You should really have a generator on hand before you actually need one in an emergency or during an outage. The hurricane season may start in June and last until November, but you shouldn’t wait until a hurricane is headed your way to shop for a generator. Of course, there are power outages and other catastrophic weather events to worry about. If you put off buying a generator until then, you can count on waiting in line with tons of other generator shoppers. Even outside of blizzard and hurricane seasons, you should take advantage of the best generator deals. Tough winters with crippling storms can cut out power in many parts of the U.S. Then there are wildfires, blackouts, and more relatively common reasons for power outages. As long as you shop ahead of time, you’ll find loads of excellent deals for the best portable generators. Whether you want a generator for storm-related outages, to have power for tools and lights on a worksite, to use with an RV, or for tailgating, camping, or other recreational pursuits, you can find excellent generator deals to meet any need. We found the best generator deals available for a variety of uses, listed below. We’ll update this post regularly with the best cheap generators, so check back often.
Anker 521 Powerhouse 200-watt portable power station — $210, was $250
This ultra-portable electric generator can also be connected to solar panels to charge via renewable energy. It’s perfect for camping and road trips but works just fine at home too during an outage. It features a 256 watt-hour capacity using a LiFePO4 battery, which has a six times longer lifespan than comparable battery types. A bevy of ports include an extra USB-C, two AC, two USB-A, and a car outlet.
Sportsman 4,000-watt gas portable generator — $249, was $329
This standard gas generator can run for up to 10 hours with 3.6 gallons of gas on a 50% load. It has four 120-volt outlets, including one 120-volt RV outlet and a 12-volt DC outlet. It’s capable of 4,000 surge watts and 3,500 running watts with a 3,600 RPM 212cc recoil engine and emergency shutoff switch. It’s relatively portable too so you can bring it with you camping, exploring, on a road trip, or even into your backyard.
Champion Power Equipment 43753500-watt RV-ready portable generator — $402, was $529
This RV-ready generator has a wireless remote start with a range of up to 80 feet, so you don’t have to go out in the cold or bundle up to get it going. It delivers 4,375 starting watts, and 3,500 running watts, and can run for up to 14 hours on a full tank of gas. Covered outlets are protected from the elements. There’s enough power output to run a 15,000 BTU RV air conditioner or heating unit.
Champion Power Equipment 3500-watt portable dual fuel generator — $519, was $669
Relatively portable, and ready to go, this dual-use generator can run on gas or propane. It features 3,950 starting watts, 3,150 running watts on gasoline, and 3,500 running watts on propane. In addition, you’ll get 10.5 hours at a 50% load with a 20-pound propane tank. It comes with a 6.5-foot propane hose and built-in regulator. The electric start makes it easy to get going, when it’s fueled up. You can also track voltage, frequencies, and run-time on the intelligauge monitor.
BLUETTI AC200P 2,000 watt-hour electric portable power station — $1,398, was $1,699
No gas needed. This all-electric system can be used indoors and out safely. It’s powerful, delivering 2,000 watt-hours of capacity which can be expanded by adding BLUETTI’s extra batteries. It supports 700-watt solar and 500-watt AC inputs, allowing it to recharge to full in about 2.5 hours. There are six AC ports, two wireless charging pads, a 12-volt/25-amp DC port, and USB-A, Type-C, and car ports. Basically, there are plenty of places to plug into and charge all your most important devices. It can also power most appliances in an outage like blenders, ice coolers, projectors, and beyond.
When you shop for a portable generator during an emergency you lose out on more than just a chance for a good deal on a cheap generator. There are many types, sizes, and optimal applications for generators and if you shop when the power is threatened or has already failed, you may have to take what you can find, which might not be the best choice for your needs. Assuming you’ll have the time to shop for the right type of generator deals, keep the following factors in mind.
- Your primary need – Are you shopping for a portable generator for tailgate parties and camping? If that’s the case you can likely get away with a relatively small, light, and inexpensive portable power station. If you want more power for additional electrical devices and appliances, to power tools on a worksite, or to hook up to an RV, a smaller gasoline or propane-fueled generator may be enough to do the trick. If what you really need is a generator for a backup power supply to operate essential appliances and lights for your home, look for a larger portable generator with a running power rating of 7,000 watts or more. Portable generators with 20,000 watts and up can supply sufficient power for a small home, but at that size, portability is relatively limited. For long-term whole-home energy backup, the best current solution is a whole home generator, preferably connected to a natural gas fuel supply from your street. Whole-home generators, however, cost on average from $10,000 to $30,000 including installation, and are beyond the scope of this post.
- How much capacity do you really need? – The trick in selecting a portable generator with the right capacity is buying enough but not too much. One way to estimate capacity is to add up the power draws of everything you would likely want to operate at the same time and then add 20% to 50% to allow for peak power demand when devices start up and to have enough power to hook up an additional device or two. Buying twice as much power capacity as you need is fine, but be prepared to sacrifice portability and to pay more for the generator and for the fuel to run it.
- Fuel type – Smaller power stations based on Lithium-ion or lead-acid batteries are limited to short-term applications. Some day home power storage batteries connected to solar or wind power sources may be common, but today most home generators are the rule, and most portable units run on gasoline or propane. Dual fuel units add convenience, but in either case, it’s necessary to have the fuel on hand. A gas or propane-powered generator won’t do you much good if you have to go out to buy fuel when gas stations and propane suppliers are closed.
- Generator or inverter generator – In general, generators are cheaper and louder than inverters, but most generators also run at full power. A generator running at full capacity speed uses more fuel than an inverter that adjusts to the demand. Because they don’t run as much or as loudly, inverters may run for a longer time on the same amount of fuel, and inverter noise can be less of a bother to neighbors and you than regular generators. Inverter generators cost more than regular generators, though.
- Portability – The smallest power stations, generators, and inverter generators typically have handles so you can pick them up to carry or move them. Larger portable generators often have two or four wheels and a handle to push or pull them. If you buy a large portable generator, substantial wheels and tires make a difference.
- Connections – Different classes of generators or backup power supplies have varied connectors and connection requirements. A portable power station may have one or two 120V plugs for small appliances and lights and USB ports for recharging devices. Generators for RVs typically have a covered 30 or 50 amp RV port that connects with a special cable to a matching port found on most RVs. If you’re going to use a generator for home backup power there are several choices ranging in complexity, convenience, capacity, and cost. Connecting directly to appliances from a home generator using cables is certainly possible but limiting and potentially dangerous due to potential cable fires. Transfer boxes, interlocks, and generlinks are better alternatives for generator-to-home electrical power connections, but they are subject to local building codes and require installation by a licensed electrician. Those connections are beyond the scope of this article, but if you are shopping for a substantial generator for home power backup, it’s an excellent idea to speak to an electrician first to learn about local connection alternatives and installation costs.
- Cost – The more power you need the more money you’ll have to spend. While that statement is accurate, it’s not the whole story because safety and convenience factors can also affect price (see mentions above of inverters and home connections). When you’re searching for the best cheap generator deals, the best way to save is to analyze your needs before you shop so you look for the right generator type and capacity for your needs.