The 4-gallon tank on this unit will give about 8 hours of continued operation at 50% load. By most standards, this falls into the average runtime range.
Starting the DS4400 is done via the manual pull-start. Not as convenient as an all-electric start package, but not overly difficult to operate either. You should be able to crank and start this model on the first attempt in most cases. Noise levels are somewhat limited thanks to the internal muffler system, but still noticeable. There are quieter generators out there, but, considering the power output of this model, it’s nothing out of the ordinary.
Assembly is relatively simple (make sure to follow the instructions closely) and the safety features on the DS4400 are a nice touch. The low-oil shutoff, among other systems, should help protect the engine from accidental failures. Unfortunately, the oil burn rate on this unit is somewhat higher than what is typical, making it less suited for camping excursions and the like. For other applications, though, you should get a decent level of use.
Be prepared to go through a lot of oil using this unit. For whatever reason, the burn rate is higher than comparable generators of similar size.
- Balanced Weight & Power Output
- Automatic Voltage Regulation
- Good Price to Power Ratio
- High Oil-Burn Rate
- Not QuietEnough for Camping
This isn’t the most powerful unit, nor the lightest unit, nor the quietest unit, but this generator still has a well-balanced array of attributes that make it worth a look, particularly if you need a budget backup for the home.
Westinghouse WH7500E — Ruggedness & Safety in A Single Package
The Westinghouse WH7500E is a heavy, powerful unit designed for both home power outages and job-site energy production. How heavy? 201 pounds heavy, to be precise. This makes it limited in terms of camping and portable use, but thanks to the massive power output and durability, makes it well suited for use in the home, and for industrial/construction projects.
The 420cc Westinghouse OHV engine puts out about 9,000 starting watts and 7,500 continuous watts of power. The 6.6-gallon fuel tank gives it an 11-hour runtime at 25% load. This is a minimal assembly unit with two start options. You can use the electric start function (which includes a battery) or uses the manual recoil starting option to engage. The electric start is a three-position design, with a toggle switch for starting, stopping, and running the unity.
In addition to the regular gas powered function, you can use universal natural gas compatibility kits to run the generator that way instead, providing enhanced versatility. Oil usage for this unit isn’t too extreme, and it also comes equipped with a low-oil shutoff to disengage the engine when levels are minimal. The operation panel also includes several 120-volt outlets, along with a twist-lock 120/240-volt outlet for larger equipment. The LCD reads your remaining runtime and other levels so you can be sure you’re set.
As far as noise generation goes, it’s about what you’d expect from a hulking generator like this one. The manufacturer hasn’t released any official decibel levels, but you’ll know when it’s “on” for sure. It’s durable enough to withstand a range of outdoor weather conditions, but it’s best not to expose the WH7500E to greater levels of snow or rain than necessary, if possible.
This generator is tough but very heavy. You’re not going to get it to and from wherever you’re going without considerable effort. Something to consider if portability is your chief buying factor.
- Great Power Generation
- Dual Start Features
- Very Durable
- Compatible with Natural Gas
- Heavy & Limited Portability
This is another monster unit that has limited “take-it-and-go” use, but excellent capabilities at a home or construction site. If power and features are your main concern, add the WH7500E to your short list.
Champion Power Equipment 76533 — Easy To Operate
The Champion Power Equipment 76533 is another dual fuel generator model. You can run either gas or propane with the 76533 without additional tinkering. The difference in runtimes isn’t too great—9 hours on a full gas tank (3.4 gallons), and 10.5 on a 20-pound propane tank—but it’s a useful feature for increasing your supply options, as you could conceivably hook the unit up to a much larger propane tank if you wanted.
Regarding power generation, the 76533 provides 4,750 starting watts and 3,800 running watts via the 244cc Champion engine. Weight on this model is middle-of-the-road, about 119 pounds. Still on the heavy side if you’re looking for an ultra-portable, but manageable enough to get it to-and-fro with the right transportation.
Starting options include the electric start and recoil start, both easy to engage. Champion has rated operation of the unit at 68 decibels, which most compare to the sound of a lawnmower in action. Not the quietest unit, but about average considering the decent power output. Gauges on this model monitor power output and maintenance intervals.
Assembly is mostly basic, though, some accounts tell of difficulties with tightening some of the trickier nuts and bolts. Safety options on the 76533 include a volt guard to defend against power surges, as well as a low-oil shutoff to power down the engine when levels are nearing critical.
This Champion unit makes a fair bit of noise, more than you’d expect from a generator of this size. In the home, it might be easy to deal with, but at a campsite, it’s going to create a noticeable disturbance.
- Dual Fuel Unit
- Balance of Weight & Power Generation
- Ample Safety Features
- Easy Operation
- A Bit Noisy
While it might not be a top-tier power generating unit, this Champion model is solid and easy to use, with more than enough juice for most standard applications. Might not be your first choice for trips or camping, but powering home items and power equipment fall squarely in this unit’s purview.
DuroStar DS4000S — Balancing Power & Runtime
The DuroStar DS4000S is almost like a slightly less powerful version of the DS4400. The DuroStar 7-horsepower engine can put out 4,000 watts of surge power and 3,500 watts of continuous power. The 4-gallon tank enables about 8 hours of runtime at 50% load. This is an all-gas unit, and refilling the gas tank is as simple a task on this model as just about any other. This amount of power is good not only for smaller appliances and smart devices but could also run larger pieces of equipment, such as small air conditioning units or refrigerators.
Being a smaller unit, this DuroStar only comes with a pull-start mechanism, but this shouldn’t be considered a significant drawback. Most simpler units forego electric starts, and this one fires up consistently with little issue. The DS4000S weighs about 92 pounds, putting it below its big brother, but still heavier than most generators designed for “on-the-go” applications. You might need a hand moving this around as well, as it lacks transport wheels.
Noise generation is higher than average on this unit than comparably sized ones, and even some larger units like the Westinghouse WH75000E only run a couple of decibels higher. There are three 120-volt/20-amp outlets located on the panel, along with one 120-volt/30-amp twist-lock outlet.
Safety features include the low-oil shutoff, circuit breaker, and various meters that read your levels. This is an overall smooth running generator that might seem underpowered and under-featured at first but isn’t that bad of a deal when you consider the substantially reduced price comparative to other models.
This unit is another noisemaker. For all the balance DuroStar put into the runtime and power generation, the muffling features leave something to be desired.
- Good Balance of Power and Runtime – Solid All-Around
- Simple & Easy to Use
- Louder Than You Might Expect
This is a good value unit for customers who want just enough power and runtime. You won’t find top-of-the-line anything here, just balance and affordability for the savvy consumer.
WEN 56200i — A Great Camping Option
The WEN 56200i is a highly portable unit that lacks the power of the big boys but makes up for strength with the ability to go nearly anywhere. The engine is a mere 79.7cc setup, and the fuel tank has a rather limited 1-gallon capacity. You’ll get about 2,000 watts of surge power on this unit with 1,600 operating watts. The runtime is about 6 hours at 50% load.
The main selling point on the 56200i is the reduced weight. This unit only weighs 48 pounds, making it great for taking out into the field on camping and other outdoor trips. Noise generation is minimal, and thanks to the inverter features, it can easily run small devices without worry of frying them into oblivion.
Operation from the front panel is easy; you can just flip the switch to engage the unit. The panel includes all your warning lights, along with the grounding nut, outlets and USB connections for electronic devices that require them.
If you need additional juice to power larger pieces of equipment, you can link two units together with a parallel connector kit (not included, unfortunately). An eco-mode on the device helps maximize fuel efficiency, while safety features (including low-oil and low-fuel shutdown) keep you from wrecking the unit.
Sadly, this unit isn’t going to give you big time watts, even when you have two of them linked up. If you need something for the home or job site, you might be better off looking elsewhere.
- Lightweight & Portable
- Simple to Operate
You won’t be getting much done around the house with this generator, but as a portable field unit, the 56200i works wonders. In addition to the easy transport, its safety features and multiple certifications make it a great choice for the environmentally-conscious.
Smarter Tools ST-GP3500 — Basic & Easy To Setup
The Smarter Tools ST-GP3500 is a gas-powered generator with an emphasis on simplicity and basic functionality. The 6.5 horsepower OHV engine provides 3,500 starting watts and 3,000 running watts of energy. The 4-gallon tank on this model grants about 10 hours of operating time at a 50% load. Not the most powerful unit by any means, but, the strength of the ST-GP3500 lies in how easy it is to operate.
There’s little to do in the way of setup, the pull-start is a breeze, and there are very few controls that you’ll need to mess with to squeeze every ounce of functionality from this unit. At 69 pounds, it has a fair bit more portability than most other generators on the market, being outclassed only by the hyper-portable units like the WEN 56200i.
There are a few safety features, like power overload protection and a low-oil shutdown system, and sturdy steel frame helps add to the overall durability. This generator isn’t winning any awards for innovation, but it’s a good option for those that desire something simple and cheap.
The drawback with this unit is that it’s very bare bones. You don’t have much here that you can tweak, and if you’re the type that loves advanced features, you won’t find them here.
- Simple – Setup and Use are Both Convenient
- Durable Enough to Withstand Extensive Transport and Use
- Not Many Advanced Features – Fairly Basic
This is a definite value unit that combines a simple interface and bare bones features with a rugged frame. It’s not the best out there, but it’s good enough to serve the purposes of a large swath of consumers.
How to Choose the Best Portable Generator – Buyer’s Guide
Now that you’ve seen the options, what should you be looking for in a quality generator? The individual factors depend on the specific applications you have in mind.
If you’re looking for a generator for trips and camping, you want to prioritize the weight and portability of the generator first.
Models under 100 pounds are a good start, and models under 50 pounds are clear choices for this use. You might not get as much power from them, but for your purposes, you should get enough to see you through whatever you have intended.
Home Use Generators
If you’re looking for something to go in the home or to use to power construction-level equipment, you can forget about the weight restrictions and instead focus on the maximum wattage you’ll receive from the device.
You’ll want to concentrate on generators that can put out more than 5,000 continuous watts and have large fuel capacities to support sustained use. You might also want to consider safety features and ease-of-use features to make sure that everything runs smoothly.
If you need something versatile that can cover multiple scenarios, try to balance the features we already mentioned. You might also consider going for a dual-fuel unit, so you have more options for powering your unit. Dual-fuel generators have an internal gas tank, but you can also hook them up to propane tanks (which you can find at much larger volumes) to help extend your operating hours even further.
With almost all generators, you want to find something that is easy to start, easy to maintain, and will hold up under pressure. Electric start units provide the simplest operation, though, many pull-start units are reliable enough to start on the first or second draw consistently. Steel construction is the strongest, and units with fewer inner workings generally don’t require as much extra care.
Let’s wrap up what we’ve covered. Your choices for generators is vast, and you’ll probably end up basing your individual selection on what you want to do with your generator. If you’re concerned about having the maximum amount of power for your job-site or home, the DuroMax XP12000EH puts out an impressive 12,000 watts, more than enough for just about anything.
For those trying to secure something eco-friendly and highly portable, the WEN 56200i is a superior option, as its lightweight, multiple safety/environmental certifications, and fuel-efficiency give it an edge in this regard.
For a balance of features and reduced price point, the DuroStar DS4000S is hard to top. It puts out just enough power to supply most devices and equipment with clean power, isn’t too heavy, and keeps its extras basic, so you don’t have to fool around with too much.
Make sure to carefully evaluate all the options against your own personal criteria, and go with the model you think most closely matches your preferences. Best of luck in your search!