Skip to main content

Best portable generators 2020: Gas and battery backup generators

Best portable generators 2020: Gas and battery backup generators
(Image credit: Honda)

Find the best portable generators for your needs in our guide, which rounds up the best overall generators, portable generators that run on gas, quiet generators, and those that are battery powered too. Whether you need a portable generator for when there’s a power cut, or you need one to do some work on site, we’ve got you covered with a range of options to suit all needs. If it’s a project you’re working on, you also might want to check out the best cordless drills too.

So, what do you need to consider if you’re buying a portable generator? It’s worth thinking about what kind of fuel you’d prefer your generator uses. Gasoline generators are ideal because you can keep topping up the engine, but the gas can be messy, noisy and smelly too. Battery-powered generators, however, are much quieter than gas ones. 

Another thing to consider is how portable the generator really is. If you’re buying a really heavy generator that has a big 9000 watt output, it isn’t going to be easy to transport around. If you do need a bigger and heavier generator, it’s worth buying one with built in wheels and a handle to make moving it around a bit easier. Generators with a pull cord can be lighter, but are harder to start. 

The next point to think about is how much wattage you should look for in a generator. When electronics start up they use more power than they will use while running. This is called the surge wattage, or starting wattage. The device then settles down to its running wattage. If the surge wattage is more than the generator can handle then it will cut out. Most generators have a rating for surge/starting and running wattage. Generally speaking, the higher the better. To roughly calculate how much wattage you need you should add together the running wattage of all the devices you want to use simultaneously then add the single highest starting wattage out of all the devices you want to use. 

The final point to consider is whether you’re getting an inverter generator or a standard generator. Inverter generators convert the AC current to DC and smooth it out, meaning it can power sensitive electronics, like laptops, phones and tablets, without damaging them. Inverter generators quite often come with USB ports as well as 120 volt power outlets, indicating the type of electronics they are suitable for.

So, with all that in mind, here’s our top pick of portable generators to consider.

1. DeWALT DXGNR7000: Best portable generator overall

DeWALT DXGNR7000

(Image credit: DeWalt)

DeWALT DXGNR7000

A great portable generator for serious workplace power off the grid or when there’s been a power cut.

Running watts: 7,000 | Starting wattage: 8,750 | Power type: Gasoline | Run Time: 11 hours at 50% load | Weight: 192 lbs

Impressive amount of wattage
Smart runtime meter
Heavy!
Not an inverter generator

With its steel frame and rugged exterior it’s clear that the DeWALT DXGNR7000 is designed for on site work or as a backup generator when the power goes out, rather than for camping trips or general use around the home. You get four 120 volt power outlets to play with and a whopping 7,000 watts of running power, so you should find it handles most heavy duty equipment. It’s gasoline powered and quite noisy too, but it does have a built-in starter motor so there’s no need to use a pull cord to start it. You should be aware that this isn’t an inverter generator, so don’t get this if you’re looking for something to power sensitive electronics like laptops, tablets or phones.

What the DeWALT DXGNR7000 lacks in sophistication it makes up for in raw power. One to consider if you’ve got a lot of tools you need to power on a work site.


2. Ford FG2200iS: Best value portable generator 

Ford FG2200iS

(Image credit: Ford)

Ford FG2200iS

The Ford FG2200iS is a very cheap inverter generator that will give you 2,000 running watts for an incredible price.

Running watts: 2,000 | Starting watts: 2,200 | Power type: Gasoline | Tank Capacity: 1.8 gallons | Run time: 6 hours at 50% load | Weight : 50 lb

Excellent value for money
Quiet running
Small tank
No fuel gauge

The Ford FG2200iS is a basic but great value inverter generator that will give you 2,000 running watts across two 120 volt power outlets and a USB port. It’s gasoline powered and needs to be started with a pull cord but it’s a reliable performer and light enough to pick up with one hand. The lack of fuel gauge and the small tank can be a pain and it’s also not as quiet as the Honda EU3000is Handi, but if you’re looking for a gasoline-powered generator to take on camping trips and you don’t mind a bit of noise then this is the generator you’re looking for.


3. Honda EU3000is Handi: Best portable generator motor

Honda EU3000iS

(Image credit: Honda)

Honda EU3000is Handi

The EU3000is boasts a genuine Honda motor, so it’s quiet compared to other similar-sized generators on the market.

Running watts: 2800 | Starting wattage: 3000 | Power type: Gasoline | Tank capacity: 3.4 Gallons | Run time: 10 hours at 50% load | Weight: 131 lbs

Honda motor
Quiet running
No USB ports
No fuel gauge

The Honda EU3000is Handi is an inverter generator so you can run sensitive electronics and at 131 lbs it’s light enough to port around. You don't need to start it with a pull cord because it has a starter motor built in.

The Honda EU3000is Handi appears quite ordinary when you first look at it. In fact it’s lacking a few features that other generators have. For example, there’s no fuel gauge or USB ports, just two 120 volt power outlets, but it’s what’s inside that matters, and this generator comes with a Honda motor that runs much more quietly than its competitors. The high starting wattage of 3,000 watts means it’s less likely to cut out than other generators when plugged into something power hungry. There’s no electric starter, so you’ll need to pull a cord to get it going. It’s an inverter generator so will work fine with sensitive electronics, it’s just a shame it has such basic features.


4. Goal Zero Yeti 400: Best portable generator for home electronics

Goal Zero Yeti 400

(Image credit: Goal Zero)

Goal Zero Yeti 400

With 3 USB ports and the ability to charge using solar power, the Goal Zero Yeti 400 is a great generator.

Running watts: 400 | Starting watts: 1200 | Power type: Lithium battery | Power outlets: 7 | Run time: 200 hours at 50% | Weight : 17 lb

Solar charging capabilities
Great-looking design
Solar panels cost extra
Only 400 running watts

Not only does the Yeti 400 Lithium Solar Generator look great, but it’s full of surprises. First of all it has a lithium battery, which is much longer lasting than battery-powered generators that use a lead acid battery, it’s also a lot lighter; at just 17 lbs you can take this anywhere. 

The Yeti 400 Lithium boasts 3 USB ports and two 120 volt power outlets to give you plenty of options for charging and it’s completely silent in use. Being able to charge via solar power is a big plus, since that’s effectively free energy, however the solar panels are expensive, and you have to use Goal Zero ones. 

With 400 running watts you can’t run too many devices at once, but if you simply want to charge multiple home electronics then this is could be the best option for you. 


5. RYOBI 18V ONE+ Powersource: Best portable generator for connectivity

RYOBI 18V ONE+ Powersource

(Image credit: RYOBI )

RYOBI 18V ONE+ Powersource

This inverter connects to any ONE+ battery and offers one 120 volt outlet and 2 USB ports

Running watts: 150 | Starting watts: 250 | Power type: 18 volt battery | Power outlets: 3 | Run time: N/A | Weight : 1 lb

Quiet
Very light
Very low wattage
Battery costs extra

The RYOBI 150-Watt Powered Inverter Generator for 18-Volt Battery is an inverter that connects to any ONE+ battery (which RYOBI also sell) so that you can plug devices into it directly using the 120 volt power outlet or two USB ports.

It’s a bit unfair to compare the RYOBI 150 inverter to a fully fledged generator that runs from gasoline or propane, since it has such a small output wattage, but if your needs are small it’s something to consider because it’s easy to throw into a car and costs a lot less money. This makes it perfect for camping or charging devices when you're out and about.


6. Champion Power 75531i: Best portable generator for camping

Champion Power 75531i

(Image credit: Champion Power)

Champion Power 75531i

If you need power on your trips to the great outdoors, the Champion Power 75531i is worth considering.

Running watts: 2800W | Max starting watts: 3100W | Outlet type: 120V 30A | Power type: Gasoline | Fuel tank capacity: 1.6 gallons

Lightweight
Enough power for smaller devices 
Limited outlets
Looking old

The Champion Power 75531i is a 1.6-gallon gasoline powered model that’s lightweight, portable and offers enough outlets to keep your devices charged throughout your trip. Its 171cc engine can generate up to 2,800 running watts, which is more than enough for basic items like small televisions, air compressors and even some power tools. It’s also great at keeping devices like smartphones and tablets charged.

You shouldn’t expect it to handle heavy-duty things like full-sized refrigerators or washers. For that you’ll want something a little heftier, like our top pick.


Can I use a portable generator in the rain?

If your portable generator gets wet, you risk destroying it or worse – hurting someone through electric shock or electrocution. Some portable generators have a GFCI outlet, which automatically shuts the device off if it gets wet. If you think you’ll be working in wet locations, we recommend purchasing a generator that has a GFCI outlet.

While it’s best to avoid using your machine during bad weather, sometimes it can't be helped. If you must use it on a rainy or snowy day, try to keep your generator dry by placing it on a dry, flat surface and covering it. Some companies even sell generator tents, like this Champion Storm Shield. Just make sure you get one that fits your generator. Many of these tent covers connect to your generator in such a way that they can resist strong winds up to 70 miles per hour, so they're good for all types of weather.