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Aren't most generators portable? Well, yeah. But define portable? Just because you can move something doesn't mean it's the best choice for every situation. What you'd use to run heavy equipment or a house probably isn't ideal for camping, small remote jobs, or short outings. Instead, you'd rather have something that sacrifices big power in the name of portability for those situations. Something you can reasonably transport but can deliver more juice than a simple power bank could.
There are a ton of portable generators on the market that fit that description. While having options is a great thing, it can make it hard to determine what's right for you. Luckily, you've got us to help you through the shopping experience by looking over our top picks and sharing some useful information along the way.
Honda EU2200i 2200-Watt Portable Inverter Generator
- Quiet operation
- Fuel efficient
- Bluetooth connectivity
- Can be hard to start
- Defective units are somewhat common
Predator 2000 Watt Inverter Generator
- Quiet operation
- Hard to get started
- No repair parts available
Jackery Portable Power Station Explorer 2000 Plus
- Solar charging eliminates dependence on gas
- Good range of plugs and charging ports
- Can charge on 120-volt power
- Slow charging
- Best Overall: Honda EU2200i 2200-Watt Portable Inverter Generator
- Best Value: Predator 2000 Watt Inverter Generator
- Best Solar Generator: Jackery Portable Power Station Explorer 2000 Plus
- Best Compact: Westinghouse 300 Peak Watt Portable Power Station and Solar Generator
- Best Value Runner-Up: Craftsman 2,500-Watt Gas Portable Generator
I have a lot of experience with generators. Between hands-on testing and plenty of exposure to them in daily life, I've put in the time to familiarize myself with them. That doesn't mean I view my opinions as gospel. I spent a lot of time researching my selections and reading reviews to make sure anything I recommend is worthwhile to you. Since this can cover such a broad spectrum of demands, I made sure to include a combination of recommendations that offer something to everyone. That said, the market is subject to change, and so is my opinion. As new products are produced, the list below is bound to grow to include them in addition to or replace what’s on there.
Best Portable Generators: Reviews & Recommendations
Best Overall: Honda EU2200i 2200-Watt Portable Inverter Generator
Can be hard to start
Defective units are somewhat common
It's hard to pick anything other than Honda's EU2200i generator at the top of this list. It's constantly referenced in reviews of other products, serving as a point of reference to gauge what others have to offer. That's because what Honda's put together here simply works. It's compact and extremely quiet. It offers excellent fuel efficiency with up to 9.6 hours of runtime from the .95-gallon tank, meaning you can run it overnight on lighter loads. It's also equipped with Bluetooth connectivity to provide real-time information to ensure you get the most out of it.
The most common issue folks seem to run into is getting it to start. These issues seem to be associated with running the tank dry and poor weather conditions, but it's still worth taking note of. It's also fairly common for defective units to ship and you should thoroughly inspect this generator as soon as possible to avoid unexpected problems.
Best Value: Predator 2000 Watt Inverter Generator
Hard to get started
No repair parts available
Harbor Freight's Predator Generators almost universally deserve the award for Best Value, but this time, we'll focus solely on the 2000-watt entry. While it's slightly less juiced than the top pick, it delivers more than enough power for the typical outing. It also retains a similarly small profile and weight, which is a huge plus for the lower-than-average price, and the same can be said for the operational noise level. You aren't taking a hit in any key areas despite paying about half of what you would for a premium entry.
Where those savings make themselves known is in starting the Predator Generator. It's rather cold-blooded, and many customer reviews make note of it being difficult to fire if the engine is cold. It's also important to know that repair parts aren't available for this model, which can be an issue in the long run, as it's only covered with a two-year warranty.
Best Solar Generator: Jackery Portable Power Station Explorer 2000 Plus
Solar charging eliminates dependence on gas
Good range of plugs and charging ports
Can charge on 120-volt power
Jackery's 2000 Plus solar generator is among the equipment I've had the opportunity to spend time with for review. Though I have yet to publish my full-length review, there's no way I could leave it off of this list. It's basically a giant battery pack that can be charged with solar rays or a 120-volt outlet. Because of that, it's extremely quiet, and, yes, the solar panels are included. It is also the most powerful on this list with a 3000W output and the best outfitted with a range of plugs and ports for keeping things powered up.
The biggest problem with this generator is the cost. It's more than double the second most expensive option on this list. It's also only fair to point out that its dependence on solar charging or 120-volt ports means power isn't immediately available as it is with a gas-powered generator.
Very cost effective
Solar charging eliminates dependence on gas
Can be charged with 120-volt power
Very limited output
Solar panels not included
This Westinghouse generator is the best possible option for someone who needs a little more juice than the average power station can produce without the added bulk of a full-size generator. It weighs in at just four pounds and is small enough to fit in any backpack, but it does feature a carry handle. It can be charged with 120-volt power and be treated as a normal battery pack, it's also a green option on account of its solar charging abilities. Of course, the small size also shrinks the price, making this one of the most economical options on the market.
With a 300-peak watt rating, this is far from an ideal choice for overnight stays or powering moderately-sized equipment. It will miss the mark for many because of it. Also, the solar panels aren't included, and investing in them will at least double the overall cost of this unit.
Best Value Runner-Up: Craftsman 2,500-Watt Gas Portable Generator
Slightly more output than direct competition
Can be hard to start
Quality control issues are relatively common
Craftsman's 2,500-watt generator is last up on our list and is a worthy alternative for folks who want something powerful but are on a budget. It delivers a little more power than most on our list, and that can make all the difference in the world if you're using equipment that draws just enough load to put you in the grey area between most portable generators and a full-size unit. And despite that extra power, it's still a relatively quiet unit and easily portable, making it a great choice in all the same situations as the other entries on our list.
Like most budget-friendly gas generators, this one is notoriously hard to start when the engine is cold. The review section also has several complaints of quality control-related issues, and you'll want to inspect this machine thoroughly upon arrival because of it.
Our Verdict on The Best Portable Generators
The Honda EU2200i 2200-Watt Portable Inverter Generator is a clear choice for Best Overall. Its performance and size make it something of a standard for this segment. However, the Predator 2000 Watt Inverter Generator is an impressive alternative for those on a budget. It's even fair to call it the runner-up for my top pick.
You have questions. The Drive has answers!
Q. Will a portable generator run a house?
A. No. A house will typically require a generator that can produce 5,000 watts or more. These portable generators are meant to power one or two select devices or tools at a time when conventional power supplies aren't available.
Q. Can you run a portable generator all night?
A. Yes. As long as it is able to do so with the load your drawing and the amount of fuel it can support. You should refer to the manufacturer’s specifications regarding this information before doing so to avoid running out of fuel.
Q. Is it OK to run my generator out of gas?
A. You should avoid running a generator out of gas. Doing so can potentially harm the engine. That's why you should always top off the fuel tank before letting the generator run for long periods and only allow it to run as long as the manual says it can on a full tank under a given load.