Most of us are used to only being able to plug things in indoors. After all, our homes, offices, and workplaces are the most convenient locations to connect to the greater power grid. It’s how we power computers, appliances, and machines all the time.
But sometimes you need portable power. That’s where portable generators are useful. These machines are basically small engines you can set up wherever you like. They can run off fuel, propane, or regular batteries. Today, let’s take a look at the best generators for the money and see which ones might be best for your needs.
- Best Overall – If you want a powerful portable generator, go with the Westinghouse WGen9500 Heavy Duty Portable Generator. It’s heavy, but it comes with wheels to make for easier transportation and a remote start key fob for even more user-friendliness.
- Runner-Up – The DuroStar DS4000S 4000 Watt Portable Recoil Start Gas Fuel Generator is another particularly great choice. It’s pretty lightweight but comes with a durable metal cage for added protection, plus a built-in surge protector.
- Best Budget – Lastly, consider the Jackery Portable Power Station Explorer 240 if you want something more budget-friendly. It’s quite affordable compared to other portable generators on the market. But it’s also super lightweight and ideal for indoor use thanks to its low noise and electrical power.
Who Should Get This?
Wondering who should bother getting one of the best generators for the money? Here’s who they can serve:
- Campers – folks who like to spend lots of time outdoors will get a lot of use out of portable generators. You can use your laptop or other electric appliances thanks to their portable power.
- Folks with garages/workshops – sometimes it’s tough to connect your outdoor appliances to indoor outlets. Use a portable generator, and you’ve got a mobile solution.
- Construction workers – sometimes you need to bring a generator to your worksite to use one or more tools.
How We Picked the Best Generators For The Money?
Want to find the best generators for the money? Keep these factors in mind to ensure you grab a great generator for your needs.
The first thing you have to look at is how many watts a particular generator produces. In short, the number of watts that a generator produces determines how many devices or machines it can power. More watts mean more power to go around.
It helps to consider the watt requirements for all the devices you plan to hook up to a generator before buying. Add all of the different wattage requirements for many devices together to see if it is below or above the running wattage advertised by a generator’s box.
For example, if a generator has 3300 running watts, then it can power:
- A device that needs 1000 W
- An electrical appliance that needs 1200 W
- And another machine that needs 800 W
As you can see, it has some watts leftover even after powering all three devices. However, keep in mind that generators that produce more watts need more fuel. They’re also usually heavier and louder.
Another thing to consider is the running or surge power a generator can provide. The running watts are the watts that it can produce consistently. Surge (also called starting) power is how many watts it produces as you start it up.
The starting power is important because some machines may require a certain amount of starting watts to get going. This value is often higher than the running watts they need to stay running. Always consider both values together when buying a generator for a particular machine or appliance.
For example, consider a machine that needs 3000 starting watts but only 2500 running watts. It would not run with a generator that can only reach up to 2500 starting watts.
Obviously, the portability and weight of a given generator matter a lot. Lighter generators are easier to carry around and can be brought with you on camping trips without too much trouble. Heavier generators usually produce more power but are more difficult to carry.
Even heavy generators can still be manoeuvred if they have good handles. You can use these handles by yourself or enlist a friend to help take them from your car to a campsite or vice versa.
In general, generators that produce 2000 W or less will weigh 90-70 pounds or so. Generators that produce more watts can easily weigh up to 200 pounds or more. There’s no right or wrong answer for this aspect: it all depends on what you need.
You should also see if a generator comes with wheels for easier transportation.
You should also consider the outlets or hookups that a generator comes with. Portable generators will often have several power outlets that you can use to plug in machines or appliances. Always note the voltage that these generators have for their plugs – 120 V is standard in the US. But you can also find generators that have 240 V outlets.
Other generators may come with USB outlets. This enables you to quickly charge phones, laptops, and other devices using your portable generator. Again, there’s no right or wrong answer here. Just go with what works for your situation or needs.
Think about the fuel source that a given generator needs as well. Most portable generators rely on gasoline, although a few are purely battery-powered or may even be solar-powered. The latter options are great if you want to be more environmentally friendly.
But keep in mind that gas-powered generators usually produce higher wattage and, of course, more power in general.
Lastly, think about the accessories you might get with one of your purchases. Some generators come with remote start keys, extra battery chargers, toolkits, or user maintenance guides. These are great things to consider if two generators are pretty similar and you need to decide between them.
Best Generators For The Money: Our Picks in 2020
Westinghouse WGen9500 Heavy Duty Portable Generator
This generator is one of the most powerful portable models on the market. It can produce 12,500 peak watts and 9500 running watts. Plus, it can run for up to 12 hours with a 6.6-gallon fuel tank. It even comes with a fuel gauge, so you can easily keep an eye on how much fuel you are using at a time.
It also comes with tons of ports, including several 120 V and 240 V outlets plus USB ports. This allows it to power a multitude of devices and machines without trouble.
The generator as a whole weighs 220 pounds. But it does come with an excellent handle and wheels, meaning one person should be able to easily manoeuvre it around a campsite. It’s also fairly easy to carry using the exterior, durable cage that protects the generator from being rattled around too much.
At a Glance
- Powered By: Gas
- Running Watts: 9500
- Weight: 220 lbs
- Voltage:120/240 V
- It comes with a remote start key fob – you can use this to start the generator from afar.
- It has excellent accessories – some of the things you’ll get with your purchase include an oil funnel, a battery charger, and a toolkit.
- It comes with a three-year warranty – this includes limited service, labour, and parts.
- Automatic low-oil shutdown – this prevents the generator from being damaged if you aren’t paying attention.
- The battery is prone to fail – the battery may die ahead of time, necessitating a replacement.
- 50 AMP cord is heavy – this inflexible cord is difficult to manoeuvre around to plug the generator.
DuroStar DS4000S 4000 Watt Portable Recoil Start Gas Fuel Generator
This high-quality portable generator can produce up to 4000 peak watts and 3300 running watts. This provides more than enough power for a plethora of camping machines and appliances.
It also has a decent fuel capacity of 3.96 gallons. Perhaps more importantly, the generator isn’t too loud compared to others on the market.
This generator is a great choice in part because it has an excellent control panel. This includes several power outlets so you can combine this generator with most appliances and machines. There are three 120 V outlets in total, plus a voltmeter so you can keep an eye on your voltage output.
At a Glance
- Powered By: Gas
- Running Watts: 3300
- Weight: 94 lbs
- Voltage: 120 V
- Lightweight and easy to carry – this generator comes with a durable exterior cage that you can pick up, and it only weighs 94 pounds.
- Has automatic low oil shut off – this avoids an accident if you aren’t paying attention to the oil level.
- Has surge arrest technology – this is a built-in surge protector to avoid any electrical accidents.
- All metal construction is one of the most durable portable generators even though it’s quite light.
- Included tools are cheap – while this generator does come with a few tools to help you perform maintenance, these are easy to break.
- It doesn’t come with wheels – this generator doesn’t come with wheels even though the picture shows it with wheels. You actually have to pay extra for these attachments, so you’re forced to lift it manually.
Jackery Portable Power Station Explorer 240
Here’s an extremely portable generator roughly the size of a tool chest. It’s a smaller device more suited for those in need of an indoor-only generator, as it’s perfect for setting on a table or countertop. It can produce 240 W regularly and is powered with a lithium-ion battery pack instead of another type of fuel like gasoline.
This means that there are no fumes or internal clanging to worry about. It runs quietly for indoor use and is specifically designed for charging laptops and other portable electronics. To this end, it comes with a single AC 110 V outlet, plus a pair of USB ports. It even comes with a DC car charger port for added versatility.
If you like, you can pair this generator with a solar panel for fast recharging. Thus, it’s a great indoor generator for camping. Try it if you need something for recharging your mobile devices instead of your larger appliances.
At a Glance
- Powered By: Lithium-ion battery
- Running Watts: 240
- Weight: 6.6 lbs
- Voltage: 120 V
- Very easy to carry – with their durable handle at the top, moving this generator from place to place is a breeze.
- It comes with a battery indicator – this is located on the front of the generator, so you always know how much power you have left to disperse to your other devices.
- Ideal for laptops – it can provide up to three or four charges for a full laptop or similar devices.
- Durable casing – this protects the generator from wear and tear as you take it on camping trips.
- Many appliances are excluded due to their low wattage – heaters, hairdryers, microwave ovens, and more are all too energy-intensive for this generator.
- Recharge time takes a while – if you don’t use a solar panel that hooks up to it, recharging this generator often takes multiple hours.
WEB 56200i 2000-Watt Gas Powered Portable Inverter Generator
Let’s get back to the gas-powered portable generators with this model. It weighs 50 pounds and is quieter than many other generators on the market at 53 dB. It’s powerful enough to produce 2000 starting watts and 1600 running watts. So it’s great for small to medium-sized appliances and electronics.
Although it’s powered by regular gas, you can use this generator as an environmentally-conscious camper thanks to its eco-mode. This tells the motor to automatically adjust fuel consumption for better usage rates. This is good since it only has enough room for 1 gallon of gas.
It’s ultimately a great generator for smaller devices since it produces clean and steady power. It’s safe for even delicate electronics like tablets or cellphones. It has plenty of ports for both these smaller devices and classic 120 V plugs.
At a Glance
- Powered By: Gas
- Running Watts: 1600
- Weight: 48 lbs
- Voltage: 120 V
- It has a series of indicator lights – these tell you how the generator is doing very quickly, so you can keep an eye on it from afar.
- Very lightweight and compact design – with the handle, this generator is super easy to move wherever you need.
- Durable case – this protects the generator from drops or debris.
- Ports are made with rubber surfaces for durability and easy connectivity – this ensures reliable performance and lowers risk.
- Lacks cooling – at times, this generator will begin to vapour lock, and hot environments will cause it to overheat.
- Some starting issues – if it doesn’t have a full tank of fuel, this generator sometimes has issues starting, even with low wattage devices.
Champion 3800-Watt Dual Fuel RV Ready Portable Generator with Electric Start
This last portable generator is a 3800 watt-producing machine that runs on either gasoline or propane. Besides, it can hold 0.6 quarts of oil for further reliability. Even better, it comes with a low-oil shut-off sensor for added safety and user-friendliness.
The generator is started with an electric switch, so it’s a lot simpler to get going compared to traditional pull-cable generators. It comes with four 120 V outlets, so there’s plenty of room to power multiple appliances at once.
In terms of portability, there’s a lot to like here too. Although it weighs 122 pounds, the generator comes with a durable exterior cage that you can use to pick it up manually. It also comes with wheels for easier manoeuvring around a campsite.
At a Glance
- Powered By: Gas or propane
- Running Watts: 3800
- Weight: 122 lbs
- Voltage: 120 V
- Includes 0.6 quarts of oil – you can start using the generator right out of the box, thanks to this inclusion.
- Has built-in surge protector – this prevents the generator from suffering from an overload.
- Has “intelligence” – this combined gauge keeps track of your voltage, hertz, and runtime hours.
- Includes three-year limited warranty – this also comes with free lifetime technical support, so you’re always supported with maintenance or repair needs.
- Finding a replacement battery is hard – if the battery ever does fail or eventually degrade, finding a replacement may be next to impossible.
- Fairly loud – this generator can make quite a racket, so be sure to keep it outside or away from social areas if possible.
The Conclusion for You – Best Generators For The Money
Ultimately, which generator is the perfect decision for you depends on your wattage requirements, how much weight you want to carry around, and whether you want something powered by gas.
Remember to consider all of the above generators carefully. Then make a choice based on your budget and which one feels right for your needs.
Regardless, each of these generators will allow you to power your devices and appliances away from home or outdoors. Good luck!