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Buyers Guide & Information

Best Generators For Tailgating Reviewed

Power up your tailgate party with these top-rated brands for reliability and portability.

by JohnL

Buyers Guide & Information

Best Generators For Tailgating Reviewed

Power up your tailgate party with these top-rated brands for reliability and portability.

by JohnL

by JohnL

The best tailgate generator is safe, quiet, and portable—while also sufficiently powerful to cover all devices that need to run at the same time. Suitable tailgating generators are also energy efficient and produce clean (low-distortion) power. Most generators that have all of these traits—and indeed most reviewed in this article—are inverter generators.

Image

Product

Runtime

Noise Level

Check Price

WEN 56200i Super Quiet 2000-Watt Portable Inverter...

WEN 56200i

10 hours @ 25%-load (estimate, not given

51 dB @25% load

Honda EU2200i 2200-Watt 120-Volt Super Quiet...

Honda EU2200i

8.1 hours @25% Load

48 dB @25% load

Atima Inverter Generator 2000 watts,AY2000i...

Atima AY2000i

10.3 hours @25% Load

52 dB @25% load

Westinghouse iGen4500 Super Quiet Portable...

Westinghouse iGen4500

18 hours @25% Load

53 dB @25% load

Rainier R2200i Super Quiet Portable Power Station...

Rainier R2200i

13 hours @25% Load

52 dB @25% load

WEN 56475 4750-Watt Gasoline Powered Portable...

WEN 56475

11 hours@50% Load (no @25% given)

Not given

Benefits of Owning Tailgate Generators

Whether you get a Honda, a Generac, or a Rainier—tailgate generators allow you to keep small refrigerators, AC units, hot plates, and other apparatuses running; most can even charge your car battery and smart devices.

Fortunately, many of the same characteristics that make the best tailgater generators also make the best generators for camping, RV traveling, and power tool use. Also, many of these work well as supplementary power during power outages. (However, they are too small to replace full-house power.)


Choosing a High-Quality Tailgate Generator

Generator Size vs. Tailgating Power Needs

Most tailgaters do not need more than 2000W at once; therefore, a good generator for tailgating does not need to be over 20 inches in any dimension or over 50 pounds. However, you should have a rough calculation of the power (W, watts) you will need before assessing which generator you want. Look at stats of your devices—if only voltage (V, volts) and current (A, amps) are given, multiply these to get the power, or use a wattage meter.

Power Output

Generators are identified by two different wattages. The first and highest is the surge/max wattage—the power the generator can supply for a short period to get devices running, as many devices require more power to get started than they do in the long run. The lower wattage is the rated wattage—the power the generator can supply perpetually (until it runs out of fuel). Users with very modest power needs might find that a tailgater 2-cycle generator (all of those reviewed here are 4-cycle) might be sufficient.

Fuel Type

All of the tailgate gas generators reviewed below take unleaded, 87 (or higher) octane, 10% (or lower) ethanol-gasoline—regular automobile fuel. Ethanol makes gasoline more prone to getting stale, so unless you use ethanol-free fuel, empty the tank after use or use a fuel stabilizer or fuel treatment.

Portability/Weight Considerations

All generators on this review list are under 120 lbs.; most are under 50 lbs. The heaviest ones have fold-up or retractable handles and a pair of wheels, so you do not always have to heft them to move them. All have at least one prominent handle (usually with ergonomic features) across the top to make transporting them easier.

Noise Level

Conversational volume—around 60 dB—is a standard comparison used to describe generator loudness. Most tailgater generators in these reviews are below 60 dB, even when running full-load. However, bear in mind that many reported volume measures are made some specified distance (varies with different manufacturers) from the generator. This is a more relevant measurement, since most of the time, the user is at least a few feet away from the generator.

Spark Arrestor

This is a mechanism that keeps hot vapors from escaping the engine and igniting anything nearby. Spark arresters are obligatory in engines operated on publically controlled land. Most of the best generators for tailgaters have this feature. The USFS (United States Forest Service)—an agency of the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture)—and the SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers) uphold spark arrester standards.

Fuel Efficiency & Running Time

All inverter generators are more energy-efficient than non-inverting units. Plus, most also have an eco-mode: You flip a switch, and the generator is set to throttle down to only the wattage required for the load. Aside from sustainability benefits, this means less fuel you have to bring with you when tailgating.

Build Quality & Durability

For all tailgating generators reviewed here, reviewers are more than satisfied with the quality of materials, durability, and reliability—there are no complaints of cheap-seeming parts. In most instances, they are also surprised by the value for cost: these are not terribly expensive machines—the priciest is a little over $1,000, while some of the cheapest can be purchased under $400.

Safety Features

The best tailgater generators have multiple safety features. Aside from the spark arrester mentioned above, most have overload protection and low-oil shutdown. All give the option to ground the unit (usually with copper wire), which is recommended. Some even come with insulated connection cords or plug covers.

Price & Warranty

Great generators for tailgating are not expensive. Plus, most are periodically on sale, so you can get them at very affordable prices. The average warranty on a tailgater generator is a limited 2-year warranty for non-wear parts. (Non-wear parts are those that would not be expected to wear out within the warranty period.) In the majority of cases, users report that generator manufacturers stand by their promised service and product quality.


6 Best Tailgate Generators Reviewed

1. WEN 56200i

Our top pick

Fuel Type

Gas

Dimensions

18 x 11 x 18 inches

Weight

48 lbs.

Runtime

10 hours @ 25%-load (estimate, not given)

Noise Level

51 dB @25% load

Wattage/Power Output

2000/1600

Warranty

2 years—non-wear parts

The WEN 56200i is the altogether best generator for tailgating. For most people, the 1600 running watts is sufficient but still allows the unit to be portable. As an inverter, this unit provides very clean power—1.2% THD at full-load. Therefore, this is a perfect choice if charging smaller, more sensitive devices is a priority.

The 56200i has two 120-V AC receptacles, a 12-V DC receptacle, and a 5-V DC USB charging port. There is an Eco-Mode switch to keep the engine from running faster than needed for the load. To nearly double the rated power and to add outlets for RV and twist-lock plugs—connect two of these units in parallel using the ​WEN 56421 Parallel Connection Kit​.

The portability and reliability of this generator make it great for boaters. However, you still need to prepare the unit for the marine environment. We recommend a spray-on shield for electrical parts, rust-resistant spray paint for metal hardware, and high-heat spray paint for the muffler.

While this unit does not have a spark arrester, it does have necessary safety features—overload protection and low-oil shutdown. Users agree it really is quiet—only 55 dB at a ¾ load, at 22 ft. away. Most users also find it straightforward to use, and when it is not, WEN's customer service is attentive.

Pros

  • Effective customer support
  • Often available at low price
  • Easy to use
  • Durable
  • Reliable

Cons

  • Needs frequent oil changes
  • No spark arrester

2. Honda EU2200i

Best quiet tailgate generator

Fuel Type

Gas

Dimensions

20.0 x 11.4 x 16.7 inches

Weight

46.5 lbs.

Runtime

8.1 hours @25% Load

Noise Level

48 dB @25% load

Wattage/Power Output

2200/1800

Warranty

3 years—non-wear parts

The best quiet tailgate generator is the Honda EU2200i. This beautifully built inverter generator is the quietest you can get—ranging from 48 dB to a maximum of 57 dB at full load. It can keep going for 3.2 hours with a full load (8.1 hours with a quarter load), which is more than enough power for most tailgaters.

The Honda GXR120 engine can ramp up fast to power a 15000-BTU air conditioner, but also provides power cleanly enough for small sensitive devices. The EU2200i has a pair of normal 120-V receptacles and a 12-V DC charger receptacle. There is no USB outlet, but mostly this is not a problem—most smart devices come with a suitable 120-V outlet-to-USB adapter.

The EU2200i is also great for camping—it has a spark arrester. Furthermore, it has an eco-throttle switch to keep fuel consumption and noise to only what is needed. It also has overload protection, low-oil shutdown, and the option to ground the unit. If you would like to nearly double the power and get RV/twist-lock plug connections, consider pairing a EU2200i with the Honda EU2200i Companion. However, if doubling the power is all you want, you can simply connect 2 EU2200i’s using appropriate cables.

A perusal of recent reviews shows serious complaints about a fuel leak recall, but this appears to have been quickly resolved. Even those who bought flawed units and waited for repairs/replacements were later satisfied. Honda is known for the quietest-running, highest quality generators, and the EU2200i is the best Honda generator for tailgating.

Pros

  • Relatively long warranty
  • Quick, smooth startup
  • Quiet
  • Lightweight
  • Spark arrester

Cons

  • Relatively expensive
  • No USB outlet

3. Atima AY2000i

Best small generator for tailgating

Fuel Type

Gas

Dimensions

23.4 x 17.8 x 18.1 inches

Weight

46.3 lbs.

Runtime

10.3 hours @25% Load

Noise Level

52 dB @25% load

Wattage/Power Output

2000/1600

Warranty

1 year—non-wear parts and labor; 2 year—non-wear parts only; 3 year inverter/engine

The Atima AY2000i is the best small generator for tailgating—mostly because it keeps running on one tank of gas longer than similar-sized generators—4.2 hours on full load. Also, there is some falsehood in its relatively higher dB rating: Atima uses a more stringent standard than most companies when testing loudness. In fact, most users are very impressed by how quiet it is.

This quietness and energy efficiency originates with the Yamaha MZ80 inverter engine and muffler, which includes a USFS-approved spark arrester. Yamaha is known for reliable, low-maintenance small engines. Therefore, the AY2000i is great for a variety of purposes, including camping. It has the normal outlets: two 120-V and one 12-V DC. It has a small fuel gauge and basic indicator lights for output, low-oil, and overload. For even greater energy efficiency, it has an eco-throttle mechanism, as well.

Despite its relatively small size, this generator can power a small AC system; however, it is advisable to add a soft start system to the AC, such as MicroAir EasyStart, to keep the generator from overloading from the starting surge. For 3800W/3000W of power, you can connect 2 AY2000i's in parallel. For better and easier engine care, consider the Atima dipstick and oil-change funnel (which also works for a variety of similar generators of other brands/sizes).

Pros

  • Long runtime
  • Quiet
  • Easy to use
  • Lightweight
  • USFS-certified spark arrester

Cons

  • Complicated warranty situation

4. Westinghouse iGen4500

Top portable Model

Fuel Type

Gas

Dimensions

24.5 x 17.5 x 20.5 inches

Weight

98 lbs.

Runtime

18 hours @25% Load

Noise Level

53 dB @25% load

Wattage/Power Output

4500/3700

Warranty

3 years (1st year—non-wear parts and labor; 2nd & 3rd years—non-wear parts)

The Westinghouse iGen4500 is the best portable generator for tailgating: The second most powerful on this review list, it is still easily portable, with a 46-inch retractable handle and a pair of wheels along the back. There are two standard household outlets and one 120-V, 30A, RV/travel trailer outlet—along with a pair of USB outlets (2.1A and 1.0A), too. As an inverter, it provides clean (under 3% THD) electric signals, suitable for smart devices. There is no 12-V DC outlet, but the unit comes with an AC/DC adapter cord.

The iGen4500i has a spark arrester and is EPA-, CARB-, and USFS-compliant—definitely camping-safe. It has an eco-mode and basic safety features. For its size, it is impressively quiet. Users find that it is easy to use and starts up smoothly.

The 3 different starting options—recoil, electric push-button, and remote key fob—could seem excessive, but it turns out that many users like these. It is easy to track usage stats and maintenance checkpoints: there is an LED screen-space on the control panel that shows (in rotation) fuel level, power output, estimated remaining runtime, voltage output, and lifetime hours.

You can join two iGen4500’s together by using the inverter parallel cord. If you would like a smaller unit, camouflage pattern, or dual-fuel options, consider the iGen4500 Dual Fuel, iGen2500, or iGen2500 Camo, all of which appear on the same Amazon listing with the iGen4500.

Pros

  • Easy to use
  • Very long runtime
  • Relatively long warranty
  • Powerful and portable
  • 3 starting mechanisms

Cons

  • Relatively heavy to pick up
  • No 12-V DC outlet

5. Rainier R2200i

Best budget/cheap option

Fuel Type

Gas

Dimensions

19.7 x 13.3 x 17.3 inches

Weight

43 lbs.

Runtime

13 hours @25% Load

Noise Level

52 dB @25% load

Wattage/Power Output

2200/1800

Warranty

3 years—non-wear parts

The Rainier R2200i is the best budget option among portable, inverter generators. The lightest on this review list, it offers comparable power reliably and smoothly. The THD is under 3%, so this is an excellent choice for the tailgater who wants to charge a smartphone along with a much larger gadget—an 11,000-BTU air conditioner, for example. The R2200i can keep going for 6 hours at full load.

Like others on this list, the R2200i is CARB- and EPA-compliant and has an eco-switch for added efficiency and quietness. It has basic indicators and safety elements, such as low-oil shutdown and overload protection. Users appreciate that its oil filling/draining mechanism is more comfortable to handle than most. However, some users complain that it is hard to know how much oil is in the tank; you can remedy this by adding a magnetic oil dipstick. Similarly, the control panel is relatively basic (which some might prefer), but if you want additional usage stats, you can hook up an NK Tech hour meter.

On the whole, with its lightness and ease of use, this is an especially great generator choice for women, older users, and beginning users. It is possible to connect two in parallel using an appropriate kit. There are the usual pair of 120-V receptacles, along with one 12-V DC receptacle.

Pros

  • Very lightweight
  • Attractive compact build
  • Great value for cost
  • Relatively long warranty
  • Relatively long runtime

Cons

  • No USB outlet

6. WEN 56475

Best rated

Fuel Type

Gas

Dimensions

26.6 x 17.1 x 17.3 inches

Weight

112.5 lbs.

Runtime

11 hours@50% Load (no @25% given)

Noise Level

Not given

Wattage/Power Output

4750/3750

Warranty

2 years—non-wear parts

The best rated model in this review list is the WEN 56475. It makes up for not being an inverter by being the most powerful generator on this review list. Furthermore, it is reportedly very quiet compared to other non-inverters and is CARB- and EPA- compliant. It is the largest on this list but is still quite portable—it has a pair of fold-out handles and a pair of traction-tired wheels on the opposite bottom side.

The WEN 56475 also has an electric start option, though many still prefer to use the recoil mechanism. It has hour counter (helps you know when to do maintenance checks), along with regular safety and usage features, including a spark arrester.

This is the perfect generator for the tailgater who is also a serious RV traveler. In general, users who want more power for larger appliances will prefer the WEN 56475: it has a 120-V, 30-A twist-lock receptacle, and RV receptacle, in addition to the standard pair of 120-V household outlets. Since it has an automatic voltage regulator to create clean power, it likely is safe for sensitive devices—just use the adapter included with your device.

For RV use, be sure to have a 25-foot Heavy-Duty Generator Extension Cord or a similar product. Also, a generator this size will usually go through more fuel, so consider a conveniently designed 5-gallon portable gas can. A drawback of the WEN 56476 is that some of its exterior surfaces can become dangerously hot—something to keep in mind if children or pets are around.

Pros

  • Excellent value for cost
  • Quiet
  • Easy to use
  • Spark arrester
  • Powerful

Cons

  • Exterior can get hot in places
  • No eco switch

Sizing a Generator for Tailgating Parties

Looking at wattage stats of your devices is the best way to assess how big/powerful a generator you need. Be sure to consider any surge wattage data, too, and compare this to the generator’s short-term max wattage. Consider what appliances you will wish to run simultaneously; this is your actual maximum power requirement.  Also, consider whether you have the cargo space for a generator of your desired size—plus gasoline and oil, in case.


Hooking Up a Tailgate Generator

The best step-by-step detailed guide to set up and use a tailgater gas generator is the accompanying user’s manual. However, general rules of thumb are: place the generator outside, away from openings that could bring any fumes inside an RV or building—on a flat, dry surface. Also, while appropriately sized generator covers can be great for storage, do not put this or any other object that could obstruct ventilation on an operating generator.

Be sure you have adequately insulated and sized extension cords, with the right connections for your usage. If you do not have the proper plug/receptacle for something: realize there is an adapter for almost every possible connection. Always get the generator running before connecting devices. Some users prefer to clear the engine of fuel before storage—by running it with the fuel off (most generators can do this)—but others choose to use fuel treatments to keep old gasoline from damaging the engine.


How to Safely Use a Generator for Tailgating

The biggest maintenance chore for tailgating generators is checking/changing oil—usually about every 20 usage hours. Ultimately, this is one of the best things you can do to keep the engine going. Many tailgaters get away with not grounding their generators, but if you are in doubt and do not see a way to ground your unit the usual way, consider a GFCI extension cord or other GFCI (ground-fault circuit interrupter) apparatus.

If you think water might have accidentally seeped into the engine, turn the generator off, disconnect devices, and let the engine cool. Then, remove exterior panels and wipe exposed areas off; for hard-to-reach areas, try using compressed air.


Frequently Asked Questions

What are the main tailgate generator problems? How to troubleshoot these problems?

If possible, refer to the user manual for troubleshooting. If you suspect overload, disconnect all devices and allow the machine to cool off before trying again with a reduced load. Low oil is another common issue: Always have some small engine oil with you: 10W-30 oil is a good bet in most climates (and many generators come with a bottle included), but hot or cold weather might demand 15W-40 or 5W-30, respectively.

How to fix a tailgate generator that won’t start?

Most of these generators require a few steps to turn on: you might need to turn the fuel on, turn the choke off, and finally pull the recoil. If your tailgater generator doesn't start, be sure you did these steps. Other things to consider are fuel status—there could be stale gasoline residue in the tank, carburetor, or elsewhere in the engine. Possibly the spark plug needs adjustment/replacement, or the air filter or ventilation systems are clogged.

Are these generators expensive to run?

No, most of these quiet portable generators for tailgating are inverters, so they are very energy-efficient. You will need to factor in the price of fuel. 

What is the best spark plug for a tailgate generator?

Typically, you do not need to get a replacement spark plug for a tailgater generator until at least a year of use. Refer to the user manual for the exact type of spark plug for your generator. Spark plug models are often listed as cross-references between brands (Common brands are Torch, Champion, and Bosch).

Where is the best place to buy generator parts?

Amazon has an extensive selection of tailgater generator parts and replacement parts (both general and brand-specific). Also, company sites are always a great resource to be sure you are getting an appropriate part or accessory.

What is the difference between an inverter generator and a conventional one?

Inverter generators are quieter and much more fuel/energy-efficient; they also have lower emissions. Furthermore, they produce “clean power,” which is electricity transferred with very low THD (total harmonic distortion).


Conclusion

A tailgating generator is an all-around good investment, as it can provide on-the-spot electric power in a variety of situations, including outages, RVs, campsites, and cookouts.

Even a small tailgate generator can usually make non-portable apparatuses, such as electric snow blowers and electric smokers, more portable. Therefore, the first pick of these tailgater generator reviews, the WEN 56200i, is the best quiet small generator for tailgating and so much more.

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