Product Reviews

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Illustration of inverter generators.

Best and Worst Inverter Generators

These newcomers to the market run longer, quieter, and more efficiently

As a group, inverter generators outperform their conventional counterparts. But that doesn’t mean that all inverter models are created equal—far from it, in our tests.

“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.”
 

More on generators

How a portable inverter generator operates at peak demand is important: A model that can’t keep up with your power needs may trip its own internal circuit breaker, or cause your appliances to overheat or stall out—a phenomenon we routinely witness in the course of testing.

If you end up with a generator that doesn't do well at peak demand, you’ll need to unplug some appliances when you plug in others, and you’ll also need to reset the generator’s circuit breaker each time you do.

Inverter models, newcomers to the market, provide better run times, improved efficiency, and much quieter operation than traditional portable generators do.

How We Test Generators

For each generator, we connect a combination of lights, space heaters, and fans—appliances that draw a constant load—then tack on a power-hungry well pump and program it to cycle on and off at set intervals.

Some generators can meet demands immediately, only to fail and trip their own circuit breaker later. So we run this test for an hour, metering wattage, voltage, and amperage. If a model passes, we repeat the test twice more, adding 1,000 watts to the load each time. That’s just for the power delivery score, one of four that make up a model’s Overall Score.

The best generators deliver power to all the devices in our tests, at full voltage. The worst models won’t even power a basic load of lights and fans.

Our ratings of dozens of models include picks from the brands you’ll see both online and at home centers, such as Briggs & Stratton, Generac, Honda, Honeywell, Kohler, NorthStar, Predator, Ryobi, Troy-Bilt, Westinghouse, and Yamaha.

The prices for generators in our ratings range from $430 for a modest recreational generator to $4,300 for the top-rated large, stationary model.

To shop, start with our buying guide for advice on what kind of generator you need. Immediately below we call out two generators to skip, and further down, subscribers to our website can read on for ratings and reviews of our top three inverter generator picks. 

Two Inverter Generators to Skip

Worst Portable Inverter Generator
Briggs & Stratton Quiet Power
Price: $1,500
Claimed output: 5,000 watts
Run time: 7 to 16 hours
Overall Score: 39
CR’s take: Briggs & Stratton’s 5,000-watt portable inverter generator seems like an amazing deal. It produces as much power as the brand’s traditional portable generators, weighs a mere 156 pounds—100 pounds less than generators with comparable outputs—and at $1,500, it doesn’t cost much more than noninverter models from the competition.

Unfortunately, it fails in its most crucial function. In our tests for power quality and delivery, we found the Quiet Power could handle only modest, constant loads, and failed, when pressed, to handle a surge in power demand. Until the kinks are worked out, you’re better off buying one of the best from our tests listed below.

Worst Recreational Inverter Generator
Generac iQ2000
Price: $800
Claimed output: 1,600 watts
Run time: 5 to 13 hours
Overall Score: 69
CR’s take: As a group, recreational inverter generators aren’t all that different from one another. This Generac earns the lowest score of the nine models of this type currently in our generator ratings and, like the Briggs & Stratton above, does so because it struggles in some of our power tests. The best recreational models can be left idling and easily ramp up their power to handle the surge of powering, say, a small window air conditioner. The Generac struggled to meet power demands when starting from an idle, and it costs nearly twice that of some better-performing recreational models.

Read on for ratings and reviews of the best inverter generators.

Best Inverter Generators

The portable, midsized, and recreational models that aced our tests.

Best Portable Inverter Generator
Honda EU7000is

Price: $4,000
Claimed output: 5,500 watts
Run time: 8 to 16 hours
Overall Score: 79
Ranking: 1 of 3 portable inverter generators
CR’s take: The Honda is the best portable generator in our ratings for a reason. It’s quiet, efficient, and exceptionally reliable in its ability to meet fluctuating demands for power. It’s pricey compared with traditional models—you can find options with comparable output for about a third of the price—but if you live in an area prone to power outages, it may be worth it to you to buy the best. It uses 8 to 16 gallons of gas a day to power a typical household, about half the amount of fuel some similarly-sized traditional generators use to deliver the same amount of power.

Best Midsized Inverter Generator
Kohler Pro 2.8i
Price: $1,700
Claimed output: 2,500 watts
Run time: 8 to 18 hours
Overall Score: 84
Ranking: 1 of 2 midsized inverter generators
CR’s take: This class of inverter generators straddles the line between the small generators you’d take camping—which we call recreational generators—and larger models that are really made to power an entire house but we call portable because they’re small enough to be moved—if you have some help. Midsized inverter generators produce about half the power of a portable model, but both models in our ratings weigh less than 100 pounds, which means you can still hoist one onto the bed of a pickup truck to take with you. The Kohler delivers constant, reliable power in our tests, and it runs quietly.

Best Recreational Inverter Generator
Westinghouse iGen 2000

Price: $480
Claimed output: 1,800 watts
Run time: 5 to 12 hours
Overall Score: 76
Ranking: 2 of 9 recreational inverter generators
CR’s take: Technically, the Westinghouse is the second-best recreational model in our ratings, but its performance makes it hard to argue for paying $520 more for the top-rated Honda EU2000i. The Westinghouse produces 1,800 watts, 200 more than the 1,600-watt-rated Honda, and slots in just a point behind it in the ratings. Like the Honda, it gets top marks for delivering reliable, steady power, and it’s quiet and efficient, too.

14
Inverter Generators in Our Ratings.
Current Inverter Generator Ratings