Back-up power is an important part of being prepared for small disasters that strike all of us. Whether it is a thunder storm that knocks out power or there is something more systematic, It a real drag to be without power. We have thousands of dollars in food we can lose in a matter of a day. Worse, if the power goes down for a week, we have to find new ways to go about our lives.
Small generators offer the advantage of being low in cost, use little fuel, and are portable; so you can use them for other things, like camping, tailgating, or boating. They won’t power your whole home but they can greatly improve your life, whether it is for a disaster or a vacation. So, let’s find you the best small generator.
When thinking about what is the best small generator for you, we first need to define what a small generator is, so that we can focus on that. When I think of small generators, I think of small inverter generators. They are light and compact, usually housed in plastic, with foam panels to make them quiet, and are highly portable. These can range from a few hundred watts to 3000 or more watts of starting power. The 2000 watt and 3000 watt sizes are most common.
I chose to focus on the 2,000 and 3,000 watt generators. For most people, these sizes are going to offer the best value and experience. Generators that are smaller than this range offer limited uses, and begin to approach competition with an inverter/battery combo (a topic for an article to come). Some of them are not much cheaper than 2000 watt generators. The larger ones start to get outside the scope of a small generator article.
Although this is a preparedness website, I like to think of getting multiple uses out of items I buy for preparedness. If I spend money on something, it’s nice to be able to use it and not just put it in the closet for the dark days. Many of these generators have features that are designed for compatibility with RVs. With that, you can both be prepared for a storm or for a trip in the woods, RVing. So, you will hear me talk about their usefulness for that purpose. Another consideration is if you are a SHTF prepper, then every time I say RV, think of a bug-out vehicle.
After combing the Internet for days, conducting research on the products and the companies themselves, I have compiled a list of top contenders for both size classes. They each offer different advantages over the others and the best small generator for you is not going to be the same as for everyone.
I’m going to answer the question of which size is best for you but before I do that, let’s look at the generators.
- 1 2000 watt Contenders
- 2 3000 Watt Contenders
- 2.1 Honda EU3000is
- 2.2 Yamaha 3000iS and the EF3000iSEB
- 2.3 Champion 75537i
- 2.4 Champion 100263 Dual Fuel
- 2.5 Boliy Pro3600SIER Qblue RV Pro 3700
- 2.6 Brigg & Stratton 30545 P3000
- 2.7 Do you need a 2000 or a 3000 watt generator? Do you need a larger one?
- 2.8 Should you buy two small ones or one larger one?
- 2.9 A word about customer satisfaction and my analysis.
- 2.10 What is the Best Small Generator?
- 2.11 Related posts:
2000 watt Contenders
All links in this table are to Amazon pages
|Generator||Honda EU2000i||Yamaha EF2000iS||Generac 6866 iQ2000||Kipor IG2000||Champion 73536i||Briggs & Stratton 30651|
|Watts / Starting
|Parallel Ready||With Companion Generator EU2000IC||With a matching unit||With a matching unit||With a matching unit||With a matching unit||With a matching unit or the larger P3000|
|12 v Battery Charger||Yes Cable Separate||Yes, Cable Included||No||No||Yes, Cable Included||No|
|Fuel Gauge||No||Small Analog||Digital – Easy to Read||No||No||Yes|
|Run Time||3.4 hrs. (Full Load)
8.1 hrs. (25% Load)
|Up to 10.5 hrs.||7.7 hrs. (25% Load)||3.5 hrs (Full Load)||9 hrs. (25% Load)||8 hrs. (25% Load)|
|Weight||47 Pounds||44 Pounds||46.2 Pounds||48.5 Pounds||48 Pounds||54 pounds|
|Accessories||6 Gal 2 unit Fuel tank
DC Charging Cables
|Parallel Cables||Parallel Cables||Parallel Cables||Parallel Cables|
|Package Buys||Complete Combo Kit||Power Pack|
- *Compiled from more than one site
Honda EU2000i – Best Repuation
The Honda EU2000i (Link to Amazon ) is the market leader that all other generators, of this size, are measured against. Many people, who have trouble with their other brand generator, remark that they wish they had bought a Honda. That said, some of the other generators, in the list, have an equal level of customer satisfaction as honda and a great deal of costumer praise.
Most people, who wrote about their experience, loved their Honda generator. Despite is reputation for being the best, it didn’t have a perfect record, though. A few people did have problems with it. Complaints were of hard starting, low output, and that it was louder than they expected. All of the complaints were disputed by other buyers. People were in disbelief of any complaints at all.
The Honda EU2000i is unique in that it cannot be run in parallel with anther identical unit. It can only be paralleled with a companion unit–the EU2000IC (see it on Amazon here). The companion unit comes with one standard power outlet and one 30 amp outlet for plugging in RVs. Other generator makers put the 30 amp plug in the parallel cable/kit instead of having two different models of the same generator.
The generator has a 12 v socket for charging batteries but you have to buy a cord separately. It also lacks a fuel gauge.
Sellers were advertising 6 gallon fuel tanks for it, on Amazon, which could greatly extend run time. The tank works on several generator models but it requires the generator to have a fuel pump that can suck the fuel out of the tank, and none of the other generators on this list are listed as compatible with this kind of external tank. This feature alone, gives the Honda a real edge.
I read that it is possible to find other tanks that have built in pumps, for other generators, but I didn’t find any for sale. I found people making kits themselves to work with other generators. There was no plug and play.
The Honda EU2000i generator is the best choice for people who want a generator with a reputation for reliability, durability, and overall satisfaction and are willing to pay extra to get it. Also, if you want to extend your run time with added fuel tanks, this is the easiest choice.
Yamaha EF2000is – Honda’s Closest Competitor
The Yamaha EF2000is (see it on Amazon here) is a near successful attempt to make a generator that is Honda’s Equal. The costumer satisfaction for the two generators are essentially the same. The operation is the same. Yamaha has a price that is nearly the same, but is a bit lower at the time of this writing.
One drawback, is that it is not compatible with the extended fuel tanks that the Honda is compatible with. One advantage is that it has a small analog fuel gauge on top. Honda does not.
Yamaha EF2000is is a great choice for you if you are looking for the closest alternative to Honda, that is a little cheaper. You don’t plan to add external fuel tanks. You like that you can buy two identical units to run parallel instead of two different units. You want to save a a little bit of money without sacrificing reputation and reliability.
Generac 6866iQ2000 – Made in USA
The Generac 6866iQ2000 (As seen on Amazon) has more bells and whistles than the competition. The generator comes with a wattage meter and a run time meter. It tells you how much run time you have left, based on your current load. Just in case that isn’t clear enough, it also comes with an electronic fuel gauge. It consists of a bar of lights that go out as the fuel is used.
Customer satisfaction is a bit lower than some of the other generators but Generac is very responsive to customers, on Amazon. Also, some of the negative reviews seemed like user error.
Generac is a Wisconsin company and the generators are made in Wisconsin. This is the only American made generator I have found so far.
In a YouTube video, mentioned in the section on loudness, below; Generac claims this generator quieter than Honda’s 2000 Watt generator. This information is not scientific though. You can see them measure the loudness in the video, using a meter. In updating this article, I noticed they added that it is quieter than Honda to Amazon. Maybe it actually is.
The Generac is the best choice for you if you like the added features and if you want to buy an American made product in the mid price range.
Kipor IG2000 – A Chinese Up and Comer
The Kipor IG2000 (Amazon Link) is not the clear winner in any of the categories of evaluation. I decided to include this generator on the list because I do believe it is a quality product and there are times when I’d recommend buying it. When should you buy this generator? If you run into it at an estate sale and it is being sold for a good price, that’s a good time to buy. If you are at the store and it’s on sale for a good price, go for it. If it’s an emergency and it’s this is the one available to you, it should do the the job.
The reason it’s not the clear winner is because there is limited data on it ( I had to gather from a few sites), it lacks features that some of the other generators have, and the price is too high for its status. It seemed to have a few more problems than other generators, though the low rating on Amazon (at the time of this writing) is due to few ratings, at least one of which is erroneous and throwing the rating off. A second bad review was from someone who was simply wearing it out and should have bought something else. It had higher ratings elsewhere and several people were happy with it. I may revisit this opinion if more data, on the generator, becomes available.
Kipor is an interesting brand because it is a true Chinese brand. It’s not company from Europe, Japan, or the US having people in China make products for them. It’s a Chinese company, marketing a product with a Chinese brand name. Like Japan, decades ago, I believe we are on the cusp of seeing great products come out of China and I think they will be cheaper than the Japanese ones. Kipor makes lots of way more complex equipment than this generator which suggests a high level of competence. It is a brand to keep an eye on.
Champion 7356i – Best Value
The Champion 73536i (as seen on this Amazon search page) is the best value of all the 2000 watt range generators. It has a high costumer satisfaction rating based on more costumer reviews. At the same time, it has the lowest price. It has a much lower price than most of the other generators. For the price, you could buy two of them and keep one, brand new, in the box as a back up, for less than buying one of some of the others.
The Champion appears to have the highest run time but there is a lack of apples to apples comparison on loads. Champion runs for 9 hours at 25% load. This is because they report run times with different amounts of loads. I have to make extrapolations about them based on what they report and what other brands report.
Looking at the Honda; it runs for 3.4 hours on a full load and 8.1 hours on a 25% load. That suggests that the 25% load is about the same as Kipor’s, who does not report theirs at 25%. That puts Kipor at about 8.1 hours, with Honda. So Champion beat them. Champion clearly beats all the rest, except Yamaha. Yamaha does not report what load its measure of “up to” means. “Up to” sounds like at idol, to me, because that is the longest the generator will run in any conditions.
The Champion generator has the best housing design of all the other generators in this size class. The design is cube shaped and it can be stacked with another generator. The housing for the parallel cables are incorporated into the stack for a really nice neat clean package. It’s much more aesthetically pleasing to have on your campsite or in your back yard. When not stacked, the housing is squatter than the others, making it more stable in the car.
The generator has a slightly higher running wattage ratting than most of the others, tying only with the Briggs and Stratton. The two generators are rated to run at a constant 1700 watts, where the rest are rated for 1600 watts.
The Champion 7356i generator is the best choice for you if you are trying to save money and like the clean neat stackable cube design.
There is another generator, in this price range, that seems comparable at first glance. I really just ran out of room to review it in this post. There are so many high quality contenders at this size, I had to be selective. The other low price contender is Amazon’s Choice, the WEN 56200i. It’s comparable in costumer satisfaction to the Champion, so it’s worth a look if you are in this price range.
Briggs & Stratton 30651 – Most Flexible – Better Value
The Briggs & Stratton 30651 (see it on Amazon here) is unique for its ability to pair with with its larger cousin, the p3000, which can be seen on the same Amazon page. This means you can purchase the two generators, and run one if you need lots of power and the other if you need less. Then if you need bigger boost, run them both.
The Briggs is tied for the winner in running Wattage, as it ties with the champion for running watts at 1700, beating the rest at 1600. It’s the clear winner in starting wattage. The Briggs is the only one to have 2200 starting watts, giving you a bit of a boost in starting those appliances with large motors.
Although Briggs & Stratton is a Wisconsin company, these units are made in China. The made in China label does not say where the parts are made though, only where the units are assembled. Also engineering is likely American. If you are looking to support an American company, this unit is second to Generac.
That brings me to an interesting Factoid: Briggs bought this line of generators, in 2000, from a private equity company, The Beacon Group. Beacon purchased the line from Generac two years earlier, in 1998, with Generac signing a non-compete agreement. In 2008, with the non-compete agreement expired, Generac re-entered the market to compete with Briggs and the others. It’s hard to say for sure, but this suggests there must be some overlap in technology and human resources between the two Wisconsin companies.
The Briggs cost less than most of the other generators, this size but the Champion is the lowest cost. Like the others, I have chosen, it has a high costumer satisfaction rating of 4.4 out of 5. People are happy with their purchase.
The Briggs and Stratton 30651 is the best small generator for you if you want a little bit more power than the other 2000 watt contenders, you want to save some money, and have the option of running parallel with a more powerful generator. Also, if you like the more subdued grey color. The Briggs is the only one that is not a bright color, with the exception of a few that you can pay extra and get in camo.
3000 Watt Contenders
All links in this table are to Amazon pages
|Generator||Honda EU3000is||Yamaha 3000iS||Champion 75537i
|Boliy Pro3600SIER Qblue RV Pro 3700||Briggs & Stratton 30545 P3000|
|Watts / Starting
|Electric Start||Yes||Only with the iSEB Model, See Below||Yes, With Remote Start, or switch||Yes with 2 remotes and button||No|
|12 v Battery Charger||Yes Cable Separate||Yes, Cable Included||Yes, Cable Included||Yes, Cable Included||Yes, Cable Included|
|Run Time||7.2 hrs (Full Load)
20 hrs. (25% Lad)
|19 hrs at 25% Load||8 hrs at 25% Load||See Review / Guess:
8-10 hrs 25% load
|10 at 25% Load|
|Weight||134 Pounds||136 Pounds||95 Pounds||83.1 Pounds|
|Accessories||All Terrain Wheel Kit
|Alternative Models||Honda EU3000i||Yamaha EF3000iSEB||Champion 75531i
Champion 100263 – Dual Fuel
|This model is the best buy in the Boliy line.||This is the only model I found|
I can say many of the same things about the Honda EU3000is (see it on Amazon) as the smaller EU2000i. It is the brand with the best reputation and it has great but not perfect customer satisfaction. It is the most costly generator of this size, with the exception of the Yamaha EF3000iSEB, which has a battery enhanced power boost.
The unit has electric start but not with a remote. For greater combined power, it can be paired with another unit. The only other model, reviewed here, that offers that, is the much less costly Briggs & Stratton
This unit is the only one that does not come with wheels. That can be an advantage if you want to store it in a cabinet on your RV. There are two options if you want wheels. You can purchase all-terrain wheels sold on Amazon, separately. These wheels have the advantage of being larger and better able to traverse grass, than all other wheels on all the other models. Being larger means they take up more space, though. The 2nd option is to purchase the alternative model, the EU3000i. It comes with the more typical smaller wheels and folding handle to pull it around with.
The generator has a socket for charing 12v batteries. The 12 v charging cable is not included, like it is with all of the others. It is sold separately.
At the top of Amazon’s page, It is said to have a run time of “up to” 24 hours. I really find the phrase “up to” in adversing copy, irritating. That phrase is designed to provide unclear information that sounds great. The phrase means that that is the most amount of time the generator will run on a single tank of gas. To me, that means if you plug nothing into it and just let it idol, which is useless. That means the phrase is deceptive in nature, because it leads you to believe you will be able to get performance that you simply won’t be able to get. Always be wary of that phrase, “up to.”
There is better information than that, for run time, further down. The generator will run for 7.2 hours on its rated load and 20 hours on a 25% load. This makes it the winner in run time. There is no need for deceptive phrasing on the seller’s part. It should be noted that the alternative EU3000i model has about half the fuel capacity and half the run time.
The Honda EU3000is or EU3000i is the best small generator for you if you are looking for the brand with the best reputation, want electric start, and or the option to parallel with another unit. Also, the EU3000is is the best if you want the one that will run the longest without needing to fuel up.
Yamaha 3000iS and the EF3000iSEB
Here are the Amazon links for the Yamaha EF3000iSEB and the cheaper Yamaha 3000iS. I had a hard time deciding which Yamaha model most closely fit the others—which model is the primary model and which is the alternate. The iS version has no electric start, which puts it out of the same category as the Honda but it does cost less for the same quality of machine. The iSEB version has electric start and also 500 watt battery powered boost that lasts 10 seconds—which drives up the price above that of Honda.
The battery boost adds definite cost with questionable value. Remote start is an add on option for the iSEB. Because the battery boost is a unique feature, outside the scope of all the other generators and it drives up the price so much, I went with the iS as the primary model to put my my chart.
The 3000 watt Yamaha line has highest customer satisfaction of any generator I have reviewed, with 4.9 out of 5 stars, though the rating is not based on a large number of reviews. There were no 1 star reviews for me to read, for either model, so I cannot discuss any significant problems people had with the machines. One reviewer commented: “It performs as advertised and purrs like a kitten.”
The generator has a run time that is about double most of the other models, at 19 hours on a 25% load. The only model that beats it is the Honda EU3000iS model and only by one hour.
Most of the generators in this class have two wheels and either a folding handle or an extending luggage style handle to pull them around with. The Yamaha is a bit heavier and has a larger fuel capacity than those other models. It has has four wheels and no handle, folding or luggage style, so you’d have to bend over to push it. You might consider tying a rope to it, if you want to cart it more than 25 feet or so. This might be worth it for the extra fuel capacity but it is something to consider.
The Yamaha EF3000iS is the best small generator for you if, you want the reliability and fuel capacity of a Honda (or better) and are willing to give up electric start to save money.
The Yamaha EF3000iSEB is the best small generator for you if, you need the extra 500 watts of starting power for large motor driven appliances, like a large air conditioner, while running other items and you want electric start. See our article, Portable Generator Sizing. Also, this one has wheels. Both wheel options for Honda drive the price above this Yamaha choice.
I looked to see if there was a slightly larger generator, on the market, that offered something better than an extra 500 watts for 10 seconds for a similar price as the EF3000iSEB model offers. I thought that by eliminating the battery boost and just making the generator a bit larger, you might get more bang for your buck. The best one I found is very close to this power performance and is the dual fuel Champion at the bottom of the next section below.
Otherwise, the next size up in inverter generators, offered by Yamaha, is significantly larger and more money. It’s also large enough to be outside the scope of this article. If you are curious, the Amazon page for the Yamaha EF4500iSE inverter generator, which has 4500 Starting watts and 4000 running watts can be found here.
Another option for a larger capacity, if you want to stay in this price, would be to buy two Briggs and Strattons (See below) and run them in parallel. You might also consider the Champion duel fuel mentioned below.
Champion is, once again, the best value. The Champion 75537i (see it on Amazon), has a low price combined with a high satisfaction. It also comes with remote start, a feature not available on Honda and that you have to pay extra for with Yamaha. Champion 3100 watt generators are, by far, the most popular line in this size class, based on the number of reviews.
I asked some questions about this generator, on Amazon, and one customer gave me an unsolicited response that they love their generator, in an answer to a question about something else.
This size generator comes one of two different fuel tank size ranges. One is the just over 3 gallon range and one is the 1.5-2 gallon range. Honda offers both sizes. Yamaha offers the larger size. This generator is in the lower size range giving it a lower run time of 8 hours at 25% load. I did see a YouTube video of a guy figuring out a way to add an extra tank to this generator. He shows you what you need to do it and demonstrates how he did it.
The generator has a handy folding handle for pulling it around on its two wheels.
The Champion 75537i is my top pick. It is the best small generator for you if, you want a great combination of features, reliability, and capacity.
You are already saving money by going with a champion and if you want to save even more money, the 75531i has no electric start and is significantly lower in cost. You can see the Amazon page for it here.
Champion 100263 Dual Fuel
The Champion 100263 is a dual fuel option. I stumbled upon it on amazon while reviewing the to other two Champions, and thought I had to mention it here. At 3400 starting /3100 running watts, it has a slightly higher output than the others. It has a push button start instead of remote. There are no reviews of the generator and I did check several sites. Given its similarity to the other champion generators and their favorable reviews, this is certainly something to consider.
One advantage of the dual fuel is that propane tanks are separate and come in assorted sizes and can be banked together. For run time, the sky is the limit, especially if your house runs on propane and you have a home sized propane tank in your yard. Two 40 pound propane tanks, commonly found on an RV, could run this generator for nearly 60 hours—making this Champion, the champion of run time. You’d probably have to check oil before it runs out of fuel. For more advantages of running propane, see our article on generator fuel types.
Boliy Pro3600SIER Qblue RV Pro 3700
The Boliy Pro3600SIER Qblue RV Pro 3700 (as seen on Amazon) is another option for lower to mid priced generator with nice features. Like the Champion, it has a remote start. It comes with two fobs for it. It offers a bit more power output than the rest with 3300 starting watts and 3000 running watts. It is the second lowest cost generator in the 3000 watt class, on this list.
On reliability, the generator has a high costumer rating of 4.1 out of 5 stars but it is based on few ratings and other generators by this maker had lower ratings. From that, it’s a little uncertain, what the quality of this product is.
I could not find the run time for this generator but based on fuel tank sizes and run times of other generators my best guess is that the run time is between 8-10 hours at 25% load. I’m leaning towards 10 but with a higher capacity, maybe not. This generator has a fuel tank of 1.9 gallons. The Honda EU3000i has a 1.56 gallon fuel tank and a 7.7 25% load hr run time. The Briggs & Stratton has a 1.5 gallon tank and runs for 10 hours at 25% load.
The Boliy Pro3600SIER Qblue RV Pro 3700 is the best small generator for you if you like the remote start feature and need the extra capacity over the champion that has the same feature. You are also okay with purchasing a generator that has a little uncertainty on reliability.
If you just need the extra output; You may consider the Champion duel fuel above. Though it has no ratings, at all, (I looked on sites other than Amazon too) all other Champion products are loved and raved about by their many owners. You will have to give up your key fob, for a push button start, though.
Brigg & Stratton 30545 P3000
Briggs & Stratton 30545 P3000 (as seen on Amazon) is a lower cost / high rating, good value generator. It offers the unique feature of being able to parallel with an identical unit or the smaller 2200 watt model, sold on the same page.
Running in parallel gives a potential maximum running watt rating of 4800-5200 watts, depending on which unit you run parallel with. Running in parallel with at least one 3000 watt class generator is the only way, to get a full 30 amps of power to your RV, in any of the generators or combinations listed here. The only other one that can do it is the Honda. Some of the 5200 watts won’t fit though a single 30 amp receptacle though. You will need to use other sockets to use the entire potential output, at once.
The generator has 3000 starting watts but only 2600 running watts, which is a bit lower than the standard for this size class, of 2800 watts. The generator also has no option for electric start. It comes with a handy luggage style expendable handle
The Briggs seems more fuel efficient than Honda. It gets 10 hours on 1.5 gallons of fuel at 25% load vs 7.7 hours on 1.56 gallons for the the Honda EU3000i (smaller tank version). Be careful in that because 25% of the B&S load is a smaller load than the Honda because of the lower running watts rating. Tricky tricky. 25% of 2600 watts is a load of 650 watts for the Briggs. 25% of 2800 watts is 700 watts for the Honda. I suspect that at 700 watts, the run time of the Briggs is about the same as the Honda or Champion.
The Briggs & Stratton 30545 P3000 is the best small generator for you if, you need the extra power of running a 3000 watt class generator in parallel with another generator; if you are okay with not having electric start; and if you don’t want to spend the money for a Honda.
Update: Briggs & Stratton Q6500
Briggs & Stratton has added a monster 6500 starting and 5000 running watt unit at the Amazon Link I mentioned above. There are not many inverter generators of this size on the market and it’s size takes it outside the scope of an article on small generators. Yet I feel like I should say something about it here, because I’m linking to it above.
The generator does not come with separate product review statistics from the others. So, it’s difficult to tell how popular they are or how well they do. It’s nice to see this being offered because some people just need the extra capacity and don’t want the added noise or fuel consumption of a conventional generator. The price is still more than a conventional generator of the same capacity but it is about have that of its closest competitor, the Honda FI EU7000is. See it.
It’s amazingly small for a generator of this capacity. It runs for 14 hours on 25% load.
Do you need a 2000 or a 3000 watt generator? Do you need a larger one?
The short answer is, if you plan to run an RV sized air conditioner with other common items, you need at least 3000 watts of starting power to be comfortable. If you are just running some electronics, lights, some fans, and charging your batteries, a 2000 watt generator will do. For a more in depth look at how to determine how many watts of power you need, check out our article on portable generator sizing.
There is one additional consideration to choosing these sizes, specific to small generators. Many small generators can run in parallel to one another. This means you can run two together and double your power output. So that begs the question…
Should you buy two small ones or one larger one?
The main idea behind buying two generators and running them in parallel is that you can save fuel, when you don’t need the extra power. You can do this by running one generator instead of two.
The effect is reduced by the inverter generators’ ability to automatically throttle themselves down for lighter loads. This is something conventional generators cannot do. It means that when you reduce the load on the generator, not only does it have less work to do, it can do it at a lower RPM, and save fuel. There is also twice the maintenance and twice the repairs. For these reasons, you might lean towards buying one larger generator instead of two smaller ones.
There is another consideration, that turns the the other way, however—redundancy. No matter how high the costumer satisfaction rating for the generator, you are considering, every generator on the market can and has malfunctioned. Every one. If it does so right at the moment you need it, you could be in an emergency or out in the wilderness, without power. Your food could be spoiling and your batteries dying—without the means to get it repaired or replaced. Having two small generators means if one goes down, chances are, the other one can handle your most critical needs, like keeping the fridge going, the lights on, and some fans to move air around.
A word about customer satisfaction and my analysis.
The best way to know exactly the level of reliability and quality of certain generators would be to purchase 1000s of them and run them through rigorous, double blind, controlled lab tests. I lack the means to do that, yet that does not mean I don’t have some data to make some determinations on this. Amazon has tons of data to comb through and analyze, including peoples’ personal stories and number ratings. Other sites, sometimes offered some information, as well.
Before selecting the generators to put on this list, I read many of the reviews for all of the generators. I made sure to pay special attention to the 1 star reviews, which they all (except the Yamaha 3000 watt class) have. What I found is that about 50% of one star reviews are due to user error or they are reviews written by people who aren’t actually users of the generators. About 25% of the users seemed to have actual problems, worthy of great dissatisfaction. The rest had problems that are consistent with mechanical products and they just needed to fix them.
One thing that is common, in user reviews, is that products of different quality levels can have satisfaction ratings that are the same. How is that possible? Part of it might be due to lower expectations of lower priced products. People expect the Honda to be flawless. If it’s not, they have regret. On the other hand, if they paid 40% of the price of a Honda, they may be willing to put up with a minor inconvenience–like say if the fuel gauge stopped working.
I did see some buyers remorse with Honda and what people paid for it. A cheaper product might get some forgiveness for a repair or two if it is generally reliable. At the end of the day, if a generator gets the job done, is easy to start, and is quiet, people give it a 5 star rating. If it has the smallest problem, the rating goes down. If it ever doesn’t start when needed or if it needs to be replaced, the 1 star scathing review is made–even if it is the user’s fault. The lower priced products generally performed as advertised and they got good reviews for it.
As I mentioned at the opening to this article, all of these inverter generators are made to be as quiet as practically possible, for such a small machine. They are enclosed in plastic and insulated. They are much quieter than conventional generators, though they do produce some noise. They typically have decibel ranges between 51 and 60 decibels, at some unknown distance and ¼ load. I left off the numbers for the individual units because I don’t know how far away each unit is measured at and if they are measuring at the same distance. Without that information, a decibel number is pretty useless at comparing one unit to another.
I watched one YouTube video, put on by Generac, where they showed their 2000 watt generator to be quieter than the Honda 2000 watt generator—by 4 decibels. They were standing very close to the generators, loaded them up to 50%. They got a decibel measure that is much higher than both generators advertise. That means the advertised loudness is a measurement taken from further away.
Here you can see a guy comparing the loudness of a Honda to a Yamaha generator. You can get a sense of what they sound like and see that they are very similar. Another YouTuber was running a champion 3100 watt generator and claimed it was as quiet as Honda he ran in the past but he didn’t run one to let us hear. If you just want to hear the champion run, you can here. Of course hearing something on a video is not the same as in person but you can get an idea about the tones and compare if people are talking while they generators are running.
What is the Best Small Generator?
The answer to this question is going to be different depending on your needs. There are reasons why any generator in this article might be the best small generator for you. If you want the best reputation for reliability, consider Honda and Yamaha models. Also consider those two if you want longer run time in the 3000 watt range. If you want one with great features and made in USA, then you want a Generac. If you want the generator that offers the most parallel options for the greatest power output, you want a Briggs and Stratton. If you want a generator that has the ability to run on propane or gas, then the Champion 100263 is the one for you. That one is harder to find though.
Originally published on 7/16/16 and updated on 9/24/17