6 Things to Look For When Buying Portable Generators 

If your boat is 25-30 feet or less, it’s probably too small to accommodate a marine genset, but could carry a portable marine generator.

Honda EU2200 portable generator

A portable generator is perfect for powering a fridge/freezer and other electrical appliances on a boat. It also serves as an emergency backup for recharging the boat’s battery bank. Of course, a portable generator won’t produce as much power as a regular boat genset, but it should be enough to power some appliances, and will be significantly cheaper than a larger marine generator. 

Here are 6 things to consider when buying a portable marine generator.

1. Generator Size & Weight

Get a portable generator you can easily lift and carry. Some portable generators are housed in frames with wheels to make them easier to move around, but remember you’re still going to have to lift it on and off your boat. Also take into consideration the generator’s size. Deck space is limited enough on smaller boats, so a small generator will be one less thing to trip over. 

Portable generator size and weight

2. Generator Power Output

Portable generators don’t have the same power outputs of large marine gensets, so consider how many appliances you would need to run on it. Get a portable generator capable of providing enough power output for your boating needs. 

3. Generator Noise

You may not notice generator noise while your boat’s engine is running and the boat is moving, but when you stop to fish or moor at a marina, you want it to be as quiet as possible. A unit that scares the fish away or annoys the neighbors near your slip should be avoided. Find a portable generator that operates at around 60 decibels or less.

Marine portable generator buying tips

4. Generator Run Time at Half Load

Portable generators have a given run time at half load, which is how long the generator can run on a single tank of gas while operating at 50% of it’s total power output. Obviously the longer the run time, the less often you’ll have to refuel it. A generator with a run time at half load of at least 8-10 hours will be necessary to operate overnight.

5. Generator Fuel Economy and Tank Capacity

Fuel economy is a priority even for a portable generator. A fuel-efficient generator may be more expensive, but will probably save you money over time. Get an economical generator with a smaller fuel tank that won’t be cumbersome and heavy when full. The manufacturer’s provided dry weight usually doesn’t factor in fuel weight, so keep in mind that filling up the generator’s tank could double that weight.

Portable marine generator buying tips

6. Generator Usability and Safety

Anything that makes a portable generator easier to operate is an asset. Ease of starting is a major plus, particularly in cold climates, and safety features such as spark arresters and system fail-safes are essential. Make sure the unit has an automatic low-oil shutoff safety system.

Boat generator buying tips safety

Portable gas generators create highly poisonous carbon monoxide and must never be used inside a boat. Only use a generator out in the open and away from people while it’s operating. Portable generators also pose the risk of electrocution, so never run one where it can get wet. 


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