The Best Portable Generator

DuroStar DS4000S 3300 Running Watts/4000 Starting Watts Gas Powered Portable Generator

Our Top Pick for 2017: DuroStar DS4000S 3300 Running Watts/4000 Starting Watts Gas Powered Portable Generator
Read our full review.

Construction worksites, emergency situations or home use are all places that require portable generators. We decided to review the models available and come up with the best ones. Our goal was to come up with the best portable generators in the market—the ones that stood up to our scrutiny. We challenged manufacturers and held up a high standard of demands, but managed to sort through models to find our top four. We have a gold, silver and bronze pick, along with a fourth budget pick. If you need a generator that is portable, consider the ones we chose. They are all great options for your power needs—whether at home, emergency or work.

Table of contents

#1. DuroStar DS4000S 3300 Running Watts/4000 Starting Watts Gas Powered Portable Generator

DuroStar DS4000S 3300 Running Watts/4000 Starting Watts Gas Powered Portable Generator Gold Pick

View it on Amazon: $392.83*
*Price typically updated every 24 hours. Current price may be different.

2016-gold-winnerOur gold pick for best portable generator is the DuroStar DS4000S 3300 Running Watts/4000 Starting Watts Gas Powered generator. By far this one took the number spot because of its power, size and outstanding price-to-value advantage. Although it isn’t CARB-compliant, if you’re in other parts of the world you’ll love its performance.

The best thing about this movable generator is its motorized power. The DuroStar DS4000S works with a 7HP OHV gas engine that is air-cooled. It can create 4000 surge-watts and about 3,300 running-watts. That means you can power a refrigerator, small air conditioner or even a sump pump with it. This is a great tool to have in case of emergencies or if you know you’ll be needing a lot of power brought to a worksite quickly and conveniently. The DuroStar DS4000S also uses unleaded gas and can hold 4-gallons. That provides approximately 8 full hours of power, running at a 50%-level load. It also has a fuel gauge monitor that lets you know exactly when you need to tank up again. And it has an oil gauge that will give you a warning light when the oil needs to be serviced. An added circuit breaker also helps to keep the engine safe.

It also has the normal manual pull-start mechanism on it. It has two 120volt, 3-prong, 20-amp outlets and one 120volt, 30-amp outlet that is twist to lock. This comes in handy when you are at a worksite and know the generator may take some manhandling. If you have to move it around a lot, the outlets will stay in place thanks to the locking device. Plus the double 3-prong outlets ensure that you’ll have enough power to multiple machines when you need them. Anyone who has worked on a big job knows how important it is to have multiple outlets to get things done quickly. Or, if you are using this generator for an RV, having multiple outlets also is a life-saving necessity.

The DuroStar DS4000S also has a great noise level that won’t interfere with your discussions or give you a headache. Older models were notorious for their banging and popping. They made it impossible to talk without ear-shattering noise in the background, not to mention the ringing in your ears for hours later. The newer models thankfully save you from that. This one has a built-in muffler system that ensures only 69-decibels of noise actually emit from it while you’re using it at 50% capacity. To put it into perspective, a men’s electric razor gives off 68-decibles, on average. That’s a pretty nice feature for getting this amount of portable power!

This portable generator is compact and comes in at 20-inches by 27-inches by 22-inches. That makes it one of the most compact and easy-to-store generators available. It weighs just over 90-pounds though, so it may need more than one person to move it. That won’t be too much of an issue thanks to the handy metal handles on each side. They are one-long piece so that makes them extra durable and safe. If you need some added portability though, you can order the DuroStar DS4000S with its customized wheel kit. This makes moving it much faster. It also sits on the steel frame and because of that, doesn’t need feet to stabilize it.

Finally, let’s look at the price-to-value information. The average cost of this generator is considered low- to moderate and for it, you get a fantastic energy source that lasts for a good amount of time. In terms of price-to-value, you can’t beat the DuroStar DS4000S. There are equitable portable generators in the market, but most of them come with a much higher cost to them. Plus, they don’t offer the small body of this one. They are much bulkier and have a higher price tag as a result. If you’re looking to make a wise decision for your wallet also, definitely think about this model. All around it is a great investment and will produce the results you need.

Having a generator that is portable is critical when you go camping, so a vacation home, to a worksite where electricity may not yet be hooked up or in an emergency. You want reliable power that is easy to hook up and converts well. That’s just what the DuroStar DS4000S will do for you!

#2. WEN 1500 Running Watts/1800 Starting Watts Gas Powered Portable Generator

WEN 1500 Running Watts/1800 Starting Watts Gas Powered Portable Generator

View it on Amazon: $199.99*
*Price typically updated every 24 hours. Current price may be different.

2016-silver-winnerComing in at second place as our silver product, we have the WEN 1500 Running Watts/1800 Starting Watts Gas Powered portable generator. This was a shoe-in for our number two spot thanks to its fantastic power and design.

First of all, the WEN1500 is fueled by a 7HP and has an internal air-cooling system. It has 1800 surge-watts and 1500 running-watt capability. This CARB-compliant model is perfect for handling a sump pump, refrigerator, microwave or other equipment. It delivers a lot of power in a compact frame, which is what makes it so universally appealing to a variety of different settings and jobs. It can handle a campsite or a work site easily and effectively. Its work panel includes two AC 120volt 12.5-amp three-prong outlets and a cigarette lighter with a 12volt DC outlet. As an added bonus, there is a spark arrestor. That means you won’t have a problem bringing into the forest or to a national park for camping.

The WEN1500 also comes with 98cc of power that runs its air-cooling mechanism. This is a great advantage because it won’t let the machine overheat and you’ll still be able to get power for as long as you need to complete the job. This is a good advantage particularly if you need it for camping use, where it definitely will be working for a few consecutive hours. It is gas powered and has a 1.45-gallon tank that will give you about 7 ½ hours of operation time at 50% capacity.

The noise level for the WEN1500 is a bit louder than the other machines we looked at. It isn’t enough to put it out of contention and it still made our number two spot, but it is worth noting. If you’re looking for the quietest portable generator you can find, this may not be the best option. Still- it has enough of a benefit in other areas that this may not be a deal breaker. For example, if you’re using in on a worksite, rather than a campground, noise may not be an issue considering all the noise happening around you.

In terms of size and portability, the WEN1500 is great. Its dimensions are 17.1-inches by 19.9-inches by 15.9-inches. It’s a little smaller than our number one pick, so storage won’t be a big issue. As long as you have a spare shelf of closet, you’ll have space for this generator. It weighs 50-pounds so it is easily transportable. It comes with the same dual-steel handles the DuroStar DS4000S does—one on each side so carrying the load with someone else is possible. It still is light enough to manage singly though. Just like the DuroStar DS4000S, it also uses its handle configuration for stability. The WEN1500 doesn’t have feet either. Rather, it rests on the steel handle bars that wrap around its entire box.

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Overall the price to value for the WEN1500 is great. It offers a lot of power at a fantastic price. It has enough of features to make any worksite or home use that much easier. It is a workhorse and likely can supply you power to just about anything needed for a good length of time. It also has a low-oil gauge that lets you know when an oil change is due. This is a great feature to help protect the longevity of your machine.

The WEN1500 easily took our second place spot on the list of the best generators that are portable. For maximum power at a great price, this is the perfect accompaniment to the worksite, campground or emergency location.

#3. Champion Power Equipment 1200 Running Watts/1500 Starting Watts Gas Powered Portable Generator

Champion Power Equipment 1200 Running Watts/1500 Starting Watts Gas Powered Portable Generator

View it on Amazon: See Price*
*Price typically updated every 24 hours. Current price may be different.

2016-bronze-awardOur third place bronze pick went to the Champion Power Equipment 1200 Running Watts/1500 Starting Watts Gas Powered portable generator. This generator comes with a lot of advantages. Its power, run-time and portability made it the perfect addition to our list.

The Champion 1500 has a powerful motor. It is a 1200-watt rated motor with 2.4HP gas engine. It can provide you with 1500-watts of surge power. It has a 1.45-capacity fuel tank that lets you run the machine for about 10-hours at 50% capacity. It gives you one 12volt 20-amp outlet and generates single phase 120volt power. It has a normal pull-start configuration and it is relatively easy to engage. This generator can easily run an RV, cabin, large appliance, television, refrigerator or large equipment. It can even do more than just one at a time. This is handy regardless of what situation you need a generator for and definitely pushed the Champion 1500 up our list.

An additional feature we liked was the oil guard to minimize spillage. Anyone who has had to work on a smaller piece of equipment like a generator, knows how easy it is to spill oil. This one helps you out by providing an easy-to-clean and convenient guard. It also has a spark arrestor, so taking it to the forest preserve or campground will be fine. On top of that it has a circuit breaker that is added to protect engine overload. One thing to know about this generator though is that it needs to get its first oil change after using it for five hours. Always plan ahead so you’ll be ready. This is how the manufacturer suggests maintaining the engine for as long as possible. Likely you’re used to oil changes on other machines, and this is a small price to pay for a long-lasting and quality piece of equipment.

The noise level of the Champion 1500 is fantastic. If you do take it to the campground, you also won’t have to worry about noise. This generator is quiet, delivering about 65-decibels of noise. Campgrounds with noise restrictions won’t have a problem with this generator as it falls well below the maximum noise limit. It also makes it extra convenient for a worksite or home-use. Wherever you station it, it won’t be too loud to still carry on a conversation and communicate. This is an added advantage—especially if it is for personal use. No one wants a constant loud motor running at all hours of the day!

The Champion 1500 is a convenient little machine and at 56-pounds, you shouldn’t have an issue with portability. Its box is 14.8-inches by 17.7-inches by 14-inches. Setting it up on location will be easy and bringing it there equally as convenient. Like the DuroStar and the WEN, it has two metal bars around the entire box offering easy-carry handles and a base for the frame. The metal bars are sturdy and connected firmly to the entire unit. It can easily be carried by one person, or two can share the load with the handles on each side. Its size plays well for storage too. You can easily store it on a garage floor, in a closet or on a deep sturdy shelf.

In review, the Champion 1500 is a great generator that offers portability. It offers plenty of power at an affordable cost. The price-to-value is a huge advantage. If you are working in construction, it won’t break the bank and can easily be added to the overhead. If you are using it for camping or an RV, you also won’t have to stretch to afford it. Plus, the return of high-power and reliable energy will more than make up for the cost.

The Champion 1500 is our bronze pick because of all it has to offer. Its size, cost, and power made it a standout. If you need easily portable yet reliable generator power, this may be the best investment you make.

#4. All Power America 800 Running Watts/1000 Starting Watts Gas Powered Portable Generator

All Power America 800 Running Watts/1000 Starting Watts Gas Powered Portable Generator

View it on Amazon: $129.00*
*Price typically updated every 24 hours. Current price may be different.

2016-cheap-budget-pickOur budget pick for the best portable power list is the All-Power America 800 Running Watts/1000 Starting Watts Gas Powered portable generator. Though it doesn’t have all the bells and whistles of our others (which is why it ended up as the budget pick), it is still worth consideration. One note though is that it is non-CARB compliant, so if you’re in California, this model won’t work for you.

The APG3004 is fueled by its 2HP single-cylinder engine and integrated 12volt DC battery charger. It has a 1.2-gallon fuel tank and its portability is evident. It’s perfect for camping or for shorter-term emergency use. It has a maximum power of 1000 watts and uses air-cooling technology for the engine. It runs on unleaded gas and has enough capacity to run for a good amount of time. It isn’t as big as the DuroStar, but for smaller jobs is still can fit the bill. This generator can give you up to 1000-watt surge power and 800-watt power after. It also can run continuously for about 8 ½ hours at 50% capacity. The amount of power you get from this generator is good. It has the ability to run smaller tools, coffee makers, smaller air conditioners, etc. It has a 115volt/60Hz motor with 8 amps. While it can’t manage large equipment, it still can offer a good amount of use at a campsite or on a job location.

When it comes to noise level, the APG3004 is also great. It offers just 68-decibels of sound at 50% capacity. That means it may be perfect for a campsite where noise is an issue—especially at night when things have to be kept as quiet as possible. It also does well at a work site where you don’t want added noise so you can hear other workmen planning the job, or have meetings to discuss the scope of work. Thankfully, this model benefits from new technologies in the market that help to stifle noise levels on equipment. Not only is it a convenience issue but it is also a safety issue. It’s another great feature of the APG3004 generator. It also has durable and solid rubber feet on it so it won’t move. This comes in particularly handy if you are on a worksite where a lot of demolitions are happening. You won’t have to worry about the portable generator falling or getting away from you.

The APG30004 has a regular recoil pull-start to it. It comes with one 120volt, 3-prong outlet and the battery charging tool. The extra battery charging feature makes it a great selection for emergency use. Plus, it’s small enough that you can store it easily. It comes in at just 14-inches by 12-inches by 15-inches. That means you won’t have a problem lugging it from worksite to home and back. You also won’t have an issue with finding the adequate space for it when storing it. It can easily be placed on a shelf. At just over 40-pounds, it isn’t difficult to move by one person. It has a sturdy handle at the top that is bolted into the box.

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In terms of price-to-value, the APG3004 definitely made our cut. Sure it is smaller and less powerful than our other bands, but not everyone needs to run an RV or large commercial equipment on their generator. Some people need a generator for very temporary emergency use as a backup, or for camping and smaller appliance fueling. For smaller jobs like these, this one is just fine. Like all of our picks, it comes with a great value to it. The cost of the machine lines up perfectly with what it can do and that made it fit into our list of top portable generators.

Overall the APG3004 is still worth a look if you want transportable generator power, but on a small- to moderate scale. It has enough power to come in handy on a worksite or campground setting. It may be just the thing you need to complete the job on time. If you’re looking for a budget-friendly pick that still offers great power, test out this generator. It might be the exact thing you were looking for!

Pre-purchase considerations

When it came to pre-purchase considerations we thought of what would bring the most value to our readers who need a portable generator. We decided that runtime and engine would be number one, for reasons that are obvious. We also considered the noise level to make sure machines weren’t annoyingly disruptive and safe. Size and portability were the next on our list of priorities. Price-to-value information was definitely something we took into consideration when reviewing different models. Finally, we noted the extras. Here are detailed explanations of each consideration.

runtime and fuel info

One of the most important considerations we thought about was the portable generator’s power, length of service and overall reliability. That’s the whole purpose of a generator after all. Our picks all had superior engines that promised to work for a long time on one tank of unleaded fuel. We looked for multiple outlets to fuel more than just one piece of equipment. We also demanded that our top four picks had the ability to service more than just one type of user. We wanted the transportable generators that were universal in appeal—they had to be able to service construction sites, campgrounds, tailgaters and household emergency needs. That universal appeal is what set the top four in their respective order.

We also wanted machines that offered more long-term reliability than the average portable generator purchase. We are confident that our machines are just what you need- regardless of why you need them. We compared the amps, voltage and ease of use. Our goal also was to put together a list of generators that could handle the load of power needs put upon them time after time.

noise level

Another consideration we had was noise level. It’s true that on construction sites this isn’t that big of an issue. Everyone expects loud noise and banging. A small portable generator’s noise won’t cause anyone to go home in frustration. Still, as part of the universally usability, we looked at the generator’s noise level when running to make sure it was manageable by everyone. A lot of use of portable generators is done at home, or at a campsite. For personal use, we wanted the best products that didn’t disturb anyone during operation.

We wanted movable generators that had a noise level of 70-decibles or less. Sixty-eight is the decibel level of the average men’s razor. The goal was to list machines that wouldn’t interfere with other activities—whether work activities or recreational. Also, we understand that sometimes having quiet machinery is a necessity. Many forest preserves allow camping, but have strict regulations on noise pollution. In these cases, it is critical to have machines that aren’t overpowering when operating.

Finally, we made noise level a consideration due to safety. No one wants to lose or damage their hearing because of being around loud equipment. We were concerned with quieter machines to allow people to communicate effectively, but primarily to keep our readers’ hearing safe.

size and portability

Next, size and portability were on our list of considerations. We wanted generators that were easily transportable. This may sound obvious, but what one manufacturer considers “portable” may not be what the industry standard is. We found a wide range of generators that were just too heavy or too bulky to make it to our list of the best portable generators. The ones we chose were under 100-pounds and could be easily moved. We also wanted the entire machine to be small in size. Again- though that seems obvious, some manufacturers have huge generators in their “portable” category. We quickly sorted through those to come up with the ones we truly believed were worthy of the title “portable.”

We also looked at the handles for sturdiness and durability. Theoretically, a portable generator is going to constantly be moving from one site to another. Whether it is a campground where you stay a few days, or a worksite where you stay a few weeks, at one point or another you will have to move it. A flimsy handle, or one that is known to come lose is a definite deal-breaker. We picked models with handles that were easy to reach and connected to the generator with no-fault modeling.

price to value

We also looked at price-to-value for each of our generators. We found some transportable generators that were great on power, but had outrageous pricing to match. We found others that had great price tags, but were horrible on power. Our goal was to find the machines that were great on both. If they had a higher price, they had to have a justifiable reason why.

the extras

We noted some great extras with our portable generators. Spark arrestors were particularly handy and noted. Spark arrestors are devices connected to machine that prevents flammable debris emission that can cause fire. A lot of consumers need portable generators for camping or visiting campgrounds. Not all generators are allowed. Some campgrounds require generators with spark arrestors. We wanted to be sure that we noted our picks that had them.

We also noted the picks that have oil gauges, circuit breakers and low-fuel gauges. These are all very helpful for any user and that’s our purpose—to find the most helpful and advantageous products we can possibly find.

Conclusion (Wrapping it up)

So there you have it– our list of top portable generators! We looked at everything when it came to assessing the machines—runtime, fuel usage, noise, size, portability and overall value. The goal was to create a comprehensive list of the generators that were the best in the market. Whether you need extra power for a camping trip, need power for construction worksite or are bracing yourself for the inevitable zombie apocalypse, we got you covered.

Discussion and comments

We want to know what you think. Do you own any of the products we discussed? Which did you buy and how did it work out for you?

Do you know of an even better product?

Comment below and help your fellow consumers make the right choice. Over to you!

Resources

  1. DuroStar DS4000S Review. May 8, 2013.
  2. Zman. Wen 1500 Running Watts/1800 Starting Watts, Gas Powered Portable Generator, CARB Compliant. January 31, 2016.
  3. Champion Power Equipment 42436 1200 Watt Portable Generator Review.
  4. All Power America AP3004 1000-Watt 2-Cycle Gas Powered Portable Generator. May 23, 2013.
  5. Quiet Portable Generators.
  6. Portable Generators Review.
  7. Keith Peterson. Who Makes the Best Home Generator Review. October 26, 2013.