Best and Worst Inverter Generators From Consumer Reports' Tests

These models run longer, quieter, and more efficiently than a portable generator of a similar size

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recreational inverters Brian Finke

Inverter generators are an elite breed of portable generators. And as a group, they outperform their conventional counterparts in almost every way. They provide better run times and efficiency as well as a much quieter operation, whether you’re using one at home or at a tailgate party.

But that doesn’t mean all inverter models are created equal. Far from it, according to Consumer Reports’ tests.

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“Even with inverter models, we see big differences in how well generators deliver power,” says Dave Trezza, who oversees Consumer Reports’ generator testing. “Especially when they’re pushed to extremes.”

How a portable inverter generator operates at peak demand is important. A model that can’t keep up with power needs may trip its own internal circuit breaker or cause appliances to overheat or stall out—a phenomenon we routinely witness in testing. If you end up with a generator that falters during peak demand, you’ll need to unplug some appliances when you plug in others. You’ll also need to reset the generator’s circuit breaker each time you do.

How CR Tests Generators

To test generators for performance, our engineers load up each model with a variety of essentials you might want to power during an outage, such as a space heater, refrigerator, and window air conditioner. We make sure the generator can handle the load it’s supposed to, and also determine what happens when a sudden spike in voltage hits, for example, if the compressor in your refrigerator kicks on when the generator is already close to capacity. The best models take that in stride while others bog down or even stall. We also look at how easy it is to move and use a generator, as well as how efficiently it uses gasoline and how long it runs on a single tank.

We also developed a CO safety technology test to evaluate new automatic shutoff features on portable and inverter generators and low-CO engines.

Our ratings of dozens of models include the brands you’ll see whether you’re shopping online or at home centers: Briggs & Stratton, Generac, and Ryobi. In addition to inverters, you’ll also find traditional gasoline-powered portable generators and home standby generators. Prices for generators in our ratings range from $450 for a modest recreational generator to more than $4,000 for a small home standby model.

Start with our generator buying guide for advice on which kind of generator you’ll need. CR members can read on for ratings and reviews of our top three inverter generators, one from each of the three size categories. (The large inverter below performs well in our tests but doesn’t have a CO safety shutoff.) We also call out a large inverter model to skip.

As always—and regardless of whether or not you buy a generator with a CO safety shutoff—use a gasoline generator only outdoors, at least 20 feet from your house, with the exhaust directed away from any windows or doors.

Best Inverter Generators

Worst Inverter Generator in CR's Tests

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Paul Hope

As a classically trained chef and an enthusiastic DIYer, I've always valued having the best tool for a job—whether the task at hand is dicing onions for mirepoix or hanging drywall. When I'm not writing about home products, I can be found putting them to the test, often with help from my two young children, in the 1860s townhouse I'm restoring in my free time.