The best time to shop for the cheap generators is when you don’t need one. If you wait until a hurricane is headed your way or during an area-wide power outage, generator deals will be hard if not impossible to find. Normally, however, you’ll find loads of excellent deals for the best portable generators as long as you shop ahead of time. Whether you want a generator for storm-related outages, to have power for tools and lights on a work site, to use with an RV, or for tailgating, camping, or other recreational pursuits, you can find excellent generator deals to meet any need. Just don’t try to find cheap generators when the power is already out. 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.
Today’s best generator deals
- Sportsman 4,000/3,500-Watt Gasoline Powered Portable Generator
— $279, was $369
- Sportsman 2,200/1,800-watt Dual Fuel Portable Inverter Generator
— $499, was $739
- Duracell PowerSource 1800 Watt Gasless Generator and Portable Power Station
— $600, was $700
- Sportsman 7,500/6,000-Watt Dual Fuel Powered Portable Generator
— $749, was $940
- Pulsar Products G450RN Portable Inverter Generator
— $750, was $800
- Generac 7129 GP3000i Inverter Generator
— $752, was $999
- Sportsman 8,750/7,000-Watt Dual Fuel Digital Inverter Generator
— $1,249, was $1,778
How to choose a generator
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 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 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.
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