If you are in a hurry and just want to find out what best 12-volt cooler is, then we recommend the Wagan 12V Cooler/Warmer as the best one.
I’m all for roughing it. I’ve been camping since I was a little kid, and back then, there weren’t nearly as many fancy tools and equipment as there are today. Getting away from technology and the business of life and connecting with nature is my favorite thing to do.
However, camping doesn’t always have to mean a man in a tent with nothing but a compass and a campfire. I enjoy what I like to call “comfortable camping” as well, and one of my favorite tools for that is a 12 volt refrigerator or cooler.
In this article, we’re going to review the following coolers:
- Cooluli Thermoelectric Cooler and Warmer System
- Knox Gear 48 Quart Electric Cooler/Warmer
- Wagan 12V Cooler/Warmer
- Kinverch Portable Electric Cooler and Warmer
- Black+Decker Portable Travel Cooler/Warmer
What is a 12-Volt Cooler?
12-volt, or 12V, coolers are like regular coolers – but better. While some of them may look like regular coolers, these pieces of equipment plug into your car’s 12V outlet to keep food and drinks cold.
They work basically the same as a normal refrigerator would work. They are electric and keep your food from going bad using power taken right from your car.
The greatest benefit that a 12 volt cooler offers is its convenience. These coolers are like mini-fridges and let you carry your food from one place to another without it going bad. Without one of these coolers, you are very limited on what you can bring on your trips. When you have one of these, you have the option of packing things like meats, cold drinks, frozen food, and more.
12V coolers are also very efficient. They tend to use small amounts of energy, so they won’t kill your car’s battery. This attribute makes them excellent for camping trips, especially for those who use truck bed tents. It also makes them great for long drives and road trips.
Some 12V coolers use power banks, and others don’t. The ones that don’t hook right up to your car for power without draining your battery too much. They often have long cords so they can reach all the way to the back or even sit outside of it. If you don’t plan on using your 12V cooler for camping, they are great for road trips.
Unlike regular coolers that are meant to keep things cold, some 12V coolers give you the option of keeping things warm as an alternative.
Finally, these coolers are typically designed to be compact and small. Since they are made for portability, it makes sense that they are space friendly and easy to transport. They are easy to carry around.
What to Look For
Fancy electric coolers definitely fall under the category of high-tech camping, but that doesn’t mean it has to be difficult to choose one. Try to keep these features in mind when you make your decision, and you’ll be just fine.
- Power: Obviously, you cooler needs to have some sort of power source. You would be surprised how many products don’t provide you with the proper power cords, so keep an eye out for that. Some of these 12V coolers will come with a power bank so that you can use it when it’s disconnected from the power source. This is great for camping or even a day at the beach. Otherwise, make sure the product doesn’t suck up too much energy from your car’s battery.
- Temperature settings: It is important to make sure there are clear temperature settings that let you adjust the levels of your cooler. It should be easy to switch from frozen to cool, or cool to warm.
- Removable lid: Ease of access is a nice thing to have. Choose a cooler that is easy to get in and out of. An easy-open lid that locks in the cold or hot is essential.
All 12V coolers should include the above-listed features, as they are highly functional and basically necessary. However, a lot of coolers will offer additional features as well. Some have dual zones so that you can keep some items cold and other warm. Others will include a noise reduction feature, so you don’t have to hear the cooler droning on all day and night.
A few coolers will offer an emergency-type mode to back it up in case there is some sort of power failure.
Since many of these coolers simply switch from cool to warm with no in-between settings, many do not have a thermometer feature. However, some of them do, and it can be nice to set the temperature to your desired setting.
Of course, these features are not necessary but are extra to suit additional needs you may have based on your individual situation or preference.
Learning all this information is fun and all but picking out your product is the best part. To help you along a little, I’ve laid out a few of my personal favorite products. Who knows, maybe your next favorite is on my list. Take a look to find out!
Convenience is key when it comes to a good camping or road trip, and convenience is what you get from the Cooluli Thermoelectric Cooler and Warmer System. This electric cooler and warmer is 4 liters, which is a large as six 12-ounce cans. Its small size and light weight make it great for on-the-go use and is ideal for anything from a trip to office use.AC/DC and USB adapters are included with this fridge, so you can easily plug it in indoors or use it in your car with the 12V adapter. Additionally, it includes a 2A power bank for use on the move and away from a plug-in power source.
Easy to use, this machine includes both cooling and warming options. You can switch from one to the other when needed and achieve your desired temperature within 30 minutes. Temperature controls extend from 40 degrees to 144 degrees.
- Portable power bank included
- Works with 12V car adapter
- Includes both cooling and warming options
- Very small
- Does not reach freezing temperatures
The Knox Gear Electric Cooler/Warmer gives you the same look and feel as a regular cooler but with better, more convenient high-tech features. Unlike normal coolers, this machine also gives you the option to keep food warm rather than cold.The dual AC and DC power cords let you use this cooler anywhere, from your back patio to your car. You can plug this device into standard wall outlets or your car. This large cooler is perfect for a campsite or an RV.
The large amount of storage makes it the perfect cooler/warmer for longer trips or bigger groups of people at 48 quarts. This is as much as 60 cans of soda. It maintains a cooling level of 40 degrees and a warming level of 130 degrees.
With convenient carrying and pulling handling paired with wheels, this cooler/warmer is easy to transport.
- AC/DC adapter power
- Large space
- Convenient carrying/pulling features
- Provides both cooling and heating
- Locking mechanism to secure lid
- Very quiet
- Collects a lot of condensation
- Does not keep food frozen
- Takes up more space
The Wagan 12V Cooler/Warmer allows you to keep cold foods cool or keep hot foods warm. Its capacity is 24 liters, giving you plenty of space to hold as many as four 2-liter bottles.The cooling and warming settings are powerful, with the cooling going as low as 36 degrees and the warming as high as 140 degrees. This makes it reliable for sustaining food that could go bad outside of the refrigerator.
This device is heavy duty and transportation friendly. The DC power cord plugs into your car’s adapter. It is 7 feet long, letting you place the cooler in the back seat for convenience. For in home or even office use, an optional AC adapter is also available.
The simple operation switch is on the back of the cooler, where you can turn it to cool, warm, or off by using the switch and the indicator light.
- Long DC cable
- Large container space
- Provides cooling and warming
- Convenient carrying handle
- Keeps items cool for a short amount of time after unplugging
- Easy switch
- Cools to very cold
- Only includes DC adapter cord
- On the noisy side
The sleekly designed Kinverch Electric Cooler and Warmer is a portable mini fridge with 12-volt DC adaptability. Equipped with the ability to switch from cooling to heating, this device cools at a low of 39.5 degrees while it hits a high of 140 degrees.The simple system features an easy switch from cooling to warming with green and red indicators, respectively.
A convenient handle and lightweight design make it easy to move this cooler from one place to another, and the included AC/DC adapters let you plug it in anywhere.
It stores as much as 10 liters and comes in two different colors: blue and black. This fridge is easy to use and is great for cars, boats, and even in homes or offices.
- Small and lightweight
- Easy to transport
- Provides both warming and cooling
- Quiet fan
- AC/DC adapters included
- Does not get as cold as other products
- Small space
The Black+Decker Portable Travel Cooler/Warmer is a great thermoelectric, personal system. This cooler has a capacity of 1.6 gallons. It has both heating and cooling functions with a low of 40 degrees and a high of 120 degrees. The easy use switch is located right on top for simple access and operation, including eye-catching indicator lights.The included DC adapter plugs into your car’s DC outlet, allowing you to take your warm or cold food items on the go. It is designed to rest nicely on your vehicle’s seat, tailgate, or floor, and even features a cushioned top.
As an added level of convenience, the cooler has a cup holder right next to the on/off switch, but not blocking the easy open top.
Carry this cooler with you using the over-the-shoulder carrying strap. It is very lightweight and easy to take along with you.
- Keeps things cool/hot nicely.
- Sleek design
- Convenient carrying strap
- Features a cup holder
- Cushioned top for backseat comfort
- Lightweight and portable
- Includes DC adapter
- Simple operation
- Doesn’t run as well with older, less powerful cars
- Smaller size
My personal favorite from this list of 12V coolers is the Wagan 12V Cooler/Warmer. Like its competitors, this little device can keep things either cool or warm, which is awesome. However, it beats the rest out with its convenience.
This cooler is the perfect size. At 24 liters, you have plenty of space for not just you, but other people as well. At the same time, it’s not overly large and won’t take up too much space. It is easy to carry around without having to pull it behind you like larger designs.
Its low setting is also lower than all of the other options on the list with a temperature reaching down to 36 degrees. On the opposite end, it can get as warm as 140 degrees. That’s a great range and a reliable cooling/warming device.
Heavy duty, this machine is built to last. Additionally, its long cord lets you put it in the back seat with your kids, or keep it up front right next to you during long car rides.
Easy to use and highly functional, I recommend this cooler/warmer.