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If you love car camping or taking long road trips, you probably like to be as prepared as possible. One of the most important things to think about before hitting the road on one of these adventures is what and how you are going to eat.
If you are on a road trip, you can depend on roadside eateries and gas stations to keep you satisfied, but that’s going to add up – both in spending and calories. If you are car camping, you could use a traditional ice chest, but you will have to constantly run to buy ice and draining it can be a pain.
Fortunately, there is another way. With a car cooler and refrigerator, you can keep food fresh and chilled by using only the power from your car’s cigarette lighter. However, with so many on the market, it can be tricky deciding which one suits you best. That’s why we have rounded up what we believe to be the best car cooler and refrigerators for you to choose from.
So, let’s go through them and find the perfect one for you…
- Top 10 Best Car Coolers and Refrigerators In 2021 Reviews
- Best Car Cooler And Refrigerator Buyer’s Guide
- So, What Is The Best Car Cooler And Refrigerator?
Top 10 Best Car Coolers and Refrigerators In 2021 Reviews
1 Wagan EL6206
Let’s get right down to it. The first car cooler on our list is an impressive machine for its size, and you won’t have to break the bank to make it yours. The Wagan EL6206 has a 6-quart capacity, which gives you enough space for roughly nine soda cans or other trip necessities. With 15 x 11 x 8 inch external dimensions, you won’t need to take up much space in the car.
Ever so portable…
You aren’t just limited to the inside of your car, either. This cooler is equipped with a carry strap that allows you to carry it around the campsite, or wherever you take it without straining yourself. At only 5.5 pounds when empty, anyone can carry it as well.
What makes this particular model exciting is its dual functionality. It can cool your items down to around 36 degrees below the ambient temperature. But even cooler, or should we say warmer, is the warming function that can warm internally up to 140 degrees. Keep your drinks cool and keep your prepared food warm with this multi-functional appliance.
Kind to the planet…
This appliance is environmentally friendly. It uses no CFCs or refrigerant inside of the unit. The process is done using thermoelectric cooling, which simply means the transfer of electrical current. Just plugin and go!
- Dual functionality.
- Users report that the warming feature is not efficient.
- AC adapter not included.
2 Arb Portable Fridge Freezer
If you are looking for a heavy-duty portable refrigeration system for your car, then look no further than the ARB Portable Fridge Freezer.
This unit goes beyond what most other coolers can accomplish. The ARB fridge freezer comes equipped with Danfoss compressors to not only cool your food down but to keep it nice and cold as well. With the power of this compressor, this machine can bring the interior temperature all the way to zero degrees!
But how does it actually work?
ARB fridge freezers are made to actively and passively cool its contents, even while the vehicle is turned off. When the temperature inside rises above the thermostat’s setting, the high powered compressor activates to cool everything back down.
What’s more, the integrated battery protection system allows the fridge to use less battery power while your car is off. You won’t have to worry about the fridge draining your battery. Plus, thick insulation helps maintain low temperatures as well.
Are you looking for something to accommodate you or a friend on a weekend trip?
Or are you taking the whole crew out for a week-long excursion? Either way, there is an ARB fridge freezer for you. You have the option of a 37, 50, 63, or 82-quart capacity. For reference, the 50-quart model can hold a total of 72 12-ounce cans.
You aren’t just limited to the energy produced by your car, as this unit comes with two different cords. The DC cord plugs into your car via the cigarette lighter. But there’s also an AC power cord that plugs into any standard household outlet. This means you can have full refrigeration power at home, in the car, and at your destination.
- Can cool and freeze food.
- Danfoss compressor.
- AC and DC cords included.
- Users report inconsistent thermostat.
3 Costway Portable Refrigerator
If you still want a high capacity cooler without breaking the bank, give the next best car cooler and refrigerator a good look. The COSTWAY Portable Refrigerator has a capacity of 26 liters and can hold up to 46 12-ounce cans or 12 bottles of wine. With this car refrigerator, you can guarantee your camping trip, and your wallet remains fully stocked.
It’s also easy to take out of your vehicle when camping or traveling. There are handles on both sides, which allow you to move it wherever you want with ease.
How cold do you want it?
You can cool and freeze with this specialized dual zone design. With two areas for refrigeration and freezing, you can place different food items in different places. This is a great option if you are bringing along perishable meat that you need to keep at a lower temperature for longer.
With the built-in compressor, this car fridge can quickly cool items anywhere from -13 degrees to 50 degrees. The compressor is also designed to emit a low level of noise. Rest easy knowing your cooler won’t be keeping you up all night or bothering your campsite neighbors.
No dead battery…
We all know there is a decent risk involved with connecting high-powered electronics to your car battery. Fortunately, this COSTWAY fridge is equipped with a tri-level battery monitor to guard against dead batteries. Also, you have the option of using a standard household outlet of 100 to 200 volts.
- 26-liter capacity.
- Easy carry handles.
- Fridge and freeze zones.
- AC or DC compatible.
4 Cooluli Mini Fridge Electric Cooler And Warmer
If you are looking for a portable fridge that can do it all, then look no further than what we have for you next. With the Cooluli Mini fridge, you are essentially getting two products for the price of one. Thermoelectric technology allows you to easily switch from drink cooler to food warmer — all you need to do is flip a switch!
With the ability to hold up to six 12 ounce cans, it may not be the kind of car fridge you want to take on a big trip, but it’s an ideal size for use at home, the office, or a dorm room. Cook up a warm meal in the morning, toss it in the Cooluli, head to work, then enjoy your still warm lunch!
Can run off a power bank…
This cooler/warmer combo doesn’t just operate on power generated from your car’s cigarette lighter or from a standard outlet. It is also capable of being powered with a power bank for the ultimate portability. Keep in mind that when using USB power, this unit will only work in ECO mode.
This Cooluli unit has a matte finish that looks great anywhere you put it. It’s sleek and subtle enough to keep at home or at the office. Plus, given its size, it fits perfectly on your desk.
Kind to the environment…
It is also perfectly safe to use in that it uses absolutely no freon. Plus, it is also environmentally friendly because thermoelectric energy works without using refrigerants or CFCs.
- Heating and Cooling.
- AC, DC, or USB powered.
- Sleek look.
- Small capacity.
- Fan is a bit loud.
5 Gourmia GMF600
Up next on our quest to find the best high quality car cooler and refrigerator is another compact personal use mini-cooler and warmer that can go wherever you go.
The Gourmia GMF600 is compact and portable. This lightweight cooler and warmer can hold up to six cans of your favorite soda or beer. It also features a self-locking latch and easy-carry handle. Just lock it up, grab it, and go.
Hot or cold…
With this cooler and warmer you can chill up to 32 degrees below room temperature, or warm up to 150 degrees. The warmer is a great option for nursing mothers who want to warm up bottles of milk. Keep in mind that it will only reach that warming level when the ambient temperature is 75 degrees or higher.
The interior is also well insulated, so it can hold the temperature after you have unplugged it.
Use it anywhere…
This cooler and warmer is great at home or on the road. A DC power cord is designed to go directly into your car’s cigarette lighter, and an AC power cord can be used for any outlets at home or on the go. They are both detachable as well, so you can store them away when not in use.
When you buy the Gourmia GMF600, you can opt for the version with a built-in Bluetooth speaker. Easily sync your iPhone or Android device and entertain the campsite while you enjoy a cold beverage!
- Bluetooth speaker.
- Warmer and cooler.
- AC and DC enabled.
- Easy-carry handle.
- Small capacity.
- No volume control on the speaker.
6 Koolatron P-20
If you want to have the all-purpose performance of a portable warmer and cooler, but you need more space than the ones that we’ve featured so far, then have a look at the Koolatron P-20.
This warmer and cooler has a 17-liter capacity, which can hold up to 23 cans. With that kind of space, you can easily fit most of the food and drinks you need for a quick trip. It has a slim and tall design that lets you slip it into narrow spaces for optimal storage.
Practical and versatile…
The flip-up lid allows for easy access to all of the internal contents. The fold-down handle also enables you to effortlessly carry it to and from your vehicle. The cooler itself is made from durable hard plastic that effectively insulates the internal contents. Cleaning the cooler simply requires wiping down the smooth plastic liner inside.
The Koolatron P-20 uses 12-volt power and a state of the art thermoelectric system to cool the inside to 40 degrees below room temperature. In heating mode, the same process is used to heat up the inside to an impressive 135 degrees. The internal fan and motor are also designed to keep the noise down while evenly distributing the temperature.
Car or home…
The P-20 can run off both DC power from your car or AC from a standard outlet. However, keep in mind that the AC cord is not included with your purchase.
- 17-liter capacity.
- AC or DC compatible.
- Slim design.
- Fold-down handle.
- AC adapter not included.
- Does not use a compressor.
7 Knox Electric Cooler And Warmer
If you’re going to give up your traditional ice cooler for an electric one, then you want to make sure it’s going to provide you with the same kind of capacity. What better way to ensure this than getting a cooler whose design is based on the original.
The Knox Electric Cooler and Warmer has the same look and feel like the ice coolers you know and love. With a 48 quart capacity, you are already getting a generous amount of space. But given the fact that you won’t be using ice, you know you’ll be getting the most out of it.
Cool as a cucumber…
In cooling mode, you can keep your sodas and salads at a chilly 40 degrees and keep them there while it is plugged in. In warming mode, the Knox can get up to 130 degrees. Whether it’s a brisk day or you are in the depths of winter, you can count on this warmer to keep your food nice and toasty.
You can use it anywhere! Included with your purchase is a DC cord that is compatible with any car cigarette lighter, as well as an AC cord that you can plug into any wall socket. Whether you are car camping in the wilderness or enjoying a picnic at the park, the Knox has you covered.
- Classic design.
- Large capacity.
- AC and DC compatible.
- Double handle.
- Users report inconsistent temperatures.
8 Coleman Powerchill
It wouldn’t be a true list of camping related equipment without a feature from Coleman. The PowerChill offers serious power with the dependability we’ve come to expect from Coleman.
It boasts a 40-quart capacity, which makes it ideal for holding everything that you will need for whatever excursion you go on. With this cooler, you are getting ice chest capacity without the ice. This will keep everything inside at a safe and cool 40 degrees.
Just because it’s designed to be a car cooler doesn’t mean you need to feel restrained to visit the car every time you need to grab a drink or ingredient. With an 8-foot power cord, you can set it anywhere inside or around your car.
This cooler is made to be adaptable in more ways than one. Hold up to 44 cans when the lid is facing up for a fully loaded beach cooler. Or you can slip in the removable shelf and stand it on its side for more of a mini-fridge functionality. The doors also open on either side, so you won’t have to worry about corners or walls messing with your placement.
Still not convinced?
Coleman offers a 1-year limited warranty for the PowerChill. This is ideal because, with thermoelectric systems such as these, any manufacturing defects make themselves known rather quickly.
- 40-quart capacity.
- 8-foot power cord.
- Removable shelf divider.
- Door opens from the left or right side.
- 1-year warranty.
9 Cooluli K10LGA
At first glance, it may seem a little silly. But this novelty Coca-Cola themed mini-fridge stands with the rest of them when it comes to functionality.
This 10-liter cooler is a great nostalgic gift for someone looking to add some Americana to their collection. Weighing in at around 8 pounds and sporting an easy-to-carry handle makes this cooler portable enough to accompany you on trips and to move around your destination. You can even opt for a 4-liter version if you don’t need so much space.
Some like it hot…
You can also use it to warm your food with a simple flip of a switch. Need to make sure your food is hot and ready for the picnic? Just toss the Cooluli in the car with your meal, plug it in, and get going. Unique EcoMax technology gives you a temperature range anywhere from 35 to 150 degrees.
Not planning on using it only for the car?
That’s fine; the included AC power cord can be swapped out with the DC cord, which allows you to plug it in at home or at the office.
Cooluli also offers a 1-year limited warranty on this cooler/warmer combo. Any issues with its manufactured components and you are covered completely.
- Retro themed.
- 10-liter capacity.
- Warmer and cooler.
- AC and DC compatible.
- 1-year warranty.
- Geared for personal use.
10 Igloo Iceless Thermoelectric Cooler
The last stop on our best car coolers and refrigerators roundup is from a long-respected cooler brand. The Igloo Iceless Cooler offers the kind of reliability and durability that you would expect.
You have the option of choosing from 26 or 28-quart capacity, the larger of the two being enough for up to 32 cans of your favorite beverage.
Fits between the seats…
They took portability seriously when they designed this cooler. One long fold-down handle with added grip allows for one person to carry it with ease. The sides are also contoured to mold to the shape of your hip or to slip between two car seats. If a little extra help is needed, there is also a handle on each side for a two person carry.
You can stash this in the front seat, the back seat, or the trunk. With an 8 foot long cord, you won’t need to worry about the proximity to a cigarette lighter, and you’ll be set from anywhere. This helps it from accidentally disconnecting on bumpy rides.
Quiet as a churchmouse…
What’s particularly impressive is the quietness of the motor. Brushless technology helps to keep the noise from the fan down. If you have your tunes blasting on your drive, you won’t even hear it at all.
- Classic design.
- 26 or 28-quart size.
- 8-foot cord.
- Three handles.
- Quiet motor.
- AC cord not included.
Best Car Cooler And Refrigerator Buyer’s Guide
Now that you viewed such a wide variety of electric coolers, we should take a look at which kind of specifications are best suited for your needs. This buyer’s guide will go through the most important things to consider before deciding what you think the best cooler and refrigerator for your car is.
This is going to be the first thing you think about when you are buying a cooler. What are you going to use it for? There is a wide range of capacities to choose from – all the way from six cans all the way up to 72. So plan accordingly.
If this you are going to be using your car cooler mainly for long trips or camping adventures with the family, then don’t be afraid to splurge a little bit when it comes to size — they will thank you later! But bear in mind how much space you will be saving now that you won’t need ice. You may not need as big of a cooler as you think.
If this is going to be more for personal use to carry food and drink to the office or for storage in a separate room, then go for the lower capacity option.
All 12-volt car coolers come standard with a DC cord that plugs into your car’s cigarette lighter. That’s what makes it a car cooler, after all.
However, many different models also work with an AC adapter that plugs into any North American standard wall socket. This is a great way to keep your food cool at home or when you check into a motel or hotel on a road trip. It helps to keep the strain off of your car battery as well.
If you are certain you will use both an equal amount, then make sure you buy a cooler that includes both cords in the purchase. Many models are compatible with AC cords but don’t include them with the price.
Consider the type of food and drink you will be packing into your cooler. You need to make sure that you find a cooler that reaches a safe temperature for certain foods.
Your typical car cooler will cool its interior to around 40 degrees. While that’s good for most food and drink, it’s not that impressive. If you need to freeze or preserve certain foods, you can go for one of the car coolers that can get down to below freezing temperatures. While you can find them, they will be pricier due to the presence of a compressor. They also drain your battery quicker.
Some of the models also have the ability to warm food — even as high as 150 degrees. This is great for preserving a hot meal for the drive to the picnic or keeping leftovers warm to snack on later. But keep in mind that these are designed to keep food warm, not heat it up.
Coolers are made to be transported, especially ones designated as car coolers. You want to be able to lift, carry, and set them down without straining yourself or risking dropping and damaging the cooler.
Look at both the quality and quantity of the handles. Smaller coolers usually just need a sturdy fold-down handle to transport. But larger coolers are great if they have handles on either side you can team up to carry the heavier loads.
Something More Permanent
If you’ve got an RV and are looking for a more permanent solution, then check out our review of the Best RV Refrigerators currently available.
And if you want to keep your car not your food cool, you may enjoy our reviews of the Best Engine Antifreeze and Coolants on the market.