The 10 Best Car Cooler/Warmers

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This wiki has been updated 15 times since it was first published in September of 2016. Why put up with melting ice that reduces the contents of your cooler to a soggy mess and can leak in your car, when one of these portable electric models will keep your refreshments perfectly chilled for as long as you need it? You can also switch to heating mode to make sure your dishes stay nice and warm until they're ready to be enjoyed at potluck dinners, picnic lunches, and on camping trips. When users buy our independently chosen editorial choices, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki. Skip to the best car cooler/warmer on Amazon.

10. Knox 34-Quart

9. Chefman Portable

8. Wagan EL6224 12V

7. Koolatron Voyager

6. Knox Gear 48

5. SOAC Thermoelectric

4. Gourmia GMF660

3. Cooluli Mini-Fridge

2. Housmile Thermo

1. Koozam K-box

Everything Is Better With Food

Some people like to use ice packs to get around this, but both ice and ice packs share the problem of taking up space.

Everyone enjoys a nice outing, whether to the beach, the park, or a tailgating extravaganza. It’s important to be able to get away from our day-to-day lives on a regular basis in order to refresh ourselves and load up on the energy, both physical and psychological, that it takes to head back to work the top of the week.

And while things like the water at the beach, the nature at the park, and the party vibes at the tailgate are usually the main attractions of any such outing, good food and drink is guaranteed to elevate your experience. The problem, of course, is that good food and drink comes in a wide range of temperatures, with cool beverages having a particularly profound effect on a hot day, and a warm meal satisfying like nothing else when the sun goes down and the temperature drops.

To that effect, you want to make sure that you have what it takes to provide you and your loved ones with refreshments that are the ideal temperature in any given scenario. Traditionally, the best you could do to achieve this would be to bring a cooler along with you, keeping all of your food cold until it was time to consume. If you had anything that had to be served hot, you have to find a way to heat it up before you could eat.

Now, however, with a car warmer/cooler, you can bring all of your favorite foods with you, keeping the cold stuff cold or the hot stuff how with the help of active electrical heating and cooling elements. Of course, any of these devices can only be set to heating or cooling at a given moment, so if you need to bring hot and cold items to location, you might need more than one unit.

An additional benefit of the warmer/cooler is that, for keeping food and beverages cold, you don’t need to use any ice. Ice has a nasty tendency to melt, and when it does it turns back into water, which can very quickly ruin a variety of foods if they aren’t properly packed. Some people like to use ice packs to get around this, but both ice and ice packs share the problem of taking up space. The units on our list, however, don’t sacrifice any internal space to ice or ice packs, allowing you to maximize the amount of stuff you can carry.

The Best Car Cooler/Warmer For You

Car cooler/warmers come in a pretty wide variety of shapes and sizes to suit vehicles and families of different sizes and needs. The first thing that you were going to want to do to make sure that you end up with the right model is to take stock of how much food or drink you’re going to need to transport on a regular basis. There are tiny models that are ideal for transporting a hot breakfast to the office, as well as enormous models that look like some of the biggest coolers available on the market, and that can hold enough food and drink to serve a large party of people.

Overfilling a cooler or warmer will likely make it so that the materials inside or in to evenly or sufficiently cared for.

If you find a model that you particularly like, but that’s right at the limit of what you’ll typically be transporting, it might be smart to look for something with a little more room inside. Overfilling a cooler or warmer will likely make it so that the materials inside or in to evenly or sufficiently cared for.

Pay close attention to the specific capacity is laid out by each unit’s manufacturer. These are definitely hard maximums that you do not want to exceed, or you risk certain perishable food spoiling before you eat them, which could result in unpleasant flavors or, in the worst case, a bad case of food poisoning.

Next, take a look at how a given model is designed to be carried. Some units have handles that come over the lid and allow you to tote them along in one hand, where others place a pair of smaller handles on the sides, which will force you to use two hands in carrying them. Others may include straps or wheels so you can sling them on your shoulder or roll them along the ground, while still others have no handles to speak of.

Models without handles are more intended to live in your vehicle and provide you with cold or hot foods or drinks throughout the duration of a long road trip. These look more like miniature refrigerators that just happen to plug into your car’s cigarette lighter than anything else, and have doors that open out as such.

A Brief History Of Cooling

For the better part of human history, we did not have the ability to manufacture ice. If we wanted to get our hands on the cold stuff, we either had to wait for winter to roll around, or we had to ship it from a climate where it naturally occurred. This became an industry unto itself, with fleets of ships devoted to nothing else but harvesting ice in the northern latitudes in sailing it south for everything from use in restaurants to door-to-door sales.

For the better part of human history, we did not have the ability to manufacture ice.

In the home, blocks of ice were often used to lower the temperature inside what are known as iceboxes. These were essentially refrigerators without the refrigerant, as they sealed an environment off from the temperatures outside and allowed the large blocks of ice within to distribute cooler temperatures throughout.

Experiments in refrigeration technologies saw major breakthroughs in the 18th and 19th centuries, but it wasn’t until the turn of the 20th century that manufacturers were able to put devices together that they could market on an industrial scale. It would be another couple of decades before refrigerators for home use became available, with mass production and a significant increase in interest among consumers coming along in the years after World War II.

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Misty Alder
Last updated on October 23, 2019 by Misty Alder

Born and raised in the American Deep South, Misty's career in elder care took a sharp left turn when she was swept away to the land of Robin Hood by her very own Merry Man. She's a coffee-swilling master of stitch-witchery with a magical touch in the kitchen and a neverending stream of Disney gag reels playing in her head. A certified nursing assistant by trade and a toy aficionado by choice, some intense parenting ensured she was well versed in gardening, carpentry and electrical engineering by the time she entered grade school. Her culinary artistry, tool-wielding wizardry, and skill with needle and thread were honed over nearly four decades in the kitchens, workrooms, and outdoor spaces of family, friends, and clients. Voracious reading took care of the rest.

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