Best Portable Generator for Construction

If you’re a contractor with a job to do and no access to power, there is no tool quite as important as a good, reliable portable generator. Having the best portable generator to supply the energy needs for all the tools you use on the job site is important. No one wants to lose productivity waiting for an outlet, and no one wants to be “that guy” that the other contractors are waiting on to finish.

Every job site is unique and it is important to understand your energy requirement before buying a portable generator. An individual running a one-man show with basic power tools will obviously not need to lug around the same generator as a seven-man crew with a load of tools requiring 240V amperage.

The increased use of phones, tablets, and other computerized equipment on the job site has changed some of the power needs of today’s contractors. A basic portable generator without engineered reductions in distortion or improved sine wave technology could severely damage sensitive computer equipment. Many new portable generators are designed to be safe for use with computer equipment and some even go a step further by providing DC power outlets or USB ports for convenient charging.

However, if you’re going to shell out the money to buy the best portable generator you can get your hands on, you need to have the right accessories. But let’s explore some generator accessories before exploring our list of the best generators for contractors and construction workers.

Table of Contents

Best Portable Generator Accessories

Another common and potentially useful feature of many of the generators is their twist-lock RV style plugs. Depending on the application, these 120v 30-amp outlets can be connected to your RV or home to provide power for your remote or emergency needs. On a construction site with the need of an office trailer this can be ideal to provide it with a convenient, easy way to connect to electricity.

Twist-lock and RV style plugs are useful for more than just providing 120 volt power to your RV or home with adapters like these:  

best portable generator accessories

accessories for generators

Adapters like these can greatly expand the usefulness of your generator if it is equipped with those types of 30 amp outlets. Having access to power from all of the 120 volt outlets on a generator can enable you to use more of its capacity to get more out of your generator. This allows you to run more tools and support your crew’s power needs more efficiently.

Types of Portable Generators

Because of the difference in size, power and use, our generator comparison has been broken down into two separate groups: large portable generators and small to medium portable inverter generators. Each group has been judged and graded on a separate criteria that takes into account some of the more important aspects of each type.

Each unit has its own merits though and there is a job site that is perfect for each one of the units listed. Each type of generator will be listed as the best generator for a particular function. So, if you’re looking for a specific application and the best portable generator for that application, we got you covered.

Some of our small to medium group possesses parallel connection capabilities. This allows your energy use to be scaled up by linking two inverter generators together. While this is not anything new, it is a convenience that has been proven to be reliable over a couple of design generations. It also lets you take advantage of small units that are designed to be quiet and easy to carry.  As any contractor knows, the less noise you make, the happier the neighbors are. Nothing seems more professional than being able to quickly and quietly get work done.

Scalability also has the added benefit of being separable, so you only send as much power as you need with each crew, and can combine when the crews come together. A smart contractor knows what tools they will be using and will have a generator ready to get the day’s work done in case of any interruptions or lack of access to power. If you know your unit well and have all the necessary adapters and cords available, you should be ready, no matter what comes your way.

Duel fuel and bi-fuel generators are also available. Duel fuel generators use two different fuel sources to operate. The most common type of duel fuel generator is one that runs off of either gasoline and propane (LPG). Bi-fuel generators, on the other hand, use a mixture of diesel and gas (usually natural gas) at the same time. This is contrasted with bi-fuel generators in that bi-fuel generators do not use the same fuel types simultaneously.

Large Portable Generators

Yes, they’re portable, but not convenient.You will need a couple of people or a lift to get them in and out of your transport vehicle. That’s OK, because they are too big for the needs of most one- to three-man crews. These generators should provide all the power that a medium sized crew would need.  This includes 120/240 volt circuits that are capable of running some 240 volt shop equipment.

Each of the six large generators that were reviewed for this comparison are both electric and pull start. Just a short time ago electric start was considered a luxury, but now it is standard, with newer style models including remote starting capabilities.

All of the generators in this group have their own merits, ranging from improved sine wave technology and reduced distortion to support sensitive electronics and computers, but also with DC and USB outlets and traditional designs that older contractors are accustomed to in a simple layout. 

Only you can really know what is the right generator or generators for your job site and crew. As with many purchases, it is important to take stock of what you want and need then find the unit that offers a little more, so you will be less likely to outgrow your purchase before it has reached the end of its functional lifespan. 

Also, check out these handy tips to keep in mind when buying a generator from these buying guides by BN Products and Consumer Reports.

Best Portable Generator Overall – Powerful and Fuel Efficient

1. Westinghouse WPro8500 Super Duty Industrial Portable Generator

best portable generator for construction

  • Very fuel efficient
  • Outlets for a range of uses and voltage requirements
  • More than enough power for serious construction site requirements
  • Heavy to move around

Not surprisingly, the manufacturer of our best overall winner has thought of everything you would expect from a modern well designed generator.  Unlike older style generators, the Westinghouse WPro8500 provides a high quality sine wave with less than five percent distortion, so it is able to provide power for the most sensitive electronics, while also powering your job site.

Like other generators its size, the Westinghouse WPro8500 is heavy and can be difficult to move around.  To make this job a little easier, Westinghouse has provided a lifting hook mounted to the chassis so you can easily load and unload with a lift or other piece of equipment.

It is becoming increasingly popular for modern generators to be equipped with a DC power supply to make using electronics more convenient.  The Westinghouse does this by providing two five-volt USB ports.  With the increased use of technology on the worksite, this is a feature that helps support the computers, tablets and phones we need to keep things working smoothly.

For powering everything else, you are provided with a range of options.  With the two separate 20 amp household style outlets, you have four outlets supporting up to 40 amps of use. A 30 amp 120 volt circuit is also available for generator switch cords to connect to houses and RVs power circuits.

There is also a 120/240 volt 30 amp outlet for those who need to power run small industrial equipment or provide 240 volt power for other applications.

While this generator may provide more power than is needed for many applications, its highly competitive price, coupled with its efficiency and low stress in most applications, help it provide the best efficiency over its long life. 

Generator Features:

  • Motor: Super Duty 13.5 HP 457 cc OHV four-stroke Westinghouse engine with automatic low oil shutdown, automatic idle control, and VFT data center, electric, pull or remote start
  • Peak watts: 11,500
  • Running watts: 8,500
  • GFI protected: Yes
  • 120V outlets: Four standard household outlets, one 120V 30A L5-30R (twist-lock)
  • Amperage of 120V outlets: 20 amp standard household outlets, 30 amp twist-lock.
  • 120/240V outlets: 1
  • Amperage of 120/240V outlets: 30
  • Fuel tank capacity: 6.6 gallons
  • Listed runtime: Up to 17.5 hours
  • Dimensions: 27.2 x 26.1 x 26 inches
  • Weight: 216 lbs

Best Affordable Portable Generator – Best Overall Value

2. A-iPower SUA12000E 12,000 Watt Gasoline Powered Generator

best affordable generator

  • Low cost and high value
  • Has more than enough power for most applications
  • Could use more outlets for the amount of power it provides

Value is always important when buying something for a crew to use on the job site.  Your best of intentions regarding care and maintenance are not likely to be shared with all of the busy members of the crew on your worksite. 

With the lowest price and the highest output the A-iPower SUA12000E provides the best overall value.  It is over 25% less expensive than our top ranked generator, and it still provides the details you would expect in a more expensive unit, like DC adaptor plugs for charging electronics, and GFI outlets to help ensure the safety of you and your tools.

Generator Features:

  • Motor: 459 cc gas engine electric/pull start
  • Peak watts: 12,000
  • Running watts: 9,000
  • GFI protected: Yes
  • 120V outlets: Four standard household outlets
  • Amperage of 120V outlets: 20
  • 120/240V outlets: 2
  • Amperage of 120/240V outlets: 30
  • Fuel tank capacity: 7.0 gallons
  • Listed runtime: 9 hrs
  • Dimensions: 27 x 27 x 27 inches
  • Weight: 206 lbs

Best Portable Generator for High Power Applications

 3. Champion 9200W/11500W Generator

best high power generator

  • High running watts
  • Good range of outlet options
  • Durable no-frills design.
  • Heavy
  • No DC outlets for electronics

With the highest running wattage of the group, the Champion 9200W/11500W Generator offers a lot of power for the price.  While it has a more traditional design, lacking any DC outlets for charging electronics, it does provide a broad range of outlet options for 120 volt and 120/240 volt applications.

When your job site application requires a lot of power this is a great unit, but its weight offsets some of the convenience that its wheels and chassis mount handles provide.  

This is a traditional generator set up with some modern concessions like GFI outlets and electric start, but these are things you would expect on a unit in this price range.  Where this unit shines is its traditional design with no frills.  If you want a generator that helps you keep your electronics charged, this might not be your first choice, but if you want simplicity and similarity to generators you have been using for years this might be your top choice.  

Generator Features:

  • Motor: 459 cc electric/ pull start
  • Peak watts:11.500
  • Running watts: 9,200
  • GFI protected: Yes
  • 120V outlets: Four standard household outlets, one twist-lock
  • Amperage of 120V outlets: 20 amp standard household outlets, 30 amp twist-lock outlet
  • 240V outlets: 1
  • Amperage of 240V outlets: 30
  • Fuel tank capacity: 7.7 gal
  • Listed runtime: 10 hrs
  • Dimensions: 48 x 40 x 30 inches 
  • Weight: 270 lbs

Best Portable Generator for Both 120 and 240 Volt Power

4. Generac 6954 GP8000E Gas Powered Portable Generator

best gas powered generator

  • Under 200 lbs
  • No special outlets needing adapters
  • Not GFI protected, not ideal for sensitive electronics

With a good price, strong running wattage and simple layout of outlets, the Generac 6954 GP8000E provides most of what contractors want in a portable job site generator.  It does not provide extra unneeded plug interfaces that most contractors do not use.  Contractors who haul their generator around a lot will appreciate that the Generac GP8000E weighs in at less than 200 lbs while still giving you the convenience of electric start.

The Generac does represent an earlier design style.  It is the only one of our large portable generators that uses a circuit breaker instead of a ground fault interrupter plug.  The difference here is that the GFI will break the current when there is any leak in the system as opposed to the circuit breaker, which will only protect from overload.  Whether this is a positive or negative has to do with the unique aspects of your job site.  GFIs are generally considered safer and are what you find in modern household circuits.

If you haul your large portable generator around a lot, and your power needs are fairly traditional, then this might be the right generator for you.  However, if you use sensitive electronics and need a generator to keep them and their batteries maintained on the job site then you may want to look elsewhere.

All in all, the best portable generator for use with both 120 and 240 volts. If you’re looking for a high amount of power in a low-weight form factor, this is the best generator for you.

Generator Features:

  • Motor: 420 cc electric / pull start
  • GFI protected: No, circuit breaker protected
  • Peak watts: 10,000
  • Running watts: 8,000
  • 120V outlets: 4
  • Amperage of 120V outlets: 20
  • 120/240V outlets: 1 twist-lock
  • Amperage of 120/240V outlets: 30
  • Fuel tank capacity: 7.5
  • Listed runtime: Up to 12 hours
  • Dimensions: 28 x 27 x 25 inches 
  • Weight: 197 lbs

Best Portable Generator for Emergencies

5. Westinghouse WGen7500 Portable Generator with Remote Electric Start

best portable generator

  • Remote start
  • Both electric and recoil start
  • 16 hours of runtime on one tank
  • EPA and CARB compliant
  • Two GFCI connectors
  • 3-year limited warranty
  • Affordable
  • None

The Westinghouse WGen7500 portable generator gives you the convenience of remote start or push button start for extreme convenience. Not only that, it’s a powerhouse of a generator with 7500 watts of power and 9500 peak watts.

The touch start works with just one push of a button, that’s it – it’s really that easy. However, if you prefer, it also has recoil start. With its 6.6 gallon gas tank it can run for around 16-18 hours on one single tank at 25% load.

This generator is transfer switch ready, the control panel is user-friendly, and it features water-resistant outlets with GFCI protection. There are four 120V outlets in total, making it extremely convenient if you have a lot of tools you’re trying to power at once. It’s also nice because there is a 30-amp 240/120V twist-lock outlet.

It also has some nice fuel features too. It has a built-in shut-off that is designed to kick the machine off when the fuel is low. There’s also a convenient fuel gauge so you can see the fuel level at any time.

It’s also fairly light weight for a generator with this amount of power at 192 lbs., so you won’t have as hard of a time lugging it around. A great generator by Westinghouse, one of the best generators on the market, and one we’re happy to feature on this “best-of” list.

Generator Features:

  • Motor: 420 cc Westinghouse 4-Stroke OHV Engine (electric or pull start)
  • Peak watts: 9,500
  • Running watts: 7,500
  • GFI protected: Yes
  • 120V outlets: 4 + 1 L14-30R 120/240V twist-lock receptacle
  • Amperage of 120V outlets: 20 amps/ pair of standard household outlets (30 amps for twist-lock)
  • 240V outlets: 1
  • Amperage of 240V outlets: 30
  • Fuel tank capacity: 6.6 gallons
  • Listed runtime: 16-18 hrs @ 25% load
  • Dimensions: 27.3 x 26.2 x 26.2 inches
  • Weight: 192 lbs

Best Portable Generator for Dual Fuel Use

6. Champion 8000-Watt Dual Fuel Portable Generator with Electric Start

best dual fuel portable generator
  • Good value
  • Dual fuel
  • Electric or pull start
  • No DC outlets

There is a generator for most applications.  Sometimes you might need something different depending on your own own specific job site requirements.  The Champion 8000-Watt Dual Fuel Portable Generator is the perfect example of this.

This is the only generator in our group that offers dual fuel capabilities, accepting both gasoline and propane.  Whether this is an advantage or not depends on your crew’s habits, and availability of fuel.  

Outside of that this generator offers you four standard household outlets in GFI pairs with two 20 amp circuits, and two twist-lock 30 amp 120 volt outlets.

Overall this is a good generator for the price and offers a lot of value.  It distinguishes itself from the crowd with its dual fuel capacity and low price.  For some contractors the Champion 8000-watt dual fuel should be at the top of their list, while others will want to weigh its benefits against their own job site needs.

Generator Features:

  • Motor: 459 cc electric/ pull start
  • Peak watts: 10000 (gas) 9025 (propane)
  • Running watts: 8000 (gas) 7250 (propane)
  • GFI protected: Yes
  • 120V outlets: Two locking outlets, four standard household outlets
  • Amperage of 120V outlets: Locking 30, standard household outlets 20
  • 120/240V outlets: 1
  • Amperage of 240V outlets: 30
  • Fuel tank capacity: 6.1 gallons
  • Listed runtime: 8 hrs on gas or propane (run at half-capacity)
  • Dimensions: 27.8 x 22 x 23.2 in inches
  • Weight: 210.0 lbs

Small to Medium Sized Portable Generators

The small to medium portable inverter generator category is a popular one.  The units in this group are designed to be quiet and efficient.  Most of them also offer parallel connectivity so that you can run them in tandem to scale up your energy needs on site.

Their quiet running makes them an important tool for any contractor who needs portable power at a site where noise pollution is a serious concern.  These inverter generators allow you to start your hours early and reduce neighbor’s complaints.  This results in less lost time and more positive referral for your business.  

They are also perfect for special events where remote power is required but noise is a consideration.  For the contractors that provide remote power to guests for special functions, these units are ideal, since they are often about as loud as a normal conversation, when placed outside of the area where guests are they can provide seamless power while going unnoticed.

One thing that this group noticeably lacks is GFI outlets. All of these units are circuit breaker protected though.  All of the units in this group except one are inverter generators, which are designed to produce high quality sine wave electrical power with minimal distortion to support the use of sensitive electronics. In those cases the lack of a GFI should not lead you to believe that they are not optimized for use with computers, tablets and phones. 

This group offers a lot.  If you are in the market for a small to medium sized generator then you would be well served to look over this list, and weigh the relative merits of each one based on your job site requirements.   

Best Overall – Medium Sized Generator

1. Pulsar 4,000W Portable Gas-Powered Quiet Inverter Generator

best medium sized generator

  • 3500 Running watts of power
  • Long runtime
  • Quiet operation
  • Diverse starting options
  • Multiple outlet options
  • Heavier design, not as easy to move around

With 3500 Running watts of power and quiet operating, the Pulsar 4,000W Portable Gas Powered Quiet Inverter Generator offers a lot for a very reasonable price.  When all aspects of the inverter generators were tested, this one proved to be the best.

Starting is electric or pull start and it can even be started remotely.  Once it’s up and running, you are given a range of options for plugging in with an RV style 120 volt 30 amp plug for connecting to trailer or home power sources with the appropriate adapter (not included), two different DC power plug w/ a five volt DC USB plug and an eight amp 12 volt plug.  There are only two 120 volt household style plugs, so it is likely that you would need some adapters to utilize all of the power available through them.

The Pulsar 4000W Portable Gas-Powered Quiet Inverter Generator also offers parallel connectivity, so you can connect two of them together and have 120 volt power that rivals the larger generators while also keeping overall noise levels down.   

Generator Features:

  • Motor: 224 cc OHV engine, electric, remote or pull start
  • Peak watts: 4,000
  • Running watts: 3,500
  • 120V outlets: 2x 120V 20AMP duplex outlet, 1x 120V 30AMP RV Outlet, 1x 12V DC 8AMP Outlet & 1x Integrated USB Outlets
  • Amperage of 120V outlets: 2x 20 amp standard household outlets, 1x 30 amp RV outlet
  • Fuel tank capacity: 3.4 gallons
  • Listed runtime: 15 hours at 50% capacity
  • Dimensions: 24 x 18 x 21 inches
  • Weight: 92.6 lbs
  • Reported noise level dBA: 63

Best Small Portable Generator

2. WEN 56225i Super Quiet 2250-Watt Portable Inverter Generator

best small inverter generator

  • Quiet operation
  • Lightweight
  • High quality
  • Minimal distortion electricity
  • 5V USB outlets for charging
  • Small gas tank

The WEN 56225i is the smallest inverter generator in our group.  Its tiny 79.7 cc four-stroke engine turns out impressive amounts of power for how small and quiet it is.  With a reported 53 dBA of sound produced in use, this unit is very non-intrusive.

Small inverter generators are usually designed to support sensitive electronics, and the WEN 56225i is no different.  It offers a high quality sine wave with minimal distortion to support the energy requirements of modern computerized electronics and tools.  There are two five volt DC USB outlets providing you with an easy way to charge computers, tablets and phones while leaving the other outlets available for other tools.

The value offered  in this unit is impressive, and what resulted in its higher rank than the Honda was cost, primarily.  Since both units offer parallel connectivity, they are both great choices for scaling energy needs at job sites where noise pollution is a major concern.  What put the WEN ahead is its cost -almost half that of the Honda.  While Honda has the edge in its brand name and reputation, the cost difference represents real value for WEN buyers.

Generator Features:  

  • Motor: 79.7 cc 4-stroke
  • Peak watts: 2250
  • Running watts: 1800
  • 120V outlets: 2
  • Amperage of 120V outlets: 15
  • Fuel tank capacity: 1 gallon
  • Listed runtime: 6 hrs
  • Dimensions: 19 x 11.5 x 18.2 inches
  • Weight: 48.5 lbs
  • Reported noise level dBA: 53

Best Lightweight Portable Generator

3. Honda EU3000IH1A 3000-Watt Super Quiet Gas Power Portable Inverter Generator

best quiet generator

  • Extremely quiet operation (52 to 58 dB(A))
  • Lightweight and highly portable (only 78 lbs.)
  • Parallel connection compatible for easy scaling of power
  • 12-Volt DC power plug
  • Runs for 7.7 hours on 1.6 gallons
  • 3-year residential and commercial warranty
  • A bit expensive

The Honda Inverter Generator is the lightest weight quiet running inverter generator in our group.  This is the ideal unit for a contractor who has noise concerns, or a contractor who works alone and has little need for portable power other than to provide electricity to electric hand tools and for battery charging. 

Other than this generator’s quiet operation, a few of the other major highlights are its light weight and portability. At only 78 lbs. it’s one of the lightest generators on the market. It also has a flip up handle and easy-rolling wheels that make it much easier to cart around. There are even two fixed handles so you and a buddy can move it around.

Since it is parallel connection compatible, you can match the power of a medium-sized unit by connecting two together.  While this is an added benefit, it also adds cost if you have to buy an additional unit to scale up your energy production. 

The outlet options on the Honda are limited, with two 20 amp 120 volt household style outlets, but it does offer a 8 amp 12 volt plug for charging batteries for your portable electronics (requires charging cord, sold separately) as well as an AC out 120V outlet (up to 25 amps). That said, it does pack a ton of power and can even start an RV A/C unit up to 13500 BTUs (just to give you an idea).

This Honda generator is the most expensive of the inverter generators in our group.  That alone pushed this unit down in the rankings, but if noise is a concern and price is no object, then two of these units in tandem would be an ideal solution to many jobsite requirements. Keeping jobsite noise to a minimum makes vital communication during work easier and is better for your health and your local environment.

Last, but not least, the runtime of this generator is incredible. In fact, it can run for 7.7 hours on 1.6 gallons. It does this all while putting out 3,000 watts of power, not bad at all. This little guy is a powerhouse and well worth the money you’ll shell out for it. Well done, Honda.

Generator Features:

  • Motor: Honda GX160 Engine (recoil start)
  • Peak watts: 3,000
  • Running watts: 2,600 (rated)
  • 120V outlets: 2 (+1 AC Out)
  • Amperage of 120V outlets: 20 amps (+1 – 25 amp outlet)
  • Fuel tank capacity: 1.6 gallons
  • Listed runtime: 7.7 hours (25% load)
  • Dimensions: 24.5 x 14.9 x 19.3 inches
  • Weight: 78 lbs
  • Reported noise level dBA: 52-58

Best Small Portable Generator – Best Value

4. Champion 3500-Watt RV Ready Portable Generator (EPA)

best cheap portable generator

  • Low price
  • Relatively quiet
  • Many 120 volt plug options
  • No wheels for moving
  • Only one household style outlet and no DC outlets

This Champion 3500-Watt RV Ready Portable Generator does a whole lot for a little.  If you need a small generator for your worksite to run tools and charge batteries for your cordless tools, you cannot find a basic and no-frills unit that is going to top this one.  For the price, the power it provides, coupled with its diverse outlet options cannot be beat.  Where this generator loses ground to the inverter generators in this groups is its lack of flexibility and outdated technology.

This generator is not parallel connectivity compatible, so unlike the others in this group you cannot scale up your energy needs as easily by just adding another unit.  It does not provide USB style plugs for your electronics or any DC power options.  What is does offer is an array of 120 volt plug offerings.  It has both a 120 volt 30 amp twist-lock outlet and a 120 volt 30 amp RV style outlet, but they make the baffling decision to offer only one 120 volt 20 amp household style outlet.  That means the household style outlet can only utilize a little over half the running wattage of this generator.  

To be fair there are other generators that do not allow you to access all of the available power through standard household units, but their design allows for flexibility in other ways.  If you are a contractor, this unit may provide you with all that you need and the value may make it worth it even with the unlocked potential.  For this unit to provide you with its full value, you need some type of RV trailer electrical system to plug into, another tie-in option or separate adapters that allow you to use them as standard household outlets.

If you are looking for a no frills generator and you have need for a dedicated twist-lock or RV style plug-in, this might just be the ideal generator for your job site.

Generator Features:

  • Motor: 196 cc Champion single-cylinder OHV engine, pull start
  • Peak watts: 4,000
  • Running watts: 3,500
  • 120V outlets: One 120V 30A locking outlet, one 120V 30A RV outlet and one 120V 20A household outlet
  • Fuel tank capacity: 3.8 gallons
  • Listed runtime: Up to 12 hours
  • Dimensions: 23.2 x 17.5 x 19.6 inches
  • Weight: 99.2 lbs
  • Reports noise level dBA: 68

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