Best Portable Inverter Generator for 2019

LAST UPDATED : Jul 2019

If you are looking for a portable and reliable power source that is both quiet and energy efficient, a portable inverter generator is certainly the best way to go.

In the old days, a power generator needed to run at a constant speed and produced a constant load output. It doesn’t matter if you’re running a single 100-watt lightbulb or a 1,000-watt household fridge; the generator burns enough fuel (and makes enough noise) to run at full load. Often the capacity of a base generator is around 4,000 watts and they are typically over-sized to meet the load demands of multiple appliances.

With the arrival of the newer inverter generators, all of this has changed. Not only are inverter generators lighter and smaller, but they are also significantly quieter, provide a more stable power supply and are significantly more fuel efficient. If you are running a laptop or any sensitive equipment, without doubt, an inverter generator is the way to go.

Newer Inverter Generators

  • Quieter operation
  • Smaller and lighter
  • Fuel efficient


Conventional Generators

  • Constant and noisy
  • Over-sized to handle surge capacity
  • Waste a lot of fuel

Best portable inverter generators – At a glance

If you are in a hurry, here’s a summary of the winners in each category. Scroll to the end of the list to see why we selected each unit and a mini review for each of the winners.

Honda EU2000I 2000 Watt Portable Generator with Inverter
WEN 56200i Super Quiet 2000-Watt Portable Inverter Generator, CARB Compliant
Champion 3100-Watt RV Ready Portable Inverter Generator
Title
Honda EU2000I 2000 Watt Portable Generator with Inverter
WEN 56200i Super Quiet 2000-Watt Portable Inverter Generator, CARB Compliant
Champion 3100-Watt RV Ready Portable Inverter Generator
Running watts
1,600
1,600
2,800
Startup watts
2,000
2,000
3,100
Parallel capable
Warranty
3 years
2 year
3 years
Honda EU2000I 2000 Watt Portable Generator with Inverter
Title
Honda EU2000I 2000 Watt Portable Generator with Inverter
Running watts
1,600
Startup watts
2,000
Parallel capable
Warranty
3 years
WEN 56200i Super Quiet 2000-Watt Portable Inverter Generator, CARB Compliant
Title
WEN 56200i Super Quiet 2000-Watt Portable Inverter Generator, CARB Compliant
Running watts
1,600
Startup watts
2,000
Parallel capable
Warranty
2 year
Champion 3100-Watt RV Ready Portable Inverter Generator
Title
Champion 3100-Watt RV Ready Portable Inverter Generator
Running watts
2,800
Startup watts
3,100
Parallel capable
Warranty
3 years
Yamaha EF2000iSv2, 1600 Running Watts/2000 Starting Watts, Gas Powered Portable Inverter
Champion 3800-Watt Dual Fuel RV Ready Portable Generator with Electric Start
Title
Yamaha EF2000iSv2, 1600 Running Watts/2000 Starting Watts, Gas Powered Portable Inverter
Champion 3800-Watt Dual Fuel RV Ready Portable Generator with Electric Start
Running watts
1,600
3,800
Startup watts
2,000
4,750
Parallel capable
Warranty
3 year
3 year
Yamaha EF2000iSv2, 1600 Running Watts/2000 Starting Watts, Gas Powered Portable Inverter
Title
Yamaha EF2000iSv2, 1600 Running Watts/2000 Starting Watts, Gas Powered Portable Inverter
Running watts
1,600
Startup watts
2,000
Parallel capable
Warranty
3 year
Champion 3800-Watt Dual Fuel RV Ready Portable Generator with Electric Start
Title
Champion 3800-Watt Dual Fuel RV Ready Portable Generator with Electric Start
Running watts
3,800
Startup watts
4,750
Parallel capable
Warranty
3 year

How to choose the best inverter generator – the buyers guide

There are a few things you need to consider when selecting an inverter generator.

  • Running and Starting Power (in Watts)
  • Weight and Size and optional wheels
  • Noise levels
  • Ability to create parallel or tandem capacity

In addition to this, you will also see other features including electric start, GFCI, 120/240v operation, extended run-times, power-boost mode and fuel efficiency.

Power output (in Watts)

When you are dealing with any type of generator, the first thing you need to consider is the power output. Power output is measured in a unit called “watts”.

While conventional generators come in just about any size you want (500 watts to 10,000+ watts), the most popular portable units tend to be in the 1,000 to 4,000-watt range. If you factor in the ability to run tandem units, portable units can be wired in parallel to produce the additional power output.

When you are looking at your household appliances or work tools, you also need to consider the starting and the running wattage.

The running or "rated watts" are the continuous watts needed to keep the items running.

The following image is from the bottom of a toaster and is 1,650 watts.

Starting watts are the extra watts needed for a few seconds when an item is first started. This is generally required by heating/cooling appliances and any motor-driven item (eg a pump, circular saw or washing machine). These appliances will often have a "maximum wattage" value printed on them and it can be 2 to 5 times the normal operating demand.

When buying an inverter generator, you will often see generators with two power outputs. For example, 3,300 running watts and 4,000 starting watts. The starting wattage is the surge it is capable of handling and the running wattage is the normal load capacity.

In the following image, the “max power” for the appliance is 275 watts. The rated (or continuous) rating is 106 watts.

In some cases, the appliance may show two different watt readings. This is especially true when you have international appliances that can run off two different voltages.

In the following image, our traveling jug uses 340 watts when it is run on 120 volts, but uses almost twice as many watts (720) when it is running on a 230 volt supply.

Unfortunately , ppliance labeling is not consistent across the board, and you will sometimes find an appliance shown with a reading in Amps instead of Watts. While it is annoying, it is not difficult to convert Amps into Watts.

The first thing you need to locate is the voltage (normally 120V or 230V). You saw an example of this on the traveling jug label shown above.

Once you have found the voltage, you multiply it by the number of amps to derive the wattage.

In the example shown above, we multiply the 120V by the 10A to get a watt reading of 1,200 watts.

In summary:
  • Look for the watt reading and the max power reading
  • Make sure you are selecting the correct wattage for your local voltage
  • Convert amps and volts into watts

Watt (what) does it all mean?

Why is it so important to understand the wattage of your appliances?

When it comes time to select an inverter generator, you need to make sure you have enough power to run all your appliances.

You also need to ensure you have enough additional power to handle the starting or surge requirements of the appliances with a “max rating”. The important thing to keep in mind is that the surge only lasts for a few seconds and you only need to have enough capacity to handle the surge for the short period. By staging or staggering the startup of your various appliances, you can run much more than just the basic necessities.

​​While a portable generator can’t run your entire household, it will give you backup power until the normal supply is restored. Here are some of the more common items, and you can easily get the wattage of the other items directly from their attached labels.

  • Lights and lamps need 60 to 100 watts
  • Refrigerator needs 500 to 750 watts
  • Microwave ovens need 1,000 to 1,400 watts
  • Computer needs 60 to 300 watts (depending on its type)
  • Heaters need 500 to 1,500 watts
  • Coffee machine needs 750 to 1,000 watts
  • Electric drill needs 500 to 900 watts
  • A sump pump needs 750 to 1,500 watts

A summary of other features

After determining the amount of power you need, there are plenty of features that differentiate the inverter generator models.

Electric or Easy Start

The best portable inverter generators have a push button or key start. If the generator has a rip cord, it will normally offer decompression for easy starting.

Oil level warning and fuel gauge

You never want to run your generator without oil. The oil warning system will avoid costly damage to your unit and a fuel gauge saves you having to remove the filler cap.

Wheels

​Most portable generators don’t need to have wheels – especially when the unit only weighs around 40 pounds or so. However, as the power of the generator increases, so does its size and weight. The largest generators can weigh as much as 90 pounds or more, and wheels are something you will really appreciate on these units.

GFCI

A ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI)​ is a device that shuts off an electric power circuit when it detects that current is flowing along an unintended path, such as through water or a person. It is used to reduce the risk of electric shock​.

Fuel Efficiency

The more efficient a generator is, the longer it will run on a single tank of fuel. You have to be careful when you are comparing fuel efficiency.

​Most manufacturers advertise the time the generator will run at a reduced capacity. For example, you may see one generator that runs for 8 hours at 50% capacity and another generator that runs for 12 hours ​at 1/4 load.

At first you may think this is a bit deceptive. However, this is more than reasonable considering most inverter generators adjust their output (and fuel usage) to match the load requirements ​when needed, and they ​are not normally left running at ​full ​capacity for hours on end.

Multiple Power Outlets


Most generators will offer one or two 120V AC outlets. Portable units often include a DC 12V output that can be used to charge a battery while the generator is running.

Earlier in the article, we talked about running inverter generators in parallel. This allows you to combine the power output of two generators to essentially “double up” the wattage being output. The two generators are connected together using special parallel operation cables that allow them to work together efficiently.

​Portable generators can also include a specific RV outlet that allows you to plug directly into your RV’s electrical circuit, or a 120/240V twist lock connection that is compatible for connecting into a ​professionally installed household transfer switch​ to provide backup power to your house..


Why we selected the winners

Let’s have a look at each of the winners in more detail. After reviewing hundreds of units, over several categories, we explain why we selected each of our winners and the main features and benefits of the various models.

Let’s get started with the overall winner – the Honda EU2000i

#1 Honda EU2000i – Best overall inverter generator 2019

With it’s ability to handle extended peak loads, and it’s worldwide support network, the Honda EU2000i wins best overall inverter generator. This unit is ideal for portable use at home, camping or on the job site.
  • 1,600 watts continuous / 2,000 watts peak load
  • Runs for 8.1 hours at 25% on a single tank of gas
  • Runs for 3.4 hours on a single tank of gas at it rated 1,600 watt load
  • Super quiet 59dBA at rated load and 53dBA at 1/4 load
  • Two 120 Volt outlets and one 12 volt (unregulated) DC outlet
  • Less than 46 lbs (dry weight)
  • The power generated by the unit is extremely clean and reliable. The sine wave output is as reliable as the power you get in your home and is suitable for running sensitive computers and laptops.

The larger 98.5cc engine means the unit is able to handle peak loads for longer than other units. Testing has proven that the EU2000i is capable of producing 2,000 watts continuously for up to 30 minutes. Other units are only able to produce peak power for 10 to 30 seconds.

By utilizing Honda’s exclusive “Eco Throttle” system, the EU2000i adjusts to match the load requirements and to produce great fuel efficiency and noise reduction when it is at idle.

A single generator is more than capable of powering the fridge and a standalone freezer, as well as a TV, cable box, modem and lighting.

Units can be run in parallel or tandem to produce even more wattage.

Honda has a great reputation for producing high quality and reliable units. The 3 year warranty is covered by Honda’s worldwide network of service workshops. With such an extensive support network, you can rest easy that the unit can be easily serviced if you are on the road.

Pros

  • Parallel capability
  • Can run 8 hours on one tank at 25%
  • Can handle peak load for 30 min
  • Very extensive Honda support network


Cons

  • Expensive (but you get what you pay for)

The verdict

The Honda EU2000i easily wins first place. If you are looking for a unit with excellent after sales support, a great warranty and good performance under load, this is the unit for you. Even though the unit is slightly more expensive than other models, the build quality is excellent and you can rest easy with support being provided through the nationwide/worldwide Honda network.


#2 WEN 56200i – Best budget inverter generator 2019

As far as value for money goes, the WEN 56200i earns the title of “best budget inverter generator”.

At roughly half the price of the Honda EU2000i, it still has features that rival many of the more expensive models. It also doesn’t cut corners on reliability or performance.

  • 1,600 watts continuous / 2,000 watts peak load
  • Runs for 6 hours at 25% on a single tank of gas
  • Quiet 53dBA at rated load and 51dBA at 1/4 load
  • Two 120 Volt outlets and one 12 volt DC outlet and one 5V USB port.
  • 48 lbs (dry weight)

The WEN 56200i produces a very clean electricity output with a total harmonic distortion of between 0.3% and 1.2% under load. This makes it extremely safe for your sensitive appliances and electronics.

The generator is CARB and EPA III compliant. It has excellent safety features including a low oil automatic shutdown and an overload protection system to protect your appliances from damage.

By purchasing a second WEN 56200i and using a special parallel linking kit, you can produce twice the amount of power (3,200/4,000 watts). When you take into account that this model is almost half the price of the EU2000i, the combined cost of two units and the linking cable will produce twice the wattage for around the same price.

Pros

  • Almost half the cost of the Honda EU2000i
  • Super quiet
  • Can run in parallel for more power


Cons

  • Shorter 6 hour run time (compared to other units)

The verdict

At almost half the price of the similar Honda unit, this is certainly a great deal. The unit is full of features and produces outstanding power quality with a harmonic distortion of less than 1.2% under full load. This makes it safe to run laptops and other vulnerable electronics. We also note that the 79cc engine is the same engine used in the Yamaha EF2000is.


#3 Champion 75537i – Best RV ready inverter generator 2019

The unit is setup perfectly for an RV and has plenty of connection options.

The 120V 30A socket allows direct connection to an RV, and the two additional household sockets allow you to run equipment directly from the generator when it’s being used around the house or when you are out and about. With the addition of two USB sockets and a 12V DC charging point, all the bases are covered.

  • 2,800 watts continuous / 3,100 watts peak load
  • Runs for 8 hours at 25% on a single tank of gas
  • 58dBA at 23 feet
  • One RV socket, two 120 Volt outlets, one 12 volt DC outlet and two 5V USB ports.
  • 96 lbs (dry weight)

The wheels on the Champion inverter generator make up for its extra weight. At 96 lbs the built-in mobility features and carry handles make it easier to move around.

The generator is CARB and EPA III compliant. It has excellent safety features including a low oil automatic shutdown and an overload protection system to protect your appliances from damage.

The unit includes 3-year limited warranty and free lifetime technical support from dedicated experts.

Pros

  • 3,100 watts peak form a single unit
  • Built-in RV socket
  • Built-in mobility features


Cons

  • Heavier than other units

The verdict

The perfect inverter generator for use with (or without) your RV. While it is slightly louder than smaller models, you will appreciate the 3,100 watt peak load capabilities that allows you to run a 13,500 BTU air conditioner with economy mode turned on.


#4 Yamaha EF2000iSv2 – Best lightweight inverter generator 2019

The Yamaha EF2000iSv2 can run continuously for 10.5 hours on a single tank of gas. Very few generators have the ability to run for such a long duration and this is partly due to the 10% larger tank size of 1.1 gallons (instead of 1 gallon tanks used by other models)
  • 1,600 watts continuous / 2,000 watts peak load
  • Runs for 10.5 hours on a single tank of gas
  • 51.5dBA at 1/4 load
  • Two 120 Volt outlets and one 12 volt DC outlet
  • 44 lbs (dry weight) and only 2.2 cubic feet in dimensions.

If you need extra power, you can connect two units in parallel to deliver up to 30 amps. The EF2000iSv2 also allows you to connect earlier model generators and can be connected in parallel with the EF2000iS or the EF2000iSv2.

The generator is CARB and EPA III compliant and is fitted with a USFS-approved spark arrestor.

The unit includes 3-year warranty on parts through the worldwide Yamaha network of qualified services centers.

Pros

  • Long running time of 10.5 hours
  • Parallel capability
  • Extremely quiet operation


Cons

  • No USB charging port

The verdict

The Yamaha EF2000iSv2 is definitely one of the best generators for camping or boating. It’s portable size and quiet operation makes it a welcome camping companion. One of the best things about this unit is that it can run for more than 10 hours on a single tank of gas. You wont find many small generators that can run for that long without refilling.


#5 Champion 76533 – Best dual fuel inverter generator 2019

This is the only generator in our review that is not an inverter based generator. However, if you are looking for lots of power at a good price and the flexibility of a dual fuel system, this is certainly worth looking at.

This conventional generator is packed with features

  • 3,800 watts continuous / 4,750 watts peak load on gasoline
  • 3,420 watts continuous / 4,275 watts peak load on propane
  • Runs for 9 hours at 50% power on one tank of gas (3.4 gal)
  • Runs for 10 hours on a 20 lb propane tank
  • Dual fuel straight out of the box !
  • Volt guard surge protection and GFCI protected outlets
  • one 120V 30A RV outlet, one 120V 30A locking and two 120V 20A GFCI protected outlets with Volt Guard to protect your appliances.

With 3,800 watts of output, this generator is capable of running the essential items you need in a power outage – lights, sump pump, refrigerator, modem/router, furnace blower, fan, TV/DVD, computer, smartphone/tablet charger, etc. The 4,750 watts startup loading means you have enough power to start and run a 15,000 BTU RV air conditioner.

The unit is not exactly quiet and is measured at 68 dBA from 23 feet away (Not much more than regular conversation). Like all conventional generators, it runs at a continuous 3600 rpm. Inverter generators speed up and slow down to match power demands. This can make a big difference to the noise output.

The cold start feature makes it easy to start in cold weather and with the dual fuel source, you can use gasoline or propane directly out of the box. The box even includes a hose for connecting up a standard propane tank.

It’s worth noting that the running time is measured at 50% power. The running time for the other units reviewed is measured at 25% power.

The generator is EPA and CARB complaint. It comes with a USDA approved spark arrestor.

The unit includes 3-year limited warranty and free lifetime technical support from dedicated experts.

Pros

  • Dual fuel generator straight out of the box
  • Capable of starting a 15,000 BTU air conditioner
  • Built-in RV connection
  • 9 – 10 hours operation on one tank
  • Volt Guard and GFCI protection


Cons

  • Louder than smaller generators
  • Not and inverter generator

The verdict

If you need dual fuel, this is the model to go for. Its ready to go straight out of the box and can run for 9 to 10 hours on a single tank of fuel. Keep in mind that this is not an inverter generator. However the volt guard and GFCI protection will protect your appliances.


Final words – wrapping it up

There’s lots of reasons why you might want portable inverter generator. Whether its for power outages, camping, hunting, connecting up your RV, tailgating or running power equipment, there’s bound to be a generator that meets your needs.

Depending on your selected use, your decision will be based on the most important factors from:

  • Power output (rated/continuous and starting/peak)
  • Running time on a single tank
  • Noise levels
  • Number and type of power outlets
  • Portability, weight and size
  • Fuel types
  • Purchase price

It’s quite difficult to find a solution that ticks all the boxes, and in the end you will have to weigh up the purchase price against the need for the other features. As power output increases, so does the noise levels. The running time and fuel efficiency also tends to decrease as the power output levels increase. Dual fuel is a nice option – but may not be necessary if you gasoline available. The reality is that a 20 lb propane tank is often harder to fill than finding another gallon of gas.

We hope our reviews help you find your ideal portable inverter generator. In case you think we have missed a good generator, let us know.

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