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Best Portable Generators

We did the research to find the best portable generators made in the USA. Different people have different needs when it comes to purchasing a generator: backup power supply, camping, power tools, and many others. Below, you’ll find recommendations for several of those use categories, as well as detailed product information about each, and even our research methodology.

Our Findings

Overall, we found that three American companies were really producing the best portable generators today: Generac, NorthStar, and Winco. Each of them build great generators whether you need it for work or home. You can find NorthStar generators at Northern Tool and Winco generators on their site, wincogen.com. Both of these options are good for commercial uses on the job site. Generac, which we’ve detailed more below, has better options for home. We previously had Champion generators here as well, but recently discovered that they moved a lot of their manufacturing overseas. We are working on finding more recommendations here, so stay tuned!

Top Recommendations

Best Portable Generators Best for:
Generac XC6500 Gas Powered Portable Generator Heavy Duty
Generac 5734, 15000 Running Watts High Wattage

Recommendations: Going Deeper

Below, we go into a ton of detail about each of our top picks, why we liked them, and some pros and cons for each.

Best Heavy Duty Portable Generator

Generac XC6500 Gas Powered Portable Generator

The Generac XC6500 is the best we found for heavy duty jobs. It’s perfect for powering: large appliances during your next power outage, multiple power tools, large AC units, and other heavy duty jobs. This generator has an hour meter so that you can accurately track run time and maintenance resets. The run time is about 14 hours on a full tank of gas (8.5 gallons) – pretty standard among most 6500 watt generators. The durable steel frame and “never flat” wheels performed best among the models we looked at. For starting, this model has a pull cord that is pretty easy to use. If you need a heavy duty generator for the job site or for emergencies around the house, this is a good option.

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Things we like:

  • Steel lifting pocket, easy to transport
  • Easy access to all maintenance areas
  • Impact resistant fuel tank and steel frame
  • Good idle control
  • Covered outlets

Things we don’t like:

  • None

 

Best High Wattage Portable Generator

Generac 5734, 15000 Running Watts

If you need a ton of power in your generator, the Generac 15,000 watt portable generator is the best we found among U.S. manufacturers. For unexpected power outages, this portable generator has enough power to run your large appliances, security system, sump pump, lights, and other small appliances throughout the house. It’s also great for use on a job site or campground that requires a lot of power. A sturdy steel tube exterior prevents damage to the wonderfully constructed OHVI (overhead valve industrial) engine inside. The engine and oil filter are constructed nicely on this generator for longer engine life, and it has some nice safeguards on it too, like a low oil automatic shutdown to prevent engine damage and a maintenance alert system.

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Things we like:

  • Durable steel frame
  • Safeguards for engine protection
  • Electric start
  • Hour meter to gauge fuel consumption
  • 16 gallon fuel tank – runs for 10 hours at 50% load
  • Surge protected outlets

Things we don’t like:

  • Very heavy at 373 lbs

Recap: Best Portable Generators Made in the USA


Factors We Considered

Durability

Portable generators are a lifetime investment. If you buy the right one and take care of it, they can last you decades of use. We looked for generators that showed durability in their frame, engine construction, and much more to make sure that the generator you end up choosing is an asset to you in times of need.

Power Level

Portable generators have several different use cases, everything from rebooting large appliances when your power goes out, to firing up the TV at your next tailgate or running the pressure washer at your job site. Each of these tasks and many others require different power levels. The more available wattage you have in your portable generator, the higher load tasks it can handle. Typically, anything above a couple thousand watts will be just fine for powering your tailgate, small appliances, and small machinery. If you want to power larger appliances like refrigerators, you need at least 3,500 watts. And for tasks like powering your AC unit in your camping RV, you need at least 7,500 watts. Each task is different, so make sure you know what you’ll be using your portable generator for before making a purchasing decision. We made sure to include generators in our selections that could cover virtually all of your needs.

Outlets

You also need to consider the different types of outlets you’ll need on your generator. Your smaller options are typically going to have at least two 120V AC outlets and some USB ports. As you look at generators with increased power levels, typically more of these 120V outlets are available, plus you should start to see some 240V plugs as well. For outdoor usage, make sure to look for an option with outlets that are GFCI protected.

Extra Features

Extra features are always nice on portable generators, so we looked for the features that are going to add significant value to your experience. They included items like: wireless remote starters, multiple outlet options, USB adapters, electric starters, safeguards for engine health, and more.

Noise Level

Generators are known to make a lot of noise, and if you have one inside your home or at your tailgate powering appliances, the excess noise can be a nuisance. We eliminated generators from our consideration that were excessively noisy. The ones that came out on top for us passed our noise level tests, without sacrificing on quality. The average portable generator hums between 50 and 60dB, which is about the same noise level as a central air conditioning unit that is 20 feet away.

Fuel Type and Run Time

In most use cases, you need your generator to last you more than just a couple of hours. We looked for generators that at least met the average run time for their wattage level, and had features included that can help you save fuel and use it efficiently. Several portable generators these days come with automatic idling capabilities to save fuel when they can.

The run time of your generator also depends on the type of fuel you use. Most options these days are gas-powered generators. However, diesel fuel generators will typically give you better mileage for the volume of fuel you put in. Solar powered generators are also becoming more common. If you’re interested in solar power, be sure to check out our research on American made solar panels.

Easy to Start and Use

Your generator should be relatively easy to start and operate. If you can afford it, electric starters are the way to go – they just make your life so much easier versus pulling that recoil cord every time. We also looked for generators with EFI (Electronic Fuel Injection), which gets rid of your need for a carburetor and also makes your generator easier to start when it’s cold outside.

Value

We want to make sure that you’re getting the best portable generator for your money. We eliminated several generators because we thought their quality didn’t live up to their price tag.

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