You won’t go too far wrong if you just keep a few things in mind when you’re choosing the best generator for tailgate parties. Don’t buy too much power capacity, because it’ll increase the weight and size of the unit. This will make it heavier and bigger – and less portable.
Try to find a unit that doesn’t need attention every five minutes to monitor oil levels and power output. The more automation, the better the party.
The less noise, the better. You don’t want the loudest thing at the gathering to be your new generator. So, while keeping an eye on how much power you need, don’t go over the top and that’ll keep the noise levels down. You may even want look for the best inverter generator for tailgating, if noise is one of your primary concerns, because inverters are a lot quieter than traditional types.
Outlets. It’s important to think about what you’re going to connect and run from the generator, and to make sure that it provides enough of, and the correct outlets and ports for what you’re going to need.
Do you need a special generator for tailgating?
The answer to this question is yes, you do. Generators designed for other uses tend to produce more noise when they’re running, and a good tailgate generator should run as quietly as possible. You’ll also find that portable generators that incorporate fuel efficiency measures are usually quieter running, because they’ll monitor the demand on the generator and adjust the fuel input to suit. So, the generator will run more quietly, at less revs, whenever it’s able.
The best tailgating generators will also be a lot more portable and lighter than other models in a range or on the market.
Another great option to look for, if you’re intending to run quite a few things off the generator at a party, or when camping out, is a generator that allows parallel connection. This just gives you the option to beef up your available wattage, while still only dealing with small and portable units. You essentially end up with a much bigger generator, made up of two or more units that are easy to move around.
Important features to consider before you buy a generator for a tailgate party
Consider weight, size and noise level. But also bear in mind the factors that will work against keeping those three things at lower values. Such as wattage required, and how many devices and appliances you’re going connect. Somewhere in the middle is your ideal generator, as small and lightweight as possible, but with enough grunt to do the job.
It’s as simple as adding up the wattages of what you want to run, and then looking at units within the right range. Give yourself a bit of extra capacity and you’re set.
Fuel options: gas, propane, or both?
A factor to consider here is availability, and ease of that availability. Go for a fuel that’s going to be east to find and buy – it’ll save you time and hassle and keep you partying longer.
This obviously desirable, because without the engine running, you’re dead in the water.
Cheap is great, but not if it’s going to break down every time you turn around.
Fuel tank capacity and runtime
This will vary from manufacturer to manufacturer, and from budget point to budget point. It’s obviously going to be great to have a machine that’ll run for hours and hours without attention, and it obviously promotes partying if you can just forget it, leave the fuel can stowed, and get on with having a great time. This can be a weight factor, though. And it’s almost better to let that fuel tank run fairly low before you have to move your generator when the party is over, because dry weight is always going to be lighter to move.
More outlets mean more versatility, and more appliances or devices running at any one time. On smaller generators, you’re going to be looking at lower voltage outlets and some USB ports. Bigger generators are more likely to feature more mains voltage ports.
You’ll need to consider carefully what you want to run off your tailgate generator before you take the plunge, because outlets and ports available will differ from model to model. There’s no use buying something with loads of big power outlets if all you need is a hub for charging devices like phones and tablets – likewise, USB ports are going to be little use to you if you want to run big stuff, like cooking appliances for instance.
Think before you buy – what will you be looking to hook up to your new generator?
Less is more when it comes to noise. And that goes for if you’re trying to find a bit of peace and quiet in the countryside, or if you’re looking to whip up a storm of a party or hold a social gathering. Nobody wants to hear the drone of a generator.
Size, weight, and portability
You want enough power and you want the generator to do its job without overloading it, but you’ll be weighing that up – literally, against how big and heavy it is, and in turn how portable the machine is. By nature, you want it to be as mobile as possible, and you don’t want it to be a physical strain to lift it – because you’ll be doing that frequently.
Likewise, on a camping trip or when loading up the car or the truck for a tailgate party, space is nearly always limited because you’re hauling lots of gear. So, a good tailgate generator shouldn’t end up being too big because you went over the top on power. Keep it as small as you can for the power you require – that’s your best generator for tailgate parties.
Features like these might save your life, or at least save the party from fizzling out due to lack of lighting and power. Look for a generator that has low-oil shutoff. This basically means that it’ll have a device inside that monitors the oil level and shuts off the engine if it drops too low. It can save the engine from being damaged beyond repair, because engines need lubrication – often smaller engines need it more. This feature is a great thing to have in a situation where you just want to have some fun and take the power for granted. Hardly anybody goes camping or starts a tailgate party because they want to spend time tending to a generator and taking oil level measurements.
Another great feature that falls under the safety section is overload protection. This is a system that gets built into the machine to monitor how much power is being drawn at any given time. In an extreme situation, this feature can stop a fire from happening, because it’ll cut power when a dangerous amount of load is put on the generator, that could cause short circuit, or make the generator overheat. Not only will this feature keep the machine operating only within recommended guidelines, and keep it from harm, it’s also another set-it-and-forget-it option that means you can join the party and not worry about power.
We love a warranty. The longer is always the better when it comes to warranties, and the length of warranty can be a good indicator of a manufacturer’s confidence in the quality and build of their product. Just remember to maintain your generator as per manufacturer guidelines, or that warranty will be void, and it’ll no longer matter how long or comprehensive it is.
The more safety features and dials you get on your machine, the better. A dipstick for the oil will allow you to easily monitor levels before each use – and an auto-oil shutoff is ideal, if you can get one.
A fuel gauge will be more useful than you can ever possibly imagine and will make keeping the generator running when you need it easy.
Keep the generator on a level and solid surface whenever you can. Keep it clean and dry and be gentle with when transporting it. It’s a great idea to get a strap on it if you’re moving it around in the back of a truck.
How much do tailgating generators usually cost?
As with most things, there’s a range in price out there. The most expensive generators for tailgating, or in any class, are nearly always going to the Honda and Yamaha models. Expect to pay somewhere around the $1000 mark for the bigger brands in the marketplace.
There’s also a mid-range with tailgate generators, and brands like Champion tend to sit in this band. You’ll be looking at $600–$700 when you’re searching within this range of products.
You can also find budget orientated generators for tailgating, and you’ll find operators like Wen sitting down at this end of the market. You can pick up generators in this bracket for as little as $400–$500, as a guide.