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When purchasing a generator, you can’t depend solely on store employees, online reviews, or recommendations from a friend. It’s important to consider your own budget and necessity—and how they sync up with standby and portable generators—before buying a machine.

Here are the most significant areas to consider in your search:


Portable: They go for anywhere from $300 to $1500 depending on the output. You don’t have to spend thousands of dollars to buy an effective generator—in fact, with a portable you’ll still be able to use all your necessary appliances.

Standby: They will run you between $4000 to $8000, including installation. You’re paying for more watts so you can have more appliances running, and a one-time setup instead of having to go outside every time the power goes out.


Portable: There’s a much higher level of effort, and frustration, involved with portable generators. You have to deal with constantly wheeling it out, refueling it, wiring the cords, and starting it up yourself. A lot of supervision is required. If you aren’t willing to do this, or don’t feel capable, it may not be worth the money saved.

Standby: The easy convenience of a standby generator is why customers shell out the big bucks. Most units turn on automatically with a transfer switch, don’t require refueling, and don’t make you pick and choose between which appliances you want to power on. You can sit in your living room and watch the neighbors fiddle with their portable generators as yours kicks into gear on its own.


Portable: You have to buy gasoline, make sure its fresh and stabilized, and refuel the device. With a portable generator you have to feel comfortable handling fuel, make sure you don’t spill it, and know when it goes stale.

Standby: It’s powered by your home’s fuel supply—propane or natural gas—so you don’t have to worry about refueling it up yourself. Everything is underground; out of sight and out of mind.


Portable: Depending on the wattage, you will be able to run a select number of appliances. Usually, portable generators are used for essentials, like a heater, lights, or a water pump. You won’t be able to use luxury items like televisions or desktop computers, but most people are able to survive a day or two without them.

Standby: Most standby units can power air conditioning, televisions, kitchen appliances, and any other desirable items. Oftentimes, you won’t even notice the electricity went out aside from the initial hiccup. Along with convenience, the increased wattage and capability of standby generators are what make them attractive.

Overall, it’s clear that standby generators are superior. But, on the other hand, they may not be necessary. If you don’t lose power often, and don’t mind setting up your machine and sacrificing some luxuries, then you’re better off buying a portable generator and saving thousands of dollars. It’s up to you whether or not the benefits of a standby generator are worth its considerably higher cost.