What Are 12V Coolers Used For?
There are two kinds of 12 volt appliances for keeping your food or drinks cold in a car, van, or truck. 12V coolers and 12V refrigerators. The biggest difference between them is that coolers are only meant to keep things “cool” and portable refrigerators are meant to keep things “cold.”
If you buy a 12 volt car cooler expecting it to keep food safe temperatures all the time then you will be disappointed. 12 volt coolers are only meant to keep drinks and food cool and the inner temperatures depend on the outer temperatures. If you are planning on bringing temperature-sensitive foods on your camping or road trip you may want to consider getting a portable 12 volt refrigerator instead.
What are 12V coolers used for? They are used to keep drinks and food cool, if it’s not hot outside they will sometimes even be at fridge safe temperatures. What makes electric coolers so awesome is they don’t require any ice. In fact, using ice in an electric or 12 volt cooler is normally not recommended. This makes them perfect for tailgates and keeping drinks cool when camping or at parties.
Foods that aren’t sensitive to temperature can be stored in 12 volt coolers on road trips and are great for taking frozen food home from the grocery store. 12 volt coolers are much more budget-friendly than 12 volt refrigerators and if a cooler sounds right for you then you are in the right place.
Here are some of the best 12 volt car coolers on the market today.
Best 12 Volt Cooler
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12 Volt Coolers Review and Info
Knox makes one of the best 12 volt coolers that also doubles as a 12 volt food warmer as well. No more showing up to the party with a cold appitizer, you can keep things up to 130 degrees Fahrenheit as long as it’s plugged into your vehicle.
The cooler itself is 27 quart. The inner compartment is 12.5 inches tall, 12 inches wide, and 8.5 inches deep. That means it’s tall enough to store a 2 liter bottle of soda.
The cooling feature can get down to 40 degrees when it’s around 70 degrees in the vehicle. That’s about 30 degrees below ambient temperature. If you have food that needs to stay at fridge safe temperatures (40 degrees) don’t let the car get hot.
The Knox cools or warms continuously. If your car is running while it’s plugged in you don’t have to worry about the power being drained. If you turn off your can the cooling feature will draw around 40 watts and the warming feature will draw around 48 watts. It’s a small number but can drain a car battery and damage it fairly quickly when it’s not being charged. Make sure you don’t leave it plugged into a vehicle that isn’t running for too long.
The 12 volt cooler comes with a DC cable that is 5.5 feet long that has it’s own storage compartment in the lid. The handle doubles as a locking mechanism so you can be sure the lid is on tightly making it as efficient as possible. Make sure the air vent is in an open spot allowing the car cooler to get enough air.
The Knox Electirc Cooler and Warmer is a great little car cooler with a slim design to fit easily behind a seat or on the floor in front of one. You can keep food at fridge safe temperatures if you keep the car at 70 degrees which is perfect for bringing cold food home from the store. It’s great for picnics or keeping drinks cold while camping or tailgating. All-in-all it’s a fantastic 12V cooler that will save you from having to buy ice.
- Built-in cable storage compartment
- Locking Lid
- Warming Feature
Coleman is a very common name when it comes to camping gear and they make a fantastic cooler as well. The cooling motor is located on the side of this 12 volt cooler so make sure you place it in an area where there’s space on the side to let it breathe. A cool thing about the cooling being located on the side is you can store it standing up or on its side.
It’s large for a car cooler measuring 17.25 inches tall, 24 inches long, and 16 inches wide. It’s 40 quarts and can hold up to 44 soda cans.
See Also: Best 12 Volt TV For RV/Campers/Skoolies
It’s large but can still cool 40 degrees colder than the surrounding temperature. This means it can stay at refrigerator safe temperatures even if it’s 80 degrees in the vehicle.
The car cooler runs on DC (12 volt) power and comes with an 8 foot power cord.
For convenience, the lid to the cooler can open from either side.
The Coleman 12V Electric Cooler looks like a traditional cooler and is the size of one. You can pack a lot of drinks and snacks in it and trust that everything will stay nice and cool. Just make sure the vent has space to get air and this 12 volt cooler will be awesome.
- Cools 40 degrees below the outer temperature
- Runs standing or on its side
- Lid opens from either side
Igloo is a well known cooler brand and they also make a 12 volt electric cooler. You can choose between a 26 or a 28 quart cooler. I’m going to review the 28 quart one since a little more room is nice to have when you are packing food and drinks.
The outer measurements are 17 inches tall, 10.5 inches wide, and 18.5 inches long. The inner measurments are 13.5 inches tall, 9 inches wide, and 15.25 inches long. A 2 liter bottle is 13 inches tall so you can fit bottles of soda in it or up to 32 cans.
It plugs into DC (12 volt) power only and has a 8 foot long power cable.
It can reach temperatures down to 36 degrees lower than the air around it. So you can still be at refrigerator safe temperatures inside the cool up to 76 degrees Fahrenheit outside of the cooler.
Igloo has added some of their signature features like a large carry handle and a curved back for walking with it by your side.
The Igloo Iceless Electric Cooler is simple but it gets the job done. The motor and vents are in the lid so you can slide it between seats without worrying about blocking the air vents. It’s portable, easy to store in a cramped space and can cool efficiently with no ice necessary.
- Vent on lid
- Large carry handle
- 2 size options
The K-box is a large electric car cooler that runs on DC (12 volt) power and AC (household wall outlet) power. You get one of each power cable each one is 6 feet. This means if you are on long road trips you can bring the cooler into the hotel or place you are staying and keep cooling your drinks and snacks.
It also warms food as well as cools. It can reach temperatures that are 40 degrees below the outer air temperature and get up to 130 degrees Fahrenheit for transporting warm meals or snacks.
The cooler itself is a 48 quart that can hold up to 60 soda cans or 6 two-liter bottles of soda with 15 cans. There is a removable divider for help with organization and the power cords have their own storage compartment in the lid where the motor and vents are located.
The outside of the cooler is 16 inches tall, 22 inches long, and 15 inches wide. It’s large and can be heavy when loaded down so Koozam added wheels to the back with a folding handle for rolling and two large handles for carrying.
The Koozam K-box Electric Cooler and Warmer is great if you need to pack in a lot of drinks and food and also if you are planning on taking the 12 volt cooler from the car. It’s easy to transport and can be plugged into a wall outlet as well as a 12 volt one. You don’t even need to use it in your vehicle if you don’t want to. It’s a great electric cooler with a lot of convenient features.
- AC and DC power options
- Motor and air vents on top
- Storage compartment for cables
- Divider for organization
- Wheels for easy transport
Wagan’s car cooler is a fantastic little unit that can cool down to 36 degrees below the ambient temperature and warm up to 140 degrees Fahrenheit. It also plugs into DC (12 Volt) with a 7.5 feet cord.
It’s a 25 quart size and can hold up to 27 soda cans or 4 short two liter bottles. The inner measurements are 11 inches long, 8 inches wide, and 12 inches tall. The outside is 15 inches long, 11 inches wide, and 17 inches tall.
The motor and vents are located in the lid which is removable for easy cleaning. The lid is also where the cool/off/warm switch is located along with the cable compartment.
The lid has a latch on it for a solid seal to not let out any air and a large carry handle.
The Wagan Electric Car Cooler & Warmer is small but has a lot of the features of a larger 12 volt cooler/warmer. Its slim size makes it easy to place between or behind seats. For snacks and drinks on a road trip this will be a great little gadget.
- Cooler & Warmer
- Cable storage compartment
- Vents on lid
- Removable lid
The Knox is a well built electric car cooler that will not only keep your food cold or warm it will do it for years to come. It has a slim design which fits well in vehicles and there’s a compartment for the power cables so you don’t have it laying in a messy tangles mess when it isn’t in use.
Speaking of power cables the Knox 12 volt cooler can draw power from DC (12 Volt) and AC (Wall Outlet). It’s not only convenient but works well with solar set ups and generators for camping.
There are a lot of car coolers to choose from but the Knox Electric has impressed me with is design, versatility, and ability to cool and warm.
Things to Consider
Most of the 12v coolers on this list have the air vents in the lid so you can easily slide it between stuff without restricting airflow. If you have an electric cooler with the air vents on the side like the Coleman 12V Electric Cooler make sure it has plenty of space on the side with the motor so the cooler doesn’t get damaged.
Your vehicle can get hot very quickly especially when it’s sitting in the sun. Even if you are only going to be away for a few hours and the cooler is plugged into a power source it may not have the capacity to keep your food the temperature it needs to be.
40 degrees below ambient temperature is the coldest these coolers can get, which means once it gets to 90 degrees Fahrenheit in the vehicle the food in the cooler is sitting at 50 degrees which is an unsafe temperature for sensitive foods.
If you need something that can hold 40 degrees and below even when it’s hot consider getting a portable 12 volt refrigerator instead.
12 volt coolers are simple machines designed to cool your drinks and snacks while you drive. Sometimes you may need to turn off your car and leave the cooler plugged into the battery. That’s fine for a little while but the cooler can slowly drain your battery and you may be left with a dead one by the time you get back. Electric coolers run constantly and even just 40 watts being drained constantly will drain a battery fast.
Have any questions about 12 volt coolers? Leave a comment.