If a generator performs its primary function well, you'll need to look at features and conveniences to compare models. That's a particular strength of recreational inverter generators, as you can see in the models below.

They offer niceties such as extra receptacles for gadgets and remote control from a smartphone app. Most of them also serve a purpose beyond the tailgate.

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"Recreational inverter generators are really designed to be a portable power source, but in a pinch, you can actually use them to power a few appliances at home," says Dave Trezza, who heads up Consumer Reports' generator testing.

All of the recreational inverter generators in CR's ratings max out at 2,000 watts or less and weigh about 50 pounds. The portable generators we test range from 4,500 to 7,500 watts and weigh up to 200 pounds. If you're not sure what's right for you, check our generator buying guide.

As for the three recreational inverter generators below, they all perform well in our tests and deserve a shout out for designs that are clearly conceived with the user in mind.

A Smart Generator That’s Easy to Handle

Ryobi RYI2300BT
Price: $600
Wattage: 1,800
Run time: 6 to 14 hours
CR’s take: This Ryobi generator was definitely designed with usability in mind. For starters, it has wheels and a telescoping handle, like a luggage wheelie, making it easy to move around or take with you on a trip (not via air travel, of course). But its real innovation is the built-in software called Gencontrol, which partners with an app and uses Bluetooth to send critical information to your smartphone, including current output wattage, fuel level, and remaining run time. That means you can simply check your phone instead of continually running out to check the gas gauge to see when you'll need to refill the tank. You can even use your phone to shut it off. 



Stackable Units That Multiply the Power

Champion 73536i
Price: $480
Wattage: 1,700 watts
Run time: 4 to 10 hours
CR’s take: If you’re using a recreational generator for backup power during an outage, you may find that just one won’t quite cut it. Sure, a single unit can power a fridge and a few fans, but even a small space heater can push most recreational models to their limit. For that reason, most recreational models can be run parallel to one another—meaning you can buy two identical generators, connect them with a cable, and power twice as many things.

This Champion generator (pictured at top) is built with that scenario in mind—its design allows you to stack up to four units on top of one another, which would give you a total of 6,800 watts of backup power. And at less than $500 apiece, it’s probably still cheaper to stack multiple units than to buy a single, larger generator.



A Control Panel With Lots of Outlets

Briggs & Stratton 030651
Price: $650
Wattage: 1,700
Run time: 4 to 9 hours
CR’s take: This lean little generator from Briggs & Stratton is the only recreational model we’ve seen with receptacles for standard plugs, a USB port, and a 12-volt, cigarette lighter-style outlet. That means that you can plug in almost anything you’d need to plug in during an emergency, or if you have a lot of phones to charge, use a dual USB charger in the 12-volt port without tying up all the standard outlets. Alternatively, you can charge up to five phones at once if you aren’t using the standard outlets to power anything inside your home.