Looking for a power generator that won’t cost a fortune?
Today we discuss the best generators under $500, the pros and cons of each, wattage demands, and what to look for when selecting a generator.
The Top 5 Best Generators Under $500 – Our Top Picks
Champion 2000 Watt Inverter Generator
- 79 cc 4 Stoke OHV Engine
- Includes two covered 120V 20A household outlets with clean electricity (less than 3% THD)
- Starting Watts: 2,000/Running Watts: 1,700
- Noise level: 53 dB
- Demensions (in): 17.3 x 11.5 x 17.7
- Weight: 39.5 lbs
- Includes USB Adapter, battery charging cables, engine oil, and oil funnel.
- CARB Compliant
- EPA Certified
- Lightweight and easily portable
- High performance-Run time 11.5 hours at 25% load
- Not as powerful as some others on this list
DuroMax XP4400E Gas Powered Portable Generator
The DuroMax XP4400E is one of the best gas-powered generators you can depend on for backup power. It has 4400 starting watts and 3500 running watts, allowing it to handle heavy loads, from a refrigerator, lights, home air conditioner, and high power tools.
This gas-powered generator is the perfect choice for a job-site backup, home, camping, and RVs. It uses RX2 technology that allows you to get enough power from the 120V receptacles. You can operate the portable generator between 120V and 240V simultaneously or at 120V with full power.
DuroMax XP4400E portable generator has a low oil shut-off that protects the generator by shutting off automatically when it senses the oil level is low.
The best portable generator under $500; has a power panel that includes a selection of outlets. This panel consists of a 120V/240V 30A twist lock, two 120V GFCI power outlets, a voltmeter, and 12V DC charging posts for powering external batteries. It has a heavy-duty, all-metal construction that guarantees durability and good performance for years to come.
With a full tank of gasoline, this gas-powered generator will provide you with up to 8 hours of runtime, making it one of the reliable generators in the market. Moreover, this generator complies with EPA and CARB standards, and it follows guidelines to ensure the generator is environmentally friendly.
Carrying this generator will be hassle-free because it has two heavy-duty wheels that can move on different surfaces without slipping. Still, you can store the portable generator in many areas even when limited storage space.
- This generator is EPA and CARB certified, making it eco-friendly
- The portable generator runs at an engine speed of 3600 rpm
- The all-metal construction enhances a better performance and durability
- Its wheels allow for mobility and ease of use
- The warranty information is misleading
- It is a bit noisy.
WEN GN400i 4000 Watt Inverter Generator
You can engage the eco-mode switch if you want to maximize the fuel economy and spend less. The eco-mode switch enables the engine to adjust the fuel consumption depending on the charged items. This will help prevent unnecessary gasoline usage.
The WEN GN400i portable generator includes simple design that makes its use easy, and it doesn’t require much maintenance work.
Do you need more energy? If yes, you can link up to two inverter generators with the help of a parallel connection kit. Never worry about the generator’s safety. It has a low-fuel and low-oil automatic shutdown that alerts you when low oil level. The low oil shut-off technology protects your engine.
The low oil feature combines with the built-in overload protection to protect the generator and your charging electronics from damage. Because it is a WEN product, durability is guaranteed. Provided you give it good maintenance, the portable inverter generator will offer you years of use, plus WEN’s incredible customer service.
- Powerful-4000 peak Watts
- It generates safe power that can charge sensitive electronics
- Compact and simple to store
- Its sound level is reasonable
- Maintenance is simple, and it doesn’t require skills to operate.
- Although it has a wheel kit and a handle, it is still heavy
Jackery 500 Portable Power Station
The Jackery 500 is a great option for people looking for power on the go. It features an AC outlet that provides safe power to different AC devices from projectors, TVs, small blenders, pellet smokers, and many more.
Besides, it has 2.4A USB ports and 12V that you can use to power small devices like air pumps, car coolers, car vacuums, phones, and laptops.
The portable generator is equipped with a battery management system that governs the individual cells to improve the battery life while allowing for pass-through charging.
Still, the battery management system offers over-discharge protection, short circuit protection, over-voltage protection, thermal protection, and overcharge protection.
It is a compact and lightweight power station that you can easily carry using a solid handle. The portability makes it great for road trips, camping, hunting, and home backup.
You can pair this Explorer 500 with SolarSaga 100 solar panel to get more power from the sun. Operating the power station is easy because it has a simple user manual with straightforward instructions.
It provides you with three ways of recharging from a carport, recharging under the sun with a Jackery SolarSaga solar panel, or recharging from an AC outlet.
- It has a perfect capacity that can run a wide range of electronics
- Unlike other generators, this one supports pass-through charging
- This generator is reliable and has long-lasting endurance
- You can place it on any surface because it has non-slip feet
- The battery is well guarded and very powerful
- The solar input charge is limited to 65 watts
- It doesn’t work well in winter or cold weather.
Goal Zero Yeti 200X Power Station
Goal Zero has created this portable power station to offer portable energy for home use, job-site, outdoor, or power emergencies. It is built with a lightweight and compact design that allows you to travel with it and access clean power anywhere.
Goal Zero Yeti 200x uses a high-speed power delivery port to charge laptops, mirrorless cameras, tablets, and phones. The power station is solar-ready, where you can charge it from the sun using compatible solar panels. Keep in mind that the high the watts of the panel, the faster it will charge.
It has six output ports that allow you to power a wide range of devices, including phones, laptops, lights, portable fridges, cameras, medical devices, and many more devices. For example, the 200-watt lithium energy will charge your laptop four times, phone 16 times, and run LED lights for 42 hours.
It is backed with multiple layers of protection, including under and over-voltage protection, temperature protection, and a battery management system to monitor the battery health.
Goal Zero 200X is equipped with a sturdy handle that allows you to carry it anywhere. In addition, its compact design makes it hassle-free to store.
- Easy to use generator with safety features
- Its portability flexibility allows you to power devices from anywhere
- Compact design makes it easy to carry and store
- Expensive for power class
- Poor customer support
What is a Generator?
A generator is a powerful unit that converts mechanical energy to electrical energy. Generators use diesel, propane, and gasoline. They convert this fuel supply into electric energy that you can use to power a wide range of devices.
During power outages, a generator is the primary source of electrical supply. Besides, generators provide safe backup power in hospitals, schools, industries, businesses, and many more areas.
There are multiple generators in the market, and you can buy one for any need. In addition, you can find the small, portable ones suitable for outdoor use to offer portable devices that do not require much power.
Others are designed to be installed permanently to power an entire house. Still, industrial generators are strong enough to power a facility, hospital, layout office, school, and many more areas that require adequate power.
There are different types of generators: portable generators, inverter generators, and standby generators. They all have one primary purpose: to offer reliable backup power in case of an emergency. A generator can provide years of use when you do the following:
- Checking the cooling system every time, mostly during shutdown periods
- Annual fuel filtering and cleaning
- For standby generator, keep checking for the battery’s health
- Do regular testing to know the battery’s current status
- Keep records of tests for future inspections.
How Does a Generator Work?
Generally, a generator does not create electricity. Instead, it converts mechanical or chemical energy from propane, gasoline, diesel, biogas, or LPG into electrical power.
A generator has an engine that rotates the axle of an electric conductor in a magnetic field which creates reliable power. For a generator to work effectively, it must have the following components. The components include:
An alternator is an important device that converts mechanical energy into AC electrical energy. It has both stationary and moving parts that combine to create a magnetic field and the movement of electrons that generate power.
The engine is the component that supplies energy to the generator. An engine’s size and design determine the power a generator can provide by running on a specific fuel. An engine can be run on gasoline, liquid propane, diesel, propane gas, or natural gas.
- Fuel System
A fuel system helps the generator produce the amount of energy required. Most generators have a fuel system with enough capacity to run the generator for about 6 to 8 hours. For commercial use, you can install an external fuel system. A fuel system contains the following:
- An overflow connection from the fuel tank to the drain hose
- An exhaust pipe for the oil tank
- A fuel pump
- Fuel water separator or fuel filter
- A fuel injector
- Cooling System
Generators create a lot of heat, and they need to cool every time. This system prevents the generator from overheating by extracting the heat. Many coolants are used, such as fresh water and hydrogen. A generator should have fans and radiators as the primary cooling system for residential and industrial use.
- Voltage Regulator
This component regulates the voltage produced. It helps balance the current while still ensuring your devices are safe. When the generator entirely operates, the regulator goes into equilibrium and has adequate DC to maintain the output in the entire operation.
- Lubricating System
A generator contains many moving parts. They need regular lubrication to perform effectively. Consider lubricating the engine regularly using the oil stored in the pump. Keep checking the lubricant level after every 8 hours of the generator’s application. Check and replace lubrication oil leaks every 500 hours of the generator’s operation.
- Battery Charger
A generator relies on batteries to startup. The role of a battery charger is to keep the generator’s charger charged by supplying accurate float voltage. The float voltage should be accurate to prevent low charging or shorten the battery life when the float is too high.
Battery chargers are made of stainless steel to avoid corrosion and perform well. No adjustments or changes to the settings are needed because it is automatic.
- Control Panel
A control panel monitors everything from startup, running speed, controlling power outage to shut off. In addition, a control panel contains engine gauges, battery voltage, rotational speed, and working period.
A panel includes a meter that measures the output current, operating frequency, and voltage. Some other controls include frequency switch, phase selector switch, and engine control switch.
- Frame Assembly
This is the main body of a generator. The custom case offers a structural support base, allowing grounding for safety.
What are the Pros and Cons of a Generator?
Knowing that generators have different advantages and disadvantages will help you understand what to expect before purchasing. Here are some of the benefits of using generators for backup power.
- It is easy to maintain for a diesel generator because it needs fewer components to start.
- Generators provide clean power and reliable energy every time. This power output can run a wide range of devices, even sensitive ones.
- A generator can power a refrigerator, water pump, phones, tablets, TV, electric clothes drier, electric water heater, air conditioners, desktop, freezer, lights, and many more.
- With a generator, you will avoid losses. If you have a business that relies on electricity, having a generator as your backup option will help you avoid losses. A generator will prevent the food in the fridge from spoiling in a home.
- Having a generator guarantees security in case of a power outage.
- Some portable generators are dual-fuel supported, giving you an option to use your preferred fuel.
- Compared to electricity, portable generators are cost-effective. All you need is adequate fuel to run the generator.
- Generators require regular maintenance to keep them operating well. You will need to use some extra oil to do specific tests in some cases.
- Some generators require robust insulation systems because of the amount of power. For instance, industrial generators will need strong insulation for them to work to their best
- Generators are too noisy, especially when used in quiet environments. You cannot use them for long hours because of the noise.
- Generators emit participate matter which adds to air pollution. If not in good condition, it can emit unburnt hydrocarbons.
- For those who use diesel generators, the price rises because of the regulations.
- You must have gasoline or diesel to power a generator.
Also Read: Best Portable Generators 
A generator has multiple uses for commercial, industrial, and home use. Getting a generator that suits all your needs will be an excellent investment. Here are some items that a generator can power.
- Lights in the sitting room, bathroom, and kitchen
- Garage door opener
- Alarm systems
- Window air conditioner
- Electric water.
When you want to buy portable generators, you must know the amount of power you need and the output power of the generator you want to buy. First, you have to understand how much power you need and ensure the generator has decent power output.
For instance, a refrigerator can need 700 watts to run, but it will still require 2100 watts of startup power. You have to know the startup output power required to run your equipment and the running watts you need.
You should also know the type of power outlets you will need. The smaller models have 120V AC outlets and USB ports suitable for smartphones, tablets, and smart devices. Because you will be using the generator outside, get a generator with GFCI protected outlets.
Generators are powered by natural gas, gasoline, propane, diesel, or biogas. Gas generators are commonly used. However, if you are willing to pay for the maintenance and upgrade, diesel generators will offer the best fuel efficiency.
You have to go for a diesel generator for a household generator. Still, you have to know that diesel may not be simple to find as gasoline. Moreover, look for propane generators or gasoline generators that easily be converted to propane use. Propane is environmentally friendly, making it safe to use.
Conventional generators are noisy. Although, current models are designed with quiet technology that helps reduce the noise level. Some of the new models are quiet than a normal conversation. If you are camping or tailgating, getting a generator with noise reduction features will be great.
Besides, you have to get a generator license for the noise to run the generator. You should also know that the more watts a generator has, the noisier it will be. A quiet operation is not guaranteed when you have a 4000-watt or higher model. Comparing a gas model with a diesel one, diesel generators are noisy.
This refers to the amount of time the generator will run before refueling. Before making a purchase, you have to buy a generator that meets your needs. Runtime is also determined by the size of the fuel tank and the electrical appliances it is charging.
Remember that the bigger the fuel tank, the longer it will run without frequent refills. Generators have a fuel tank that can run for 7-9 hours a half load. However, a large fuel tank capacity will make the generator bulky.
Size and Weight
Generators are available in different sizes. The largest is the industrial or facility generators that require installation. These generators are bulky, powerful, and they must be installed. Depending on where you want to use it, you will decide to purchase a small or large generator.
The large in size generators have more power than the smaller ones, and they are suited for heavy-duty applications. Choose a lightweight and portable generator if you use it for camping, tailgating, or outdoor activities.
The best generator under $500 should have built-in safety features to protect the generator from damage. For instance, a good generator should have a voltage regulator to protect everything being charged from damage.
To protect your items from generator power surges, you must use a surge protector, power line conditioner, surge protector, or voltage regulator.
It should have a battery management system to prevent overcharging, short-circuiting, and overcharging. Moreover, it should have a smart low oil shutoff sensor that alerts or shuts the unit down automatically when the oil level is low to protect the engine from damage.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Are Home Generators Noisy?
The noise level will depend on the load amount the generator is handling. The more the load, the noisy it will be. However, modern technology is helping manufacturers manufacturer low-level noise generators. They do an excellent job than a conventional generator. Before making your purchase, check for the noise levels of the generator so that you can purchase a less noisy model.
Is There a Difference Between Backup and Standby Generators?
Yes, there is a difference between the two. Standby generators are permanently installed like an air conditioner, and they usually run on propane. For backup generators, they are portable and flexible to use anywhere. You can keep it outdoors and plug in the transfer switch.
What Are the Three Types of Generators?
Generators are available in 3 main types: portable, standby, and inverter generators. All these three have one primary role: to offer reliable backup power during a power outage.
How Long Should a Generator Run?
On average, a standby generator designed to power a medium-size home should run for up to 3 000 hours. Although, it is not advisable to continuously run a generator for more than 500 hours because it can cause a mess.
What Are the Advantages of Buying a Generator Under $500?
The main advantage of buying a generator under $500 is saving more money. In addition, the maintenance and repair costs are low compared to larger units. Furthermore, most of them are compact and portable, helping you use them anywhere.
What is the Best Generator for the Price?
Generators come at different prices. The higher it is priced, the more features and power it has. In our guide above, we have the best generators on the market for under $500. All of them are good for the price, but the
It is the best inverter generator under $500 and will suit any budget buyer. Still, it offers safe power that can run multiple devices, even sensitive ones.
What is the Most Reliable Generator on the Market?
Among the most reliable generators in the market under $500, DuroMax XP4400 is the most reliable model. It has 4400 starting watts and 3500 running watts, allowing it to handle heavy loads, from a refrigerator, lights, home air conditioner, and high power tools.
Other than reliability, unlike conventional generators, the model is safe to use thanks to oil low oil auto shut off that protects the engine from damage when the oil level is low.
It has a heavy-duty all-metal construction that guarantees durability and good performance for years to come. With a full fuel tank of gasoline, this generator will provide you with up to 8 hours of runtime, making it one of the reliable generators in the market.
What is the Best Brand of Portable Generators?
There is no one best brand for generators. Different brand have difference specializations. Champion Power Equipment offers great value products with solid technology. Goal Zero and Jackery are the leaders in solar generator space. DuroMax also has great generator options at all power classes.
How Many kW Generator do I Need to Run a House?
A generator rated 7500+ watts can run essential household items. For example, a 20kW generator can run a refrigerator, well pump, lighting circuits, air conditioner, freezer, TV, microwave oven, and many more. For RV, a 3000-4000-watt generator will be great. To ensure the propane lasts longer, select the electrical appliances to run while the generator operates.
|Appliance||Starting Watts||Running Watts|
|Furnace (1/4 HP)||1000||600|
|Sump Pump (1/3 HP)||1300||800|
|Window AC 13K BTU||2800||1800|
So, Which is Best?
There is no one best option.. Different generators meet different needs.
Champion 2000- Best Generator Under $500 Overall
DuroMax XP4400E-Most Powerful Generator Under $500
WEN GN400i- Best Inverter Generator Under $500
Jackery 500-Best Quiet Generator Under $500
Goal Zero Yeti 200X-Best Portable Generator Under $500
No matter the purpose of the generator under $500 you need, our guide above has the best generators that will provide you with ample power to run your appliances and devices without breaking the bank.
Choosing a generator can be tricky at this price point, but we hope our guide has made the job easy for you. These generators are powerful, lightweight, compact, reliable, and durable even at lower prices. We believe the best option overall is the due to its high performance, affordability and portability.
I’ve always been a lover of Mechanics and the engineering that goes on behind it. Naturally had a knack for fixing things and i’ve had lots of adventures that generators are second nature to me.