Portable VS Standby Generators

A lot of you may not know this but when it comes to generators there are two different and distinct types. Most of you may already be familiar with the standard portable generator. These are the units that you see at campsites, RVers using, or sitting in your neighbor’s driveway during a power outage. These are the most common generators. They provide a mobile alternative power source for a relatively cheap price. (Depending on the model you purchase you could pay as low as two-hundred dollars.) The majority of the time they run off of standard eighty-seven octane gasoline but there are some models out there that run on a propane tank. (The same tank you use to fire up your gas grill.) Portable generators also come with a relatively easy installation process depending on what you’re using for.

What a lot of folks aren’t aware of are generators known as standby generators. These more or less accomplish the same thing as portable generators. They provide you with an alternative power source. The difference here though is that standby generators are not mobile. They are a stationary generator that is typically much much larger then your portable systems and can provide a lot more power. Another key difference is that a standby generator is automated. What that means is that if your power goes out today and you have a portable system then you are going to have to go outside, pull it out of the garage, prep it, route your cords, and then start it. That’s a lot of work. With a standby system once your power goes out the standby will start after only a few seconds and your power will come right back on almost seamlessly. Then, when the power does come back from the electric grid your standby system will shut right off. It’s a very easy no hassle system.

Let’s do a quick Pros and Cons of each type of Generator:

Portable Generators


  • Able to provide power anywhere in the world. (Within reason)
  • Much cheaper then standby systems.
  • Portable and able to be wheeled around as needed.
  • Variety of uses such as camping, RVing, job sites, or emergency home power.
  • Can be routed directly to your circuit breaker via a manual transfer switch.


  • Manual setup each time it is needed. This includes pulling it out of the garage, prepping it, routing the cords, and starting the system.
  • Carbon Monoxide poisoning is a very big risk when it comes to using portable generators.
  • Fire or electrocution risk.
  • Unit is not shielded from weather
  • Power or wattage supply is limited and it may be difficult to find a system to power your whole home.

Standby Generators


  • Everything is automated. If your power goes out there is no work or worry.
  • Most standby units come with a shielded case to prevent damage from the weather and to keep water out.
  • Lots of power and watts. In some cases you may find models as high as forty-thousand watts.
  • The standby system can be hooked directly up to a large propane tank. (Eight-hundred or one-thousand gallon tanks.) By doing this your system can run for a week or more with no hassle.
  • Twenty-four seven protection even if you are out of town and the power goes out.


  • Cost is a huge one here. Not only do you have pay thousands for your standby system but you also have to pay thousands for the installation.
  • Installation cost and overall process. I mentioned this above but it’s worth bringing up again.
  • The unit is stationary and cannot be moved.


Ok folks, so now we understand the differences between a portable and a standby generator. The question now though is what unit is right for you? If you are unsure then I highly recommend reading our ‘What Are The Best Generators,’ guide by clicking here. This guide goes into the different types of applications, sizing, and product features to look out for. After reading the guide you should then have an accurate idea of what type of generator that you need.

If you do decide to go the portable generator route then I would highly recommend you visit our Generator Safety Guide. This safety guide goes through all of the Do’s and Don’ts of running a portable generator as well as what to look out for. Remember folks, it is always better to be safe then sorry.

Lastly, since this article has to deal with generators I need to provide our disclaimer. ToughAssTool’s is not liable for any product or property damage, injuries, or anything else when it comes to generators. This article was designed to provide advice and information to the reader. We are not liable for any consequences.

Thank you for reading,

Alec Johnson


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