Top 10 Best Cheap Generators (Under $500)

Last Updated on by Matt

best cheap generator
Purchasing a portable generator can help you get through your next power outage, camping trip, or large storm.

A portable generator can allow you to keep vital electrical appliances running when you do not have access to electricity. However, depending on the size of the generator and the features that it has, you can pay anywhere from $200-$2,000 for one.

If you are like me, you enjoy finding the best bang for your buck deal, especially for something you may only use in emergency situations.

That is why I have put together this list of the top cheap generators.

Each of these generators on this list are retailed at under $500 to keep you within a reasonable budget. (at the time of publishing this article)

Let’s take a look at the top 10 low-cost portable generators:

No. 1 Best Cheap Generator
Briggs & Stratton 30680 Portable Generator with RV Outlet, 4375 Starting Watts 3500 Running Watts, CARB Compliant
Rated Wattage
3500W
Noise Level (1/4 load)
Unknown
Weight
116.8 lbs
Estimated Runtime @ 50% load
14 Hours
WEN 56475 4750-Watt Portable Generator with Electric Start and Wheel Kit, CARB Compliant,Yellow and Black
Rated Wattage
3750W
Noise Level (1/4 load)
67-74 dB
Weight
112.5 lbs
Estimated Runtime @ 50% load
11 Hours
DuroMax XP5500EH 5000 watt Dual Fuel Hybrid generator with Electric Start
Rated Wattage
4500W
Noise Level (1/4 load)
69 dB
Weight
127 lbs
Estimated Runtime @ 50% load
9 Hours
Champion 3500-Watt RV Ready Portable Generator, 46596 model
Rated Wattage
3500W
Noise Level (1/4 load)
68 dB
Weight
104 lbs
Estimated Runtime @ 50% load
9 Hours
Firman P01202 1500/1200 Watt Recoil Start Gas Portable Generator cETL and CARB Certified with 12V-8.3A Charging Outlets, 54 lb, Black/Yellow
Rated Wattage
1200W
Noise Level (1/4 load)
63 dB
Weight
54 lbs
Estimated Runtime @ 50% load
10 Hours
A-iPower SUA2000iV 2000 Watt Portable Inverter Generator Quiet Operation, RV Ready
Rated Wattage
1600W
Noise Level (1/4 load)
58 dB
Weight
46 lbs
Estimated Runtime @ 50% load
9 Hours
DuroMax XP4400E 4400 watt 7-Hp RV Grade Gas Generator with Electric Start
Rated Wattage
3500W
Noise Level (1/4 load)
69 dB
Weight
127 lbs
Estimated Runtime @ 50% load
12 Hours
WEN GN400i RV-Ready 4000-Watt Open Frame Inverter Generator, CARB Compliant, Black/Orange
Rated Wattage
3500W
Noise Level (1/4 load)
51 dB
Weight
66 lbs
Estimated Runtime @ 50% load
7 Hours
WEN 56203i Super Quiet 2000-Watt Portable Inverter Generator w/Fuel Shut Off, CARB Compliant, Ultra Lightweight
Rated Wattage
1700W
Noise Level (1/4 load)
51 dB
Weight
40 lbs
Estimated Runtime @ 50% load
7 Hours

1. Briggs & Stratton 30680

You can’t go wrong with a Briggs & Stratton product, especially one that’s sole function is to utilize their high quality engines.

Briggs & Stratton have made quite a name for themselves in the small engine industry, as well as the portable generator industry. This 30680 generator is a true testament to the Briggs & Stratton quality and feature rich equipment.

Sporting a 208cc Briggs & Stratton engine, this generator is capable of producing 3500 running watts and 4375 starting watts.

Briggs & Stratton 30680 Portable Generator with RV Outlet, 4375 Starting Watts 3500 Running Watts, CARB Compliant
  • Briggs & Stratton Power Built OHV 208cc engine to run cooler and last longer
  • Power Surge alternator produces a short surge of power needed to start large motor driven appliances and tools simultaneously
  • Multi featured control panel includes 2 GFCI outlets and 1 RV outlet

This is more than enough to power your smaller appliances during a blackout and makes for a great addition to jobsites or campsites where access to electricity can be limited.

While this generator is on the heavier side at 116.8lbs, transporting it is quite easy with the built in wheels and collapsible handle. This allows just about anyone to be able to move the generator to exactly where they may need it.

It features a 5 gallon fuel tank that allows for up to an impressive 14 hours of runtime at 50% load.

This means you can keep your appliances powered up all day or throughout the night without worry.

Speaking of appliances, you can plug up a wide variety of electrical appliances and tools to this generator as it features 2 120V outlets and a single 120/24-V 30A locking outlet. This makes it perfect for use just about anywhere.

This generator did not have a noise rating, which is a little disappointing, but you can expect a 55-65db rating from a generator of this size.

Pros

Pros
  • Easy To Transport
  • Covered Outlets
  • Great Power Ratings
  • Long Run Time

Cons

Cons
    • No Noise Level Ratings

IMHO: In My Humble Opinion
When it comes down to making a purchasing decision on this generator, you really can’t go wrong as it includes just about everything you could want from a cheap portable generator.

Check Price on Amazon

2. WEN 56475

As one of the bigger names in the generator industry, it is no surprise to see WEN generators on this list. WEN offers a wide variety of portable generators that fit the needs of many different consumers. You can choose from many different wattage ratings and features to find the right WEN generator for you.

For those who are wanting to get great wattage ratings at a low price tag, the WEN 56475 generator is a solid choice.

It includes high wattage ratings, a great outlet selection, and features usually only seen on more expensive generators.

Sale
WEN 56475 4750-Watt Portable Generator with Electric Start and Wheel Kit, CARB Compliant,Yellow and Black
  • Digital readout helps manage oil changes and maintenance schedule
  • Features electric start, low-oil shutdown, an automatic voltage regulator and overload protection to maximize safety
  • CARB and EPA III meet requirements for sale in all 50 states

wen 56475 portable generator on a cold street

The 223cc engine strapped to this generator allows for 3750 running watts and 4750 starting watts. This wattage rating is great for RV use, jobsites, and powering multiple appliances during a power outage.

The outlet selection found on this generator really makes this generator a great buy at a very affordable price.

With this generator, you will get a pair of 120V household outlets, a single 120/240V locking outlet, and a single 120/240V RV ready outlet. With the RV ready plug, you can use this generator for camping or even in food truck applications.

It also has a built in hour meter to make maintaining your generator easier.

The WEN 56475 will include built in wheels and a collapsible transporting handle to make moving this 112lb generator around a breeze.

This is perfect for this generator as it is on the louder side of things when compared to other generators on this list. It will tip the decibel meter at 67-74 decibels.

This generator will also have the luxury of keyless electric start to help you avoid having to pull a recoil cord each time you want to power it up.

Pros

Pros
  • Easy To Transport
  • Great Outlet Selection
  • Keyless Electric Start

Cons

Cons
    • Could Use Covered Outlets

IMHO: In My Humble Opinion
It was hard to find anything at all that I did not like about this WEN 56475 generator. It has great outlet selection, enough power to do all of the things you would need it to do, and has high end features, all for a really low price. This is a great buy for anyone looking for a versatile generator that won’t break the bank.

Check Price on Amazon

3. DuroMax XP5500EH

DuroMax is one of the most well known brands in the portable generator industry. This is due to their high level of quality when it comes to manufacturing generators and their great selection of various wattage levels that makes it easy for anyone to find a DuroMax generator that fits their specific needs.

As one of the two DuroMax generators on this list, the XP5500EH is going to be the higher performing of the two. It features a 225cc engine that allows for 4500 running watts and 5500 starting watts.

DuroMax XP5500EH 5000 watt Dual Fuel Hybrid generator with Electric Start
  • Your purchase includes One DuroMax XP5500EH 5000 watt Dual Fuel Hybrid generator with Electric Start, One oil funnel, One spark plug wrench, tools set, wheels and handle kit, DC charging cables and owner’s manual
  • Portable Generator dimensions: 24” L x 17" W x 17" H. Product weight: 127 lbs
  • Specifications: Noise level – 69 dB. Fuel tank capacity (GASOLINE) – 3.96 gallons. Suggested tank size (PROPANE) – 20 gallons

It also has dual fuel functionality which allows you to run this generator on propane as well.

This allows you to get more run time without having to refill the generator with gasoline.

On propane, you can expect a lower wattage rating of 5225 starting watts and 4275 running watts.

With a 3.96 gallon fuel tank, you can expect a run time of about 8.92 hours at 50% load. With a 20lb propane tank, you can expect to get 7.63 hours of runtime at 50% load. This will allow you to enjoy a full day or night of continuous runtime.

Like many other generators on this list, it is over 100lbs, but does come with folding handles and wheels to allow you to easily wheel this generator around to the perfect spot. At only 69 decibels, you should not have to worry about disturbing your neighbors as it isn’t as loud as many other generators.

This generator is going to include a volt meter, 1 120V outlets, and a single 120/240V 30 Amp outlet to plug in many different appliances. You will get a 3 year warranty as well to protect your investment.

Pros

Pros
  • Dual Fuel Capable
  • Recoil/Electric Start

Cons

Cons
    • No major issues

IMHO: In My Humble Opinion
This DuroMax generator is a great all around affordable generator that can be used for many different applications. You really can’t go wrong when choosing a DuroMax as long as you get the right power ratings for your needs. Being a dual-fuel generator, this is perfect for those who want an alternative fuel source.

Check Price on Amazon

4. Champion 3500 Watt

Another big name brand generator on our list is Champion, a generator company who has made a great name for themselves in the industry and has provided the market with high quality, powerful generators in multiple wattage categories.

Today, I have listed the 3500 watt, RV ready portable generator that is going to be right under $500 at the time of this article. While this price may be cheap, the features found on this generator would usually note a higher priced generator.

Champion 3500-Watt RV Ready Portable Generator, 46596 model
  • Your purchase includes One Champion 3500-Watt RV Ready Portable Generator, 46596 model (EPA Compliant)
  • Portable Generator dimensions: 23.2” L x 17.5" W x 19.6" H. Product weight: 99.2 lbs
  • Specifications: Noise level – 68 dBA from 23 ft. | Volts – 120V | Gasoline Running Amps – 29.2 | Frequency – 60Hz | Gasoline Run time at ½ load – 12.0 h | No Parallel Capability | Voltmeter Included – Intelligauge | Gasoline Capacity – 3.8 gal.

champion 3500w inverter at a working place

The 224cc engine allows for this generator to put out 3500 running watts and 4375 starting watts which is perfect for mid range power and using around your RV.

This particular generator is a dual fuel capable generator meaning that you can use either gasoline or propane to power it. On propane, you will get 3150 running watts and 3950 starting watts

Being an RV ready generator, you can expect a great outlet selection to accommodate the RV style plugs.

For outlets you will get 2 120V outlets, 1 120V 30A locking outlet, and 1 120V 30A (TT-30R) RV ready outlet.

This will ensure that you have everything you need when plugging up any type of device to your generator.

The noise rating on this generator is going to be 68 decibels measured from 23 feet away. This is a great noise level as it should be perfect for use in residential areas.

One big flaw that I would like to point out is that this generator weight in at right over 100lbs and it has no wheels or collapsible handles to allow this generator to easily be moved by one person.

The frame of the generator is built to allow two people to carry this generator but having wheels and collapsible handles would have made this generator a lot more attractive.

Pros

Pros
  • Great Run Time
  • Dual Fuel Capabilities
  • RV Ready

Cons

Cons
    • List Item #1
    • List Item #1

IMHO: In My Humble Opinion
As a regular fan of Champion generators, I was excited to see one of their hybrid fuel generators at such a low price. It has great features that make it perfect for using in many different applications and is ready for RV use right out of the box. The biggest drawback is that it is heavy and it does not include wheels or handles. This makes it very hard to put it up against the competition on this list if you plan on moving it by yourself.

Check Price on Amazon

5. Firman P01202

As one of the lesser known brands on this list, The Firman P01202 is going up against some stiff competition, especially when popular brands are under $500 and in more people’s budgets.

However, this generator does a great job for what it is and will provide you with the needed wattage for your smaller appliance demands.

First impressions of the Firman P01202 is that it is relatively small. After all, it is a budget generator only sporting an 80cc engine and putting out 1200 running watts and 1500 starting watts.

firman portable generator

With this type of wattage, I wouldn’t expect much more from a generator.

At 54lbs, it is the lightest generator on this list making it a lot easier to carry around by one person. The 1.7 gallon fuel tank allows for up to 10 hours of use at 50% load. This is a surprisingly high run time from such a small generator making it great for those looking to run appliances for extended periods of time.

While this budget friendly generator is small, it still offers three different outlets, which are covered, to plug in your most commonly used electrical devices and appliances. Choose from two 120V household outlets and a single 12V multi-function port to get charged up.

You will also get an oil funnel, tool kit, and a surprisingly 3 year warranty when purchasing this generator brand new.

Pros

Pros
  • Covered Outlets
  • 3 Year Warranty
  • Long Run Time

Cons

Cons
    • No major cons

IMHO: In My Humble Opinion
If you are in the market for a smaller generator that it easier to move and doesn’t put out a serious amount of power, this Firman generator may be the perfect match for you. This is a perfect example of a generator that is built to do what it needs to do without going over the top with features. It is cheaply priced and in my opinion, well worth the money.

Check Price on Amazon

6. A-iPower SUA2000iV

Portable generators are for those most part supposed to be, well, portable.

While many of the larger generators have built in wheels and handles to make moving them around much easier, the smaller generators are usually going to have handles integrated into the body of the generator.

That is exactly what you will get with this A-iPower SUA2000iV 2000 watt generator. At only 46lbs, it is easy to transport this generator to wherever you need it.

A-iPower SUA2000iV 2000 Watt Portable Inverter Generator Quiet Operation, RV Ready
  • Produces 2000 starting watts with 1600 running watts of clean and safe power for sensitive electronics, such as phones, televisions, laptops, and other electronics
  • Quiet operation at only 58 decibels
  • Light weight at only 46 pounds, providing compact and easy portability

portable generator with a budget setup in the desert

With a 79cc engine, you can expect 1600 running watts and 2000 starting watts to power up your basic appliances and power tools.

This generator will include a single 120V outlet, on 12V multi-function port, and a single RV ready L5-30A 120V outlet for your larger appliances. You can expect a pretty quiet operation as it runs at 58dB from 23 feet away making it perfect for residential and camping use.

Pros

Pros
  • Good Outlet Selection
  • Parallel Capable
  • 9 Hour Runtime

Cons

Cons
    • Could Use One More 120V 3 Prong Plug

IMHO: In My Humble Opinion
The A-iPower SUA2000iV has made an appearance on a couple of my generator reviews for the sole fact that it is a greatly priced, feature filled generator that is easy to take with you just about anywhere. If you are only needing up to 2000 starting watts, this cheap generator needs to be on your list.

Check Price on Amazon

7. DuroMax XP4400E

The lesser powered of the two DuroMax generators on this list is the XP4400E generator.

Although it is the lesser powered of the two doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have its own great features.

The biggest difference between the two is going to be that this generator is going to be a little less powerful and will only run on gasoline.

DuroMax XP4400E 4400 watt 7-Hp RV Grade Gas Generator with Electric Start
  • Your purchase includes One DuroMax XP4400E 4400 watt 7-Hp RV Grade Gas Generator with Electric Start, One oil funnel, One spark plug wrench, tools set, wheels and handle kit, DC charging cables and owner’s manual
  • Portable Generator dimensions: 24” L x 17" W x 17" H. Product weight: 127 lbs
  • Specifications: Noise level – 69 dB. Fuel tank capacity (GASOLINE) – 3.96 gallons

The 208cc engine still puts out 3500 running watts and 4400 starting watts to give you enough power to get through a power outage, power up camping essentials, or power a job site throughout the day.

The 3.96 gallon fuel tank allows for up to 11.6 hours of run time at 50% load. This is going to be ideal for those who are looking for a mid level power generator to run all day plus some.

You can take advantage of 2 120v outlets and a single 120/240V twist lock outlet to power up your appliances.

At 127lbs, this generator is quite heavy, but just like many other DuroMax generators, you are going to get wheels and a collapsible handle to make moving this generator much easier.

Pros

Pros
  • MX2 Power Boost Equipped
  • RV Ready
  • Easy To Transport

Cons

Cons
    • Could Use Another Outlet

IMHO: In My Humble Opinion
As a firm believer in DuroMax generators, I would not hesitate to recommend this low cost generator. If you are only needing to use a couple of appliances at a time, the outlet selection should be perfect for what you need. It has all of the classic features that make generators great and I would not think twice about this purchase.

Check Price on Amazon

8. Wen GN400i

WEN generators come in all shapes and sizes and this 4000 watt generator is a prime example of how versatile they can be.

This little 4000w watt generator is 50% quieter and 30% lighter than standard 4000 watt generators.

The GN4000i features a 212cc engine and puts out 4000 starting watts and 3500 running watts to power up a large selection of appliances.

You can choose from two 120V outlets, 2 USB ports, and 1 120V transfer switch ready L5-30R twist lock outlet.

WEN GN400i RV-Ready 4000-Watt Open Frame Inverter Generator, CARB Compliant, Black/Orange
  • Dimensions: 19.8" L x 13.8" W x 18.9" H | Weight: 66.1 lb
  • Generate clean power to safely operate sensitive electronics such as phones, tablets, televisions and computers
  • Parallel-ready panel allows you to connect any two WEN inverter generators for increased wattage output

It has a 1.85 gallon fuel tank that will allow for a 7 hour run time at 50% load. It weighs in at 66lbs and will most likely require two people to transport it as it does not have wheels.

This generator operates at an industry leading low of 51db, making it the quietest generator on this list. (click here for a list of the quietest generators on the market)

The Wen GN400i Generator Features:

  • 212cc OHV Engine
  • Running Watts: 3500 Watts
  • Starting Watts: 4000 Watts
  • Weight: 66 lbs
  • 1.85 Gallon Capacity Fuel Tank
  • 7 Hour Run-Time At 50% Load
  • 2  -120V NEMA 5-50R Outlets
  • 2- USB Ports
  • 1 – 120V Transfer Switch Ready L5-30R Twist Lock Outlet
  • 2 Year Warranty
  • Sound Level: 51 dBa
  • Parallel Ready

Wen offers a 2 year warranty on this generator with a customer satisfaction guarantee.

Pros

Pros
  • Budget Friendly
  • Very quiet operation
  • Mid Level Power

Cons

Cons
    • Most Likely Will Require Two People To Move It

IMHO: In My Humble Opinion
This Wen generator, although not the easiest to move, is a great contender for the under $500 generators as it is the quietest of the 10 and is one of the lightest. The outlet selection is great as well and is the only generator that features USB plugs on this list.

Check Price on Amazon

9. Dirty Hand Tools 104609

As the most least known brand on this list, it is no surprise that this generator is one of the cheapest as well.

I, myself, like to try out lesser known brand as they are usually more affordable and can offer some great insight to a brand I have never heard of.

That is exactly the case with this Dirty Hand Tools generator.

The 104609 generator offers just enough power to get your small appliances charged up for shorter power outages and camping trips while offering on the go power for smaller power tools.

Dirty Hand Tools | 104609 | 800 Watt 5.8 Amp Gas Powered Inverter Generator | Portable Power Supply | EPA/CARB Certified | 7 Hour Run Time | 1-120V AC Outlets, 1-12V DC Outlet, 1-USB Port
  • Includes | 800 watt inverter generator, spark plug wrench, Phillips head screw driver and a 60 inch 12 volt dc charge cord
  • Powerful | Powered by a reliable Dirty Hand Tools 1.4 HP (40cc) fuel efficient EPA/CARB certified (50 state emissions) gas engine; This generator puts out 700W continuous wattage and 800W peak wattage, all with low volume noise of 58 dB sound rating which is comparable to the sound of a normal conversation; Economy control switch for better fuel connection and less noise
  • Versatil | The panel includes UL circuit protection with multiple outlets - one 120V AC power outlet and one 12V DC power receptacle, plus one USB power port; Four stabilizing pads for balance and minimal movement; Equipped with a carrying handle

The 40cc engine is rated at 800 starting watts and 700 running watts which is perfect for small TVs, mini fridges, fans, and small heaters.

With a small .55 gallon fuel tank, you still get 6.3 hours of run time at 50% load. Noise levels will be relatively quiet at 58dba and the 120V AC outlet, 12V DC outlet, and single USB outlet are covered by a hinged ABS plastic cover for ultimate protection.

The Dirty Hand Tools 104609 Generator Features:

  • 40cc OHV Engine
  • Running Watts: 700 Watts
  • Starting Watts: 800 Watts
  • Weight: 44 lbs
  • .55 Gallon Capacity Fuel Tank
  • 6.3 Hour Run-Time @ 50% Load
  • 1 – 120V AC power receptacle
  • 1 – 12V DC power receptacle
  • 1 – USB power receptacle for other uses
  • Sound Level: 58 dBa
    Covered Outlets

This Dirty Hand Tools generator is back by a 2 year manufacturer’s warranty.

Pros

Pros
  • Covered Outlets
  • Decent Outlet Selection
  • Light Weight

Cons

Cons
    • Less known brand

IMHO: In My Humble Opinion
This little generator is perfectly priced for the features that you get. Even though this is a lesser known brand, I have a feeling that this generator is going to excel, especially at this price point. I was surprised to see so many features packed into the small frame and would easily recommend this to anyone looking for a smaller affordable generator.

Check Price on Amazon

10. WEN 56203i

WEN has made a couple of appearances on this list, mainly due to the fact that they have a wide variety of generators that fit various budgets, wattage needs, and feature preferences.

This WEN 56203i generator offers 1700 running watts and 2000 starting watts from the 80cc engine. It has a 1 gallon fuel tank that allows for a 7 hour run time at 50% load.

WEN 56203i Super Quiet 2000-Watt Portable Inverter Generator w/Fuel Shut Off, CARB Compliant, Ultra Lightweight
  • Ultralight body weighs in at a mere 39 pounds for easy transport and storage
  • Extremely quiet operation comparable to the sound of a normal conversation according to the US Department of Health and Human Services
  • Produces 2000 surge watts and 1700 rated watts of clean power for safe charging of sensitive electronics (phones, tablets, televisions, computers, etc.)

It has a built in handle that makes carrying the 40lb generator super easy and allows you to take it with you wherever you may need it.

It will include 1 120V outlets, a 12V multi-purpose port, and 2 usb ports to allow for a wide variety of appliances and devices to be plugged into it.

Pros

Pros
  • Good Outlet Selection
  • Quiet Operation
  • 7 Hour Run Time
  • Parallel Capable

Cons

Cons
    • Could Use Covered Outlets

IMHO: In My Humble Opinion
Although I am being super picky by saying that it could use covered outlets, there is really nothing else I could call out about this generator. It is light, affordable, and has a great selection of outlets. This is one of the most versatile generators on this list and should be seriously considered if you are in the market for a 2000 watt generator.

Check Price on Amazon

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I Run A Portable Generator Indoors?

With most portable generators running on gasoline or propane, running a generator indoors is out of the questions. Gasoline generators, as well as propane generators, create toxic carbon monoxide gas from the engine’s exhaust.

This exhaust will need to be properly vented or used in an open air area to ensure that you are not exposed to these gases.

Some generators may offer an exhaust extension that can be routed outdoors, but to be completely safe, it is best to use these generators outdoors where it can properly be vented.

What Is The Quietest Generator Under $500?

Portable generators are measure for noise level in units called decibels. These decibels reading are measured at an industry average of 23 feet away from the generator.

Most portable generators are going to operate in the 50-75 dB range, depending on the size of the generator.

Finding a quieter generator can be helpful for those looking to use it in residential or camping situations where noisier generators can disturb neighbors or wildlife. The quietest generators on this list are going to be the WEN GN400i and WEN 56203i.

These generators operate at noise levels as low as

What Kind Of Maintenance Do Portable Generators Require?

Portable generators are equipped with small engines that will require similar maintenance as lawn mowers and snow blowers.

You will need to change the oil, air filter, and spark plug regularly and make sure to add fuel stabilizer if you are storing it for long periods of time.

Always follow the manufacturer’s maintenance schedule that you should receive in your owner’s manual.

This will be the best recommended maintenance schedule for your specific generator.

Also see my complete article about portable generator maintenance.

Conclusion – About This Guide

With 10 cheap portable generators under $500, you should have no problem finding the right generator for your budget.

Each of these generators are a great choice, it will just come down to finding which one is going to give you everything that you need.

I hope that you have gotten all of the information that you need to make your purchasing decision and I look forward to hearing your feedback.

Are you currently using a portable generator? If so, what size, and what appliances are you running with it?

Please consider sharing this post with anyone you know who might be in the market for a cheap generator!

Last update on 2020-08-03 Affiliate links & images from Amazon Product Advertising API