Using a portable generator on your boat can truly make your boating experience more convenient.
With a portable generator you can cook food easily with a microwave, make the temperature on your boat a bit more bearable in hot months with an air conditioner, and you can even enjoy a nice cup of coffee in the morning if your generator is powering a coffee maker.
With a portable generator, you can transform your boat into a home away from home!
A portable generator also comes in handy for nighttime fishing on a sailboat, and it’s always good to know you have a generator as a back-up to charge your battery, or if your boat dies on the water and you need to call for help.
But the thought of lugging a huge generator onto their boat may fill some people with dread.
That’s where portable generators come in. They can power your sailboat, fishing boat, or any boat you’re on and are easy to take on and off the boat.
Below, you’ll find the 5 best portable generators for boats, as well as safety tips on how to look after and use your generator.
You’ll also find a buyer’s guide that fills you in on what to consider when buying a portable generator for your boat.
OUR TOP PICK
While Honda’s portable generators have long received praise for their use on land, this 2,200-watt inverter is also a great portable generator for your boat.
Namely, because it’s extremely quiet. After all, when your boat is docked the last thing you want to do is disturb neighboring boats anchored nearby.
At only 48 to 57 dBA, this generator is no louder than the volume of a normal conversation- that’s astounding!
It’s also a fuel-efficient generator, and you’re able to get 4 hours up to 10 hours of use on a single tank of gas.
The power generated by this generator is clean and stable by virtue of the fact it’s an inverter generator. That means you can use it to power your sensitive electronics with peace of mind.
The eu2200i has 2,200 starting Watts and 1,800 rated Watts and is an updated version of the eu2001.
As well as additional power, the eu2200i also has better ventilation than its predecessor, which makes it even safer for use on a boat.
- Lightweight and easy to transport.
- Extremely quiet at 48 to 57 dBA.
- Cleaner power thanks to inverter technology.
- Able to use two of these models at once thanks to parallel-readiness.
- Does not have a fuel gauge or hour meter.
Like the Honda model above, the WEN 56200i is also relatively lightweight and easy to transport.
Getting it off and on the boat, or moving it from boat storage to the deck, is stress-free and simple.
However, it’s not as quiet as the Honda but is still quieter than most other generators at 51 decibels for a quarter load.
The WEN 56200i is also an inverter, meaning you can use it to power sensitive electronics safely.
It is also designed to mirror a pure sine wave and limits harmonic disruption. You can expect it to run for 6 hours at a half load.
However, you can maximize the generator’s fuel efficiency by using eco mode, and to increase the power you can hook up a second unit using a Parallel Connection Kit.
The WEN 562001 also has safety features built in, such as an automatic shutdown when oil or fuel are low.
- Lightweight and easy to transport.
- Able to use with sensitive electronics thanks to inverter technology.
- Fuel efficient thanks to eco mode.
- Backed by a 2-year warranty.
- The full panel needs to be removed to check or change oil.
- While it produces clean inverter energy, it’s not technically a pure sine wave.
While aesthetics are usually low down on people’s list of priorities for a generator, having a piece of equipment that blends in nicely with your boat is always a bonus.
This Yamaha EF2000iS V2 has the look of a retro radio and is a stunning royal blue color.
It’s also a compact, lightweight generator which makes it incredibly easy to transport. The convenient handle only makes this easier.
It's an inverter generator, creating clean power, and at 2,000 max Watts and 1,600 running Watts it has plenty of power to keep your boat ticking.
What’s more, it also has Pulse Width Modulation Control and is parallel-ready so you can double up on the power if you wish.
The Smart Throttle also makes it fuel efficient, and even on a quarter load you can run this generator for 10.5 hours.
- Fuel efficient.
- Lightweight, compact design makes it easy to transport.
- Long runtime.
- Has a fuel gauge and low-oil auto shut-off.
- To check the oil you have to remove the panel.
Lightweight and compact generators are ideal for smaller ships and other smaller vessels such as dinghies, barges, and pontoon boats.
But sometimes these smaller boats require a bit more power. If you would like a generator that has the capacity to power a yacht, for example, then you’ll need a bigger generator to do this.
The DuroStar is chunkier than most of our other picks, but it’s dual-handle system makes it easy for two people to transport.
There is also an optional wheel kit that might make transport easier. The construction is also sturdy and stable, meaning it can withstand a few bumps and scrapes.
This is to be expected from DuroStar who are known for making very solid generators.
It’s also mighty powerful, with 4,000 starting Watts and 3,300 running Watts, and despite its power and weightiness, is rather quiet at 69 dBA.
It’s not as fuel-efficient as some of our other picks admittedly, but the 4-gallon gas tank can run for about 8 hours.
It is also a great budget-friendly option without sacrificing on quality.
- Sturdy construction.
- Dual-handle makes transporting the generator easier.
- Quiet for its size.
- The placement of the oil draining.
- No hour meter.
- Needs to be grounded which can be difficult.
The Westinghouse WGen7500DF Portable Generator is a dual-fuel model, which means you can either use gasoline or liquid propane gas to power it.
This makes it the most versatile generator on our list and means it can last a lot longer than other generators.
In fact, if you have a full 6.6-gallon tank of gas as well as a tank of propane, you can expect the generator to run for over a day!
The fuel efficiency with a full tank alone lets the generator run for 16 hours.
But as well as being a versatile generator that can run for hours, it is also extremely powerful. When running on gasoline it has 9,500 peak Watts and 7,500 running Watts.
Meanwhile, with propane it has 8,500 starting Watts and 6,750 running Watts.
For extra safety, the GFCI power outlets are rubber-covered, and the generator is sturdily built with hardened-steel frame for extra durability.
We also appreciate the convenient push-button electric start, and while this isn’t the most budget-friendly generator, for what it offers it’s still surprisingly affordable.
Plus, it’s backed by a 3-year limited warranty.
- Can either be fuelled by gasoline or liquid propane gas.
- Fuel efficient.
- Push-button electric start.
- Backed by a 3-year limited warranty.
- Heavy to maneuver on a boat.
- Not so quiet.
Best Portable Generators For Boats Buying Guide
As you can see from our selections there are a few key factors to consider when choosing the right portable generator for your boat. Some factors will be more important than others depending on your needs.
Below, let’s take a look at some of the biggest factors to consider when choosing your portable generator.
Power And Wattage
When it comes to power, you’ll always need a generator that can deliver a consistent charge. Even if your generator can generate millions of Watts it’s no good to you unless it can do so effectively.
1500 to 2500 watts is considered the ideal wattage, as it can power your boat effectively with a bit to spare if you need it.
The runtime of a generator applies to how long your generator can run, and this will vary depending on fuel capacity.
Most generators base their runtime on using their battery at 25% capacity. So if you need to quickly calculate the runtime of your generator, just divide that number by four.
So for example, if a generator is running at maximum capacity, 10 hours of runtime actually means 2.5 hours. 10 to 12 hours is also considered an outstanding amount of runtime.
A loud generator is not only an annoyance for neighboring boats when you’re anchored, but it’s also an inconvenience to you when boating.
If you’re fishing it can scare the fish away, but if you’re spending a day on the boat with your friends or family a loud generator can make it harder for people to mingle and chat, and for you to enjoy a quiet drink on your boat.
Meanwhile, a decibel range in the high 40s will just sound like a consistent, background hum, so a recommended decibel level would be 48-55 decibels.
Just like any other piece of equipment on your boat, your generator needs to be safe.
Thankfully, most generators come with plenty of safety features. These include low-oil shutoff and emergency shut-offs in case your generator falls overboard.
Still, it’s important to put your generator in a safe place. It needs to be kept in an open space so fumes can escape and are not trapped in an enclosed space, but you also need to keep it dry.
Most people keep their generators at the stern. This is so the generator can remain stable and out of the way. Plus, at the stern you’re less likely to forget to throw it into your dock box for safekeeping.
Inverter Generators Vs Conventional Generators
Your average, conventional portable generator only draws power from the fuel tank.
Meanwhile an inverter generator has a state-of-the-art battery, alternator, and an inverter. Therefore, conventional generators create a high-frequency AC current making it more direct and powerful.
Inverter portable generators have a more complex, intricate process of producing power.
The AC current is sent to the alternator where it’s then converted into a DC current which is then converted back into an AC current. This intricate system makes a current that is extra stable.
Conventional generators are usually used to power lights, and coolers, etc. While inverter generators can do this too, they’re also able to charge more sensitive devices such as your phone or tablet.
Conventional generators also tend to be heavier than the more lightweight inverter generators.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Do I Ground My Portable Generator In A Boat?
Grounding a portable generator into a boat that would normally be ground into the earth may seem like an impossible task. But while it is recommended to buy a portable generator for a boat that doesn’t need to be grounded, it can be done.
While it does depend on the generator and the boat, this is possible when the generator is plugged into the shore power connection. It’s recommended to use a mains tester to do this.
How Do I Use A Marine Generator Safely?
We’ve already mentioned how safety is extremely important when using a generator on a boat, but it cannot be understated.
To use a generator on a boat you need to use all the caution you would use on land, as well as take other considerations into account to avoid fire, carbon monoxide poisoning, and to prevent electrocution.
Firstly, do not refuel your generator while it is on the boat. Instead, refuel when it is off the boat to avoid potential sources of ignition.
You should also never run the generator near doors, vents, windows, or hatches, as the cabin may fill with carbon monoxide. It’s also important to be aware of the symptoms of carbon monoxide.
This way you can identify it faster and potentially save lives. Before you start your generator, make sure there are no damp patches nearby. You should also do a thorough check to see if there’s a fuel leak.
It’s also recommended to invest in a ground fault circuit interrupter and a circuit breaker as well. Most generators already have circuit breakers, but a GFCI is just an extra level of protection.
Meanwhile, some generators also have circuit interrupters built in, like some Honda models, for example. But if your generator doesn’t have a built-in circuit interrupter it should at least have a GFCI outlet.
Storage is another important safety consideration. You should always store your generator in a drained, empty locker that doesn’t have any tools, mooring pins, anchors, or petrol cans inside. This prevents damage or sparks that could lead to a potential fire.
Finally, never permanently install a portable generator on your boat, or make any modifications to the generator that are unauthorized by the manufacturer.
However, it is a good idea to build some kind of cowling that keeps the generator dry while you’re using it.
Of course, when using your generator on a boat the chances of it getting wet are high.
Still, it’s crucial to keep your generator as dry as possible and to take steps to avoid significant damage to the boat, or harm to yourself and others. Rubber mounts may also help to keep the generator dry.
How Do I Maintain A Portable Generator?
Even the best generators require a bit of maintenance to keep them performing well. On the whole generators require little maintenance but there are some things you can do to keep your generator running smoothly.
First, always make sure to keep your battery above the minimum charge. This is a good rule of thumb for most batteries, but especially so for your generator. If you let your generator battery reach low charge for too often then it may deteriorate quicker.
You may notice its runtime decreasing and it needing to be charged more often. So instead of partially charging the battery frequently, charge your generator up to full capacity every once in a while.
Also, make sure your generator is secure. Hide your portable generator with a cover to hide it from those who may wish to steal it, and you can even employ a chain and lock for extra security.
You should also get a fuel container that is equal to your generator fuel tank to make fueling up easier and faster overall. This certainly takes the gaswork out of refuelling your generator!
To ensure your generator is running at optimal capacity and to increase its longevity, you can filter the fuel that is used. You’ll also need to change the oil.
This is what lubricates machinery and keeps it running smoothly. It’s important not to neglect your generator oil and change it promptly when needed.