A portable generator is the best alternative source of electricity during blackouts and outdoor trips. While browsing for a portable generator, you need to keep a lot of things in your mind. One of the most important is the budget. A generator owner needs to spend money and time on maintaining the generator, arranging power cords, transfer switches, and also bear the running cost. It is always the best approach to look for an economical buy that will fulfill the purpose and save you some bucks in the long run.
Why under $500
When it comes to classical generators or inverter generators, $500 is a fair benchmark. At this price range, you not only find quality, durability, reliability, you also get an economical running cost with a warranty and some other features. You may be surprised to know that you will find generators as low as $200, but they won’t last for more than 6 months. We have kept a $500 price bracket for generators in our guide to present you with high-quality generators that are not too heavy on your pocket.
Problems Associated with buying Generators under $500
We have done a lot of research on the generators and made sure that only excellent generators are included in our list. Your concerns about quality are resolved with us. Other issues like the power output, fuel efficiency, and maintenance needs vary from one generator to another and can be dealt with. For example, you can calculate your power needs before buying a generator, don’t overload the generator to get better fuel efficiency, and do periodic maintenance checks to avoid any big problem. We will briefly discuss these things in the latter part of this guide, along with a buying guide and FAQs. For now, let’s look at the best 5 portable generators under $500.
5 Best Cheap Generators under $500: Economic Solutions for Backup Power
DuroMax New_XP4000S Generator
Champion Power Equipment 100307 Generator
Baja 900-Watt Inverter Generator
Westinghouse iGen2200 Inverter Generator
WEN 56475 4750-Watt Portable Generator
1. DuroMax New_XP4000S Refurbished 4000W 50-State Portable Gas Engine Generator, Blue – Best Gas-Powered Generator under $500
Power Capacity: The generator gives you 4000 watts starting capacity and 3300 running watts. The ratio of starting wattage to running wattage is excellent. With this generator, you can easily power the most important appliances of an average-sized home, making no compromise on AC, furnace, TV, and lights. However, you would need to do load management while starting your appliances. If you plan to use it for RVs, you will be amazed by its durability and fuel economy.
Engine Specifications: It has an engine of 208 CC, making sure that your power needs are always met without any hassles. The horsepower is 7 HP with an engine speed of 3600 RPM and a recoil start mechanism. The generator makes a sound of 69 DB while running.
Fuel Type and Tank Size: It uses gas to run the engine. The generator has a fuel capacity of 3.9 gallons. The fuel capacity is also impressive compared to other generators in the market in the same price range.
Run Time: With a full tank of gasoline, the generator has a run time of 12.3 hours on half the load. It means that if the total load on your generator is less than 1650 watts, your generator will run for approximately 12.3 hours with one full tank. The run time will decrease or increase when you alter the load on the generator. With a full load, the time will be around 5-6 hours with a full tank of gas.
Dimensions and Weight: The generator weighs 90 pounds and has a dimension of 17.5 x 18 x 18 inches. Considering the weight, it won’t be easy to move the generator without a set of wheels. For RVs, it is best to be kept at the designated space of the generator.
Portability: It is a heavyweight unit and is not ideal for people who need a portable power solution. You will need a set of wheels to move it from your garage to the running site. Please keep in mind that the wheel kit is not included in the purchase.
Other Features: The generator comes with an oil funnel, a spark plug wrench, a tool kit, DC charging cables, and an owner manual. The owner manual contains all the information you need to fire up your generator for the first time.
Warranty and Certifications: It comes with a 30-days replacement warranty and a 1-year warranty on parts. The quality level of DuroMax is so high that you won’t feel the need to make a warranty claim.
Our Opinion and Verdict:
2. Champion Power Equipment 100307 4375/3500-Watt Dual Fuel RV Ready Portable Generator – Best Dual Fuel Generator below $500
Fuel Type and Tank Size: Champion is one of the best companies producing dual fuel generators. Such generators offer your versatility and freedom while running them. It can run on propane and gasoline. While gasoline has a short shelf life and may not be available during natural disasters, propane has a shelf life of 30 years. The generator has a gas tank capacity of 3.4 gallons of gas.
Power Capacity: Dual fuel generators differ in capacity with respect to the fuel being used in them. Gas burns better and provides more power to the engine; therefore, the generator produces more power than propane. This model has a starting wattage of 4375 and a running wattage of 3500 on gasoline. On propane, it offers 3950 peak wattage and 3150 running wattage. Here lies the catch, if you are planning to buy a dual fuel portable generator to be mostly run on propane, always calculate your appliance wattage keeping in mind the wattage figures for propane. If you are going to use propane occasionally and during the crisis hour, you would have to skip some appliances. For example, you can skip the TV and a couple of lights. They would cover up the difference of 350 running watts in propane and gas.
Engine Specifications: It has an engine size of 224 CC, slightly bigger than the one reviewed above, and comes with a recoil starting mechanism. It uses 10W-30 engine oil, and the oil capacity is 0.6 quarts. The engine comes with an automatic low oil shut-off sensor.
Run Time: At 50% load, the generator will run for 9 hours with a full gasoline tank. The run time is 10 hours for propane, with a 50% load on a 20-pound propane tank. Run time changes with the amount of load on your generator. One way to extend the run time is to take off unnecessary loads from the generator and add heavy loads one by one.
Dimensions and Weight: The generator measures 23.2” L x 19.1″ W x 20″ H and weighs 105 lbs. You would need a wheel kit to move it around.
Portability: The generator is perfect for home and RV use. If you have attached a wheel kit with it, you can move it around on flat places.
Outlets: You get one 120V 30A RV outlet, one 120V 30A locking outlet, and two 120V 20A outlets for your home connections.
Other Features: The fuel selector switch is a very important and functional part of the generator. The champion comes with the most reliable and durable selector switches. It will not create problems for you in the long run. You also get 3.3 feet long cable for attaching a propane cylinder with the generator. The generator produces a running sound of 68 decibels. The generator comes with a volt guard and a cold start technology. Volt guard helps protect against voltage surges, and cold start helps you start your generator without any issues during cold weather. The generator has been made RV ready to power the RV air conditioner without making any alterations.
Warranty: The Generator comes with a 3-year limited warranty and a lifetime customer support service for any issues.
Our Opinion and Verdict:
3. Baja 900-Watt Propane Powered Inverter Generator, BAI911LP – Best Propane Powered Inverter under $500 for Individual Use
Power Capacity: The generator has a starting wattage of 900 watts and a running wattage of 700 watts. It is a small generator and is perfect for individual use for running sensitive appliances like laptops, phone chargers, and anything that needs a clean current with a stable sine wave.
Run Time: With a 25% load, the generator will give you a run time of 3 hours at a 1 lb. propane tank. At the same load, it will give 60 hours on a full 20 lbs. propane tank. When the load is increased, the run time decreases accordingly. At full load, a 1 lb. propane tank will last for 1 hour.
Starting Mechanism: It comes with a pull-start mechanism. You would have to pull the cord to start it. It requires minimum force to fire it up.
Weight and Dimensions: The generator is lightweight (29.7 pounds); it is perfect to be carried around with you on camping trips. The dimensions are 20.75 x 12 x 16 inches. As it is only propane powered, you would have to make sure that you have enough space in your RV to store a propane cylinder.
Other Features: The generator has a single 120V 15A AC output. You can connect a high-quality power cord to connect your appliances. The generator comes with an on/off switch and an overload indicator light.
Warranty and Certifications: It is covered with a 2-year limited warranty and a 30-day return warranty. The generator is CARB compliant and can be used in California. It is also EPA approved.
Our Opinion and Verdict:
4. Westinghouse iGen2200 Portable Inverter Generator 1800 Rated & 2200 Peak Watts, Gas Powered, CARB Compliant – Best Gas Inverter under $500
Power Output: Westinghouse’s inverter is made to provide more power in a compact size. It is simply the best generator to meet all your RV needs and power some of your home appliances. 2200 peak wattage and a running wattage of 1800 watts ensure that no appliance in your RV is left unpowered, and you don’t have to compromise on your RV’s AC to run television and phone charger. It produces a clean and stable current, making it safe to run your sensitive appliances.
Fuel Type and Tank Size: It runs on gas and a fuel capacity of 1.2 gallons. We understand that the fuel capacity is low, but it’s the best they can give you in such a compact size.
Engine Specifications: The generator has a 79 CC OHV engine from Westinghouse. It produces very little sound and keeps your environment calm and safe. The total noise emitted from this generator stands at 52 decibels. It is the lowest among all the generators reviewed in this list.
Run Time: When running at 25% load capacity, the generator will provide you with a massive back up time of 12 hours. With a 50% load, the running time is around 5-6 hours with a full tank.
Outlets: The generator offers you two 5V DC USB ports and two 120V outlets. Its electricity is so clean and stable that you can even connect your mobile phone directly to the USB ports for charging. Don’t worry while doing this: it won’t harm your phones.
Dimensions and Weight: The measurements are 19.80 x 11.40 x 17.90 inches, and it weighs 46 pounds. You will need strong arms to carry it to your campsite or picnic trip.
Portability: The inverter has been designed to make it portable. The carry handle has an ergonomic design, and it feels like lifting a 20 kg suitcase. It is no doubt a lot of weight, considering the other luggage with you. However, it might be nothing for you if you can manage it or take turns carrying it.
Warranty and Certifications: The generator is CARB certified and comes with a 3-year warranty. Its warranty is large than other inverters and also covers labor along with the parts.
Other Features: It comes with an economy mode to enhance fuel efficiency. The generator is parallel-capable and can be connected with other Westinghouse inverters with the help of a parallel cable. It comes with LED indicators for low oil, overload, and ready to use signs. Its pull start mechanism is easy to operate and requires minimal force to start the generator.
Our Opinion and Verdict:
5. WEN 56475 4750-Watt Portable Generator with Electric Start and Wheel Kit – Best Electric Start Generator under $500
Power Output: If you are looking for an easy to use a generator which can power up your home during emergencies, this one is the best for you. It provides a peak wattage of 4750 watts and a running wattage of 3750 watts. If used intelligently and carefully, you can use a refrigerator, furnace or AC, water heater, TV, CCTV cameras, and lightings without any issue. You just have to add the big loads one by one.
Fuel Type and Tank Size: It comes with a 4-gallon fuel tank. It is one of the largest fuel capacities you are going to get under 500 dollars. The Generator is gas-powered.
Engine Specifications: Generator’s engine is rated at 223 CC and delivers a power-packed punch to run your heaviest appliances without any issues. The generator comes with engine oil, battery, and funnel. WEN cares for its customers and sends the generator loaded with engine oil to save you some extra bucks. The best thing about this unit is that it comes with an electric start mechanism. You don’t have to stress your arm while pulling the starting rope.
Run Time: With a half load on it, the generator will run for 10 hours on a full tank. Its run timing is slightly low because it is a heavy unit and needs more fuel to stay running.
Dimensions and Weight: Its dimensions are 26.6 x 17.1 x 17.3 inches, and weighs 112.5 pounds. We know that it is a heavy unit and therefore, it is a bit difficult to move it. WEN has included a wheel kit for catering to the weight problem.
Portability: If your primary purpose is to use this generator for your home, you won’t have any issues sliding it out of your garage and then taking it back. It comes with two handles to help you pull the generator with you. The rods are covered with plastic grips to give your hands the needed comfort. However, if you plan to take your generator to uneven surfaces, it will get difficult for you.
Warranty and Certifications: The generator comes with a 2-year warranty and lifetime customer support service. The best thing about WEN’s after-sale services is that it has around 1000 customer care centers all across the US and provides very quick and reliable services. The machine is CARB and EPA compliant.
Other Features: Apart from having an electric start system, the generator comes with digital meter readings for an oil change and other settings. It makes maintenance easy, and you don’t have to check the engine oil manually. The generator is loaded with features like low oil shutdown, automatic voltage regulator protection from overloading. All these features add value to your purchase.
Our Opinion and Verdict:
When you are buying something like a generator, it is very important to make sure that everything you need is featured in it. We have developed this buying guide according to this concept. Our buying guide will discuss all the factors that may impact your purchase decision. It will enable you to get the most out of your money.
The most important and critical consideration to make is to calculate your power needs. It is a simple process and does not need any rocket science or complex formulas to do it. We will teach you how to do this. First of all, make a list of all the appliances you plan to run on the generator. Mention the starting wattage and running wattage for every appliance in the list. The total of the starting wattage is the maximum power you will need if you add all the appliances at once on your generator. The total of the running wattage will be the power your generator needs to provide to keep all your appliances running once they are started. Consider the following table for a better understanding.
|Appliances||Starting Wattage||Running Wattage|
|1/2 HP Furnace||2350||875|
If you go by the table, you would need 5950 watts to power all these appliances. However, to keep them all running, you need only 2875 watts. If you are new in this field, you will go for a large generator. Actually, you need a 3000 watts generator to run all the appliances at one time. You just need to do a bit of load management and add heavy loads one by one. It would be best to take off the loads once you are done using them to enhance fuel efficiency and keep your generator running light.
Similarly, you can use this formula to calculate wattage for RV or personal use generators. Make sure you add a cushion of 200-300 watts above the running wattage to accommodate any other appliance.
Inverter or Classical Generator
A classical generator has more power output than an inverter. It can power up a lot of appliances in your home, has a large fuel tank, and is more rugged and can withstand more running time than inverters. Classical generators are louder as compared to inverters, heavier and difficult to move around.
Inverters are lightweight, produce clean electricity, which is safe for your sensitive devices like phones, laptops, and chargers. The maximum power an inverter can give you is around 7000 watts. Inverters under $500 can give a maximum power of 2200 watts. Inverter generators can be connected in parallel to increase the power output.
The choice here is yours; if you plan to run your home appliances, a classical generator is best as it can accommodate more things. For outdoor purposes, an inverter is best as it is lightweight, easy to carry and store.
Type of Fuel
Here you have the choice of going for gas-powered, propane, or dual fuel generators. Dual fuel generators have the added advantage of being run on gas and propane. You can store propane and use it when gasoline is not available. Propane won’t go bad as it has a shelf life of 30 years. Gas, on the other hand, burns better and produces more power from your generator.
Don’t go for a recoil generator if you don’t feel comfortable pulling the starting rope. An electric start generator gives you the ease of operation. However, maintaining a recoil generator is easy as compared to an electric one. The repairs are also less costly.
A user-friendly generator will offer you maximum information and control on the control panel. A fully operational and practical control panel will have buttons, light indicators, outlets, fuel selector switches, and other options. A few latest models also tell about the oil level, fuel level, and load applied. However, as the features increase, the price tag also goes high.
One thing you should look out for is the noise your generator is going to produce. If you plan to use your generator for camping purposes, make sure you get one with the lowest noise output. Inverters are best for this purpose. Inverters have as low as a 50-decibel noise rating. On the other hand, conventional generators are noisier than the inverters and have sound levels up to 70 DB. You can install mufflers and move the exhaust upwards to quiet them up a bit, but they will still make a lot of sounds.
Check for the grounding of your generator before you start it. You can read all about it in the user manual. Make sure you buy a generator that is safe to use and has features like low oil shutdown, overheating shutdown, voltage surge controller, and an overloading sensor. All these features not only avoid mishaps with the generator but also keep people in proximity safe.
Warranty & Certifications
Warranty and certifications increase the value of your money and give you peace of mind. If you live in California, don’t buy a generator without a CARB certification.
You must always look for a durable generator. By durability, we mean the components used inside them. Luckily for you, all the generators in our list are highly durable and will stay with you for at least 15-20 years.
Frequently Asked Questions
We have listed the best 5 portable generators under the price tag of $500. All the generators reviewed above are of high quality and have thousands of satisfied customers. You can buy the one that suits your needs without any worries.