How to choose the Best Cheap Generator

Looking for a cheap generator for camping? Maybe you need portable back-up power around the house but don't want to spend a fortune.

There was a time when buying a cheap generator meant you couldn't expect it to last beyond the shop door. We have some good news for you - those days are long gone.

Today generators don't have to be expensive to be fit for certain tasks. Just as devices like smart phones, TV's and tablets have come down in price, so too have portable generators. In fact the latest technology means you can enjoy a whole heap of great features that, just a couple of years ago, you would have paid top dollar for.

There are some quality products being manufactured in China, you just have to know which brands to look for

Do your research

Nevertheless, whether your budget is $300 or $3,000, it always pays to know what to look for when buying a generator. After all, you can save yourself hundreds of dollars if you buy one of those cheap 'no-name' generators on an auction site such as eBay...BUT how confident will you really be when it comes to plugging in your expensive appliances and power tools? The damage caused could end up costing you much more than you saved in the first place! So, don't just look at price alone, you need to sort out the good value for money options from the dodgy stuff.

Know your brands

First and foremost, you should get to know the guys who will guarantee you good value for money. Cromtech Generators have one of the best budget inverter generators on the market and come backed by a 1 year warranty and national service network. It's low price point is mainly because it is manufactured in China, where manufacturing costs are far lower than Australia and other countries like Japan. But just because these generators have a "Made in China" stamp doesn't mean they are rubbish. These days China has some of the best quality standards in the world. Even premium brands like Honda and Yamaha have some of their generator models and componentry coming out of factories in China and Taiwan.

Premium VS Budget Generator

What's more, Cromtech is backed by Crommelins Australia - a veteran of Australian Power Equipment Manufacturing and distribution. For example, has service technicians who perform quality control checks before committing to distributing any generator brand. We've tested plenty of different Chinese brands and whilst some stack up nicely, many just don't produce what they say they do...some units will claim they have an output of 4000 watts, when in reality they struggle to deal with 3000 watts!

So again, be sure to buy your generator from a retailer that can stand by their products...we have heard too many horror stories about customers buying a cheap, faulty generator and then the retailer provides them no help at all - the customer has just lost hundreds of dollars! again, there are some good budget brand generator options out there, but it just needs to be the right one and for the right application.

2.4kw Cromtech Outback - Portable Petrol Inverter Generator
Cromtech Outback 2400 is a great value for money option backed by Crommelins

What about the warranty and support?

The main difference between premium and budget generators is the warranty and service support. Cheap generators often don't come with the extensive warranty that premium generator manufacturers provide. That doesn't mean you're not covered at all though. Cromtech Generators have service and warranty backed by the reputable Australian manufacturer, Crommelins, so if there are any issues with your purchase, you know there is a nationwide service support ready to help - Crommelins have hundreds of accredited service agents all over the country

Be careful of cheaper brands like Lectron, Fuji, Gentrax and other cheaper generator brands found on eBay etc. We've tested these units (and in some cases previously stocked them) - they can perform okay, but the main issue is spare parts availability and after service support; often you'll need a spare parts to get your generator going again or have it inspected by a technician...this is where you will run into issues. Most cheaper Chinese brands won't offer this support and you're left with a useless machine.

Cromtech also comes with a 1 year warranty, which is on par with other generators at the affordable end of the spectrum. If a longer service warranty is important to you, check out the well-known Japanese brand generators instead, such as market leaders Yamaha, who offer 4 year warranties and have over 200 accredited service agents nationwide. Many customers want the national service network with their Generator and will opt for a premium brand such as Yamaha, albeit you'll have to pay a bit more, but that is expected for a superior product.

cheap generator
Cromtech is backed by a national service network

Fit for purpose

Generally speaking, the bigger and more powerful the generator, the more money you'll pay. So a good way to save money on a generator is to only buy the size you need. The best way to work this out is to look at the wattage of the appliances you want to power and find a generator that best fits this number. You can find out more about this in the Generator Buying Guide at The other end of the spectrum of course is buying a generator that won't produce enough power to run your appliances - again, do the numbers on your particular wattage requirements and you'll make the most effective generator selection.

Also extremely important is the type of application; if you plan to use your generator for heavier applications such as medium to large power tools and equipment on job sites or for rural applications, then we recommend you consider a portable trade generator from the likes of Powerlite and Gentech - these are seriously tough, durable Australian assembled trade machines that are built to handle the heavy demands of Australian work sites. Again, its a case of fit for purpose; the right cheaper imported generator brands are fine for light domestic or recreational use, but if you require portable power for your business or heavier demands then opt for a premium brand.

Final important word of advice

Our final piece of advice is to ask yourself how frequently you will be using your generator. Cromtech generators for example are only a good value for money option if you require home back up power during the occasional outage or for power reserve on your camping/caravan trips...however, if you plan to use your generator more frequently and don't want to jump to a premium option, we highly recommend checking out Briggs and Stratton Generators. These generators will cost you a little more than the Cromtech but they are a higher quality and come with more features and benefits. Briggs and Stratton currently has three inverter generator models on the market:

The Briggs & Stratton 6500w Inverter Generator has quickly become one of the most popular inverter generators on the market, costing less than HALF the price of a Yamaha generator of the same size

Briggs includes the latest technology and features in their generators including variable RPM engines, USB outlets and even bluetooth connectivity. Plus we must make a special mention to the Q6500 which features a 32 Amp outlet meaning it can be connected to the switch board of your house via the Briggs and Stratton Manual Transfer Switch Kit ($395). These generators all come with a 3 year warranty.

Okay finally, if you are looking to run heavier loads on a worksite or perhaps portable power for running small business or event, then we recommend you look at premium brands such as Yamaha: these products come with longer warranties and are designed to withstand more regular use and so paying the extra money is worth it as you'll be using it more often. These premium brands also come with national service networks for extra support and peace of mind. All in all, we would sell 3-4 times the Premium Generator units as opposed to the Cheap Generators as they appeal to a wider variety of customers in the market...but a Cheap Generator can be a good money-saver for those just needing a generator for light, irregular use.

The more you know, the more chance you have of finding a cheap, value for money generator that will suit your budget and your needs.

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DISCLAIMER* Please note, this advice is general in nature and we strongly recommend consulting the product manual and where relevant, a professional installer.

3 thoughts on How to choose the Best Cheap Generator

23 January 2018
What is your take on Chinese made clip-on reefer gensets? These are used for reefer containers to provide power while in transit. I am in the process of buying of procuring a Chinese made UGY15LD 15kVA genset with a Laidong engine.

16 January 2018
In discussions about generators for motor homes ,cCaravans and camping there always seems to be a lot of conjecture in relation to what size generator is actually needed to run that 'very important' Air Conditioning unit in your caravan and motor home. Yes, smaller capacity generators will start and run some air conditioning units in our motor homes and caravans, some of the time. But when the ambient temperature in the great out doors becomes higher, the become very unreliable and will not start, or will struggle to run, your a/c unit at the time you need it most. Even a 2.4kva unit will be tested in more extreme conditions I have a Heron 3 a/c unit in my caravan and after much, much, much research, I have discovered that the maximum current draw to start that particular unit is 26500 watts. So you need a generator capable of generating that capacity to ensure you can start that particular a/c unit and most other a/c units in your motor home or caravan at any time, under any conditions. That is you need a 2.65kva or bigger generator to ensure you can keep yourself and the wife cool and happy. Ok, so Kipor make a 2.6kva generator, , should be ok but still 500 watts short of what you will need under extreme heat conditions . Beside that, my experience with a 2.6kva Kipor unit I owned was not great. It broke down while we were at Alice Springs with only about 12 hours usage on the unit. Heron, Air Commander, what ever they want to call themselves openly state that they recommend nothing short of a 2.8kva generator for all their Air Conditioning units installed in motor hom,es and caravans. So where does that leave you, who actually makes a 2.8kva or bigger Inverter generator that one person can actually physically lift by themselves? Honda and Yamaha both make 3kva units that are priced at well over $3000.00 per unit, the Honda EU30is at 59kg and the Yamaha EF3000ise at 67kg. Honda does have another player in this segement being the EU30iu Handi Generator at a mere 35kg dry weight, but again there is a $3200.00 price tag attached. We've all seen those cheap chinese manufactured 3.5kva/3.7kva generators advertised on ebay and every where else for $500 to $800.00 but how much faith would you have in them. And can you get them repaired if they break. Not from what I've researched. But there is a solution which solves the problem, it's the Yamaha EF2800i, this model is a 2.8kva Inverter generator that weighs 29kg and comes with a 4 year warranty. It's not all dressed up in a plastic shield like the other models and at 56 to 6odb, it's a bit nosier than the 1kva, 2kva model Yamaha's and Honda's. it's also a bit nosier than the 2.4kva model Yamaha. But it is quieter than the 3kva models of both manufacturers and at around the $2000.00 to buy , it is a hell of a lot cheaper and definitely lighter. So, honestly, forgot all this rubbish you read on caravaning and camping forums and on the internet about how a 2kva generator will run the a/c in your caravan or motor home. Believe me, I have done the research and you need at least a 2.8kva generator to know that when its getting warm outside, you will be able to power up the a/c in your motor home or caravan without any problems. And as for chinese generators, if your determined to head down that road, have a look at a brand called 'Rato', they're called the Chinese Honda. You will find them on the internet but not on ebay, they make a 2kva and 3kva model, the 3kva model sells for about $1200.00 and weighs in at 37kg (almost the same as the honda, for a third of the price). They have a great 1 year 'replacement' warranty and a great dealer network throughout the country. That's right, you read it correctly, if it breaks down within the warranty period and it's not user related or user neglect, they will replace it.

My Generator Response
Hi John, we agree with you! Thank you for your comment. This is consistent with our Article Post here: Running a Caravan Air Conditioner from a Generator. You can read the full details in this post, however the key points being that in terms of sizing a generator to run a caravan air conditioner, in most instances, you will need a minimum generator size of 2400 -2800 watts. We encourage readers looking to run their RV Aircon from a generator to read the article post in full. Thanks again.

8 December 2014
I need a generator to run 2000 watts of equipment and am after your cheapest suggestion. Thanks.

My Generator Response
Hi Simon, you need to know the starting and running wattage for each appliance you intend to run off the generator. You need to know this information to make sure you choose a generator that is big enough to power your appliances. You might find our Generators Buyer's Guide helpful. If the largest appliance you intend to run draws a maximum of 2000w at start up, then we'd recommend a generator that produces about 20% more than this. Therefore a 2400w - 2500w generator would be a good option. You can browse the full options here: Inverter Generator Range. In terms of budget generators that fit your requirements, check out the Cromtech 2400w Inverter Generator, or the Supa Swift 3600 Watt Inverter Generator. If you have any further questions, please give us a call on 1300 400 122

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