A portable generator is a backup power source for large or small appliances in the event of a power outage or in situations when the power grid is not readily accessible, like a job site, camping, or tailgating. Designed with occasional use or on-the-go situations in mind, portable generators are smaller than whole-home or standby generators. Most portable generators have wheels and handles to make setting up and storing them convenient.
Portable generators exist for a wide range of purposes, including small, compact models with a few hundred watts of power for light-duty use; or larger high-power models with 12,000 or more peak watts. Jeff Brandlin, licensed electrician and owner of Assurance Electrical Services, prioritizes portability, fuel type, and size. “If you only need a portable generator occasionally with smaller loads," he says, "then get something smaller so that it won't take up too much space in your garage or shed."
Westinghouse WGen9500DFc 12,500/9,500-Watt Dual Fuel Portable Generator
Easy push-button or key fob startup
Dual fuel: gasoline or propane
Up to 12-hour run time using gasoline
Includes CO sensor
Louder than most
The Westinghouse WGen9500DFc takes our top spot for a portable generator. It offers plenty of power for most situations along with dual-fuel capabilities as well as user-friendly features that make it easier and safer to operate. For example, this portable generator is equipped with a push-button electric start; a key fob for a remote start (up to 260 feet); a transfer switch outlet; plus GFCI outlets, a CO sensor, and low-oil shut-off.
Whether dealing with a power outage or an off-grid situation, this Westinghouse model has enough watts to keep your essential items operating. It produces up to 12,500 peak watts and 9,500 running watts and has the following outlets: two GFCI 5-20R household duplex outlets; one L14-30R 120/240-volt twist-lock outlet, that is transfer-switch ready; and one 14-50R 120-volt/240-volt outlet. Every outlet is protected by a rubber cover.
The 6.6-gallon gas tank is large enough to fuel your power needs for up to 12 hours, which minimizes how often you need to refuel the generator and saves you the hassle of needing to do so in the middle of the night. Since this is a dual-fuel generator, it can also operate using a 20-pound propane tank for up to seven hours. A switch on the generator controls the fuel source without the need to shut off the generator to make an adjustment.
Nearly everything about this generator is flawless, except for its somewhat noisy operation, which, according to the manufacturer, is at least 74 decibels—about the noise level of city traffic.
Price at time of publish: $1,399
Type: Conventional | Fuel Source: Gasoline, propane | Wattage (Peak/Running): 12,500/9,500 (gas), 11,200/8,500 (propane) | Tank Size: 6.6 gallons | Dimensions: 26.5 x 26.1 x 27.2 inches
Jackery Solar Generator 1000
Lightweight at 22 pounds
Includes two 100W solar panels
Rated for 2,000 peak watts and 1,000 running watts
Some fan noise
For a fuel-free way to power your small appliances and devices, a solar generator is a great choice. Instead of relying on gasoline or another fuel source, this type of generator captures energy from the sun using solar panels, then stores it in a power bank for future use. The Jackery Solar Generator has up to 1,000-watt capacity and includes two 100W solar panels. At 22 pounds, the power station is also lighter and more portable than some other solar generators.
When fully charged (which takes about eight hours of sun exposure), this solar generator stores 1,002 watt-hours. If sunshine is hard to come by, you can also charge this solar generator using an AC or DC power supply. Power output is impressive, at 2,000 peak watts and 1,000 running watts. That's enough to operate a television for about 13 hours, a mini fridge for 17 hours, or recharge a laptop about eight times. And indeed, the outlets on the control panel are geared toward electronics and small appliances rather than powering larger appliances. You'll find two USB-C ports, two USB ports, a single DC outlet, and three 120V AC outlets.
A solar generator requires a power bank and solar panels. When you purchase this bundle from Jackery, you get everything you need, including the Explorer 1000 Portable Power Station, plus a pair of folding solar panels that each weigh only 9.1 pounds.
The only drawbacks we note are the noise of an internal fan. Of course, this is much lower than that of a gas generator, but it’s something to be aware of if you use this solar generator in a sleeping space or another quiet zone.
Price at time of publish: $1,649
Type: Solar | Fuel Source: Not applicable | Wattage (Peak/Running): 2,000/1,000 | Tank Size: Not applicable | Dimensions: 13.1 x 9.2 x 11.1 inches
Champion Power Equipment 100520 8750-Watt DH Series Open Frame Inverter, Electric Start
Impressive power output compared with other inverters
Open-frame design for easier engine access
Eco mode reduces noise and improves efficiency
Loud for an inverter
Oil needs change after five-hour break-in period
An inverter generator may be necessary if you’re using the power for sensitive appliances and electronics—or if you place a high priority on efficiency and noise reduction. This type of generator doesn’t subject appliances to spikes in voltage. Instead, an alternator passes the generated power through an inverter before supplying it to the outlet. This eliminates voltage fluctuations (referred to as "dirty" power). To prioritize those features without sacrificing power, consider the Champion DH Series Open Frame Inverter.
The Champion DH Series Open Frame Inverter is our top inverter choice because it delivers up to 8,750 starting watts and 7,000 running watts. That's an impressive power output for an inverter; many others offer only 2,500 to 4,500 surge watts. This is only one reason we believe the Champion DH Series Open Frame Inverter is one of the most capable inverters you can buy to supply power to electronics or appliances that may be damaged by fluctuating power from a conventional gasoline generator.
The control panel is outfitted with covered outlets that include a 120/240V 30A locking outlet (L14-30R), four 120V 20A GFCI-protected household outlets (5-20R), and a 12V DC outlet with a dual USB adapter.
As an open-frame inverter, the engine is visible, making it easier to access for maintenance. But it also means the inverter is louder than inverters with enclosed engines, registering at 72 decibels, according to the manufacturer, about the noise level of a washer or dryer. However, you can lower the operating noise by selecting its Eco mode, which also increases fuel efficiency.
Price at time of publish: $1,579
Type: Inverter | Fuel Source: Gasoline | Wattage (Peak/Running): 8,750/7,000 | Tank Size: 4.2 gallons | Dimensions: 26.6 x 25.6 x 23.7 inches
Champion Power Equipment 201156 4550-Watt/3650-Watt Gasoline Portable Generator
Remote-start key fob
Good fuel efficiency
Includes RV-ready outlet
Cold-start technology for reliable operation
Only offers 4,375 peak watts
Small fuel tank
For a gasoline generator that offers fuel economy, smart features, and user-friendly design in one compact package, look no further than this Champion model. With 4,375 starting watts and 3,500 running watts, this generator isn’t intended for whole-home use. However, it’s enough to keep a mix of low-wattage household appliances—for instance, a refrigerator, television, and another device or two—operating simultaneously. Or, it can power a single high-wattage appliance such as a washing machine, well pump, or a window air-conditioner. To avoid overloading the generator, always calculate the wattages of items you plan to run before hooking them up.
Fueled by a 4.7-gallon gas tank, this Champion generator can run for up to 14 hours at half-load capacity. Whether you’re powering appliances at home or taking this generator on the road, the long runtime means fewer gas tank fill-ups.
The Champion's options make it simpler to use. For example, a remote-start key fob fires it up from up to 80 feet; and cold-start technology helps ensure the engine starts even when temperatures plummet. Safety features, such as a carbon monoxide sensor and low-oil shutoff, are also included.
A digital display provides you with useful information about the generator’s operation, including voltage, frequency, and total operating hours. A carbon monoxide sensor has a safety shutoff if it detects elevated levels of the gas.
The only shortcomings we note are its small fuel tank capacity and that it offers only up to 4,375 peak watts, which may fall short for homeowners looking for increased power output. All in all, though, it’s a reliable and easy-to-use generator that comes at a value—it retails for less than $750.
Price at time of publish: $729
Type: Conventional | Fuel Source: Gasoline | Wattage (Peak/Running): 4,375/3,500 | Tank Size: 4.7 gallons | Dimensions: 24.9 x 22.9 x 22.4 inches
Best for Large Homes
Duromax XP12000HX 12000-Watt Dual Fuel Generator
Equipped with seven outlets
CO alert system
Delivers up to 12,000 surge watts
Must assemble wheels, feet, and handles
If you’re looking for a portable generator that can meet the power needs of a large home during an outage or storm, we recommend the Duromax XP12000HX. It supplies up to 12,000 peak watts and 9,500 running watts. While individual appliances vary in their electrical draw, this is enough power to run a central air conditioning system along with appliances such as a refrigerator and television, plus lights, household fans, and more.
To distribute all that power, this generator has more than the usual amount of outlets. The control panel features four 120-volt GFCI household outlets; one 120-volt 30A outlet; one 120-volt/240-volt 30A twist-lock outlet; and a heavy-duty 120-volt/240-volt 50A outlet that is transfer switch ready. The generator includes the convenience of a push-button start and the option to switch between gasoline or propane fuel sources.
Drawing on the 8.3-gallon gas tank, you can expect this portable generator to run up to 8.5 hours at a half load before it needs refilling. A carbon monoxide sensor alerts if it detects dangerous levels of the gas.
At 245 pounds, this generator requires some muscle to maneuver, but the included wheels and handles make it easier to set it up for use or storage.
Price at time of publish: $1,599
Type: Conventional | Fuel Source: Gasoline, propane | Wattage (Peak/Running): 12,000/9,500 (gas), 11,400/9,025 (propane) | Tank Size: 8.3 gallons | Dimensions: 29 x 30 x 26 inches
Best for RV
Westinghouse WGen3600cv 4,650/3,600-Watt Gasoline Powered RV-Ready Portable Generator
TT-30R outlet for RV use
Carbon monoxide auto-shutoff
Weighs less than other generators
Wheel-handle kit sold separately
Recoil start only
Whether you’re traveling in a trailer or staying in a tent, a generator can provide power for lights, fans, and electronic devices. The Westinghouse WGen3600cv RV-Ready Portable Generator is equipped for your next adventure, with features including a TT-30R outlet for RVs; a 4-gallon fuel tank that lasts for up to 10.5 hours (at half-load capacity); and a relatively low operating noise at 68 decibels (quieter than a washing machine), so you won’t annoy your neighbors at the campground.
Besides the RV outlet, the Westinghouse WGen3600cv also includes a pair of 120V 20A (5-20R) household outlets and one 120V/30A (L5-30R) outlet. It keeps safety in mind by including a carbon monoxide sensor that automatically shuts off the generator if it detects elevated levels of the gas. Its fuel gauge lets you monitor gas consumption so you won't be caught in the dark.
Unlike many portable generators we evaluated, this model has a recoil start, rather than an electric starter. However, we note that it is known to crank right up on the first pull, so the lack of a push-button start shouldn't be a deal-breaker. At about 100 pounds, it's relatively light for a generator, but the lack of a handle or wheels (which can be purchased separately) makes it rather clumsy to move. On the other hand, it shouldn't slide around in the bed of your truck or in the storage compartment of your travel trailer or RV.
Price at time of publish: $369
Type: Conventional | Fuel Source: Gasoline | Wattage (Peak/Running): 4,650/3,600 | Tank Size: 4 gallons | Dimensions: 18.7 x 17.5 x 23.3 inches
Honda EU2200i 2200-Watt Remote Stop/Recoil Start Bluetooth Super Quiet Gasoline Powered Inverter Generator
Operates between 48 and 57 decibels
Lightweight at only 47 pounds
Monitor and operate generator with smartphone app
Only one outlet
Small fuel tank
It’s no secret that generators are known for being noisy, making them a nuisance to use in residential neighborhoods, near places of business, or in a campground. If noise level is important to you when picking the best generator, shop for an inverter generator, which is known for being quieter, more energy-efficient, and often more compact. The popular Honda EU2200i Inverter Generator registers from 48 to 57 decibels—lower than normal conversation. That's significantly below the noise levels some other gasoline generators, including inverters, produce.
At just under $1,200, it’s costlier than gasoline generators with similar power output. But its impressive fuel economy helps make up for the price premium. This efficient generator consumes only 0.24 gallons of fuel per hour when running a full load. The fuel tank is small, at just under 1 gallon, but given the inverter’s excellent fuel economy, you can operate the generator for up to 6 hours at half-load capacity. A single 120V 20A outlet supplies up to 2,200 starting watts and 1,800 running watts of clean energy.
One other standout feature of the Honda EU2200i is its Bluetooth functionality. Using an app on your smartphone, you can monitor the generator’s operation or shut it off. It’s also a handy way to receive reminders when the generator is due for service.
One feature that is missing is push-button start, but the recoil start functions reliably, and we don't find this a major concern.
Price at time of publish: $1,199
Type: Inverter | Fuel Source: Gas | Wattage (Peak/Running): 2,200 | Tank Size: 0.95 gallons | Dimensions: 20 x 11.4 x 16.7 inches
DuroMax XP12000EH Portable Generator
Connects to propane tank or draws from an 8.3 gallon gas tank
Voltage switch to maximize power to 120V outlets
Supplies up to 12,000 peak watts
No carbon monoxide sensor
Lacks digital display
Gasoline generators are becoming more versatile with the increasing use of dual-fuel technology. Instead of relying solely on an internal gas tank, more generators are outfitted to run on a propane fuel source, too. Propane is appealing as a generator fuel source because it can be stored for longer periods than gasoline and contributes to less buildup in the carburetor. These dual-fuel generators are practical and appealing, especially when gasoline may become scarce due to demand or limited access, such as in a natural disaster or survival situation.
For this type of flexibility, we recommend the DuroMax XP12000EH Dual-Fuel Portable Generator, with an internal gas tank with 8.3 gallons of capacity, besides its propane adaptability. It supplies up to 12,000 surge watts and 9,500 running watts, so you can keep your home, garage, or workshop running during power outages. To make use of all that power, this generator is equipped with outlets to supply 120V and 240V power. A switch enables you to supply maximum power to the 120-volt outlets for increased amperage to handle heavy loads, or you can operate at both 120 and 240 volts simultaneously.
Cranking it up is fast and simple using the keyed electric start, or you can rely on the recoil starter as a backup. It includes a low-oil shutoff but not a carbon monoxide sensor.
Price at time of publish: $1,399
Type: Conventional | Fuel Source: Gas, propane | Wattage (Peak/Running): 12,000/9,500 (gas) 11,400/9,025 (propane) | Tank Size: 8.3 gallons | Dimensions: 29 x 30 x 26 inches
Champion Power Equipment 100416 10000-Watt Tri-Fuel Portable Generator
Runs on gasoline, propane, and natural gas
LCD display for important operating information
Expensive for its capacity
No 50A outlet
If you want the most flexibility in a fuel source for a portable generator, choose a tri-fuel model. These generators are fueled by an internal gas tank or can be connected to a propane tank or natural gas line. We recommend the Champion Tri-Fuel Portable Generator for features that make setting up and running it easier, such as push-button start and an LED display for monitoring operation.
As with any dual-fuel or tri-fuel generator, you achieve the most power output when using gasoline. For this Champion model, you can expect 10,000 peak watts and 8,000 running watts. If you use propane, the power output is 9,000 peak watts and 7,200 watts. For natural gas, you can expect 8,750 peak watts and 7,000 running watts, according to the manufacturer. All should be enough power to operate large appliances, such as a central air conditioner or water heater, or a combination of smaller appliances, such as an air compressor, fans, and lights.
The generator lacks a 50A receptacle but is equipped with a 120V 30A locking outlet (L5-30R), a 120/240V 30A locking outlet (L14-30R), and four 120V 20A GFCI-protected household outlets (5-20R).
This Champion tri-fuel generator's safety features include a carbon monoxide sensor and low-oil shutoff. Plus, a digital LCD display shows you useful information that includes session runtime, total operating hours, and voltage and frequency.
This generator costs from $1,200 to $1,500 but pays off in terms of flexibility and power for keeping your home, business, or RV running independently of the power grid.
Price at time of publish: $1,249
Type: Conventional | Fuel Source: Gas, propane, natural gas | Wattage (Peak/Running): 10,000/8,000 (gas), 9,000/7,200 (propane), 8,750/7,000 (natural gas) | Tank Size: 8.5 gallons | Dimensions: 26 x 28.2 x 27.6 inches
Best for Contractors
DeWalt DXGNR8000 8000-Watt Electric Start Gas-Powered Portable Generator
Idle control function to improve fuel efficiency
7.5-gallon fuel tank
Smart meter provides remaining runtime based on load
Recoil start only
On the job site, a generator provides much-needed power for tools, equipment, and devices. Contractors should look for a generator that offers high levels of power output along with portability and durability. The DeWalt DXGNR8000 checks all those boxes while producing 10,000 peak watts and 8,000 running watts. Its five outlets support power tools, equipment, and appliances.
This portable gasoline-only generator also adds features that are helpful on a work site. For example, a smart meter displays fuel level and time remaining at the current power level, so your generator doesn’t give out unexpectedly in the middle of a job. Its 7.5-gallon fuel tank should deliver up to nine hours of runtime on a half-load. To conserve gas, you can enable the idle control function. It throttles down the speed of the motor when demand is less, saving gas and reducing generator noise.
The DeWalt DXGNR8000 lacks a push-button start, so you have to rely on the recoil mechanism. That’s not unusual for tools used on a job site, but it’s something to be aware of if you prioritize the convenience of an electric start on a generator.
Price at time of publish: $1,449
Type: Conventional | Fuel Source: Gas | Wattage (Peak/Running): 10,000/8,000 | Tank Size: 7.5 gallons | Dimensions: 29 x 28.5 x 30 inches
WEN DF475T 4750-Watt Dual Fuel Portable Generator
120V or 240V operation
Efficient gasoline consumption
No carbon monoxide sensor
Requires key for electric start
For less than $500, the WEN DF475T Portable Generator is an affordable yet capable pick for a portable generator. It supplies up to 4,750 surge watts and 3,800 running watts when operating with gasoline and offers the versatility to switch to propane fuel with the turn of a dial. The internal 4-gallon gasoline tank runs up to 11 hours at half-load capacity or seven hours on a 20-pound propane tank. The package includes a 47-inch LPG hose.
The control panel is outfitted with the basic outlets you need for home, camping, or tailgating: two 120V GFCI (5-20R) outlets, a NEMA 30A twist lock (L14-30R) for 120V or 240V operation, and a 12V DC plug. A switch lets you alternate between 120V and 240V power supply, but adjusting to 240V for the twist lock outlet means the two 120V outlets are inoperable.
For the sake of convenience, this model has an electric start, but it uses a key rather than a push-button start, as you find on many other portable generators.
This budget generator is a great option for supplying power for a few essential items, but it’s not powerful enough to use for a whole house. It also lacks a carbon monoxide sensor, which is something to be aware of but may not be a dealbreaker since a portable generator should never be used indoors or near points of entry due to dangerous fumes.
Price at time of publish: $449
Type: Conventional | Fuel Source: Gasoline, propane | Wattage (Peak/Running): 4,750/3,800 (gas), 4,350/3,500 (propane) | Tank Size: 4 gallon | Dimensions: 23.2 x 17.5 x 18.5 inches
The Westinghouse WGen9500DFc is our top recommendation for a portable generator that balances power and value. It delivers 12,500 peak watts and 9,500 running watts, has dual-fuel capability, and includes important safety features such as a carbon monoxide sensor and low-oil shutoff. If you’re searching for a portable generator that emphasizes affordability, then consider the WEN DF475T 4750-Watt Dual-Fuel Portable Generator. It has less power output (4,500 peak watts and 3,750 running watts), but it’s also a dual-fuel generator that can run on gasoline or propane.
What to Look For in a Portable Generator
Portable generators come in two types: conventional and inverter. “Conventional gasoline generators are loud, bulky, and require frequent refueling," says Jeff Brandlin, licensed electrician and owner of Assurance Electrical Services. "Inverters are more compact, quiet, and fuel-efficient.” For this reason, he recommends inverter generators for ongoing or long-term power supply needs. As previously mentioned, inverter generators can avoid voltage fluctuations and are best used if you need to power devices vulnerable to power surges, such as computers and televisions.
Wattage is one of the most important factors to consider when buying a portable generator since it determines the generator’s power output. Wattage is expressed in two ways: starting watts (also referred to as peak watts) and running watts. You need to calculate the average watts of the items you plan to operate using the generator to ensure that you pick one with enough power for your appliances, tools, equipment, and devices. Brandlin says a portable generator with 5,000 to 7,000 watts is typical for a small house, while a large house likely requires 10,000 to 15,000 watts.
To put that power to use, look for a generator with outlets that match your needs. If you plan to operate large and small appliances, look for a mix of 120V household outlets and heavy-duty 120/240V outlets.
Traditionally, gasoline is the conventional fuel source for portable generators, but an increasing number of generators give you the option to use propane as well (though not at the same time). Tri-fuel generators, which function using gasoline, propane, or natural gas, are becoming more available. Generally, a generator runs longest on gasoline, given equal fuel tank capacity.
Solar generators offer a fuel-free alternative. The power bank stores energy that can be used to run small appliances and devices. However, they’re more limited in the wattage they supply when compared with fossil-fuel-powered generators.
If you live in a cold climate, automatic start or remote start may save you a trip outside to start up the generator. It enables you to fire up the generator using a key fob, usually up to 80 feet away. Some models, such as our Best Overall pick, the Westinghouse WGen9500DFc, offer remote start up to 260 feet away.
Recoil start is the standard method of firing up a portable generator, but push-button start may be worth considering if you have limited mobility in the arm or shoulder or simply want more convenience. Pressing the button on the DuroMax XP12000HX, our best choice for large homes, replaces the act of using a pull cord to turn the engine over.
Choosing a generator with sensors for automatic shutoff can protect your generator and minimize the risk of a safety hazard. The two most common sensors with safety shutoffs are a carbon monoxide sensor and a low-oil sensor. While it’s not required by law, a carbon monoxide sensor, such as on the Westinghouse WGen3600cv Portable Generator, our choice for Best for RVs. can be an important safeguard to prevent the hazards associated with elevated levels of this colorless, odorless gas. A low-oil shutoff, such as on the Champion Power Equipment 100554, our choice for the Best Gasoline portable generator, prevents engine failure.
What home needs can a portable generator run?
Portable generators can be relied on to power many common household appliances, electronics, and devices. This includes large appliances, such as a central air conditioner or furnace, or conveniences, such as a lamp or television. The wattage of a generator (see below) determines what appliances it can operate, either individually or together.
What size portable generator do you need?
To find the right-size portable generator for your situation, start by making a list of which appliances and devices you want to run. For each item, note the running watts and starting watts from the manufacturer, or use general guidelines found online.
Now it's time to do some math. Add up the running watts of all items you want to run off the generator. Then, look for the item with the largest number of starting watts. Add this starting watts figure to the total running watts you calculated. This is your peak wattage number and should guide you in selecting a generator that produces enough energy for your needs.
What does your home need to use a portable generator?
Unlike a standby generator, which requires installation and specific electrical components, a portable generator is much easier to set up, says our consultant electrician, Jeff Brandlin, owner of Assurance Electrical Services. Here's what Brandlin says you most likely need to use a portable generator at your home:
Outside Outlet: All portable generators, regardless of type, emit carbon monoxide. As a result, the Centers for Disease Control reminds homeowners to never use a portable generator inside the house or garage and to ensure that it’s more than 20 feet away from their home, doors, and windows. Make sure you know where your outlets are outside before purchasing a generator.
Extension Cord: You need an extension cord long enough for where you want to place the generator and then some extra for safety reasons. (Generators create heat, which can melt electrical cords.) Always use a heavy-duty extension cord that is safe for use with a generator.
Leveled Area: Make sure the area around the generator is level so water doesn't collect on top of it from rain or snow melting off roofs nearby. That could cause damage.
How do you hook up a portable generator?
To safely and properly hook up a portable generator, always follow the manufacturer’s instructions and standard safety practices. Never put the generator inside your home or garage. Brandlin offers these tips for successfully connecting your generator:
- Check the voltage output on your generator and make sure it matches the voltage requirements of your appliances.
- Connect the generator to an extension cord (preferably one with a circuit breaker) and plug that into a power outlet near where you'll be using it.
- If you're using multiple appliances from the same generator, use separate extension cords for each appliance, so that if one fails, only one appliance goes down with it.
Why Trust The Spruce?
This article was researched and written by Erica Puisis, who specializes in large and small home appliances, along with home improvement features and additions. To find the best portable generators, she compared models based on wattage, fuel source, outlet type, and convenience and safety features. In addition, Puisis interviewed Jeff Brandlin, a licensed residential, commercial, and industrial electrician. Brandlin owns and operates Assurance Electrical Services in Prescott, Arizona.