The 10 Best Generators For Food Trucks
This wiki has been updated 15 times since it was first published in January of 2019. An economical way to turn your culinary aspirations into reality, food trucks are more popular than ever. However, without AC power available to run important appliances and gadgets like refrigerators, lights and POS systems, you are going to need one of these generators. Be certain to always provide appropriate ventilation and follow all manufacturer's safety guidelines. When users buy our independently chosen editorial choices, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.
October 08, 2020:
Before we begin, it’s important that we recap on the safety warnings espoused by our February 24, 2019 editor’s note for this page, and stress to you one more time how important it is to be observant of best safety practices when working around generators. While they are wonderful machines, for all the things they make possible (like food trucks), they also present a laundry list of potential problems, like toxic-gas emissions and fire hazards. Always familiarize yourself with your generator’s user manual, use common sense while operating it, and never leave it running unsupervised.
There was quite a bit of evolution in this category during this round of updates, with the Generac GP8000E being removed due to availability issues and the Cummins Onan QG 5500 being eliminated due to a combination of its expensive price and a lack of available third-party ratings. We also decided to do away with the Generac GP2200I and Westinghouse WH2200iXLT, noting that their power ratings – both less than 3,000 running watts – may not be sufficient for some food trucks. Deciding to remove these two was a tough decision, as it could easily be argued that their low operating volume was reason enough to keep them around, but with the new addition of the Honda EU2200i Bundle — which combines two similarly sized units with a set of cables to run them in parallel – we felt as if compact inverters were still getting some representation on the page, and we feel much better about the list knowing that it no longer includes any options with rated outputs less than 3,000 running watts.
Our other new additions this time around are the Cat RP7500E — a powerful, 7,500-watt model that’s backed by a three-year limited warranty and compliant with guidelines dictated by the California Air Resources Board; the Craftsman 030799 — which can run for up to 19 hours at half capacity and features a built-in carbon monoxide detector that’ll kill power to the unit when dangerous levels of the gas are detected; and the Yamaha EF6300iSDE — an impressive dual-voltage unit loaded with useful features and packed into a reasonably compact housing, for a 5,500-watt model.
A few things to think about for this category:
Output: A good starting point for this purchase is to figure out just how much power you’ll need, and make sure you select a generator that comfortably exceeds that standard. You don’t want a generator that’s too big, as it’ll likely be louder and produce more exhaust than a smaller option (more on that shortly), but a generator that’s too small is decidedly worse, as it simply can’t do the job.
As we’ve already mentioned, all the machines we listed this time around put out at least 3,000 running watts, but that may well not be enough for your kitchen, so it’s important that you do an inventory of all the electric lighting and appliances in your truck, and figure out just how much power you need. Consider that a single 20-amp branch circuit in your kitchen is rated to put out 1,600 watts continuously, so if you’ve got a refrigerator, freezer, stove and a couple of blenders going, don’t expect 3,000 watts to cover it. Instead, you’ll want to look into one of our heavy-duty options, like the 7,500-watt Westinghouse WGen7500 and Cat RP7500E.
Another important thing to note, in terms of output, is whether you’re looking at a strictly-120-volt option or a dual-voltage selection that can accommodate 240-volt appliances. Needless to say, if you’re running 240-volt equipment, the latter’s a necessity, so look out for models like the Honda EU2200i Bundle that have no 240-volt compatibility.
Volume: You may not have built your food truck business on providing your customers with a quiet, fine-dining experience, but that doesn’t mean that you want some beastly contraption roaring in the background, so your clientele need to shout to order their food. In general, the harder you run a generator the louder it is, and smaller generators tend to be quieter, but there are some companies that have clearly put a little more work into trying to reduce their machine’s ugly rumble to a comfortable hum. The Honda EU7000iAT1, for example, puts out 7,000 watts and purportedly generates as little as 52 decibels during operation, while the Westinghouse WGen7500 is only marginally more powerful, with a 7,500-watt output, but is also significantly louder, producing about 72 decibels during operation.
Air Pollution: Even worse than a noisy generator is a generator that's spewing exhaust all over your lineup, spoiling your customers’ appetites — not to mention their health. We of course recommend that you mitigate this problem by locating your generator as remotely as possible, but it’s also worth looking into models that are less prone to pollution in the first place — like the Cat RP7500E, which is compliant with guidelines dictated by the California Air Resources Board. The Craftsman 030799 and Honda EU2200i Bundle also both feature carbon monoxide detection systems that immediately kill power to the unit the moment dangerous levels are detected.
February 24, 2019:
First of all, we cannot stress safety enough, when it comes to generators. By their very nature, they suck the oxygen out of the surrounding area, and if they aren't properly maintained, can even produce toxic carbon monoxide. Any generator that comes, from the factory, without an enclosure, IS NOT SUITABLE for placement within an enclosure, no matter what. So if you're concerned about operational noise, make an effort to choose one designed to run quietly. Also, the majority of generators are not weatherproof, so if you're under any threat of rain, you'll need an open-sided canopy to cover the unit. Again, we cannot stress safety enough: ensure that you've thoroughly gone over the guidelines for your specific model, and be absolutely certain you've taken all required and recommended precautions. Furthermore, total power output also demands attention. While many of these selections feature circuit breakers than can prevent possible disaster, remember, you're still working with a whole lot of wattage, so treat the current with respect. Moisture, grime, and poor practice can all lead to ignition, and few fires are as daunting as electrical and chemical fires. With all that out of the way, your purchase should be dictated mostly by your total capacity needs. The Westinghouse 7500 is strong enough for just about any food truck, as are the Generac 8000 and the Honda. The Honda is commonly regarded as one of the best in the business, but you'll pay a massive premium for it, as compared to others of similar power. The Ford is even more massive.The Cummins, for what it's worth, is a diesel model that some locales will require by law, and if you're in one of those areas, that is definitely the brand for you. For slightly smaller operations, the Pulsar, Champion, and Green-Power America are tough to beat, and a lot of culinary travelers will find them perfectly sufficient. On the low end of output, and generally the high end of efficiency, the Westinghouse 2200 and Generac 2200 are perfect if you don't need to worry about a refrigerator, but do need to keep lights and a cash register up and running. Whichever you end choosing, again, remember that ventilation and all other safety precautions are gospel; because nobody can eat your delicious food if the truck's going up in flames, or if you've passed out from the fumes. Always be safe.