Using a portable generator on a boat can open up several possibilities.
Being able to power a microwave, coffeemaker, or air conditioner can feel luxurious.
Powering lights for night fishing is another great use for a portable generator on a sailboat or other watercraft. A generator on the boat can also provide peace of mind, as a backup way to charge your battery or call for help if the boat dies on the water.
However, using a portable generator on a boat can be dangerous and there are some important safety and usage considerations to consider.
On this page, you’ll see some of the best portable generators for boat use and a buying guide that includes safety tips.
The best portable generators for boat are:
Honda eu2200i - A Quiet Bestseller
Honda’s line of portable generators have long been best sellers for use on land.
This 2200-watt inverter is also an ideal candidate for maritime use.
One big selling point for boat use is that this generator is super quiet. While docked, you don’t want to bother other boaters anchored nearby.
This generator is shockingly quiet, at only 48 to 57 dBA, which is no louder than the sound of typical conversation.
A fuel-efficient model, you can get 4-9+ hours on a single tank of gas.
Because this is an inverter, you’ll get clean and stable power that will let you plug in your sensitive electronics without worry.
The eu2200i has 2200 starting watts and 1800 rated watts. This model is an updated version of the eu2000i.
In addition to offering a bit more power, there are additional improvements as well such as better ventilation.
Good ventilation is particularly important on a boat, as it makes the generator safer to use in the unique marine environment.
WEN 56200i - A Quiet & Affordable Inverter
For a significantly lower price, this generator provides some big competition for the Honda eu2200i.
Like the Honda, it is relatively lightweight and easily transportable.
Getting it on and off the boat and from boat storage to the deck would be quite easy.
It’s not quite as quiet as the Honda but it is not nearly as loud as many other generators. At a quarter load, it’s only 51 decibels.
Sensitive electronics are safe, as the generator is an inverter. It is designed to mirror a pure sine wave and limits harmonic disruption. At a half-load, you can expect around 6 hours of runtime.
The generator’s fuel efficiency can be maximized by using eco mode.
For more power, you can hook up a second unit using a Parallel Connection Kit.
Some safety features like automatic shutdown when oil or fuel are low are built right into this model.
Yamaha EF2000iS V2 - Clean Power & Cute Design
What your generator looks like probably shouldn’t matter but if design is important to you, this might be the generator you’re looking for.
Looking like a retro radio or something similar, this royal blue inverter from Yamaha is just a great-looking tool.
Transport is easy as well since it is compact, lightweight, and has a convenient handle. It’s more than just a pretty face, though.
This inverter offers clean power and Pulse Width Modulation control.
With 2000 max watts and 1600 running watts, it has enough power for most boaters.
If desired, this generator is parallel-ready so you can double the power output available.
The fuel economy is very good thanks to the Smart Throttle.
The fuel efficiency is so good, in fact, that you can get a 10.5-hour runtime on a quarter-load.
Generac iQ2000 - Quiet, Smart, User-Friendly
Honda is often thought of as the leader that other portable generator brands try to best. Generac goes so far as to use bold Honda comparisons in their marketing materials.
Generac claims that the iQ2000 unequivocally “beats Honda.” At least when it comes to noise level, an independent testing lab has confirmed that at a half-load, the Generac is indeed quieter than the Honda EU generator line.
They aren’t much quieter but they can boast the title.
In addition to being quieter, Generac celebrates their “smart” panel.
This is for sure more helpful and user-friendly than what you’ll see on many competing generators.
It includes an electronic fuel gauge, a runtime hour meter, status lights, and a Powerbar.
In addition, it’s easy to start and operate.
The small marine gas generator has a simple dial with three positions – start, run, and stop.
There is also a toggle switch for the three modes of turbo, standard, and economy.
This isn’t a true inverter but it does offer clean and stable power thanks to a digital inverter module.
At a quarter-load, you’ll get 7.7 hours of runtime. The iQ2000 is also yet another generator with 2000 starting watts, 1600 running watts, and parallel-ready functionality.
Telongpu Emergency Solar-Powered Generator - Low-Cost Tool for Emergency Preparedness
If the only reason you’re looking for a portable generator to use on a boat, barge, catamaran, or other types of vessels is for emergency preparedness, there’s no need to waste your money on an expensive, high-powered machine.
This ultra-low-cost solution only offers 200 watts of power which won’t be enough for much but it is enough to power a phone or radio if you run into trouble while sailing.
It might even be enough to charge your boat battery enough to start if you die out on the water.
This generator is safer to use on the water than gas-powered generators.
To charge it you can either connect it to a solar panel and harness the power of the sun or charge it up using a wall outlet or a vehicle adapter.
For boat use, it makes the most sense to use the solar panel. It’s also smart to fully charge from a wall outlet before getting on the boat.
This emergency solution also has many safety precautions, including overload, over-current, over-voltage, overcharging, over-temperature and short circuit.
It has four USB outputs as well as one 12V output. There is also a 15V solar input.
This is more than just a generator, as it also has a flashlight and a compass.
A low-cost investment to begin with, you get added value because of the lifetime warranty and excellent customer support.
DuroStar DS4000S - Low-Cost + High-Power
Generally speaking, a generator that is more lightweight and compact is a smarter choice for a dinghy, barge, pontoon boat and other smaller ships.
However, sometimes you just need more power. If you want a generator that can power an air conditioning unit on your yacht, for example, a smaller generator just isn’t going to cut it.
This generator from DuroStar is definitely bulkier and heavier than some other options on this list. That said, it has a dual handle system that makes it fairly easy for two people to carry.
There is an optional wheel kit as well that may or may not make sense on a boat.
With 4000 starting watts and 3300 running watts, it has plenty of power.
This generator is a lot quieter than you might expect, at only 69 dBA.
That’s louder than some other models, to be sure, but it’s very quiet for a generator with this size of power output. The construction is very sturdy and stable.
It’s not quite as fuel-efficient as some other options but the 4-gallon gas tank can get you an 8-hour runtime.
This generator comes in at a surprisingly low price point but it is definitely not lacking in quality.
DuroStar is known for putting out very solid generators.
Honda Power Equipment EB3000C - High-Power but Pricey
With 3000 starting watts and 2600 running watts, this is another generator that gives you a lot of power.
Ideal for industrial use, it also works well on a boat, especially for when you need it for powering air conditioning units, lights, and other things that require a fair amount of power.
This high-powered machine offers very good fuel efficiency. The 2.6-gallon gas tank will get you 9.4 hours of runtime on a half-load.
You’ll get clean and stable power with this generator, thanks to Honda’s exclusive CycloConverter technology.
This generator looks like it would be really heavy but it’s surprisingly light.
At only 71 pounds, it’s the lightest industrial generator on the market.
The multi-handled frame makes carrying it easy, especially with two people.
You can also buy an optional wheel kit to make it even easier to move around.
For a heavy-duty generator, it’s not as loud as you might expect.
A rated load is only 65 dB, less than the noise level of a typical vacuum cleaner.
This generator isn’t cheap but it’s an investment that you can count on. Honda even backs it up with a great 3-year warranty.
Champion 3100-Watt Inverter - Convenient Remote Start
Most generators have recoil pull starters so this Champion inverter really stands out for having a remote start.
This generator does still have a recoil starter but it also lets you use a wireless remote key fob to start the generator from up to 80 feet away.
It also features Cold Start Technology, so the engine will start right up even when it is cold. This inverter provides very stable and clean power.
If you’re addicted to your smartphone or iPad even when on a fishing trip, you can rest easy knowing that your sensitive electronics will be safe.
With 3100 starting watts and 2800 running watts, you’ll have all the power you need on the boat, even when running several things at once.
This generator is tough, reliable, and durable.
Adding to your peace of mind with this reasonably priced generator, Champion offers a 3-year limited warranty and free lifetime technical support.
At only 58 dBA, this heavy-duty generator is also almost shockingly quiet.
WEN PowerPro 56101 - Inexpensive & Ultra-Portable
With 1000 starting watts and 900 running watts, this highly affordable generator provides just enough power for most needs.
Weighing less than 36 pounds and equipped with a convenient handle, this is as easily portable as it gets.
It also has 4 rubber pads or legs that keep it stable and held in place pretty well.
That said, you’ll still want to secure it in some way on the boat so the lightweight machine doesn’t get knocked over or jostled in a strong wind.
This generator is very unique in not ever needing oil changes since it runs on an oil/gas mix fuel.
At a half-load, the 1-gallon tank will last you about 5 hours. It’s fairly quiet, at only 60dB.
This generator is both EPA and CARB compliant. There is a 1-year limited warranty from the manufacturer.
Westinghouse WGen7500DF Dual-Fuel Portable Generator - Propane Possibilities & Maximum Power
This dual-fuel generator allows you to use either gasoline or liquid propane gas.
Ultimately, this gives you options and can allow for longer runtime.
If you have a full 6.6-gallon tank of gas plus a tank of propane, you can expect over 24 hours of total runtime.
The fuel efficiency with a full tank of gas alone will get you 16 hours of runtime.
In addition to giving you more possibilities and having extra long runtimes, this generator has a ton of power.
When using gasoline, it has 9500 peak watts and 7,500 running watts.
With propane, you’ll get 8550 starting watts and 6750 running watts.
The GFCI power outlets are rubber-covered for added safety.
This generator features rugged construction with hardened-steel frame for sturdiness and durability.
A convenient push-button electric start is a great feature. Although not cheap, this high-value generator is surprisingly affordable.
Adding to the value, there is a 3-year limited warranty.
Buyer's Guide & Frequently Asked Questions
Marinizing, Installation and placement: What are the best options?
Before adding any portable generator to your boat, you’ll need to marinize it.
Marinizing your generator ensures that it is as safe as possible for the unique environment of a boat.
The video above walks you through the process of marinizing your generator.
You shouldn’t try to permanently install the generator on your boat.
Rather, you should keep it in a dry storage locker when not in use.
When you are anchored, running the generator in the aft position will ensure the wind carries away the carbon monoxide.
The swim platform is a good place to run your generator as well.
You might want to non-permanently mount the generator to the deck.
A bracket and rubber mounts in front of the cockpit make sure that the generator is secure and safe.
It’s also a good idea to build a cowling to protect it from getting wet while running.
How do I ground my portable generator in a boat?
For portable generators that typically need to be ground to the earth, you might think there’s no way to do this on a boat.
It will depend on the generator and the boat, but typically, it will work to plug the generator into the shore power connection.
It’s a good idea to use a mains tester. Your best bet might be to just use a portable generator that doesn’t require grounding, like the Honda eu2200i.
Safety tips while running my marine generator?
Safety is always important when using a generator and when on a boat.
When using a generator on a boat, safety is even more important. In addition to following all of the same safety tips you would follow when using a portable generator on land, there are some additional things to consider for boat use.
To avoid fire, prevent carbon monoxide poisoning, and prevent electrocution, it’s important to follow these safety tips.
Refueling & Running
You should not refuel your generator while it is on the boat.
Instead, you should remove it from the boat to fill up so as to avoid potential sources of ignition.
You should never run the generator near doors, vents, windows, and hatches so as to prevent the cabin from filling with carbon monoxide.
It’s also important that you know what the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are.
If you know what it looks like, you’ll be able to get help faster and potentially save lives. Before starting your generator, it’s vital that you make sure there aren’t any damp patches nearby.
You should also always thoroughly inspect the unit to make sure there isn’t a fuel leak.
It’s a good idea to invest in a ground fault circuit interrupter circuit breaker as well. While most generators have circuit breakers, a GFCI is an extra level of protection.
Some generators have one of these circuit interrupters built right in, like the Honda EB3000c, or will at least have GFCI outlets.
Storage is another thing to consider.
You should make sure it is put in a drained locker that doesn’t include any tools, anchors, mooring pins, or petrol cans.
This is to prevent damage or sparks that could cause a fire.
Finally, you should never install a portable generator permanently on your boat or make any unauthorized modifications to the generator.
That said, it is smart to build some kind of cowling that you can use to prevent the generator from getting wet while in use.
Obviously, getting wet is a very real possibility on a boat so it’s vital that you take steps to prevent this or you’ll risk serious damage and danger. Another good idea is some kind of rubber mounts.
For a more general article about smaller portable inverters, check out my top 10 best portable generator buying guide