The prices of generators vary depending on many factors. So it’s important to determine whether you need a generator and what your needs are to choose a unit that will serve you best without being heavy on your pocket or losing your money.
Although generators have multiple uses and benefits for every household and business, they can be a substantial investment. Before you even start thinking about whether you need a generator and which one is the best for you, you should consider the real cost of generators and if it pays off in your situation.
The Average Cost of a Generator
Prices of generators depend on various factors such as the type of generator, the wattage, the fuel type it uses, and the features it comes with. Sometimes you can find the same generators produced by different brands and at different prices, and this is because the brand name and their quality also play a role in the price.
Finally, after you decide on a generator, there are additional costs of installation and maintenance to calculate, which gives you the ultimate price. It’s important to consider all these factors so you’d choose a unit that works for you and with your budget without overspending unnecessarily.
Generators Cost Overview
Several important factors influence the price of a generator. We’re going to go over all of them, providing you with price ranges and average installation costs.
The first factor is the type of generator. Here’s an overview of the average cost ranges of each generator type:
Standby generator cost: $2,500-$15,000
Portable generator cost: $200-$8,000
Inverter generator cost: $300-$5,000
Portable power stations cost: $300-$5,000
These ranges are mainly influenced by the amount of power the generator can produce.
Home Standby Generator
Standby generators are best for those in need of a lot of power, such as running an entire house, a farm, or a hospital. These backup electrical systems power on automatically within seconds after the power goes out. They are permanently installed and have a transfer switch connected to your home’s electrical panel. They provide steady electricity and can increase the resale value of your home. If you’re not planning to resell, home standby generators can save you money right away by reducing your home insurance premium.
However, standby whole house generator costs are usually higher, and they require to be installed professionally, which is another additional expense. Of course, as with any other generator, they also need yearly maintenance.
You can expect to spend anywhere between $2500 and $15000 for a standby generator, with an installation cost ranging from $400 to $10000. This means you’ll have to pay upfront from $2900 to $25000.
How Much is a Portable Generator?
Portable generators are a slightly less expensive option upfront since most portable units fall between $200 and $8000. Besides this, portable generators are easier to maintain, and they don’t require to be installed professionally.
This means that once you get a portable generator, you can start using it without any additional fees (besides the fuel). However, portable units usually don’t run the entire house (unless you get a generator with 10000W power or above), and they don’t power on automatically when the power goes out.
You can check our dedicated article that explains the key differences between portable and standby units.
How Much Does an Inverter Generator Cost?
Inverter generators are also portable units. There is no generator installation required to use them, and they have additional features than an average portable generator. However, portable inverters are available in limited wattage, and they are more expensive than a typical portable generator. So even though an inverter generator has less power, it can cost more. You can expect to pay $300 to $5000 for an inverter generator depending on the size and features it comes with.
You can also check our in depth article that explains the difference between generators and inverters.
How Much Is a Portable Power Station?
On the other hand, with portable power stations, there are no additional fuel costs. These solar generators capture the sun’s energy using solar panels, and then this power is converted into electrical energy and stored in a battery for later use. This source of clean solar energy is safe for the environment and very convenient. However, these solar-powered generators are limited by their wattage output and battery storage. You can learn more about the pros and cons of solar in our guide.
The average cost of a portable solar generator is between $300 to $5000, depending on the battery capacity, size, and type of the solar panels. Usually, they don’t require additional installation, and you can start using them wherever you go. Unless you plan to install an entire home energy storage for your house. In that case, the cost will be more than this average and will require extra installation fees.
You can compare the difference between solar and gas in this guide.
As you can see, these ranges are very broad, so the price of the generator you choose will further depend on the wattage, fuel type, features, and the brand you choose.
One of the most influential factors when it comes to the generator cost is size. To be more precise, it’s wattage or power output. Of course, the more powerful a generator is, the bigger it will be. But it’s not the weight and dimensions that increase the cost. It’s the amount of power you can get.
Depending on how much power you need, the price ranges from $200 for a small portable generator to $15000 for a large backup generator. But let’s explain further. The $200 portable unit provides just enough power for light and charging a device, while the $15,000 standby unit can power your entire home and then some. Of course, you can power your entire home with much less money. But for larger homes and if you want the best and the strongest, this is the price. To know how much money you’ll spend on a generator, you need to calculate your power needs.
To do this, put together a list of everything you want to power with your home generator, note the running and starting wattage of every item, and the sum of that should give you the answer about your power needs.
The average range for a 3000W portable generator is between $500 and $2000. A 5000W unit costs on average between $700 and $3000. While a 7500W generator will cost you anywhere from $1000 to $4000.
You can find portable generators that cost less with the same power rating. But they are usually rated lower, not of as high quality, or lack some beneficial features which slightly higher priced models have.
Another factor in generator prices is the brand you choose. Brands such as Generac, Honda, Kohler, and similar have been in the business for a long time, and their units are known for their quality, durability, and power.
Therefore, you will find their generators priced higher than some other less known or younger brands. Of course, it doesn’t mean that less known brands don’t provide quality that would meet your standard.
Besides the basic generator types and their power, you can divide generators further by the fuel type they use. Generators can run on diesel, liquid propane, natural gas, gasoline, and solar power. They can also be dual fuel (usually natural gas and propane in standby generators, gas and propane in portable generators, or even tri-fuel).
The dual-fuel capabilities usually add to the price of a generator. Diesel generators are at the higher-priced end of the spectrum, while gasoline and liquid propane generators are more affordable.
Make sure you consider the fact that choosing the right fuel type will influence long-term costs. Maybe a portable generator with one fuel type is less expensive upfront, but that fuel type may be more costly to buy, difficult to get, or less efficient than another option.
The fuel cost will depend on the type of generator you choose, fuel efficiency, how long you run your generator, and what load. You need to select the best fuel type based on your needs.
For example, gasoline may be the best option for short-term use if you’re going to use your generator to power essential devices in your home, RV, or on a camping trip. However, gasoline has a short shelf life and may be difficult to find in emergencies.
If you want the best efficiency and low maintenance, you may go for diesel generators, which last a bit longer than gasoline and are also more efficient. But diesel is only a good option if you run your generator regularly. Otherwise, the generator may break down, and you will lose money.
No matter which generator you decide on, you’ll need to have it serviced yearly to keep up with maintenance and ensure years of use. Annual service varies in cost depending on who provides it, where you’re located, and the type and size of your generator. For example, are there any issues that need to be resolved, or is it just regular maintenance such as changing the oil or spark plugs. Usually, you can expect to pay anywhere between $50 and $600 for this yearly.
Certain generator features will add to the price. These are by no means detrimental to the cost of the generator, but they are still a factor. For example, a portable generator can have various starting modes. There are three starting modes: recoil start, electric start, and remote start. The recoil starting method is usually less expensive than the electric start. While the remote start adds even more to the price.
As for other features, portable generators can come with a fully-featured control panel with various lights and monitors, gauges, hour meters, etc., all of which will add to the price. You can expect price increases with more monitoring and control options. This is why it’s essential to determine which features are necessary for you and worth the investment.
Besides the generator itself, you may need or want to get a couple of items with your generator. One is a generator tent which ranges from $20 for an ordinary but functional tent to $200 or more for a generator enclosure.
Another item you may need is a grounding kit if you need to ground your generator, which you can find for around $50.
You may need to get a transfer switch and pay for installation, which can cost anywhere between $500 and $1500. Finally, you will need to make sure you have adequate storage for your fuel (if necessary), so you need to invest in storage space and containers.
Generator Installation Costs
Once you get a generator, you will need a professional to install it. This additional expense can vary anywhere from $400 to $10000, depending on multiple factors. These factors include the size of your generator, the location, and the structures that already exist or don’t exist on your property.
You won’t have to consider this additional installation cost with a portable generator because they don’t require installation. However, standby generators require professional installation, and the process is something you can’t do by yourself without adequate tools and skills.
There are several things to cross of a list before installation even begins:
- Getting the necessary permits
- Getting the tools and materials
- Preparing the surface where the generator will live, which is usually a concrete pad
- Fuel tank installation or connecting it to pre-existing utility lines
- Doing the electrical panel upgrade
- Transfer switch installations
As you can see, the installation process includes many steps before and during the installation, which can amount to $10000. But for most people, home generator installation cost ranges between $1400 and $7000. Check with your local electrician for quotes.
There are several times when generators go on sale, and these times are the best to buy a new generator. Generators are usually discounted after the hurricane and tornado seasons (late summer/fall) or after a natural disaster because suppliers order many units that arrive late or go unsold, so they put them on sale.
If you live somewhere where snowstorms are frequent over the winter, then the best time to get a generator will be after the winter’s over. Finally, look at the prices after a new model is released because old models will usually be sold for lower prices.
Home insurance can cover generators if you make sure to get the right policy which includes home systems protection. Additionally, installing a home standby generator can get you a discount on your insurance premium.
No, costs which pertain to purchasing and installing a generator in your home are not tax-deductible. There are, however, certain specific cases when you may qualify for tax credits. This is when a portable generator is used by someone at home with a medical purpose, but there are very strict rules and limits. A whole house generator will not qualify for this.
Generator costs can be anywhere between $200 and $15000 depending on the generator type, power, fuel, and features. The wattage a generator provides is the most crucial factor, so you can find 3000W generators starting at $500, 5000W units from $700, and 7000W units from $1000.
The cost to install a generator ranges from $40 to $10000, with an average between $1400 and $7000. The national average for generator installation cost is around $5000.
Multiple factors influence the answer to how much do generators cost. But beyond that, you need to calculate the long-term costs as well. Part of the price you pay for a generator is upfront. But the installation costs and the fuel consumption are things that will add to the overall cost and will require more investment from you down the line. This is why it’s important not to go for the cheapest option currently, because it may turn out more expensive in a couple of years.