Kohler Vs. Generac: Which Generator Brand Is Better?

There are several things about generators that will confuse you, with several fans of specific brands swearing that you cannot beat them. Many people claim that Generac generators are far better, while others say Kohler generators are the best.

While there are many exceptions, Kohler generators are generally better if you need a quiet, durable standby generator next to your home. Generac generators excel at more demanding situations and offer a broader selection of options to choose from, but they are often louder than Kohler generators.

However, simply saying that one manufacturer is better than the other is not always the best way to find a generator for your home. We recommend that you look at every advantage and disadvantage that the manufacturers have for their generators and the overall choices you have.

Which Generator Brand Is Better? ...
Which Generator Brand Is Better? – Pick Generators
Generator CharacteristicKohler GeneratorsGenerac Generators
ReliabilityVery reliableIndustrial-grade and reliable
PowerTypically less powerfulVery powerful
SoundQuieter due to custom coversGenerally uncovered and loud
Ease of UseExtremely user friendlyEasy to use but can get complicated
MaintenanceQuick and easyEasy and very forgiving if you forget

Aspects of the Average Generac Generator

Generac machines have several base aspects that every single one of them shares, with many people worldwide sticking to the brand because of this. Most Kohler generators share these characteristics, with the implementation of each being slightly different.

We always recommend that you try and have these two manufacturers next to each other to see the actual differences. Apart from the color, you will find that both manufacturers have different positions for many of the buttons and service locations.

Reliability of Machines

Generac has some of the most reliable machines out there; while they need regular servicing, we have seen some Generac machines that started up without problem after decades of storage. We always recommend that you consider this if you are going to be getting larger generators.

Further, because many of the larger generators are made for larger offices, larger homes, or just larger workloads, they are made to run for hours on end. You can often find that a Generac generator will happily keep working for several days, only stopping or slowing down when you need to add more fuel.

Power Capability

Generac does not have as many smaller, specific generators as many other manufacturers, as they are more focused on overall ability. The manufacturer provides generators as small as handheld generators and goes up to larger generators than the average New York apartment.

This allows you to choose from a generator you can keep in the back of your truck for emergencies or generators that you can install underneath your apartment building. Generac does not offer any specific solutions, but it does offer a larger range of power generation.

Sound Levels

Generac generators usually don’t have covers, which means they will be making a lot more noise than other generators. However, because they typically provide less than their maximum power, you may find that they can operate at a much lower volume overall.

It is always important to remember that your Generac generator comes standard without a cover, making the noise much louder. This is why you will see many professional installers for generators insist on adding covers, not just because of protection, but for sound control of the machine.

Ease of Use

Portable Generac generators are about as easy to service and control as almost any other generator that you can find in the world. However, their larger generators can be rather complicated, with many of them having their switch and fuse boards to help control the power.

Further, these larger generators usually run a lot hotter and require a lot more know-how of the machine to work correctly. Often this is why you will have to call on generator servicing engineers when you have a larger Generac machine powering your home or office.

Service Intervals

As generators get larger, their service intervals drastically increase, with many larger generators running full time needing a service only once every year. This is because the machines have more to work with, often being appropriately cooled and having more oil overall, preventing damage.

Your Generac machine will not require a constant level of servicing and will allow you to relax a bit more as it continues to work perfectly. We often see people confused about when they last had their machines serviced, usually because a company has service agreements with a local contractor.

Aspects of the Average Kohler Generator

We have to start with the generators that are most likely perfect for your small home, your large home, or even just your vacation home. These machines all have several aspects that have made them the most loved machines by many homeowners and installers.

It can be hard to understand just how much these machines are different from others, with many people making the mistake of assuming that they are all the same. Several things will tell you more about Kohler generators that are important to consider when getting one.

Reliability of Machines

Kohler machines for your home are considered highly reliable, as they are made to stand in your backyard or shed until they are needed. This is why you usually will be more likely to find Kohler generators with covers, making them reliable even when not treated ideally.

It will depend on how you treat your generator, but it will last for lifetimes if your Kohler machine is being serviced and kept clean. Many people report that their generators are still running even after decades of constant use, mixed in with proper servicing.

Power Capability

While Kohler does not beat Generac in the sheer amount of power produced, it has a much more significant variance in the energy produced. This is important when you are trying to stay within a budget and need everything powered in your home or office.

The ability to choose between several sets of generators for specific ranges of power needs means that Kohler can provide much more specific solutions. We have seen several people that prefer to get Kohler purely because they can get solutions that perfectly fit their power needs instead of providing too much.

Sound Levels

Because the generators usually come with custom-made covers, they are also a lot quieter than most other generators, including Generac. Further, the generators can use several fuel sources that change just how loud the machines are, allowing the generators to run unnoticed.

The best way to explain this is by having your engine start with your car’s hood down, it may still make a sound, but it will not be too audible. However, when you lift the car’s hood, suddenly, all you can hear is the unfettered sound of the engine turning and working.

Ease of Use

As Kohler generators are all aimed at homes and small businesses, their ease of use has been heavily focused on. You will be able to service these generators with a basic knowledge of how the machines work, start them up with the same amount of expertise, and even figure out why they may not start.

We have seen many people who have spent the maximum amount of money on their new generators, aiming to have the fanciest things available. However, they cannot quickly fix it when something goes wrong and are left without power for days as no one can help fix their systems.

Service Intervals

Kohler has been making their generators for homeowners; they know that many people often forget to service their generators. This has caused the company to make their machines slightly more wear-resistant, allowing for longer periods between services.

This means that you can run the generator for more extended periods without servicing it; however, you must strictly adhere to the services. Machines that can handle longer periods between each service needs to be serviced on time or face the engine completely seizing.

How Do the Two Generators Compare Regarding Enclosures?

If we compare Kohler and Generac generators, we need to look at one of the most critical aspects for the average consumer. The way their enclosures work and the covers’ capabilities for protecting the machines they are around.

We have seen several people choose one over the other purely based on the machine’s covers, with many homeowners unaware that what’s under the cover is much more critical. Instead, the generator that has the most aesthetic look on the pamphlet or website is the one many people choose.

Kohler Enclosures

Most Kohler standby or backup generators already come with full enclosures and everything else that you need to install the system. This makes the enclosures perfect for easy access and noise control, keeping them clean and working at all times.

However, because each generator has a specific enclosure, it can be hard to find replacements as the enclosure becomes weathered or damaged. Overall, Kohler has better generator enclosures than Generac as each one is specially made for the unit they are protecting from the rains and sun.

Generac Enclosures

As you move up in Generac generator sizes, they will include enclosures to keep the machines safe; however, at the consumer level, this is not true. Most Generac generators do not include enclosures, instead relying on the basic shape sold by the company.

The enclosures are usually separate from the machines themselves, making them replaceable but not as effective in keeping everything clean. Generac has some suitable enclosures, and if you are looking for large machines, they will include the cover. However, it does lose some quality when you have to purchase the enclosure later.

Which is Quieter, a Kohler or Generac?

Without enclosures, both generators, no matter what their size, will be equally loud, whether they are at a full load or not. However, things become a lot more interesting with enclosures, with Kohler winning with smaller at-home generators or small office generators.

However, because Generac supplies enclosures that are not always perfectly fitted to their machines, you can add some sound dampening if the space allows. Further, larger Generac generators all come with proper enclosures, ensuring that the machines cannot make ears bleed.

We cannot simply recommend one over the other, as both companies have advantages over the other. With Kohler winning by far with domestic and small office generators but Generac overtaking them with larger generators usually hidden away in basements or parking garages.

Which Generator is More Expensive, Kohler or Generac?

The most deciding factor, both Kohler and Generac, have several highly competitive options when it comes to pricing. We have seen several people standing with brochures in their hands, unsure about what to do, as they weigh the benefits and pricing of each manufacturer.

Fortunately, as we move through the generator sizes and the benefits of each one, we recommend sticking to the sizes each company excels at producing. There are three main categories that each company supplies, each one with different pricing for their machines.

Standby Generators

Generally, standby generators from Kohler will be between $2000 to $5000, making them affordable at the low end and feature-rich at the high end. However, Generac is a lot pricier, starting at $3000 and only going up to $4000, making their range of options much more limited and lacking in features.

We always recommend getting a Kohler generator if you will be getting something for your home or small office as a standby generator. Generally, they have features that other generators only add on with larger machines and allow you to power your home without hassle comfortably.

Portable Generators

There is no clear winner between the two companies when it comes to portable generators, as they both provide generators that start below $1000 and up to $5000. The features and functions of each generator heavily depend on its specific design and intended purpose.

We always recommend going with the one you are most comfortable with for portable generators. If one feature makes little sense to you, it is better to stick with a machine that precisely does what it says on the box, helping you have something ready when needed.

Backup Generators

While Kohler does have some backup generators, they will usually be too expensive or too small to function as a true backup generator fully. Generac has some of the best backup generators globally, each one running massive Cummins engines that allow them to run for days nonstop.

Further, because Generac specializes in backup generators, the prices are usually lower than others for much more power. The pricing does start at $4000 and goes into the hundreds of thousands, depending entirely on the size of the machine you may need for your office or site.

What Warranties Do Generac and Kohler Offer?

Now that we have most of the other things listed, we need to start looking at the two companies’ warranties. You should preferably always get a generator that has a warranty on them, as it can be a painful and expensive endeavor to have something fail.

Most companies will offer some warranty, with many companies providing extra warranties that you can buy. When choosing your generator, the warranty options are some of the most important to consider; while it does not often happen, no one wants a brand-new broken machine.

Generac

Generac generators have the same backup generator warranty as Kohler, a five-year warranty on the system. Portable generators enjoy a 3-year warranty on all sizes of the machines, whereas Generac drops the ball and offers only one year of warranty to commercial users of their generators.

If you want to have an extended warranty on the generator, you will have to rely on third-party warranty givers. Further, Generac will require that you use specific technicians to keep the warranty on the machine going, which means that you won’t be able to service the generator yourself for the first few years.

Kohler

For standby and portably generators, Kohler offers the same five-year and three-year warranties that Generac offers. However, there are a few caveats where Kohler also places a 2000-hour limit on the machine for warranties, making it something many people fear.

However, most normal consumers will not reach this operating time with their standard generators. Kohler does not drop the warranty down to one year when you use it for commercial purposes. This is why you will sometimes find people speaking about Kohler for commercial purposes where it may break.

Where Are Generac and Kohler Generators Manufactured?

It is essential to know that both company’s manufacturing facilities are pretty close to each other. We have seen almost full-blown fights over people saying one company is better than the other because they manufacture their generators a few miles apart.


As such, we have to talk about their respective locations, with both companies manufacturing the generators in the United States. This already satisfies many people as it means that the companies are not pushing money to overseas markets, keeping it all within the United States.

Kohler Generators

Near Saukville, Wisconsin, you’ll find Kohler’s main manufacturing facility, where they assemble their large generators. You can find many other prominent Kohler locations worldwide, each one usually working as a storage location for that specific area.

It is important to note that while the final assembly of the machines is at the Kohler manufacturing facility located in Wisconsin, the parts are not all made here. Kohler does not explicitly say where they make all of their parts individually, but we do know most of them are US-made.

Generac Generators

Generac has several plants worldwide, with the main assembly line located in Eagle and Whitewater, Wisconsin, where they produce the final generator. However, Cummins usually makes Kohler engines, and they have several different manufacturing facilities worldwide.

It is important to remember that both companies only have their main manufacturing facilities located in Wisconsin. Usually, Generac will also have most of the parts assembled somewhere else, with the final assembly taking place at the head facility and quality checks done on every machine.

How Long Do Kohler and Generac Generators Last?

If you are servicing the generators every year as you should be doing, then they will easily last for several decades, with the only things degrading being the plastics. Further, we have seen several older generators still running despite being in the rain and snow for years.

The outside condition of a generator does not necessarily predict the engine’s situation on the inside, which is why you will often find rusted machines that work. We always recommend that people have their generator properly serviced even if they think it won’t ever work again.

A generator that has been adequately oiled and taken care of will usually last until something breaks or some external force breaks it. This means that theoretically, a machine that is maintained properly will last forever, allowing you to buy something once and then never have to buy a new one.

Conclusion

Overall, we would recommend getting a Kohler generator if you have smaller power needs as they are made for this sector. In contrast, Generac generators are usually much larger and can provide power to massive office buildings, malls, or large construction sites.

Whatever you do, please always remember that your generator manufacturer cannot prevent you from treating the machine poorly!

Sources

Hubert Miles

I've been conducting home inspections since 2002. I'm a licensed Home Inspector, Certified Master Inspector (CMI), and an FHA 203k Consultant. I started PickGenerators.com to help people better understand whole-house and portable generators.

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