Where to buy a portable generator

Are you a big outdoorsman? Enjoy camping, traveling the countryside with your RV, or just hanging with the family on the beach? Then you may be thinking about getting a portable generator. With the excitement that travel brings to families during social distancing, more and more homeowners are looking into alternative options when it comes to traditional energy, including generators.

Thinking about getting one yourself? We applaud your decision. Among other things, generators can give you peace of mind knowing that you have options when you’re traveling or on the go. But where to get one? We know that the easy, go-to answer is online, but give us a moment to take you through some of the pros and cons of other retail options you may not have considered, including home improvement stores, industry-specific supply stores, major general goods stores, online, direct from the retailer, independent distributors, and similar third-party industries.

Companies, small businesses, or independent sellers (e.g. Goal Zero or Inergy)

There are some pretty impressive companies emerging who specialize in exactly this kind of product. Companies like Goal Zero or Inergy are committed to creating eco-friendly products that fit into your lifestyle in a number of ways.

Pros: Places like Goal Zero have award-winning lines of portable power stations that give you power at the push of a button, making for truly quiet, fumeless solar storage battery and backup generator options. Their prices are comparable to other name brand generators and you have peace of mind knowing that the back up power to your home comes backed by an established company with years of experience in the solar tech industry.

Cons: Finding individual experts outside of the direct manufacturer (like Goal Zero) may prove tricky because you’re relying on a single person or entity to follow up with you on a personalized generator. Most major retailers have pretty strict policies when it comes to honoring things like malfunctioning products. Individuals do not. If your DIY generator breaks, and you don’t have a strong working relationship with the person who helped you build it, you may be left trying to figure out how to fix it on your own.

Home improvement stores near me selling solar generators (e.g. Home Depot)

A go-to option for purchasing a generator might be a home improvement store in your local area, such as The Home Depot, Lowes, ACE Hardware, or Menards.

Pros: With a major home improvement store chain, you’ll probably have the benefit of being able to opt into buying a pretty solid warranty, which could come in handy if anything were to happen to the generator after you buy it. You’re also likely to have the benefit of choosing from a fairly wide variety of generator brands, and in most cases, major home improvement chains staff their businesses with experts who can and will give you information about each brand of generator and how one differs from the other.

Cons: Though the employees of most major home improvement retailers don’t rely on commission, with employee options can come biases as well, so it’s possible that the generator that seems best to the home improvement store employee may not actually meet your needs as a homeowner. It’s also possible that the warranty—though potentially beneficial—can be pricier at a major home improvement retailer than at other retailers. Also, keep in mind that, during a panic, people buy from places they can picture and they buy fast (remember when toilet paper was scarce?), so when push comes to shove, your generator could be sold out faster in the bigger home improvement chains.

Industry-specific stores selling portable generators (e.g. Cabelas)

Portable Generator

Not sure what an industry-specific store is? It’s a store catered to a specific industry that would sell a generator, like farming. Some of their major chains include C-A-L Ranch, The Tractor Supply Company, Atwood, Fleet Farm, or Cabelas.

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Pros: Because they’re industry-specific, these stores may be more likely to have a higher number of generators in stock. They may also have a more cost-effective variety of generators from which to choose. Another benefit is that, unlike the home improvement chains, the employees in industry-specific stores may be more likely to actually try or own their own generators, which could give them greater insight into the product offerings.

Cons: Unless you live in a state with a wide population of farm options, you may not have access to an industry-specific store. Though the generator options may be more cost-effective, they may also be fewer in number, so keep that in mind when you order one. Also, not all industry-specific stores allow you to order online, so—depending on the store you go into—you may be forced to visit several locations if their stock is limited.

Large retailers that sell portable generators (e.g. Walmart)

To buy a generator, you don’t need to simply limit your visit to home improvement or industry-specific stores. Places like Walmart, Costco, Sam’s Club, Target, or Sears also sell those bad boys.

Pros: The prices of generators at these stores are likely to be lower because they cater to a wider, more cost-focused audience. The availability of less expensive generators may also be greater seeing as, again, these stores cater to a wider demographic, like homemakers and people looking for general goods items, not just generators.

Cons: Because these stores cater to a wider, more cost-focused audience, the quality of their generator options may not be as high as they might be if you purchased one somewhere where they cater to an audience specifically looking for generators.

Third-party companies retailers that sell similar products (e.g. Vivint Solar)

Last, but not least, you may want to think about bundling the purchase of a generator along with a similar product, like a solar energy system.

Pros: Because you’re bundling, the third-party company may give you a deal on the price, and be willing to install said generator at no additional cost. With the installation, you may also get peace of mind with the likelihood of warranty and maintenance options available to you.

Cons: If you don’t want to buy an additional item along with your generator (like a solar energy system) this purchase option may not be for you.

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