Best Portable Generators of 2018 – Top Picks & Reviews

portable generatorFrom keeping the fridge fresh to powering portable heaters, a portable generator can make difficult situations easier to handle. As well as being useful for the home, a portable generator can help a small business keep running, power a remote construction project or even keep camping from being too primitive! Whatever the case, there are plenty of reasons to buy a portable generator in 2018.

Buying a portable generator is easy enough but finding and deciding on the best one for your needs takes a little more research. Luckily for you, we’ve compiled a list of portable generator reviews with all of the pros and cons to help make the process quicker and easier. What’s more, read beyond the reviews and you’ll also find a handy hints and tips section to help you narrow down the options and find the perfect portable generator for you. Let’s get started with our reviews of the top 5 portable generators of 2018!

Top 5 Best Portable Generators 2018

MODELPRICEPRODUCT DIMENSIONSITEM WEIGHTUSER RATING
Westinghouse WH7500E
$$$$
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26 x 27.5 x 28.75 inches201 pounds4.9/5
Top Pick
Sportsman GEN4000LP
$$
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17.5 x 17 x 23 inches
88 pounds
4.6/5
WEN 56200i
WEN 56200i
$$$
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18 x 11 x 18 inches
48 pounds




4.6/5
Quietest
Champion Power Equipment 46539
Champion Power Equipment 46539
$$$
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30.7 x 22 x 22.8 inches140 pounds4.4/5
WEN 56180
WEN 56180
$
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17.1 x 15.9 x 19.9 inches
50 pounds
4.3/5
Best for the Money

1. Westinghouse WH7500E – Our Top Pick

Westinghouse WH7500EYou can provide portable power for work and play situations with the Westinghouse WHY700E. This gas-powered generator provides 7,500 running watts of power and 9,000 starting watts. It’s easy to start thanks to the one-touch electric system while the simplified control system makes it easy to operate. The Pulse-Flo muffler means that this is one quiet portable generator.

Not only is it quiet for its size, this is also a particularly sturdy generator. The 420cc engine is durable as is the all-steel construction of the WH7500E. It’s thus able to withstand harsh environments and weather without trouble. Transportation of this portable generator is made easy with the ergonomic folding handles and robust tires as well as a wheel and handle kit for maintenance. It also comes with a tool kit. The wheels and handles are necessary since it is rather heavy at some 200lbs but this is a small compromise for the excellent power provided.

Overall this is a well-built portable generator that is less noisy than generators of a similar size. However, the noise factor really depends on where it’s being used. It will start up without fuss and power up what you need and should have plenty to spare. The 6.6-gallon fuel tank allows an 11 hour run time at 25% load. It’s quick and easy to use which makes it a good purchase for anybody – there’s no real technical expertise required.

Pros

  • Easy setup
  • Quick to start
  • Relatively quiet for the size

Cons

  • Rather heavy

2. Sportsman GEN4000LP – Best Portable Propane Generator

Sportsman GEN4000LPWhether you’re in need of temporary power in an emergency situation or simply for a small camping trip, the Sportsman GEN4000LP is ideal. This 4000-watt generator has an engine run time of 10 hours at 50% which is quite efficient, particularly for the price point. It should be fine for powering most essentials during a power outage. Meanwhile, the engine is very quiet at just 68 decibels and this is thanks to the muffler.

One of the best things about the GEN4000LP is that it runs on liquid propane. While most portable generators run on gasoline, this generator runs cleaner as a result. In fact, carbon monoxide emissions are up to 40% lower. The generator comes with a number of high quality features including automatic low shutdown and overload protected outlets which may prove the difference when deciding between a similarly priced unit.

The GEN4000LP weighs 88lbs which is fairly light compared to other generators in this list. This, as well as its compact size, make it particularly portable in comparison to many generators on the market, however, a minor disadvantage is that there is no wheel kit. Also, the recoil start engine could be easier to start and might take a few tugs to get running. Despite this, it’s the best portable propane generator available, in our opinion. It has a 100-gallon fuel tank which is one of the largest of all portable generators.

Pros

  • Runs on liquid propane
  • Compact build
  • Very large fuel tank

Cons

  • No wheel kit
  • No volt meter

3. WEN 56200i – Quietest Portable Generator

WEN 56200iMany portable generators on the market are just too noisy to be viable options for certain situations. In such cases, the WEN 65200i may well be the solution as the quietest portable generator. Clean energy and quiet operation are the main selling points of this particular unit. It runs at 51 decibels (quieter than an average conversation) at quarter load which makes it particularly ideal for camping and those concerned about disturbing neighbors!

This is a lightweight unit at just 48lbs and there’s a handle to increase portability. The 56200i can generate 1600 running watts and 2000 starting watts. If you need more energy it’s easy enough to link up two generators with the Parallel Connection Kit which is sold separately. One particularly interesting feature of the WEN 56200i is the eco-mode. The motor automatically adjusts the fuel consumption so you don’t use an unnecessary amount of gasoline.

One of the few disadvantages of this unit is that there is no fuel valve. Also, some people complain of the manual not being in-depth enough but this shouldn’t be problematic for most people, particularly those already familiar with generators. For a super quiet portable generator that is light and eco-friendly, this is a great choice.

Pros

  • Clean energy
  • Lightweight

Cons

  • No fuel valve
  • Manual problems

4. Champion Power Equipment 46539 – Best Portable Generator for RV’s

Champion Power Equipment 46539One of the standout features of the Champion Power Equipment 46539 is the wireless remote start provided by a key fob. This allows you to start and stop the generator up to 80 feet away meaning that you don’t always have to go out into the cold! Able to produce 3500 running watts and 4000 starting watts, it is the best portable generator on the market for RV’s.

The standard 30A RV outlet has plenty of power and is a great solution for when you’re away on camping trips as well as an emergency solution at home when there’s an outage. The 46539 is able to run up to 12 hours on a full tank of gas at 50% load. Aside from the remote start, there is an equally easy option of a push button.

This is a particularly durable portable generator as it is built to start up easily even in cold conditions. The durable steel frame with folding handle and tires ensure that it should go the distance. At 124lb, it’s not light but the tires and handle certainly help. It’s rubber mounted which means fewer vibrations and a quieter experience. While not the quietest portable generator, it’s not the loudest either. This unit has easy setup and is a reliable choice for a variety of situations.

Pros

  • Remote control start
  • Solid construction

Cons

  • No low oil warning
  • Quite heavy

 


5. WEN 56180 – Best for the Money

WEN 56180With the 1800 surge watts and 1500 running watts, the WEN 56180 is more than capable of running the likes of your television and refrigerator though it isn’t the most powerful portable generator. The 1.45-gallon fuel tank runs for up to 7.5 hours at half load. It’s a smaller generator but provides a good amount of electricity in an emergency.

At 51 lbs, this generator is very light and the compact nature of this portable generator makes transportation easy. Setup is also quick and easy. It’s a particularly good portable generator for camping thanks not only to its small size but also the spark arrestor which means that it can safely be used in parks and forests.

In general, this is a generator with lower emissions and quiet operation due to the OHV engine. Perhaps one of the disadvantages of the WEN 56180 is that it isn’t ideal for long-term emergencies as it’s largely aimed at small power needs such as running your refrigerator. However it’s the best portable generator for the money and this makes it a great choice for smaller electrical needs, though don’t rely on it for extensive powering in long-term emergencies.

Pros

  • Lightweight
  • Easy setup

Cons

  • Not the most powerful
  • No electric start

Portable Generator Buying Guide

So we’ve looked at the 5 best portable generators on the market. Now it’s time to further narrow down your options by exploring everything from top tips to features to consider. First, we’ll explore what you might need a portable generator for. Then we’ll look at some key factors to consider before purchase. Finally, we’ll answer any common questions you might have. With any luck, this will make it clear which portable generator is for you.

What do you need it for?

This is the first question you should be asking yourself when you’re thinking of buying a portable generator. After all, a portable generator can be used in a variety of situations. You’ll want your purchase to perfectly match what you need it to do. Here are a few things that portable generators can do for you:

Home backup: Let’s face it; power outages happen. And when the power does go out, you can be prepared and keep things unning with a portable generator. Whether it’s ensuring the food in the fridge doesn’t go stale or that you have some source of light, a portable generator is the right choice.

Home DIY: It’s not always easy to get power to where you need it. A portable generator can provide backup power and help power your DIY tools such as saws and drills. This can help save so much time in the long run.

Work: Portable generators are designed to be moved around. As such, they need to be lightweight and durable. This makes them ideal for work on job sites where power may not always be easily accessible.

Play: You might think that portable generators are all work and no play. But they can help you on camping trips by powering up your phone or even the coffee maker! They can make life so much easier in such situations.

4 Key Factors to Consider

Once you’ve decided what you need (or want!) your portable generator for, it’s time to take a look at the key things to consider before you make your all-important purchase. From power to price, there’s plenty to help make your choice easier.

  1. Power
    It’s obvious that the primary purpose of a portable generator is to provide power. What we mean specifically is wattage. It’s very important that you first determine how much power (or how many watts) you need to power certain items. You don’t want to purchase a portable generator and end up realizing that it doesn’t have enough power for your needs. The key is to overestimate and at least then you’ll have some to spare.
  2. Type
    That you’re here reading this comprehensive guide to portable generators suggests you’re pretty set on getting one. But it would be remiss of us not to mention that a standby generator may be worth considering, depending on your needs. Standby generators have more power but come at a higher price. They also lack the portability required by many people so keep this in mind before making your decision.
  3. Special features
    The most important thing your portable generator can do is provide power when you need it. But that doesn’t make the special features of a particular unit any less important. Special features can be anything from having an eco-mode to the ability to remote start and stop your generator. The special features might just prove the difference between one unit and another so be sure to keep an eye on these.
  4. Price
    Generators vary widely in price and thus there are options to suit all budgets. Standby generators are bigger and can provide more power but these are among the most expensive on the market. Portable generators tend to be more affordable. Price comes down to the brand and of course, the amount of power supplied. Whether the unit has any special features can also have an impact on price.

Common Questions Answered

Now that we’ve learned about some of the portable generators on the market, established what you need it for and considered a few key factors, we’ll take a look at some of the frequent questions buyers of portable generators have.

Should I buy a standby or backup generator for my home?
Both standby and backup generators can help provide power in emergency situations. However, the main difference between the two is that standby generators are more of a long-term, permanent solution and portable generators more temporary. This is the compromise for having a generator that is cheaper and much more portable! What you buy is down to how much space you have and where you need it. If you’re only ever going to use it at home and have the space and the budget to match, a standby generator is worth considering.

Do portable generators require much maintenance?
Much like any other power equipment, a portable generator does require regular maintenance. This can help increase the life of your generator. From operating it regularly to draining the engine, there are a few jobs that can ensure the durability of the unit. You should also check parts regularly, particularly the fuel filter, air filter and spark plug as these can show signs of wear and tear with time. Buying and keeping replacements just in case is a good idea to ensure you’re always prepared for any emergency.

How important is the size and weight of a generator?
Standby generators are bigger and heavier which makes portable generators so much more flexible. Despite this, the size and weight of portable generators can still vary a great deal. While a smaller, lighter generators are much easier to move around, it’s still important to look at things such as the engine and tank capacity which can have some effect on size and weight. At the end of the day, you have to weigh up whether you want something portable, powerful or perhaps something in between.

Are there any features I should look for in a portable generator?
The most obvious features to look for in a portable generator are those related to power. However, some less obvious features include handles and wheels which increase the ease with which you can transport your generator. Another feature to consider is the electric start which eliminates the need to pull a cord to get the unit running. However, it’s not a bad idea to have a generator that has both, just in case you’re having trouble with one!

Where should I put my portable generator?
Your portable generator should be outside since it produces carbon monoxide gas. Such fumes can cause serious poisoning so positioning your portable generator away from windows and doors is essential. It should be protected from the elements within a dry enclosure that still allows good air circulation.


Conclusion

As you can see, there are a variety of portable generators on the market. They come in a range of sizes and styles and also have a number of special features to consider. Choosing a portable generator to suit your needs isn’t easy as there are just so many things to consider. If you’re still in doubt, take another look at our reviews of portable generators!

The portable generator has experienced something of a revolution in recent years as they’ve become smaller and lighter. What’s more, the wide range of units means that there are a lot of high-quality products to suit everyone’s budget! It’s an important purchase and can save you a lot of hassle in the long run if you’re already prepared.

Hopefully this guide’s reviews, hints, and tips are enough to help you make your decision. Make sure you get that portable generator purchased soon and rest safe in the knowledge that you’re covered the next time power goes out!

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