Running a food truck requires a lot of electrical power, but it’s important that your power source is just as portable as the rest of your kitchen. Finding the best generator for a food truck can allow you to reliably power your kitchen for as long as you have customers, while keeping your facility mobile.
To help you find the best generator for your food trailer operation, we’ve looked at a number of features that are important for these machines. We looked at whether they run on gasoline or propane, as this can affect the power output, run time and cost of running your generator. We also looked at the power rating and maximum output, which will determine how many appliances and small electronics you can power with your generator. Finally, we looked at key details such as how long different generators run, how loud they are and whether or not they come with a manufacturer’s warranty.
We spent dozens of hours researching the most popular generators, reading customer reviews and listening to what other food truck operators have to say about their generators. We also took a close look at the technical specifications of each generator. The result is our list of the six best generators for a food truck, shown in the table below. Read on for detailed reviews of each generator. Next, our buying guide covers everything you need to know about choosing the right generator for your business. Finally, we summarise our three favourite food truck generators on the market today.
It’s hard to beat this incredibly quiet and efficient generator from renowned engine maker Honda. The generator produces only 58dB of noise at full power, which is quieter than most conversations, so it won’t disrupt the aesthetics of your food truck. The generator also boasts an 18 hour runtime at a quarter charge, which is about as long as most food truck owners are open. The unit is relatively compact and portable, with a lightweight frame that makes it easy to transport.
In terms of power, the generator is in the middle of the road. It is rated at 5,500 watts continuous and up to 7,000 watts surge, which can meet the needs of most food truck owners, making it the best inverter generator for a food truck. The front panel is equipped with two 30A lockable outlets and has the capacity to produce 250V when needed. Note that there are no USB sockets or 12V battery charger, which may reduce the usefulness of the generator for some purposes.
The generator is extremely reliable thanks to the 389cc Honda engine it contains, and it has a simple start button instead of the traditional pull cord. This engine is responsible for the high energy efficiency and low noise levels, but it comes at a high price: this generator is by far the most expensive of all those we reviewed. That said, the generator has the longest commercial warranty of any model we reviewed, at three years.
- 5.1 gal.
- 18 hours
- Honda GX390 EFI, 389cc
- 20A 125V GFCI Duplex (2), 30A 125V Locking Plug, 30A 125/250V Locking Plug
- 58 dB(A) @ rated load, 52 dB(A) @ 1/4 load
This compact gasoline generator from Westinghouse is perfect for food truck operators who have relatively modest power requirements but want the option of powering their generator with gasoline instead of propane. The generator is rated at 3,700 and 4,500 watts at start-up.
The generator is also very fuel-efficient because it runs on gasoline, which is an advantage for cost-conscious food truck owners. It can run for up to 18 hours on just over three gallons of fuel. This is due in part to the 224cc four-stroke engine, which also keeps the noise of this generator to just 52dB at low power, for a cost that is a fraction of the comparable Honda generator.
The generator’s panel features a wide variety of outlets, including a 120V-30A outlet for high-powered devices, two USB charging ports for small electronics, and a 12V DC outlet for charging batteries. However, note that there is no option to upgrade to 220V or higher if needed. The generator also has a push-start feature that makes it easy to start. Overall, the generator is compact and easily transportable thanks to the integrated handle and wheels.
Note that, like many other manufacturers, Westinghouse only offers a one-year warranty on this generator for commercial uses such as food trucks.
- 3.4 gal
- 1/4 charge life
- 18 hours
- Westinghouse OHV 4-stroke, 224cc
- (1) Duplex 120V 20A (5-20R), (1) 120V 30A (TT-30R), (2) USB 5V ports
- 52 dB(A)
- Limited to 3 years (residential), limited to 1 year (commercial)
Limited to 3 years (residential), limited to 1 year (commercial)
This rugged DuroMax generator is designed for food trucks that simply can’t get enough power from a smaller generator. The huge 457cc DuroMax engine provides up to 9,500 watts of continuous power when running on gasoline and can handle surges up to 12,000 watts. This provides the power to run several fridges and freezers, several microwaves and an air conditioning unit. Although the generator itself is quite large and difficult to transport, if your food truck can hold all the appliances needed to absorb all its power, chances are it can also hold the generator itself at the end of the day.
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The generator can also run on propane, which is an advantage given the relatively short running time of the generator. The low fuel efficiency of the large engine is to be expected, but the fact that the nearly eight-gallon gas tank disappears in just eight hours at half load can be problematic for food trucks that are open for long hours. In addition, running this generator on gasoline all the time can quickly become expensive. Note that the generator is relatively loud (up to 74 dB), which can create an uncomfortable environment for your customers.
The panel of this generator is built to match its massive power output. It has several three-pronged outlets as well as two four-pronged 120V/240V outlets to easily handle your heavier appliances. The generator also has a 12V DC outlet for easy battery charging, and a built-in analog voltmeter displays the power you’re drawing from the unit at all times.
9500/12000W (gas), 8075/10200W (propane)
457cc DuroMax OHV
120/240v 4-Prong Twist Lock, 120v 3-Prong Receptacle, 120v 3-Prong Twist Lock, 120/240v 4-Prong Receptacle
Limited to 3 years (residential), limited to 1 year (commercial)
This Generac gasoline generator provides a tremendous amount of power for the price. The 389cc Generac engine is rated at 6,500 watts of continuous power and up to 8,125 watts of peak power, making it suitable for the most gas-guzzling food trucks on the street.
Unfortunately, all this power comes with a few drawbacks. First, the generator is noisy for its size. The engine is not covered with an insulating coating like the Honda and Westinghouse generators, so the generator can muffle some conversations if it is placed too close to your truck. In addition, the generator is not very fuel efficient. Even with its large 7.2-gallon tank, the generator can only run for 10 hours at half load. For food truck operators who need to run this generator at full power, it can be difficult to keep it running for the entire opening period without taking a break to cool down and recharge.
The front panel of the generator is amply equipped with power outlets – it has four standard 120V outlets as well as a 30A lockable outlet that can be switched to 240V. The starting function is electric and operates through a simple on/off switch. Many users have reported that the generator is extremely easy to set up and start, and has started first time every time.
Fuel tank capacity
Run time at half load
Generac OHV 389cc
(4) 20 Amp 120V locking plugs, (1) 30 Amp 120/240V
2 year limited (residential), 1 year limited (commercial)
Champion Power Equipment 100302
For a petrol generator, the reliability of the Champion 100302 is one of the reasons why this offer should be celebrated. If you compare this model with its predecessors from the same manufacturer, you will notice a lighter body.
A closer look will also reveal that it is quieter in operation than other Champion 3500 watt generators that have come before it. That said, it is still a noisy and heavy machine.
The generator is also rated at 4000W as its start-up power output. However, when running continuously, you should expect 3500W. This translates into 17 hours of uninterrupted power with a full tank. As such, this is sufficient for food trucks, provided you remember to fill the tank on time.
Food truck appliances also differ in their energy requirements. Fortunately, there are several sockets on the generator to supply them all. These are (2) 120V-20A outlets, an RV 120V-30A outlet and finally a 12V DC outlet. Since this is an inverter generator, it can be directly connected to your food truck equipment without the risk of damaging it.
Depending on the size of the operation, you may also need more power than a single unit of the Champion 100302 can provide. The optional parallel kit is designed for such situations. It allows two similar generators to be combined for higher electrical output.
Nominal/maximum output 3500/4000 W
Fuel tank capacity 2.9 gal.
¼ of charge completion time 17 hours
Engine 224 cc Outputs
64 dBA Limited to 3 years
This inexpensive generator from Pulsar is perfect for food truck owners who are on a tight operating budget and do not need a huge amount of power. The generator is powered by gasoline and produces up to 3,500 watts of continuous power and 4,000 watts of peak power, which is enough to power a basic refrigerator, freezer and microwave, with a little extra power.
With this small power output and the 224cc four-stroke engine, the generator is very fuel efficient and can run for up to 15 hours on the relatively small 3.4 gallon tank at half load. This means you won’t have to worry about turning off your generator halfway through your meal times. However, the generator is not soundproofed and is surprisingly loud for its small size (63 dB).
The generator panel has everything you might need to power a few devices, including two 120V outlets, a 30A lockable outlet, a USB charging port and a 12V DC battery charging outlet. The generator is an inverter generator, which means it’s capable of producing clean voltage that’s safe for sensitive electronics – an advantage if you’re running your computer or smartphone as a cash register from the generator. However, the generator is not capable of switching to a 240V output for heavy-duty devices. The generator has a push-button electric starter function, but there is no indication of how much power the generator is consuming at any one time.
- 3.4 gal.
- 15 hrs
- single-cylinder, 4-stroke, OHV, air-cooled, 224cc
- (1) Dual 120V 20AMP socket, (1) RV 120V 30AMP socket, (1) 12V DC 8AMP socket & ; (1) Integrated USB sockets with parallel sockets
- ~63 dB
- Limited to 1 year
Why do you need a special generator for a food truck?
A food truck presents many unique challenges when it comes to choosing a generator. Space is often tight, both inside the truck and outside around the truck. You need to be able to talk to your customers and ensure that they can enjoy their meal in peace. The generator should not be too noisy, otherwise customers will be scared away.
Food trucks also tend to have a lot of motorised, power-hungry appliances, such as refrigerators, air conditioners, microwaves and electric cookers, which require a generator that can handle the constant power surges and high power. Another important consideration is that your generator must run as long as your truck is open, which means you can run it uninterrupted for hours.
All of these challenges combine to require a powerful, yet quiet, and compact generator with a large fuel tank. Not all generators are built to meet the demands of powering a restaurant, which is why it is so important to look for generators that can meet the demands of this environment.
Important features to consider before buying a generator for a food truck
Generators can vary greatly in terms of power, fuel, operation and reliability. Here we explain the most important features of generators and how they relate to the operation of your food truck.
How much power do you need?
The first thing to consider when choosing a generator for your food truck is the power, measured in watts, that you will need. To find this out, simply add up the power of all the electrical appliances you plan to run on the generator – this is the number of continuous watts you will be using.
The generators we looked at range in operating power from 3,500 watts for the Pulsar to 9,500 watts for the DuroMax.
It is also important to consider the extra power that motorised appliances, such as fridges, freezers and air conditioners, consume when they are first started. Most generators are able to carry an increased load, called peak power, for a period of time to help motorised appliances start up. You need to make sure that the sum of everything you have already plugged into the generator, plus the peak power of your motorised appliances, is less than the peak power rating, or maximum power output, of your generator. In general, generators with higher continuous power also have a higher surge output – for example, the DuroMax generator has the highest surge output of any generator we reviewed, at 12,000 watts.
Fuel: gasoline, propane, or both?
Modern generators are designed to run on either gasoline or propane, while most generators only accept one fuel or the other, dual-fuel generators, like the DuroMax model, can accept both.
The main advantage of petrol is that it produces more power than propane, which is particularly valuable on dual-fuel generators. In addition, gasoline is readily available and you can fill your generator at the same time as you fill your truck tank. For these reasons, gasoline and dual-fuel generators are generally better options for food trucks than propane-only generators.
On the other hand, gasoline is more expensive than propane and can be more difficult to store inside your food truck, as it almost always produces fumes. Another reason why propane is advantageous is that the running time of gasoline generators is limited by the size of their tank – the generator must be turned off and cooled down before adding more gas.
A powerful and reliable engine
The engine is the heart of any generator and directly affects the amount of power a generator will be able to produce. For example, the 457cc engine in the DuroMax generator has the largest engine volume of all the generators we looked at, so this model has the highest power rating.
Another thing to think about when looking at generator engines is whether they are two-stroke or four-stroke. Four-stroke engines, such as those found in the Pulsar and Westinghouse generators, are generally slightly quieter and more fuel efficient than their two-stroke cousins.
Fuel tank capacity and range
Run time is an extremely important consideration when choosing a generator for a food truck, as you don’t want to lose power or have generator downtime while dealing with customers. Gas-powered generators are limited by the size of their fuel tank, which ranges from less than four gallons for the Pulsar model to more than seven gallons for the Generac generator.
Note that range is determined not only by tank size, but also by fuel efficiency and power input. The most fuel-efficient engines will have longer run times for the same amount of fuel, which is why Honda and Pulsar generators have impressive run times with relatively modest fuel tanks.
Outputs and versatility
Making sure you have all the outlets you may need for your appliances is also an important part of choosing a generator for your food truck. Some heavy-duty appliances require 240V lockable outlets or 30A outlets rather than the standard 120V-20A household outlets found on almost all generators. In addition, you need to determine if you need USB charging ports built into your generator or if you need a 12V DC outlet to charge the batteries.
Noise is another important consideration when choosing a food truck, as it can have a significant impact on how pleasant the environment is for customers. You need to be able to communicate with your customers to take orders and, if you offer seating, your customers will want to be able to chat with their friends while they eat. Noise levels of generators can vary considerably, from 52 dB for the Westinghouse generator to over 70 dB for the DuroMax generator.
Size, weight and portability
It is important to keep in mind that you will need to move your generator between the inside of your food truck for storage and the outside for daily operation. Therefore, you need a generator that is small enough to fit inside your truck and light and portable enough to be moved easily. In general, generators with a higher power rating and a larger fuel tank are larger and heavier. If portability is a major concern, look for generators with a sturdy chassis, such as the Honda, DuroMax and Generac models, rather than just built-in wheels.
A generator is an important investment for your business, so you want to be sure it will last. Generators usually come with a manufacturer’s warranty, but this is often only for one year for commercial use. The rare exception on our list is the Honda generator with its three-year commercial warranty.
The most important advice we can give on the use of your generator concerns its maintenance and safe use.
If you want your generator to keep working for years, it is extremely important to maintain it. This means keeping the oil fresh and full and not leaving petrol in the fuel tank for long periods.
Another important tip is to let the generator cool down completely before adding fuel to the tank. Adding gasoline while the generator is still hot can cause sparks, which is extremely dangerous.
Food truck generator prices
Unfortunately, you should expect to invest a fair amount of money to get a quality generator for your food truck. The more powerful generators are generally more expensive and can easily exceed €1,000, while generators from reputable engine manufacturers like Honda can cost several thousand dollars. The cheapest generator we looked at, from Pulsar, costs €850.
Our three favourite food truck generators on the market today are the Honda EU7000iS, the Westinghouse iGen4500 and the DuroMax XP12000EH. The DuroMax generator is the ideal choice for massive food trucks that need to power multiple refrigerators, freezers, microwaves and more, thanks to its massive 9,000 watts of gasoline power. For food trucks with nearby seating that want to create a more pleasant environment for their customers, the Honda and Westinghouse generators produce well under 60 dB of noise. The Westinghouse also has an impressive 18 hours of run time at 25% charge, which is an advantage for food truck owners concerned about the cost of gasoline or the limited range of the generator. We believe the Honda generator is the best generator for food trucks because of its extraordinarily reliable Honda engine, high fuel efficiency and long 18-hour runtime. It is also the only generator we have reviewed that comes with a three-year commercial warranty.
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