It can be so confusing seeing so many different portable generators on the market ranging from a couple of hundred dollars to well over $3000!
But what’s the Best Portable Generators Under $500 If that’s the question, you’ve come to the right place. In this simple guide, we want to share with you the characteristics you need to consider when choosing a generator under $500.
We have spent days narrowing down and researching through a list of dozens of portable generators.
After many hours and days, we have drawn up a list of the best portable generators with the best quality/price ratio. The rankings and results of the products are very simple; you will find a photo of the product, a brief description, and the current offer on Amazon. We have also added a few of our favorite features.
If you are in a hurry? Here is our top pick!
Last update on 2020-10-14 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
We have listed the 5 Portable Generators below if you want to save time and go check out the prices on Amazon. However, a more detailed description of each can be found further within this article.
There are various types and models of generators that differ from each other, mainly by the source of energy used or the fuel.
Last update on 2020-10-14 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
The Five We Reviewed Are:
5. Westinghouse WGen5300s Storm Portable Generator
4. DuroStar DS4000S Gas Powered Portable Generator
3. DuroMax XP4850EH 4850 watt Dual Fuel Hybrid generator
2. Sportsman GEN4000 Gas Powered Portable Generator
1. WEN 56200i Portable Inverter Generator
How did we choose the Best Portable Generators Under $500?
A portable generator can be handy as an emergency solution in the event of a power failure at home or to operate devices away from a source of electricity. However, you must be able to calculate your electricity needs and know the existing technologies.
Today there are several types of generator sets. What sets them apart is their energy source:
- Gasoline generators: these are the most common. They generally run on Unleaded 95 or 98. Their main shortcoming, however, is the emission of exhaust gases. It is entirely inadvisable to use them in an enclosed space. Nevertheless, they are very simple to use, very safe and have the advantage of being smaller.
- Diesel generator sets: generally similar to the previous ones, they are typically distinguished by better autonomy. Their main advantage is that diesel expires even slower than petrol. This is an advantage for a backup generator in the garage. Generally, more powerful, they are used more in professional and industrial environments.
- Gas generator sets: since they do not produce exhaust gases, they are not harmful for indoor use. But you can imagine, a gas bottle with a certain weight (at least 30 kg for standard butane). It is not advisable to buy a generator set using only gas, especially since they are difficult to find. But investing in a hybrid model can be a good plan to ensure its versatility.
- Solar generators: with a yield of around 35% at present, this technology is the future. If the solar chargers can be enough to charge your phone in a few hours, it will not be the same on a construction site.
After defining your needs in terms of power and place of use, here are other characteristics you can rely on to make your choice:
- Energy consumption: location (campsite, construction site, etc.) and use determine the power required. The amount of current (expressed in watts) required will depend on the type and number of devices you want to connect to. However, be careful always to provide a small margin (about 200 W), since some devices consume more at launch than in their continuous use.
- Wattage: this criterion depends on your needs. When camping, you are going to need around 2000 W, especially if you have a motorhome (with lights and appliances). 1000 W is enough to cover everything related to smartphones, lights, and computers. The rest can cover the kitchen consumption, provided you do not light everything at the same time. If you use 100% of your generator’s capacity, you will use it twice as fast. Have a 25% margin.
Knowing this, we analyzed a series of characteristics to decide between the five models that we had selected based on the first criteria:
- The fuel consumption or yield: for occasional use, this is not very important. But if it is for use over a week of vacation, for example, analyzing the performance becomes interesting. Prefer generators that adapt their consumption to the wattage consumed.
- The noise level: the models can differ significantly on this point, but again it all depends on your use. For a campsite, it will be necessary to pay more attention to the noise generated. One of the prerequisites is to look for a portable model that runs as quietly as possible or to buy extension cords to keep you away from the noise.
- Autonomy and capacity: if the displayed autonomy is only 5 hours for 15 L of petrol, it is a poor performance. If you want to buy a generator set as an emergency solution during a natural disaster, for example, invest in a model that offers maximum hours of current with a full tank.
- Ease of use: some models automatically calculate the voltage according to the connected devices, with a voltage regulator or an Inverter. Among the other little features that make life easier for amateurs is an automatic start. However, check that this type of model also has a manual start, in case of an emergency.
- Ease of maintenance: an oil level gauge is a must to avoid smoking up all the space and an emergency stop system if no more oil can still be useful.
- Ease of transport: remember that the weight of a generator is not necessarily linked to its power, but that a power generator is often heavier. The weight indicated on the technical sheets does not include fuel. Ideally, prefer a model with wheels included (good quality and all-terrain).
- The rotation speed: This is the revolutions that the engine manages to turn within a minute; this measurement is given by the RPM. Traditional 60 Hz power generators work by reaching a rotation speed of between 1800 and 3600 RPM while decreasing in power to 50 Hz; the speeds have a range of between 1500 and 3500 RPM. The first category includes the most sophisticated engines that can reach necessary measures; they are industrial mold machines, indicated for intense and continuous use over time. The second category, on the other hand, refers to smaller engines that do not require too rigorous maintenance and can be used for trips outside the city or for small energy events.
- Inverter technology: The other factor in question regards the frequency stability, which is the frequency fluctuation linked to the motor. The advice is to choose a fluctuation that settles on ± 0.5 Hz. If there is a need to power electronic devices, proper clarification must be made. This feature could damage an electronic device if it is connected. To overcome this problem, generators are equipped with an Inverter technology, which therefore manages to stabilize the quantity of electricity supplied.
By considering all these characteristics, we established a list of relevant models from reliable brands. We then consulted many user reviews on dedicated sites, blogs, YouTube channels, etc. This allowed us to present to you, in the end, the five best generators under $500.
Top 5 Portable Generators Under $500
The Westinghouse WGen5300s Storm Portable Generator runs on gas and a 274 CC Westinghouse 4-Stroke OHV Engine. Users highly appreciate it for its ease of use, relatively silent operation, and good autonomy (20 hours of autonomy with a single tank of 4.7 Gallons). With a starting power of 6600 W and continuous power of 5300 W, it offers you many possibilities of use.
It has 1 One RV-Ready TT-30R 30 Amp Receptacle, 15–20R 120V Household Duplex Receptacle, and 1 Transfer Switch Ready L14-30R 30 Amp Receptacle. For safety, the outlets are rubber coated. Another positive point is the solidity of this model.
It has a robust frame with an electric starter, designed for easy starting. The engine also consumes less fuel than other competing models thanks to its intelligent energy management system, which adapts consumption to your needs.
The only drawback we note with this generator relates to its weight of 119.2 pounds and its dimensions of 26.97 x 21.65 x 19.69 inches. However, be aware that superior models such as the Westinghouse WGen5300s Storm Portable Generator are within portable generators. The noise level for its part is estimated at 69 dB, which is quite quiet compared to other generators.
Finally, note that the Westinghouse WGen5300s is an economic model with advanced safety features. The overload detection system automatically cuts the output current in the event of excessive overload while keeping the motor running.
The oil level sensor automatically protects the engine by stopping it if the level is too low, which allows you to feed more devices at the same time safely.
- Powerful Generator: With 6.6 kW of power, it will be possible to use the generator for any need (for outdoor parties) or to power different devices effectively.
- Automatic start: The ATS system allows the generator to remain active even in the absence of current, therefore very useful for emergencies.
- Large fuel tank: With 4. 7 Gallon available, you can make the most of the autonomy of the generator, which can remain on for many hours.
- Dimensions: It is heavy and bulky, so take this into account if you need something lighter.
4. DuroStar DS4000S
Offered at a moderate price, the DuroStar DS4000S is a gas model with a 7.0 Hp OHV engine, which is air-cooled. It has a maximum power of 4000 W (3,300W continuously) and a large 3.96 GALLONS tank offering a very comfortable autonomy of 8 hours. It also includes an AVR system and an oil level alarm.
With a constant power of 3,300W and its relatively silent operation (69 dB at 7 m distance), it is just as suitable for domestic use, camping, caravan as for outdoor events, or on construction sites.
It offers one 120V 30A twist lock outlet and two 120V household outlets outputs that come with an automatic voltage regulator, which limits the voltage variation and makes it possible to avoid malfunctions.
Also, it is secured with a fan that cools the engine but also with the alarm that tells you if you are running out of oil. Like the previous model, this one is relatively light, with 81.60 lbs on the scale.
In conclusion, this generator will suit people looking for a model with good autonomy and is easy to use. The AVR system and the alarm secure its use. It only needs a transport cart and a starter to make its quality/price ratio even more attractive.
- Dimensions: The generator is compact enough to be positioned anywhere you want quickly.
- Price-quality: The reduced cost of the model is combined with 3 kW of power, sufficient for lighting, and to give power to the house in emergencies.
- Warning lights: A light signal will warn you in case of overload or if the oil level is too low.
- Quiet: Can be used without disturbing neighbors or at night while sleeping.
- Not very powerful: The maximum power of 4kW and the nominal power of 3.3kW leave a little to be desired, especially if you are looking for a more performing product.
The DuroMax XP4850EH is a particularly efficient model that is intended for semi-professional use. It has a nominal power of 3850 W (4850 W in intensive use), which supports several gourmet tools or hotplates. The dual-fuel engine with fuel tank capacity (GASOLINE) – 3.96 gallons and a gas tank size (PROPANE) – 20 gallons, supports an autonomy of approximately 8-12 hours.
It is more than enough for most outdoor activities. In reality, if we look at the autonomy, it is above all the proof of an extraordinary yield, which justifies the price.
In terms of connections, it can operate at both 240 V and 120 V simultaneously. When working in full power, it can operate at 120V. The sockets are calibrated using Inverter technology, which allows the electrical voltage to be adapted to the type of device connected.
One of its main advantages is the noise level. With 69 dB recorded at 7 m, it is one of the quietest in its category compared to its wattage.
Compactness and transportability also remain one of the brand’s priorities. It is rare to see such power for a weight of less than 130 pounds when empty. Also, it includes wheels and a carrying handle that facilitate its transport.
Finally, we salute the reliability and solidity of this generator. It is a model that displays excellent performance at a fair price. It stands out for its robustness, low noise level, and ease of transport, thanks to the integrated wheels and the handle.
- Inverter technology: This technology allows the generator to produce up to 3,850 continuous watts, ideal for powering devices such as computers, TVs, and game consoles stably and effectively.
- Autonomy: The 3.96 gallons tank guarantees an autonomy of 8 continuous hours.
- Practical: The reduced dimensions allow you to place the generator anywhere; it will also be possible to take advantage of the recharging sockets for batteries and the USB one for portable devices.
- Quiet: With only 69 dB of noise, it will be possible to use it even at night without disturbing the neighbors.
- Limited: It is not suitable for household appliances or for organizing outdoor parties.
This generator set with a 4-stroke OHV engine offers a 4000W starting power and a running power of 3500 Watts. It has a tank with a capacity of 3.6 gallons (which is equivalent to a comfortable autonomy about 10 hours). It has a transport trolley which facilitates its transport. It stands out from the entry-level competition by its autonomy and ergonomics.
With 3500 W, you can connect two non-stop tools. The 10 hours of autonomy mean that you can do a lot of work with a single tank. It includes one-120V RV outlet, four-120 volt outlets, and one-12 volt DC outlet which can be used for battery charging
It also has a voltage limiter and an oil level alarm. Ideal for use on-site (for heating or lighting, for example), this model is an excellent choice at an affordable price. It comes with a 1-year warranty; therefore, you get value for money.
- Price-quality: The lower cost compared to other generators and the adequate power make it an ideal generator to keep in case of emergencies and to illuminate the garden or your camping place.
- Powerful: It reaches 4000 watts of maximum power, ideal for lighting a house or organizing outdoor events. We also recommend it to professionals and hobbyists with a reasonable budget available.
- Safe: You can keep everything under control, thanks to the on and off button.
- 7.0 HP, four-stroke OHV engine: It guarantees excellent continuous performance and reliability and allows the generator to last a long time.
- Capacity: The 3.6 gallons tank does not ensure long autonomy for the generator.
The WEN 56200i Portable Inverter Generator is small and compact with an ergonomic shape that makes it easily transportable. It is ideal to be associated with delicate equipment, in need of a stable current. The engine is a four-stroke single-cylinder, running on petrol. The tank is small, just 1 gallon, but this does not affect autonomy if you think that with a full tank, you will have power for 9.4 Hours.
As for the noise level, even in this case, the generator did not disappoint us with 51 dBA. Feel free to use it on the campsite, without the fear of disturbing your tent neighbors.
It has a 79.7 cc 4-stroke OHV engine powered by petrol, it has a maximum power of 2000 watts, which is excellent as a generator for campers. It is equipped with various parallel current outputs that allow it to be used together with all electronics, to increase performance without additional expense. Also, this model is designed to produce a pure sine wave, which makes it very safe.
- Powerful: It reaches a maximum power of 2kw, therefore ideal for powering power tools and for lighting.
- Quiet: It is probably one of the least noisy models on the market; it can also be used at night without disturbing.
- Tank: The generator has a long autonomy with just 1 gallon available, which you can use to feed the environment for many hours.
- Price: It costs slightly less than other models, while still maintaining high performance.
- The maximum power of 2kW and the nominal power of 1.6kW leave a little to be desired, especially if you are looking for a more performing product
There are two Portable generators that stood out to us. The Westinghouse WGen5300s Storm Portable Generator for its rugged and tough functionality and the WEN 56200i Portable Inverter Generator for its lightweight and power output for such a small generator.
- 5500 Running Watts & 6600 Peak Watts; Electric Start; 4.7 Gallon Fuel Tank With Fuel Gauge; Up to 13.5 Hours...
- Features One 5–20R 120V Household Duplex Receptacle, One RV-Ready TT-30R 30 Amp Receptacle, and One Transfer...
- Plug-and-Play: Comes With Oil, an Oil Funnel, a Tool Kit, Wheel Kit, and a User’s Manual to Get You Started...
- Powered by a 274cc Westinghouse 4-Stroke OHV Engine Featuring a Long-Lasting Cast Iron Sleeve With Automatic...
- All Westinghouse Portable Generators are Functionally Tested in the Factory and May Contain Minimum Residual...
- Dimensions: 18" x 11" x 18" | Weight: 50 lbs
- Noise Level: 53 dB operation
- EPA III and CARB Compliant 79.7 cc 4-stroke OHV engine produces 2000 surge watts and 1600 rated watts
- Great for campgrounds, construction sites, tailgates and power outages
- Produces clean power to safely operate and prevent damage to sensitive electronics such as phones, tablets,...
Last update on 2020-10-14 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
Conclusion: Best Portable Generator Under $500
No matter what your reason for wanting a portable generator on a budget under $500 the 5 listed above are certainly worth looking at. But don’t just take our word for it. Click the products and head over to Amazon to read more customer reviews from each product.
The choice is up to you and will be made not just on budget but various factors like weight, size, type, brand and many other factors.
Good luck purchasing the best portable generator for under $500