A steal at $200

Oct 23, 2011 (Updated Oct 29, 2011)
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Inexpensive, reliable, works as intended

Cons:Oil inlet in weird spot; requires a lot of maintenance

The Bottom Line: I have read of concerns over build quality, but this is a great unit if you get a good one and maintain it regularly.

Back in July, the power went off all over scenic Benton after a substation blew up due to the load put on it as people ran their air conditioners to combat the extreme heat.

When the power went out and we learned it was unlikely we would get it back any time soon, my wife and I immediately got worried about a freezer full of meat. If they would have spoiled, we were looking at loosing about $600 worth of meat. We decided to get a generator, but wanted one that would do in a pinch and not break the bank.

We headed to the local Tractor Supply Co. and were pleasantly surprised by the low price on the Buffalo Tools Sportsman 2000 -- a $200 generator that touts 1,500 running watts. That's enough to run a freezer and, as it turns out, a small refrigerator. The only question, of course, is whether the unit is worth anything at $200.

In our case, it was well worth the money. There have been, however, some reports of sloppy build quality with these things. I've heard tell of everything from units that won't start to ones that leak oil like crazy. We've had none of those problems with our generator, but using a bit of caution when buying one of these bargain-basement things is probably wise.

At any rate, setting up the generator was easy enough. All I had to do was put oil in the crankcase (a bit of a chore because you really do have to use a funnel due to the odd location of the oil inlet), pour in some gas, turn the unit on, set the choke, open the fuel line and pull the ripcord. Setting it up was quite easy and I was able to manage it in almost total darkness with only the aid of a small flashlight.

Once the generator was started, it stayed running without incident for three days. The unit only comes with a 1.8-gallon gas tank that lasts about nine hours under a full load, so I did have to run back to my house and put fuel in it regularly (we weren't home when the power was out -- stayed in a hotel as it was over 100 degrees during the outage). That is a minor complaint as this unit was only $200. The good news, of course, is that the generator ran like a chanmp for three days and kept our freezer running with no problems.

Bear in mind that 1,500 running amps isn't just a whole lot. The generator can handle -- as I said -- a freezer, a small refrigerator and perhaps a fan and a lamp. That's about it. If you need something that will power more appliances, this generator isn't for you. However, if you need something that will do in a pinch or power a few things on a camping trip, the unit is ideal (assuming you get one that doesn't have a manufacturing defect, of course). Ours has proven reliable and quite portable. Yes, it is a bit heavy as you're talking about a unit with a 2.8 HP engine and close to two gallons of gas -- the weight of the engine and gas does add up. Still, it's no problem for one person to lug this generator around and set it up where necessary.

Another thing to bear in mind is that this unit does require maintenance. You don't get the "low oil" shutoff that comes standard on a lot of generators, so it is essential to check the oil prior to every use and make sure it's not low. Also, cutting off the fuel flow and running the unit until all the gas is out of the carburetor prior to storing the generator is critical. You don't want gas settling in it, aging and then messing up the unit. It's also a good idea to drain the fuel from the tank before storing the generator, but that is a bit of a chore. Make sure to check the spark plug before every use and keep the air filter clean, too. No, this isn't one of those "set it and forget" it generators in that it does require some effort to keep it in running order. Still, a little bit of care and attention will keep this generator working just fine.

Another concern is that it is a bit of a pain to start after it has been stored. Don't panic if it takes up to eight solid pulls on the ripcord to get the generator started again. It does take some time for the fuel to fill up in the carburetor, after all, so just expect it.

Oh, and one more thing -- this generator is loud. How loud? Right on par with one of those inexpensive lawnmowers powered by a Briggs & Stratton 3.5 HP motor. In a power outage, the sound of this thing will simply fill the neighborhood.

All in all, this has proven to be a solid generator at a low price. The construction does feel a bit on the cheap side for some components, leading me to suspect that taking the time to maintain the unit is critical. In our house, the unit is stored on a shelf in the garage (yes, it's small enough to fit on a large shelf) and will be dragged out and used when needed again. It's nice to have around for those annoying emergencies that tend to pop up from time to time.

10/24/11 revision -- Advisor popsrocks mentioned that one of the features on this unit is a low oil cut-off switch. I was operating under the assumtion that mine does not have one as the user manual makes no mention of one (however, a PDF of the manual I downloaded does reference one). However, I dug out the original box and it does make mention of a low oil cut-off switch, whereas the user's manual is silent about it. Apparently, such a switch is standard on newer models but not on older ones. That being the case, I'm not quite sure if I have such a switch or not. Regardless, poprocks has some good advice -- always try to buy a unit with such a switch as it can save the machine from getting ruined.

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