An illustration of portable generator types
Photo: Brian Finke

As a group, inverter generators outperform their conventional counterparts. They provide better run times, improved efficiency, and much quieter operation, whether you’re using one at home or at a tailgate party.

But that doesn’t mean that 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 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 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 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 rating, 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.

We have also developed a CO safety technology test to evaluate new automatic shutoff features on portable and inverter generators, though we haven't yet tested any inverter models with the technology.

Our ratings of dozens of models include the brands you’ll see whether you’re shopping online or at home centers: Briggs & Stratton, Generac, Honda, Honeywell, Kohler, NorthStar, Predator, Ryobi, Troy-Bilt, Westinghouse, and Yamaha.

The prices for generators in our ratings range from $450 for a modest recreational generator to $4,400 for a small home standby generator.

To shop, start with our buying guide for advice on which kind of generator you need. CR members can read on for ratings and reviews of our top three inverter generators, one from each of the three size categories. Below, we also call out a generator to skip. 

Safety first: To run a generator safely, place it at least 20 feet from your home with the exhaust pointed in the opposite direction, and away from any windows, doors, A/C units, or other structures. 

Best Inverter Generators

Top Picks


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Worst Inverter Generator in CR's Tests

Quick Take

Briggs & Stratton Q6500

Price: $1,400

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