Regardless of how developed your country is, it’s never a wise thing to be 100 percent reliant on electricity. Even if you live in a country as advanced as the US or Germany, you need a backup in case of a sudden power outage, especially if your work relies a lot on electricity. With that said, we must admit that powerful generators are usually expensive, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find an affordable one. If you’re looking for a budget-friendly solution, you can’t go wrong with the best generator under 500.
With many countries around the world facing power issues, generators have become much more popular in recent years. Subsequently, the number of brands and models on the market have considerably skyrocketed. While that is advantageous in some ways, it comes with some downsides. The primary downside it comes with is the fact that due to the superfluity of options available, choosing the ideal generator for your needs can be very difficult, especially if you’re new at it.
Thankfully, that’s where we come in. If you’re in the market for the right generator for your needs, we are here to help guide your steps. In this article, we have chosen and reviewed the top 9 generators under $500 available on the market today. To ensure that we chose only the best models, our picks were influenced by some important factors, which include the runtime, the noise level, the tank size, and other unique features. Having said that, we welcome you to our comprehensive buying guide.
Thanks to the abundance of options on the market when it comes to generators, it’s very easy to get confused during your shopping for the right one for your needs. With that in mind, we haven’t only recommended the best 9 generators under 500, but we have also comprehensively reviewed them.
To ensure that you have an easy time choosing the perfect generator for your peculiar needs, we’ve streamlined this article as much as possible. Of course, that’s why we’ve included this overview table, which compares our picks and gives you an idea of what’s to come.
- Peak watts: 4300
- Continuous watts: 3500
- Noise level: 62 dB
- Runs for up to 18 hours ay 50% load
- 2.6-gallon fuel tank
- Equipped with efficiency mode
- Powered by a 212 CC Westinghouse 4-Stroke OHV Engine
- Less than 3% THD
- Unique Open Frame Inverter Generator Hybrid Technology
Westinghouse is a name that has become synonymous with generators, and models like the Westinghouse iGen4200 Hybrid Open Frame Inverter Generator shows why. This model has managed to strike a perfect balance between affordability and power, which makes it our top pick. Amazingly, it comes with the eco inverter technology, which guarantees a maximum fuel efficiency that a lot of its costlier rivals can only dream of. Not only that, but it also comes with a maximum output of 4300 watts, which is a lot of power for a generator of this size.
Furthermore, this generator is equipped with a fuel tank that is capable of holding up to 2.6 gallons, which gives an incredible run time of 18 hours at half load. It’s also worth noting that this generator is an inverter generator as well, making it an excellent hybrid option that is perfect as a back-up whether you’re at home or on a trip. Of course, behind the incredible performance produced by this generator is the 212cc 4-stroke Westinghouse OHV engine. This engine provides the best of both worlds as it’s equipped with smart inverter technology and special open frame design.
When it comes to operating noise, there are not many quieter models than this one. At only 62 decibels, this model is a perfect option if you’re looking for a generator you can use discreetly. We must also add that it comes with standard household outlets and USB ports, allowing it to work with many essential devices. With its stable and clean power, it’s also engineered with safety in mind, making it ideal for sensitive electronics like computers, TVs, and mobile phones. The only drawback we’d like to mention is that the packaging is not well-thought through.
- Simple set up and operation
- Very quiet in operation
- Perfect traveling companion
- Excellent price
- Works well with many essential devices
- Hybrid system
- Powerful engine
- The packaging isn’t well thought through
- Peak watts: 5,000
- Continuous watts: 4,500
- Noise level: 68 dB
- 3.5-gallon fuel tank
- Runs up to 7.5 hours at a 50% load
- Powered by 4-stroke OHV 272cc engine
- Recoil start
- Backed by a 2-year warranty
Wen is another leading brand in the industry and this 5,000-watt generator is a perfect testament of their incredibility. The generator is a perfect combination of power and versatility, with its powerful 4-stroke OHV 272cc engine that delivers up to 5,000 watts of peak power and 4500 watts of continuous power. In addition, it comes with a 3.4-gallon fuel tank that provides up to 7.5 hours runtime at a 50-percent load. That’s a lot of efficiency for a generator of this size and pricing category.
However, while the powerful performance is great, especially if you have powerful and heavy appliances to run, it can cause a bit more noise. Therefore, if a generator that operates quietly is what you’re looking for, you may need to opt for a quieter alternative. Having said that, this generator is outfitted with multiple outlets to handle a number of tasks. Apart from two standard household outlets (5-20R), it also comes with one 30A TT-30R RV outlet, one 120V/240V L14-30R outlet, and one 12V DC outlet.
In terms of construction, this generator features a compact and portable construction, despite all its power. Apart from that, it also comes with smooth, never-flat wheels and a handle kit, which makes for easy storage and transportation. With the wheels, you can easily roll the machine around any terrain, regardless of how coarse it is. To give you more confidence over your purchase, the generator is also backed with a two-year warranty.
- Powerful operation
- Efficient operation
- Easy to store and transport
- Compact and portable construction
- Backed by a two-year warranty
- Outfitted with multiple outlets
- It’s quite noisy
- Peak watts (Gas/LPG): 5250 / 4750
- Continuous watts (Gas/LPG): 4250 / 3850
- Uses switch & go technology
- Runs for up to 12 hours at a 50% load (Gas)
- Noise level: 72 dB
- 4-gallon fuel tank
- Powered by 4-Stroke 224cc 8HP OHV engine
- Fold-Down Handle and Never-Flat Wheels
- Backed by a one-year warranty
There are simple generators and there are special units and the Pulsar 5250W Dual Fuel Portable Generator falls in the latter category. Apart from being decently powerful, this generator also has two fuel options. Speaking about the multiple fuel options, they are LPG or gasoline. To make it easy to switch between the fuel sources, the manufacturers have included switch & go technology. In terms of power, this generator has an average output of 4250 watts, but its peak output is 5250 watts on gas.
With this, if you use around half of this wattage, you could run this generator for up to 12 hours on gas only. This generator produces enough power to run a refrigerator and a couple of small appliances. However, we don’t advise you to keep your cooling or heating needs on a generator of this size. To completely access its power, it comes with a 30 Amp receptacle, two 120volt receptacles, and a 120/240 twist-lock receptacle. These variations allow you to quickly power anything that requires urgent power.
Furthermore, this generator comes with a two-year warranty, which is limited. This means that it covers only specific items. Finally, since it is important to take the storage into consideration in case of a power outage, this generator comes with wheels and a fold-down handle that lay flat. With this, you will be able to tuck the generator away quickly when it’s not needed.
- Decent power output
- Can run for up to 12 hours on gas
- Can switch effortlessly between gas and LPG
- Foldable handle
- Comes with a two-year warranty
- Easy to store and transport
- Not enough wattage to run your AC or refrigerator
- Peak watts: 2200
- Continuous watts: 1800
- Fuel-saving efficiency mode
- Noise level: 52 dB at 25% load
- Runs for up to 12 hours
- 1.2-gallon tank
- Less than 3% THD
- Comes with a three-year warranty
With over 130 years of experience in the industry, Westinghouse is a giant in the manufacturing of generators and appliances. Again, the Westinghouse iGen2200 Inverter Generator shows exactly why the company is so well-known. While its 2200 watts of surge power and 1800 watts of continuous power may seem really insufficient, you would be wrong to underestimate this generator. This model can run for up to 12 hours at a 25 percent load, which means you don’t have to be scared about running out of power.
Of course, the secret behind that is an incorporated efficiency mode, which you can activate easily with an easy-to-press button on the front. This mode reduces fuel usage whilst maintaining the same output power. However, you must keep in mind that if you draw anywhere around the generator’s rated load for extended periods, you will need to refuel once per day at least. In terms of noise, this generator has an extremely quiet operation. When using it at 25 percent load, it generates only 52 decibels, which is silent enough to allow you to hold a conversation nearby.
Another excellent addition is that it comes with a USB charging port, coupled with the two 120V outlets. However, note that there’s no 12V DC outlet to charge batteries, which some users can see as a deal-breaker. Meanwhile, while this generator comes with a 3-year warranty for residential users. However, contractors in search of a small unit for residential properties will need to be aware that people who use this generator commercially will get only a one-year warranty.
- Quiet operation
- Long runtime
- 2,200 watts of surge power
- Two USB charging ports
- Safe for small electronics
- Three-year warranty for residential users
- No 12-volt DC outlet
- High-price point versus generators with the same output
- Peak watts (Gas/LPG): 4750 / 4275
- Continuous watts (Gas/LPG): 3800 /3420
- Dual fuel options
- Runs for up to 9 hours at 50% load (Gas)
- Runs for up to 10.5 hours at 50% load (LPG)
- 3.4-gallon fuel tank
- Push-button electric start
- Low Oil Shut-Off
- Noise level: 68 dB
- 3-year limited warranty with lifetime technical support
Like Westinghouse, Champion is another company that is renowned for its production of high-quality generators and appliances and they have not disappointed with this portable generator that is RV-ready as well. While it’s very easy to underestimate this generator because of its small construction, we assure you that looks can be deceiving with this unit. In fact, it is one of the most powerful portable generators on the market, with its ability to run on both propane and gas.
Furthermore, this unit is easy to set up, as you can easily turn it on with an electric start button that is usually charged as the unit runs. Whether you’re looking for a portable unit to take on your RV trips or you’re looking for a back-up in case of a power outage, this unit is a fantastic option. Impressively, since the generator is powered by long-lasting propane, there’s no need for you to plan ahead. Propane is renowned to be self-sufficient and is certain to last for a long time. Additionally, the generator runs up to 10.5 hours, which is impressive given its size.
Durability is an important factor to keep in mind, especially when you’re buying something as expensive as a generator. Therefore, the entire power source of this generator is put under a cast-iron case, making it rigid and durable for years of use. Of course, it’s not without its flaws. First, it comes with an extremely short handle. Secondly, it’s not quiet, which is surprising considering that it’s a portable unit that’s designed for usage in confined spaces.
- ⦁ Easy to start and operate
- Provides a great power output
- Suitable for running sensitive gadgets
- Portable construction
- Very rigid and durable
- Long runtime
- Comes with a short handle
- Quite loud
- Peak watts (Gas/LPG): 4750 /4350
- Continuous watts (Gas/LPG): 3800 / 3500
- Features a four-gallon fuel tank
- Runs for up to 11 hours at 50% load (Gas)
- Runs for up to 7 hours at 50% load (LPG)
- Powerful 224cc Air-cooled OHV Engine
- Electric Start System
- Automatic Voltage
- Regulator and Overload Protection
- 2-year warranty
WEN is a company that is reputable for its production of powerful generators, and the WEN DF475T Dual Fuel Portable Generator is one of such offerings. With its 4750 watts of surge power and 3,800 of continuous power, this generator is powerful enough to run basically everything in your home as you overcome a sudden power outage. It can also serve as the main power source at a large outdoor event. More impressively, this generator comes with a 4-gallon gas capacity, which allows it to run for 11 straight hours at 50 percent load.
Considering the generator’s higher power, its 224cc, four-stroke OHV engine is very efficient. Additionally, the unit can also be powered by propane, on which it can run for about 7 hours with no power decline relative to operating on gas. Also, the generator impresses when it comes to noise generation as it generates 68 decibels at a 25 percent load. While that is still pretty loud, it’s basically the same noise level as some small generators.
In terms of weight, the generator can’t be said to be lightweight, but it provides a larger set of wheels to maneuver over rugged terrains. Also, it’s equipped with an electric starter coupled with the recoil starter, but this means you will have to keep the built-in battery charged. When it comes to outlets, this one features the unique main breaker switch, which allows you to reset all the outlets simultaneously. In terms of drawbacks, however, this model doesn’t come with a LED display and it’s heavy and bulky.
- 4,750 watts of surge power
- Dual fuel generator
- 11-hour runtime at 50% load on gasoline
- Electric starter
- Main breaker switch
- Quiet for a generator of its size
- Heavy and bulky
- Doesn’t come with LED display
- Peak watts: 2200
- Continuous watts: 1700
- Runs for up to 10 hours at 25% load
- 1-gallon fuel tank
- Digital dashboard displays
- Noise level: 61 dB
- Real-time load and runtime data
- Overload protection with on-board reset button
We know POWERSMITH is one of the less reputable companies in the industry, but that doesn’t take anything away from the brilliance of their POWERSMITH PGA2200i Power Inverter Generator. While it’s a portable and lightweight unit that surely can’t power your heavy and powerful appliances, it handles the basic stuff just fine, which is what it was designed for in the first place. Therefore, it’s an excellent option if you’re looking for an ideal generator for camping, tailgating, and outdoor recreational activities.
In terms of power output, it produces a peak power of 2,200 watts and a continuous power of 1,700 watts. Like we already mentioned, that is not enough power to handle your ACs and your refrigerators but can efficiently handle the small stuff. Moving on, the generator comes with a one-gallon tank capacity and can continuously run for six hours at about 50 percent load and ten hours at a 25 percent load. For easy transportation and access, it’s equipped with a lift and pull handle, along with two wheels on the machine’s rear side.
For supply, the generator is outfitted with two 120V AC outlets, two USB ports and one 12V DC outlet at 7.5 amp for your gadgets and appliances. Additionally, the unit comes with digital dashboard displays that show real-time load and runtime data. Plus, it features LED indicators that alert when the unit is low on oil, overloaded or ready to use. It’s also worth noting that it comes with overload protection with an onboard reset button. On top of everything, it runs very quietly, making it ideal for people who love discreetness. However, you may need to be careful with this unit as it doesn’t seem to be sturdy.
- Lightweight and portable construction
- Efficient fuel usage
- Easy transportation and access
- Shows real-time load and runtime data
- Alert when it’s overloaded or low on oil
- Comes with overload protection
- Runs quietly
- Not so powerful
- The construction is not sturdy
- Peak watts: 4000
- Continuous watts: 3300
- Equipped with an automatic low-oil shut-off feature
- Powered by a four-stroke 7,0 HP engine
- Runs for up to 8 hours at a 50% load
- Noise level: 69 dB
- 3.96-gallon fuel tank
For people looking for an excellent balance between affordability and power, the DuroStar DS4000S Portable Generator represents a perfect choice. This portable unit utilizes a four-stroke 7,0 HP engine that produces a peak power output of 4,000 watts while it stabilizes to about 3,300 of continuous power. Of course, this is not the most powerful model in the world, but it packs sufficient juice to run a sump pump, a small air conditioner, and a full-sized refrigerator along with other small appliances such as lights.
Furthermore, this generator is an excellent choice for RVs since it is sufficiently powerful to run the most powerful RV heating or cooling units that require more than 1800 watts. The DuroStar DS4000S Portable Generator uses a four-gallon fuel tank and provides an eight-hour runtime at a 50 percent load. For convenience and versatility, this generator comes with three power outlets that comprise of two 120-volt 20 Amp outlets and three-pronged 120-volt 30 Amp outlet, which is suitable for 30 Amp generator cords.
Moving on, the panel of this generator also contains a low-oil light indicator to alert you when your oil is due for a change. On top of that, it’s equipped with an automatic low-oil shut-off feature which kicks in when you refuse to change the oil on time. Another protection feature is the auto shut-off system, which protects the engine of the generator from overheating. However, this unit comes with no instructions, which may make it difficult to use. Also, it is pretty loud, but that’s not that surprising considering the size of the machine.
- Affordable price
- Efficient operation
- Portable construction
- Very versatile
- Decently powerful
- Features effective safety features
- Loud operation
- Comes with no instructions
- Peak watts: 800
- Continuous watts: 700
- Noise level: 58 dB
- Economy control switch
- 7-hours runtime at a 50% load
- Easy to use recoil starting system
- Low oil shut off sensor
- 2-year limited warranty
Whether you spend lots of your free time tailgating or camping or you frequently experience power outages, the Dirty Hand Tools 104609 Digital Inverter Generator might just be what you need, given its affordable price. While it’s not powerful enough to run heavy and powerful equipment, it’s enough for the basic stuff, with its 800 starting wattage and 700 continuous wattages. For your gadgets’ optimum safety, this inverter generator is engineered with DHT Digital Inverter Technology to allow for constant power stream for sensitive electronics.
Furthermore, this machine has a lightweight design, which is another reason why we think it is ideal for camping, tailgating, and other outdoor activities. For more convenience and easy transportation, it also comes with a handle. In terms of engine power, it utilizes a 40cc 4-cycle engine to produce power to run your devices. And when you use it with a 50 % load, it’ll run for 8 hours on a full gas tank. It’s also worth mentioning that the machine comes with an automatic shutdown feature, which prevents the engine from getting damaged when the oil level is too low.
Another impressive thing with this unit is that it comes with 2 receptacles, one 120-volt AC and one 12-volt DC. On top of that, it comes with one USB power receptacle, which is really amazing. The machine also comes with a three-year warranty on workmanship, a two-year warranty on electric motors, and two or three years on gas-powered engines. However, it’s shocking that this generator is not that quiet, especially when you consider its compact size. That may be a deal-breaker for some people.
- Affordable price
- Lightweight design
- Features an automatic shut-down feature
- Excellent warranty terms
- Digital Inverter Technology to protect sensitive electronics
- Not really powerful
- Comparatively loud for a small generator
If you’re really looking to choose the best generator under 500 for yourself, you need more than just reviews. Nobody understands that better than us, and that’s why we’ve included this all-encompassing buying guide.
Features to Consider When Buying a Generator Under $500
Whether you are a beginner in the world of generators, or you are experienced with these machines, there are some specifics you will have to remember when shopping for the ideal generator under 500 for your needs. With the market filled with an abundance of options, it is very easy to get overwhelmed. That’s why we have compiled a couple of features you need to take into consideration.
When buying a generator, it is necessary for you to consider its power output. Every generator in the world is rated by wattage since it determines the amount of power it can generate. The higher the wattage, the more powerful the machine is. For instance, a 5000-watt generator like the WEN 56500 Portable Generator enables you to power one to two appliances. A 10,000-watt generator, however, enables you to power the entire house, excluding air and heat.
We recommend that you figure out the wattage of your appliances before choosing the right generator for your needs. In the end, remember that these units have a “maximum” wattage and a “continuous” wattage. While the maximum wattage is the peak power they are capable of handling for a short period of time, the continuous wattage is what they can run on a consistent basis.
Determine the Voltage
Primarily, voltage is a measure of the pressure of electric currents. Small businesses and household appliances use 120/250 volts, meaning they have two 120-volt circuits delivering 240 volts in total. This voltage is capable of powering appliances like water pumps, air conditioners, and electric ranges. Large businesses use a 3-phase power because of different power requirements. This phase generates either 277/480 volts or 120/208 volts. Thanks to this difference, we recommend that you find out the voltage of the appliances you will be using before you buy a generator.
Fuel sources are very important when finding an ideal generator for your needs. Of course, most generators run on gasoline. And while gasoline is probably the most readily available fuel, it doesn’t make the best choice always. In that case, diesel is another excellent option. Typically, diesel is a bit cheaper than gas, which is why diesel generators are able to deliver more power while consuming less fuel. Another alternative is propane or LPG, which is a better choice if you reside in a region where accessing or transporting gas is difficult.
Conventional or Inverter Generator
Conventional and inverter generators vary in their usages. Inverter generators, are usually smaller in size, have smaller tanks for gas, generate less power, and have a shorter runtime. Another positive attribute of an inverter generator is that it produces less noise at just about 50 decibels. They are suitable for smaller appliances since the power surge has been regulated. In comparison to conventional units, these are better for the road as they are much easier to convey. Conventional generators, on the other hand, are larger in size, have larger gas tanks, are more powerful, and have a longer runtime. Naturally, they are louder and emit more than inverter models.
The kind of generator you will choose will depend greatly on how long you want your unit to run. If your situation requires a longer runtime, then it’s key to find a generator with a larger fuel and longer runtime. The larger the fuel tank of your generator, the more the fuel it can take, resulting in a longer runtime. A two-gallon tank with a high watt output, for instance, will run shorter than a five-gallon fuel tank with a smaller wattage output. In addition, it’s key to comprehend the difference between gasoline and propane generators. Typically, generators run for a longer period on propane compared to gasoline. Meanwhile, dual-fuel models like the Pulsar 5250W Dual Fuel Portable Generator are always the best, as they give you the best of both worlds.
While there are some people that don’t care about the noise a generator makes, a noisy generator is a deal-breaker for some. This is particularly vital if you’re planning to take your generator on a camping trip. Most campsites have restrictions for sound output and do not allow loud-operating machines. Inverter generators and smaller generators are often quieter than larger units, and they usually have sound mufflers. Also, these are great for people who don’t like noisy units. However, if noisy machines do not disturb you, then you may not need to bother about the noise level of the generator you want to buy.
Size and portability
Size and portability are some other factors we must take into consideration. If you’re looking for a generator, there are chances that you want to be using it for your outdoor event. In that case, you need it to be portable and transportable. Of course, we have included many portable and compact generators in this article, such as the Westinghouse iGen2200 Super Quiet Portable Inverter Generator, the DuroStar DS4000S Portable Generator, and the WEN DF475T 4750-Watt Dual Fuel Portable Generator.
We also need to consider durability and sturdiness. In theory, a portable unit will have to be moved constantly from one place to the other. Whether it’s a worksite or a campground, you will need to move it at one point or the other. Therefore, it’s always a deal-breaker when a generator has a flimsy handle. Most of the models on our list come with easy-to-reach handles.
The normal warranty that comes with these generators usually ranges from one year to six years, based on the type of the generator. Industrial generator, on the other hand, comes with a 1- or 2-year warranty alongside optional upgrades. However, residential generators come with a two to five-year warranty and provide optional upgrades. Prior to you buying a generator under $500, you need to understand the duration of your warranty.
Q: What type of generator do I need to power sensitive electronics?
A: If you are looking to power sensitive electronics like laptops and mobile phones, you will have to choose an inverter generator. The power output of these generators is of high-quality, which means it’s safe for your sensitive devices.
Q: How much power is needed to power a microwave, a refrigerator, and many lights?
A: To run a microwave, a refrigerator, and many lights, you will need 3,000 watts at least, based on the amount of power required by your microwave. Typically, refrigerators use about 300 to 800 watts, while microwaves use as much as 1,100 watts. So, just your refrigerator and microwave will use about 2,000 watts of power. When you add lights, then your total wattage usage can be close to 3,000 watts.
However, if you are not sure about the precise wattage required to properly power your appliances, we advise you to choose a generator that has a much larger wattage. If you eventually choose a unit with a smaller wattage output, your generator is likely to be overloaded, and that can make it short if there’s no overload sensor.
Q: What features do I need if I’m buying a generator for my RV?
A: For a recreational vehicle, there are many features to consider when finding a generator. Those features range from usage-related features to protective measures. However, the most important thing to look for is the power output of the generator.
If you want to power a while RV, you need a higher wattage than required when you’re just trying to power or charge a couple of small items. Look for a generator that comes with any output above 3,000 watts.
Another thing you need to look at is the noise level, especially if you’re a light sleeper. Plus, consider the ease of use of the generator as some that are difficult to use could end up messing up your RV experience. Lastly, make sure the generator comes with safety features like overload sensors and surge protection. This won’t only protect you, but it will protect your generator and your RV as well.
While power outages do not happen every day, we can’t deny that they do happen sometimes. And when they happen, our important activities could go to a standstill, which is why everyone needs a generator. However, if you thought to buy a generator was not an option because of their expensive prices, we assure you that there’re excellent generators under 500.
Of course, the Westinghouse iGen4200 Hybrid Inverter Generator is the clear winner from this roundup. Despite coming at a pretty affordable price, this generator is powerful, easy to use, has a hybrid system, and comes with many advanced features. It’s the best generator under 500 and not many people will argue against this.