Portable generators are built to suit a range of needs, producing between 1,000 and 20,000 watts and costing several hundred to several thousand dollars. The best small generators are inverter-generators. Compared to traditional generators, inverter-generators typically produce less noise and cleaner power. They are great for recreational use and for powering sensitive electronics. You’ll also find generators for occasional home use—needed, for instance, when the power goes out—and generators intended for heavy duty, daily use.
Most generators run on gasoline, but propane and diesel models are also for sale. In order to use a portable generator to power sections of your home in the event of an electricity outage, you will also need to purchase and install a transfer switch, which regulates the connections between your power sources and your house
We’ve consulted review sources such as Electric Generators Direct, Amazon, Northern Tool + Equipment, Home Depot, and Good Housekeeping to find the highest rated portable power sources.
Briggs & Stratton 30470 ($917)
- Electric start
- Rugged construction
Top Review Sources:
- Electric Generators Direct: 5.0/5.0 “It’s hard to come by a mid-sized generator such as this one, loaded with features and that has electric start in this price range”
- Electric Generators Direct Customer Reviews: 4.9/5.0 (60+ reviews)
- Amazon: 4.0/5.0 (10+ reviews)
With 7,000 watts (8,750 watts surge) of power, the Briggs & Stratton 30470 is capable of keeping several rooms of your home fully operational when paired with a transfer switch. You can still use power cords with this unit, which includes four 120-volt outlets and one 240-volt outlet, but the 30470 is at its best when connected directly to your home’s electrical system. About the only appliance the 30470 is incapable of handling is a central air conditioner. Its 7-gallon gas tank can supply energy at 50% capacity for approximately nine hours. Big wheels and space-efficient construction ensure you don’t have to wrestle with this 250-pound machine in order to move it. Its dimensions are 34.8” L x 22.2” W x 25.9” H. Recoil starters are still common in this class of generators, so the electric starter in the 30470 is a notable convenience. Other features: an hour meter to remind you of oil changes, low-oil automatic shutdown, and included battery. The Briggs & Stratton 30470 ships with a 3-year warranty.
Generac GP5500 ($669)
- Easy to use and move
- No DC outlet
Top Review Sources:
- Electric Generators Direct: 5.0/5.0 “You can find cheaper generators, but no where near the quality of this Generac”
- Northern Tool + Equipment Customer Rating: 4.9/5.0 (15+ reviews)
- Home Depot Customer Reviews: 4.5/5.0 (5+ reviews)
The Generac GP5500 provides 5,500 watts of power (6,875 watts surge) from a 389cc gasoline engine. Reviewers like the GP5500 because of its excellent build quality, value, ease of use, and reliability. Think of the GP5500 as a way of keeping the vital systems running in the event of a home power outage. With 5,500 watts, you won’t be able to run your entire house, but you will be able to connect a refrigerator, furnace fan, and lights at the same time. You can use a transfer switch with the GP5500, but running extension cords is a more appropriate option with a generator of this size. The GP5500 has four 120v outlets and one 240v outlet, all of which are covered when not in use. It will run for 10 continuous hours under moderate load and holds 7.2 gallons of fuel. Its rigid frame and two-wheel design ease transport. The GP5500 weights 180 pounds and has dimensions of 33.5” L x 26.5” W x 27.5” H. It comes with a 2-year consumer warranty.
Generac GP17500E ($2,599)
- Immense capacity
- Many outlets
- Not CARB compliant
Top Review Sources:
- Electric Generators Direct: 5.0/5.0 “Recommended”
- Electric Generators Direct Customer Reviews: 4.8/5.0 (20+ reviews)
- Good Housekeeping Seal
The Generac GP17500E is about as powerful as portable generators get. It delivers 17,500 watts of continuous power and up to 26,250 watts surge. Its engine is a gasoline-powered 992cc unit capable of providing 10 hours of uninterrupted power when loaded at 50%. Fuel capacity is 16 gallons. The GP17500E fires up via an electric start system connected to the included 12-volt battery. 17,500 watts is enough to power central air conditioning systems of up to 60,000 BTUs. The GP17500E is capable of energizing an entire house. Its advantage over immobile, standby generators is that is doesn’t need propane or natural gas to run. Keep in mind, however, that portable generators do not have auto on/off switches; if you aren’t around when the power goes out, the GP17500E will not activate. If you need this functionality, look into standby generators. The GP17500E has an oil hour meter, low oil alert, 12-inch all-terrain wheels, and built-in lifting eye. Outlets include several AC-type and one DC-type. As large as the GP17500E is (48.5” L x 30.75” W x 38.5” H, 400 pounds), it is compact and rigid enough for one person to roll. The manufacturer’s warranty is 2 years for consumers.
Yamaha EF2000iS ($989)
- Fuel efficient
- Very portable
- Oil not included
Top Review Sources:
- Amazon: 5.0/5.0 (35+ reviews)
- Electric Generators Direct: 5.0/5.0 “A practical, versatile machine that can go anywhere with ease”
- Electric Generators Direct Customer Reviews: 5.0/5.0 (15+ reviews)
The Yamaha EF2000iS is a gas-powered inverter-generator of compact size and class-leading performance. The EF2000iS produces 1,600 watts of continuous power—enough to run several small appliances simultaneously. It is capable of producing a temporary surge of 2,000 watts should the demand arise. Built in are two 120v AC outlets and one 12v DC outlet. The EF2000iS is extremely portable, measuring only 19.3” L x 11” W x 17.9” H and weighing 44 pounds. Compared to older, traditional camping generators, the EF2000iS’s inverter alternator setup is much quieter (51.5 to 61 dB at a distance of about 20 feet). Its 1.1-gallon gas tank provides 8 to 10 hours of nonstop operation at moderate load. To conserve fuel, the EF2000iS features a smart throttle system that adjusts engine speed to match demand. Two EF2000iS’s can be connected to produce 3,200 watts of power. The Yamaha EF2000iS carries a 3-year consumer warranty.