How to Find the Best Emergency Generator for Your Needs

Purchasing an emergency generator requires careful consideration to find the right power solution for your home or business needs. Follow these essential steps for generator buying success.

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Research Extensively Online First

Before visiting any sellers:

  1. Spend ample time online learning about the various generator options to fit your needs.
  2. Browse manufacturer websites like Generac, Cummins, and Kohler to compare different models, specifications, and features.
  3. Consider the typical power requirements and running watts needed for your home or business to determine the appropriate generator size.

Generally, a 5kW unit can handle most household essentials, while commercial properties may need 20kW or more—research critical features like automatic backup power, WiFi monitoring, multiple outlet types, and quiet operation. Look at consumer reports, reviews, and forums to identify your budget’s most reliable brands and well-regarded models. Check warranty terms, as longer durations indicate better-expected reliability. Watch video reviews to see different generators in operation first-hand. Compile a list of your top contenders based on power output, reliability, noise level, and unique features. This background knowledge will make you an informed shopper able to ask the right questions.

Shop Multiple Dealers and Retailers

With your research complete, visit local generator dealers to inspect top contenders first-hand. Specialized retailers have extensive product knowledge and inventory for testing. In addition, check big box stores like Home Depot, Lowe’s, Costco, and Sam’s Club for generator options. Compare quoted specifications, warranty terms, accessories, and sellers’ pricing. Check that outlet types and quantities match your needs. Ask about maintenance requirements and parts/service availability. Inquire if professional installation is included or advisable for your unit. Expanding your search increases the chance of finding the right generator at a competitive price. Consider buying directly from the manufacturer, too. Brands like Generac, Kohler, and others sell specific models from factories now online, which can offer savings. Consider contacting an electrician as well for advice and installation estimates if needed.

Inspect and Test Before Buying

When you’ve narrowed the selection, thoroughly inspect and test any generator you’re serious about purchasing. Carefully examine the unit for any signs of damage, wear, or defects. Check that the engine, fuel tank, control panel, and outlets work well. Request an on-site startup test to check performance, electrical output, and voltage regulation. Listen closely to operating noise levels from various distances to ensure it won’t disturb you or your neighbors. Ask the dealer to connect appliances like refrigerators, pumps, or medical devices to confirm the generator can adequately power your required loads. Simulate a power outage by turning off the main breaker to test automatic backup activation and switchover. Observe the generator running under load for at least 30 minutes to check for issues like surging, overheating, or abnormal shutdowns. For extra peace of mind, have a qualified electrician inspect the unit and identify any problems. This hands-on vetting helps avoid purchasing a faulty, incorrectly sized, or overly loud generator.

Negotiate a Fair Price and Review Warranty

Once satisfied with a generator model after inspection and testing, it’s time to negotiate the best price within your budget constraints. Come prepared with competitive quotes from other sellers and be reasonable but firm on getting a fair deal. Be ready to walk away if the quoted price seems excessive. Also, consider negotiating free delivery or an extended warranty plan for added savings and protection. When settled on pricing, thoroughly review the warranty coverage terms, periods, limitations, and procedures for future claims. Understand what components are covered and the parts, labor, and replacement periods. Determine the costs you would be responsible for in a claim scenario. Review included accessories and manuals to ensure you have everything needed for smooth operation. Taking these steps ensures your generator is ready to deliver automatic backup power when you need it most.


Investing in an emergency generator is an important decision that requires extensive upfront research and hands-on inspection before purchasing. Take ample time to educate yourself on the market by comparing models, features, and prices online. Then, visit retailers and dealers to see units first-hand and test performance under load. Vet generators carefully for proper sizing, condition, and noise before buying. Know your budget constraints and negotiate the best possible deal on your desired model. Requesting a warranty, manuals, and professional installation helps ensure smooth operation for years. With the proper diligence in evaluating options and willingness to shop around, you can secure the ideal backup generator for your home or business needs. These critical steps lead to a fully-informed purchase and long-term satisfaction with your generator.

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