Portable vs Standby Generators: Which One To Buy?

When buying a generator, the most common dilemma faced by almost every user is deciding whether to buy a portable or a standby generator. Of course, the portable ones, as the name suggests can be easily carried around anywhere. Whereas, a standby generator requires fixed installation.

But this information is still inapt for determining which one to buy.

Nevermind, we will offer you a complete comparison between these two types of generators, so that you can make the right buying decision.

The Usage

For any product, the purpose or the utility is the primary criteria for making the purchase. This notion holds true to generators as well. The utility for a generator must be decided on the basis of the power it produces. Usually, a portable generator produces power somewhere in the range of 3kVA to 7kVA. This makes portable generators suitable for almost every domestic purpose. On the other hand, standby generators produce high powers, usually ranging from 7kVA to several hundreds of kVA units. For this reason, they are mostly suitable for industrial applications.

However, this does not mean that standby generators cannot be used at homes or portable ones cannot be used for commercial or industrial purposes. You should read more to identify what other factors can affect your purchase. After all, the ultimate decision for buying portable or standby generators cannot solely rely on power needs only.


With the power needs being sorted, the next comparison is between the installation of these two. Well, it is needless to say that portable generators need very little or no attention for installation. These units usually come completely packaged, ready to use. All you need to do is start the motor and plug the mains into the generator. This manufacturer, Champion, is really great for portable generators that are high quality and easy to use. Whereas, standby generators require careful installation procedures to be followed. For starters, you may need to decide the site for installation which should ideally be open and well-ventilated. The purpose of keeping an open installation site is to simplify the access to the generator during maintenance.

So, if you believe you can spare a permanent spot for a standby generator on your property, then it is surely a better option. However, if you don’t really wish to specify a particular spot for your generator, then a portable one is surely the one you must buy. In fact, even if you wish to use your generator for more than one purpose, say carry it around on your camping trips and power your home as well, then also portable generators would make the best buy.


The next in row comes the maintenance needed for these two pieces of equipment. Portable generators, since they are small, require very little maintenance. In fact, all you’d need to take care of with a portable generator is cleaning the filters and topping up the lubricants. Whereas, larger standby generators come with a lot of additional features. For example, there are several sensors onboard for monitoring the health of the generator. With so many additional parts and features, the maintenance needs also increase.

The obvious follow-up with an increased maintenance need is the cost of repair and upkeep. If you can afford to spend on regular maintenance for a standby generator, there’s definitely no harm in buying it. But, if you wish to be saving your money, then a portable generator would do just fine. That being said, the buying decision also relies on the overall cost of the generator.


The overall cost of a generator is not just what you pay on-time. In fact, it also includes the on-going costs of maintenance, repairs, and of course, the fuel. Since, portable generators are easy to use, smaller in size, and require very little maintenance, their overall costs are way less than that of a standby generator. Moreover, being smaller in size, a portable generator is also a lot more economical in terms of fuel costs.


Lastly, when investing in such a piece of equipment, expecting returns is necessary. This is the only thing where standby generators do not face any competition. In other words, a portable generator does not bring any appreciation in the value of a property. Whereas, a standby generator can increase the value of a property, and therefore promise a good return on your investment.

To sum it up, a portable generator is a good purchase, if you wish to save on money, and use it for multiple purposes. Whereas, a standby generator is suitable for applications where you should expect higher power deliveries and good returns on your investment. But, in the end, the decision rests upon you.