Reviews

Best Portable Inverter Generators: Always Have Backup Power Available

Never be without power again thanks to these efficient and reliable portable inverter generators.

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BY Lisa Conant / LAST UPDATED ON July 17, 2021

If you frequently suffer from power outages, or if you’re an avid camper, tailgater, or power tool user, a portable inverter generator can be a game changer when it comes to having an efficient and reliable back-up power source. These compact electricity generating units are one of the most versatile pieces of equipment you can own.

 

You can use a portable inverter generator to power everything from sensitive electronics to portable refrigerators, power tools, c-pap machines, lights, and much more. No matter your power needs, there is likely a portable inverter generator on the market that will be an ideal solution. To help you sift through the vast array of offerings, we have come up with our top favorites, along with a handy buying guide to help you learn exactly what to look for to ensure you get a durable, reliable, and efficient model that won’t let you down when you need it the most.

Best Overall
Briggs & Stratton P2200
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Summary
Summary

Briggs and Stratton is a popular brand that is known to make some of the best inverter generators, and this one is no exception.

Pros
Pros
  • Compact, efficient, and quiet
  • Provides an impressive runtime at 25 percent load on just a gallon tank of fuel
Cons
Cons
  • 1700 watts is sufficient for a lot of outdoor activities, but might not be enough for more power-hungry users
Best Overall
Briggs & Stratton P2200
Best Value
WEN 56200i
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Summary
Summary

This inverter generator is feature-rich and offers a lot of what one needs for a very attractive price.

Pros
Pros
  • Not only does it have a slew of helpful features, but it has a runtime that beats many of the more expensive options
Cons
Cons
  • Maintenance is made more difficult by the hard-to-remove side panel
  • Eco-throttle mode only works for loads below 1000 watts
Best Value
WEN 56200i
Honorable Mention
Westinghouse iGen4500 Electric Start Portable Inverter Generator
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Summary
Summary

This unit offers an impressive 4,500 peak watts and 3,700 running watts to easily meet your larger power needs.

Pros
Pros
  • At 52 decibels, not only is this generator among the quietest in its class, but it’s also stable and clean enough to safely power your most sensitive electronics
Cons
Cons
  • This unit comes with a hefty price tag
  • Weighs just under 100 pounds, making it one of the heavier units on our list
Honorable Mention
Westinghouse iGen4500 Electric Start Portable Inverter Generator
Portable Inverter Generator Close Up
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Benefits of Portable Inverter Generators

  • They offer backup power. Whether it’s for tailgating, camping, or to endure those pesky power outages, a portable inverter generator is the most convenient solution if you need clean, backup power.
  • Access to clean, stable, and consistent energy. Inverter generators have become a popular alternative to standard generators because they provide clean and consistent energy which is safe for powering up laptops, TVs, and other sensitive electronic items. 
  • Size and portability. If you need backup power wherever you go, then an inverter generator might be the best option. Inverter generators are typically smaller and lighter than standard generators; an average inverter generator weighs between 35 to 55 pounds, while a standard generator can weigh four to five times more.
  • Less noise production. If you need backup power but don’t want to deal with loud engine noises, then get an inverter generator instead. They are much quieter, and the average inverter generator generates just as much noise as a normal conversation.

Types of Portable Inverter Generators

When it comes to portable inverter generators, there really is only one type. That said, inverter generators can vary greatly in size and power production. Some may offer as little as 200 watts of running power, while the largest portable inverter generators can provide upwards of 4,500 watts.

Another difference between inverter generators is that many of them come equipped to accept 20- or 30-amp RV or marine plugs, making them the perfect option for camping or boating. Obviously, if you plan to use your inverter generator for an emergency power supply at your home, or to run power tools and small appliances, you wouldn’t need an RV plug and could put that money toward a regular inverter generator with other outlet styles.

Top Brands

Briggs & Stratton

This company, which started in 1908, is based in Wauwatosa, Wis. It is a gasoline engine manufacturer that has facilities worldwide. One of its most popular products is the Briggs & Stratton P2200.

WEN Products

Founded in 1951, WEN is a company that’s been designing and distributing power tools for decades. It has expanded into developing other products since then, including inverter generators. One of its most popular inverter generators is the WEN 56200i.

Westinghouse

The Westinghouse Corporation was founded in 1886 after George Westinghouse patented the revolutionary air brake and changed the face of railroad safety. The company has grown steadily over the past 130 years by providing innovative and useful products such as the Westinghouse Air Fryer Pressure Cooker and the company’s line of air purifiers.

Generac

Headquartered in Waukesha, Wis., Generac Holdings, Inc. is a Fortune 1000 company that focuses on manufacturing back-up power sources for industrial, household, and light commercial purposes. The Generac 70432 Home Standby Generator Guardian Series is one of the top-selling whole-home backup generators in the nation.

Portable Inverter Generator Pricing

  • Under $500: generators in this price range will vary in terms of features but will fall into the small to medium category and be capable of producing around 3000 watts and under.
  • $500 and up: These generators will be medium to large (or open-frame) in size. They will be less portable but will offer a greater power output of 3000 watts and above.

Key Features

Ease of Use

Inverter generators, as opposed to standard generators, are typically more convenient and easy to use. They will generally be more portable, quieter, and will have a control panel that can be understood and operated on by even those who are new to the product. Compared to standard generators, inverter generators are also much easier to maintain. Some of the most user-friendly inverter generators feature a simple push-button start instead of a recoil pull-start option. 

Clean Power Delivery

One of the key features of an inverter generator is its ability to deliver clean, consistent, and stable energy. Since the energy is delivered in pure sine waves, it has less harmonic distortion and is therefore safe for powering up sensitive electronic devices such as laptops, TVs, mobile phones, and other gadgets.

Engine Efficiency

Unlike conventional generators that maintain engine speed no matter how many appliances are being powered, inverter generators can adjust their engine speed depending on load requirements. This makes inverter generators much more fuel-efficient than conventional generators. This ability to adjust engine speed also means inverter generators won’t get as much wear as conventional generators over time.

Lightweight Portability

Another key selling point to an inverter generator versus a regular generator is that inverter generators are much more lightweight and portable. Since most inverter generators weigh around 40 to 60 pounds, you can easily take them camping, in your truck, on your boat, or move them between homes as needed. 

Other Considerations

  • Parallel Capable. Most inverter generators available in the market are parallel capable, which means that two or more generators of the same brand can be paired with each other to increase the overall power output. This will be particularly useful if a generator’s output is less than what is needed.
  • Warranty. Inverter generators are typically easier to maintain than conventional generators, and they won’t need as much regular maintenance. However, unlike conventional generators, inverter generators have a more complicated internal system, which is why the warranty on parts and services that a unit comes with is an important consideration that buyers should look into.
  • Number of Output Ports. Naturally, the number of output ports a generator offers will be an important consideration. Smaller generators will have one or two output ports, as well as a few USB ports for smaller devices. Medium to large generators, on the other hand, will have more and will have additional RV-ready outlets.
  • Noise Level. Many of today’s inverter generators function much more quietly than their larger, less portable counterparts. With noise levels below 60 decibels, most inverter generators fall below the noise ordinances laid out by the National Park Service, making them a great option for camping.

Best Portable Inverter Generators Reviews & Recommendations 2021

Best Overall
Briggs & Stratton P2200

The Briggs & Stratton P2200 offers 1700 running watts of electrical power anywhere you need it. The P220 is powered by a compact, efficient, and quiet 111 cc overhead valve engine. This engine, combined with a 1-gallon fuel tank, allows for continuous operation for eight hours at a 25 percent load. At just under 55 pounds, the unit can be moved around easily and can be linked in parallel with another for extra power. With harmonic distortion levels of less than three percent, the P2200 is safe to use to provide power to laptops, TVs, mobile phones, and other fragile electronic devices. 


This generator might not be enough for more power-hungry users, however. While you might be able to power your refrigerator depending on its wattage demands, you won’t be able to power up other, larger appliances.

Best Value
WEN 56200i

Generators in the WEN 56200i’s price bracket very rarely can be called quiet, and they’re pretty much never described as powerful. They are often heavy and bulky, challenging to even get to where they’re needed. This WEN generator punches above its price class, however. It produces just 53 decibels, has an engine that is both EPA and CARB compliant, and weighs less than 50 pounds. With a total production of 1600 rated watts and 2000 surge watts, the 56200i makes the electrical oomph one needs, all in a small and portable package. It boasts a very impressive 9.4-hour run time under one-quarter load, lasting longer than some generators well over double its price. 


The side panel, however, is difficult to remove, making maintenance of the unit that much more difficult. Another drawback is that the eco-throttle mode only works for loads below 1000 watts.

Most Premium
Westinghouse iGen4500 Electric Start Portable Inverter Generator

When you have larger power needs and you want the ultimate in reliability and durability, the Westinghouse iGen4500 Electric Start Portable Inverter Generator deserves your attention. It offers an impressive 4,500 peak watts and 3,700 running watts to easily meet your larger power needs. It’s equipped with a TT-30R RV-ready outlet, two 20-amp household outlets, and two 5-volt DC USB ports to provide versatile power options.


With a variable speed engine, you get impressive fuel efficiency. In fact, you can run this unit for up to 18 hours on a single 3.4-gallon tank of fuel. The push-button electric start is a welcome relief from some models that feature an annoying and unreliable pull-start. A bright LED display shows rolling data regarding fuel level, maintenance needs, power output, and more. 


We appreciate that this inverter generator is backed by a solid three-year warranty and comes with lots of safety options to prevent dangerous malfunctions. It also features a quiet operating noise level of only 52 decibels. What we don’t love is the heavy price tag or the heaviness of the unit itself. Weighing in at 98 pounds, it’s one of the heftiest models on our list.

Most Versatile
Champion Power Equipment 2500-Watt Ultralight Portable Dual Fuel Inverter Generator

If you’re looking for a really lightweight, yet powerful power source, check out the Champion Power Equipment 2500-Watt Ultralight Portable Dual Fuel Inverter Generator. This versatile generator can run off regular fuel or propane, giving you options in the event of a fuel shortage or when a trip to the gas station just isn’t in the cards. Even better, this generator weighs a mere 39 pounds, making it one of the most lightweight options available. 


For your investment, you get 2,500 watts of starting power and 1,850 watts of running power when using fuel or 1,665 watts of running power when using propane. Not to mention the cold start technology that ensures the unit starts quickly and easily in some pretty frigid temperatures. It’s equipped with two 120-volt, 20-amp household outlets, two 2.1-amp USB ports, and the ability to hook two units up in tandem to double your power capabilities. 


One drawback is that this model doesn’t feature an easy push-button start, but has the typical pull-start that some people struggle to get to work on the first try. The other thing that appears to be lacking on this unit is the addition of a 30-amp RV- or marine-ready outlet. You can purchase a separate kit that offers a 30-amp RV outlet, but that’s going to add to your cost even more. The three-year limited warranty is also a great feature.

Honorable Mention
Generac G0071540 GP3300i Portable Inverter Generator

The Generac G0071540 GP3300i Portable Inverter Generator deserves a shout out for delivering at least 50 percent more starting capacity than a lot of the competition thanks to its patented PowerRush Advanced Technology that increases electrical current on demand. Optimal performance is paired with lower sound emissions, giving you a quietly functioning power source that can run for several hours. 


This model offers an impressive 3,300 watts of starting power and 2,500 watts of running power. Its TruePower technology gives you power that’s clean and stable enough to run your most sensitive electronics, as well as power tools and appliances. A handy economy mode automatically adjusts engine speed to reduce sound emissions and maximize your fuel efficiency. We also love the simple-to-use power dial that features three operation settings.


The GP3300i comes with two 120-volt, 20-amp AC outlets, one 120-volt, 20-amp RV outlet, and two USB ports to run just about anything. It comes in at a respectable weight of 59.5 pounds. What we don’t love is its short run-time of only 5.8 hours at 25 percent capacity. 

Honorable Mention
Firman W01781 1700/2100 Watt Portable Gas Inverter Generator

The Firman W01781 1700/2100 Watt Portable Gas Inverter is a surprisingly compact option that is one of the only inverter generators on our list to feature a 12-volt DC outlet along with two 120-volt, 20-amp AC outlets, and one USB outlet. This kit also comes complete with engine oil, a fuel funnel, and spark plug wrenches to ensure you have everything you need to start generating power quickly and easily. 


This model puts out 2,100 starting watts and 1,700 running watts. It has a respectable operating noise level of 54 decibels, which is well below National Park standards and won’t disturb your neighbors when camping. This efficient unit can run for 10 to 12 hours on a single 0.9-gallon fuel tank. The handy ECO mode drops tailors power consumption to maximize fuel economy and run-time. 


One drawback to this unit is that it doesn’t feature an RV- or marine-ready 30-amp outlet. It does have a great three-year warranty, however. You can also connect two generators in tandem to double your power capacity.

Honorable Mention
Craftsman C0010030 3000i 50 St/CSA Inverter Generator

The Craftsman C0010030 3000i 50 St/CSA Inverter Generator offers an impressive 3,000 watts of starting power and 2,300 watts of running power in a compact unit that only weighs 59.5 pounds. It features a rugged built-in handle that allows for relatively easy and secure portability. It also has a PowerBoost feature that gives you 50 percent more starting capacity than many comparably sized generators on the market. 


The Start/Stop/Choke dial makes managing the pull-start a little easier than some other units. Operating noise levels are comparable to many others on the market. This is a great generator for camping, tailgating, and family reunions. It features two 120-volt AC outlets, two USB outlets, and one RV or marine outlet.


As with many other units on the market, you can run two generators together in tandem to double your power capacity. It also has the three-year limited warranty that seems common on this type of generator. One drawback is that it has a measly run-time of only 4.5 hours at 50 percent capacity. Some users also complain about dismal customer service.

Honorable Mention
All Power 2300 Watt Portable Inverter Generator

If you’re looking for a respectable amount of power that won’t cost you an arm and a leg, the All Power 2300 Watt Portable Inverter Generator might be just what you need. It has 2,300 watts of peak power and 1,800 watts of running power, which is plenty of juice for running electronics, televisions, power tools, lights, and small appliances. This is a great emergency power supply, workshop addition, or camping power source.


This model weighs in at only 44 pounds, making it much more portable than some others on our list. It’s equipped with two 120-volt AC outlets and two 5-volt USB outlets. You can get a decent nine hours of run-time at 25 percent load, which isn’t the longest, but certainly not the shortest either. 


With a noise rating of 63 decibels during operation, this isn’t the quietest model on the list. It also lacks an RV- or marine-ready power outlet. It does feature parallel capability and EPA certification. All in all, this generator is a great bang for your buck. It has many features that generators costing double the price have.

Honorable Mention
Jackery Portable Power Station Explorer 290

For the times when larger inverter generators are just overkill, there’s the Jackery Portable Power Station Explorer 290. This ultra-portable inverter generator weighs only 6.8 pounds and can easily fit in your car or camping gear. It’s an entry-level power supply that’s equipped with a 290Wh rechargeable lithium-ion battery pack. It will give you a peak wattage of 400 watts and 200 running watts so that you can quickly charge or run your laptop, smartphone, tablet, fans, lights, and more.  


This little power source is equipped with one 110-volt, 200-watt pure sine wave AC outlet, two 5-volt, 2.4-amp USB-A charging ports, and one 12-volt DC car charging port. It’s the perfect option for minimalist travelers and folks who like to pack light. As an added bonus, this power station can be recharged using Jackery’s SolarSaga 60 solar panel. You can also recharge it via an AC or DC outlet. 


While we love the portability and simplicity of this unit, it’s definitely not up to snuff if you need to power a small cooler, refrigerator, or any other small appliances. It’s strictly for light-duty charging needs. Jackery customer service gets high marks for quick response times and friendly people, though.

Tips

  • Always make sure to follow the guidelines listed in your generator’s maintenance schedule. Doing this will ensure that your generator always runs at peak efficiency. This will also lengthen the lifespan of your inverter generator.
  • Always keep your inverter generator covered when it’s not being used. This will keep it protected against dirt, dust, and moisture, which can clog up its internals and cause shorts.
  • Never use your inverter generator indoors or in spaces where carbon monoxide buildup can occur, because prolonged exposure to this gas can be fatal.

FAQs

Q. What is an inverter generator?

An inverter generator is a device that converts mechanical energy into clean, usable AC electrical energy with a Total Harmonic Distortion that is less than six percent, making it safe for powering up sensitive electronic devices. 

Q. What is the best portable inverter generator?

The best portable inverter generator will have the best balance of price, portability, power output, and ease of use. It will also need to be reliable and come from a brand with a proven track record.

Q. What are the advantages of a portable inverter generator?

Compared to traditional generators, inverter generators are typically smaller, quieter, and more fuel-efficient. They also produce stable energy and safeguard against surges which make them safer than conventional generators for powering up sensitive electronic devices.

Final Thoughts

When it comes to the ideal combination of power, reliability, functionality, and price, our top pick is definitely the Briggs & Stratton P2200. It delivers a decent 1,700 watts of running power and can run for up to eight hours at 25 percent capacity, making it a versatile option ideal for many users.

For a more budget-friendly option, the WEN 56200i gives you 1,600 watts and a 9.4-hour run-time at 25 percent load. And, it’s offered at an easy-to-swallow price point.