One of the best portable generators

With Hurricane Florence projected to slam the East Coast as a category 4 beast as early as Thursday night, it’s all but too late for locals to buy a generator before landfall. 

The best bet for anyone in the area is to order one online now for home delivery after the storm has passed, as there likely will be prolonged power outages.

By Tuesday, Consumer Reports was unable to confirm the availability of any generators for sale in or around coastal communities in Virginia or the Carolinas, even at retailers that had them as recently as Monday. Multiple calls to Lowe's stores went unanswered. An employee at a Home Depot store just outside Charleston, S.C. told us the store was sold out and she was unaware of any Home Depot within 100 miles that had generators in stock.

We looked into getting a generator delivered from the websites of Home Depot, Lowe’s, and Walmart, and found projected delivery dates ranging from Sept. 16 through Sept. 25.

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Amazon Prime members get free two-day shipping on most items, but Tuesday morning a representative for Amazon told us that customers in the projected path of the storm will now begin seeing delayed guaranteed delivery dates at checkout. Virtually all of the generators we came across on Amazon.com showed projected delivery dates of Sept. 16 or later.

“If you're hoping to get a generator from Amazon in the aftermath of Florence, don’t wait another minute,” says Debra Mednick, CR’s associate director of market trends and analysis.

Mednick recommends restricting your search to models that are both Prime eligible and labled "ships from and sold by Amazon.com." 

"Amazon is able to adapt to surges in demand by moving merchandise between distribution centers prior to a big weather event like this," says Mednick. "Buying from a third-party seller can be a bit of a gamble.”

Portable generators are your best bet in the immediate aftermath of a storm because you'll likely have a hard time finding a licensed pro to install a home-standby generator. But that's fine: Portable generators keep costs down and pack plenty of power to run most of the essentials in your home.

And unlike a home standby generator, a portable model will work right out of the box, meaning you can add gas and oil, fire it up, and plug in the equipment you want to power.

“Portable generators really hit the sweet spot with price and performance,” says Dave Trezza, who oversees Consumer Reports' generator tests. “They’ll power most, if not all, of what you need during a storm, and you can be all-in for around $1,000.”

At this point you won't be able to find an electrician to install a transfer switch before the storm, so check our advice on how to safely get a generator up and running in a pinch. (A transfer switch is a device that allows you to connect your generator to your home’s circuit breaker panel, and CR highly recommends that you can have one installed after life gets back to normal.)

Always operate a portable generator at least 20 feet from your home—and never in an enclosed space such as a garage—with exhaust directed away from windows and doors and with a model-specific cover or tent in inclement weather.

And keep in mind that you’ll need to keep a lot of gas on hand, stored with fuel stabilizer mixed in, to sustain you through a prolonged outage. Some models burn through close to a gallon an hour at peak capacity.

Check out our generator buying guide to learn more about the different types of generators, or read on for a list of our five picks for the best portable generators for a variety of needs.

CR members can read ratings and reviews of each, or access our full generator ratings.

5 Great Portable Generators

The Best Basic Portable Generator

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Generac XT8000 portable generator

Price: $1200.00

Power delivery
Power quality
Ease of use
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Best Value in a Portable Generator

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Troy-Bilt XP7000 30477A portable generator

Price: $900.00

Power delivery
Power quality
Ease of use
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Best Portable Inverter Generator

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Honda EU7000is inverter generator

Price: $4000

Power delivery
Power quality
Ease of use
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Best Portable Generator for Long Run Times

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DeWalt DXGNR7000 portable generator

Price: $1000.00

Power delivery
Power quality
Ease of use
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Best Portable Generator for Modest Power Needs

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Generac GP5500 5939 portable generator

Price: $700.00

Power delivery
Power quality
Ease of use
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