10 Best Power Inverters | April 2017

We spent 30 hours on research, videography, and editing, to review the top picks for this wiki. Turn your car's battery into a mobile generator with one of these power inverters. Our selection includes budget models suitable for powering cell phones and other light equipment right up to monstrous multitaskers capable of delivering enough juice to run multiple computers or even power tools on a worksite. Skip to the best power inverter on Amazon.
10 Best Power Inverters | April 2017
Overall Rank: 3
Best Mid-Range
Overall Rank: 8
Best High-End
Overall Rank: 10
Best Inexpensive
If you don't need a lot of wattage, then the Bestek 75W is right for you. It's exceptionally affordable and reliable for keeping devices of all types running, thanks to its dual USB ports with a total of 3.1 amps of output and a single 110-volt AC outlet.
  • extremely compact design
  • may get quite hot to the touch
  • click-angle joint is weak
Model MRI711C
Weight 4 ounces
Rating 4.0 / 5.0
The impressively compact Rally 7413 offers higher wattage than most other power inverter designs in its price range, and nestles securely in your vehicle's cupholder. Its two AC outlets deliver up to a 400-watt peak power capacity.
  • ports are covered for security
  • some units burn out quickly
  • internal fan is very loud
Brand Rally
Model 7413
Weight 1.2 pounds
Rating 4.0 / 5.0
The Power Bright PW1100-12 is meant for high-draw devices, like TVs and microwaves. It delivers phenomenal performance where many models can't, and its built-in cooling fan means it can run for hours. Just clip it onto your car's battery using its jumper-style cables.
  • durable anodized aluminum case
  • built-in draw meter is not accurate
  • 3-foot cables are a bit flimsy
Brand PowerBright
Model PW1100-12
Weight 4.9 pounds
Rating 3.9 / 5.0
The Duracell PS175 features a design similar to that of many AC surge protectors, and provides two standard 3-prong outlets and two USB ports to keep you connected on the road. Its 39-inch cord allows for flexibility, and easily reaches the back seat if necessary.
  • green light indicates active current
  • good for powering small electronics
  • fits a bit tight in some dc outlets
Brand Duracell
Model DRINVPS175
Weight 1.1 pounds
Rating 3.9 / 5.0
Bring the juice to your next location with the Aukey 150W. It's remarkably small given its quality, has a built-in fan to keep it cool, and promises reliable current when plugged into any of your car's cigarette lighter ports.
  • safeguards against overcharging
  • internationally compatible ac outlet
  • only has one usb port
Model EN180
Weight 7.2 ounces
Rating 4.5 / 5.0
If you just have one computer or small to medium-sized appliance in need of juice while you're on the road, the Stanley PIC140 has you covered. It also features two USB ports, so it can keep your phone and tablet or other mobile device powered up as well.
  • includes a mounting kit
  • weighs just 12 ounces
  • 2-foot cord is too short
Brand Stanley
Model PIC140
Weight 12 ounces
Rating 4.5 / 5.0
Thanks to its ultra-quiet cooling fan, the Bestek MRI2011GU allows you to operate several devices without a bunch of distracting noise. It has room for three grounded AC plugs and also has four USB ports next to its on/off switch.
  • solid and compact plastic housing
  • spacing accommodates large plugs
  • cord is detachable for storage
Model MRI2011GU
Weight 9.6 ounces
Rating 4.0 / 5.0
The Safergo Ultra-Slim features three well-spaced outlets compatible with European and North American plugs for added versatility, plus two USB ports for your mobile devices. It's protected against under-voltage and short circuits, so you can rest easy.
  • fuse is replaceable
  • well ventilated to keep cool
  • stylish and rugged design
Brand Safergo
Model pending
Weight 1.1 pounds
Rating 4.8 / 5.0
Charge up your laptop, cell phone, small electronic devices, and much more with the multifunctional Energizer EN548. It connects easily to your car's cigarette lighter port or battery and has built-in mounting brackets should you want to make it a permanent fixture.
  • 1000 watts of peak power
  • very quiet thermal fan
  • angled face keeps cords separated
Brand Energizer
Model EN548
Weight 2.2 pounds
Rating 4.8 / 5.0
The Bestek MRI3011BU boasts a sturdy aluminum alloy housing and consistently works to keep up to four of your devices charged at all times via its dual AC and USB ports. It provides 300 continuous or up to 700 instantaneous watts to get even large appliances running.
  • includes three spare fuses
  • protects devices from short circuits
  • backed by an 18-month warranty
Model MRI3011BU
Weight 1.2 pounds
Rating 4.0 / 5.0

Buyer's Guide

Coining The Term Inverter

The first power inverters were used to create DC power from AC power for industrial, commercial, and railway electrification. At the time, they weren't called inverters, but were known as rotary convertors. They created power in much the same way as today's generators create power, except with a system designed for producing DC current instead of AC current. They consisted of a DC generator, or dynamo, and a set of slip rings evenly spaced around the rotor's windings.

When spun, the dynamo would create an alternating current that would be rectified by a commuter, allowing DC current to be extracted. In essence, the DC power is separately generated from the AC power by using a synchronous converter.

If controlled correctly, a DC convertor can also be set to run backwards, using the DC power to create AC power. The name inverter was coined because at the time, it was just a DC rotary converter running backwards, or an inverted converter. It is believed that David Prince coined the term inverter.

In 1925, he published a paper in the GE Review entitled "The Inverter", which contained almost all of the vital elements in modern day inverters. It was also the first known publication to use the term inverter in literature. By 1936, Prince's inverter became common terminology in technical publications around the world.

How Power Inverters Work

Power inverters are needed to convert direct current, like the kind that comes from a car into an alternating current that can be used by standard electronics. Early AC power inverters were electro-mechanical. DC power flowed from one end of a circuit that had an electromagnet attached to it. Once the current contacted the magnet, it would activate and pull a wire that was attached to a spring arm. This would force the wire to come in contact with the circuit, changing the flow of the current from one side to other other side of the circuit. At the same time, this would cut the power from the electromagnet.

Once the magnet was released, its spring arm would snap back, allowing the current to begin flowing from the original side of the circuit once again. This would activate the magnet again and the process would repeat itself.

Modern day inverters are doing essentially the same thing, but instead of using electromagnets and spring arms, they make use of semiconductors as switches. This eliminates the need for an arm to flip back and forth in order to alternate the current.

All alternating currents produce a sine wave of some form. AC in the home is a smooth, rounded sine wave, but many types of inverters create a squarish sine wave. This is fine for basic electronics, like coffee makers or blenders, but if running sensitive electronics that send and receive broadcasts of some kind, square sine waves can be problematic. For this reason, many modern inverters had a number of filters, capacitors, and inductors which are used to clean up the sine wave so it can be used by nearly any type of electronic device.

How To Select An Inverter

When selecting an inverter, the first step is matching the inverter to the voltage of the power source. If you will be using an inverter in with a car battery, you would need a 12-volt inverter as it will be drawing power from a car's 12-volt battery.

After identifying the correct voltage for your inverter, it is time to determine your power needs. To do this, you must have some idea of the electronics you want to power with the inverter. Look for a label on your devices that tells the required wattage. Your inverter must be able to produce at least this amount of wattage, preferably higher.

If you plan on powering multiple devices at the same time from your inverter, you need to add up the required wattage of all the devices. For example, if you have a coffeemaker that uses 600 watts, and you also plan on running a toaster oven at the same time which requires 1000 watts, you would need an inverter rated for a minimum of 1600 watts.

One must also take peak power into account. Some electronics use more power when starting up. This is known as the peak power rating. For example, a blender may be rated as using 600 watts, but have a peak or surge power rating of 800 watts. This means that it uses 800 watts at startup and then drops down to 600 while it is in operation. Most inverters also have a peak power rating that is higher than their operating wattage as they are designed to deal with this kind of load, but one should check the peak power rating of both devices first to ensure they are compatible.

Finally, one should look at the wave output. As we mentioned previously, inverters generally put out a square sine wave unless they have a number of filters and inductors incorporated to smooth out the wave. If you plan on using basic, non-audio and visual electronics, the wave output won't be as important, but if you want to be able to power a laptop or charge a smartphone, then an inverter with a "perfect sine" wave should be considered. These can be quite expensive though, so another option is an inverter with a modified sine wave. These will have enough filtering that they can generally be used with most electronics, but not perfectly rounded wave.

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Last updated on April 21 2017 by Ezra Glenn

Ezra is a writer, photographer, creative producer, designer, and record label-operator from New York City. He's traveled around the world and ended up back where he started, though he's constantly threatening to leave again.